Kimano, Tsimshian, 26 December 2050
With the toxic air spirit dealt with, there is a long moment of silence. Then the rain starts falling in cold, wet tears as if the Lord himself was mourning the death of the padre. The rain rattles on the tin roof of the guard tower, a roar of divine loss and anger.
I find myself wiping warm, salty tears from my own eyes as I cover the elevator. Gabriel was one of only a very few men that I felt comfortable to be around since...well since a long time. Hell, he'd even seen me naked, although that was after a drunken card game.
He'd also patched me up with his healing mojo more times than I cared to remember. I feel Billie wrapping herself around me, taking away the pain with a steely stare and frag you attitude. I hear myself asking the rest of team in a low Texan drawl, "What now pardners? We got no magic cover and a toxic mage floating about in the astral." Looks like the fake cowgirl is back in charge.
Finlay tells me Cleo is on her way from the village and that he is 'making a few calls'. Zero is checking the matrix through her satellite uplink and Sharon reports back that she is scouting the area for any other ways in or out. She turns up a couple of air vents but they look pretty tight for a body to climb down. Still, they are plenty big enough to drop a grenade or two down if it comes to that.
Zero is muttering in French, a sure sign that her matrix search isn't going well. Seems like there are no records of this place existing at all. It's not even on the recent maps of the area. Smells like a cover up. Sharon says she remembers something about an old US bioweapons research program and eventually Zero turns up the dirt. It's a bioweapon facility alright. One that was supposedly decommisioned with a fuel-air bomb long before I was born. Someone ain't telling the truth.
In the meantime, Finlay has got a hold of Osprey and Russell. Osprey can bring in supplies, Russell is offering some tactical support. We take a vote. None of us particularly fancy going up against magically-active terrorists with bioweapons so he calls in the support. Russell's got some contacts with the Salish chiefs and he tells us they will send up a squad of Wildcats. I've heard of them. Injun special forces and usually got a mage or two amongst them.
Speaking of mages, our Cat shaman is taking her time to get here. Just then, I feel a prickle of hairs rising on the back of my neck and turn slowly to see a big injun just floating in the air right behind me. He ain't real as I can see the rain go through him. I raise an eyebrow questioningly. He tells me if we want to see the padre alive, we need to agree to move out. My heart leaps in my chest but given the number of rounds I heard fired into the elevator I don't hold out much hope. He gives me ten minutes to discuss it with the team then simply blinks out of existence.
I leg it back to Finlay as he is the only one of us currently capable of dealing with spirits or whatever the hell that was. I explain the deal, but I ain't letting these fraggers out with the some plague virus even if the padre is still alive. The rest agree and Finlay tells the spirit as much when it pops back up. It just shrugs and shortly after there is a single gunshot from below. Sorry padre, I can't mourn your death a second time. But I will avenge it.
Cleo finally shows her face. She looks more like a drowned cat and ain't too happy to be out here. We fill her in and she takes a peek onto the astral. She starts flailing around with her arms and gives a short shriek as something cuts into her arm. It's a shallow cut, but shocks the hell out of me. Seems if you get hurt on the astral, it comes over into the real world, just like what happens to Zero if things go bad for her in the matrix. Cleo seems pretty shaken up about it too, claiming some owl spirits and a big old injun took offence to her checking in on them. Yep, the same big old injun chief as popped up behind me.
Ain't nothing to do but wait. Frag me if that ain't the hardest thing. Sharon drops some smoke down the air shafts with no result and then takes a look at the elevator shaft but decides it's too risky. The padre's heroic charge is still too raw to try that.
Zero cannibalizes our cellphones to whip up a couple of motion detectors, which we put on the furthest air vents just in case. Good thing too, as it gets dark mighty early round these parts and the rain ain't helping. Cleo gets antsy and tries to break the ward around the shaft, only to get her ass handed to her by the chief. She makes it back to her body coughing up blood as I try to stop the bleeding from a bad cut on her neck. Our catgirl ain't the smartest mage I ever met.
I stay with her in the building housing the generator. It's a bit more sheltered from the elements than the guard tower. Sharon stay with me although I think she's more interested in Cleo than me. Finlay and Zero take over watch in the tower. Only a couple more hours till Osprey gets here with the Wildcats.
Then I hear Zero over the commlink. Someone moving by the elevator. I hear Finlay's assault rifle open up as I move to the door. Then small arms fire opens up to my left. Sharon curses and then there's the scarily recognizable whump of a grenade launcher going off. Fortunately it's Sharon doing the shooting and the grenade takes out the hostiles shooting at us. Good shooting that girl.
My cybereyes ain't as good as real elven eyes in the dark, but they still pick out the dude Zero spotted legging it away from the elevator. I aint too bothered about shooting these fraggers in the back. The Winchester kicks hard and down he goes.
Finlay opens up on the shaft, shouting that some are getting away. I head out at a run calling for Sharon to cover me. One gets a couple of shots off at me, but I got long legs just made for running. I pull up next to the wall and then put a round through his chest. As he tumbles backward, I see blood and brains explode from his head as Zero finishes him off in her signature style.
And then I'm moving again, towards the village and the dock. Only too late I realise that I aint protected by Cleo's magic. I duck and roll as the mage spots me but my body is engulfed in magical fire. I roll out of his line of sight and the pain stops, then hits me hard again as the shock wears off. Lucky he doesn't hang around to finish me off. I crawl back to the camp and slump next to Cleo while Sharon tries to patch me up. Unfortunately the medkit seems to know more about first aid than she does, but at least I won't bleed out.
I fade in and out of consciousness for a couple more hours before the Wildcats arrive. Fortunately one of them is a mage and heals Cleo and me up. Unfortunately the mage got away, but not the two that Sharon hit with the concussion grenade. Sure hope they know where there boss went.