So we had a few days off after the trip to BC. I got a chance to look at the floaty thing the other team brought home… not much went on, the usual training, the usual looking longingly at food and only nibbling while everyone else eats whatever they want…
It was storming like hell out there, 40 foot swells, neat to watch but they were gently nudging the station around, like being up a tree in high wind. Then the alarm went off.
We all trooped up to the briefing room. There’s trouble in Russia and apparently my presence has been specifically requested by one General Grigoiri Ivanovich, apparently a big fan… why am I always apprehensive about things like this…
So there’s something going on in Northern Russia, west of Siberia. Apparently a there has been an explosion at a mine in the Ural Mountains which has sparked wildfires, but the reason they’re allowing us into their country is that they’ve detected some odd seismic weirdnesses that they suspect may be Promethean somehow.
Casanova suggests that I put together the team since it looks like I’ll be taking the lead on this one, at least for all appearances. I figured I’d want someone for translation so I figured the Pulse would work well. I grabbed Cassanova because he often has good ideas and is good at convincing people and a damn sight more confident than I am. Also, I figured if there were fires, not only would Autumn be good for healing but also as a force of Nature to combat another force of nature. Plus, having someone around who can fly never hurts.
We had plenty of time on the Lancer to go over the information. General Ivanovich is 53, has a couple of commendations from the Georgian rebellion, nothing in his file suggests overzealousness so hopefully he’s just a guy, not a creep or dirty old man. Some days I wish my outfit didn’t show so much cleavage, it’s hard to be professional in a skintight suit showing half your boobs, especially when they’re bigger than your head.
We read our reports, checked all the information, satellite pictures, etc. and started formulating hypothetical plans but we figured what we’d actually end up doing would be decided once we got there and figured out what actually needed doing.
There are a few settlements in the path of the fire, lots of dirt roads and not many highways. The mine is at the northern edge of the burned area, a coal mine.
A pair of MIG aircraft flanked us when we got to Russian airspace, seemed routine… the landscape’s pretty similar to Canada’s, esepcially when we got close to the mountains, very similar to areas around the Rockies, although the mountains themselves are a different shape. We arrive when the sun’s position indicates we have a few hours of daylight left. High winds are complicating things and speeding the fire along.
We landed at the base of operations, there were two C&C trucks, a whole lot of what looked like personnel tents, and some large tents near the C&C trucks. Cassanova mentions that there’s a core of fear in the officer meeting the Lancer, Novetnov was on his nametag. He’s the aide to General Ivanovich. He leads us to one of the large tents, where everyone stops dead and turns to watch us enter. There are laptops with cables running to the trucks, and maps. We meet the General, who fortunately speaks English quite well, and about a dozen officers, 2 of them are female, and one male officer has a barely-controlled rage going on, according to Cassanova, who I stayed mindlinked with. We weren’t sure how to tell what rank he was but I warned the other two that if there was trouble with anyone, it would be with him. I notice General Ivanovich catching himself start to put his arm around me to show me to the maps, but his professionalism took over before anyone but I think me and maybe Cassanova notice. We get down to the talking after they pour each of us a glass of vodka, which I didn’t touch at that point. One of the female officers is Lt. Susan Ivanova, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB)
There’s a town cut off from escape because of a landslide which had to do with the seismic event we think, there are some scattered homesteads at risk but firebarriers are being established, there’s another town at risk and they’re about to start evacuation, and a few miners have been recovered from the dozens that were in the mine but the fires and the wind are cutting off further rescue attempts, they’ve already lost one helicopter and General Ivanovich isn’t willing to risk another. They’re trying to deploy some seismic sensors to triangulate the origin of the activity. And apparently a word they keep using to refer to the mine is “Eagle”. Upon later reflection, we’re not sure if it’s Eagle Corp or just coincidental, I mean, we’ve got Falconbridge in Sudbury…
So it’s decided that the three important things that need doing are to clear the road so that the cut off town can evacuate, evacuate the town that’s in the path of the fire, and set out the seismic devices. Flight was deemed to be very helpful for setting out the seismic devices so Autumn Breeze got that job. Cassanova figured he’d be able to help with the town evacuation, and Pulse went to help with the landslide, while I stayed in the command tent, communicating with my team and relaying the information back to the people here.
EVERYONE watched Autumn get loaded up with three 20-kg devices and take off on her whorl of wind… well, except we other Prometheans, we watched everyone else watching her… Cassanova and Pulse took off in Jeeps en route to their respective destinations, leaving me alone with the Russians.
Pulse determined that the road would be inaccessable to heavy equipment, and not much else was going to help. The fire was coming faster than anticipated, and the nearest military contingent which had been sent there had an engineer but no real equipment that would be really useful, when she arrived they were unsuccessfully trying to chain their Jeep to a rock but the chains kept slipping off.
While she was deploying the first device, Autumn spoke to a crow, which told her there was human activity to the east.
Cassanova got his vodka to go (he convinced someone to get him a flask) and on the Jeep trip to the village, used it to loosen the tongues of the men in his Jeep and got some information about the officers, the guy with the rage is Major Igor Gervei.
Pulse asked if she could help, the guys who were already there said, “Sure!” Then turned around and goggled a little… She showed them how she could help by picking up the boulder they’d been trying to drag with the Jeep and tossing it aside.
Base checked their maps against Autumn’s comment about human activity east of the first device location, and said there were no known settlements in the area, and could she please go check it out once she’d finished setting up the second device.
Cassanova uses his senses to determine which houses are empty or are occupied only by animals (to save the troopers’ time by not bothering with those places) and advised when they were going to have troubles with certain occupants.
Pulse and the engineer worked out a system by which she would remove the big things and they would shore things up behind her, they started making pretty good progress.
Autumn found a pre-teen girl stumbling along, clad in a t-shirt, jeans and one slipper, not dresed well for this weather at all. She scooped her up and made for the base.
Cassanova convinces some man who’d barricaded himself and his family into their home to come out.
Pulse pulls the final boulder out of the way and looks up to see a line of vehicles waiting for the road to become passable, and is mobbed by grateful villagers who hug her before they get in their vehicles to escape the fire.
Major Gervei and General Ivanovich have a quiet but heated discussion in Russian, ended with a sharp word from the General and each of them stalking off in different directions, both leaving the tent.
In a quiet moment, the aide, Lt. Novetnov, who had been standing near me, tells me that General Ivanovich wants to speak to me privately. This seems suspicious to me so I open the communication link with Cassanova and give him a running mental commentary. Novetnov motions me to enter the newer of the two C&C trucks. One of the monitors turns on and onscreen I see a masked figure, well dressed, with a ring on his hand, and a lion mask over his face. “Ah, Knockout. Or should I call you Gillian?” And that’s about when my heart stopped, or at least it felt like it.
Cassanova, he knows my real name!
As the guy on the screen continues… “A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, even if it must be in so impersonal a manner. I am ”/campaigns/promethian-titans/characters/the-broker" class=“wiki-content-link”>The Broker, and I represent an organization that would dearly love to have you amongst their ranks. We are Chimera, and it is our goal to bring stability to a world that has been descending into chaos."
Pulse, weird shit’s going down, more shortly. “What the hell?”
Autumn, something weird’s going on here, stay tuned. “OK.”
“Since the advent of the so-called Promethean Age, humanity has been slowly growing reliant upon and relinquishing its will to those few who have been gifted with power beyond what the world is ready to handle. Such a statement sounds alarmist to you, I’m sure…but put those advanced Promethean cognitive processes to work and you’ll soon grasp the truth behind it. Scientific knowledge, once advancing by leaps and bounds, has begun to stagnate as a fascination with ‘super-science’, practicable only by those with Promethean gifts, takes hold. Military organizations have sought to duplicate or weaponize Promethean artifacts, and Prometheans themselves. Nations are being swayed by those with inhuman charisma, economies controlled or ruined, leaders suborned…I could go on, but I believe you get the idea.”
I start becoming increasingly agitated at what he’s suggesting.
“So why would we wish to work with a Promethean, if we are so sure that they are the root cause of so many ills? Simply put, because you possess the power to address all of these problems. Your ability to peer into and influence minds, focused in the right places, at the right times, is the least destructive method possible to draw the world back from the edge of chaos.”
Despite being horrified at what he’s suggesting, I think I managed a professional voice when I told him firmly, “Not interested. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a job to do helping people, and you’re interrupting.”
“Ah, I can see you’re not receptive at the moment, so —”
I turned off the monitor, cutting him off.
Cas, the tip of my tongue feels weird. Going numb? “Poison? They’re gassing you, hold your breath and get out of there.”
Pulse, I think I’m being kidnapped, they’re gassing me, if I lose consciousness I’m in the newer C&C truck. “We’re done here, on my way back.” Pulse hopped out of the Jeep and bolted back to the base.
Autumn, are you on your way back? I think I’m being kidnapped, suspected gassing, if you lose me, I’m in the newer of the C&C trucks. “Already on my way but I’m slowed, I’ve got the girl with me.”
Cassanova, They’ve locked the door, should I rip it off? “No, doors are always reinforced and if anyone’s waiting for you on the other side it’ll be at the door.” Right, duct tape makes you smart. “What?? I don’t understand. Just look for a vent, that will probably be a weak spot.” I see a few, maybe the gas is coming from them. “Fire extinguisher?” …Got one, hitting all the vents. Oh good, it’s foamy, not powdery, blocking some of the gas, I think. Cassanova continued his conversation with me, helping with the evacuation and also got on his wristwatch to alert General Ivanovich of the situation.
I was starting to panic a little, I never actually timed how long I can hold my breath when I’m heavily active, and in my adrenaline rush, I pushed my strength to rip the vents out and start punching my way through the exterior shell of the truck. I can’t believe I still had the spare energy to be worried about passing out and being seen by these people as fat Gillian when my heroic ID drops… Sometimes I really disgust myself, but either the self-loathing or the fear of discovery just fueled my strength to get the heck out of there. I could hear banging on the door, Cassanova told me that the General had been made aware of the situation so it was probably troopies, but I figured I was close to getting through where I was. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to my hands during this but by the time I finally put my fist through to fresh air, I had torn a fingernail and was missing another, lots of little lacerations from tearing at freshly ripped steel, but I couldn’t really feel it yet.
Once I peeled back enough truck exterior to get my wide ass through, I noticed that the truck had been moving and was a fair distance off where it had been when I’d entered. Also, the cab doors were open and two guys were on the ground with a bunch of soldiers holding AK-47’s to their heads.
Pulse and Autumn arrived about 3 minutes after I’d called them, Autumn got my hands healed before they even started to hurt, which is good, because the torn and missing fingernails were starting to bother my brain even if the pain wasn’t registering yet. Not sure if that was adrenaline, shock or the small amount of whatever I’d inhaled… I bet Warden can tell me what might have been in my system, although it doesn’t matter so much, I doubt they’ll try the same ploy again, they know more of what I’m capable of.
I get back to the tent, wave off the General’s apologies and determine what still needed to be done, the girl wouldn’t let go of Autumn for long but we switched in Pulse (who was not too comfortable with being clung to) so Autumn could fly off to set the last seismic sensor. Then it occurs to me to tell the General that he might want to find out who told his aide to summon me to the truck. He sends Major Gervei off to find Alexei (Lt. Novetnov), and I knew by his face when the Major returned that Novetnov was dead or fled. “I cannot bring him to you, I must bring you to him.” Yup, must be dead. He waved me to follow, we went to his tent, all I saw was the limp hand with the smoking gun. And a ring matching that worn by The Broker. Being naturally suspicious after almost getting kidnapped, I wanted to find out if his ring had the appropriate dent or if it had been slipped on recently to neatly tie things up… so I requested that Autumn examine the body on the basis that she’s got medical and forensic training… she determined that it was in fact a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and the ring had been worn for a long time.
At some point during a lull in actiivty, I found a fresh glass of vodka and downed the whole thing, trying to keep going and not think too hard about what’s just happened…
Apparently Cassanova was on his way back, with everyone in his Jeep drunk. And singing. He’d bought the liquor store’s inventory because the men weren’t allowed to loot it and the owner was in the Jeep with them. Gotta keep the townsfolk’s morale up, right?
In the subsequent investigation, we determine that Novetnov had been on the radio from a few seconds before the screen turned on in the truck to seconds after my fist first emerged from the truck, and by forcibly searching their memories, Cassanova determines that the two soldiers who were now tied to chairs for driving the C&C truck were just following orders from the aide.
Autumn insists that Cassanova use his mind-pillaging skills again, this time to determine whether the girl was running from mistreatment or what, and what he got was a large dark shape making an ominous thrumming noise which had the ability to flip cars hard enough that they flew across the street. He also got her name and address.
Meanwhile it was determined that the girl had likely come from a town called Degteyarsk (the address meshed with what Cassanova had discovered), and the calculations of the seismic epicentre pointed to that town as well. Since it wasn’t near where the fires were, Cassanova requested that we go there via air to investigate, could we please have some men. The General had a brief argument with, and presumably some pissing in the corflakes of, the Major and then the General announced that he would accompany us, but Cassanova had a heart to heart with him and convinced him to send Major Gervei with us instead.
Cassanova takes us over in the Lancer and we can see even before we land that the place is just levelled. Vehicles torn to pieces, mounds of earth all over, bodies caught in the wreckage.
While she’s talking to the dogs, Pulse and I go looking around. There are bodies, cars and building sheared into pieces, pierced and spun around, looks like it was all done by the same thing, most of the dead were crushed from being caught in buildings or vehicles, they didn’t seem to be targeted by the shears or whatever it was that did this. I found a quiet corner to throw up in a few times. We found a few large round footprints, including one that had squashed a car.
Whatever it was had chased down cars trying to escape but anyone escaping on foot was ignored. Autumn checks with the local dogs and found that they ran from the sound the thing made and were confused that their masters weren’t there when they returned. Autumn estimates that the sounds stopped about 20 minutes ago and the dogs had started to return.
We had the Major phone home base to see if the triangulation had changed to tell us where the thing was, but it wasn’t picking anything up anymore. So we did a fly-by in the chopper using a loudspeaker to tell any folks hiding in the area that the town was safe and they coud return. We located the girl’s parents and told them their daughter was safe. Extra choppers were called in to help evacuate the people from their destroyed town, the girl was reunited with her family.
About 7 hours later we got to the mine (the army had done their job with firebreaks and the water bombers had finally arrived), most of the othe miners had made it to the safe areas in the mines, seems that the burrower had hit the mine, ignited the fuel tanks which started the wildfires, and then left for Degteyarsk. There were no organic or other sheddings from the thing, whatever it’s made of is harder than the stone it was cutting through. Aside from the damage done, there was almost no physical evidence, and all any of the townsfolk or miners could describe was a black shadow and the thrumming noise.
With the burrowing thing gone, there wasn’t much we could do unless it surfaced again, so we excused ourselves, refuelled and headed home. On the flight home, we talked about Chimera. They now know more about me than they did, we now know more about then than we did. But I’m left wondering, what will they try next, and what will they do if they catch me?