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Fade to Black
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 7 April 2006, 2:21 am

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      I read the newspaper the day after the hotel bombing and shooting at the cafe. Surprisingly, it hadn't even made the lead story. Instead, the unawares reporters had split the murders into two stories. The hotel bombing got a small front-page column on the left hand side, while the cafe killing had been shuffled back to somewhere near page eight. The computer store incident was billed as a small fire in section three; no bodies found. ONI was watching its ass, and now more than ever, looking for mine.
      Soon, they wouldn't have to.

      Petrovoitz's forehead beaded with pearls of sweat, and his fingers gently tingled with built-up nervousness. He didn't have an alibi for being in the central information database and archive if anyone caught him, and he knew there'd be hell to pay should that happen. Section Chief Ramsey Talmidge had been furious that five of his top agents had been murdered in one day, and the fact that his own son had been one of those agents only made the punishment that would befall whoever was caught helping Black even worse. Talmidge had been in the service far too long not to know that he'd had help; it would have been impossible otherwise.
      What the fuck are you doing? God you're stupid. You're throwing your entire career away over this man...what are you thinking?
      He bit his lip while thumbing through the hard copies of the records; hundreds of thousands of personnel dossiers and mission specs from the last thirty years. Normally, hard copies weren't kept anymore; all the classified information was backed up on a series of encrypted drives that could only be removed by a section chief or administrator, but this information was old enough that it had been semi-declassified, printed, and archived.
      Banks, Barnes, Bellows, Bin-Alamin, Black, Blackwell...oops...Black. There you are.
      Petrovoitz read the file quietly to himself, "John Black, code Pitch Black. Four years infantry, two delta, ODST Class 201, classified Section Three, yadda yadda yadda....what the hell?" He reread the section just to make sure he wasn't seeing things. It said the exact same thing as before. Why...how... "Oh my god." He had to reach a secure phone as quickly as possible.
      "Oh my god...what, Agent Petrovoitz?"
      He didn't have to turn around to know Talmidge was there, probably wearing his renowned hideous green blazer and escorted by two armed guards. Darren slowly twisted his torso to check. Yep. Same ugly green blazer, but four guards instead of two.
      "Oh my god...I left my stove on?"
      The section chief's face took on a malicious grin as he nodded. His hand flicked his broad wrist towards the agent, and the broad-shouldered men took out their stun clubs. The young spook didn't make a noise as they beat him; he wouldn't give them the satisfaction.
      "Take him to special interrogation and leave him. I'll administer this one myself," Talmidge's voice was smug and satisfied. He would make this every bit as painful as he could before giving the traitor that had killed his son what he deserved.

      "So, why'd ya do it Darren?" Talmidge asked calmly. He entered the large white room and closed the heavy metal door behind him. His eyes lulled over several noticeably duller spots on the floor tiles; blood tended to leave a bit of coloration. He approached a tiny metal hook on the wall next to the door, and slowly removed his blazer. The man ran his hands down the sleeves and back to make sure it wasn't wrinkled, and hung it neatly on the hanger.
      "Why'd I do what?"
      "Don't waste my time son," Talmidge responded as he took a white plastic apron from another hanger directly next to his coat. He thought about goggles, but decided against them. "I taught you the techniques you're going to try to use to stall, and I know how to break them. So please, just tell me. Where's Black?"
      "I don't know." It was the truth. Darren knew only that he was somewhere in the city, and it was a big city after all. Black's professionalism couldn't help either of the men; he was effectively untraceable.
      The section chief grabbed a large syringe from the metal cart on his left. A tiny stream of clear liquid spurted from the phallic instrument's tip before subsiding. Darren had been bound in thick, leather straps to an uncomfortable, bloody red chair in the center of the sterile, white tile room.
      "You remember how this works, don't you?. If you don't tell me what I want to hear, there is pain. If you do tell me, there isn't. Well," he glanced to a small, splotch on the floor where blood had recently been cleaned up, "not as much pain." He smiled barbarically and waited.
      "Listen Roger, I'm sorry about what happened to your son, I really--" A thick, wet strap cut across his face, leaving a small trail of blood in its wake.
      "No, you listen you little sonuvabitch! Don't you ever bring up my son!" His normally stoic face had broken into a fiery red mass of gnashing teeth and flaring nostrils. Wide, black pupils encompassed the small man under interrogation; they made him small, weak, and helpless. "My son was twice the agent you ever were! Now, again, where...is...Black?" He pulled the strap back again, preparing to lash out once more.
      "I already told you," Darren replied through a mouthful of blood, "I don't know. He left me phone numbers, and I called him."
      "Phone numbers? Phone numbers to where?"
      "Everywhere. He's too good to stay in one place. A mall, a bus depot, prepaid cell phones. We never talked long enough for traces to start, so the security systems won't help you."
      "Pathetic. You can't even help me before you die." Talmidge had dropped the needle when he grabbed the whip; it's contents in a small puddle around the broken glass syringe. "Well, so much for the easy way." He bent over the cart and removed a small bone saw, turning it on with visible relish.
      Suddenly, there was a brief darkness before a subtle, red tinted light covered everything. The emergency lighting coated the entire facility while the systems waited for regular power to be restored. The main circuits briefly cut back on, the normal white light flooding through the hallways, before they quickly cut back out. Three muffled thuds echoed through the reinforced permacrete floors, and visibly shook the building.
      "Looks like you'll get to talk to him yourself." Darren joked as he spit out a thick, bloody wad of spit.
      In one strange moment, Talmidge's face simultaneously showed anger, fear, and confusion; the most visibly awkward face Petrovoitz had ever seen anyone make, and he oddly enjoyed it.
      "I'll finish this little discussion when I get done with your friend," he growled as he set the saw back on the cart. The chief ripped off the butcher's apron and banged on the door. A guard checked through the small eye-slits of the interrogation room's door before opening the heavy metal partition. In the confusion of the moment, the two men hurriedly left without ensuring that the door had closed.
      The sound of gunfire in the hallway was distant, but distinct. Staccato bursts of automatic weapons reverberated down the hallway, and a bevy of guards rushed by to investigate. The sound of orders being barked echoed through the corridor, and wispy smoke fumes occasionally flicked like tendrils into the room before disappearing. A small burst of gunfire being exchanged filled the air before two soldiers rushed back past the open portal, dragging the limp and bloody body of another soldier between them.
      "Get two men on these corners here, centralize around archives and work out from there!" Yelled a security team commander over the increasingly nearer wash of gunfire. Three soldiers made a hasty meeting place directly in front of the open door, either unaware or unconcerned by the interloper's presence.
      "Team two is riding the emergency lift up now, they'll come in from the back corner and--" the response became muted by another loud and violent tremor through the building, followed moments later by the muffled sound of a secondary explosion. "Team two...team two report!" One of the soldiers knocked his radio against the palm of his hand futilely.
      "Sir, Benson's reporting that the emergency lift just crashed in sub-basement four." Another voice interrupted.
      "The team..."The security leader mumbled almost silently.
      "It's a mess sir. Rickarby and Benson said there's no chance any of them made it."
      "Fire, fire!" Came the excited screams from around the corner, breaking the solemn silence. The three men in the doorway immediately jerked their weapons up and stared down the hallway. "Pull back to the central archives!" Figures, Darren thought. The Archives room was a circular room at the center of the operation's headquarters. It was two feet thick of emerald green bullet proof glass; fire proofed, water proofed, and electronically protected in an effort to protect it from any eventuality. In this case, it happened to serve as a surprisingly well placed emergency command center.
      White light cut through the ethereal crimson twilight of the emergency lighting. He blinked several times to clear his vision; just in time to see a black-suited body tumble backwards past the door. It crumpled lifelessly to a heap, it's exposed boots in the doorway the only visible sign that the ghostly vision had been real. Death stood in the doorway; calmly, silently. A large and nasty looking scythe smoked at his side, it's glowing red barrel dimming in the cooler air.
      "You okay?" Black asked, gun sweeping through the room, ensuring it was clear before stepping in with his back to the door and checking the hallway once more.
      "Black, don't do this. Let's get out of here now."
      "Sorry, can't do that. There's nothing left for me. I'm going to finish this here and now. If I live I live, if I don't I don't. It doesn't really matter anymore."
      "That's what you don't understand. You have everything left! You have a son!"
      In the intense heat of the moment the steel soldier didn't fully comprehend what he'd just heard. He maintained his watch on the hallway, but his body visibly tensed.
      "What'd you say?"
      "You have a son John! I checked, I checked the archives. Sarah wasn't killed in the train crash, it was a cover up. She was pregnant! Talmidge signed off on the operation. They took the baby as part of some other, more classified project, but it's alive!"
      "Where? Where is...he?"
      "A governmental orphanage on Eradinus-II. He's been kept in pre-natal for a while, but he'd be about three months old now if he'd been birthed normally. They even named him John."
      An uneasy silence that seemed to last forever in the infinity of that single second engulfed the room. Time and space collapsed into a single minute point around John before expanding back into normality. Black moved quickly to the dirty torture chair, and in one swift move, cut the straps with his FUBAR knife. He slipped the blade back into its sheath and steadied his sights on the door.
      "You better be right about this, because I'm not getting another chance at this. Down the hall, to the third elevator. Sub-basement three. I'll be right behind you."
      Petrovoitz and Black slid like ghosts down the thin red tunnel. Darren couldn't tell if the occasional dark spots he saw were shadows or blood, but the prone bodies were not hard to figure out. Sticky puddles left stringy trails on their boots as they stepped over the corpses. He'd known one the bodies, the one with the bloody nametag that read 'Earl'; a computer tech with a wife and two kids. Darren had met him at a company picnic, good man. An unopened candy bar lie clutched tightly in his bloody hand; Black had probably mistaken it for a weapon, or maybe he really just didn't care.
      They twisted and turned through the enigmatic puzzle the architects had made the floor plan. There were three elevators at the end of the maze. The second elevator's doors were permanently parted, and thick plumes of smoke bubbled through the elevator shaft towards the open air.
      "Smart, but predictable," Black said, "Sabotage one of the front doors and they'll all pile in the back."
      "This is why they took the emergency elevator?"
      "Can you blame them?"
      "No, I don't suppose I can. I'd probably do it too."
      "Get in the third-"
      Darren stepped into the elevator and stared at Black. He didn't move, only blinked twice.
      "Come on, what are you waiting for? We can't go back, the whole damn army will be here if we wait."
      "Wha-" He watched as Achilles fell. His chiseled face and body made a startlingly silent nothing as it slammed against the marble entry way. Talmidge stood, smiling, as his pistol smoked in his nervously shaking hand. Go!
      Darren slapped the 'door close' button as quickly as possible. The steel plates slid slowly, too slowly, closed. Talmidge stood in the doorway, but didn't try to stop them. The last thing Darren Petrovoitz ever saw was the wide, glistening white grin of the devil; and it snickered at him.
      "Goodbye, Agent Petrovoitz."

      The orphanage was a tiny building, much smaller than he'd anticipated. A green, three story stucco that could easily have been a house on the corner of any neighborhood. In front of the building, a small square lot, sparsely covered with grass, sat littered with children's toys and equipment. Why he came here he wasn't sure, but for some reason it was his duty. A short blonde girl wearing a bright yellow shirt was sitting in the dirt near the fence, jerking a doll's limbs in every direction while a small dribble of slobber worked down her chubby red cheeks.
      A polite, older woman sat with crossed legs on a brown wooden bench, smiling perpetually while reading a book. Darren rapped his knuckles on the white, wood fence, breaking the woman's dreamy haze. She stood up quickly, set her book down on the bench, and briskly approached.
      "Can I help you?"
      She stood there, impatiently staring at him as he glanced around the playground.
      "I'd like to adopt a child."
      "Are you looking for any type of child in particular?"
      ...I like the name John."