|January 1, 2009 - February 11, 2009
|Read the logs:
I can't do this anymore.
While spending some quiet time on Muir Island during the winter break, Nathan was surprised by an unexpected visitor - Nick Fury, who told Nathan that one of the Taygetos operatives captured in Wakanda revealed the location of a training facility on an uninhabited island off Puerto Rico.
The incident in Central Park and the near-disaster in Wakanda had translated to increased pressure on Fury to see the Taygetos file resolved sooner rather than later, and a suggestion generated from within SHIELD was to try and re-use the Trojan Horse psionic worm program. A SHIELD psionic specialist who was involved in the Mistra taskforce had identified the Taygetos operatives' conditioning as a more refined version of first-generation Mistra conditioning. She had also pointed out that it was highly unlikely that they would be able to replicate the Trojan Horse in any sort of timely fashion; Kritzer's original version was the work of several years of experimentation, and no one at the time was entirely clear on what Askani did when she tweaked it. The obvious solution was to enlist the man who still has the program in his head.
Nathan was extremely reluctant to become involved, but Fury pressured him to at least try it, given that going into the training facility without incapacitating the operatives first risked major casualties on both sides. Nathan agreed to accompany him back to SHIELD. At that point, he dropped nearly out of contact with the mansion, with only a few brief phone calls and ominous emails. He revealed what he was doing only to Jean-Paul, and then fell entirely out of contact for days.
Nathan finally reappeared at the airport in New York, injured and clearly very shaken. He avoided any questions about his absence, and made no reports on the team database. The consequences of his experience played out over the next few weeks, with increasing nightmares and other stress symptoms. Accidentally mixing antibiotics with alcohol landed him in the infirmary, while his clearly worsening state of mind worried many of his friends. Jean-Paul did his best to watch over him, even spending numerous nights in the boathouse, but things were only getting worse.
After the nightmares were joined by waking hallucinations, Nathan fled the mansion to go ice-climbing in the Adirondacks. Jean-Paul accompanied him, and after a day of climbing, Nathan finally told him the truth about what had on his consulting trip.
Nathan had accompanied Fury back to SHIELD, and agreed to try the Trojan Horse on the captive Taygetos operative. The Trojan Horse did work, but the young mutant was unresponsive afterwards; the conclusion was that there simply wasn't enough there without the conditioning to support a functioning personality. Badly shaken by this, Nathan nevertheless agreed to accompany the SHIELD reconaissance team to Puerto Rico, possibly to use the Trojan Horse if the intelligence was correct and there were operatives-in-training there. When that turned out to be the case, Nathan lost his nerve, unwilling to risk a repeat of Youra. While falling back, the SHIELD team was caught in an ambush; someone or something hits their boat, and Nathan was knocked out.
He woke up in a room he didn't recognize, with his powers blocked. A middle-aged man in a suit identified himself as 'Alpha', making it clear he knew who Nathan was. What he wanted to know was the identity of the team with him, and their objective. Nathan resisted answering, and the other, younger man in the room, the mutant blocking Nathan's powers, informed Alpha that he couldn't 'hold' Nathan indefinitely. Alpha then used the surviving SHIELD agents as leverage to get Nathan to talk, shooting two of them before the third finally cracked and gave Alpha all the details about their mission.
Nathan was then taken to the basement of the facility, where the young operatives there for training - twelve of them in all - were lined up as if for inspection. Alpha demanded to know how many telepaths at SHIELD could use the Trojan Horse; Nathan tried to tell him he was the only one, but Alpha shot one of the young mutants and threatened to kill the others. Nathan was able to convince him that he was telling the truth, at which point Alpha ordered him and the 'incomplete projects' gunned down to prevent potential contamination. Nathan took several bullets, including one that grazed the side of his head and knocked him out.
Nathan came to a few minutes later, powers unblocked, in time to create a TK bubble when demolition charges bring the building down around him. But the surviving youngsters were dying from their bullet wounds, past any help. It took Nathan four hours to pull himself out of the debris. Shortly thereafter, the SHIELD reinforcements arrived.
Trivia and Meta
This was an experimental plot; the idea for the structure came first, followed by the content. The title refers to the Walking Ghost phase of radiation poisoning.