Today was my first day on the job at XSWAT.
I am not sure what I thought but it sure didn't turn out anything like I imagined. Mankind's first and best hope against the horrors of the Omega Zone are nothing more than a band of misfits. Somehow I expected a team filled with people who worked as hard as doctors to get where they were but that isn't the case at all. The 9th Squadron is mostly filled with people who have nowhere else to go.
J.T. is our squad leader. A cyborg. He was blown to bits as a police officer and rebuilt as a machine to save what little was left of his life. The captain said that over 70% of his body was robotic. I wonder that such trauma and fundamental disconnection from humanity doesn't drive one completely mad. How does one understand the human condition when one is no longer truly human? How do you reach enlightenment when your life energy is electricity? J.T. is a man (creature?) who bears close watching. It worries me that our leadership is placed in the hands of the person least able to understand what it is that we protect.
Shilo. I am not sure what to think of the crazy lady with the blue hair. I sense that she is troubled somewhere deep inside. She presents a bullet proof, nearly masculine facade to the world and while I am not some enlightened elder, it is my experience that such an act hides one who is fragile under it. She also strikes me as a little paranoid, maybe it is a result of her powers of the mind? The captain said that she was a precongitive but I haven't really seen anything that would indicate what she really does? I trust in the judgment of my superiors but Shilo reminds me of a wolf - never really domesticated. At her heart, I suspect there is something primal and dangerous.
Rhonin is another misfit. His aura reeks of the supernatural though he shows no self discipline nor knowledge of the arcane. There is also a palpable reek of sulfurous taint to him. I have puzzled over this during the first day, often forgetting myself and staring. He even asked me what I was looking at one point. I was honest and told him I didn't know. He scares me the way a toddler playing with a loaded gun scares his parents. Everyone is in danger.
Rachael is the final piece in our little menagerie and oddly the only one who appears to have worked her way to this position - funny considering she channels magic over which she has very little control. Rachael is a warrior-priest beholden to the angels and the divine. I am at once attracted and repulsed by her. On a physical level she gorgeous, her classic Irish looks and funny accent turn many heads - not just mine. She also has a beautiful soul devoted to her faith. Her utter faith that her way and her god are the only right path are what mar an otherwise perfect match. She is a zealot - oh, a kind and attractive one but no less certain that her actions mirror the will of the divine god and thus can be nothing less than ordained.
Well, we all met in the briefing room at the 13th Squadron (I was relieved to find that APD does not fall into superstitious patterns so common these days). None of us really talked. I expected our leader to come by and huddle the team together like you might see in a police drama but he moved to the back of the room crossing his arms as if daring us to intrude on him. Instead, I found my center and relaxed. I let the self fall away so that I was distanced from the awkwardness of the exchange - or lack of exchange.
The briefing illustrates what I find least appealing about XSWAT. We were being sent on a mission as a favor to a wealthy financier. The 9th Squadron - the one before us who all died - were lost in a similar mission and with the goal of obtaining funding. I came to XSWAT because I have a gift that needs to be used for the defense and betterment of mankind, not to serve as a magical errand boy for the elite within this city. A painting has gone missing, the Animus Mortis, and its previous owner suspected it of being a source of arcane malfeasance. The story follows your typical "haunted house" tale with the original dive team who recovered it all dying under mysterious circumstance save for one man who is now institutionalized. A wealthy art collector finds it only to suffer the loss of those closest to him, etc...
There is something that rings true about the whole story. Something that echoes with a feral power to my spirit. I had hoped to have some time after the academy to more fully master my arcane abilities but a sense of growing dread tells me that such hope is futile. The Animus Mortis is beyond my knowledge as a wizard, I can only prey that raw power might overcome the shortfalls of my training as a wizard.
We are arriving at the Patton estate now. I'll have to come back to the log when we are finished here.
March 18th, Part II
Just a quick journal entry. We have just returned from the Patton estate and the proximity to where the Animus Mortis once rested felt dirty to my spirit. I needed to find focus after being so close to such arcane corruption. I bathed and mediated, which allowed me to discern one of my own short comings.
My previous entry was in error. During mediation I reflected on the events of the day and kept coming back to my entry on Shilo. The words seemed wrong. Maybe Shilo scares me? I label her with words like "crazy" to blunt her sexuality which is a field in which I have no experience. I wonder if Sifu Gyatsu has any wisdom when it comes to sex? Spending my teen years in a monastery filled with old men blunted the normal exploration of that field with my peers. Now I have fallen so far behind that I have no rational method of dealing with it. I think Shilo can sense this (smell it?) and finds it fun to exploit.
I just can't figure out why she appears in my idle mind when I am otherwise at peace.
March 19th (early morning),
I finally got the chance to sit down and write about yesterday. Last night after yet another shower and a long walk around the 13th Precinct I finally collapsed in a bunk at XSWAT. I don't have a place to stay yet but dad hasn't minded me sleeping on the couch. This is a nice neighborhood. I'm not sure if I can afford to live here. Money is still a bit tricky for me. Maybe the APD offers a course on money management and finances. They didn't teach that course at the monastery. We just ate and lived. Money never entered into the picture. I miss the simple life that I feel was taken from me. That isn't very monk-like. I should not hold on to things, even if that thing is a lifestyle.
At the Patton Estate the rest of the team went to work being cops. I am not so good at that and I can never seem to find the time to study the books XSWAT gave me. I went to the classes and passed the test but I was at the bottom of the class. I sat on the grass. Yes, I said grass. The Patton Estate is on a small grounds that includes a real yard like those dirt side. The grass was delicious. At once itchy and soothing to the skin. It was all I could do not to strip down and feel its embrace over my whole body. I am sure that would have drawn some funny looks from my new teammates. It was hard to center myself while sitting on the grass. I kept losing focus and coming back to the pleasure of it.
Eventually, I did stand up and oriented my sight to the arcane energies surrounding the estate. Amazingly, there were none despite Mr. Patton's protestations that the break in had to involve magic to bypass his security system. When you have excluded the extra-ordinary all that remains is the ordinary. I said as much to Mr Patton. I am sure more money than I will ever see in my lifetime will shortly exchange hands when he upgrades the household security.
Inside it was a different matter. Although the break in was not arcane, the Animus Mortis left its mark even after two years of absence. I could sense everywhere its foul presence had touched. The mantle where the bottle with holy water sat holding the ashes. The fire place where he had burned it in rage and grief. The wall where it had hung. All radiated a corruption. I nearly lost myself in the examination of such evil. A pre-cataclysm scholar once said, "be wary of staring into the abyss, for when you do the abyss stares back into you." How apt.
I wandered while the others gathered evidence. I let my instincts take command over logic and my paltry skills concerning the habits of criminals. I was led to the east side of the building where a garage might have provided access. Nearby, Rhonin found fibers and a security box that had been disturbed.
I explained my hunch to the rest of the team and Mr Patton. The thief entered through the garage when someone opened it. Once inside he was able to bypass security and gain access to the bottle holding the ashes of the Animus Mortis. A quick check of the estate logs showed a delivery to that area shortly before the robbery.
Why do I get the feeling that the person seen taking the bottle on the security film is now dead?
After the Patton Estate we traveled back to the 13th where I bathed and mediated. We met to decide our next move. There were several possible. I felt that visiting with the insane diver who survived was the best possible choice. We had a missing mercenary company and an art expert who also might offer up some lead that we could follow.
We took a spinner (what a wondrous machine) to the asylum. Even before we arrived it was obvious that this mission would go sour. I could feel a foreboding, a sense of the terrible and profane. The asylum was darkened when we arrived with smoke roiling from the windows. An inhuman scream (bellow? Challenge?) echoed from the garage. Something knew we were coming and it was not afraid.
JT elected to slam the spinner into the doors of the massive loading bay. Some wished to fire with the weapons on the vehicle but I argued that there could be innocent men and women in there.
The vehicle crashed through the doors and we found ourselves face to face with a creature so unnatural that I cannot begin to describe it. Rachel was affected the worst, the mere presence of the creature causing her nose to bleed profusely. It bellowed and attacked while we stood still. Our eyes and minds unable to assimilate what we were seeing and make that fit with the reality we know. Hell had come to earth and it was looking at us as the first delight.
March 19th (early morning part II),
We faced a Class II Entity. That is about the best word that one can use to describe such unnatural horrors because nothing else makes sense. What else but simplicity can evoke the mind rending, obscene undulation of an ichor dripping creature whose image is known only in the darkest terrors of children's nightmares? It was that thing which you feared was under the bed. It was the dread of shadows moving in the closet. It was every horror that we can imagine, only made flesh and ooze.
Bullets and blasts marred its... its flesh (I don't have any other words but it wasn't flesh). The spinner rocked under an attack that nearly buckled the armor plating. A twisted little part of me wondered if the cyborg would survive a hit? I wondered if I would survive a hit. I know without doubt that the Shelter of Mars would shatter and break under such power. It seemed that the creature was injured by my arcane fires. If I should encounter one again I will need to see about using a Hod's Severance to see if it is magic or fire that brought it low. Micheal's Sword wasn't focused enough to kill the... the thing but it did drive its spirit from the form, leaving it helpless.
My team members assaulted the beast with everything but the parachute from the spinner - eventually it dissolved into ichorious chunks before liquefying. In that brief moment there was an explosion that lifted the roof off the garage and blew out many of the fires.
JT wanted to call HQ and work on securing the area but I could not bear the thought that someone might remain alive within the institution. I simply stated my intentions so that he would know I must go in and render aid if it was even possible. I am fairly certain that it did not endear him to me, although he played it off. Once the little spark of humanity within him was reminded that others might need aid, he seemed willing to go along with the rescue. We faced a few lesser entities within the building but they posed little threat. It was the contents of the building that worried me the most.
Many of the staff had taken their own lives with whatever instrumentation was at hand. Others had been mauled beyond any recognition. The carnage was unlike anything a sane person should ever have to witness.
We found one survivor whose mind was spared thanks to being rendered senseless at the outset of the entities emergence. Before remanding him into XSWAT and medical care we discovered that the entity emerged from Ed Bently's cell (Ed was the only survivor from the salvage operation that recovered the Animus Mortis). Although the man knew little of Ed Bently, he indicated that Dr. Spenser had worked closely with Ed for 2 years.
The files and audio tapes kept by Dr. Spenser were disturbing. Ed was connected to the Animus Mortis in some fashion beyond what could be understood in the realm of geometry and physics. In fact, I believe the Type II Entity that we destroyed was what little remained of Ed Bently. What a sad and tortured life he must have had locked here in the asylum.
The Animus Mortis must be stopped. I am convinced that it is an object intimately related to the Entities and that it has with in its power the ability to create lesser entities (greater?). There are around three dozen missing inmates from the asylum - three dozen weak souls that must be as clay in the hands of whatever force lies behind the painting. Three dozen entities lose in the streets of Angelus, where children play and mothers expect safety. I fear that my next entries will be harried and written in the fog that comes with lack of rest - both physical and mental.
So far the team has performed well but I fear that such excessive pressure might begin to crack the facades of Shilo and Rhonin. It might also reveal just how inhuman JT is.
I have spent the morning searching for an inner stillness. Seeking serenity before the coming storm but it has been elusive. I am apprehensive. Maybe I should call Grandma Lily to seek her advice? I hate to appear weak, she already thinks so little of my mystical ability, but I will not let my own pride lead to suffering by others. I will try my kata's to see if dynamic meditation will help me relax.
Find Marcus Bently - Ed's Brother
Visit Alec Lefette - Mr Patton's Art expert.
Find Hanson's Howlers - mercenaries who disappeared after being hired by Mr Patton.
Call Grandma Lily.
Return to Shadows Angelus II