PROLOGUE – Patrick Forsythe
If he hadn't been a werewolf, Patrick Forsythe would have been a nice guy. If he hadn't decided to be the bait for this mission, the captain might have been even respectable. However, after two days on the streets, disguised as a bum and smelling worse, this werewolf was angry.
Then the rain hit and Pat had had enough of Minos once and for all. "That's it." he subvocalized on his dentcom. "Get someone else on the cold slab. I've had it."
The captain could hear the groan of his platoon sergeant on the other end. "Um... yeah. I've got Jezziah ready to cover."
"Good. Make that damn Matter mage work for a change."
"Sir, we're on an open channel. Keep the profanity down."
"Our NEW RECRUITS, sir?" Sgt. Salah al-Hajj emphaised, trying to remind his CO of the sensibility of the new troops they had just taken into the 42nd Platoon. Half of "Forsythe's Furies" had been wiped out after the botched raid on Van Diemen. Ever since then, the Tech Infantry's Bureau of Personnel stuck him with gun-toting chaplains rather than dyed-in-the-wool fighters.
Patrick sighed. "Okay, just get him out here."
In a few minutes, Jezziah, dressed in rags, came around the corner to relieve him. Now the black man had to do this carefully, in case their target was watching. Corporal Jezziah Mokumbo made his move. "Hey, bro! What'cha laying round my 'hood for?"
Pat played his part now. "Your 'hood is big, bro. Find another spot."
"NO! Dat's my spot, in my 'hood, so beat it!"
"I's here first, I's stays."
Jezziah held up his fist. "Don't mak me use dis."
Just then, Mr. Paleface in the black trenchcoat comes out from the alley. "Please gentlemen, I insist that you stay..." he opened his mouth and bared his whitened fangs, "...for dinner."
"NOW!" Pat shouted and two snipers across the street fired the railguns. Just as the glass they hid behind shattered, the vampire convulsed as the depleted uranium-tipped bullets tore nasty holes in him.
This bought enough time for the captain and corporal to pull out their plasma revolvers and open fire. The bursts ripped and punctured the undead man but he still wouldn't die. Finally, after getting hit with multiple shots, he managed to run back into the alley.
"Damn it!" Forsythe screamed over the dentcom. "Where is 3rd Squad?!"
"On route." the platoon sergeant replied.
"Not good enough!" the captain shot back, finally reaching the alley, swivelling, and firing rapidly after the quick-moving shadow. When the vampire disappeared around the corner, Forsythe was enraged and wolfed out. At his full seven-foot stature, Patrick moved like lightning after his prey.
Leaving the mage in his dust, he quickly caught up with Mr. Trenchcoat. The vampire noticed and turned around for a punch. Using his momentum, the captain flipped over his target, landed flawlessly, then buried his class in the vampire's corpse. Paleface's screams made Patrick roar with triumph. Forsythe was so caught in the moment that he didn't see the trenchcoat's punch coming.
The werewolf was thrown back through the air. Patrick managed to land on his feet; now facing the quickly healing vampire. His prey smiled as he asked, "What are you waiting for, crusader?"
"This." Forsythe leaped toward him, but the blood-sucker was prepared for that, and dropped him to the ground with one punch to the chest.
Before he could get up again, a brilliant bright light exploded on the vampire. Paleface screamed in agony, falling to his knees as his flesh was burning. Just then, Corporal Jezziah appeared, took out a stake, and rammed it into the vampire from behind. The leech dropped to the concrete slab.
As the white phosphorous lamp winked off, Patrick turned around and saw the solid black figures, men and women dressed in the latest Mark 124 Power Armor. This was 3rd Squad, his fully-equiped backup. "And just where the hell were you?"
One of the black monoliths moved forward and saluted. "Sorry, sir. We were delayed."
"2nd Squad reported a sensor track on C post. We moved as soon as we heard."
The rage inside Patrick was waning and the squad leader had a good reason for being late, so he let it pass. "Teamwork, squad commander, is essential for a Crusader unit. Learn that and you'll be ready for corporal." Forsythe shifted back to human form as he continued his orders. "Now give me a blood sample from the deceased. I want to know his generation, his clan, and if possible, his hiding place. Then burn his ass."
"Yes, sir." the walking cliff replied and moved his squad. It was only then that Forsythe noticed he was naked. His clothes were shredded when he morphed into Crinos form. Now Patrick was never ashamed of his body, but it made it difficult to be taken seriously. "Corporal!"
"Yes, sir?" Jezziah looked up from his handiwork.
"Some clothes, if you don't mind?"
"Oh," as Mokumbo finally noticed it. Then with some waving of his hands, a new service uniform was weaved onto Forsythe's body.
The captain looked over the new suit and nodded approvingly. "Good work, Jez... but next time, no wool underwear."
"... so the tests confirmed that we bagged one Lawrence Hager aka Hadith the Unmerciful, allegedly belonging to the Black Hand, 5th gen, Gangrel blood... the works."
Pictured on the holoproj beside him was Colonel Maria Nostros, commander of the 5th "Crusader" Division, 8th Tech Infantry Legion; Forsythe's boss. "I see. So is the Black Hand finished on Minos?"
"Certainly Hadith was one of their leaders, but there's enough leads to tell me they're far from finished."
"Very good, Patrick. I'm going to give your platoon a change of venue. 86th platoon is on route and will relieve you. Transfer all notes to the mainframe and we willn download them to your replacements."
"Yes, ma'am." Patrick said, hiding his inner satisfaction of being ordered off this smog planet."
"Hitch of lift with the EFS Concordia back to Avalon. You'll be formally debriefed there."
"With all due respect, ma'am, I have my own ship."
"Not any more. The United Swiss Bank repossessed it yesterday."
"I'm sorry, Patch, but you didn't make your payments in three months."
"I was on Minos! What do you expect?!"
"Your personal difficulties are not Tech Infantry's concern, but I do have good news."
"I bet." Patrick was not hopeful.
"Your prize money for taking out that Assamite base in St. Michael's Star has been approved by Internal Affairs."
"Really? I'd almost forgotten about that? How much?"
"Well, I don't want to raise your hopes up..."
"A quarter of a million credits."
"And an important assignment."
"Divisional HQ has been receiving rumors and we've been checking on them. This report has come to the attention of the CNC. He's personally interested and asked for my best personnel. I chose you."
"Flattered. But what's so big that is gets Hell-Raising Hadrian interested?"
"We believe that the Sabbat have emerged again."
Thud. "But wait.... they were wiped out at Wilke's Star." They had killed Pat's dad in the process. He was only seven at the time.
"That's what we believed until recently. It appears they had only gone underground. Now they're back in force."
"And you want my small platoon to take them out?"
"No, we just want you to discover if the rumors are true or false. Oh, and you better have a plan to present when you reach Avalon... General Gartvo wants action now."
"The commander-in-chief of the Tech Infantry wants to see me?"
"Yes, so bring a formal mess uniform. Don't be late."
FIN DE PROLOGUE
Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.