Brogan's vigil on the Rutger Bridge continued long after dark. After Jama left with Carpenter, only Tyger and Yiska remained with him. A while later, Tyger departed abruptly, still in a deep, surly funk. Brogan watched him leave without a word—Tyger was, in his opinion, too far gone emotionally to be of any more use in the line of duty. Better to let him work out his issues elsewhere than make trouble here, anyway. And then, Yiska was called away to help coordinate disaster relief efforts with the Hive Mind, or whatever was left of it.
Leaving just Brogan. Officer in Charge. Hemelshot gave him a 'brevet promotion' to 2nd Lieutenant. If he tries to make this stick, we're going to have a serious disagreement. I've got to keep doing field work to feed 'this thing' inside me. Richard's just gonna have to understand that, or I'll be going freelance like Scanner. And wouldn't that be interesting? All things considered, I'd rather stay on the force.
Of course, Brogan's decision about whether to stay with X-SWAT depended on who succeeded Cadbury. And Hemelshot was right—it was up to the Council, whenever they got around to making the appointment. But Brogan had been deadly serious about what he told Jama. If she wanted the job, they had enough dirt on Hart to force him to help Jama get it. And if that wasn't enough, there were other Council members still in jail, on Hart's orders. They could be brought into play as well. His people were running this show now, dammit, and they were going to get this City back on its feet, whatever it took....
Brogan realized he risked falling victim to the same hubris as the previous regime—and that worried him. Hart hadn't been entirely wrong about 9th squad's takeover of X-SWAT HQ. Apparently, there was nobody else in charge now, so maybe this was a 'military takeover.' And maybe we should have done it a lot sooner. Being a clichˇ made it no less true: the road to hell was paved with good intentions. No, that's backwards. The Hart Regime already paved that road, the Autobahn straight to Hades, and so here we are. The City's already gone to Hell—now it's up 9th Squad to bring everyone back, by any means necessary. To hell with 'good intentions.'
They thought I was trouble, back when I wanted to die? They ain't seen nothin' yet....
Fortunately, the security situation was manageable from that point onward. Brogan 'borrowed' a pair of aviator shades from a disaster victim who wouldn't need them any longer. Why do so many people wear these things in a city where it's always cloudy? Californians to the last, I guess. He wouldn't normally scavenge, but now he needed to interface with the public, not scare them out of their minds. There's been too much of that already. He looked a bit odd, wearing shades long after dark, but Brogan did, after all, have excellent night vision—he'd been designed that way. And has anyone thought it a bit odd, that Gurzorath's 'death curse' affected my eyes, even though they're cybernetic? I mean, what the hell?
Hours later, Brogan's relief arrived. Someone had cobbled together a mixed squad of Sentinel Watch, X-SWAT, and regular APD troops. They piled out of two cruisers, and their CO, Lieutenant Sutton of Sentinel Watch, asked a nearby EMT who was in charge of security. The EMT pointed in Brogan's direction, and the six of them headed over to meet him.
Sutton stopped a couple of paces short of Brogan when he caught site of the massive cyborg. In spite of the rain, Brogan was filthy, and he still carried a particle beam weapon and his mangled riot shield. "Uh... Lt. Sutton, Sentinel Watch. We're your relief—I understand your people have been out here a while."
Brogan took a step forward and offered his hand. "Since the whole thing started, I'm afraid. The others had business elsewhere, or got evac'd. I'm the last one." He made a conscious effort not to crush the smaller man's hand in his grip.
Sutton shook Brogan's hand nervously. "You've been holding this site down... alone, Sergeant... Brogan?" He had to struggle to read Brogan's badge in the dark.
"Nothing I couldn't handle. For the duration, I'm afraid it's 'acting 2nd Lieutenant Malachi Brogan. Glad you could make it."
The other officers looked at other. Sutton's second in command, also a Sentinel, piped up in sudden recognition. "Brogan? You're on the list of people we're supposed to...."
"Shut the fuck up, Cartwright!" Sutton shot him a vicious look. Behind him, the two members of his squad from X-SWAT tensed noticeably, but didn't speak. The APD regulars looked like they'd rather be anywhere else.
Brogan could think of a number of things he'd like to say to young Cartwright, but none of them would make any difference—his mind was made up: Sentinel watch were the 'good guys', and Brogan was on the list of 'bad guys', so anything he said would be suspect. But the rookie would listen to his squad-mates, especially Sutton, so Brogan expected Cartwright's upcoming shift would be quite... educational.
Brogan ignored the matter entirely, and addressed the X-SWAT troops behind Sutton. "You two know what we're dealing with here? Capabilities of Entities? Symptoms of exposure?"
They had both served watch duty, briefly, on the Wall at Omega, and so had been briefed on Entities. Brogan warned them. "It's been several hours since I last saw one, but they're not all dead, so it's possible you might see one here yet."
Then he turned to the rest of the squad, and pointed at the X-SWAT troopers. "These two are going to brief you on what you're up against. You'll listen to them as if your life depends on it. This is like nothing you've ever seen before."
Brogan turned to Sutton again. "It's all yours, Lieutenant." He started to walk away, then turned back towards the motley squad. "Oh, one more thing—any of you serve with the Angelus Volunteers during the Invasion?"
Both X-SWAT troops, and to Brogan's surprise, Cartwright, raised their hands. "If you get a chance, tell any Volunteers you're able to contact to send food, clothing, and other donations to the Order of Enoch. And to pass the word along." Brogan didn't wait for them to reply. Communications were in chaos across the City, but the Volunteers never had a formal command structure, so maybe a 'word of mouth' campaign would help. In any event, he intended to keep trying.
As they watched him leave, Cartwright sneered "What the hell was that all about? Why would the Angelus Volunteers jump just because he says so?"
The older of the two X-SWAT troopers looked at him derisively. "Well, for one thing, he founded the Volunteers. Now pay attention kid, we've got work to do."
Brogan wandered towards the triage area, wondering to himself "How, exactly, do I get the hell out of here?" It hadn't really occurred to him up to now, but most of the vehicles in the area were wrecked, and the ambulances coming and going were all earmarked for hospital runs—not X-SWAT HQ. Then he remembered the armored truck he had arrived in with Hemelshot—it seemed like days ago. He found it, and discovered it still ran. But it also still had a small load of contraband military weapons in back, which he couldn't take to HQ. Back to the armory first, then.
Driving through the ruined streets, Brogan considered just how precarious the situation had become. The next time I meet someone like Cartwright, he might not have a responsible superior holding his leash. There are still a lot of Sentinels loyal to the Hart Regime and single-minded enough to try to arrest a high-level enemy of the state, no matter what's happened lately. It could happen to anybody in 9th squad—we're not safe running around alone. Not yet.
Back at the Armory, Brogan unloaded the truck, got himself cleaned up, had a quick bite to eat, then called the hospital to check on Carpenter. As expected, no information was forthcoming—Brogan wasn't a relative. He asked about arranging a visit, and the nurse told him to hold for hospital security! What the hell?
They were screening Carpenter's visitors, it turned out, due to a 'situation' which had occurred earlier that day, they said. Brogan suddenly remembered Tyger's abrupt departure from the bridge. Oh, no....
"...white-furred male clade intimidated one of our priests into taking him to Carpenter's private room. Since then, I've had to divert extra manpower to keep Carpenter under guard at all times. No more visitors without the express permission of the hospital director. You, sir, are not on the list."
Brogan was livid, but he didn't let it show—he had to work with these people if he was to gain anything. "I understand completely... is he still there? I might be able to help, if you'd like me to speak with him... no?...Alright, let me give you my contact information... I'm one his superiors... if anything changes... yes, I was with Carpenter when he was injured... please let me know if I can help. Thank you."
He put away the phone. Damn, now you've done it, Tyger. Don't you know where you'll end up for threatening a priest? And that's nothing, next to what Hemelshot's gonna do to you. And when Nathan recovers... oh, you're gonna have a bad, bad day, you sorry bastard!
Brogan fired up the truck and drove back to X-SWAT HQ. He half-expected an Entity or Sentinel officer to take yet another shot at him. Damned Enochians are still around, too. It's open season on Malachi Brogan, folks! Step right up! Take your best shot! Come and get me if you can! He felt almost disappointed that the trip was entirely uneventful.
Inside X-SWAT HQ, things weren't quite back to normal. Staffing levels were still too low by half, and Malachi saw a disconcerting mix of uniforms, from nearly every branch of Angelus law enforcement, including an alarming number of Sentinel Watch personnel. He hoped that got sorted out very soon, before one of them tried to do something stupid. Too many people tended to make political judgments with organs other than their brains.
He found Hemelshot in the massive building's nerve center—the communications room. Brogan wasn't sure how long he'd been there—didn't the man ever sleep? He waited until Hemelshot set down his comm unit for a moment, then tapped on his shoulder.
"Sir, we have to talk."