The 9th Squad held position at the house where the Animus Mortis was found. A black skylimo picked up Burton. HQ sent in a "Hazmat Truck"—actually, a durable and disguised transport vehicle—to transport the item back to HQ for study. Hemelshot got into the truck as the driver, while Sister Carmen and Carpenter took up positions in the back to maintain the ward over the painting's influence. Jama rode shotgun, while Tyger accompanied the truck in his power armor.

Fog filled the streets that night as the group traversed the city streets. A warning from HQ came almost too late as the truck encountered a clade civil rights march led by an ex-companion clade named Leo. Leo negotiated with Tyger to allow the truck to pass by unhindered, but the negotiations were cut short as a group of three power armors bearing symbols of the Catholic Church intervened and demanded the painting and Carpenter's sword. Hemelshot began the battle by attempting to ram one power armor with the truck, narrowly missing. Two other power armors confronted Tyger and badly damaged the Blue Steel Special with their massive two-handed swords. The third power armor wrestled with the truck, crashing into the front of one of the brownstone buildings nearby during the struggle. Hemelshot's driving dragged the power armor across the street, and Jama's pistol fire inflicted some minor damage, but the power armor prevailed and knocked the truck over on its side. Tyger's duel with the other power armors was short-lived, as a badly-aimed burst of autocannon fire blasted into the protesters rather than into his intended target.

The damaged building began to collapse, threatening the crowd of protesters. Carpenter confronted one of the power armor units, while the other two called for Tyger to yield. Meanwhile, Sister Carmen spoke frantically to the suits begging them to stop, explaining that these units belonged to radicals within the Order of Enoch. Tyger disengaged from his two opponents, preferring to save the lives of the crowd than to do battle. The Blue Steel Special propped up the sagging building, quickly joined by the other two Enoch power armors.

Carpenter managed to defuse the situation, and Hemelshot got the truck back onto the road using the jack. As the Enoch power armors flew away, Leo led the rest of his protesters to safety.

The truck arrived at HQ with no further complications and was met by Director Cadbury and Captain Richards. The painting was taken into custody by the scientific team (with plenty of active wards) while the 9th Squad was given a chance to get cleaned up and receive medical treatment. Cadbury debriefed the 9th Squad and awarded the silver starburst for gallantry to Tyger, while the rest of the team received promotions. Hemelshot then took charge of the squad while Cadbury answered some questions and dismissed the team for a week's rest while the painting was studied. Jama, Burton, and Carpenter all spent considerable amounts of time that week at HQ doing research on the painting itself.

Jama's research into the occult nature of the painting revealed that the Animus Mortis is well-named, for it craves and feeds on death. The Animus Mortis has a link to the Patton Family, and it becomes vulnerable when a member of that family dies in close proximity. Apparently, the Animus Mortis was so powerful now because of the previous carnage wrought at the asylum and at the warehouse.

Burton also came forward with some insight into the painting's nature—the Animus Mortis is a kind of sub-dimension, like an airlock, between Earth and the Entities' realm.
Burton also found that the inmates from the asylum were being tapped as a power source by the Animus Mortis—as it consumed their souls, it grew more powerful, and would eventually become too powerful to seal off even with the resources at XSWAT HQ—therefore, the group was operating on a time limit. Burton theorized that he could generate a "quantum tunnel" into this subdimension and allow someone to attack the painting from within. Enough destabilization from the inside of the Animus Mortis, he explained, should unravel the painting in the physical world as well. This method was not only very dangerous, it required a massive power drain as well, and would plunge the city into a blackout for several hours.

The group debated which of these two solutions to accept. Jama believed there was a link between the painting and the Pattons, and its destruction might very well spell the end of Jay Patton's life as well. With that in mind, the team spoke with Mr. Patton—Jay explained that he was willing to die if it meant the end of the painting, but he did not wish to kill himself to accomplish that. The 9th Squad then returned to XSWAT HQ and spoke with Director Cadbury to outline these solutions. Cadbury asked Hemelshot to set up countermeasures to the risks inherent in Burton's plan (riot police stationed at trouble points, generators for the vulnerable hydrolizers, and so forth) and called for volunteers to attempt the risky "quantum tunnel" solution. The 9th Squad all stepped forward (apart from Burton, who would be needed to operate the equipment). Hemelshot asked Burton to made a modification on his C-90 to overload the weapon (meaning it had only one single shot before becoming useless), while Tyger drew extra armor from the supplies at HQ. Carpenter was given a medallion of St. Christopher by Sister Carmen.

Upon entering the painting, the squad was presented with personal visions of other places and times, including visions of friends, loved ones, enemies, and even alternate versions of themselves! These visions each provoked a confrontation. Jama was the first to realize that the confrontation was the Animus Mortis's attempt to break through her wards. She fought back, summoning additional power from the strange, magic-rich environment inside the painting's subdimension. Now free of the visions, Jama awoke Carpenter (by slapping him in the face with her warded hand), and together, they awoke Hemelshot and Tyger (Hemelshot was punched by Carpenter while Jama splashed Tyger with summoned water).

The Animus Mortis then decided to confront the squad in person and manifested itself in the center of their formation with a blast of eldritch energy that scattered the XSWAT officers and nearly knocked them all out. Fortunately, the squad recovered and blasted the Animus Mortis with every weapon available—Hemelshot fired the one single blast from his overloaded C-90, Carpenter hewed into it with the Spatha Sancta, and Jama finished it off with devastating magic that she drew from the dimension's own power.

The Entity inside the Animus Mortis was dead, but there was one task left remaining—to seal the subdimension from within. Jama knew what to do, but even here, her power alone was not enough to accomplish the task. Drawing strength from the other members of the squad (Precision from Hemelshot, Confidence from Tyger, and Faith from Carpenter), Jama cast the final spell and the squad found itself suddenly returned to the Earth realm. The Animus Mortis flaked away into gray ash and vanished, its threat defeated for all time.