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The Brutal Reality
It felt like hot lava was flowing up his arm from the bit. It made Nox's stomach roll with each passing second. It was excruciating. It felt like forever before Nox knew true agony as the firey blade sliced through his arm like it was soft butter. He screamed. It was everything he could do to keep his mind alert. The howling echoed in the cavern, All remaining creatures this side of the pillars of rock were dead. Those beyond were snarling and trying to squeeze through the openings. But nothing got through. The power was gone for now. The world felt empty, but Nox was thankful for that one sweet rejoice. At least it wasn't power enhanced pain.

Ivan was there in the seconds after trying to make a joke. Nox was sure he was white as a ghost that had never seen the light of day. His body was flush but the second the arm fell to the ground lifeless the only pain Nox felt was that of the severed limb. The toxin was gone - he hoped and prayed and willed for it to be so. "Hospital. now." The words were short and clipped and he could feel the lights going out, but he wouldn't let that happen.

Nox tried to get up and failed. Missing limp and weakness setting in. Shock most likely. Nova came over to Nox and nuzzled his chest. "Good boy." Nox grabbed Nova's collar and the young dog helped Nox to his feet. Though Nox was sure others helped too. He just was not focusing on much. Nox marked the spot on his map in the land warriors for future reference. "Burn it all." Nox tried to grab the power but it was like pushing through mud. He was too tired, his body too weak. The power would over power him anyway.

It was slow work but Nox slipped off his backpack and it fell to the floor. It was hard to open the bag and Nox growled in frustration. His brow dripped with sweat. His body shook with each breath. He had to get to a hospital soon. At least to the entrance so they could at least get a medial team on it. "Bag. Accelerate." Nox collapsed back down. His heart was racing and he knew he shouldn't stand but he tried to again.

"Hurry." Nox wasn't sure how much longer he was going to be able to stay awake. With his backpack off Nox pulled his shirt off over his head. Which was just as frustrating as opening the bag with only one usable appendage. Nox growled as he managed to pull it over his head, smeared with blood. Nox tried to use his weight and remaining arm to tear off a good clean part but it only made matters worse. Nox growled. He hated being helpless.
Nox's face was white and there was a sheen of sweat on it, terror and pain and exhaustion clear in his eyes. He needed a hospital, now. He helped the man stand and let him lean on him and the dog while Ivan pulled the power into him, as much as he could possibly hold. Curious. It was more than before. He felt full. Large. Powerful, like when he was pumped after a hard workout, his muscles filled to bursting, feeling as if they might explode and rip through his skin at any moment. It was a delicious pain and he savored it even as his senses expanded more, the room brightening, the rot and blood and death filling his nostrils and mouth.

Ivan breathed deeply and unleashed the flows and flames burst from all the dead creatures, a burst of super heated air at the change in temperature and pressure blowing against him. He fed more of the power into the flames, tying them off. They would be ash very soon. A grimace flashed across the bubble in his mind. Yun got what she wanted. Zara and Danya were safe.

Nox stumbled and fell and Ivan was there at once, helped him to remove the bloody shirt. "Get the dog, Lih. And Nox's bag." His voice was emotionless. He pulled Nox to his feet, his remaining arm around his shoulder and neck, Ivan's hand around his waist and gripping the top of his pants. "I got you Nox. You'll be ok."

Even with his support walking, Nox was weak. Finally, the man collapsed but Ivan kept his knees from hitting the ground. Instead, He swung around and easily hoisted Nox up onto his shoulders in a fireman carry. Weight evenly distributed now, Ivan could walk normally, quickly. The limp man's arm swung and bumped his holstered gun as he moved walked. "Lead us out of here, Lih. He needs a hospital."

He didn't intend to let the man die of shock. Not as long as he had any say in it.

[nox modded with permission]
Nox screamed. He was hurt. The pain from the bitten arm was immense, but it was eclipsed by his desperate desire to get clear.

Lih sat upright. He felt more bruises and pains that seemed fresh. His clothes were dirty, and there were tear stains on his blood caked face where the smoke had made his eyes run. He looked like the tragic clown in the Metropolitan operas. His face was pale with fear. He looked around and saw the oncoming monsters. “Sir!”

The atharim was frantic. “Cut it off!” he cried out as he dragged at his arm again. “Cut it off at the elbow. Hurry.”

Running at full tilt, Ivan wrenched out his flame sword, and slashed down in a single stroke.

Ivan scrambled around, his flame sword still ignited, setting fire to the remaining monsters. Nox stripped the remains of the sleeve off his truncated leg and quickly pressed the fabric against the flame-cauterized stump. Lih could hear screaming in the distance. Sometimes duty was painful and ugly. But it must be done.

“I’m sorry,” Lih told Nox. “It was the only way, I’m sure,” said Lih, not sure at all.

Nox, it seemed, had already passed in and out from shock and consciousness as Ivan dragged him up.

Ivan praised Lih. They had looked at one another, and both had known Ivan’s words to be an untruth. Lih was looking washed out and not a little taken aback by the compliment. The sight of Nox’s arm was a hard thing for someone like him to see. He pulled back a little.

Lih caught Ivan’s eye and shook his head. Ivan clearly seemed to be in control of the situation. How was he this calm? It was as if Lih had only been out of the other’s sight for a few minutes. The whole world had ended around them, but Ivan was acting like they were on routine training. He was acting like there were more important things on his mind. Like the odious syndicate threatening Ivan’s family.

Lih slowly retrieved his crossbow and looked away. He’d seen the defiant look in Ivan’s eyes. It was a particular look that he always watched for. It pained him to see. He knew if the cop’s loved ones were in danger, Ivan would do anything; he was sure of this fact, and quite reconciled to it. Now explain this. Why was all the evidence burning around them? Under the direction of detective Dorian Vega? Or --?

“No, I was a fool,” Lih said, with a light mocking laugh.

You’re a cop. What the hell did you expect, except that you were going to be used? You’re such an idiot, Lih. You’re far too rigid and principled for the domovoi.

He used to quite admire Ivan. High minded, strong, always with the right, brave turn of phrase ready to dish out of the benefit of common cops like Lih. But now he saw it for what it was. In a good way Lih had many dealings with the domovoi, and he had, most usually, found the men of the department to be upstanding, even if they found Lih’s concerns quaint. They were ordered to check here, and then exploit Nox’s prior knowledge of the tunnels so as to develop cooperation and hasten the investigation effort. Dorian, or Yun, used them. Lih didn’t like it much, and he knew none of the three of them did either. They were picking their way through the miserable aftermath of a battle, seeing small horrors everywhere they looked. Lih understood it had to be this way. They had to be burnt, and Nox’s arm cut off. Quite properly, the domovoi would take no chances whatsoever with monsters. This was CCD policy, and even if he did find himself in a topsy-turvy world where the higher ups listened to the option of a rookie, he wasn’t sure they’re not right anyway. The monsters held this place for too long.

But it made Lih feel base and soulless. Worse, he felt useless. He wondered why he’d ever come. He’d give most of all he had to help Dorian. This last year or so, he’d dreamed of setting off and investigating the mystery of Alistair Pavlo’s disappearance. Now, he wished they’d never come. What was it Costa said about the tunnels? There’s nothing left to save. His face darkened. This was no more than a death pyre.

“Lead us!” Ivan said matter-of-factly, looming into vision. The division between veterans and rookie, already eroding in Lih’s time in the tunnels, had vanished after their fight. This was simply survival.

Lih had recovered well enough to navigate, but he was battered and dazed. His sudden realization didn’t do much for his morale, nor rationality.

He nodded and ran to where Nova took point. He’d learnt to just do his job by now, but for the sake of his own conscience, he had to wonder whether this job was right. He was a total misfit, of course, a throwback to another time. There was no place for sentiment in combat. No place for a false kind of nobility either. If he was career minded, he might consider a transfer to a different unit than the domovoi. He didn’t want to get Ivan or Nox killed worthlessly. And dying along with Lih over some idiotic point of morality sounds like a death neither would be happy to choose.

“Come on!” Lih hissed. He began to crawl along the walls a few meters. It was going to be a long, arduous crawl to get them back to the surface. His left boot caught against something, a stone or a piece of debris, and made a slight sound. “This way!”  

Ivan hoisted Nox up in a shoulder lift and started to run, hauling Nox’s loose body into the darkness of the deep tunnels. Silently, Nova led them on, following along their old tracks into a darkness that was darkness no matter the time of day—dark, and the only illumination came from the burning bodies in the distance.

Underground, in the tunnels, Lih at last saw signs of life. There were insects, small animals, some lizards and gnats—gray and pale, and life was less abundant—but the darkness had not encroached enough to kill it yet. They trudged on into the darkness, clouds of gnats trailing them like confetti at some great triumph.

They trekked back into the tunnels to the north east, past the defining, warding box of the burning IA corpse. Some time later, they were met by the big intersection. He helped Nova to some water, and then made way for Ivan carrying Nox.

“Phew,” Lih said, taking a swig from his water bottle. “It would be good to get a medical team for Nox.” He paused. “Should I call an ambulance?”
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Nox's body hung limply from his shoulders, limbs swaying as he jogged through the tunnels following after Lih and the dog. His enhanced vision picked out the light up ahead. Finally. He remembered how it had felt the last time he had emerged from them after that hunt with Xena. The feeling of the oppressive weight of the rock and steel and earth above him had leaving him to breath easily.

Strange. This time, he felt no change at the sight. Oh, he was glad to be out. Definitely. The job was done. He had some breathing room with Yun. Time to figure things out. And Nox needed help fast. He wasn't gonna bleed out or anything- the slice had cauterized the wound- but a body could go into shock after something like that. Especially if you were exhausted. And he knew, channeling was exhausting.

He knew, because he was tired.

He'd noticed Lih looking at him oddly. He wondered what that was about. The Rook had manned up, in the end. Still green, but this kind of thing made you learn fast. Maybe that was it. Just shock from the fight.

They emerged into the sun shining down and blinding him. He winced, squeezing his eyes shut, the pink light still visible through his eyelids. The power made everything brighter and overwhelming. The walls of his bubble shook at the onslaught of sensation, and in desperation, he let it go.

It felt like a balloon had popped, all the air escaping in one single moment. Suddenly Nox's weight was heavy on his shoulders. Not that the man was big or weighed much or anything. He just hadn't realized how tired he really was. His knees shook but he took a deep breath and firmed them.

His voice shaky, 'Yes, please Lih." With some strain, he knelt and carefully laid Nox's body on the ground before falling back to sit, arms resting on his knees. Still squinting, one eye closed completely, he looked at Lih, breathing. "Well, that was something." He sighed and reached for Nox's pack, digging through it. There it was. A water bottle. He heaved himself forward and then tore a sleeve off his own shirt, soaking it. Folded, he placed the wet cloth on Nox's forehead.

He looked again at Lih apologetically. "All I can do at the moment," He couldn't hide the regret in his voice. He looked again at Nox. "I wish the Padre, Jensen James, was here. He could heal Nox....maybe.", his voice trailing off. He was frustrated, gently touching the wrapped stump. Voice sad, "But how do you heal a stump..."

They waited for the ambulance.
Continued What Wouldn't I Give

[[ Assuming ambulance and a few days have passed. Feel free to be at the hospital, and gone to get food or sleep or something ]]

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