Philip shook the Doctor by the collar. "Tell me where it is!" "Tell me what it is!" The Doctor did not let a single word out. Philip was enraged and ready to hit him. "Bravo team come in."
"Return to the caves and gather any data on the plant."
"Is the kind doctor being modest?"
"Find me that plant, Sergeant."
Philip smacked the Doctor in the face with the back of his fist. The Doctor started laughing. Philip walked over to him and knelt down, "What is so funny?"
"We saw your cameras American."
Philip stood up, almost too shocked to move. The Doctor went on laughing, "We knew you were coming days ago." Philip tried to radio Sergeant Rex. The door opened, it was Smith, "Sir we've got incoming tangos across the board, foot, convoy, and aerial" The tower sounded off. Faulkner firing his rifle from the blind. "Get Faulkner we're evacuating." Philip tried his radio again. The signal was jammed. "Smith!" screamed Colonel Philip Dresden. "Get HQ on the land line, I'll get Faulkner."
"What about him, sir?"
Philip looked back at the Doctor. "Kill him."
Philip left the room and Smith clicked the safety off. From a window he could see a tank at the head of the convoy, firing on them. The impact shook the base. As Philip climbed the ladder to Faulkner's blind the Doctor finished choking Smith to death after kicking his rifle away on the impact of the tank blast and escaped from the hideout. When Philip recovered Faulkner and got back downstairs, they didn't even see Smith's dead body in the room. Instead they fled to the caves.
The convoy was coming up on them quick. Faulkner told the Colonel to go. He turned around. Got on one knee and fired his rifle. The sniper bullet blew back a gunner firing on them. Philip ran ahead and got to the mouth of the cave. There was smoke and gunfire everywhere. "REX!" he yelled out. "REX!"
"Colonel Dresden!" yelled out a voice. Philip ran over to him. It was Hawkins the medic, knelt down beside Gibson who was bleeding immensely from his gut. "Sir," Hawkins panicked, "He needs an EVAC.... now!"
"Where's Sergeant Rex?"
"Up ahead holding the line. Its only him and Connors left. They came out of nowhere, sir."
"Its okay son, stay here. Help is coming." Philip moved up ahead. He crawled up to the clearing with his M4A1 ready. He could hear Private Connors' M60 pounding round after round into the air. He caught up to their flank. "Alvarez is dead sir," Sergeant Rex reported.
"They've got us on every side. Do you have radio?"
"No sir, where's Smith?"
"I left him back with the medic."
"What do we do sure?"
"Did you find anything in the caves?"
"Just some notes..."
Philip examined the notes as Rex went on, "Alvarez was going on about something but that's when the radios went out."
"Where's his body?"
"Back in the cave."
"I'm going in, cover me!" Colonel Philip Dresden made a run for it and his team covered him. A bombshell hit the mountain and shook the cave walls as he got inside, vibrating the smoke all around him. Philip was haunted by the ghost of past hells and horrors. He never thought he would be back here. He looked down on the floor with blue eyes from the beyond, a floor in which he was reduced to nothing. Philip entered a room he had never been in before.
There was Alvarez's crushed head in the middle of the room. A boulder must have dislodged from the roof and fell on him. Before him was a cart. Around it were various shelves of operating utensils, hammers, and knives. At the top of the cart was a gorgeous plant with blue veins. Philip could not believe it. In fact, it felt like another one of his dreams. But no, this was all too real.
Faulkner kept pressure on the wound as Hawkins tried to stitch it up. A tank shell hit just near them and threw more dirt into the air. A piece of shrapnel nicked Hawkins in the neck, and blood came spilling out onto the sandy floor. He fell over and Faulkner covered him trying to find the wound. Hawkins choked and gargled his breath. His eyes rolled back and he began to tire. Faulkner wiped the blood away but could not stop it. Hawkins closed his eyes. Faulkner wrapped the neck wound and returned to Gibson and checked his vitals. Philip ran out of the caves and crouched down next to Faulkner in the dust. "Hawkins and Gibson are both dead, sir."
Philip got down next to them and pulled a leaf off of the plant. He rubbed it on their faces, but nothing happened. He tried there chests but they did not stir. Perhaps this wasn't the plant. A shot rang out, Faulkner fell forward, and Philip caught him. The bullet went right through his body armor. With the leaf still in his hand, Philip lunged his hand into Faulkner's chest. He reached into the burning wound still open in his body. Philip could feel his shredded heart. He rubbed it with the leaf. He pulled his hand out with the leaf and let go of Faulkner. The soldier fell over. He did not move. More shots nipped at Philip. He raised his M4A1, covered the plant, and ran back over to Rex and Connors.
"We're all that's left." he proclaimed. Rex wiped his brow. He tried to think. "There might be a clearing just above the entrance to the cave. We get Connors to cover us now, we can make it."
"You copy that, Connors?" yelled out Philip.
"GO! GO! GO!" Rex and Philip ran up the hill as Private Connors unloaded his machine gun. A rocket soared down from the hills and blew Philip and Rex off their feet. When Philip got back up he went to order Connors, but Connors was gone. Connors was in pieces all over the place. Philip still had the plant safe and got Rex up. They ran back down when the smoke cleared. With the cave entrance at their backs and the shanty convoy now pulling up all around them, they were surrounded. Rex fired his gun and took out two turret gunners before they took him down. Philip dropped to his knees as they all moved in on him. His entire team was dead. Would he now fail to hold onto the plant?
Thunder churned in the sky with no clouds. The pressure in the atmosphere grew thick, the air formed in tight and cracked. A bolt of lightning hit the ground but did not return to the sky. The men in the convoy were shook from their cars and trucks. When they looked before the cave, they found a lightning bolt caught in the ground. It trapped itself on Philip as he absorbed its power. The light frantically jumped, trying to get back to the sky. But it was all slowly sucked into Philip's eyes. He stood up. His eyes now glowing white with fury. He opened his palms and tiny bolts twinged between his fingers. He threw them forward at the convoy. The bolts scattered into a crashing field of electricity and blew the terrorist army off their feet.
Forming one in his hands and hurling it at each armored car, the convoy exploded down the line as the men ran off. The two helicopters Smith had reported earlier, came flying in to execute him. They fired their turrets on Philip. He opened his stance and screamed out; magnetic light emitting from his mouth. The clouds now came and covered the skies, crashing and cracking. Philip pulled the lightning down and pinned the helicopters in between. One lightning bolt cut the tail clean off the helicopter and another caught the other helicopter's pilot seat, frying him into the mainframe. They both crashed uselessly in the desert. The winds cleared the fog and Philip found himself hovering in the air. He pulled thunderbolts from his palms into their legendary form and put down the remaining jihad troops that were fleeing.
Philip floated back down to the ground. To see the awesome power of the Storm Harvester was nothing in comparison to feeling it within himself. In all his rage Philip had forgotten, there before him was the plant. All he had set out to do was now in his grasp. Finally, the full force of the Storm Harvester was upon him. He felt exhilarated, invincible. He never wanted to lose it. But look around at all the death he had wrought as the Storm Harvester. Was that the essence of his power?"...NOW..." the voice said to him.
"DO MY FINAL BIDDING AND DESTROY THE CATALYST!" Philip's feet landed back on the ground.
"What if I don't?" he resisted.
"THEN I SHALL KILL YOU AND FIND ANOTHER WHO WILL."
Philip held out his hand. The sparks snapped back and forth on his palm, ready to jump out and fry the plant. Philip knew he did not want to do it. But all this power was intoxicating; and if it meant self preservation, he must. Any thoughts otherwise would condemn him. And so Philip did what he had to do. He picked up the plant with his left hand and grabbed a leaf with his electric hand.
He pulled it off the plant and rubbed his eyes. The scars turned to fresh wounds, and like venom in the blood, the Storm Harvester was withdrawn from Philip by the Divine Catalyst. The clouds above him evaporated instantly. Philip began to choke as he fell onto his hands and knees, dropping the plant. The plant rolled over and the blue veins were gone. The stem cracked and the leaves dried, shriveled, and crumbled to dust. Philip felt a new presence move into his being. His body fused the two together and the pain was excruciating. Philip silently healed his entire body in a deep cosmic cleanse.
His matter shifted entirely, although he did not know it at first.
Philip Dresden got himself to open his eyes. He was laying flat on his back, alone in the middle of the Hindu Kush. A lightning storm hovered above him not quite in the sky, but between the mountain's peaks; unnaturally. Philip knew it was the Storm Harvester, frustrated, defeated; waiting. Philip had to get away. He propped himself up on his elbow and saw an armored jeep coming to a stop just by the cave entrance. Out stepped Dr. Fitzsimons, Philip saw him and tried to get on his feet.
Dr. Fitzsimons runs over to him, his hat flying off from the winds and storm above.
"What are you doin' here Fitzsimons?"
"Your radios were compromised."
Philip got his balance and felt better now that he was up. "THAT LUNATIC" he shouted, clenching his gut, "said they knew we were coming. How much did you know?"
"I'd mind your implications Colonel. Where is your team?"
Philip watched Fitzsimons face, and he was not convinced, "YOU KNOW EXACTLY!...WHERE THEY ARE!"
Philip began to walk away from Fitzsimons. "WHERE IS IT, DRESDEN?" he shouted over the sand and wind.
"What?" Philip turned back around. Fitzsimons was holding his P90 armed and ready. Philip put his hands up and backed away from the plant remnants on the ground. "You just manipulated my life to get here...to get to this plant." He was finally beginning to put it together.
Dr. Fitzsimons punched the ashes of the dirt, "WHAT DID YOU DO TO IT!" His rage was like a flare to brewing skies of electricity watching above them. The clouds merged and cracked an injection of lightning into Dr. Fitzsimons. Philip watched on as the light, the thunder, the clouds, and the storm consumed him. They were caught and focused by the conflicting winds and spawned a twister. It raged on top of Fitzsimons and brought him in. Philip knew what was happening.
This was not unlike his initiation at the cemetery. The Storm Harvester had found its next host. Philip began to panic. The plant was gone and the universe was still here, which could only mean one thing. The Divine Catalyst was still alive. Philip had to assume it was now in him. He looked at his right hand. A print of the leaf was still on his hand, but after a closer look...the only reason he could see it was because his skin was softly lighting up.
Never mind that now, there was nowhere to run. Philip reloaded his M4A1, switching it to the grenade launcher. He had two grenades before he had to switch back. The tornado halted and slowly began to swirl the other way as it was wrangled up into Fitzsimons. The old military research scientist got back to his feet and opened his new eyes. He charged at Philip. His feet sprang their steps quicker than any man's. Philip shot the first grenade. It hit the ground and exploded just before the mad scientist, knocking him off his feet. He jumped back up and continued his charge.
The second grenade hit the ground and he dodged it cleanly. He was now in range. They both fired their primary weapons facing each other with no cover. The bullets rang past Philip's face. They reloaded and rolled away. Philip looked around the corner and did not see him. The P90 was on the floor. Philip threw his rifle away and stepped out. There waiting was Fitzsimons, holding his pistols. Philip took his desert eagle out along with the M9 pistol tucked in his back.
"It's you." Fitzsimons declared, "I...I can feel it."
"Are you gonna kill me for it?"
"No...I'm just going to kill you."
"Don't listen to that voice."
"BUT I CAN RULE THE WORLD!"
"You'll destroy the world."
The bolts of lightning blew up the pistols in both sets of hands, streaming like a sporadic whip from Fitzsimons' fingertips to Philip's chest. He was launched back off his feet and his torso torn. The Mad Scientist Fitzsimons screamed in absolute power. Fear that Fitzsimons was mastering his new gifts exponentially quicker than Philip consumed him. He pulled the winds out of the sky and lifted Philip up. The white electricity from his palms scorched Philip from face to toe and did not relent. He laid in pain, docile in the air, being tortured, and unable to do anything about it, but helplessly wait to die. Fitzsimons was flush with power, blinded by fury. Philip, out of the corner of hope, the last fire in his heart keeping the light of the Catalyst alive, heard the sounding off of the late Private Connors' machine gun.
The machine gun bullets hit Fitzsimons in the back and brought him to the ground along with Philip. Philip's smoldering body laid smoking on the desert floor. Fitzsimons' spine now shattered by the bullets, was forced to blast himself into the storm and ride the atmosphere away to recovery. To the human eyes of the man wielding the M60, Dr. Fitzsimons simply vanished.
Philip was covered in a fire blanket. His skin was charred and disfigured. He could barely move. When Philip opened his eyes he tried to see his rescuer. His sight was mangled and askew, unable to comprehend. He lifted his hand to his face and rubbed his eyes. He opened them back up and when Philip once again tried to identify the man helping him he could see clearly.
"Doc..." he mumbled, wrapped in the blanket, "...You saved me..."
"I told you not to trust that guy." Dr. Randolph picked Philip Dresden up and helped him walk over to his helicopter. Philip's skin was already looking better. The swelling and blistering were going down; the disfigurements vanishing.
He closed the door, locked Philip's seat belt on, started the helicopter, and prepared for take off. Philip kept rambling on in his unconsciousness about the Harvester and Catalyst. Dr. Randolph assumed he was just delirious. He flew the copter low, under the radar, until he reached international waters. The helicopter headed safely home for the United States of America.
Philip Dresden's life would forever change. No one could ever know what transpired here, or else he would spend the rest of his life under a microscope. Not to mention what would happen if somehow the Divine Catalyst inside him was destroyed. There's only one way in which he could see such a scenario unfolding...his own death.
The government and military would never find Colonel Philip Dresden again (in Afghanistan or in the US). In the upcoming months they would consider both him and Dr. Fitzsimons to be KIA (Killed In Action). He could never go back to the army or return home. His old life was gone. Instead he would make a new one. He would have to start over, and leave everything, including the name Philip Dresden and his life as a soldier, behind.