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Thursday, 4th December, 2008, 11:52 AM #361
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 7 – Dreams of SacrificeJim-Bean was part of a Creek tribe, one tribe of a far-flung people who lived and thrived throughout the woods and hills and rivers of the land. It was winter, and the tribe was worried.
People had begun to disappear. First it was thought to be but a normal part of the cold winter, but five people had vanished, and the cold nights were sometimes filled with a terrible sound, a howling like the most mournful of spirits, lost in the stars; and when that howling was loudest, some people were filled with a terrible hunger for the flesh of the dead.
The old shamans told stories of the wendigo, a giant spirit who could appear in any form, a winter spirit that hungered for human flesh. The shamans knew a way to drive off the wendigo, but it was a terrible way, a way they learned from an old and hated tribe long ago.
Jim-Bean was taken by the shamans to save his people. The shamans led him up the red earth of Blood Hill, and he lay in a stony place atop the hill. The shamans then climbed down the hill again, and from a distance they prayed, singing songs with unknown words until the night deepened and the stars gleamed in the cold black sky overhead.
Then the cold grew deeper. The gleaming stars turned from white to blue, then purple, then yellow, shifting in pastel hues and swirling, melding, knitting a beautiful mist of cold colors. The mist filled the sky.
Then came the howling, deeper, louder, filling not the sky but the soul, and black eyes peer forth from the glowing mist.
The shamans' song had stopped. Jim-Bean was cold, so cold, and he knew the wendigo by its terrible obsidian eyes, and the wendigo looked upon him with hunger.
He paged Hammer over his cistron. “Hammer. HAMMER! You awake?”
There was a grunt on the other side. “I am now.”
“I think we should investigate the lake.”
“What lake? Crow Lake?”
“I’ve had a weird dream. About Indians.”
“I miss Blade too.”
“Blade? Our deceased teammate, remember?”
Hammer sighed on the other end. “I’ll get Howell.”
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Friday, 5th December, 2008, 11:46 AM #362
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 8 – Examining the Lake
The most immediately striking feature of Crow Lake was the presence of the Crow Lake Mounds, just off-shore. These five mounds were arranged in a pentagram, each of them about twelve feet tall and thirty feet in diameter, covered in the same thick, rough grass as the rest of the ground nearby.
Howell pushed her glasses up her nose. Her skin was red and raw from the flash-freezing she suffered, but she had recovered well. “Fascinating.” She tapped some keys on her cistron.
“Indian mounds,” said Jim-Bean.
Howell shook her head. “According to newspaper reports, these mounds were built in the twentieth century, by Hiram Bates. Bates claimed he felt the touch of the "spirits" of the Shrine. He became fixated on the notion that by building a mound would somehow placate the ghosts or spirits that haunted him. When the dreams did not cease after he built the first mound, he went to work on the next one. When five mounds were built, he lost all hope; there’s a brief news report of his suicide.”
“I thought they did an aerial survey of the Lake already?” asked Hammer.
“Bimmel’s team?” Howell snorted. “Aerial surveys noted the pentagonal arrangement of the mounds, indicating intelligent construction, but they’re not interested in archaeology. Bimmel’s too busy taking broad surveys of the area and examining the corpses.”
“Got any equipment in the Humvee we can use to explore the lake?” asked Jim-Bean.
Howell nodded. “I have a fish finder. It’s not much, but when you told me to stow equipment to explore the lake I thought it might come in handy. I also brought along a submersible camera…”
“We’re going to have to go out on the ice,” said Hammer with a frown.
“I brought an ice tent and drill,” said Howell. “And two wet suits.”
“Good girl,” said Jim-Bean.
Howell blushed. “I’ll go get the equipment.”
They propped up the tent and drilled a hole in the frozen lake. The sonar detector revealed that the Lake was surprisingly deep, nearly seventy feet in some places, except for one obvious, anomalous, feature: near the shore, close to the five mounds, the lake floor rose steeply to a wide hill, some fifty feet tall and two hundred feet across. The water was only twenty feet deep over the hill; and, buried less than ten feet from its top, was a large, twisted conglomeration of metal and crystal.
Howell dropped the remote camera into the hole. The metal structure at the top of the hill had an odd spherical opening to it. Two hand indentations were on the opening.
“Looks like a way in,” said Jim-Bean. He started gearing up the wetsuit. “Coming?”
Hammer shook his head. “Oh no. Black men don’t swim.”
“What?” Jim-Bean snapped the diving goggles on. “Seriously? I could use your help.”
“There’s no reason for two of us to go down there,” said Hammer. “Seriously.”
Jim-Bean shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He tucked the thermite grenades into a waterproof satchel, strapped his pistol and knife to one leg, and pulled the breathing mask over his mouth. Then he dropped into the hole.
Jim-Bean put his hands on the indentations. They weren’t human hands – there were two few fingers in each indentation.
“This is Sprague,” came Sprague’s voice over their comms. “Tucker’s en route to your location.”
“Great,” said Jim-Bean. He twisted the two handholds and the lid shrieked open. Inside was an air bubble.
“Looks like there’s air in here!” said Jim-Bean. “Come on down!”
“I’m not going down there,” said Hammer. “You’re doing just fine.”
“Be careful Jim-Bean!” said Howell.
“Don’t worry darling, I’m sure Hammer will be forced to come after me once the screaming starts…” Then Jim-Bean plunged into the stale air.
Saturday, 6th December, 2008, 01:24 PM #363
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 9 – The Temple
The dome was constructed of a strange conjunction of metals and crystalline shapes. Gold and electrum was wrapped among another metal. The metals were twisted and fashioned with great precision, delicate yet unpleasant, around contorted crystalline shapes of no known mineral. The shrine depicted no specific shape or symbol, though there was no question that it was fashioned with some unknown meaning.
Jim-Bean took his breathing mask, goggles, and flippers off. He kept the flashlight on his head. The underwater camera hovered just outside the air bubble.
The temple structure was clearly of alien manufacture. While the structure was not offensive to the human eye, there was something vaguely off about it, something that indicated on a subconscious level it was not a work of man. In the center of the temple was the altar. Ominously, the altar in the center of the dome was most suggestive of a dentist's chair.
The interior has an odd smell to it. There was a pile of skulls and bones collected in one side of the temple.
Jim-Bean crept over to the bones. He snapped a flare and dropped it by the bones.
“I don’t know what these are,” he said over the comm., “but they don’t look human.” He picked some of them up and put them in an evidence bag. Then he made his way over to the altar.
Static answered him. Signals weren’t going in or out of the temple. “Great,” said Jim-Bean to nobody.
The altar was coated in frozen blood. It had two odd protrusions. The side of the altar is covered with strange designs and script. Jim-Bean snapped another flare and dropped it by the altar.
Something was pulsing in his bag. Jim-Bean pulled out the Eye of Ithaqua.
It was thrumming, like a heartbeat. He peered closer at the altar. Small, metal-like hairs swayed all along the inside of the indentations. They danced to the rhythm of the Eye’s pulsing.
A strange whispering surrounded him. A figure flashed by on the edge of the flickering light of the flares.
Jim-Bean brought up his pistol. “Who’s there?”
More whispering. The whispering echoed off the walls of the chamber. It threatened to drive him mad.
Out of the darkness came Hodges, emaciated and frozen, an elongated husk of a corpse with hollow eyes, a long trailing tongue, and burnt stubs for feet. He floated a few feet above the floor of the temple.
“YOU WILL MAKE A GRAND SACRIFICE,” whispered Hodges’ rasp. “GIVE ME THE EYE.”
Jim-Bean lowered his pistol as his posture sagged in protest. “Not this again. Fine. You want it…” He shrugged off his duffel bag and shoved the Eye into it. “Go get it!”
Jim-Bean threw the duffel bag into the air and dove for the opening.
Hodges shrieked in rage, rushing forward to catch the bag.
Jim-Bean reached through the water and yanked the underwater camera into the air. “Hammer, it’s Hodges! He’s down here!”
Then the thermite grenades went off.
Monday, 8th December, 2008, 11:32 AM #364
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 10 – Tuckered Out
Tucker stepped into the tent.
“Well, well, well. Where’s your playmate?” He asked Hammer, ignoring Howell.
“Down there,” said Jim-Bean. “He’s investigating a shrine.”
“A shrine?” Six other armed men were stationed outside the tent. Tucker was already wearing a wet suit. The other men were still gearing up. “A shrine to what?”
“Ithaqua,” said Hammer. “He’s bad news. I’d be careful out there, we set some bear traps out too.”
“Bear traps? Out here on the ice?”
Hammer shrugged. “You never know.”
“Yeah, right. What did you find down--”
Jim-Bean’s voice shrieked over the comm. “Hammer, it’s Hodges! He’s down here!”
The ice shuddered beneath them, nearly knocking Tucker off balance. “What the hell?”
“Oh that can’t be good,” said Hammer.
Tucker ordered two of his men into the tent. “You and you. Keep an eye on these two. If they try to do something stupid, you have orders to shoot. Understood?”
Both men saluted. “Yes sir!”
“I’m going in to investigate this myself. “ He stepped out of the tent. “You four, you’re with me. Let’s go.”
They dove into the water and entered through the opening into the temple.
Jim-Bean was backed against one wall, coughing. He managed to get his breathing mask to his face.
The explosion had sucked the air out of the room. The air in the temple was replaced with dangerous carbon monoxide. With comms not working, they had to shout through their masks.
“Hammer!” shouted Jim-Bean. “There’s something with the altar. It’s got some kind of…” his words were muffled by the mask, “…sit in it!”
Tucker’s eyes narrowed. “Good try.” He shouted back through his own mask. “What is that pulsing in your hand?”
Jim-Bean looked down at the Eye of Ithaqua. He had tricked Hodges into going for the grenades instead. He didn’t respond, but just tapped his ear as if he couldn’t understand.
Frustrated, Tucker flopped his way over to the altar, peering at it. Burning ashes were sprinkled all over it. “It’d be just like you to try to lure me into a trap.”
“What?” shouted Jim-Bean through his breathing mask, backing away.
“I said,” said Tucker, turning to face him, “it’d be just like you to try to lure me into a tr—AAGGGH!” Copper-looking filaments speared outwards from the chair, wrapping around his arms and legs.
The other men immediately went for their knives, ignoring Jim-Bean. They started hacking at the filaments, but they were incredibly solid.
“Jesus!” Jim-Bean backed towards the entrance. He had hoped to distract Tucker, not feed him to the damn altar.
The entire temple shuddered like a bell. Jim-Bean dove through the opening just as it lensed shut, sealing Tucker and his men inside.
Tuesday, 9th December, 2008, 11:30 AM #365
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 11 – Cracked
The shuddering of the temple below sent shockwaves through the ice. The whole tent shook from the violence of the vibration.
Hammer reached for his pistols. One of the guards held his own pistol up. "Don't even think about it."
Hammer slowly but his hands back up. "I think we have bigger problems." The ground was trembling.
Between the guard's legs, a hairline crack traced its way towards Howell. The guard didn't notice.
There was a horrendous crunch as the shockwave shattered the ice, sending one piece of ice higher along the fracture. The guard yelped as he slid backwards as the tent started to slide into the freezing water.
Hammer grabbed Howell and lifted her up, settling her on a more stable piece of ice on the opposite side of the crack. He hopped the widening distance.
The first guard scrambled at the edge of the ice, trying to maintain his grip. Then the tent slammed into him and he went under, disappearing beneath the churning surf.
The second guard, seeing the rift cracking towards him, turned and ran. He was making good headway when he suddenly fell screaming to the snap of metal jaws. Red splotches of blood and flesh were everywhere.
The guard clawed at his leg, bent at a horrible angle from the jaws of the bear trap. He screamed as the piece of ice he was on pitched forward, helpless to save himself. His scream was cut off as the ice flipped over and slammed his head beneath the freezing water.
"It's a shockwave!" shouted Howell over the ringing. "See how the ice is cracking in circles?"
Hammer didn't have time to confirm her theory. Their own patch of ice was becoming dangerously unstable.
"Go! GO!" Pushing Howell ahead of him, he turned and started running.
The cracking expanded in great furrows around them. Larger cracks appeared in concentric circles around the center of the lake, and smaller hairline cracks branched between them. Hammer hurled Howell across a widening gap, and then jumped…
He scrabbled onto the edge, almost losing his grip. Clambering to his feet, the ringing still in his ears from the temple below the water, Hammer saw that they were almost home free. The concentric cracks stopped closer to the edge of the lake.
Hammer kept jogging. They were going to make it. He could only hope Jim-Bean was able to swim his way out of this mess—
The ice cracked beneath him and his feet gave way.
The water was so cold, so hungry for his body heat that it felt as if he had been set on fire. He instantly lost all feeling in his lower extremities, replace by a burning sensation that encompassed all of his lower torso. It was as if he had no legs, just the pain of a thousand needles piercing his flesh.
Hammer could only let out a gasp. Howell spun around and, quickly taking stock of his dire situation, flattened to the ground. She grabbed Hammer by his jacket and started pulling.
Hammer tried to help. But he was shivering uncontrollably. He didn't even dare say anything, because he was afraid he would bite off his tongue. He kept reflexively trying to curl into a ball, but that made things worse, because he needed his legs straight to get out of the hole.
Howell grunted in exertion as she dragged Hammer out of the water a couple of inches. He slipped back again.
"This isn't going to work." Shaking her head, she got a firm grip on both of Hammer's shoulders. "We have to wait.
Wait? Hammer couldn't say anything, but he imagined his eyes conveyed his desperation. Wait for what?
There was another reverberation and the ice around Hammer cracked. With a yell, Howell used the opportunity to pull him forward with all her might. The big man flopped onto the ice and slid to the shore.
Howell joined him a few seconds afterward. She threw her coat over him and hugged him close to try to keep him from going into shock with her meager body heat.
Jim-Bean flopped out of the water a few minutes later. Dumping the flippers, he didn't even bother to peel off his wetsuit.
Howell got up. "Keep him warm. I'll drive."
Jim-Bean looked back and forth between Hammer and Howell, stunned by the transformation that seemed to have overcome her in a crisis.
Then he caught sight of the night sky.
The pastel aurora faded as a massive, impossible figure swayed overhead in the snow-stained black air, silhouetted against the hard and distant stars. It had to be hundreds of feet tall.
A gigantic talon-like claw clenched. Snow gathered wispily around the air, pushed ahead of the massive splayed feet of the Wind-Walker and billowing in his endless horrid howl.
Jim-Bean shoved Hammer into the Humvee. "Drive!" he shouted to Howell. "Drive!"
Wednesday, 10th December, 2008, 11:43 AM #366
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 12 – Ahead of the Pack
One of the reconnaissance helicopters caught sight of Ithaqua's form more clearly in a cloud of ice and snow. His boundless black eyes were filled with stars, his face, inhuman but grotesquely reminiscent of humanity, twisted in savagery and misery, all before a gust of wind rose like a destructive wall and flung the puny aircraft like toys out of the sky.
"Drive!" shouted Jim-Bean from the back seat.
"I am!" Howell shouted back. But she didn't see what Jim-Bean saw loping out of the forest.
The howling reached a terrible crescendo, deafening, before the wind lifted, rising upward as if from the earth into the sky, drawing leaves and dead brown pine straws and flakes of ice with it.
Still half-frozen, wild-eyed and crusted with frozen saliva and blood, wild dogs, cats, house pets, and deer stumbled toward the nearest living things for the warmth of their meat and blood.
A pack of starved wolves, frozen to death where they fell in the forest, kept pace with the Humvee. Howell was still driving through rough terrain, struggling to avoid rocks, snow banks, and trees. Two of the wolves scrabbled onto the Humvee. One smashed its ice-hard snout right through the window.
Hammer, still shivering, put his Glocks to the gnashing jaws and fired. The wolf yelped, ice chipping off of its snout, but it lurched forward, struggling with its forepaws to get into the Humvee.
Hammer unloaded the entire pistol into the wolf-thing's face. It shattered into chunks, and the headless body flopped off the side of the Humvee.
"There were two…" said Jim-Bean.
With a terrible wrenching sound, wolf jaws tore through the top of the Humvee. Hammer turned his remaining pistol on the wolf's jaws. It bit down over his pistol.
"Guys!" shouted Howell.
He held the trigger down. Crusted blood and ice erupted in a shower through the hole. The wolf's body thumped its way along the top of the vehicle and off it.
Jim-Bean leaned forward to look at what Howell was screaming about. A huge bear rose up in the Humvee’s headlights, its body encrusted with ice and snow, roaring.
Howell jerked the wheel hard and the Humvee skidded sideways. The side of the Humvee slammed into the bear.
Gripping the sides of the vehicle with both paws, it roared, jaws tearing through the opening that the wolf had made.
"Thermite!" shouted Jim-Bean. "You took one of my grenades before, right?"
Hammer nodded. He fumbled in his pockets, trying to pull one of the two grenades out. The whole Humvee was threatening to shake apart from the bear's attack. Howell screamed.
The drooling jaws came closer. Hammer got one out, but dropped it out the window as the bear shook the Humvee violently. He grabbed for the second grenade and this time shoved into the bear’s open mouth. Teeth clamped down.
Hammer pulled the pin.
The bear let go of the Humvee and it lurched back onto all four wheels. It clawed helplessly at its mouth, eyes rolling.
The grenade's effect was instantaneous. The head of the bear was incinerated. The headless form slouched to the ground as Howell drove away.
Thursday, 11th December, 2008, 11:45 AM #367
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 13 – Purgatory
"Sector Nine, report!"
The voice of the captain on their cistrons was desperate. "Report!"
"We've got multiple hostiles, sir!" Gunfire crackled over the comm. "They're everywhere. The corpses from the locker room just got up…"
There was more gunfire and screams. "Fall back, fall back!"
Desperate commands and garbled pleas for new orders went back and forth across the comm. as Howell drove into Willis.
Lurching, frozen forms milled about, hungry for warm flesh. She kicked the vehicle into reverse, turning back into the forest to avoid the hungry mob.
"BLUE FLY command," shouted Lewis into the comm., his voice cracking and frantic: "JERICHO! PURGATORY! PURGATORY PURGATORY PURGATORY! God help us all!"
"Oh no," said Howell.
"What?" asked Jim-Bean. "What now?"
"JERICHO is a codeword that will scramble four stealth bombers in the MJ base at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, vehicles enhanced with alien-derived stealth equipment and loaded with advanced firepower," said Howell. "The second half of the command is PURGATORY, which will order the gunships to cleanse the area of every living thing. We're screwed."
"Then drive us out of here!"
Howell shook her head. She pulled the Humvee to a stop in the woods, letting it idle. "No good. We'll never get out of range of the gunships in time. They use a battery of energy weapons, not conventional projectiles: an electromagnetic pulse cannon can disable power sources and communications; alternating-phase particle beam lasers can punch through intervening clouds or smoke and destroy hard targets or vehicles; sonics can take out personnel; very low-frequency sonic generators can rupture soft tissue and MASER beams cook objects across a tremendous area of effect."
The forest suddenly went silent. Every living thing cringed as a strange energy field passed over the area, gripped by sudden anxiety.
"That's the Jericho jets," said Howell grimly. "The Grey technology that powers the stealth bombers emits energy fields with a range of about a half mile. They're here."
The forest crunched overhead. Jim-Bean caught sight of a huge claw tearing through the trees. "GO! GO!"
Howell gunned the Humvee. "Is that thing CHASING us?"
Jim-Bean looked down at the Eye of Ithaqua, glowing in his bag. "I think we're a threat…"
"A threat? That lava lamp is a threat?"
"This is JERICHO ONE, target acquired," said one of the pilot's voices over the comm.
"JERICHO TWO—tzshhhhhhhhhhhrk—we are experiencing RADAR interference. Unable to lock on target—"
"JERICHO THREE, closing to visual range."
The trees above them were uprooted as Ithaqua swept a huge claw in their direction. The huge black pits for eyes stared down at them, filled with rage.
The jets, invisible high up in the sky, suddenly appeared around Ithaqua. For a moment the Great Old One was distracted. It turned to swat at one of the jets as it roared past.
There was a high-pitched whine in the air as holes appeared in Ithaqua's face and shoulders. With a roar, it lashed out at the jets.
"Yes!" shouted Howell. "They're using the MASERs! That should warm things up!"
"JERICHO FOUR, we—tshzzzzzk—losing altitude! Total systems collapse! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!"
One jet exploded into flames as Ithaqua connected. The swirling winds and snow, along with the extradimensional energies of the Wind-Walker shorted out complex circuitry at a quantum level. Another jet spiraled to the earth, pluming trails of smoke and fire.
Howell drove erratically, trying to get as far away from the thing as she could, but Ithaqua's size was such that it seemed like they never gained any ground.
Jim-Bean caught sight of one of the Jericho jets. The pilot had ejected and was floating down to earth, jerked here and there by the shrieking wind. The jet was flying right towards them.
"Oh $#!T," was all he got out.
Friday, 12th December, 2008, 11:20 AM #368
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 14 – 'Thaquafield
Howell pulled the wheel hard just as the jet impacted ahead of them. The shockwave from the explosion tore up trees and earth. For a second the Humvee was airborne as it flipped over and over on its side. It finally stopped rolling.
They struggled out of the Humvee. The forest was burnt all around them, but the incredible cold kept the fire from spreading very far.
Jim-Bean helped Hammer to his feet. Howell was unconscious. He pulled her out of the Humvee.
Hammer looked up. "Look!"
"I know," said Jim-Bean. "They don't have a chance."
The Jericho jets circled Ithaqua, firing again and again, but it seemed to only enrage the thing.
"No, there!" Hammer pointed to the colorful parachute of the downed pilot. He was hanging just above ground level.
They ran over to him.
The pilot was flash-frozen from Ithaqua's presence. His lips were moving slightly.
"What's he saying?" asked Jim-Bean.
"Fingerprints…" said Hammer, listening closely. The pilot lifted one finger and pointed at the location of his crashed jet. He looked into the pilot's eyes and nodded. He knew what he had to do.
"We have to cut him down," said Jim-Bean.
"No time." Hammer drew a knife from its holster around his ankle. "He's a dead man."
"Wait, what are you doing?"
Hammer hacked into the pilot's wrist, just below his open palm. It snapped off easily with minimal blood loss. The pilot's eyes fluttered and then stayed closed.
"He said fingerprints." Hammer took off at a run. An explosion overhead indicated another Jericho jet had gone down. "These jets must use biometrics."
He ran over to the jet, which was still smoldering, belly up. A strange multi-pronged weapon that looked like a toy ray gun jutted from its undercarriage.
Hammer put the frozen hand to a flat panel. "Access granted," husked a pleasant-sounding female voice.
Outside, the last Jericho jet went down in flames. Ithaqua turned back towards them.
Inside, the pilot's cockpit was undamaged. A womb of glowing green panels surrounded the vacant spot where the pilot once sat.
"Target acquired," husked the voice. Several targeting points appeared on the huge form of Ithaqua. "Awaiting permission to fire."
On the view screen, the awful expression twisted in fury as it realized what was happening. A claw reached out for them…
Hammer slapped the frozen hand on another panel near what looked like a weapons array. "FIRE, BITCH!"
The effect was instantaneous. A "WOOM-WOOM-WOOM" sound shook the craft as incredible heat pulsed from the weapon on the undercarriage. The beam sheared towards Ithaqua’s face, incinerating one of its hands as it lifted it to ward off the attack. The huge claw burst into a puff of mist.
Ithaqua's scream nearly deafened them.
Outside, Jim-Bean ran over to Howell and slapped her awake. "Wake up!" He shouted. "We need your help!"
Howell's eyes fluttered open. She smiled up at him. "Hi…" Her expression darkened when she looked past him. "Oh no."
Jim-Bean looked over his shoulder. All around them were frozen corpses filing out of the forest with a burning hunger in their eyes.
Saturday, 13th December, 2008, 12:47 PM #369
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 15 – Walls of Jericho
Hammer crawled out of the Jericho jet, pistols at the ready. Despite his hypothermia, despite the car crash, despite everything, he was ready to go down fighting….
Until he cleared the lip of the crash site and saw how many of the frozen corpses there were. It had to be almost a thousand, with some of Warner's soldiers amongst their ranks.
Hammer lowered his pistols and waited.
Ithaqua turned his terrible gaze upon them. Rearing back for a final strike, his frozen children watched silently.
Jim-Bean grabbed the Eye of Ithaqua and held it aloft. In a sudden moment of clarity he remembered his dream, what the shaman had said:
"Ia! Ia! Ia!—Ai! Ai!—Hgu!"
Ithaqua paused. Something wasn't right. Out on Crow Lake, the water bubbled.
The huge monstrosity clutched its eye as a beam of red light began to pulse out of it, matching the rhythm of the artifact in Jim-Bean's outstretched hand.
Blasting out of the ice and water was the cylinder where Tucker was trapped. It slowly opened to the night air.
A great moan went up from the hundreds of cold corpses around them. They too, clutched their faces.
Tucker was wrapped in wiring that ran the length of his body. Wires held his eyes open wide. He strained feebly at his bonds in the face of the horrible sight of Ithaqua.
"Ia! Ia! Ia!--Ithaqua!" shouted Jim-Bean. Beams of light sheared from the Eye of Ithaqua, firing towards the mounds.
Each of the mounds reflected the beam to another mound, until they created a full circle. Then all of the mounds sizzled towards where Tucker was strapped to the altar.
"Ai! Ai!--Ithaqua! Ithaqua!"
All sounds ceased for a heart-stopping second. Then a beam as bright as the sun sheared towards Ithaqua's head from the mound holding Tucker, engulfing him.
In a burst of thunder and ice, the entire form of Ithaqua collapsed into icicles. The Eye of Ithaqua crumbled to powder in Jim-Bean's palm.
"Back into the jet!" shouted Hammer.
Small icicles sheared through corpses and trees. One by one the dead bodies collapsed. One huge icicle the size of a bus speared through the Humvee.
They dove inside and closed the door. The palm was still on the panel.
"It doesn't matter," said Howell. "They'll send more jets…"
"Then we have to convince them to stop," said Hammer. "Open comms," he shouted at the onboard computer.
"Secure channel open," replied the voice.
Jim-Bean leaned forward. "This is Agents Jim-Bean and Hammer! Target eliminated. Repeat, TARGET ELIMINATED."
There was nothing but static on the other line.
"I repeat, TARGET ELIMINATED. ALL HOSTILES have been destroyed. The perimeter has NOT been breached. Quarantine contained! Repeat, TARGET ELIMINATED…"
Jim-Bean's voice was hoarse from all the screaming. He sat back, listening.
"This is Major Sprague. How did you get on this channel?"
"We are in a downed Jericho, sir," said Jim-Bean. The roar of a jet engine rumbled overhead. "All…" he hesitated, "zombies have been—"
"You saying there are NO reanimated hostiles left?" said Sprague.
"No…reanimated hostiles left, sir," said Jim-Bean weakly.
More static. Lewis' voice came a few seconds later.
With a cheer, Howell grabbed Jim-Bean and kissed him on the lips.
Sunday, 14th December, 2008, 02:23 PM #370
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Conclusion
Jim-Bean, Hammer, and Howell were seated before an impromptu inquisition, in Lewis' tent. Sprague sat on one side, Warner on the other.
"Let me get this straight," said Sprague. "You believe an alien civilization visited this area a millennia ago and set up a—"
"Resonance field," said Jim-Bean. Howell had him well rehearsed. "Using the five mounds—"
Sprague looked down at his notes. "Using the five mounds to create a harmonic vibration that destroyed the Russian device?"
"Well it all starts with Ithaqua. Philip Hodges summoned him out at Exit 23. We stopped him by cracking the Eye of Ithaqua—"
Sprague rubbed his forehead. "Not this demon $#!t again. I thought I told you about backing your findings up with real science." He turned to Lewis, embarrassed. "I'm sorry sir, there's clearly a misunderstanding—"
"If I may, sir?" Howell stepped forward. "We believe the Russian Informatsionno-Psikhologicheskoye Division produced a flying holographic bomb, capable of inducing hallucinations in humans and animals. This series of holographic patterns is so powerful as to cause the body to involuntarily shut down, causing instant hypothermia. In conjunction with electromagnetic interference, this would account for why the Jericho jets were brought down. It was also responsible for the bizarre weather patterns."
"There's nothing on God's green earth that could penetrate the shielding of those jets," said Warner. "And you want us to believe the Russians just invented something that got around it?"
"Depending on the nature of the attack, the weapon might not need to get around it, sir," said Howell without skipping a beat. "A pilot would only need to see the hologram to be affected by it and believe his jet was going down..."
"Putin's boys are better than we thought," muttered Lewis.
"So the pilots crash their own jets," said Sprague, starting to buy into the argument. "And they're all raving about zombies, giant demons, and God knows what else."
"That's our theory anyway, sir."
Warner looked back at his notes. "According to Dr. Bimmel, the frozen organic material wasn't thawing until the Russian weapon was neutralized. He cited quantum mechanics. How do you explain that?"
Howell spread her hands. "We don't have an explanation, sir. Given that the corpses did eventually thaw," she sneered, "perhaps Dr. Bimmel's findings were inaccurate."
“And the…reanimated tissue?” asked Lewis.
“We believe the holographic weapon was capable of putting certain beings into hibernation until called, whereupon they were awoken by subsonic vibrations.”
"Agent Jim-Bean," said Warner, changing tactics. "There was evidence that Agent Tucker was used as a trigger for the alien countermeasures."
"Yes sir." Jim-Bean handed over a bag full of the bones he had collected. "We believe these are bones from the aliens discovered in the Temple. It was powered by bioenergetics and thus required a single focal point to be powered on. That focal point was Agent Tucker."
"And would you saw Agent Tucker should be accorded full honors as a result of his sacrifice in neutralizing the Russian attack?"
"Certainly, sir," said Jim-Bean. "When we discovered the controlling chair, I offered to sit in it but Agent Tucker insisted he handle it himself."
"Then you won't mind joining us for another inquest when we compare your report to Tucker's," said Warner with a deadly glint in his eyes. "He suffered third degree burns over ninety eight percent of his body, but Tucker's alive."
Jim-Bean managed to keep the shock off his face. There was no way anyone could survive what Tucker went through. Unless Tucker was just like him.
"Good job, team," said Sprague. "Dismissed."
They marched out of the tent as Warner leaned over to whisper into Lewis' ear.
When they were well beyond the tent, Howell went back to base. The agents were free to go, for now.
"Oh yeah," said Hammer. "Howell wanted me to give you this note. She told me not to give it to you until after the mission was over…if we survived it."
Jim-Bean smirked. He took the note from Hammer, scanned it, folded it, and put it in his pocket.
"Well?" asked Hammer.
Jim-Bean shrugged. "Looks like I've got a contact in the Aquarius division of Majestic-12."