Distant Early Warning

From the Story Arc: Battle Stations!

Previous Story in the Arc: Wake-Up Call by Belladonna Aura (Tuesday, April 04, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Darkness Falls From The Air by Waitron9000 (Wednesday, April 05, 2006)

(posted Wednesday, April 05, 2006)

As a rule, sewer hunting sucked. Vahzilok zombies, waist deep in sewer gunk, didn't exactly help to brighten things up. John was glad that his Mefnanim --colloquially known as "the squid"-- form didn't have a distinguishable sense of smell; Sera was equally glad that her fires purified the air before it got to her nose. Shuma and Social Medicine, however, were not as lucky. Personally, John didn't often come down to the sewers much anymore. But Bella had been receiving reports of increased Vahz activity in and around King's Row, and King's Row counted on the CCCP to keep down the nastier critters that liked to hunt here.

::Everyone doin' alright?:: John projected to the group. Aedan, Astra, and JJ were all hovering behind him in their energy forms, staying above the grime. Ratt and Sera were ablaze and taking point, taking the brunt of the punishment. Thanh Ha and Shuma were both providing support, healing and crowd control. Not to mention a banquet of other goodies. Nothing like having a forklift sent at the face of a Murk Eidolon to ruin his day.

The kids were all in "training" mode today; Ratt's enthusiasm for rushing in where--literally--angels feared to tred had to be tempered. The three Kheld kids were only just beginning to understand their powers, and the practice in maneuvering in severely confined spaces could only do them good. Shuma and Thanh Ha---well, they were experienced, level-headed, and calm under just about any circumstances. Shuma was wise far beyond her years, and far, far beyond her apparent years. The "yayness" and exuberance gave the lie to the fact that she was very nearly eighteen and had an amazingly sound grasp of strategy....

Then again, she was supposed to be an avatar of her goddess, and her goddess was one of war. Others might forget that, but Sera never did.

It was beginning to look as if they had come to the end of the Vahz in this part of the sewers though. Between the eight of them, there weren't many threats they couldn't handle. They were on their second sweep of the same section and hadn't uncovered anything more threatening than a barrel of Vahz drugs. John reconstituted his essence, reforming into his normal appearance. "That's 'bout all of 'em, folks. Let's get topside: I'll call us in." He kissed Sera on the cheek before turning to report back to base. "HQ, this is John. Just finished our patrol of the sewers, sectors A-15 through B-30. Returning to street-level to scrub off and get some chow."

"Roger, Comrade Murdock. Suggest you take exit from section B-17 that's your near--"

The transmission cut off.

John shook his comm unit; the damn things shorted out all of the time. Usually a good whack on the side would set them to rights. But not this time. Wordlessly, Sera handed him hers. "Check your comms, folks. I'm not getting a signal from HQ." John checked his wife's unit; still nothing.

"Pops, I got signal from AoC just fine, but---nothing on the auxiliary CCCP channel." Ratt looked up, frowning.

"Alright, might be somethin' with the transmitter. Everyone, let's head for some fresh air. We'll see what's shakin' over at the base, and then call it for some lunch." John stayed back with Sera while the rest of the group began jogging to their exit point. "Love, you feelin' anythin'? Like this isn't right, somehow?"

She turned to face him, her expression one of fear. "Yes. Something is wrong, very, very wrong. I feel--" she paused, and a spasm of pain passed over her features. "I feel---death." John felt the loss through their connection; there was also something else on the periphery, something familiar and unwholesome. Nictus...and a lot of them, close.

"Take everyone out of here. I don't like this one damned bit; I'm gonna see what's going on at HQ. If anything happens, take them--"

Ratt interrupted them, pelting back, followed by the others and holding out his comm, which was blaring.

"All units! All units! Report to King's Row PD! Council sighted assaulting CCC--" "This is Car 17, Council assaulting the Yell---" "---Unit 21! Firefight with Council at Skyw--"

John looked to Sera and Thanh ha. "Take 'em out to Skyway, get 'em safe. JJ, come with me." John and JJ started off towards the manhole location that Waitron had relayed to them before the transmission cut out.

"Unit 21--Skyway tunnel taken, retreating to PD HQ!"

"Council holding Yellow line station, returning to base!"

Thanh Ha looked at Sera and planted her feet. "Thanh Ha am not going to Skyway. Comrades am needing Thanh Ha."

John stopped short, turning back to Thanh ha. "I need you and Sera to get everyone, my family, to safety. We don't know what the situation topside is, but it sounds bad. Real bad. Bad enough that the eight of us wouldn't be able to make a dent."

"But, Pop---" Ratt said, him and Aedan both stepped forward; they weren't about to let anything happen without them being there personally.

Astra swallowed. "Daddy. We've cleaned this section out. We're as safe here as we would be anywhere. You and Mom and Thanh Ha go. Ratt can stay here with us. At least until you know what's going on and can tell us. You can...you can talk to us through the AoC channel."

John shook his head, squaring his shoulders. "Ain't gonna risk it. Channels might be monitored. Don't y'all worry; me an JJ are going to see exactly what's going on topside. If we have to get the hell outta Dodge, I'm not gonna lead whatever is down there straight to y'all. If you're all in Skyway, I'd feel a helluva lot better going up there. JJ an' I can scout things out from a safe distance."

"A compromise," Sera suggested. "I will take us all as far as where the KR sewers join Skyway. We'll wait there. You can tell me then whether we should stay or go on. But take Thanh Ha. If there are injured she can port them to the sewer and heal them so they can escape."

Silently, she added. ::You know that Thanh Ha will not stay with us if she thinks there are comrades in need of healing.::

John didn't look happy as he mulled this over, waiting a few moments before speaking. "Alright. If we see anythin', we'll let you know; soon as that happens, make tracks for Skyway. JJ an' I won't be on the comm; we'll get in touch with y'all through the 'family channel'." The "family channel" is what the Murdocks had come to call the telempathic connection that they shared.

Kyne chimed in. ::Go. You an' JJ and Short Stack. The longer you stand here jawing, the worse it's gonna be.::

"Right. We'll see you all soon; be safe, and move fast. Don't get bogged down in any fights. JJ, Thanh ha; let's move." With a thunderous boom, John changed into his Mefnanim form, flying towards the manhole, with JJ and Social Medicine in tow. ::We'll be back, Love. Keep the kids outta trouble:: John eased into his connection with Sera, sending her a burst of confidence and assurance.

"Shuma, bring up Boing Jr. Ratt, full power. We are going to bulldoze straight through everything and not stop. Astra, Aedan, take Mefnanim and blast anything we don't burn. Leave them stunned and crippled so they can't follow." Sera flamed on full, Ratt following her example a moment later. She conjured her fire sword, and charged out at a full run, knowing her family would do what was right.

She and John, after all, were doing the same.