Midnight Eclipse


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Midnight Eclipse
Synopsis In the wake of Mazdak's collapse, Durandal begins liquidating assets.
Date July 11, 2021

The horizon is a swirling curtain of fire. Smoke forms a wall of darkness that blocks out the stars. Screams are so numerous it just sounds like the ocean.

A lone man stands on the roof of a demolished Ikea slouching into the Hudson River, illuminated by a different fire than the one burning across the water in Manhattan. There are four bodies in a heap on the roof, crackling like kindling as they burn up under a starless sky. But it's the horror visible in New York City that has drawn all attention. Fighter jets roar overhead like unseen predators, cutting through the ash-choked sky like sharks through dark water. A second run heads straight at Manhattan, deploying a payload of napalm that rises up in a vibrant conflagration over high rooftops, turning skyscrapers into inky silhouettes.

The lone onlooker sucks in the last breath of a cigarette, then flicks the butt over the edge of the roof, turning with a startle to see someone else alive on the roof with him. Marcus Raith came out of nowhere, haunting the edges of firelight, one eye cast in perpetual shadow. "Good work," Marcus says with a nod down to the burning bodies, then holds out a gloved hand. The man in the red sunglasses steps confidently forward, pulling out four drivers' licenses from his jacket pocket, handing them over to Raith.

"Derek Matherson, Cole Vander, Irene Sadkovich, Nicholas Stott." Raith reads the names aloud, looking at the photographs. He then casts the IDs into the fire with an underhanded toss. "Good work, it mustn't have been easy tracking them down in this chaos."

"I'm very good at what I do." The man in the red sunglasses says, producing one last driver's license, handing it over to Raith. "Notoriously good."

Raith looks down at the military ID. Lieutenant James Temple. "I don't understand."

"Lieutenant Temple burns here too, Sir." Temple says, folding his hands behind his back and standing at attention. "You said I do you right by your request, you give me whatever I want."

"I did," Marcus says in a tone that implies he had no such intention of honoring that. "I still don't understand."

"I want a fresh start. Baptism by fire." Temple states simply. "James Temple was a man who held on for dear life to a society that was falling apart. Last I checked, that society went up in flames behind me." He says, the pyre of Manhattan screaming in the distance. "If you'd have me, Sir."

Marcus glances down at the ID, then casts it into the flame. "I thought you'd say something simple like money or power." He says with a hint of surprise in his voice, slowly advancing on Temple. "But that's not you, is it? You're not interested in any of that, are you Lieutenant?"

"No, Sir." Temple says casually. Marcus looks at his own reflection in Temple's red-lensed sunglasses.

"Then what is it?" Marcus wonders.

"What is it that makes you tick, Lieutenant?"

Nine Years Later

Somewhere Over Iraq

July 12th
3:17am Local Time


"What is it that makes you tick, Lieutenant?"

"Hey, Lucas!"

Lucas Van De Walle looks up from his jumpseat in the dimly lit cabin, the rotors of the Osprey hum through the hull. Pushing his red-lensed sunglasses up his nose, Lucas looks across the aisle to the woman with a mane of thick, black hair sitting across from him—Audra Kane—one of his subordinates in Durandal.

"Thinkin' of some nice pussy?" she asks, a sly smile crossing her lips.

"Somethin' like that." Lucas agrees, looking down at his mechanical hand, flexing the fingers open and closed. "You hear anything from Elena or Dreyer yet?"

"Negative." Kane says, slouching back against her jumpseat. "They went dark after they got the high-value target extracted. I figure we'll recon with them back in Israel."

Nodding, Lucas reaches inside his jacket and pulls out a crumpled pack of cigarettes, shaking the last one out. "How far are we from the LZ?" He asks, snapping the fingers of his flesh-and-blood hand to create a spark that ignites the cigarette before he takes a quick puff.

"Almost on top of it. Republican Guard are en-route, we'll only have a couple minutes to get in and out." Kane explains, reaching over to the assault rifle locked in a rack between her seat and the next one over. She detaches it from the mount and begins checking the magazine.

"Gotcha." Lucas says, cigarette bobbing up and down as he does. Feeling the Osprey banking right and slowing, Lucas unbuckles his seatbelt and stands up, using his mechanical hand to keep a firm grip on the overhead netting. Unlike Kane, he doesn't bother going for a rifle and instead just picks up a backpack and slings it over one shoulder. As the sensation of descent comes over Lucas and Kane, the latter of the two makes her ascent from her seat, clicking off the safety on her assault rifle and flipping up the lens cover on her. She pulls down her goggles, pressing a button on the side as they softly flicker and illuminate with a pale green light.

Under cover of night a matte black V-22 Osprey makes a descent down on a remote village in the arid outskirts of Haditha. There's a storm of dust kicked up by the tilt-rotor aircraft's landing, but Lucas and Kane stride through it without hesitation. Both pause to marvel at the brilliant crimson horizon to the north, and Kane squints behind her goggles at the light, and moreover the sphere of blackness at its heart. "Did anyone say what the fuck that is?!" Kane shouts over the roar of the rotors, checking a transponder signal on her smart watch while breaking into a jog.

"Not our circus, not our monkeys!" Lucas dismisses, turning away from the fire in the firmament, following Kane toward a domed, brick hut jutting up from the desert. She kicks in the door and steps inside, startling a group of Mazdak soldiers kneeling under the lambent red glow spilling through the circular skylight. She says nothing before opening fire on them, killing them all where they prayed. As their bodies collapse to the floor, Lucas is quick to sweep past Kane while she squints up through the circular hole in the dome's ceiling, catching glimpse of a starry night sky bleeding red above.

Lucas shoulders his way through an unlocked door and thunders down a narrow flight of stone stairs, Kane hot on his heels. When he reaches the bottom of the stairs he holds his hand up in a fist and Kane pauses behind him. Bootfalls, people are running toward the stairwell. Lucas plucks his cigarette from his mouth and tosses it into the hall. It bounces once, twice, three times—


The cigarette explodes in a ball of fire as screams fill the corridor. Kane ducks in just as the fireball is collapsing, opening fire on the figures writhing on the ground. Lucas falls in behind her, moving with his back to hers, watching the other end of the hallway. Together, they duck and weave down the corridor past an empty break room, following a snaking series of ribbed black cables patched in to a subterranean power line. Eventually they empty out into an underground concrete bunker of a lab where several men in lab coats stand observing a number of computers running data analysis computations. In the middle of the room there is a block of black metal shaped like a sarcophagus, a faded stencil on the side reads ACTS. The lid is partially open, through which respirator tubes and dialysis hoses are fed.

Kane motions with the barrel of her rifle for the scientists to move up against one wall and they do without hesitation, hands raised in surrender. She checks their pockets, smashing the two cell phones she finds. "خارج شدن"1 she instructs, motioning to the hall. The scientists turn and begin to hustle down the hall, only to have Lucas snap his fingers over his shoulder, igniting their clothes on their bodies. They scream and collapse into one another, flailing around on the ground, trying to peel their clothes off as their bodies burn. Kane steps into the hallway, opening fire on them and executing them once they're down.

Lucas, meanwhile, approaches the ACTS coffin, running his metal hand over the partially open lid. "All this trouble over one little man." He says, prying one side of the ACTS lid open with a whirr of his arm's servos. The pallid man contained within the case glistens with sweat. His body is frail and thin, emaciated and near skeletal. There is a breathing tube forced down his throat and a cranial implant attached to the top of his head. His eyes are closed, sunken, and have such dark circles around them as to appear bruised.

Edward Ray is unaware of his surroundings, suspended in a near vegetative state save for the interface running on the adjacent computers. He has been as such since the collapse of the Commonwealth Arcology a decade ago. Ten years wasting away in this container, ten years being used as a living computer.

"Quit gawkin' and let's get this done." Kane says sharply.

"One sec," Lucas says, moving over to the computer and unshouldering his backpack. It lands at his feet with a clunk. "I gotta' check one thing, per orders. You handle the rest."

Kane rolls her eyes, shifting her goggles to her forehead. She moves to Lucas' backpack while he quickly keys something into the interface. With a quick glance, Lucas checks a faded and crumpled piece of paper taped to the underside of his mechanical arm. It reads: Does Contingency 7280 Work? Lucas keys it in and hits a button marked transmit. A moment later there's a gasp from Edward's body inside the ACTS, eyes darting from side to side. Kane grimaces at the sound, then retrieves a hacksaw from the backpack.

"We good?" Kane asks in a hurry, hustling over to the ACTS. Lucas glances at the screen, watching. Waiting. Finally, a response types itself out across the screen. His brows furrow and the same entry gets repeated over and over again.


Lucas frowns, shaking his head.


"Piece of shit." He hisses, nodding to Kane.


"Do it."


Kane sucks in a sharp breath through her teeth and leans into the ACTS, pressing the blade of the hacksaw to Edward's neck.


And goes to work.


Nine Years Earlier


December 18th

Lieutenant Temple stares Raith in his eye, considering the question asked of him. On the horizon, a third wave of fiery explosions rock Manhattan, sending plumes flame blasting over rooftops. Jets roar overhead once again.

"Natural order." Temple firmly answers, to which Raith takes another step forward, head tilting to the side inquisitively.

"Elaborate." Marcus is intrigued.

"Survival of the fittest, Sir." Temple says flatly. "I wanna stand beside the biggest, meanest motherfucker that's ever lived. The apex predator of society. I want to be on the winning side. Knight to a fucking King."

Marcus' lips flicker with a ghost of a smile and he takes off his left glove, then touches Temple's cheek. With unwavering confidence, Marcus states simply, "Then you're a very lucky man, Lieutenant Temple."

"Because I'm the king."

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