Since the quarantine began in late August, Gemini and what was left of the ‘running team known as Logan’s crew were busy trying to do nothing more than survive. Logan’s crew, as a team, if that mattered any more, had lost contact with its namesake, Logan Knight and more than half of the ‘runners who had been operating with the crew for a long time. This included Fuze, Siren, Nightwing and Ghoulbait. They had also lost contact with Nitro a couple of weeks later. So it was, then, by the end of September, Logan’s crew was, for the moment, reduced to just Gemini, Rattle, METL and Joshua Blue. By the last night of September these four found themselves in, yet another, burnt out and ruined warehouse district and they were running low on supplies, food and vital ammunition. Gemini, via tapping into, when he could, what was left of the Chicago net within the Containment Zone, CZ or just the ‘zone, as it was now more commonly known, had recently become aware that Ares Macrotechnology was in the process of executing a number of supply drops. Specifically, he had found out that Ares was frantically trying to facilitate the survival and possible covert extraction of the remnants of one of their high-value R & D teams which had become trapped in the CZ due to the government imposed VITAS quarantine, which those untold numbers of people in the ‘zone certainly now knew was total bullshit reason. It was, of course, the bugs, the CZ had to have been created to keep the bugs from spreading further. It was as if the heart of Chicago was to be sacrificed in the process. Gemini had communicated is findings to the others and they had decided that recovering of of these drops could certainly replenish the needs of the four and extend their continued nightmarish existence in the ‘zone. Some of them may have wished for death now and again, but at least collectively they wanted to make it inconvenient for death to come collecting, and securing a supply drop, they had reasoned, at the very least, increased their odds of inconveniencing the death angel.
The last night of September began in roughly the same way as many of the previous nights the four had experienced. They had been constantly moving to and from various locations in the lawless ‘zone as central municipal authority began to be replaced by a number of self styled warlords, strongmen and gang leaders who had emerged in the resulting power vacuum. Gemini and the others had been able to reach the warehouse that Gemini owned but after a week they had to abandon the location due to increasingly dangerous incursions of ant spirits close by. As a result, the four had been primarily mobile for the latter part of September, alternating movement on foot and via vehicles that they were able to secure, the latest of which were two Ford Americars…one an Eagle Security squad car and one an obscenely tricked out pimp mobile. The plan to secure the supply drop was pretty straight forward. Rattle had discovered that a street gang, the Helter-Skelter Minions of Death, otherwise known as the HSMDs, had found a drop and were in the process of moving to retrieve the supplies for themselves. The straight forward plan was, basically, for the four to rush in with the two Americars and engage the gang with brute force and kill or scatter as many as possible so that the supply crates could be recovered. It began when METL, with some skillful driving, in the pimp mobile sped in, took a hairpin turn while slamming into several gangers, causing confusion and surprise. Blue, driving the squad car, unfortunately, was motivated to emulate METL. Blue lacked the piloting skill of METL and lost control and nearly slammed into the pimp mobile, which, most certainly, would have killed or inflict serious injury upon METL. Luckily, METL was able to maneuver his car out of the way while Blue ended up getting the squad car hung up on a ruined wall of what once was a small storage building. Blue was able to exit the car and ran for cover. METL continued driving through the gangers and blindly engaged several with uncanny accuracy. Gemini and Rattle approached the scene on foot and began engaging the gangers with prejudice via small arms fire. Within several minutes the gang was routed and METL had been able to get the squad car dislodged from the rubble of the storage building. It was then, sometime around 3am, that a brilliant flash suddenly blossomed off in the distance towards where Cermak Avenue lay. Blue looked directly at the light and the others were caught off guard. Then a few seconds later they were rocked by a rolling shockwave that took down some of the weaker, less stable, ruined buildings and knocked sections off of the more sturdier ones. Blue was knocked off his feet while the others dove for cover.
The dust had just begun to settle when a number of strange apparitions began to coalesce in the dim light of the predawn morning. The horizon glowed with a number of fires which sprang into existence after the flash and the shockwave. It was these fires that provided an eerie illumination which allowed those in the vicinity to see with slightly greater clarity. The apparitions began to show their true forms and METL, thinking fast, moved close to one and prepared to engage at close range with a firearm. It was he who realized that the apparitions were insect spirits manifesting into the physical realm from the astral. Blue, as an awakened, would have been able to ascertain this immediately, but could not as the flash had temporarily blinded him, rendering him unaware of the manifestations. Soon enough, METL fired at the insect spirit just as manifestation is complete and battle with the manifested roach spirits was initiated. Blue soon regained his vision as Rattle and Gemini moved towards the supply crates. Combat continued with the four noticing that over half of the manifested roach spirits were acting erratically. The roaches, to everybody’s amazement, seemed crazed and began attacking each other. Gemini, now in one of the cars, began to record the scene in front him with his cybereye system while the others were in combat or were moving to load the supplies into the two Americars. Blue cast a manabolt at the roach nearest him and as he did so he seemed to sag after he grabbing his temples. The manabolt spell energy appeared as a black inky smudge streaking away from Blue. Gemini, METL and Rattle had seen Blue cast a variety of spells in the past and his signature was normally comprised of a faint blue arc of arcane energy. The spell he cast this time arced differently and just before hitting its intended target….a roach spirit, it veered sharply and exploded into myriad cascading colors a couple of meters above the spirit. Rattle was able to see the colorful light show fade into a billowing black miasma which sprang into existence. Gemini, realizing that the situation was beginning to become dire stopped focusing on recording the scene and moved to engage the nearest roach spirit after it had dispatched its former compatriot. Rattle started to crack the crates and load the pimp mobile while METL continued close combat with his foe. Blue fought through his headache and sent another black smudge flying towards the roach which METL was combatting. Again, his arcane energy veered off and up into the billowing and expanding black miasma. The black smudge disappeared into the miasma without a sound. Indeed, it seemed a bit anticlimactic. However, the miasmic cloud seemed ever expanding. METL still engaged in close combat with a roach maneuvered himself into position and grappled the roach. He the brute forced the roach spirit up into the miasma and it was immediately drawn into the black billowing void. The four continued to engage the roaches. They halved their number due to the infighting and irrational behavior which gave the four an expected advantage. After several grueling moments of all out combat the four found themselves nearing victory as only a couple of the roaches were still able to threaten them. It was then that Rattle saw something change.
The miasmic cloud suddenly began to expand in all directions. Rattle was the first to notice the dark purple flashes of energy that looked like bolts of lightning which flashed at chaotically erratic intervals. As combat subsided the four were able to see the miasmic cloud expand and then to their horror they witnessed it suddenly drop and envelope them into its inky darkness. The last thing any of them were sensate to was the fact that any pain they were feeling became a numb, distant memory and each of the four felt a sense of weightlessness before they lost consciousness and slipped into a null void of insensate blackness.
A few moments later the few surviving roach spirits saw the miasmic cloud snap into nonexistence and then they fell into a catatonic torpor which forced them back into astral space.
And there they hung, suspended, in a frozen dreamlike state, with their alien minds slumbering away with abysmal visions and planescapes within their minds’ eyes that would, certainly, compel a metahuman to enter a violent state of insanity and hopeless incomprehension.
Static. Ambient crackling. A pungent smell of ozone and electricity. This is what Gemini, METL, Rattle and Blue became aware of as they slowly began to regain their consciousness. The black tendrils of the miasmic cloud still encircled the four but were slowly beginning to fade despite the abrupt occasional eruption of flashes of purple lightning reaching out hither and yon. As the miasmic cloud receded into what, perhaps may have been astral space, the four found themselves deposited somewhere in the middle of a cold desolate moonscape. As the cloud evaporated around them, it still flashed angry purple now and again, perhaps as an angry warning that it was still an unpredictable danger.
After a measure of time, the miasmic cloud retreated into something akin to a distant memory and the four realized that they had been left in some weird blasted moonscape, bathed in lunar ambient light which illuminated the clear night sky, that was beset by frigid air and a glazing of ice. Luckily, the four did have clothing which was intended to keep them warm in the chilly Chicago fall season, so they were moderately equipped to handle the freezing temperatures of this strange place. As the last crackle of purple energy receded into nothingness, the four were left in stunned amazement for several moments before METL and Rattle were able collect their wits and assume tactical defensive positions in what amounted to an ice glazed ash covered environment. Shortly thereafter, both Gemini and Blue followed suit and fell prone onto the grey, moonlit icy shine of their surroundings.
Rattle was the first to notice, off in the distance, what appeared to be a type of snowmobile. It was parked upon a large, ice encrusted and sparkling, dune of ash some 50 meters to the southwest. After a moment, a figure appeared from the far side of the dune, looked around as it gathered its belongings. Then it mounted the snowmobile and roared off to the west at speed.
“What do you think that was about?, asked Gemini?
“Dunno”, replied Rattle as Blue and METL continued watching as the figure on the snowmobile shrank in size as it retreated in the distance and then disappear entirely from view.
“Lemme try to summon an old friend. I think I feel strong enough to try”, offered Blue as he sat up in the dust.
He closed his eyes and sat still for a moment. Meanwhile, METL engaged some devices within him and a small satellite dish projected up and out of his left forearm.
“My GPS system indicates data which, in all likely-hood, has to be in error. I need to verify our location”.
METL then sat silent as he engaged the satellite communications module and attempted to get a fix on their location.
Blue coughed and to the others he appeared blanche-white.
“What?”, both Gemini and Rattle asked together.
“……uh, my spirit friend, who is hovering nearby in astral, asks where I have been for the last nineteen summers and wants to know why we are in the shadow of an angry mountain….”
Rattle and Gemini looked at strangely at each other and then looked around. There they confirmed that the a mountain did exist in the moonlit distance off to the south, southwest.
“What the fuck?”, muttered an incredulous Rattle.
“Where are we?. asked Gemini in hushed tones.
METL looked around and spoke up.
“The more appropriate question may be ‘when are we’ as my readings show that we are located precisely at 47°04’48.5"N 122°05’34.4"W.
This places us in the Puyallup district of the Seattle Metroplex and based upon what Blue just indicated of ‘nineteen summers’, so…..my math places us sometime within the winter months of 2074-2075”.
“Therefore, the precise question should be, again, ‘when are we’……as we now know that we are north of the remnants of Mt. Rainer”.
METL then shifted his stance and focused on the small satellite dish protruding out of his left arm.
The others just stared at each other with mouths slightly agape.
After a moment, somebody uttered a query directly but quietly.
“Blue, you’re the fucking mage, what the fuck just happened”.
Blue didn’t respond immediately. He just lay back into the dust and laughed hysterically.