The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Fleeing Victory #10

by | Nov 21, 2021 | FV, Pinned, Short Stories


“You’re Doctor Alfred Gil, the medical scientist overseeing the Crimson Tide Project.”

The doctor could only nod as the first of the Blue Ghosts he’d encountered approached him. Calig was more than just interested in Munican affairs. They put in the effort to learn about his project in particular, the one he was trying so desperately to salvage after his superiors were completely entranced by the Cordoba. At least this man didn’t sound as likely to kill him anymore.

The mana that surged around the Calman ghost’s body steadily quieted and disappeared. The man standing in front of him now was clad all in black, from his combat fatigues to his armor, mask, helmet, and even his weapons. He was equipped for anything an infiltrator might have to deal with in Fort Baldi; had a pistol holstered on his right hip, a short sword of distinctly Calman design on the left, a knife sheathed on his chest, what must have been a full set of flash grenades on his belt, and a submachinegun tucked away on his lower back. Gil only saw the barrel, but that was the most common way to carry a submachinegun in the eastern part of the continent.

“We have our own intelligence, but there are some details I’d like you to fill in for us. What happens after that depends on what you can tell us.”

“Explain the project from your point of view and keep it brief,” the second ghost said impatiently, “We’re on a schedule.”

Where to even begin, Gil mulled it over as he picked himself up off the floor. He decided to focus on the pivotal point in his research that put him on the track to the Crimson Tide Project’s core methodology, as well as inspired its name. He didn’t know what kind of background these two men had, only that they were trained killers with a mission they would fulfill regardless of who got in their way. If he was going to keep things brief, he would also have to keep them simple. No stalling for time or annoying them with details and explanations neither could really appreciate.

“Brief then. While I was researching alternative means of speeding up the recovery process for prosthesis recipients, I discovered that certain kinds of malevan material can be used to not only aid in a soldier’s recovery, but also better integrate the prosthetic bridges with the subject’s own nervous system.” They probably weren’t brutes, but the doctor could only hope none of that had gone over their heads. He continued at the first Calman’s nod. “Most untreated malevan material is toxic to us, but there is a type of hive species out in the Arenas Desert that has a somewhat different effect–when properly managed, of course.”

“I don’t like where this is going,” the other Calman practically growled, “What happened to your test subjects?”

As afraid as he was, Doctor Gil still couldn’t help but cast a glare at him. While he accepted that what he was doing was on the fringe of medical science, the idea that he had somehow crossed a line and become a madman pursuing unethical treatments was just offensive. More importantly, what he was doing had more than just military applications. His research, given a chance, might someday turn the tide against the countless malevan-induced diseases plaguing modern society. Once this methodology was fully understood, they could finally fight fire with fire in a way that actually gave tangible results, and negligible side effects. That’s what Gil’s findings suggested, at least. With all funding diverted from the Crimson Tide Project, his progress had slowed dramatically.

Gil cleared his throat and tried to keep himself composed. For all intents and purposes, he was a hostage. It wouldn’t do him any good to be aggressive with these two. “There have been no negative reports from any of the volunteers. Moreover, with all my funding taken away, I haven’t been able to continue the project.” The doctor remembered midway through his rebuttal that his project was technically suspended. The Calman ghosts were asking him to explain the details to them, though. Something felt off again, but he didn’t know exactly what. He also didn’t know what he should and shouldn’t say, both for the sake of his project, and his own life. The Calmans in general weren’t fans of malevan research; they were the ones that popularized the term ‘crimson’ in reference to malevans to begin with.

“But you are still working on it,” the first Calman ghost said insistently, “You’re already in the trial phase.”

How much did they know? Gil was hoping it was just a bluff, but if he got himself caught being dishonest, he doubted he would be leaving the laboratory wing with his life. “Y-yes,” Gil admitted. He just hoped that being open and honest with them was the right thing to do. They could just as well kill him for spearheading research their superiors hated as being a useless source of information. This was a delicate balancing act at best and a roll of the dice at worst.

“Who are the new test subjects?” the impatient one demanded.

“The test subjects?” Gil asked on reflex.

“You’re still doing the research, so who are the lab rats?”

“I …” Gil found himself on the edge of laughter. The Calmans may have known about the project in general, but they had no idea how thoroughly the doctor’s efforts were being undermined. The fear quickly came back and helped the doctor rein himself in in time to avoid laughing at the two ghosts. He didn’t know why they were so interested in the test subjects in particular, but there weren’t any hidden away anywhere. Once the project was suspended, all of the volunteers were moved to a different base and were supposedly being monitored closely for a time. Once they were deemed fit for duty, they might even be transferred back to Fort Baldi. The place would certainly need fortifying after this latest attack, Gil noted.

As for testing the latest version of the combat stimulant, there was only one test subject now: the doctor himself. Gil was hesitant to reveal that, though. What if they saw the test subjects as contaminated and simply wanted to kill them? How was he going to get out of this if he revealed that he was the only loose end, or worse, one of their targets for extermination?

“Stop stalling. Who are they?”

The doctor’s life might be hanging on the answer, but he’d already held back for too long. Anything he said now would be under serious scrutiny, more so than anything else he’d told them up to this point. “W-what do you want me to say? I haven’t been able to find any new test subjects because the project is suspended.” Not so much an answer as an explanation of just how bad the situation was for the Crimson Tide Project. “The original volunteers were shipped off for close monitoring some time ago.”

“Original?” The first Calman tilted his head slightly. He wasn’t even trying to sell it as genuine curiosity.

Doctor Gil cursed his own wording. He was caught.

Sort of.

The ghosts didn’t know that he was the one and only test subject left for the project, but now they had enough clues to figure it out for themselves.

“If the project’s suspended,” the second started again, “then who did you rope into it?”

“N-no one,” Gil said in a strained half whisper, “I’m the only one involved now. Just, please.” Feeling cornered, the doctor slowly raised his hands up, pleading with them both. “I don’t know why you’re so interested in test subjects, but I haven’t hurt anyone.”

“I see.” That seemed to satisfy the first. “We’ve got a few minutes left. Explain what your latest testing involved, what the results were, and what you’re aiming to achieve in the final product.”

“I’ll-,” the doctor hesitated, taking a moment to try and read the man as best he could. It was impossible to tell what he really wanted. The second was obviously irritated, but Gil didn’t really know why, or how to avoid making the man’s disposition even worse. “I’ll do my best.”

The latest version of the combat stimulant for the Crimson Tide Project was designated M3CT-2XS. According to Doctor Gil, the animal tests had gone well, though he hadn’t been able to perform very many of them. Now he was ready for testing on prudens, rather, testing on himself. He had a significant batch of M3CT-2XS, as well as four autoinjectors.

Originally, Gil planned to use all four autoinjectors on himself over the course of a single month, carefully monitor his condition, document his findings, and tweak the 3XS version of the stimulant accordingly. Somehow Gil had avoided being shot in the course of explaining this and his findings to the two Calman ghosts.

Gil was surprised by just how good he was starting to feel speaking about his ideas so openly. The Calmans were foreigners armed to the teeth, ready to put him down at a moment’s notice, but there was no one else the doctor could be so open with. It was ironic and a little unfortunate that they were Calmans. This might have been Gil’s one chance to sell someone from outside Munica on his combat stimulant, but the Calmans hated malevan lifeforms of any kind. That hatred spanned thousands of years across countless tribes and city-states. One bold, optimistic scientist wasn’t going to change their minds. At least, he thought to himself, he was still alive.

Once Gil told them everything he could, the first Calman turned toward the damaged laboratory door. “If you’re the only test subject here, then you’re coming with us.”

“With you?” Gil didn’t know why they would want to take him with them. It didn’t make much sense for a team of death commandos to come all this way just to hear his side of the story and then leave, but he certainly wasn’t expecting to be extracted by the end. Murdered, definitely, but not whisked away to who knows where. Looking back on the situation, and remembering the note, maybe being abducted was always the plan. Perhaps the fear that came with being hunted left him unable to fully read the situation.

“The materials are one thing,” the second Calman said, “but getting him out is going to be a challenge.”


“Wait,” Gil said, looking over to the ghost that disarmed him earlier, “Weren’t you prepared for this? Wasn’t that the plan all along? Weren’t you confirming who I was just now or is it only the test subjects you’re interested in? And what about that note you left me?”

The two men glanced at each other briefly, then looked back at the doctor. Whatever that look was, Gil could already feel the honesty in the room evaporating.

“Don’t worry about that, Doctor. Just grab that briefcase of yours and get ready to move.”

“You did stuff it with everything regarding your project, right?” the impatient ghost said, “Including the autoinjectors?” There weren’t any loose ends with these two, apparently.

Gil nodded. “Naturally, but still … at least answer one question for me.”

“We aren’t telling you where you’re headed.”

Admittedly, Gil would have liked to know that too, but it wasn’t the answer to the question that was burning brightest in him at that moment. It was the question he had before, back even before the attack. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would leave him a note warning him that they were coming for him specifically. The men who presumably did that were right here. If he just figured out why, he might be able to put together their motives himself. He might finally be able to fully grasp the situation. Or maybe it was just a rationalization, something to justify Doctor Gil’s eccentric nature. He couldn’t leave a mystery alone to save his life.

“Just please tell me why you warned me you were coming. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s been driving me insane trying to understand.”

“That’s what you’re worried about right now? Are you serious?”

Doctor Gil squinted at the second ghost, listening carefully for any clues. He couldn’t be sure, but they were both being just dismissive enough to seem evasive. They had him, he could no more expose or embarrass them than he could fight them, so why avoid the question? Unless …

“You didn’t leave me that note, did you?” The words left Gil’s lips entirely of their own accord. He could only stand there, dumbfounded by the fact that there wasn’t just one group after him, but two.

The first ghost turned away and brought two fingers up to his helmet, right where his left ear was. “Red, is the door still open?”

“Keep quiet from now on,” the second ghost warned Gil.

“Good. We’ve got everything, but there may be a challenger on site. Keep your eyes peeled.”

A ‘challenger’ was an interesting way to refer to a third party, the doctor noted.

“Let’s move.”

To be continued



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