The Guardians / Chapter 26: The Hunt for Mirage
Posted June 8th, 2019 by Codename-X12
in a secret bunker finishing the Guardians
The Guardians are back in chapter twenty-six of The Guardians! If you’re new to the Guardians or just need a refresher on what’s going on, be sure to check out another post which has links to all the chapter in order. You can find that post here: https://www.kidpub.com/book-page-or-chapter/guardians-back-3035162865
You can find the previous chapter here:
Previously on The Guardians:
“It’s pretty nasty out there,” I commented as we entered the elevator.
“Nah, its pretty tame for a storm at sea,” Shane told me. “Sometimes the waves can get almost three times as high as they were out there.”
The rest of the descent passed in silence, with me hoping that we would never run into one of the “non-tame” storms. In another minute we returned to the dormitories.
“See you tomorrow,” I told Shane from the doorway of my room.
“See you then,” he said absentmindedly, disappearing into his bedroom. After changing out of my drenched clothes and into fresh, warm pajamas, I climbed back into the queen-sized bed.
I settled down for what I knew would be a long remainder of the night.
The Hunt For Mirage
POV: Shane Corvo
"Where do you think this Mirage could be?" I asked Devon. The command center was brilliantly illuminated by the purple light of the rising sun spilling in through the panoramic glass windows.
"Her file said she was last seen in inner-city Baltimore, so that's a big lead," the scientist replied, taking a deep sip from his cup of steaming coffee. I clutched a bottle of Mountain Dew for my dose of sugar. Brandyn held a cup of incredibly caffeine-high tea. He looked like he needed it too; he was huddled over the mug, yawning every few seconds.
"Could you track police radio coms?" I wondered. "I can do that on the hovercraft, but usually the range is glitchy. Plus, it's not exactly legal."
"When did that ever stop you?" Brandyn asked, emerging from his mug after draining nearly half of it in one long sip. "Aren't half of your guns illegal?"
"Well, I suppose the flamethrower might be...," I replied. "Guess now that I'm on a team it'd be good to start playing by the rules when I can."
"You're not giving up the knife launcher, are you?" Brandyn asked.
"Well, let's not get crazy now."
"To answer your question," Devon interrupted, "I can patch into every police com in the state that go back as late as one week. Legally."
"Okay, do you have anything useful for us?" Brandyn said.
"The best I can come up with is a report of an armed robbery. When the police showed up, the robberies were incapacitated and tied up. There were high traces of airborne chemicals in the area, but that's could be something else."
"Where was that?" I wanted to know.
Devon tapped the massive holographic globe with one finger and it switched to display a three-dimensional view of a park hovering in the air. Dozens of trees the size of sticks of broccoli protruded in orderly rows from a flickering field of holographic grass. Large stone pathways wound around the trees like stone pythons, meeting in a large clearing in the center of the park and looping around a massive open field. City buildings bordered the floating image like a wall of houses surrounding the lush park.
"The dead criminals were brought to an autopsy, and the internal damage and destroyed organs seemed to match no other known poisons," Devon told us. "I looked into the matter personally, because I've created poisons for the military and none of them seemed as lethal as this one."
"Interesting," I muttered, curiously eyeing the floating image of the park. "What were the exact symptoms that the autopsy found?"
"Well, it appeared to be some sort of neurotoxin," Devon replied, looking at me inquiringly. "But it doesn’t appear to be a form of VX poison or sarin. Those agents cause heart failure and asphyxiation among other effects. The autopsy showed the victims had lost almost a hundred percent of blood flow to their brain as an effect of a poison. This would kill a person extremely quickly, after three to six minutes, and completely incapacitate them after one minute.”
“Anything else?” I wondered.
“It's hard to tell when the victims of the chemicals have already died,” Devon told me apologetically. “Only a few traces of this chemical weapon have been reported. One at a massive gang war not far from Washington D.C. Most of the other reports were within the Maryland area and surrounding states. There were also other traces of different chemicals found in the corpses during the autopsy, but there wasn’t enough left in their bodies to be very helpful.”
“Interesting,” Brandyn murmured. I was also deep in thought. This was a good sign. I had been worried for a second, but I knew that there were plenty of other lethal chemicals and chemical weapon attacks not related to the one I feared. That was in the past. I could only hope I would never even hear of it again.
"That's her," I said assuredly, not looking Brandyn or Devon in the eye.
Devon traded me a wondering you. "What makes you so sure?"
"How many lunatics do you think are running around with chemical weapons unidentified by a military weapons specialist?" I questioned. Maybe one of this particular organization's assassins was still alive. Blightwatch. I knew only the crime syndicate would have access to such poisons. Might have some useful information, even though the group had been down for years.
"We should at least check it out," Brandyn spoke up.
"Yeah," I agreed, taking a single step towards the door before pausing. Should I really hold back my suspicions about Blightwatch? Or just not mention it, as I had done with other things before. I had held back so much from them that it started to feel like an empty chasm of doubt within me. If they found out, would they trust me any more? Or would I end up on the wrong side of their weapons?
I decided to fall back on my old standard and keep my suspicions to myself. After all, they were just suspicions. They could easily be wrong. Of course, my suspicions usually tended to result in being correct, but I shouldn't really brag, right?
Before we left, we took a moment to eat a quick breakfast. Mine was another bottle of Mountain Dew.
In another few minutes we were in the air again, cruising over the cityscape in the hovercraft. The familiar controls seized firmly in my skilled hands, I made uneventful progress the the small public park slightly southwest of Washington, D.C. The flight computer dinged, emitting a noise like an efficient but not very cheerful doorbell as the park came into sight. Through a breach in the rolling banks of greyish clouds, the cameras picked up a patch of green down below.
I pulled the hovercraft down onto the top of a nearby apartment building and hoped no one would come up to the roof to water their plants and discover it. Just to be safe, I locked the doors when we left.
From down on the street, the thick masses of grey clouds were had been flying through only a minute before seemed much more ominous. Massive churned globs of dark metallic hue dominated the sky, blocking out the sunlight like it was too cheerful and warm for their liking. A cold wind greeted us as we strode up to the gate park, rustling the pieces of litter down the sidewalk and penetrating through my black body armor. The remnants of the storm that had struck last night were still alive and well.
The low stone wall of the park, to the top of which was mounted a tall fence, was covered in layers of graffiti. There was so much of it that it looked like an out-of-control but yet very precise paintball war had ensued nearby. I knew my way around the city, and I knew this wasn't the best neighborhood to live in.
But nevertheless, on we went.
The imposing iron gate creaked like a horror movie sound effect as Devon pushed it open with his gloved hand. Beyond the gate were almost a dozen strips of yellow police tape like a spiderweb across the gateway. Each one blared the words: WARNING. HEALTH RISK.
"Uh...you sure this place still isn't toxic?" Brandyn asked.
"I'm almost positive," Devon replied. Pushing past the police tape and a few safety cones, we found ourselves in the cheerful green public park.
Except, unlike the holographic image we had seen just an hour earlier, this park did not look like the one that would inspire colorful childhood memories. In the dark half-light of the grey clouds, the trees and grass were colored in dull, withering shadows, like some gloomy author had thought it was too colorful.
The branches and leaves of the rows of orderly trees twisted in the unyielding gale. It looked to me like they were somehow in agony. And the thick carpet of grass looked dead and dry, like it had been spray-painted only using dark shades. It waved in the eerie breeze like a sea of disembodied fingers. The massive fountain stood out among the conflagration of dreary flora. In the shadows and gloom it looked like some sort of ancient stone altar, maybe where malicious sacrifices were performed.
We took a few more cautious steps into the park. The silent shape of a forgotten ambulance was parked a few yards away against the wall, its once-bright red paint stripes dulled by the gloom. Somehow the ghostly presence of the massive vehicle just sitting there emphasized what we all knew had happened. Someone had died here. And more than just one person. Why was it sitting there, abandoned? Just in case another accident occurred here as a result of chemical attack? I knew there wasn’t much information available on this chemical weapon, so maybe the hospital didn’t know how long it could linger in the air.
“I’ll check out the ambulance,” I told the others. My words were faint in the whistling of another sudden breeze. “It could have some important records.”
“A possibility,” Devon replied. Brandyn nodded without speaking.
“You go on ahead,” I told them. “I’ll catch up with you when I’m done.” Devon hesitated for almost a second, then said,
“Sounds good, Shane.” With the wind twirling around the coattails of his black scientist’s lab coat, he headed off down the park’s stone path. Brandyn sent me a wondering glance before taking off behind the weapons specialist.
I watched them for a minute until they were a good distance down the stone walkway. Then, leaving the path treading across the swishing grass, I walked up to the ominous hulk of the abandoned ambulance. I peered through the front windows into the empty cabin before trying the passenger door. It was locked of course, but I couldn’t call myself Outlaw unless I could pick a lock.
After pulling the door open, I crawled over the passenger’s seat to inspect the cabin. It looked almost the same as any truck I had been in. The only difference was a pad of advanced buttons and controls mounted below the dashboard. Also, there was no backseat, only a steel wall separating the cockpit from the medical bay in back.
I scanned the leather seats and the floor around the chairs for any scraps of paper that might be useful. Besides a few discarded pens, some assorted change, and lots of dust, the floor was completely bare. I would need to head back to the medical bay.
In a single step I found myself standing in front of a heavyset door in the back of the cabin. I tried the handle and it clicked, turning satisfyingly in my hand. I pushed the door slowly open and took a step into the utter blackness beyond.
Another step across the ambulance and panels of overhead lights turned on, casting the small room in a warm, helpful glow. In the center of the small enclosure was a long medical bed covered in straps and buckles like some stationary strait jacket. I knew it was for securing a patient during the bumpy race to the hospital.
The bed was surrounded on all sides by a variety of medical devices. Among the assortment of different shapes and sizes of devices I made out oxygen supply equipment with a long tube, a cardiac pacemaker, a blood pressure meter, a massive nebulizer, and an AED. There were so many of them crowding the small room that the sturdy steel floor and walls were barely visible. Racks of medical supplies and other counters dominated each wall.
Of course, I had been in an ambulance before, so I knew what its interior looked like. But as what is probably expected, I had never been the patient lying in the medical bed. And if I ever was, there would probably be no way to save me short of a miracle.
I scanned the white section of countertop in one corner of the room, hoping to spot a piece of paper of a notebook, anything that would give more information regarding the chemical weapon attack. Immediately my eyes fell on the thin shape of a tan file folder tossed carelessly almost at the edge of the counter. Bingo. Devon could search the military databases all he wanted, but I had learned that sometimes you couldn’t beat a good old scrap of confidential paper.
I precariously crossed the tiny room, nearly tripping over the oxygen supply device, and firmly seized the file folder. Plopping down on the side of the medical bed, I gingerly opened the file. A few white sheets of paper were nestled inside the tan folder.
I set aside the few other sheets to peer closely at the first one. The words ‘District of Columbia Fire & EMS’ were posted in bold at the top of the page, and the rest of it appeared to be some sort of medical report. I scanned down the neatly typed and double-spaced lines.
The report had been filed on June 15th, which meant only five days had passed since the incident. That meant Mirage was close, probably still in the area. I knew a suspected Blightwatch agent would never be able to secure passage on an airplane. Of course, Blightwatch had once had access to a remarkable amount of funds and resources, but once it was shut down it would be unlikely their rogue operatives could still use them.
I continued reading. The ER had received a call at 4:16 in the morning from a civilian who had been near the park when the attack had occurred. The entirety of the short call was printed on the piece of paper, detailing the panicked, and at some points unintelligible, report of the bystander.
The replies of a hospital worker were also recorded, and it was obvious the attendant had been struggling to understand the crazed civilian. All they really managed to get out of the report was that the caller had seen gunshots in the park and also smelled something strange that they never remembered smelling before.
The report cut off quickly after that, the last line being the hospital worker asking if the civilian was still there. There had been no reply, none recorded, at least. The next sheet of paper contained detailed symptoms exhibited by the victims of the gas attack. It was scribbled in messily by hand on the piece of paper. This was what I had been after, not some frantic report by a terrified and possibly drunk bystander.
The symptoms were eerily familiar. First, a victim exposed to the chemical weapon would rapidly become oblivious to their surroundings, muttering incoherently as their eyes twitched about in their sockets, unseeing and dilated. Triggered by the lethal chemicals, adrenaline would then pump ferociously through their veins, sending the victim collapsing to the ground, thrashing about with violent seizures.
The adrenaline would continue to flow beyond normal limits, deteriorating and destroying muscles and almost all bodily function. As organs were destroyed, chemicals would seep into the bloodstream, turning it stagnant and toxic. Sometimes their heart would be literally melted within those exposed. In most cases, however, death would come from lack of blood to the brain, causing permanent brain damage in minutes and death within four minutes.
Kraitocin. It had killed so many.
I had thought it would never kill again, but here it was. Blightwatch was not really dead. Not yet. Until I hunted down this rogue member and eliminated her. It didn’t matter if she had stopped a violent armed robbery. Like a cancerous tumor, all traces of the Blightwatch organization must be wiped out. It would be one step closer to redeeming myself.
I sighed miserably as I rose from the bed, carefully folding the papers and slipping them into a small pouch mounted to the front of my bandolier. After a quick double-take around the room to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I made my way to the door, picking through the cluttered medical machines like I was advancing through a minefield.
A blast of frigid air welcomed me as I stepped out of the cabin and returned to the gloom of the cold park. My eyes traced the ominous dark shapes of the trees and the hulking stone form of the fountain surrounded by the twisting pathways. It took me a second to spot the distant figures which I knew to be Devon and Brandyn, barely visible as they were cloaked in shadows cast by the dreary trees.
I took one, then two steps in their direction before pausing. A strange, inexplicable feeling bubbled up deep within me that made me turn slowly around. I found myself staring at the blazing red stripes on the side of the ambulance, along with the words ‘Anthem EMS & Fire Unit’. As I looked closer, I noticed smaller words that I hadn’t spotted at first. Written in sloppy, dripping letters were the words ‘Malice does not easily forget what he has lost’. I stared incredulously at the black, spray-painted letters. Malice? Was he responsible for the chemical weapon attack? Wait. Maybe he was responsible for the armed robbery! Hadn’t the criminals been killed in the chemical weapon attack?
I rushed off to inform Devon and Brandyn.
End of chapter twenty-six. As always, any constructive criticism is greatly appreciated!
The Guardians will return on Tuesday, June 11, at around 4:00 PM (CDT time zone).
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