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supernal

A wrinkle in mine [closed]

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An urban ranger had gone beyond Ignatz's perimeter, and in the savage Wilds had come across a city-shaped trap whose bait was the lives and free will of a people. The ranger discovered the cause for their enslavement was an ethereal entity; she trapped it in a host and brought the host back to Ignatz for further study. The hope was that Empire could find a way to free those left behind.

Ecks was on the team responsible for that study. They were finalizing containment procedures when the creature proved opportunistic, and took advantage of an analyst whose karmic balance must have had a deficit. In that host the entity proves formidable and makes its escape into greater Ignatz.
 


OOC

Edited by supernal

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Electrofisher Sutezo by Holland404“Again.” The command prompts the holodisplay to rewind to the beginning. Rex watches the unique patterns of ethereal energy compel an atrocity into fruition. Just like the other times, there is nothing significant, outside of the massacre that wounds a dozen and kills many more.

Pressing into the helmet’s side, Rex speaks to an intangible presence. “This is Private Harper. Nothing useful here, beginning lab security verification sweep.” Raising his arms to brace a three-foot long rectangle against his shoulder, he steps out of the command room and into a darkened hallway. Footfalls barely miss corpses and slip along the sleek blood-soaked steel floor. Flashing emergency and strobing warning lights give brief illumination as he treks further into the abyss.

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tenor.gif

The intangible presence stutters back.

 “Roger that –”

Beat.

Harper. This is–

 —cial Agent Kelin. Lockdown–

Beat (longer).

 —complete. Working to restore comm–”

Each pause is longer than the last, filled with the crashing of undammed static rushing to fill each empty riverbed of silence. The gender of the voice is impossible to catch between the jarring snatches of audio. Male or female, the voice is marked by unruffled authority.

-on your own. Ecks up ahead.”

The line goes silent. For now.

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Ecks remains outside of the lab while Rex clears the interior. His hands are unsteady, jittery from the adrenaline. When Rex confirms there is no danger in the lab, only corpses, Ecks takes a deep breath and holds it as he makes his way to his desk.

On his desk is a small stand, which holds between its vice clamps a thin strand of ivory; along the bottom are scattered engraving tools. Ecks removes three ivory bracelets from a drawer in his desk, puts on one, and gives the other to Rex.

"This will keep us from being overtaken. But we need to find that thing soon to keep it from spreading like what it is – a disease."

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I’ve trained for this. With each step the thought is repeated, a mantra to keep his nerves. By the time the lab is cleared, anxiety has gotten the better of him. Crossing the threshold and walking to Ecks causes a wave of gratitude to hit him. He’s grateful for the helmet and armor that hides tremors of fear and anxiety dominating his visage and limbs.

Although, it does little to hide his shaky hand as he grasps and applies the bracelet. “Disease, that’s a good word for it.” The comment is made as he shuffles away to look out a window and into the city lit night. “How are we going to find it?” And how will we stop it?

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Evidently there is better reception in the interior of the lab than in the outside bay area. The voice comes online, but this time with unmuddled clarity. It’s female, tough and alto. It would call to mind a superior officer of the past, solid and dependable. Was that a wave of déjà vu?

“Ecks was present at the time of the incident. For all intents and purposes, Ecks is compromised. Send him out of the room – discretely.”

“On the ground, next to the examination table, is a woman. In her right shoulder is a hex bag – the theorized vector. Extract it and protect it at all costs.”

“Meeting coordinates incoming.”

The comm clicks off.   

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By way of reply Ecks motions with his head to another desk - he's careful to avert his eyes from the mound of bodies in so doing. Once at the desk Ecks rifles through various large format rolls of paper adorning its surface. Inside of a minute he finds the desired roll and unfurls it, preventing it from closing by placing miscellany at its corners. 

The paper is a map of Ignatz. 

"Epidemiology. Kind of. It's a parasite. It needs a host. More than one judging by the report; it had a whole town. I think it'll go back there. It also needs a transmission vector. I thought it was just the bags . . ."

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He taps a handsfree glyph on his wrist. “Roger.” It is a nebulous response, broadcasted to both. Rex gestures about. “Following that logic, everything in here is a potential transmission vector. I recommend moving locations. Met me outside please.”

He waits for compliance before approaching the woman, removing, and then pocketing the artifact into an external pouch.

“Recommend enacting decon protocols.” Another wrist tap returns the mic to PTT.

Moments later he is outside and walking toward Ecks. His thoughts linger on unpleasant possibilities. “Do we have recommended quarantine procedures? Containment is breached, so how do we minimize spread?” His voice, filtered through the mask, doesn’t give away his doubts.

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“Copy that,” the voice calmly replies. “Purification teams inbound.”

“Deliver the hex bag to the village of Redwater. We have a specialist stationed there who will dispose of the object.”

Rex would see a map, exactly identical – with even the same creasing – to the one laid out by Ecks, project onto his display. In the southwest corner of the map, about fifty miles from his current position, he would also see a red dot pinging the location of his next objective: a small town, along the way to the Blue Hills, with miniscule script proclaiming its name, “Redwater.”

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Ecks nods vigorously, eager to put distance between himself and the specter of death lingering in the still, quiet lab. Once outside he keeps walking until the two of them can take a turn and put the lab out of sight. There Ecks stops and leans against the nearest wall.

"The bracelets will keep us safe from infection. If we locate the primary host, we can trap the parasite in it. The important thing is the primary, the brain, not the satellite limbs it marshals. I can make a detector to target its spectral band but I need a sample, and think the rogue analyst took everything we had. I'd need one of its hex-bags, else it's just best-guess math."

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Its name was Klein.  And although Klein could not directly possess Private Harper, from the hex bag nestled safely in the soldier’s pack, it could trawl his mind for memories and procedures. What need did it have of possession, when it had in its grips a soldier habituated to unquestioningly taking orders from his superiors? Klein could glibly influence Rex with illusory lies as long as he stayed in close proximity to the hex bag.

Purification teams inbound.

Another lie. A fiery protocol dredged up from the soldier’s cortex to induce the men to take the hex bag to Redwater immediately. But Klein unknowingly spoke truth; a black convoy carrying the seal of the Inquisition was on its way.

Edited by Witch

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“A hex-bag.” He punctuates the statement by reaching into the hip mounted pouch and produces the artifact. “Like this one?” In retrospect it seems odd that he has it; he isn’t part of the forensics or evidence collection team. His purpose is strictly response and neutralization. Why did they want him to take it?

“I need it back once you’re done with it, gotta go to Redwater for final disposition.” Another thought crosses his mind. The hell is in Redwater?

With the bag passed to Ecks, Rex readies his launcher. If Ecks runs with the bag, he’ll find one or more 2-foot glyph marked granite rods embedded in his backside. “How did you escape the massacre, by the way?”

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When Rex's hand opened, Ecks jumped back as if struck. He then slapped the bag to the ground, watching it fall rather than how his actions may have affected Rex.

"What are you doing with that?"

Ecks let his eyes skip over Rex's body; the concern in his face drained away only when he saw the bracelet on the man's wrist. This was followed by an audible sigh of relief.

"Where the hell is Redwater?"

His discursive train of thought was stopped short by Rex's casual inquiry; casual in how it was posed, rather than in its implications.

Ecks stammered: "Th-the bathroom. We keep a log of breaks. I take mine at the same time every day . . . you can check."

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Two Firetrucks of the Inquisition tear through the perimeter fences and hard-brake across the asphalt grounds of the laboratory site, sirens wailing over the thunderous rumbling of the vehicles. Acrid smoke billows in their wake, output, not of the exhaust pipes, but of the molten-hot faithwork – a magitech hymnal of morning prayer, typeset with lead-plated runes of conflagration and consecration as attractive to the human eye as the naked sun – branded onto oil drums which spin furiously in their chasses like colossal prayer wheels caught in a gale. A woman in black military garb is the first to step out of the trucks. She speaks into a receiver which relays her speech with booming volume.  

“The Inquisition has marked this site for purification.” She pauses to remove a pocket watch from her belt. “To those still alive, you have exactly one hour to evacuate the site. Or be cleansed by flame.” The delivery is clinical.

“May the Watcher seel your eyes, the Judge weigh your soul, and the Executioner carry out Her worthy verdict. Amen.” She finishes, bowing her head.   

Click. The countdown begins. She puts away the receiver and watch, and then stabs the Inquisition standard into the earth.

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“Holding it, clearly.” Rex replies to the first question dryly. His helmet cants to the left as he looks from Ecks to the bag and back. “I recovered it off a body in the lab.” He pauses for a moment and considers the statement. How did he know it was there, had someone told him? “I suspect that the original perpetrator snuck a hex-bag in, in their prison pocket, or someone brought them the materials to create one.” Although there is no finger pointed, his voice is laden with suggestion and accusation.

“And about an hour Southwest of here by cab.” What the hell is in Redwater though? The question rolls across his mind again, and then again, until he finally pushes it aside to resolve the issue with Ecks. “You survived because you were taking a dump…” There might have been more, maybe an ‘unlikely’, however his inquiry ends at the sound of the inquisition. They were never expected.

Rotating toward the sound and momentarily dropping his guard, Rex finds himself grappling with disbelief. They’re not even giving a forensics team a chance. “I think we need to move…. Before we end up purified.”

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