Dark Matter

Aftermath of Milwaukee

After them agents went and got themselves out of a real pickle with the summoned Rodent Of Unusual Size, Wade was still none too happy. See, he had to go fishing in stuff don’t nobody wanna fish in to get his bow back. He took a right nasty hit from that big creature to keep Natalie from getting blindsided. His bow, Sarah, went flying into the sewer drain river. Guess you could say that sometimes being a gentlemen don’t end up so gentle for the man.

Fact is, that there big ol’ rat nearly killed Wade by drowning him. Natalie pulled him out and managed to get him going again. Right then, he was feelin’ mighty thankful. At least, until the smell set in. That was one pungent trip back home. There ain’t nothing quite like being cooped up in a plane with recycled air after being soaked in sewer water. I reckon the lot of the department 7 agents was real happy to get back to the nearest shower. It took Wade a week of washing to fully get the smell out.

In the time that followed up the mission to Milwaukee, the agents settled in to their daily lives. And you can bet Wade was getting himself into a little trouble. He kept about the Rogers farm, working on a system of rain barrels. He had a mind to make the place self-sustaining. ‘Course anybody looking for him would have to track him down. If he wasn’t working on some project to get the farm off the grid, then he was out blowing up gas cans with flaming arrows, tearing up a dirt road, running through the industrial back lots of Rogers, piecing together an old junk motorcycle frame he found rusting in one of the outbuildings on the property, making his own custom arrows, jumping around like a monkey with ADD through the barn, or trying to sweet talk a farm girl over at Millside Tavern off the Crow River and 116. Never had much success with the last one, though.

“Where the hell is Wade?” was bound to quickly become a catch phrase. Still, when you really needed him, he was right there to lend a hand. He knew the other agents were pretty tight knit. And he also knew from experience that when getting to know folks, it was all about putting your money where your mouth was. Department 7 had given Wade an opportunity he wasn’t about to squander. Even though he felt like a contracted merc, it was nice to be around folks who’d seen and believed the kind of weird stuff Wade believed. Not one person had called him crazy for believing he’d been scooped up by aliens. ‘Course, there was still plenty of time for that.

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Milwaukee II

Jack keyed the locked on the apartment door and walked in. He was hoping that Anna would be running errands or at the Hoffmann office. But he knew that wasn’t the case. The team had been in Milwaukee for two days with Sal and Nat sending crazy video from the mission. Anna was going to be here, wide awake and waiting. Mercifully most of the team’s phones were trashed in the fight in the sewer. Otherwise Anna would have been blowing them up looking for details and making sure they were alright. He felt bad about it but he just didn’t want to deal with the boss part of Anna’s job right now.

As he walked in Anna came out of the kitchen. She ran to hug him but stopped just short.

“Jack! Thank God you’re…uh, you smell awful. Are you okay? what happened?”

Jack tried not to be frustrated. It wasn’t Anna’s fault but he had reached his tipping point hours ago and was trying to keep from going off. He set his bag down on the full and tried to calm down. “Count to ten,” he heard the therapist saying in his head.

One…

Two…

Fuck it

“What didn’t happen? We fought some shape shifting whatever the fuck they were things and I got hit by one. So now Hoffmann will send me back to New York and shoot me full of that silver shit while I sit on my ass and do nothing. Everything I eat tastes like nickels for two months after that. I lost one of my guns so some gang banging piece of shit has an untraceable weapon. Most of the team’s phones got wrecked. Sal, Mia and Nat got fucked up and Wade just about died drowning in sewage. We left a mess in a warehouse that a department with maybe one decent cop has to clean up. I am still half covered in shit. That creepy, mind bending friend of yours did something to my head that I can’t figure out. And I fucking hate Milwaukee.”

Anna let it roll right off of her. She knew that Jack was venting and that it he had to do it. But it was still hard to not feel somewhat responsible since she sent them there in the first place.

“Jack, I don’t think you have to go to New York. Sal said those rat men…”

“Sal can fuck off. I don’t care what kind of things they were. Hoffmann is going to be cautious and won’t listen to a damn word we say about it. They don’t even like Sal.”

“Let me see what I can do,” she said calmly. Talking to Jack when he was pushed too far was like negotiating with a cross between and angry child and a hungry bear. “Can I get you anything?”

Jack exhaled. " I just want a shower. And I want need some sleep."

The sun coming through the widow woke Jack up. He rolled over and looked at the clock. 12:30. He had about an hour before the briefing at Hoffmann. Plenty of time. He swung his legs out from under the covers and sat on the edge of the bed for a minute. A couple of quick sniffs and he knew the thirty minutes in the shower had done the job. He no longer smelled like used Old Milwaukee. Clothes, lunch and on to the debriefing. Piece of cake.

As he walked into the kitchen Anna was sitting at in the table with her coffee. “There’s cold chicken in the fridge if you want some. I also made a sandwich for you if you want it. It’s in by the milk.”

“Thanks,” Jack grunted in reply. He grabbed the sandwich and the milk and joined her at the table.

Anna drink her coffee slowly, watching him over the rim of her cup. He still had a bit of that restless animal energy. Missions like this often took a full day or two for Jack to fully calm down. She was still surprised at the amount of adrenaline he could summon when he needed it. The downside was it took so long for him to wind down. Sometimes the best way to help was to take his mind off of it. She wanted to know the details of what happened. It was her job, sure. But she cared so much about the team. Nat was one of her best friends. Jack was her…boyfriend? Sure. But the word sounded weird with him. Sal was starting to grow on her once you got past all the handsome guy womanizing appearance. Her friends and the people she was responsible for had been in danger. She as glad they were back safe and sound. For now, waiting for Jack’s report was going to be the best way to go. As Agent In Charge he had to write it. He was great at writing reports. It must have been the former cop in him. He got the details. It was clinical and to the point. But at least she’d have that. Now was not the time to ask. For now she wanted to get Jack settled.

“How is Natalie doing?,” she said, taking another sip.

Jack stop chewing and looked from the window to her like he just realized she was sitting across from him. “Huh? Oh, yeah. She’s good. Wade was the one I was worried about. Sal, too. He got some of that, what do you call it, ichor? Yeah, some of that right in his face. I had to wash it off in that shitty water. It was a mess.”

“No, Jack. I mean how is Natalie doing? How is it going with Wu or her MMA training?”

Jack stopped chewing again an looked stared at her. “What the hell does Wu have to do with anything? He’s just an FBI guy we know.”

“Natalie and Wu are an item. Did you even know that? She could see the hangry half animal part of his brain trying to process what sounded like a foreign language.

“What do you mean, an ‘item’?”

“They are seeing each other, Jack. Like dating. They started training together and it just happened. He was in her corner for her last fight. Jack, do you even know what is going on in her personal life? Take her to lunch. Ask her how she’s doing. Go to one of her fights.”

“Hang on a second. What? Ask her about Wu? Why? That’s her business”

“Jack, you need to know about your team. You need to know what’s going on with them. Sal is seeing someone, too?”

“Sal sees a lot of ‘someones’”.

“It’s the same woman, Jack. He has been seeing her for some time now.”

Jack slumped back in his chair and sighed. “Where is all of this coming from? We do our missions and go our own ways. I don’t need to know what they are doing and they don’t need to know my business either.”

Anna leaned forward and put her hand on his arm. “That works great for you. I get it. You come back from a mission and pace around or hit a heavy bag and then sleep for a whole day. Then you’re done. It doesn’t work that way for everyone. They know you have their safety in mind. They know you’ll do anything to keep them safe on a mission. But people need to know you actually care what’s going on in their lives and show some interest.”

“But I’m not interested.”

“Then pretend.”

“Ok. I’ll ask Natalie how she is doing and take her to lunch. But do I have to go to her fights? Fighting for money is…I don’t like it. I don’t fight unless I have to and then it’s no rules. Hurt them bad before they do it to you. This MMA stuff just seems…wrong.”

“She knows how you feel, Jack. She understands. But it hurts her. She respects you, more than you’ll ever know. I bothers her that what she is passionate about you can’t even watch. She fights and it’s a big deal and you don’t even show up or ask. You even called it “play fighting”.

“That’s because it IS, dammit!. In reality if a guy knocks you out in the street he’s going to do more than go through your wallet. You can’t tap out. He stomps your head into the curb and leaves you gurgling on your own snot. There’s no ref to stop it. You can fucking die. So when it starts you finish it. Hard and fast. Brutal as you need to be. That’s not what she’s doing.”

‘So you don’t respect her then?"

“No, dammit. I mean, yes. Yes I respect her. She has always had my back and kept me safe, too. But this isn’t a mission. This is fighting for fun, or whatever. I can’t get that. It makes no sense to me.”

“But it does to her. You need to go. She wants your support. You don’t have to like it. But you need to go. For her. And Sal, too.”

“Jesus. I have to ask Sal the details about who he’s fucking now?”

“Maybe, just maybe he actually likes her. Maybe she likes him. This is important stuff. You need to be a friend as well as their colleague.”

Jack sat back and put his hands on his face. He rubbed his head like he was washing the rest of Milwaukee off and exhaled hard. “Okay, fine. I will ask Sal and Natalie to lunch. I will go to one of Nat’s fights. Square?”

“Mia, too. And Danielson. Ask them, too. Maybe Danielson would like to take my sister out. They may be a good pair.”

“Smith and your sister? Jesus. Where did this come from? And don’t call him Danielson. It’s weird.”

’That’s his name, Jack."

“It’s not what we call him. Fine. Whatever. Sign me up and I’ll go. I gotta go get dressed and write a report.”

Anna watched Jack get up and head to the bedroom. “I’ll set up some double dates,” she called after him.

“Whatever. Sure,” he called back.

“That ought to get his mind off Milwaukee,” she said to herself as she took another sip of her coffee and smiled.

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Milwaukee Mauler 4

We form back up out in the main tunnel. Two columns again. I take the rear on my side. We hear a shit load of squeaking coming our way. It’s gonna be rats…. a lot of them. Wade drops into the middle, I follow suit as Jack yells out “Mia push them, Natalie light ‘em up”. I keep an eye out for Mia’s push and ask if we want to risk flaming rats at us. Jack replies he want’s dead one’s.. I can’t argue with that. A swarm of rats lifts up like a wall and I start it the fuck on fire. Wade looks back and yells to get in the water. As he turns to head a little further into the combat he falls. His head keeps above shit creek. One swarm hits Jack, shortly followed by them turning tail toward the other swarm. They end up crawling over the downed Wade on the way… I shudder a little and keep a watch down the tunnel.

With the current swarm neutralized, Wade yells over the rat screams to get back onto the walkway. Jack has us move past them. Headed closer to the fucking monster. I can’t really keep the smirk off my face, but why try anyway? Jack thanks Mia, I guess she finally got around to healing him. Good shit…. Fuck. Fuckity fuck. The growl actually startled me… and…. there… it…. FUCK. I come out of it as the thing lunges into Wade and it knocks me onto my ass… luckily its just like taking a seat on the flooring. A gun shot then some… I don’t fuckin’ know what the fuck runs through that things veins but it stinks way worse then the shit… I think it might even irritate a little like a pepper spray. If that wasn’t enough to bring me back around… Spot… is panther like again… and even bigger than upstairs. As I finally have a chance to pick out a target another gun shot rings out… more.. ooze? I shake it off quick, but hear Sal start wheezing. I head over and just as I get to him I hear Jack scream for someone to grab Wade. I feel fucking bad for forgetting Wade and like shit for leaving Sal but pivot and head over to the rat carcass. Fat is spilling over Jack and Danielson’s hands. I act before I have time to think, dipping below the shit line and pushing up a little the rat I fish around for Wade. I get a hold of him and pull… at first he dosen’t move. I’m already in it so I get a little deeper, push with all I have in my thighs and pull on what ever I have a grip on… he pops out… but isn’t breathing. I dig around and get a little out of his throat but he still isn’t breathing. Danielson stops by and offers some help, thank fucking god Wade starts breathing. I stay with him for a bit. Jack and I take a trip through the tunnels to make sure it’s clear. Thank fucking whatever Sal talks to it’s clear. We get back and Mia looks rough, but Wade is looking fine and swearing about the damn bow. He finds it in the shit. We head up top. Wade takes us to the body from his fight with the creature. We get it back to the warehouse. Jack sends the rest of the group to the hotel and I stay back with him as he talks to Detective O’Conner. It goes… as well as that shit ever does. We don’t need to do any more for O’Conner so we meet back up with the group we all get showered. Get on the plane and we are home in 4 hours. Mia doesn’t want to head back to the city. I already have my shit set up so I offer her my bed. Gym and a nap was my plan anyway, couch will be fine. We walk in and I hear something from the kitchen. I stop Mia in the doorway… there is a noise in the kitchen. I move forward quietly and peek around… Max is grabbing a yogurt from the fridge. I call out “Hey Max what are you doing here” Mainly to let Mia know it’s ok and relief. He is startled and drops the yogurt. I walk over and grab him a new one and clean up the mess. Mia gets in the kitchen and Max… uh… well reacts like guys do with Mia. In between flirting he lets me know he has the security system set up.

I have a message from Wu and call him back. Markus Hancock is now head of S.A.D. & Rausch is in Seattle. Wu hasn’t heard anything, but might not be part of S.A.D. He asks if I can train… and fuck this is embarrassing, but I say yes before he even mentions when. Turns out it’s the day after tomorrow. I get in a short run and catch a nap.

We gather for the meeting. Jack… well Jack is kinda… really fucking weird. He asks how I am doing and says we should get lunch.. like a double date… thing. If clicks this is probably Anna, but yeah. He also mumbles about wanting to go to the next fight and I tell him I will get him a ticket.

The meeting starts and Anna mentions Hancock has gotten a hold of her and wants to set up a meeting. She forwarded the information I sent to the Hoffman group and is waiting to hear back.

Found by Danielson running info from the data:
Church of Ancient Wisdom flyer. The address is in Chicago, 7112 Autobahn St. The symbol from the amulet is on it. Services at 7pm every night.

Max arrives a little after the meeting and goes over the security system. The system only works with Hoffman phones and has night vision with real time video. Internal cameras in public spaces. I walk Max out and he asks about training. I give him my rate and tell him we can work out something better than that.

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Milwuakee Mauler 3

Two come out from a door in front of me and one grabs me, the other misses. I am not too worried about being overpowered at this point so I decide to start a fire in the stack of boxes behind me. I know it lights, but seeing the light and feeling the heat is nice. Now I just need to get away to use it for cover…

The other one gets a chance to grab me as I notice the third emerge from the door. I concentrate on not getting swipped by the third’s claws and my attack suffers for it, but at least I am not bleeding yet. I hear a howl from the crates and think I got one light up without trying, fucking sweet. They keep trying to immobilize me, even with two it’s kind of pathetic. I focus mainly on the one trying to claw me and notice another one behind me as he misses. I was going to use the psi blade but it’s time to stop fucking around, I light the first swipper attacking me on fire. He squeals in pain and pulls back. I press the advantage and manage to draw my pistol. I gave up too much trying grabbing the god damn pistol and one immobilizes me while the other takes advantage and takes my feet out from underneath me Fuck. Mother fucking fucking fuck. Oh… Hello fire… Thanks.. Sal? I get up and dust myself off enjoying the kiss of flame and a moment to regroup. I think I see Sal as I look around, but not sure.

I step out, one is down and looks dead, the other one is still running around on fire. I shoot and drop him. I call out asking if there is a reason to not let this place burn. I quickly connect some dots and realize there might be hostages. Others call out the same and also mention fire fighters. I don’t give a shit about that, police are probably on the way from gunshots anyway. But.. hostages. As I start to focus on the fire closest to the office where the team is heading water spouts from the ground and takes the fire out.

I head over to the offices and Jack looks pretty bad. With Danielson’s help I stop the bleeding on Jack. Wade comes in and after seeing what is going on, runs out and grabs the first aid kit from the car. We get Danielson patched up pretty well.

After that Wade shows off a collection of necklaces from the bodies. I draw a blank but apparently the talisman curses the wearer with lyncathropy. The objects are not difficult to make, but do require some skill and if done incorrectly can damage the creator.

Wade also tells a tale of fighting and capturing one. While carrying around the captive he is attacked by, what he calls, and alien. It has a swirling armor around it, glowing eyes and sharp teeth. The thing attacks, but only the were-creature. Wade hid the body by the Taco Bell in some weeds.

This jogs the memory of Mia who remembers something called Hunting Horrors and Sal remembers Prey Hounds they are a little different, but both spirits not aliens.

There is movement and sound. I move out to the warehouse and see the were creatures changing back. I manage to get some footage of them changing back to humans and send it back to Anna along with a few pictures of the talisman, Wade’s story about the creature, and Mia’s and Sal’s leads on what that is. I also ask her to find out if there are known practitioners capable of the talisman and/or hunter things.

We realize that about 10 minutes has passed, no police, and the possible trail is getting colder. Into the sewer we go. As Jack drops in I notice he isn’t any better off then after my first-aid job. I really don’t know what Mia is thinking letting they guy head into danger like that when she could help. I mean shit she takes the damage on herself, but if Jack drops we are kinda fucked.

I shake it off for now and drop into the sewer. Yeah, it’s fucking gross. We break up into two groups, one for each side of the sewer. Wade and Jack each take a lead on one side. I take the rear guard on Wade’s side. I go with a drawn pistol.

After a bit we hear some regular sized rats and Wade calls out that there is something bigger than we have seen already. We finally get into a dead end room that is apparently a nest. There is nothing alive in here, but there are bones of human’s and animals. Sal shines a light up at the ceiling and there are some worn symbols in black, like charcoal. Looks occult. Sal says it’s black magic. I ask Sal if it would be safe to take a picture and send it to Anna. The only thing Sal kinda knows is that it is not warding.

We hear a loud and ominous noise that sounds like the big creature Wade mentions is coming.

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Just Some Good Ol' Boys, Never Meaning No Harm
Milwaukee's Best

Well now that them boys an’ girls in Department 7 got themselves a case to work, they go on and divide up into teams to cover all the locations where someone keeps leaving human remains. Mighty disturbing the result of these murders. There’s someone off in Milwaukee keeps tearing folks to bits and leaving the scraps where others can find ‘em like a farm cat showing a mouse.

Wade and Mia got pretty excited about taking responsibility for three different investigation sites. So excited that ol’ truck got to rocking, if you know what I mean. That kind of activity makes a man mighty hungry, so Wade knew he’d best get himself a snack from the Taco Bell. It worked out that one of the bodies was found ‘round back of the restaurant.

Though the chalupa he ordered wasn’t terribly satisfying, Wade found a feller there behind the trash can with some information as juicy as a summer ham. Now, he wasn’t the sort of upstanding citizen you could rely on, but he’d seen something of the killer, nonetheless. At least that’s what Wade figured. Though how to explain the killer was a giant raccoon was gonna prove mighty interesting.

Wade called it in and it sure sounded like the other Dep 7 boys were busy. By the sound of Jack gasping into his walkie-talkie, you’d think he was running a marathon. Turned out, they was chasing a scavenger down the train tracks. Jack and Sal were hot on its heels with Sal’s little cat gnawing the arm of that scavenger like a Florida gator.

Now ya might think it’s awful mean to chase a homeless feller out of his cardboard box and halfway crossed Milwaukee. But Jack and Sal had reason aplenty. They’d found a fresh body near the neighborhood of some more colorful locals, got a picture and description of some hippie lookin’ feller who was caught chowing on the bones, and nearly got in a big ol’ brawl before stumbling across the homeless scavenger. And all that doesn’t even mention how ol’ Sal nearly scraped up that fine Italian suit of his. Boy looked slicker than two hogs in mud. Right tae say them two boys was on edge and a little chase was the right kind of medicine to get the blood going.

While Jack and Sal radioed for help, Danielson and Natalie were busy checking on a junkyard to the north. Danielson nearly got caught trying to break in through the front gate by a passerby who quickly turned a blind eye and headed right back where he’d came. Nat wasn’t too happy with Danielson making a run at the lock right there under the street lamp when she’d already found a way in. But round that time Jack’s call came through and there wasn’t uch to do but lend a hand. They were right in line to help out capturing that scavenger for questioning.

Thinking this might be their best lead, just about everyone went to help. Everyone, that is, except Wade. You see, by now, that good country boy had found himself a bar right across the street from the Taco Bell dumpsters where the homeless fella saw a man-sized raccoon chewing on the leavings of its human dinner. If you know anything ‘bout country boys, it’s that they’ll never turn down a good time. And some liquid courage couldn’t hurt before facing up to an ungodly creature, now could it?

When that call for help came through, though, it was right back to business. Wade suggested Mia take the car to intercept while he kept an eye on things at their position. That meant finishing his beer and heading back out on the streets while Mia went all Bo Duke across Milwaukee’s best. Sure enough, Mia caught up to the rest right quick. And Wade? Well, he got himself into a right pickle. Ya see, while he was out looking for trouble, trouble was looking for him.

For a gas, he told the team he was spending a little quality time with a gal who’s real popular with the men-folk. Sure if that didn’t get the whole lot of ‘em steamed. But he followed it up by saying the lady gave him some intelligence about a recent sighting of something scary in the neighborhood and he was checking it out. Good ol’ boys work as hard as they play. And Wade was about to earn his keep.

Investigating a little alley brought him face to face with the biggest, ugliest, smelliest rat he’d ever seen. It wasn’t a raccoon, but it sure looked like what the homeless fella at the Taco Bell described and it’s laugh rightly resembled the woman’s description. This here was a bona-fied were-rat. Now the two of them scrapped it up in that dark alleyway and Wade managed to get it under control. Once unconscious, the strangest thing happened to the giant rodent. It turned back into a man.

It ain’t a pretty sight watching bones break and reset, but that’s what it looked like happened as Wade filmed the transformation on his phone. The rat man was starting to wake up and got mighty angry when Wade claimed a strange runic pendant fro around its neck. He had to make sure he tightened the belt around its wrists and bounced down on its back. He radioed in that Davy Crockett took the Alamo, a fancy code way of saying he’d caught what he reported as the giant raccoon. ‘Course code only works if other folks understand it, and Wade was gonna need to explain this one to the rest of the group.

By now, everyone else had got together and tracked the scavenger to a little building. The paint was fading, the widows boarded up and it smelled mighty foul. Weapons drawn, they headed inside to investigate, hoping to talk to whoever was inside.

While they were designing their approach plan, the folks inside were making their own designs. By the time our good folks of Dep 7 got inside they were already surrounded and a fight was surely coming.

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Milwuakee Mauler 2

After deciding on a stake out we start to formulate a plan on how to go about it. Jack takes point on the planning as agent in charge and his background as a cop. Danielson and I get the scrap yard. It’s the fartherst north spot and the most isolated of the body dumps. Jack and Sal go on foot in the middle of the most active area. Wade and Mia will park on the street that seems to be the southern boundary.

After the plan is settled we head to Wal-Mart for some scent masking stuff and I get some things to help blend into the area. Danielson sees what I pick out and mentions it isn’t really on point for the area and helps me swap out choices for better ones. With a little time left to kill we get some dinner before heading out for the stakeout.

Danielson and I scout out the scrap yard. There seems to be a fairly easy access point between two buildings, just a chain link fence to climb. The two story building seems like a decent spot to get a lay of the land. Danielson gets me a boost on my way to the roof and I take a look into the scrap yard. No movement and nothing out of the ordinary. I notice Danielson trying to pick the lock on the main gate. I test out the handsfree walkie talkie set up on our smart phones and ask him if he is sure that is a good idea. He mentions if something goes down it would be nice to get in fast. I can’t argue with that and keep a watch out for people coming. A person comes around the corner, but Danielson notices them about the same time I do. He drops, pretending to tie his shoe, the person sees him and turns around back the other direction. I don’t get a good look at them. Danielson waits a minute or so then goes back at it. I focus more from where the person went to, but keeping an eye out all around. He gets it unlocked, leaving it looked like it’s still locked then does a pretty decent junkie shuffle off to scout more of the area.

Jack checks in, he and Sal got some info. They get a witness with a story of a big white man eating a body. Jack texts a picture he obtained from one of the locals. Sal found another body while Jack was dealing with some locals. They didn’t have a chance to investigate it due to interest in their presence by the same group they got some info from.

Wade texts back that we are looking from a raccoon. Like he knows for sure. Jack asks for more info and Wade responds that a homeless man behind the Taco Bell gave him the info.

Everything is quite for a bit then Sal comes on the radio telling Jack to keep chasing “it”. I ask for direction and heading. Sal say train tracks and headed north. I get off the roof and head to the train tracks. Danielson calls out a spot to get onto the tracks on the radio. Sal updates with approximate size of the “it”, that it jumped a 6 foot fence and some other details. I catch most of it as I keep running full speed to the tracks. I reach it in time to see Danielson duck into a hiding spot. I do the same on the other side of the tracks. Shortly after I get settled I see some lights appear on the tracks. They look like headlights and I get on the radio and ask if it’s Wade. Mia comes back that it’s her.

I keep asking if they are still headed north on the tracks. No response. After a few times, Wade comes back that he is talking to a prostitute. Jesus. Fucking. Christ. The last thing we need is another goddamn nympho on the team that tries to get laid on missions. While I am seething, Wade gets more info on his situation and the prostitute is apparently a witness to something that may be related and he is investigating. Really happy to have a a little longer fuse then I used to.

As my mind clears of anger, panic sets in about Jack and Sal’s safety. I start asking louder for a situation update. The fear making me louder and my voice is catching a bit. When Sal finally responds I almost miss it beacause I am just screaming swear words in my head. The therapist is right. I swear like a god damn fucking sailor and shit when I get nervous… or angry… or… Anyway Sal says that Jack is still in pursuit and as far as he can tell they are still headed north on the tracks. I take off from my spot and head south. After a bit of running I see the SUV turn left and Mia says Jack is out front of a building.

As I get closer I hear the thud of an attempt to bust a door in. I head up to the door and ask Jack if he wants me to pick it. He grunts, kicks the door again and then says yes. I start grabbing my lockpick kit and notice he is bleeding from the nose and an ear, his eyes have burst blood vessels in them too. I ask him if he caught the thing at some point and he says he didn’t. The distraction of worry about him gets me in a nice mental spot and the tumblers click open before I can even think about it. As I test the handle to make sure I did actually unlock it, I ask quietly if he is alright and motion to my nose and ear. He reaches up and looks at the blood. Oddly he is not very surprised or concerned and says “later”. I nod, checking him over once again quickly. I ask for some clairifaction before we enter, Sal said human and jumped a fence… Jack says yep, just catch them. I ask Sal to get in contact with Wade and push the door open.

It appears to be a squatters spot. It’s dark and I grab my flash light. I call out that we just want to talk. We start spreading out. Jack asks if I want to head up the short stairs to the loading dock, I nod and head up, mentioning we just want to talk and that we’ll take them to Taco Bell for some food. I give the all clear relaying on the headset. Jack and Danielson each move deeper and I flank around on the wall. Jack points out a spot. I nod and keep moving along the wall to flank the spot he pointed out. Wade responds that the “Alamo has fallen”… or some shit like that. Sal asks for more info and Wade says he caught one. That is good news. As I move around I finally pinpoint where he was mentioning because I see something rooting around with a tail.

There is a muzzle flash and gunshot from Jack’s location. The one I see looks over in that direction and I pounce. I take it down and land a solid body blow. It seems more surprised then hurt, but skitters back from me. I move up and land two solid blows. It squeals and my satisfaction is quickly ruined by noticing some more moving from the shadows. I take a breath and start deciding between fire or telekenetic knives…

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Milwaukee
Jack's version

Our case load has been pretty light for the last year. Anna keeps telling me it has something to do with less ‘dark matter" stuff going on in the universe. I don’t know what much if any of that means. All I know is that most of the stuff we’ve been chasing down the last year has been rookie level investigation. I am not complaining. We’re employed and Hoffmann is fine to work for. It almost seems like they are giving us leads just to keep us busy. But none of it has particularly taxing. That’s good and bad. I can’t say that I mind the break. Anna and I got out of town a couple of times just to get away. But I have a hard time taking the ’work" hat off. Sometimes I feel like we may all be going a bit soft.

It was good timing when we got the message that Dr. Nakami was coming to visit. I know this is a big deal and he’s the boss. But to me he’s just a guy. No disrespect intended. It’s just tha he operates on a whole different level from us so it’s hard to relate to him. The only other time I met him he was complimentary. Towards the team. That’s all I want; keep the guys in charge happy by closing cases.

This visit wasn’t much different from the last with regards to him. He showed up, told us we were doing great and we were sort of getting promoted. At least that’s how I took it. The “dark tide” is rising, he says. I guess that means we’ll be busier. Good. But now we going to be some sort of hybrid team. We’ll be doing investigations and handling some special operations. We have a new HQ out is Rogers with 50 acres and a new, empty house. Apparently we have to set it up and requisition all of our equipment. We also have access to a small jet and helicopter. We also have to cover most or all of North America. We better get up to speed fast.

While we were taking all of this in Anna showed up with a new team member. His name is Wade and he’s some sort of survivalist guy who apparently know how to fly. When I heard all of that I have to admit I was picturing Dickie Baldwin Version 2. But Wade seems okay. We asked him a few questions that led me to believe he has most of his shit in one pile. No worse than the rest of us.

We got to see just how well Wade can fly when Anna told us we were flying to Milwaukee to check out a request for assistance from the police department. It came through some back channels as police departments don’t usually contact us directly. The unnerving part came when Sal approached me and said we should be prepared for some for of shape shifters. I don’t know how he knows this stuff. But I have been around him long enough to know he knows stuff and when he says to look out, you look out. It’s like when Nat yells “duck” or ’don’t touch the alien egg sacs in that room". You just do what she says. Sal’s warning meant Nat headed out to see Max Kleinman to rig us out. Which she did well from what I could see. So we headed out to check out the plane and helicopter and jet off to Milwaukee. Wade is very capable as a pilot. But I can’t help remembering the last time we were on a jet this size and it came crashing out of the sky. I was pretty jumpy the entire trip. Looking at Nat I could tell she was probably feeling the same way. Mia was trying to get everyone to relax but mostly it was just annoying me. Not her fault. I just wanted out of there. I was pretty happy when we landed.

We headed out to the police department and met with the lead detective. There have been some strange mutilations at random spots in the city. Sal says it’s either wererats or some type of nasty otherworldly spirit that will kill us all. Great. looks like we are back in business.

We split up into three teams and headed out to conduct surveillance in three different spots. Nothing I have ever heard about Milwaukee was good. I don’t think this trip is going to change that.

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Milwaukee Mauler

We are told about a teleconference with Nakomi the next day and the arrival of a new team member Wade Bridges. He has some survival skills and more interestingly a history of alien abduction. I arrive a bit early, but I am not the first there. Anna gathers us in the kitchen and informs us Nakomi will be on-site as opposed to teleconference.

Jack asks if Anna, I, and himself can talk privately. Jack asks about the rest of the teams knowledge of Nakomi’s true nature. Anna confirms my belief that Sal is the only other one in on it. I inquire as to Wade being a problem and Anna shakes it off.

The advance security team arrives and makes the sweep. We get the briefing about interacting with Nakomi. Finally he arrives with more security on hand and the meeting begins. Nakomi outlines that the recent lull in Dark Matter actively has ended and the tide is swelling. They are moving the hybrid teams of investigations and combat operations. Our team will be the lead of North America until regional teams can be assembled. We are also informed our current location will still be active, but we will now be heavyhearted out of Rodgers MN.

We arrive at the new spot. It is a large spread, we are told 50 acres… I don’t really know what that means. City blocks and miles are more my type of measurement. It has a few other buildings. They mention we can layout the place how we want. I want a training area/gym and little clinic area. While I am thinking of this I notice there is a total lack of security on-site. I text Anna about getting in contact with Max Kleinman about getting this place secure.

I give Anna and Wade a quick tour. I mention Jack’s thoughts on an armory, my need for a gym/training area and clinic. Anna mentions there is an institute provided plane and helicopter at an airfield about 16 miles from the new headquarters and asks if we want to go. We all say yes and head over. Wade knows an impressive amount about the helicopter and plane. Comforting as he also claims to be a pilot of both.

It becomes clear that it is intended for us to live, at least most of the time, at the new headquarters. I put in notice at my apartment complex and move in over a few days. After about a week we get a job. Heading out to Milwaukee to consult a Sheriff’s department. They have had some mauled bodies they can’t figure out.

As we get prepped to go Jack mentions we might need to consider shapeshifters. He had just been talking to Saul so I just roll with it That means gear we don’t have on hand and that means Max Klienman. I grab a big backpack and hop on the bike. I get there and after asking for gear he asks were or fey. I am not sure and check in with Jack/Saul. I am advised “not to discriminate”. We are pretty lucky at the gear he has. I peel off two tickets from my free ones for the championship fight. Max is stoked.

150 .45
200 9mm
50 .40
10 30 ought 6
6 cross bow bolts
cold iron war hammer
2 bags. On person and looking for it, can tell true nature of fay. Must be in “arms reach”

We load into the jet and Wade gets us in the air. I hadn’t really considered it, but as the tires leave the runway I start getting a little anxious. The last time I was in a jet… wasn’t pleasant. Saul brings me an ice water. It makes me realize how tense I was. Wade’s landing of the plane is quite smooth and I have to look out the window to make sure.

Driving from the airfield to the station we start to see it’s not the best area of a town that isn’t that great to begin with. Wade and I stay out at the car as the rest go in. He tries making a little small talk, but neither of us are really into it. I am absentmindedly petting Spot as an officer comes up. He looks like he might break his neck rubber necking looks into the car. He keeps asking about illicit materials and such.

I get a text and it’s Jack laying out possible perpetrators. Wererats, demons and some weird dark matter shit. We split up into groups, Danielson and I end up on a team. We stake out different locations.

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The Condition Vol. I
Hey, I know that guy!

Dear Diary,

The Condition:

Well, where do I start? This latest investigation has been a heart stopper. Smith (Danielson) was able to work his magic with the computer we got from the apartment of the cul-de-sac leader. We figured he was killed by the demon he brought here and the police were not going to find what we needed to find… well he found the chat messages and traced them through the 2 VPNs (which is supposed to be impossible, I’m told) to the office computer of an apartment complex in Woodbury on Guider Dr by the theater.

Have I ever mentioned how much stakeouts bore me? With the main office in the pool building, this stake out would be easy if the culprit actually used the computer.

The old lady that managed the buildings was dropped as a main suspect on the third evening. A young man in his mid thirties was in the pool until nearly 21:00 when he got out and went into the bathroom. Moments later, Smith registered that the user name that contacted Mr. Cul-de-sac had logged in. Jack left the vehicle and snuck around to apprehend the man when he left. Smith tailed him until the man logged off at 00:15 (if my computer geek days weren’t past me…). Moments later, we see Jack running with a body in his arms.

“Mia!” He shouted, swift even when carrying dead weight, “He poisoned himself! Help him or we lose our only lead.” He set the man down in the boulevard and I laid hands on him preparing for the pain.

Healing only takes a moment, 3-5 seconds tops, but often feels like a lifetime. Physical injuries I heal usually give me a sensation of what the injury felt like for the victim, disease is often a cold sensation throughout my body, and poisons feel like fire from the intake point to as far as it has gotten in the victim’s body, but this was something else… something I’ve felt before.

I watched my hands grow ashen, wrinkled and withered; the skin reaching its limits and peeling away from the flesh underneath bearing thin and frayed tendons. I can only imagine what everyone around me saw before I fell away from the man. I knew what this was and, more importantly, who was behind it.

“Ben!” I shouted, waking myself up. Back at the Institute house in a bed soaked in my own sweat with Sal reading in the corner. Anna and Jack came bursting in through the door. “What happened?”

Jack turned green as Anna said,”You decayed nearly to the bone… you looked… What happened? How did you…”

“I’ve felt this before” I interrupted, “What has happened with the case? The guy I healed, he survived, what did he tell you?”

“We have an address. Danielson is researching it, Nat is gathering equipment. We leave in 15.” Jack said with color returning to his face.

The trip to our target was much like the trip north for Sal’s exorcism, except Sal’s eyes were on me. I guess I have some explaining to do, but that will have to wait.

We reached our destination, an industrial yard with a mechanical consulting company, a lawn mower repair shop and an auto repair shop surrounded by fence and pressed between Phalen blvd and train tracks. Danielson parked the SUV in the gateway blocking it from vehicles trying to escape and jumped out. Jack leapt out of the passenger side as the rest follow out the rear doors.

Jack and Nat took cover and move around to get eyes on the personnel door to the largest building on the property, scanning for snipers and spotters. Sal followed Nat behind the car she was moving around when the door opened and Danielson and I follow Jack as half dozen men come out crouching and holding weapons. They spread out and several fire at us over the hoods and trunks of vehicles.

BANG!

BANG! BANG! BANG!

When I looked right, Nat had moved around a car and had one man’s head moving like a bobble head doll as she moved around him and flung the man at the two only a few feet away. As they struggle to pull their long guns free of the tangled limbs she pounced.

Shots from my left pull my attention; Jack fired a hail of lead at 2 guys behind a car and one opponent’s head canoed. The last man fired and caught Jack in the left shoulder, but that didn’t faze the large man and Agent Cooper put a bullet in his chest.

I peeked around the front of the vehicle only to find myself face to face with an armed man. A fast man with a long gun at ready is slower than a slow girl with a pistol at ready… at least it was this time. I shot low and the bullet plowed through his inner thigh and blood spurting with the pace of a racing heart. He raised the gun for a moment before his eyes lost focus and he finally dropped (some day’s I am so lucky).

I came around the corner to find two bleeding and unconscious men under the feet of Miss Bliss and a man buried to his chin in the dirt with a look of terror on his face as Sal stepped over him.

We regrouped by the personnel door where I noticed Jack’s wound, but he shrugged me off. Danielson opened the door and Jack lead through followed by Nat, myself, Sal and Danielson.

The eerie light coming from the office flooded the main room with a light that was hemmed in darkness beyond what the eye can see. The cars, tools and tool boxes caused shadows that didn’t seem to be anchored to the items that created them. No people were to be seen, but the hairs on Jack’s neck were visibly standing on end.

Quickly, we squatted in the shadow of a minivan. Jack waved his hands and pointing around and Nat and Danielson quickly nodded. Jack and Nat sprinted off along the garage doors in different directions while Sal and I looked at each other in confusion. Sal moved to follow Nat but Danielson grabbed his shoulder and motioned for us to stay put. A few moments later, Nat returned soon followed by Jack.

“No one’s around,” Nat’s voice still sultry in a whisper (She is so hot, but cold to the touch).

“Office?” asked Sal as his sweet breath washed past me.

“I’ll lead,” said Jack as he started to move.

We stayed crouched as we moved towards the office door. The windows, white with blinding light, did not afford a view into the office, but we didn’t know what might be looking out at us. Once at the door, Nat gently tested the lock to find it open and looked at Jack, who shimmied into position. The door flew open and we poured through stumbling on the unexpected terrain.

The heavy, steamy air hit our lungs as the ankle deep water of a swamp soaked into our shoes and boots. The muck under the water slowly gave way under our weight and we sank several inches. Above, the grey sky poked through the moss covered tree limbs. Nothing looked alive.

“Keep the door open!” coughed Sal, “We won’t find it if it closes.”

Danielson lunged for the door, slipped his fingers in just before the door closed and we all heard the thud and grunt as the door stopped against his fingers and the frame. A tree limb was broken off with a hollow, rotten sound and wedged under the door.

Peeking through the moss, we saw what may be a path cut out of the moss hanging from above. Jack made a signal like patting a dog with a flat palm and started moving slowly forward. 20 feet forward the land started to rise and another 40 before we were on what might have been dry ground. Ahead, a clearing could be seen through the mossy growth.

A man stood on a block of stone shouting, but his voice sounded miles away. We closed to just outside the clearing, when we saw the bodies. The blood from the ritual suicides was still draining from the bodies and pulsed with the words of the man chanting and gesturing on top of the stone; gathering into legs and formed up to just past the inverted knees.

“He’s summoning a demon,” whispered Sal, “I think I can counter his casting.” He stepped out into the clearing, waving his hands and speaking his magic tongue.

“If we have to shoot him, aim for his chest,” I said. I got nods from those still with me as we moved out from cover with weapons drawn. Nat went wide to flank as Jack, Danielson and I moved up to cover Sal as he worked.

The man on the stone opened his eyes as the counter magic took effect. Without skipping a beat, a flourish of the man’s hand produced a handgun.

I stepped in front of Sal as the lead flew. The man only fired once before rose buds of blood sprouted from his chest. The round found my flesh yielding but my ribs deflected it from its intended target. My body will, eventually, pass the lead as it has in the past, but the impact shock wave passing through my organs and pierced lung dropped me to my knees. As I fell forward to the ground I focused on the pain.

When I lifted my head, Sal was five steps in front of me glaring at the legs which were melting back into the puddle and Jack, Nat and Danielson were standing around the man. I got up, grabbed my 9mm, and joined them by the man.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

I shot him in the chest, startling my team.

“WHAT THE…”

Bam! Bam!

Nat grabbed me, disarming me, and threw me to the ground.

“Hold her, Nat,” said Jack as he shifted his stance to cover me with his firearms. “What the hell are you doing, Mia?!?”

“Oh, he’ll be fine! I wouldn’t kill my own son!” I knew I should have told them more, but secrets are hard to tell when you have kept them as long as I have. “You might want to shoot him again, he might be healing and he’s less dangerous to move if he isn’t awake. Oh, and don’t touch his skin, he might be poisonous and that direct of a dose… well, just don’t touch him.”

Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

“His eyes fluttered!” screamed Danielson dropping an empty magazine to the ground and slamming another into the side arm.

“We gotta go!” Sal’s voice was a combination of concern and fear. “Whatever he was calling is on this plain and is looking for us. I don’t know how close it is but it knows where we are!”

Jack grabbed my son in a fireman’s carry and we ran.

As the office door slammed shut, the blinding light flickered and went out leaving only the EXIT lights to guide us out.

The interrogation of my son, Benedict or Jason as he was calling himself, didn’t go great. He was less than forthcoming with details but what was clear is that the structure of the organization was build to defeat this exact situation. Fortunately, a mother’s glare can pry where no man’s threats and promises can find, given enough time.

My eldest son, Paul, was found to be the best fit to punish Ben for his crimes, with over watch provided by the Hoffmann Institute.

Mia

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Exorcism

I’m not sure I like Gemma. Don’t get me wrong, she’s on the right side. I just don’t care much for her. But we need her to clean up Sal’s little issue with some demon riding him. I don’t really know what any of that means specifically but I get the gist: it’s not good. Eventually Sal will kill us all if we don’t do something. So we’ll hold our noses and do what Gemma says.

We pile into a couple of cars and head up to some “safehouse” that Smith has up north a few hours. When we get there he picks the lock because he says he doesn’t like to carry keys. I am starting to think some family is going to walk in on us. Smith is a weird dude. The place isn’t big but it’s isolated so I’ll take it. We get in and get to business tying Sal to a bed. Gemma gives everyone instructions as to what we’re supposed to do. My job is pretty much to help Rolo keep everything locked down. Simple and straightforward. I can do that. Then Sal tells me that my other job is to kill him if this goes south. Mya says not to worry because she will try to bring him back if I do. I let her know, more for Sal’s peace of mind than anything else that If I put him down he’s not going to be salvageable. His head with look like a canoe. I really don’t want to do that but if it’s gonna happen I won’t try to finesse it. The whole thing makes me feel a little sick to my stomach. If anyone would have told me five years ago that I’d be in this place with these people doing this stuff I would have laughed and shoved your ID back in your pocket. “We don’t serve drunks”, would probably be what I’d say.

I don’t know what happened, to be honest. Between Sal’s corrosive spit and the maggots and flies coming out of his mouth I don’t remember much. I remember helping Rolo hold the bed down as it tried to come up off the floor. And by that I mean actually coming off the floor and trying to fly off. I remember some black shit coming out of Sal’s mouth that sent me and Rolo heading for the door. I barely kept my mud down. Rolo wasn’t as lucky. That poor bastard has been through a lot the last few days. I remember Sal almost choking to death on something. I know there was one point that I thought the look n Gemma’s face may have meant this was all going bad. All I know was when it was done everyone was pretty well spent.

But to make matters worse Janowicz showed up in the middle of it pounding on the door. He and Burke tailed us up here and we missed it. I should have seen them but I don’t. Anyway, that fatass tells us we’re going to be arrested if we don’t comply with him right now. He’s starting to lose it to the point where he showed his true colors. He told Burke to go around the house and find a broken window so that could do a search. He didn’t have a warrant and he was off the reservation on this one. He knew I knew it and so did Burke. I give her credit because she kept it civil. I was doing a pretty good job of putting up with his shit. But at one point I think he was trying to get me to make a move on him by initiating contact. That didn’t work. But he’s a crooked cop. Not much more I hate than crooked cops. I don’t think he’ll be a problem for us anytime soon. I told Burke if she took him back to Minneapolis I’d bring whomever she wanted to interview when we got back from our vacation. Thinking about all of the ways that encounter could have gone I think it worked out for the best.

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