March 18th, 2112
The 9th Squad was put together as a scratch team by Director Cadbury to replace the previous squad, lost and presumed dead within Omega Sector. The officers were introduced to Cadbury, each other, and Corporal Hanler, their dispatch officer. The first case for the new 9th Squad then arrived.
The 9th Squad met and spoke with Chris Patton, who claimed that magic was used to steal something very valuable from his father, Jay Patton. Chris dangled the prospect of additional funding for XSWAT as an incentive to take the case. The item stolen was a simple bottle of water containing some ashes—ashes that were from a painting that Jay Patton had burned in his fireplace. That painting was named the Animus Mortis, and was recovered during a salvage operation some years earlier. Ten men went down to the ocean's floor to get the painting—only three returned, and only one survived. All three men were suffering from various exotic physical ailments that had no logical source. The lone survivor, Ed Bentley, was consigned to a mental institution soon afterwards.
Two years and two days ago, Jay Patton's wife and son were brutally murdered in the same room. That case has never been solved, but Jay Patton clearly believed that the painting was somehow responsible. He burned the painting and scattered its ashes, keeping a few for himself "just in case" someone ever tried to put the painting back together.
Jay Patton fears that day has come to pass. Once the theft of the ashes was discovered, he hired Hansen's Howler's, a discreet mercenary force, to recover the bottle. However, Hansen's mercenaries failed to recover the item and are presumed missing in action. Among the items found at Hansen's Angelus office was a homing beacon tracking system, indicating Hansen's last known position to be in a dockside warehouse in the Gamma sector.
During the investigation of the crime scene at Patton manor, a bootprint with seawater traces was recovered from the floor. In addition, the security system recorded a very nondescript individual stealing the bottle somehow without having tripped any alarms going in or out. Officer Jamadigni Renuka confirmed that there were traces of magic present on the mantle where the bottle used to be and in the fireplace, but nowhere else, indicating that magic had NOT been used to steal the bottle.
Further investigation revealed that Ed Bentley, the remaining survivor of the ill-fated Patton salvage expedition, had a brother—Marcus Bentley, an ex-con with a talent for burglary. The curator of the Darwin Memorial Art Museum, Alec Lafitte, explained that the painting of the Animus Mortis may have been the work of a pre-cataclysm artist named Greg Stoneham, a man infamous for his disturbing paintings and madness. Alec Lafitte was later reported to have been hospitalized.
Information from Patton manor indicated that ashes from the painting may have ended up mixed into fertilizer at Windsor Golf Course. An investigation at the Windsor Golf Course revealed little—no evidence was found to suggest anything magical had been used to recover the painting's ashes, if that is what occurred.
A representative of the Order of Enoch explained to Nathan Carpenter that the Animus Mortis is a very powerful evil artifact. The Order claims that items such as the Animus Mortis can only be destroyed forever under very specific circumstances and that those circumstances vary from item to item. The Order also believes that the Animus Mortis has a sentience of its own and "wants to be restored." Lastly, the Order warned that anyone who is closely associated with the painting may fall under the painting's influence in some way.
As XSWAT arrived at the Asylum, something was clearly wrong—the front gate hung half-way open and all the lights inside were off. As XSWAT moved to investigate, an unearthly roar echoed out from within the building, accompanied by screams. A window burst outwards and smoke roiled out into the air. The rain became more intense, and an oppressive, nauseous sensation emanated from the building. Carpenter and Hemelshot arrived on the scene in a Spinner. Hemelshot got very lucky with the spinner's sensors and determined that something very large was inside the Asylum's garage. Carpenter bailed out as Hemelshot accelerated through the garage door to ram into the leg of a Class 2 Entity. The Entity retaliated by slashing Hemelshot with its claws and teleporting outside to face the rest of the 9th Squad. Carpenter's sword, the Spatha Sancta, grievously wounded the Entity as it futilely attempted to strike Tyger with its claws and a nearby ambulance. Finally, Jama's "scissors" attack spell penetrated the Entity's defenses and reduced it to a smoldering pile of stinking slime. As the sun went down, the rain quickly dissolved the Entity's body. A skull was found within, some scraps of decomposing flesh still clinging stubbornly to the bone as nightfall begins...