THAT WHICH GODS DESTROY - Act IV - Patrick Forsythe
"...and he says that this Cortez is on Avalon."
"I see." Colonel Maria Nostros appeared on the other end of the vidcom lines, looking as serious as ever. Patrick Forsythe was glad to have her as his commanding officer. Some divisions had some desk jockey when they last time they saw blood was when they got a paper cut. "And you wish to follow this ghoul?"
"Actually, colonel, I had _planned_ on staying here for continued intelligence gathering, but now I think that there are some things I'd like to have another few weeks here, at least."
Maria's eyebrow went up with a sigh. "It's your call, Patch. I don't see any problems with you staying on Wilke's Star..."
"As I thought," the captain interrupted, "Thank you, Colonel. I'll let you know if we find anything else useful to the Crusaders. Forsythe ou..."
Nostros stopped him. "I'm not done yet. What about your platoon? They won't have any trouble staying under cover, will they? They're likely to get a little stir crazy locked up in a warehouse for three weeks."
"I can handle it." Pat shot back.
"Without communication from the outside? Are you _sure_ you can keep them in line?"
Forsythe was almost hurt. He knew his duty! Why couldn't the colonel see that?! "It's not a problem, sir. I've got them wrapped around my finger."
"Patch... I mean, can you keep them in line without making a wall between you and your troops."
"There already is... it's called rank."
"And I'll take it away from you if you don't ease up on them a little. All right, Patch. You and your men can stay, but you'd better make sure you can keep them happy while you're there. If I get any more complaints from you men about you, then you can kiss your command good-bye. At least _try_ to get to know them."
"I suppose this is an order." the captain grumbled.
"Does it need to be?" Maria challenged. Patrick opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Nostros groaned, "Then yes, captain. I _order_ you to get to know your men... and NOT be reading the personnel profile either. Talk to them or I'll bump you down to private so fast your head'll spin. Understand?"
Forsythe closed his eyelids and nodded in acceptance. "Yes, sir."
"Do you need anything else?"
"The latest news feeds, any recent intelligence of vampire activity within the Fed, and perhaps, a strong sedative."
"I'll see about the first two. Prepare to download."
The next couple of days were rather dull. The platoon poured over the news feeds while the NCO's and the captain found the pattern of Mark One. In the end, they figured out where their little blood-sucking, hell-raising, motorcycle-riding fiend was going. The captain leaned over the electronic map, muttering as he followed the course.
"What's that, sir?" Sergeant al-Hajj asked.
"Noth..." Pat would normally just blow it off, but he remembered what the colonel had told... no, _ordered_ him to do. If he had to talk with anyone, he might as well start with the man he knew best; his platoon sergeant. "I mean, there's got to be an easier way to catch this leech."
"Easier than what?" Salah asked.
"If we go around town blasting every vampire in town, right in the open, pretty soon they'll go to ground, and we'll learn nothing."
"So we need a way to take them out quickly without getting noticed."
The sergeant scratched at his head and then looked up at his CO. "Well, normally we've been taking out powerful blood-suckers... leeches that need to be stopped by _serious_ firepower. However, from everything that Squad Three has been telling me, this one's just a punk."
"So what's your plan?"
"Look here, sir." al-Hajj pointed to the former industrial part of town. "Mark One takes a ride every night through a different part of this rubble. No one's near there for miles."
"But his rides are always random."
"Yes, up until this point." the sergeant zoomed in on a single spot on the city map, "That is the only way to get back through to the main city. The other paths are block and our little leech knows it. Ambush him there, fire some stakes in him as he's riding, then collect the bike. He is known to be missing for days at a time, according to our audio surveillance, so vampires won't be going to ground if he disappears."
"Good. Get our snipers some crossbows and get them ready. First squad will be backup. We'll get this sucker tonight."
Salah went to leave, but something inside Forsythe told him that wasn't what Nostros meant by "talking to the men." So Patrick stopped him and said, "Sergeant?"
"Yes?" the career enlisted stopped and turned back at his CO.
"How long have you been in the TI?"
al-Hajj was stunned for a second. "Um... well, sir, I guess it's going on fifteen years."
"Just after the war?"
"Yeah, I was stupid. Wanted to see myself a real war. Got in too late to go against the Lib."
"So you've been in the Crusaders all that time?"
"No, sir. I've only been in this outfit for seven years."
"What else have you done?"
"Well... I, um..."
"Sorry, sir. It's rather embarrassing." Salah paused for a moment and then continued. "Well, like I said, I was stupid. After a year of border duty, I volunteered for Fieras 6."
Now it was the captain's turn to be surprised. NO ONE volunteered for Fieras 6. If there was hell anywhere in the universe, it was on that planet. The temperature was just above freezing on a good day. Not only were there bugs on planet that no one could get rid of, there were also this nasty race called the souleaters, which tended not to kill you, but if they touched you, turned you slowly into a pile of jello. Problem was, they tended to shapeshift, so you could never tell what it was you were looking for. Survival rate was about less than half back in the early days, less now, since they seldom left the base. "You _volunteered?_"
"Yeah." Salah bowed his head. "I wanted to see some action, so I picked the hardest duty."
"How long were you there?"
"The normal tour of duty there is six months. I reupped three times." Before the captain could utter another look of shock, the sergeant explained. "You see, when all around is death, you get real close to everyone around you. They were my family so I stayed with them... until Johnny Frisco bought it three weeks before the end of his tour. I am the last veteran of the 24th Platoon." A tear was starting to form in the corner of his eye but he blinked it away. "After that, I was offered my citizenship, but I took my corporal's stripes and my CO's were bucking me for early sergeant rank. I got to pick my billet so I took the boot camp on Deimos. Spent six years there, easily becoming drill sergeant after about a year and a half."
"What brought you to the Crusaders?"
"I guess after training all those fish, I got itching for some action. Vampires were the only game around I hadn't played."
"Oh. Well... thanks, sergeant."
Salah took that as a dismissal, so he saluted, turned, and walked off. Patrick stood there for a moment, stunned by what he found out. He knew he had earned a couple silver stars, the Legion of Honor, and the Federation Medal of Valor... the second highest decoration in the TI, but he had always thought that it was from chasing vampires. Forsythe realized he didn't know his men as well as he liked. He had asked for veterans; until this moment, he didn't realize he had gotten them.
It was raining again. On Wilke's Star, you would think with all this rain, _something_ would grow around here. Forsythe guessed there wasn't enough sunlight for something green... or anything recognizable apart from the mold and grey moss all around. 1st Squad laid in wait for the vampire biker, sealed up in their power armor, camoflauged against the grey rubble. The snipers waited on the other side, readying to stake him... or turn him into a toothpick holder, whichever worked.
Corporal Jezziah Mokumbo stood beside him, checking the scanners for any sign of the leech. Patrick flipped through frequencies on his dentcom until he made a private channel with Jez. "Corporal?"
"Do you think we're doing the right thing?"
"Staying on Wilke's Star, I mean."
"Well, that's not for me..."
"Yes it is. What have the rest of the men been saying about it."
There was a pause while Jez tried to find a easy way of saying it. "A lot of them hate being stuck in that warehouse, but most of them believe in you. If we're here, there's got to be a reason."
"What about Cortez?"
"Someone else will get him, sir. We've got to find out if the Sabbat are back or not, right, sir?" Forsythe gave a affirmative grunt back. "Then here's the place to check, not jumping back around on sunny Avalon. The men know that, sir."
"I'm glad they trust me, Jez." Patrick looked over the horizon and still had that some grey-on-grey look of clouds and metal flakes. "Why did you join the Tech Infantry again?"
So Jezziah told him, and when he was through, his squad commander asked him the dreaded question that Patrick knew would come. "What about you?"
Forsythe paused for a second, hoping that the vampire would come racing over the hill. This time, though, there was no easy reprieve; he had to open up. "Well, um... I'm still in the Tech Infantry because this is where I belong. My father was was in the Tech Infantry, and so was his father, and his father's father." Patrick's eyes glazed over for a bit, but the invisible faceplate allowed no one else to notice. "Most of my family has served in the Tech Infantry at one time or another, and very few of them made it out." Another pause, and for a moment, no one else was there... just his thoughts finally letting themselves out. "My dad died here at the hands of the Sabbat, and I _will_ make sure they pay for it. I'll see to it that every single one of those leeches dies this time, and they won't EVER come back to haunt my family again!" Just then, his mind kicked in, and he realized he had been saying all of this to one of his men. "I've got to check in with the sarge."
He started to move, but then suddenly the sound of a loud motor started reaching the amplifiers. The captain bit down to switch to the open frequency. "Point, report!"
"Our little leech is coming round the corner just fine. He'll be at your position in fifteen seconds."
There was a chime of "yes, sir" going through the five crossbowmen as they prepared to set their stakes to the sticking place. In short order, the motorcyclist roared toward the narrow gap. In a fluid motion, the snipers were up, aimed for a second, then loosed on their quickly moving target. All five stakes hit their mark, knocking the blood-sucker off his bike, dropping to the dirt unconscious.
"First squad, move in. Secure the mark!"
The invisible power armors suddenly became visible, racing out to cover the downed target, but he wasn't going anywhere with that much wood in him. "He's down, sir."
"Good, get him wrapped and ready for interrogation. I bet this one has some more answers we need."
"Oh, you are all so FUCKING DEAD!"
For his first words after being unstaked, this vampire was pretty bold. He was rewarded by a sudden loss of blood. He shrieked in terror as his sanguine vitae was released from his body. Writhing on the floor in pain, he still managed to scream, "Lizzie! Oh, god... Lizzie! Save me!"
"That's a good place to start," Patrick began, safe behind the transparent aluminum window. "Who's Lizzie?"
"She's the girl... that FUCKS your mother!"
Another touch of the button and another pint of blood lost. The pain had to have been unbearable for him. Forsythe tried again, "Hurts, don't it? You are going to tell us everything you know, or we're going to drain you... drop by drop."
"You cock-sucker! I'm no rat!"
"Really, such language." The captain held his hand over the drain button. The biker vamp just froze in terror. "Now, why don't we try again. First, give us your name."
The leech was crying blood. "Please, man. I can't tell you anything. I can't, PLEASE!"
"Your name? That's not so hard."
"_PLEASE!!!_ I can't tell you anything!!!"
Another drain and he continued to writhe in pain. The glow of frenzy was close for him. The boy was weak and shaking in convulsions, even after the drain had stopped. "You're not going to betray anyone by telling us your name, are you? What's your name?" Patrick had to get this guy broken or they'd find out nothing.
"My name is... oh, God, Lizzie save me!"
"Tell us something, damn it, or we'll take another drop of your blood!"
"NO!" came out as a frantic screech. "Okay, my name is..." Suddenly, the door opened behind the captain from outside. The light reflected off the window and the boy cried for mercy, "Lizzie! I didn't tell them anything! PLEASE!" All eyes turned as they saw the woman standing in the doorway. She was extremely thin and pale, ragged shoulder-length blonde hair, and wearing a very light short dress. The expression on her plain face was one halfway between boredom and pure hatred.
Before any of the platoon could react, she moved like lightning. Speeding through the mass of men and women, with her arms, troopers were thrown every which way. Patrick was stunned as she made a straight line for the chamber door. Two seconds. In one pull, the interrogation door was ripped off, and then thrown on three troopers who were in the way. Another zip and she was inside, disconnecting the restraints on the biker (without exploding them), and gathering him in her arms. Her strength was deceived by her thin frame. Within the few seconds she had appeared, already she had ripped through his men, and made inside to rescue the fellow vampire. While the platoon was only now beginning to react, leaving the captain to just stare at the couple in disbelief. The way that she cradled him in her arms... it was like watching a mother and her overgrown child.
Just then, her eyes turned to lock on to his own stare. Her concern for her child turned into an utter disgust of him. Her eyes flashed and with a terrible booming voice, she pointed directly at the captain, screaming "YOU!"
Patrick stepped back a step. This was the Wyrm... pure, unadulterated EVIL. The woman stood up, still holding the biker in his arms, and started moving towards him. Her anger seemed to increase with her careful step. Finally, she belted out another terrible scream. "YOU'RE NEXT, MORTAL!!!"
END OF EPISODE
Orders: 4 x 5 points = 20 points.
Good Planning: +5 points.
Good Writing: +5 points.
Total: 30 experience points.
Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.