THAT WHICH GODS DESTROY - Act I - Patrick Forsythe
"For your struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." -- Ephesians 6: 12
Lieutenant Archibald Samson used to say that "the secret of the universe is the knowledge of its creator." He was the one that everyone turned to for advice; the one that held the battalion's service every Sunday. Then another stupid lieutenant disobeyed an order and half his battalion died. Samson also died that day; Forsythe took his words and made that his platoon motto, he read it off his shoulder patch. The raid on Jennifer's Star was almost a year ago and Patrick was no closer to understanding the universe than he was to understanding God. A bit of him died that day... truth be told, there was little to spare.
Now, after bouncing around four systems and fifteen raids, the 42nd Platoon was finally going home; Avalon, the new Earth, capital of the Federation. This had been the only home he had ever known. Luckily, his grandparents were colonists on this beautiful world before the big rock hit Earth, destroying the old capital in earthquakes and tidal waves. Very prophetic ending to the mother of all worlds. His family never had to suffer being a refugee, but it loved the Federation, and had sacrificed his father because of it.
However, he was not happy about returning home. Forsythe was still ticked off about losing his little spaceship; he had saved up for years to buy that ride then one slip up... POOF. Maybe that's why Jennifer's Star came back to him; history repeats itself. Still a new menace creeped into his mind. The Sabbat; the epitome of evil had returned. In the old days, the vampires were... ahem, organized into the Camarilla, which composed itself of thirteen clans which generally kept the peace between them and protected themselves from mortal eyes. A group of rebellious blood-suckers broke away from their constricted authority and formed the Sabbat, basing it off a twisted parody of the Catholic Church, with their goal to prepare to stop the antediluvians (the original vampires, progeny of Cain, the cursed son of Adam) when they rose (Gehenna or Vampire Armageddon). These guys weren't subtle, tended to break a lot of things, tended to get killed off rather quickly, and believed in survival of the fittest. When the antedeluvians DID rise, the Sabbat got betrayed by a group within them called the Black Hand, which went to serve the antedeluvians. So Camarilla and Sabbat went down in flames. That was 2017.
In 2201, a rather powerful vampire named Mordred recreated the Sabbat to fight the ruling antedeluvians and their Black Hand. All of this was to lure Ventrue (one of the antedeluvians) to Wilke's Star where Mordred weakened him enough so that he could suck his soul and become an antedeluvian. So the planet was fully controlled by the Sabbat and their new antedeluvian Mordred. Their only mistake was in supporting the Liberation during the 2nd Civil War. That caused the Tech Infantry (who had been happy to leave them alone up till then) to drop on Wilke's Star, take horrific casualties, and only managed to win thanks to the intervention of then Brigadier-General Sarah Dunmeyer. The Sabbat were finished; Mordred was assumed to have disappeared years before according to retired Marshal Lwan Eddington, Bug War hero. Even though his confusing story involving alternate timelines was hardly credible, his reputation and his personal knowledge of Mordred convinced the Federation that the Sabbat were without a leader. The taking of Wilke's Star was proof; Mordred was not seen protecting his precious flock.
So perhaps he returned... who knows? Old Marshal Eddington had been court-martialed later and he disappeared, his old platoon or their children were either dead or missing, so no one could be confirmed to repeat his story. Still, if the CNC says there's Sabbat running around, that only means one thing; either Mordred returned or someone took his place. Neither option was appealing.
On the observation deck of the light carrier EFS Concordia, Captain Forsythe scanned over twenty year-old Crusader files, trying to find something useful about the Sabbat. Most of them ended with the same warning; "Requiem pro ex mortis. Leave them alone." As the swirling bands of hyperspace dissolved, the big black embraced the ship, and the blue ball of Avalon appeared before him. Watching his home from the transparent aluminum windows, he remembered a proverb that Lieutenant Samson said was from ancient Babylon: "That which gods destroy should never be rebuilt."
Colonel Maria Nostros was waiting for Patrick when he reached Tech Infantry Headquarters. "Sorry to drop you with this assignment, Patch, but he asked for the best..."
"You could have lied."
"No, I couldn't and you know it. The second the information reached your ears, I'd get a comm screaming for your platoon to be transferred. I _know_ you, Forsythe."
Patrick begrudging nodded. She was right, damn her.
"Come on, ol' Hell-Raiser wants to see you."
When they reached the laquered double doors, the captain didn't know which was more forboding; the two power suited troops outside his office or the general that sat within. Colonel Nostros took out her ID and handed it one of the metal guards. "We have an appointment with the General."
The trooper said nothing, a small laser beamed out of his forehead and scanned the card. Handing it back to her, a amplified voice replied. "Authorization confirmed, ma'am. Proceed."
The double doors whooshed open, breaking the sanctity of a pressurized air-lock, necessary precaution against a vacuum bomb. A little old granny was running the secretary's desk, smiling bright as a solar flare, saying "Go on in, the General's waiting for you."
The granny made Patrick sick. Of course, he realized by the way she sat that the secretary had a plasma gun pointed at them under the desk. Perfect disguise, Hell-Raiser, the captain thought, Hadrian was doing something right.
Finally they entered a rather large office with a huge desk. It was covered by comm systems, papers, reports, electronic datapads. The wall behind it had maps, reports, and... were those books? In the mess of the room sat General Hadrian Gartvo, a rather hairy Indian-looking man, dwarfed by the clutter around him. It wasn't that the CNC was a small man, far from it, but the office seemed to shrink everyone. Maria and Patrick walked right up to him, saluted and held. At first, the general seemed not to notice them, but then he waved back a salute and said, "Be seated."
As the two officers sat, the general finished working on his datapad. Gartvo was perfectly calm as if disorder was the natural way of things. Maybe he had a point, Forsythe thought.
"Colonel Nostros, I asked you to bring me your best." Hadrian pointed to Patrick. "Is this him?"
"Yes, sir." Maria replied, "Captain Patrick Forsythe, 42nd Platoon. One of the best crusaders I have."
"Hmmm. Tell me, captain. Why are you still commanding a platoon?"
"Promotion is recent, sir. I haven't been assigned to a battalion." Patrick lied, of course, but he didn't want to lose this assignment.
"I see. You have been briefed on the situation."
"Good. Then what is your plan for discovering whether or not the Sabbat exist?"
Patrick cleared his throat and pulled out a datapad. "I don't want to occupy too much of your time with the lowly operations of a simple platoon commander, so I'll make this as brief as possible." Flipping through his notes, he continued. "The Sabbat's former headquarters was Wilke's Star. As it is a vampire's paradise... long night seasons and heavy cloud cover almost year round, I believe that's where they would form again. That's where I'll start my search."
"How will you confirm our suspicions?"
"Well, even after the last raid on Wilke's Star, there were still some leeches... ahem, I mean Sabbat vampires who were interrogated and then deported to Enoch. I believe some of them may have made it back to that planet. We also have records of many vampires that were not confirmed dead, and could still be there, but nothing was certain after that raid and formal procedure was not followed."
The colonel stiffened in his chair and the general leaned forward. "There were 5,000 vampires on Wilke's Star. Two LEGIONS had difficulty taking them down. I was there, captain. Formal procedure was not our minds."
"No offense, sir, but my father died there too. I'm simply stating my difficulties." Gartvo nodded and waved for him to continue. "We'll break up into teams of two, search the planet, and hope we'll get lucky in finding one."
"And if you do find one? What then?"
Forsythe stalled. "Well, I don't have a whole lot of ideas yet, but I would request that you keep it as quiet as possible that we know they're around, and especially quiet that my squad is on the case. It's bad enough when they're expecting an investigation, but when they know who to look for and when you're coming, that makes things even worse."
"Granted, but what happens if you find one of them?"
"In the event that I do track down one of the major players, we will follow them, interrogate them, and hopefully find out whether our suspicions are true or not. If they are, I would like to have your word that my squad will have the pleasure of taking whoever we find down whenever you decide the Tech Infantry will make their move. I would like to play a bigger role in the elimination of the Sabbat than just babysitting one of their card-carrying members--assuming they're still around."
His commander officer looked shocked; her subordinate was asking favors of the CNC?! However, Hadrian didn't look annoyed; he just stared at the captain, studying him with his eyes. "Agreed, captain. I would ask for no less in your place."
"Thank you, sir."
"Then good luck, captain. You're going to need it."
Once they were far enough way from the general's office, Colonel Nostros relaxed. "Tell me, Patch, do you plan to aggrevate every senior officer in the Tech Infantry, or only those you like?"
"I'm going to need certain things for my men."
"Have you been listening to me, captain?" Maria was pissed.
Patrick sighed. "Look colonel, we can't afford to be too careful. That's what killed us on Wilke's Star before and I don't want a repeat of that with my platoon." He pulled out his datapad again and started punching buttons. "I know you don't dictate what the Bureau of Personnel gives me, but would you PLEASE try to persuade them to give me some veterans for this assignment. This mission is delicate enough as it is, and walking on eggs with these rookies so that they don't blow our cover is going to make it even worse."
"Crusader units are already strained for personnel..."
"Please, Maria. You needed the best, now I need the best."
She closed her eyes and sighed. "I won't promise you anything, but I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you, colonel. You just saved my ass again."
"Sometimes I wonder if you're worth it. Report to Patton Base. In a few days I hope to pull some strings for you. Be grateful, damn it. That's an order."
A week later, Forsythe had his veterans, and he was sitting in a bar on Wilke's Star, the rain tapping on the dirty skylight above. Corporal Jezziah was with him, barely touching his mug of splash. The captain was drinking only water... and he was getting free refills from the leaky ceiling above the table. The "Raven's Grin" was hardly the spot for night life, but with half the major city abandoned or destroyed, there wasn't a lot of life either. There were a smattering of different figures around; all looked dirty, worthless, and as the scanning unit in Jezz's sunglasses confirmed, all mortal.
"Tell me, Jezz. Why did you want this job?"
The corporal's eyebrows raised above his glasses. "For the adventure, why else?"
"Stupid answer. Everyone says that. Now why REALLY did you want this job?"
Jezziah cleared his throat and tried again. "My chantry has always fought evil, s... Pat." The corporal had orders not to reveal their real status. "Since Carthage fell to the Romans to Fieres 3, we've been where the heat's the hottest." Tapping his glass, he added, "That's here. What about you?"
"Well, I..." Just then, another figure entered the room. The bartender tensed; everyone else quickly turned away. He went up to the bar and started talking quietly with the owner. Patrick looked at Jezziah, the corporal looked at the new entry. With the computer in his bag, the scanning device would determine if he was a blood-sucker or not. Patrick tensed when he saw him nod in the affirmative. The computer shifted through the mug shots in the downloaded Crusader database on the Sabbat. Finally, Jezz drummed his fingers on the table, meaning a match had been found.
Forsythe moved his thumb up and down, trying to ask whether or not he was important. Jezz gave him a thumbs up; important leech. Patrick had to nab him, but how? Meanwhile, the corporal was slowly moving for his sidearm.
END OF ACT ONE
Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.