Real date: 13 June 2009
Game date: 19-23 March 2112
In the aftermath of the battle at the ruined brownstone belonging to Marcus Bentley, Officer David Silverton is suffering adverse after effects from the entity sickness, suffering a migraine headache. One of the arriving APD officers takes David back to XSWAT Headquarters for medical evaluation. They use one of the group’s two spinners leaving the 9th squad with a single spinner and six personnel. However with the arrival of the armored truck, which they intend to escort they will have rides for everyone.
The Armored truck arrives shortly after Officer Silverton’s departure. The bright eyed APD recruit who is driving the truck takes a look at the assembled XSWAT squad and immediately moves to report to the two good-looking female members of the team. He is quickly intercepted by Sergeant Thomas and plans for the transport of the Animus Mortis are made.
The first problem is how to move the Animus Mortis into the back of the truck. Based on the Shilo’s account of the odd happenings and feelings that she observed when she handled the painting nobody thinks that touching it is a good idea. Rachel and Mirko inscribe duplicates of their protective wards into the bed of the truck and then Mirko uses a simple levitation spell to move the painting into the newly prepared transport.
Sergeant Thomas contacts Corporal Green, the squad’s dispatch officer, to have the roads cleared for the transport of hazardous materials. They are still using the cover story about the contaminated chemicals and the contaminated corpse of the mutant elephant. In addition Sergeant Thomas manages to arrange for a pair of APD squad cars to escort the truck back to XSWAT Headquarters. Mirko and Rachel elect to ride in the back of the truck to maintain their wards. JT will ride shotgun in the armored truck’s cab while Tiberius, Rhonin and Shilo will fly cover in the remaining spinner.
At first things go smoothly but they soon pass through the eastern edge of Epsilon Sector. They manage to follow an elevated roadway which has been cleared of traffic by the APD but in the streets below them a Clade Rights protest march of some sort seems to be taking place. As they are passing over the disturbance below a pair of Powered Armors leap onto the roadway from cover to block their path. Apparently they had taken advantage of the disturbance here in order to surprise the convoy.
The two powered armors are large each carry an enormous two handed sword over two meters in length. Both power armors are white/silver in color and have crosses emblazoned upon them. As they announce that the convoy cannot pass one makes his point by stepping on the hood of the lead APD vehicle, crushing its engine but leaving the officers inside unharmed. The two armors demand that the Animus Mortis be turned over to them. Rachel who steps out of the armored truck recognizes them as belonging to The Order of Enoch.
Rachel steps forward and starts to reason with them and for the time being they listen as they keep their weapons trained on the rest of the convoy. While this discussion is taking place Tiberius attempts to hack into the control systems of the armor. The rest of the squad scrambles to take up what defensive positions they can though they realize that they are woefully outgunned. Rhonin, realizing that he can’t employ his melee abilities from a hovering spinner decides to take a nap in the back seat. He asks to be awakened if they land.
Rachel, over the course of a few minutes, manages to convince the two power armor pilots that a confrontation here with XSWAT will do far more harm than good (Persuasion roll made by nine). Grudgingly the two power armors make their escape before any XSWAT power armor can respond. Officer Tiberius watches them go secure in the knowledge that he had hacked their armor and could have shut down things any time he wanted.
Back on course for XSWAT Headquarters the squad encounters no further obstacles. As soon as they are moving again Rachel contacts Ian Carnegay to see if he knows of any means to destroy the Animus Mortis permanently. Ian agrees to meet her at XSWAT Headquarters and to bring a couple of rare books that deal with the subject. She also informs him of the aborted ambush by the two Order of Enoch power armors which surprises and alarms Ian. Soon the team is safe at XSWAT Headquarters and the Animus Mortis is transferred to a secure, and thoroughly warded, vault.
Officer O’Shea confides with the rest of the squad that the actions by the Order of Enoch were, according to her contact, very out of character for the organization. However there have been rumors of some turmoil within the Order and perhaps that has something to do with their uncharacteristically heavy handed intervention. She is worried about what this portents for future relations between XSWAT and The Order of Enoch.
Upon their arrival at headquarters the squad hits the showers; they are all covered with goo and the dust and debris from their last battle. In two days they have already managed to rack up a good deal of laundry for XSWAT support services. By that afternoon Tiberius begins to study the goo samples that he recovered from the brownstone battle and the energy readings that are given off by the Animus Mortis itself.
Ian Carnegay arrives with an old, somehow rare-looking, tome of considerable size. From it he has gleaned that one possible method of permanently unmaking the evil artifact (the Animus Mortis) would be though the noble sacrifice of one of the rightful owners. In other words one of the owners, either Chris or Jay Patton, would have to be willing to voluntarily step into the painting alone and close the portal. Only a rightful owner will be able to make the passage. They would likely then be able to seal the portal thus destroying the Animus Mortis, but there is no guarantee what their fate would be. In all likelihood such an effort would be fatal to the volunteer, though it would be valiant enough to insure their salvation in the eyes of God.
The squad is not pleased at this prospect and decided against making any such request to the Pattons until they are sure that no other course of action is available to them. They hope that perhaps Tiberius can determine some scientific method to undo the painting. That evening Shilo has a dream…
This vision is more like a waking dream, it is different than most and she gets the distinct feeling that she is witnessing something current rather than a potential future. In her vision she sees a misty grey featureless vista. In three directions as far as the eye can see the featureless ground and sky blend into a limitless horizon. In one direction there is something else.
A blank grey wall is pierced by a single portal. Beyond that opening is the darkest night an area of utter blackness. That inky void threatens to pour forth and indeed it seeps into the area like negative image of light shining in a window. Before the portal is a being of light. It appears to be a female clad in white from which a most wholesome light seems to radiate. The figure faces toward the portal arms outstretched, holding back the night.
After a couple of days of study Tiberius is able to offer the squad an alternative method which might be able to ultimately destroy the painting. He has plumbed the depths of modern science and even ventured into uncharted territory. He has realized that the goo from the entity he has studied is slightly out of phase with our reality thus giving it the unworldly and unnatural aura that even now causes his hackles to rise when he gazes upon it.
He has managed to determine a method to quantify, or measure the strange energies which still resonate from his samples and has discovered that those same aberrant energies radiate from the Animus Mortis and in far greater magnitude. Though even he does not fully understand it he knows that the painting acts as a sort of conduit between our reality and somewhere beyond.
Tiberius formulates a theory: The Animus Mortis cannot be destroyed because the painting that is here is only a shadow of the doorway which truly only exists within the space between dimensions. When the painting is damaged or destroyed in our reality it is only as if the conduit was briefly shut and like an unlatched door any wind is enough to open it again. If the true artifact can be destroyed within its own reality then the rupture that it causes can be truly sealed. The real problem is how to travel to that limbo reality in order to do the deed.
Tiberius’ experiments allow him to contrive a device that could make such travel possible. The Dimensional Bore is designed to impart those same queer energies to those within a few feet of the unique machine. In theory those affected should slip between the barrier of our world and the malign dimension of the Animus Mortis. Again, in theory, those so transported should find themselves in close proximity to the dimensional node itself. Even Tiberius has no idea of what will await those transported to this parallel dimension; will the laws of physics apply there? Will technology work? What of magic? The queer energies of that mystery realm should not be directly harmful to the living but he cannot say what life, or mockery of life, may greet any who are bold enough to chance the trip.
His theories further suppose that once the true Animus Mortis is destroyed its odd energies should perish with it. Any who inhabit that twisted dimension should be deposited back into their proper reality as long as they are conscious of their surroundings. As to those who are unconscious he cannot say for the energies of the unconscious mind are even now not fully understood. Clearly only those aware of the grave risks should be allowed to volunteer.
Before the squad embarks upon what from which there might be no return, they feel compelled to get the approval of Director Cadbury. A meeting is arranged so that Tiberius can explain how he thinks things will work. The squad, Captain Richards and Director Cadbury all gather into a briefing room on the morning of March 23 rd.
After Tiberius explains his findings it becomes clear that all the members of the 9th squad are willing to volunteer for the mission. Rhonin suggests that only he and Mirko undertake the mission since he feels that they’re mystical natures might allow them to better operate in the strange dimension. This suggestion is overruled by the rest of the squad who refuse to let their teammates face the danger alone. Shilo recounts her dream of the endless grey, the doorway to midnight and the angelic being that seemed to be baring the passage to whatever lay beyond in the darkness. Most do not know what to make of it. Director Cadbury simply notes that it is intriguing.
The meeting concludes with Director Cadbury giving her approval to the endeavor, she seems to feel that it is the best solution to the problem. The participants break up into individual discussions and the Director makes her way around the room and quietly gives a few words of encouragement to each member of the squad.
Tiberius makes the preparations to activate the Dimensional Bore. The gateway is to be opened in the same chamber that holds the Animus Mortis. There is no way to be certain how accurate the dimensional transference will be. It is hoped that by being in close proximity to the painting the travelers will arrive close to the portal. Everyone within a few meters of the Dimensional Bore will be phased into the space between dimensions. Rachel offers a prayer seeking God’s blessings and for them to be granted strength for the coming ordeal. The chamber is evacuated by all but the 9th squad and the switch is thrown.
The squad finds themselves scattered over a ten meter radius and facing in random directions. The trip is disorienting and it takes a second for everyone to get their bearings. They are in a light grey area. The ground, if that is what it is, and the sky are all a uniform grey, the horizon is impossible to make out and all is quite disorienting. The featureless realm is broken up only by the glowing gash which is obviously the portal of the Animus Mortis and by the forms of the amorphous nightmares of the entities.
Off in one direction Rachel is able to sense a great source of evil, but also singular benevolent force. She remembers the dream that Shilo related and supposes that in that direction lays the entry into the shadow world, hell is how Rachel thinks of it. There is no doubt that the benevolence is the angel that Shilo spoke of. Rachel feels compelled to go that way to aid if she in some way could, but then a thought seemingly comes to her that her fate does not lie there, her place is here in this battle.
In mere seconds the squad is in a dire situation. Half of them are knocked out or driven to their knees. Shilo and Rachel’s unconscious forms are being carried off in the grey mists by unspeakable horrors and the large entity guarding the portal seems impervious to attacks. Mystical attacks and even Maser fire seems to be strangely warped and dissipated by this dimension. Rhonin finds that his powers seem to be augmented here as he cleaves a Class I entity in half with a single blow of his sword.
Somehow Mirko and JT manage to get into a position to attack the portal directly and their attacks begin to damage it. Toward the end Mirko delivers a telling blow to the portal only to be smashed senseless by a massive clawed appendage of the large entity. JT who is now prone from an earlier attack delivers a final blast from his giant Maser and the portal shatters into a million glowing black particles, before being absorbed into the miasma of the surroundings.
With the destruction of the portal everyone is grasped by a profound sense of vertigo as they are snapped back to the reality of the chamber at XSWAT headquarters. Those who are conscious appear first followed in a few seconds by the ones who were unconscious. Where the Animus Mortis once lay is naught but a pile of fine ash that is rapidly atomizing and filling the vault with a rapidly fading whiff of brimstone.
Several of the squad members were wounded in the battle but Shilo and Mirko are the worst off. Fortunately medical teams were on standby so the two officers are immediately tended to and then shuttled off to medical facilities. The rest of the squad look pretty spent but are generally in good shape, the same can’t be said for yet another set of uniforms. Once they hit the showers Rhonin notices that his tribal markings have expanded from his right arm and now cover the upper right quarter of his torso.
After their baptism by fire, things are relatively quiet for the 9th Squad for the next two weeks. The hospital stays of Shilo and Mirko are mercifully short. As always Rachel offers prayers for them and the speed of their recovery is, coincidentally, remarkable. The number of Entity incursions throughout the city hits an all time weekly low just after completion of the destruction of the Animus Mortis, but in the following week there are signs that the number of incidents are again starting to climb.
In only a week of operation the new 9th squad has achieved something that no other XSWAT squad has done. They have traveled beyond our dimension and interdicted the passage of entities into our reality. Though the public will never know of this accomplishment, its significance is not lost on their superiors and Directory Cadbury. Three days after the completion of their mission (March 26th) Shilo and Mirko are released from the hospital. The members of the 9th Squad are honored and decorated with the Silver Star of Bravery.
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