From the Story Arc: Grim's Gamble

Previous Story in the Arc: Starfall by Aedan Murdock (Thursday, November 16, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Patches by Victoria Victrix (Thursday, November 16, 2006)

(posted Thursday, November 16, 2006)

John had kept himself out of this, deliberately. He’d told himself that this was something the kids had to do for themselves; he hadn’t really convinced himself but…he’d managed to stand aside anyway.

Then his comm. lit up, with a frantic call from Aedan. Not that he’d needed the call, Aedan was flooding the “family channel” with his panic.

John’s stomach dropped. Everything he had thought would go wrong, had. Nothing he had said to Astra had penetrated; he tried to reach her on the “family channel” and got nothing but despair and fear.

He dropped everything, and flew, rushing to save his kids, fearing for the first time ever that he wouldn’t be able to.

He reached the chopper to Bloody Bay, which couldn’t go fast enough for him. He didn’t know what the other fighters in the chopper thought of his agitated state, and he didn’t much care. He burst out of the door, transformed to Nova, and headed out in pursuit.

“Listen to me right now, Astra. Get back to Paragon. NOW,” he called, over the comm. and the channel.

For the first time, ever, she disobeyed him directly.

“Daddy, I can't,” she wailed. “He's going to kill a whole bus full of kids!”

“Your brother told me. Get back to the chopper, now. Last time I'll say it,” he ordered, confused, and feeling horrible fear wash over him. He was going to lose her. He was going to lose his child…

“I can't. I can't let him do this!”

“Astra! You come home NOW! I'm not playing. I won't let him do it.” She had to believe him. Surely she would believe him.

”How are you going to stop him?” she sobbed. “How?”

She didn’t believe him.

Dear god, she didn’t believe him. A cold fire smoldered inside him, The Grim Gambol was going to pay for this, and pay dearly. The ghost had murdered innocents, murdered the innocence and trust of his children, turned their lives into a nightmare, and John Murdock was going to make him pay. “The best way I know how. Where is he?”

Then the bottom dropped out of the world.

John was hit with the instant of terror, the paralyzing fear, the moment of horror as Grim Gambol took his child. And then, worse than that—nothing.

Nausea shook him, followed by rage. Followed an instant later by will, will that forced him into a state of calm. He could not afford emotion at this moment. He had a job to do, get his daughter away from that fiend, and he had to do it perfectly. He gritted his teeth and—

< Murdock, I have them in sight. > It was Red Star, and that was all he needed. Following Star’s lead, he charged in, firing bolt after bolt of precisely aimed Kheldian energy, forcing the ghost to drop the unconscious body of his daughter. Which a moment later, was snatched out of the sky by Red Star.

Then he set to work making sure the ghost wouldn’t pursue, as he listened, grimly, to Kyne protesting that Astra was gone that her symbiote could not find her. He didn’t have time for that. They had to get Astra back. They could only fix whatever was wrong with her when she was safe. And he had to believe it could be fixed. Had to…

Only when the Grim Gambol was in flight did John return to the choppers, following his son and daughter out of that hellish place, to where they could get help for her. Would get help for her.

He had to believe that.