Gunfighting Wizards S1E4

Updated: Feb 4

Gemini was the first to rejoin the living.

The crash hadn't knocked him completely cold, but did put him to a fog that required several minutes to clear. When the lighting bolts in his head finally stopped, he was able to turn himself over and assess his injuries. In amazement, none were major. With skepticism he tested his legs and stood.

There was confusion and carnage. Roundtable lay down the hill only a few meters from him. He was breathing, but twisted. Up the hill was Knight over Joker's body trying to lick him awake. Some distance away, the SUV they had purchased burned. The pyromancer they had been chasing was gone.

The team's medic shook more of the lingering fog from his head and went to work. Roundtable was found crumpled. He was alive, but just barely. No life-threatening bleeding was found, but the fractures to his left shin and ankle were obvious. The angle at which his foot sat made that clear. Gemini repositioned his friend and removed his body armor and helmet. The airway was clear, and as far as he could tell there was nothing stopping his teammate's respiration. That was a relief. Roundtable wasn't doing well, but he wouldn't die, at least not now. This gave Gemini the time to go do the same checks on Joker.

Joker awoke to the pain of someone touching his chest. Screaming back to consciousness, it was like a painful rebirthing. Gemini reeled back, quickly realizing some nylon portions of Joker's gear must have melted to his skin. This gear would not be coming off. The scream told him that Joker's airway had not swelled in the heat of the blast he took, miraculously. Joker bolted upright, nearly headbutting both his friend and his dog simultaneously.

"Easy, easy. Easy Joker. Take a second, hold on." Gemini tried to slow him down. He was still assessing him, and wanted to make sure Joker didn't jerk himself into worsening an injury that was yet undiscovered.

But no such injuries existed. Joker stood to join Gemini in returning to Roundtable. The pain was incredible. Joker found it hard to walk with each tug as the the singed areas where melted gear touched burned skin. He implored Gemini for something to take the edge off the pain. After splinting Roundtable's leg, the medic did. Joker was relieved of some pain, but now was fighting the mental lethargy of ketamine.

"We need to get out of here." Joker said, helping Gemini tape down the IV line he'd just put into Roundtable's right arm. "Joker, this is blown. This needs help bigger than we can give ourselves. You need to call this in."

"No, no. We can, uh... we can carry Roundtable back to the safehouse. It'll just look like a car crash." Joker protested, not speaking as clearly as he normally does.

Gemini stopped his work for a moment. He sighed, finding his center and placed a hand on Joker's shoulder. The other hand he wrapped around the back of his friend's helmet and brought their heads together so that their NVG's locked horns like a pair of whitetail bucks. Gemini spoke calmly, "Buddy, hey. We need a cleanup team. Look at me. Look at me."

It took a second for Joker's eyes to find their focus, but they finally met hit friend's. Gemini continued, " it in. Okay? I'm going to keep working here. You get us the help we need." Joker pushed Gemini's hands away and leaned back. "Fine... fine. Okay. But first I'm going to check on Flint." Joker always had some sort of protest in situations he didn't like. Even if there wasn't any true protest that was warranted, he'd put one up to still feel in control of something. Gemini closed his eyes and grimaced. He knew that checking on the burning remains of Flinstone wouldn't help the situation nor expedite the help they needed, but he was in no condition to argue himself.

Joker descended the hill in a shamble. He followed the trail of mangled vehicle parts that left a trail towards where it had come to a rest. The breeze off the coast chilled any uncovered skin the assaulter had to bear. He didn't notice until he could feel the heat of the still-burning SUV. His shoulder slumped. Joker stood in a ragged pose, and simply stared into the flames.

The resignation took a while to sink in. Yet finally, it did.

Joker reached up to wipe away a tear, but there wasn't one. This surprised him. He was confused about the action, and his feelings; or lack thereof. His numbness was profound. He tried to feel afraid of himself, but couldn't. Mouth hanging slightly agape, he could only manage a slight furrow of the brow as he produced a satellite phone from his kit.

The LCD screen lit up, it still worked. He hit the speed dial and pulled the device up to the side of his face. "Bronze Team, we need immediate cleanup support. Category 5." There was a shuffling on the other side. The operator asked Joker to hold. A new voice came over the phone, someone who must have been their superior. His voice was older and harder. He asked Joker to confirm the event was indeed a Category 5 event. The assaulter confirmed in a flat, even tone. He was given instructions that he half heard, half ignored, and left the phone near the 4runner. They would triangulate based on that phone. He wanted them to find Flintstone first.

Gemini had Roundtable packaged up for exfil by the time Joker rejoined the pair. Outwardly, the systems were working. However, his vital signs worried Gemini. He suspected a head injury. It wasn't pretty.

Somehow, even Knight knew to give Joker his distance. However, the dog's excitement and obliviousness to the weight of the situation couldn't be contained. His tail began to wag wide and swift as his master approached. Knight spun a figure-8 through Joker's legs, awaiting a hand to come down and rub him behind the ears. The hand never came, and Knight settled into a sitting position, leaning against his handler. He whimpered for attention, but lost patience.

Gemini, still knelt, looked up at Joker. Joker's face was that of a manakin's. Expressionless, staring at nothing at all. Gemini held his gaze in hopes Joker would turn and catch his eye contact, as if he was willing it somehow. But the attempt to catch his friend was interrupted by red and blue lights rounding the bend.

A single local sheriff's vehicle was speeding down the two lane highway. Gemini was unsure who was even around to have called this in to the cops, but he remembered the several minutes when this hillside was a motionless mess of aftermath and men strewn. Who knows who may have passed through? It wasn't until just then that the medic even realized it had stopped raining.

Gemini slowly stood and turned towards the road to meet the deputy that was sure to have questions. They'd been trained on this before, but it would be the first time he'd have to use it. He turned for a final attempt to get Joker to break from his trance, but it was futile. With a deep sigh, Gemini limped to the road below.

Slowing to a stop, an aging deputy stepped out of the vehicle. He had no partner with him. His eyes were saucers. He wasn't green by any means, but carnage like this just didn't happen in his little county. Pouring his eyes over the frame of Gemini, just over 6 foot, over 200lbs, and covered in tactical kit, it was as if an alien had just been beamed to earth. It took him a second to produce the words, "W...what the fuck is going on here?" "Officer, there's a lot to explain. I will have quite a lot of answers for you. How are you, are you okay?" The deputy was taken aback. He could see the road rash marking the face of this man presenting in front of him. He wasn't expecting to find an injured stranger asking if he was okay. Circling for an answer, he then noted a rifle in the ditch near him. "What the fuck is that?" The officer's hand instinctively went to rest on his sidearm.

Gemini raised his hands slightly, "I think I'd better show you some credentials. I'm going to reach into my shoulder pocket up here and hand you my badge, okay?"

Gemini didn't wait for approval, he just moved his arm slowly, and produced the counterfeit CIA badge that they all carried. Arms extended, he walked slowly to the deputy and handed him the folded leather wallet that contained the badge and a fake CIA identification. It did the trick, the shoulders of the deputy lost their tension. He handed the ID back to Gemini. He seemed to be swirling to try and piece together exactly what it was he had found himself in the middle of. Burning wreckage, scorched grass, CIA operatives. It was something no one could have expected. The deputy reached up to the radio on his shoulder and keyed it before he felt a hand over his, taking it gently away. Gemini and the deputy locked eyes and stared for a moment, Gemini holding the man's hand. "Don't. I'm sorry, but this is a matter of national security. You cannot call this in. I need you to tell me that you understand." Gemini pumped a softness and empathy into his voice as best as he could. "What? What are you talking about? Why wouldn't I call this in? I have to..." "Officer. Hey, listen. I understand," the deputy didn't notice the ketamine autoinjector Gemini was producing with his other hand, "but I'm asking you to hold on for just five minutes, here." "Why? And take your god damned hand off of me" the officer stepped and jerked away. Gemini was left standing suspiciously with one hand behind his back.

"Hey, you've seen a crime scene before," Gemini tried to reason, "you know what happens when a whole bunch of people show up and start putting footprints all over your evidence. We need to investigate just the same, and that's hard to do with cop cars all over the incident."

The old deputy considered this. Normally, he wouldn't, but the oddity of the scene had him quite off guard. Gemini continued, "Why don't you secure the scene, block the road, and right about when you're finished I'll start to explain and you can call it in, okay?" The deputy relented. He popped his trunk and began to pull out cones and road flares. He wouldn't get far. Peeling around the corner, a pair a black Tahoe SUV's raced towards the scene. The deputy waved towards them to slow down. One ignored him completely, blazing past him and towards the wreckage. The other stopped yards shy of the officer. Five men in Sheriff's uniformed poured out of the vehicle.

The deputy's confusion grew incredibly. These men had his uniform, but he did not recognize any of them. His confusion turned to terror as one produced a taser that expertly struck. The deputy was handcuffed and gagged within 10 seconds of the vehicle coming to a halt. Gemini watched with sadness. The cleanup teams were more ruthless than even the field teams such as themselves. Their work required a certain lack of humanity. He'd only seen it once before, and he'd never forget it. The leader of the cleanup team approached Gemini. He was a cold man, skinny, with round glasses. The level to which he was unphased by the scene put a chill in Gemini.

He spoke plainly. "How many dead?" "Uh... one. Flintstone. Still in the vehicle." Into the earpiece, the cleanup man simply commanded, "willy pete the vic," turned back to Gemini, and told them to load up before walking away.

Gemini spun and saw men from the cleanup team pull pins on a pair of grenades then toss them into the fire. Instantly, a searing inferno rose out of the chassis. White phosphorus would incinerate any evidence of what the vehicle once was, what was in it... and who was in it.

Gemini's heart sank into a pit that nearly doubled him over. He wasn't sure if he'd let out a moan in anguish or not. He looked towards Roundtable and Joker. Joker stood as a statue, just watching the blaze. He was faced away with his head turned just slightly to view what was happening. Gemini could not make out his expression. Between scant flickers, it was covered in shadow.

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