I want to thank Aelit, Doctorlit and Hieronymus Graubart for their beta services.
Mission Record 09 – Buried Regrets
Sergio looked behind himself again before proceeding to the next flight of stairs, but nobody was following him. Unsurprising, considering he was supposed to be dead.
Second floor. He walked towards one of the doors, clutching his cloak’s flaps tightly.
Sergio stopped mid-motion before taking a deep breath and ringing the doorbell. “Aunt, it’s me.”
The door was opened by a woman wearing a blue dress. Virgilia, Faith’s mother. “Come in,” she said. She looked weary; there were some wrinkles in her forehead that Sergio was sure weren’t there just a month before. He gave one last look behind himself before walking in.
“I’m glad to see you,” Virgilia said with a forced smile. “Would you like a cup of tea? Or maybe you prefer some coffee?” she added, showing him to the living room.
Sergio followed her almost mechanically. “Just a glass of water, thanks.”
Sergio looked down as Virgilia went into the kitchen. Upon seeing him, her expression had beamed for a second. Was she getting up her hopes?
“Here,” Virgilia said as she came back with the water. “Thank God you’re fine, my brother had made an announcement, the other day, and I was getting worried.”
Sergio started drinking the water slowly. Here it comes, he thought.
“But, since you’re here, it was all propaganda,” she said, looking straight into his eyes. “Right?”
Sergio averted his eyes. “Not quite.” He took a deep breath, “The others—” He gulped, trying to find the courage to tell her the truth. “They’re all—” His voice died out, tears already rolling down his cheeks. He shook his head.
Virgilia covered her mouth with a hand. “What happened?”
“Remember what we said about that time machine? Turns out there never was one!” Sergio said, before letting himself fall on a couch. “Those rumors, they planted them deliberately. They were waiting for us.”
Sergio looked out of the helicopter’s window, looking for the other one flying in formation with them. He brought his hand near his earpiece. “We’ll be in sight of the lab soon. Everyone remembers the plan, right?”
“Why are we splitting up? We’re stronger all together,” Carol said, rocking back and forth on her seat for as much as the seatbelts allowed her.
“We can’t afford to put all our eggs in the same basket, sis,” Alice said in the earpieces. “That’s why you, Sergio and Nina will go in from the north while Sakura, Li and I will enter from the south.”
“Exactly. If one team gets cornered, the other has a chance to reach our goal,” Sergio agreed, pushing up his glasses. “All we need is to be able to send even a single one of us back to January with all we’ve gathered on the Organization’s coup.“ He took a deep breath. “Even if we take more casualties, as long as someone gets to that time machine it will be a success.”
“We have a problem!” the helicopter’s pilot said. “Bandit twelve o’clock, it’s an attack helicopter!”
Sergio looked forward just as an alarm went off. “An Apache? Damn!”
Both of the Foundation’s helicopters dodged sideways.
“Wind, blow away those missiles! Release!” Sakura screamed over the radio, followed by the card appearing outside and ensnaring the two missiles in her tendrils, causing them to crash on the ground.
Sergio opened the side door. “That thing’s well armored, but if we can get the rotor hubs we might be able to take it down!” He fired a couple bursts from his M16, but the Apache was too far and none of the bullets hit. The Apache retaliated with its cannon.
“You’ve made him angry!” Nina said, covering her head as the helicopter’s windows shattered under the hail of 30 millimeter rounds.
“Raitei Shōrai!” Li said over the radio. Sergio looked out and, indeed, yellow lightning was hitting the Apache. However, in order to allow Li to cast his spell, the other helicopter was flying at only a few meters from the Apache.
“Crown Two, you’re too close, you’re going to crash into each other if you—” the pilot of Sergio’s helicopter said, but it was too late. The Apache’s pilot, shocked by the spell, lost control causing his helicopter’s blades to cut into Crown Two’s tail, shredding it.
Sergio could only watch in horror as both helicopters crashed into the ground and exploded.
“They sent an attack helicopter after you?”
Sergio nodded slowly. “It wasn’t the first time, either. How do you think we’ve lost KITT? Anyways, our helicopter was damaged, and the engine failed just before reaching our destination…”
Sergio unbuckled his seat belts. “You alright?”
Nina nodded, while Carol got up and shook the pilot’s shoulder. “I’m fine, but our driver’s gone for a Burton.”
Sergio gritted his teeth. Another victim. “We’ve got to get moving. We’re not far from the lab, I’m pretty sure they’ve heard the crash.”
Carol jumped down from the helicopter. “You’re right; if we stay here we’re dead meat.”
“We didn’t meet anyone on the way to the lab, and we got inside easily. But that’s what they wanted.”
Sergio, Nina and Carol took cover behind a desk just as bullets zipped past and a long flame swept over their heads.
“I can’t believe it, they’re using flamethrowers!” Carol said, holding her shotgun over her head and firing back.
“They want to make sure none of us gets to that time machine!” Sergio said, opening fire as well. One of the flamethrower-wielding soldiers went down, his chest riddled with bullets.
Nina fired a couple laser beams from her Taldom. “Wait, that guy is on fire, why—”
“Down!” Sergio pulled the two girls back under cover. There was a loud explosion, and the entire corridor in front of them was filled with flames.
“I don’t want a flamethrower as a birthday gift anymore, I really don’t,” Carol said, earning a stare from Nina.
“That should keep them busy for a while. Let’s move to the next room,” Sergio said, getting up.
“But no matter how many lab rooms we searched, there was no trace of what we were looking for.”
“This place’s burning down, we don’t have much time left,” Nina said between coughs as smoke started filling the corridors.
“There’s only one lab left, it must be there.” Sergio fired some rounds at their pursuers. “Damn, they just don’t give up!”
Carol fired off the last rounds of her shotgun before tossing the empty weapon away. “You two get in there; I’ll hold them here for as long as I can.” She summoned her rocket sledgehammer, and put herself between her allies and pursuers. “Go!”
Sergio nodded, and ran towards the door with Nina. When they opened it, they were greeted by a hail of bullets. Sergio took cover just in time, but Nina wasn’t fast enough. She fell backwards, bullets ripping through her flesh.
Sergio emptied the magazine of his M16 into the room, before reloading and storming inside, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Time seemed to slow down as bullets zipped around him. Sergio started shooting, taking down the four soldiers inside the room one after another.
He breathed heavily as he realized that the threat was gone. Only then he had a better look at the room: a small laboratory with white tables and very simple instruments.
“Damn, it isn’t here, either!” he muttered in frustration before bringing a hand near his headset. “Carol, we have a problem! The time machine isn’t here, and Nina bit it too.”
There was no answer.
“Carol? Come in, Carol!”
Again, only static could be heard over the radio. Sergio gritted his teeth, before noticing that one of the soldiers moved slightly, still alive despite the wounds. Sergio grabbed him, and put his laser pistol right under the man’s chin. “Where’s the time machine?”
The man laughed weakly. “You… really believed it all?” Blood started dripping from the side of his mouth. “Time machines don’t exist. Only some stupid kids would believe that… you all fell for it.”
Sergio hit him on the head with the pistol’s grip before letting him go. “Fuck!” He threw the pistol on the ground. They had been played, and now everyone was dead.
The building shook; the fire was starting to take its toll on the structure.
Sergio looked down at his pistol, and dropped his laser rifle as well. Those were his favorite weapons — if the Organization was to search for proof of their deaths, they would believe that he had died in the fire too.
Sergio curled up in a ball, hugging his knees. “They trusted me, and I led them all to their own deaths. And for what? For nothing.”
Virgilia took a step back. “My God… Marco must’ve lost his head completely. All of that… to kill some kids.”
“We were the biggest threat to the Organization’s rule. He wanted to make sure we were all crushed, I guess.”
Virgilia sat on the couch and pulled him into a hug. “Don’t worry, we’ll stop him,” she said, before wiping some tears from her nephew’s face. “You can stay here if you want, I don’t think they’ll come to look for you now that they think you’re dead. Then, when things calm down a bit, I’ll help you find some way of fighting back again. I know this former U.S. Air Force colonel who—”
“I’m going to act tomorrow.” Sergio said, getting up. “That’s my best… no, my only chance.”
Virgilia glanced at a pamphlet lying on the coffee table. “Don’t tell me… You’re going to the Organization’s victory celebration at Palazzo Ca’ D’Oro? That’s suicide!”
“I know, but Marcus and all the other leaders will be there, and possibly a lot of high ranking officers as well. I can kill the head of the serpent if I blow the entire place up.”
Virgilia sighed. “I can see your point. But, please, promise me you’re going to come back. I’ve lost Faith and Kathleen, I—” She hiccuped. “I can’t lose my nephew too.”
Sergio gritted his teeth. “I… can’t. I’m honored you see me as a relative, but the truth is that I think I should die in there, too.”
Virgilia got up and grabbed his arm. “You can’t be serious! What makes you think something like that?”
“You know how I was made, right? I think that also has to do with why I’m still alive,” Sergio said, before looking down. “Do you know how many of the Organization’s men I’ve killed while on my way here, while gathering all I need for tomorrow’s assault?”
“I don’t know.” Virgilia said slowly. “But Kathleen always said you never wanted any bloodshed, so—”
“Probably around one hundred.”
Virgilia’s eyes widened. “What?”
Sergio looked her straight in the eyes. “I was outnumbered, outgunned, and yet I could kill them all every time! I’m not a human being, I’m a fucking weapon!”
“No,” Virgilia said, pulling him into a hug again, “No. I admit I know you only a little, but—” Virgilia grabbed him by the shoulders, keeping him at arm’s length. “I know your heart is in the right place. Can weapons be altruist? Can weapons love? No, but you do!”
Sergio winced, and looked away. “Someone else told me that, some time ago. A girl I loved with all of my heart, and who was starting to convince me that I wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Now she’s a dead corpse somewhere in Alaska. I—” Tears started running down again. “I can’t live without her.”
Virgilia shook her head. “It doesn’t mean you need to immolate yourself to avenge her! Would she want you to die? I don’t think so.” She stared straight in his eyes. “Live. For her, and for all the others. I’m sure that’s what they want.”
Sergio stepped back, slipping out of her grasp. “I’ll… think about it.”
Sergio woke up, and rubbed his temples, looking at the ceiling. I should’ve expected that I would have that dream. He pulled out his cell phone, scrolling back into the missed calls list. There was one he had never deleted in years.
Virgilia, 23rd September 2007, 8.43 AM. She was likely calling me to know if I had made up my mind. But I had done so in the way she didn’t like.
He put the phone away, and looked up at the ceiling.
Sergio walked towards the room in which the celebration was being held. He was clad in a stolen Organization soldier uniform, his head covered by a balaclava. The headgear was common enough between their ranks that no one paid any attention to him.
He gripped the detonator in his pocket tightly. All the C4 charges were in place; all it would take was for him to press a button to blow the entire place to smithereens. He could do that right away, but there was something he had to do first.
Sergio entered the room, which turned out to be a rather big auditorium. He looked at the stage, and ignored the other Organization leaders as he noticed that Marcus was the one currently at the podium.
Sergio walked down the main aisle, his eyes fixed on his creator and nemesis. The man who had taken away the lives of his friends and his girlfriend, and was keeping the whole world hostage.
“You in the middle! What are you doing there? Get back to your patrol.” Marcus called out. Sergio pulled off his balaclava.
“…You!” Marcus’s eyes widened in surprise. “I thought I had killed you! But it doesn’t matter. We’ve won, and there’s nothing a stupid detective like you can do about it.”
Sergio heard the distinctive sounds of safeties being taken off and rounds being chambered around him.
“Wait. Don’t shoot him right away. He can be our special guest. A representative of our enemies attending our victory celebration… I like that. You can always join your friends afterwards. What do you think about it, son?”
“I’m sorry, but I have to decline.” Sergio pulled out the detonator from his pocket, and held it high so everyone could see it. “You, me, the Organization, this war… this madness ends here!”
Sergio saw Marcus’s expression turn into horror as he pushed the button. “This is for Sakura.”
“And yet, someone must’ve thought that for me it would’ve been the easy way out.” Sergio muttered under his breath. He sighed, and got up. Maybe a little walk can help me calm down. He picked up his rifle, and walked out of the room, lost in his thoughts.
Maybe I should’ve called Virgilia, and let her know that I had made it out alive. Sergio looked out of the window. Scratch the maybe, that was the right thing to do. Does she think I’m dead as well? Did she mourn me? Why… Why didn’t I contact her afterwards?
He sighed. Who am I kidding? I know very well why. Since Kathleen’s death, I just can’t face—”
He heard footsteps behind him and turned around. “Looks like I’m not the only one who can’t sleep, huh?”
Homura nodded and walked next to him.
She tilted her head towards him “Yes. How do you…?”
Sergio looked outside again. “Because that’s what is waiting in the night for those who have seen hell.”
“How do you deal with… everything?”
Sergio took a deep breath. “I guess I really don’t.”
He sat down, back against the wall. It was cold enough that he could feel it through his jacket. The snowstorm wasn’t ceasing, the wind strong enough he could hear it clearly even from inside. “I ran away.” He continued after a few seconds, “I’m still running away. The PPC is the perfect place for doing that. It’s basically in between all the universes: nowhere, and everywhere at the same moment. And yet, I’m still playing hero. I guess I don’t really know when to quit, do I?” He smirked.
Homura gave him a thoughtful look. “Why do you still fight?”
Sergio lowered his chin. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m just waiting for some Sue to get lucky and put an end to my misery. But part of me also wants to atone, and… well, fighting is one of the few things I can do well. So I guess I still have some use as a protector for those who can’t defend themselves.” He shrugged. “If I was made as a weapon, I can at least make sure I’m aimed in the right direction.”
Homura sat next to him. “It’s the same for me. After Madoka ascended, I didn’t know what to do at first. But then I realized that, while the world had improved with her sacrifice, it still needed someone to protect it. And I happened to be able to do that.”
“And not make her sacrifice go to waste.” He chuckled. “Looks like we aren’t that different. But, still, what are we?”
“We’re both heroes, or fools.”
Sergio shrugged. “I don’t know about you, but I’m probably the latter.” He glanced at his rifle. “Or maybe I am just a weapon pretending to be a human.”
“Well, technically we’re fictional characters, right? Or, at least, that’s what the fairy said.”
Sergio let out a short laugh. “You’re lucky she didn’t hear you. Mistaking her for one is the fastest way to get her angry.” He got up. “Let’s get back. If they wake up with us missing, they’ll worry.”