THAT WHICH GODS DESTROY - Act III - Patrick Forsythe
The shuttle rocked, the alarms blared, and Captain Forsythe kept a firm grip on the control stick. The grey clouds of Wilke's Star moved closer and closer as beams of energy shot out from all around them. The Sabbat had known they were coming, Patrick thought; we'll be lucky if we land.
"Erratic manuevers, trooper. Find us a landing site ASAP!" a voice said to the right of his. Patrick turned to his co-pilot... Dad?
"If we get hit by another of those blasts," Lieutenant Thomas Forsythe continued, "we're done for. Get us into those clouds quick!"
Only two of the turbines were working. Descent was not a problem; pulling up in time was. Light was fading fast as they fell into the curtaining clouds. A peculiar rumble vibrated the ship. Suddenly, another bolt of light sent the shuttle spinning. Screams came from behind him. Pat looked to see the platoon. They were all certain of their doom; his grandmother, his aunt, two of cousins... all of them knew they were going to die.
Forsythe turned back to the controls. The entire console was dead. Pat turned to face his dad, but he was slumped over his console, blood oozing from his forehead. The pilot saw the shuttle clear the clouds and watched the ground spiraling below. Damn the Sabbat, he thought. We're all going to die and it's all my fault. We're all going to die and it's all my fault.
Pat closed his eyes and accepted his fate. Then the icy hand of Death touched his shoulder from behind. Forsythe turned to look and...
"Aaaaaaahhh!" the captain screamed as he awoke. From the cot he shuddered as the face of Sergeant al-Hajj stared at him from above.
"Are you all right, sir?" the platoon sergeant asked, his cold hand on his shoulder.
Patrick soon realized where he was. They were back in the warehouse, the platoon's makeshift HQ, as he laid down on a cot. The captain had decided to sleep while Second Squad finished the interrogation room for their captured vampire. He had needed the sleep, when the adrenaline of the ambush wore off, the stress released, Patrick was exhausted. Maybe sleep wasn't such a good idea after all, he thought. Looking up at his ranking NCO, he asked, "What is it?"
"The interrogation chamber and M. Ramirez are prepared. You can begin whenever you're ready."
"Good, let's do it."
Forsythe got up and walked over to the grey cube, where half the platoon surrounded it. The deceptive little container held the vampire, still staked, lying down on the hospital gurney within. There was an observation window from which the captain could control the interrogation. The four walls, ceiling, and floor were all heavily magic-shielded. When someone went inside, they were taken out of space and time. Anyone scannnig for them would never find them.
Standing at the window, Patrick turned to the technician beside hjim. "Wake him."
The tropper touched some buttons and a mechanic hand came down within the chamber. It grasped the stake in Ramirez's heart and yanked it out. The vampire came awake in a gasp of breath. Teleban set up and stared at Forsythe with glowing red eyes. Patrick smiled, "Ah, I see you're awake."
"Iaorme col mavtny..." the vampire mumbled, "tu eres dos..."
"In English, M. Ramirez?"
"Who the hell..."
"I'm Captain Forsythe, 42nd Platoon, Crusader Division of the Tech Infantry. And for your information, you are my prisoner. Any questions?"
Teleban was in the midst of a blood lust, so low on blood he neared frenzy, so it was best to get the ball rolling. Of course, the leech didn't feel like answering questions. "I'll swallow your soul into..."
"Yes, M. Ramirez, and you'll live long enough to try if you answer my questions." the captain pointed to the techie and suddenly the vampire was caught in a pressor field. Unable to move, Pat continued, "In this box, we control you. No one can save you, you can't break out, and your continued existance is dependant on me." Forsythe pointed again and the field disapated. "Now you'll notice the IV attached to your arm. It will supply blood to you when you answer a question to my satisfaction. If you refuse, there is another IV that will drain it from you. A removal of either of them without my code will cause them, and you, to explode. Do I make myself clear?"
Teleban begrudgingly nodded and the captain touched a button. Blood flowed into him and the glowing eyes disappeared. The vampire was weak, but stable; perfect for questioning.
Patrick decided to start small and work up the interrogation from here. "Why don't you start by telling us your name."
"You know my name."
"For the record."
"Tel Ramirez." he said as he stood up.
"Good, and at one point you were the Sabbat Bishop of New Bath, in the Beowulf system. "
"The Sabbat are dead."
"We'll get to that, but answer the question, yes or no."
"I'm glad we understand each other. Now, about the Sabbat..."
"The Sabbat are dead!" Ramirez repeated.
The captain looked over at the mind mage monitoring his thoughts. She shook her head; he was lying. Pat decided to play along with Teleban for a while. "Of course, but since you admitted that you were Sabbat, why aren't YOU dead?"
"I wasn't here when the TI raided."
"You were on Beowulf?"
"What happened to your pack?"
"Wiped out by a crusader team."
"Really? Anyone I know?"
Tel just glared at him for a moment and then said, "I never found out. I left as soon as I heard."
"And came here to Wilke's Star?"
"So that means you've been here how long?"
"I've lost count."
"Hmph." the captain muttered as Jezziah opened up a narrow beam transmission to Division HQ; checking Crusader records for a raid on New Bath. "So what have you been doing here for the past... however long it's been?"
Ramirez gave a predator's smile. "Bleeding your kind dry."
"So how did you pay for your house?"
"Yes, you couldn't have robbed enough people to pay for that fancy a pad. Wilke's Star isn't that rich. It's the Sabbat, isn't it? You're still working for them!"
"No." His response came a little too late. The captain hit the drain button. Ramirez writhed in agony as the tube drained some of his precious blood. Tel's eyes flashed and he bared his fangs. Finally, the drain stopped and the leech simply glared at Pat.
The captain was unphased. "Now, do you work for the Sabbat?"
"YES! Damn it, yes!" Ramirez screamed, desperate to prevent another blood letting.
Forsythe allowed another infusion of blood to trickle down into him. Pat knew he had to keep his prisoner sane enough for more questions. Too little blood and the vampire would frenzy, changing from the shadow of a man to a pure animal in rage. The captain needed to know more. "How large is the Sabbat today, M. Ramirez?"
"I don't know." Forsythe waved his hand over the drain button, but Ramirez rammed his body against the window, pleading for his life. "PLEASE! I don't know! They don't tell me! I barely know who'd kindred on _this_ planet!"
The captain looked to the mind mage. She nodded; truth. "Who are they?"
"My contacts. I ran the city for them, no more. There's only a few in my pack."
"Would one of them be Mordred?"
Forsythe flipped another switch and a lifesize hologram of himself appeared next to Ramirez. "Mordred!" it cried, "Aidez-moi! Aidez-moi!" Then the captain flipped it off.
"Mordred is dead. Everyone knows that." Tel said.
The captain looked over at the mind mage. She shrugged her shoulders. Great, he thought, he tried another plan. "You don't seem certain of that. One minute you're calling to him, the next you're denying he exists. Who would call in desperation for a dead vampire?"
"I..." Ramirez was lost for words.
"Have you seen Mordred lately?"
"Then why are you unsure?"
"Because HE says Mordred's alive."
"I can't say. HE will kill me if I say!"
"So will I." the captain moved his hand over the button. "Now who says Mordred's alive?"
Teleban began to sweat blood. Finally, Pat got sick of waiting and hit the drain button. As Ramirez howled an unearthly roar, the captain's voice echoed through the speaker, "WHO?!"
In the last spasms of pain, the leech relented, "CORTEZ!"
"Cortez?" Pat snapped his fingers, signalling Corporal Mokumbo to check the TI mainframe for this new reference. "Who is Cortez?"
Breathing heavily from the pain, Tel answered, "Fabian Cortez, Mordred's... servant."
"When did he show up?"
"Two years after the raid here. Cortez shows up, tells us Mordred's still around, tells us he needs us to rebuild the Sabbat."
"And you believed him?"
"When Cortez tells you something, you better listen."
"Really?" the captain mocked, "Just how powerful _is_ this vampire?"
"That's just it! He's not kindred, he's kine!"
"That's right, human. Well, I'm not sure that he qualifies as human any more. He's five hundred years old."
"Then how is he mortal?"
"He's a ghoul! A mortal sucking the blood of Mordred. Drinking an antedeluvian's blood! Ha! This man is powerful. He has knowledge I can't comprehend.
"Really? Then maybe you can tell us where to find him."
"He left. A week ago, he left for Avalon. Said he was going to check on some business opportunities. Told me to mind the city while he was gone."
"And a fine job you did, too." The captain hit another button and blood poured into him. The leech looked relieved as Pat signaled the mind mage to get ready. "Now I want you to thik about what Fabian Cortez looks like. Can you do that?"
Teleban nodded and closed his eyes. After a few seconds, the captain looked over at her and the mage nodded. "Thank you, M. Ramirez, we'll be in touch." Forsythe turned the window opaque and walked over to Jezziah. "Well?"
The corporal poured over the incoming transmissions from the TI mainframe. "Sir, I can confirm the raid on New Bath, but Cortez is a complete mystery."
"The only search on that name came up with an vampire's interview thirty years ago. One phrase only. 'Cortez is coming.'"
Forsythe looked over at the mind mage. 'What about you?"
"Got a clear image. I'm going to feed it into the computer now."
"Corporal, get me a narrow beam to Colonel Nostros and make sure to scramble it. I think we've finally got a lead."
As Jez made the connection, Patrick's eyes fixated on the demonic smile of Fabian Cortez, appearing bit by bit before his very eyes.
END OF ACT III
Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.