Blue Blood, Part I

Participants:

elisabeth_icon.gif erin_icon.gif hart_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif kaylee_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Also featuring:

abby_icon.gif dearing_icon.gif ivan_icon.gif marie_icon.gif

Scene Title Blue Blood, Part I
Synopsis A member of the mayor's cabinet arranges for a night of celebration for wealthy benefactors and influencers in the Safe Zone, complete with a Zeitgeist experience. On a joint operation, NYPD SCOUT and Wolfhound crash the party and learn the secret behind the Refrain-like drug.
Date December 6, 2019

195 Columbia Heights

7:59 pm


"Ladies and gentlemen, if you would all gather round—"

A Chinese man in a black suit is all smiles as he calls the party to attention with only a spread of his arms. He's charming, pressed and professional in the dimmed party lighting. "We will be beginning the night's highlight experience shortly." Heads turn, each well-groomed. Among the small crowd here tonight are some of New York's finest-dressed, all 'friends' to the city itself in some fashion. There's a murmur as conversations begin to wind to a close, a ripple of excitement manifesting in the form of drinks and appetizer plates being abandoned in anticipation of transition.

The evening's host, Bruce Waters, smiles warmly to those closest to him as he encourages them in a stage-voice to grab a good seat while it lasts— then laughs, before spoiling in softer tones that each seat is a good one. He should know. He's paid for the arrangement of this entire experience only after first sampling it for himself.

Not everyone shares his same ease and confidence in the face of the night's various figures. Iván Allende is a man whose fortunes were minted from post-war salvage, and does not yet feel comfortable in the spaces his wealth now entitles him to. Luckily for him, he does not have to be to earn the attention of one of the young women enjoying the party. In fact, it might be what draws her over.

Marie d'Sarthe is no stranger to taking the wheel to get what she wants, which is exactly what she does by hooking her arm around Iván's. "Come on," she murmurs to him, leaning into him in her sleek navy dress. "You can come sit by me."

With an initial blink of surprise, Iván acquiesces. He wouldn't want to be ungentlemanly, and so they join the party as it makes its way up to the second story of the home… which in turn provides a look out over the city from the home's seat in the high-rise. It's a view Iván pauses a step to marvel at. Really, this whole evening has been full of marvels, from where he sits. A night of wining and dining and mingling with other Safe Zone benefactors now to be capped with this one of a kind experience.

"Pardon me," mutters one of the older Chinese men (and there were a number of Chinese here, weren't there), who nudges his way past into a comfortable lounge space shrouded in blue light. "Sorry," he mutters in apology. "Just want to get a good spot." After he passes, Iván gestures to an open space nearby the man. "He seems like he knows what he's talking about," he asides to Marie with some humor. As they settle in with the rest of the party, he wonders just what kind of event this will turn out to be.


Meanwhile…

195 Columbia Heights

Lobby


It's a sentiment shared by the NYPD and Wolfhound agents who've just been given the order to enter the building.

«The Waters residence technically straddles the 12th and 13th story, with the entrance being on the 12th. The unit is 1204. There's three other residences on the floor we'll want to clear before breaching.» Sarah Hart comes across the officers' earpieces clear and confident. The SCOUT agents make an imposing figure in the lobby entry, catching the immediate attention of the attendant posted inside.

Detective Erin Gordon pauses to look at the Wolfhound that accompanies her and her fellow SCOUTs. It was going to be her first time working alongside them. After, her gaze immediately drops to the headless, quadrupedal SPOT bots that trot obediently behind them. The straggler unit is bumped into by a pedestrian outside who places a hand on its back and keeps on walking, looking back to see what the heck that was, but not caring enough to actually stop. Erin frowns at the robot as it pads quickly after the group to catch up with them, squinting at it. … It was going to be her first time working with these things, too. Hopefully they didn’t get in the way.

"Well. Here we go, then," Erin asides to herself almost cheerily.

Party crashing comes in a lot of forms, and Huruma can't say that she isn't a little disappointed that this one was a less subtle version. Still, she knows she'll enjoy attending, by the look and sound of everything. At least her armor is all in a nice sheen. It's probably Black Tie. She listens closely to Hart in her ear, eyes meeting the look from Gordon in a moment of timely assessment. A last glance given to the SPOTs at their heels.

They're endearing, in an odd way.

"Do we have the information on the other three tenants? Are we to expect any disruptions from them?" Huruma's voice is low in her receiver, and the attendant of the building finds themselves under her survey next.

Of all the things Elisabeth Harrison ever expected to be doing, party crashing with SPOTs is not one of them. But she moves as if she's had enough experience with the robots to know where they'll be. Except the dawdler. That one gets a hairy eyeball. Her blonde hair is secured in a French braid and she looks for all the world like the same woman Huruma went into battle with in a snowy landscape too many years ago. Black armor, a headset in place, weapon held competently with good muzzle control.

"The tenants on the floor are not expected to be a problem. When we breach the stairwell, hit those three doors simultaneously " A pair of officers for each door already has their assignments for which doors are their responsibility, " I'll have 1204 sound-isolated so you can evac the residents. Move fast." She pauses, putting blue eyes on the building's attendant. "Don't touch anything. If your staff alerts the 12th floor for any reason, I'll run every one of you in."

The telepath is half listening to the brief, the other half is on the straggling robot. This was her company’s tech after all and her family’s name on the line. There is enough worry going through Kaylee that a text had gone out as soon as she had seen it. Raytech needed a win here.

When it wanders close to her, Kaylee gentle nudges it back on course with a bump of her hip. “Dude… don’t make me look bad," she scolds it under her breath.

This was her first big case since starting and the first time she’s really putting hard won skills to the test. Dressed like Liz, Kaylee is well protected for what they were about to do, hair pulled back into a bun on the back of her head; easier to get a helmet on if needed.

A flutter of nerves dances through her stomach as she turns her attention back to the SCOUT leadership. She wasn’t completely comfortable with how this was going, but in her mind it wasn’t the place to air it. With so many minds floating in and out of her mental range, she had to concentrate on what they were saying; while also trying to familiarize herself with the mental hums of the breach team.

«Sounds like the real party’s just getting started,» Rue Lancaster’s voice breaks in over the radio with a note of excitement. Rather than down in the lobby with her fellow Hound, the intelligence officer secured herself an invite to the soiree as a plus one to someone who owed her a favor. She’s long since ditched her date in favor of mixing and mingling with the others gathered. Ms d’Sarthe was noted early on.

The lobby attendant looks this way and that as the building is flooded with law enforcement, their hands staying firmly on top of the counter. Their head swivels to the elevator as it opens up, a little relieved when it's empty. At Kaylee's side, the nudged SPOT wobbles and keeps pace with the group better now, save for an angling of the arm on the top of its body. The small, durable camera pinned to the wrist of its 'hand' catches the light as it turns a curious eye up at her.

"Hey look," Erin chimes, heading for the elevator bank. "Our ride's here." The wide, gleaming interior beckons, so she doesn't waste a moment in getting in, arm blocking the way so the rest of the team can follow them in.

«Not like you need the reminder, but since it'll make me feel better saying it…» Hart chimes while they file in. Maybe she does feel the Wolfhounds in the group need it. «If you manage to shoot any of the mayor's friends while you're up there, or any bystanders, for that matter, I think the rest of the department will kill us before the media and the mayor get to us.» Erin frowns at the warning as much as she does the SPOT that huddles in by her in the lift.

«And on that note, I'll be going quiet unless you need me. If anything goes wrong up there, just call and we'll send up back-up.»

« Keep us posted, Darling.» Huruma's response to Rue over the comms is a fond (and slightly smug, for the context) one, and down below she is right behind the NYPD liaison. Reading Erin has been an easy task; the young woman is certainly very passionate. The dark woman responds to her with a low laugh and a flash of teeth in a smile. "It's as if you've heard terrible stories about our itchy fingers. I am offended. Deeply."

At least Kaylee and Liz will have a moment to potentially eyeroll at the aside, while Huruma just plays and paws her way around charming and self-satisfied.

But once the doors close, it will be business.

She's a professional.

Elisabeth pauses at Hart's 'reminder,' momentarily catching Kaylee's eyes. Sometimes I really wonder what all my younglings would do if they knew how often some of us have even together kicking in doors and putting our boots up someone's ass, she says to her sister-in-law in amusement. Huruma can certainly get the send of rueful laughter coming off Liz. "10-4, Hart… no shooting the mayor's friends." The reply is deadpan with just a hint of her inner amusement.

They pile into the elevator, which is set to stop on the 11th floor to disgorge them all so that the last level can be taken via two sets of stairs on either end of the hall — she's not walking her people into a fatal funnel.

“Not sure how we can kill anyone with these, anyhow,” Kaylee comments lifting her X-LRAD and giving it a wiggle. Of course, the comment sounds odd to those that know her and what she could do, if needed. The telepath was one person that could do a lot of damage without a single weapon.

With hope, she doesn’t have to go that route.

A glance goes aside to her sister-in-law, a brow lifting with her amusement. «Maybe you did.» Elisabeth had fought aside at least one other version of the blonde telepath. «Edward was good at keeping me out of trouble, unless it was unavoidable and even then I didn’t get to kick too much ass.» Kaylee doesn’t sound bitter at all. (/sarcasm) Stepping into the elevator along-side her sister-in-law, she adds, «Except when I worked for Adam, of course.» There is a bit of Irony there.

Turning her eyes up to the numbers, Kaylee is silent as her mind casts outward looking for unexpected ambushes. They would not arrive blind at least, especially with this group of ladies. Her smile tugs to one side with amusement at the thought.

Upstairs at the party, Rue surveys the gathering and tries to decide where she should take up her station for the main event. The chatter over the radio isn’t ignored, but it isn’t responded to either. Handling things quietly is her forte, even if she also excels at going in guns blazing. The evening gown she’s poured herself into leaves very little space for concealed weaponry at any rate.

“Excuse me,” she murmurs as she makes her way through the configuration of seats to an open spot near Allende and d’Sarthe, on the opposite side of the Chinese man whose lead they’d been following. She leans over to stage whisper to the three of them, “I’m so excited!” She fidgets with a string of pearls clasped around her throat, flashing a bright smile. “What do you think will happen?”

Iván clears his throat at the question, looking Rue over a bit uncertainly. His earnestness betrays he really has no idea what will happen either, but he doesn’t get the opportunity to voice as much. Marie beats him to the punch. “From what I hear,” she confides, leaning toward Rue, the corner of her mouth turned up in a knowing smirk. “It is a bit like Refrain.” Iván turns to Marie at his side, surprised to hear that. The experience had been pitched to him in much loftier terms— and Refrain didn’t apply to him besides. “But it is for everyone. It’s an experience that it is a secret; so curated and exclusive that use has to be booked in advance.”

Marie’s smile flashes in the low lighting. “The rumor is you see things. Think … ayahuasca, maybe, but without some of the side effects.” She chuckles low in amusement at that, turning thoughtfully to those preparing the experience. The Chinese man who had shepherded them in is finishing up his sales pitch, producing thin vials of Refrain from a small box in tandem with two other men placed around the room. The substance glints in the blue lighting before it’s placed into diffusers dispersed about the room. “I’m looking forward to seeing for myself.”

As the first bellows of mist start to come from the diffuser, it’s clear they won’t have to wait for long.

On the eleventh floor, the elevator dings open and out pour the agents behind the officers tasked with clearing the floor ahead. Footsteps echo in the stairwell as they pound concrete quickly, opening the stairwell doors to the twelfth floor. The hall is clear of any persons immediately, so the officers set to knocking on the doors for the other suites aside from 1204.

That one is left for Wolfhound to do the honors.

Two of the doors open to residents confused at what’s going on. The officers charged with herding them away convince them to grab their coats and take the stairs down, escorted. However, the third door has no answer. In silence, that officer turns back to the SCOUT leadership for direction, shaking his head to indicate the lack of response.

When they reach the twelfth floor, Huruma seems to have lost the fuzzier edges and is more like what their NYPD friends have heard about. Hounds have sharp teeth, after all. Even if sometimes almost cuddly.

Banshee at her side, Huruma steps into the corridor, the feelers from her head poking and prodding over and through; she is nearer to the third door when one of their new friends motions there. A quick study and small crinkle of nose accompany a dubious look back to the others. The officers may as well check it out.

As for herself—

Huruma approaches 1204, a rigid step as her feet plant and her mind stretches out into the suite. More than she had imagined. And of course, Rue, swimming like a white fish amongst the plain brown. Kindly, but not unexpectedly, Huruma picks the quieter of two options. She does not kick in the door. She knocks, amusement fluttering around her, Banshee prepped in front.

"Special delivery."

More unexpectedly, she even does her best chipper deliveryperson voice.

You only get to do this so often, okay?

As her people spread out to evacuate the residents, Elisabeth posts herself next to the door of 1204. Her silence field takes almost no concentration at all usually, but in this case she is carefully setting it in place to stretch the length of the wall on the 1204 side, just in case any of the residents of the 12th floor think to get loud and warn the party. It's not an expected outcome but she's learned to be careful. It just requires her to pay attention to it and not to the evacuation itself, since it's a larger field than she usually does.

She holds the field in place until Kaylee gives her the nod to verify that the last apartment is empty and then she drops it while everyone takes position in the hallway to storm the door after Huruma knocks. "Hart," she murmurs into the comms, "the two teams that just escorted residents out are taking positions up on 13 to make sure we haven't missed an egress up there. Monitor them closely."

Posting up near the door of 1204, opposite of Liz, Kaylee’s eyes noticeably unfocus. Normally, she could do this sort of check with little effort, but she didn’t want to mess this up. Which means a bit more effort put into it. Her touch on the minds on the other side nonexistent.

Kaylee holds up two fingers for the others to see. Two guards on the other side and points to roughly where they are on the other side of the door.

The language barrier made it hard to know their true thoughts, but the buzz of their minds and flash of images tell her they don’t expect trouble. They seem relaxed so she gives a thumbs up.

According to the telepath, they were good to go on that front.

The knock on the door results in a shift of thought and emotion from the other side of the door, but neither person stationed directly by it moves to open. There's a general murmur of silent confusion. Delivery?

Nothing suspect. Yet.

Two other presences on this floor make themselves apparent, and one is less foreign than the rest. What? he thinks to himself as he's signaled over to answer the door. There shouldn't be any more deliveries… The door clicks unlocked, but it doesn't yet open. The man on the other side of the door has paused to check the peephole. Huruma feels it first, curling dread and immediate recognition of what he sees in the fisheye reflection of the hallway.

That's her cue.

In goes the door before anyone can throw their weight against it or rebolt the lock. "警察1!" The man on the side of the door is yelling immediately, scrambling to create distance between himself and the breach. "警察!" Filled with adrenaline, he's the first to draw from within his coat and he fires immediately, regardless of the caterer waiter's proximity to the Wolfhound agent that's entering.

Unlike the police, his weapons aren't nonlethal. The shot pings off Huruma's armor, depleting some charge in the suit's battery.

Behind him, Erin Gordon phases right through the wall along with the SPOT bot that had been rearmost placed in the pack. "Go find the rest of the party," she directs it before lifting out of her crouch, and off the bot trots on a beeline for the stairs. She rises, firing a brief subsonic screech from her Banshee to disorient the shooter and cause him to reach for his ears instead.

Everyone except the waiter is well-dressed, Chinese, and immediately scrambling to address the incoming threat. The woman standing by the staircase lifts her hand and a nearby lamp hovers, plug snapping out of the socket as it's hurled toward the cops.

Upstairs, the lounge room the party is closed into is shrouded in blue fog. An ambient music is set in the background, and the echoes of sounds and conversation have slowly begun to filter in. The shouting that happens downstairs is a distant thing… the first time. Ears who can recognize the language perk, including those of the man sitting nearby Rue, Iván, and Marie. The sounds of memories sound more distant than before in light of the ruckus downstairs, and those whispers dissipate entirely when the first gunshot rings out.

Instantly, the help in the room is on alert. Guns are drawn from hidden holsters, pointed at the lounge door. Conversation happens in rapid syllables. "What is going on?" Iván wonders aloud, and he's not the only one.

"Remain calm," the experience guide directs, but he sounds terse. He starts to move through the room, issuing commands.

This isn't a part of the show, but only Rue knows that for certain.

«Showtime,» Rue warns the raiding party just before the door opens and hell begins to break loose. With the blue fog starting to seep into the room, she freezes up for a moment, bracing herself for an experience she doesn’t want to repeat. The commotion downstairs — which her ears were pricked up for — snaps her out of the reverie and back into the moment.

Grasping the sleeve of the man next to her, putting on her best face of wide-eyed fear, she asks, “What’s happening? Can you hear what they’re saying?” She isn’t ready to assume that every person of Chinese descent assembled is a member of the Triad, but she’s taking note of who stays calm, who draws guns, and who looks as clueless as the rest of the partygoers as she appears to be frantically looking about the space.

Downstairs, Huruma can feel the presence on the other side of the door slip closer, and she seems absolutely giddy when she feels the twist of fear. For as much as she loves being a sneak, knocking doors in can be oh-so thrilling.

The tall Hound casts a long shadow in more ways than one; the bullet pings off of her armor as she bounds to the side, boots planting and using the momentum to pivot and guide her onward.

Huruma sweeps closer to the staircase, a legitimate growl in her chest as she rushes the telekinetic; with her comes a flaying cloak of blackness and ugly despair, fear pushing it outward to her targets pinging red in her mind's eye.

Elisabeth is one of the people armed with her more standard service weapon — the Banshee in her hand makes her feel stupid. The beauty of what the audiokinetic can do, however, is a more targeted unleashing of the frequencies that cause disorientation and vomiting. And ultra-low frequency is not stopped by walls and floors. Kaylee, tell Lancaster to brace herself. Vertigo is incoming.

Leaving the team who breached in front of her to handle the four on the main floor, she turns her attention upward. A combination of simply enhancing her voice and then lacing it hard with subsonics aimed upward should pretty much slow down everyone in the apartment's upper story. "~This is the NYPD. This residence is now locked down. Put down your weapons and surrender peacefully.~"

The moment Rue warns them the show it starting, Kaylee secures her helmet by slapping the visor into place, so that maybe she can avoid inhaling the blue fog that they will no doubt be dealing with soon. Nobody wants that. Even so, there is still a twist of anxiety as she sweeps in behind the others.

A thumb goes up at the mention of warning Rue, Kaylee’s head tipping up in the direction of the gathered minds, looking for the right mind. The telepath will have to trust the team to protect her while she does as ordered. Up in the party, Rue feels the sensation of the mental connection… like silk on skin.

«Heads up, Lancaster. Harrison is getting ready to wail. World's gonna get real wonky.» There is a touch of humor as she adds, «So try not to puke on the Triad’s pants, yeah?» Then the connection is gone.

That done, Kaylee turns her ability and Banshee towards making sure people feel compelled to listen to police commands.

Huruma's bumrush of the woman at the foot of the stairs results in a scramble on the telekinetic's part. She starts to reach for another object to grab before abandoning that entirely, hands flexing in the air before her as she pushes her arms out. The Wolfhound's feet scrabble on the ground, a force pushing back on her advance. The telekinetic yells as she exerts that effort, a bead of blood leaking from her nose as a shockwave of energy pulses from her and pushes Huruma back.

Looking winded from that but relentless in holding the line, the woman raises her voice. "逃跑2!" she yells up the stairs. "現在逃3—!" And there goes the rogue SPOT bot, taking down the winded telekinetic by clotheslining her directly in the calves as it continues on its way to the stairs without even looking back. Sorry, not sorry, it is. The woman blinks as she's suddenly on her side, panicked. She clenches a fist before her and the sofa in the open living space is pulled by a corner and swung out as an obstacle to hopefully deter Huruma — and whoever else — from getting to her before she gets back to her feet.

The caterer who had tripped out of the way when the door swing in suddenly doesn't look as shocked anymore about the turn of events. Kaylee can feel the shift in his thoughts. He's no mere bystander in this, he's—

But it's the man who'd been on the other side of the door that acts first, and it's shouting Liz who he swings at as he comes around the door that had slammed in his face. In his dominant hand he holds a thick metal baton. It sparks with electric energy. It falls directly on Liz's head, bashing with all the force he can muster. Electricity arcs from his hand as well as the baton, dancing down Liz's form in a taze meant to knock her senseless.

Well. More than the hit did.

The caterer is coming to his feet, reaching for a gun hidden inside the folds of his smock when he's hit full force with Kaylee's suggestion to comply. His hands slowly start to raise instead of actually pulling the weapon free. The man on the floor in front of Erin begins to do the same, and she looks visibly relieved for it, instantly reaching for handcuffs before the moment is lost.

The telekinetic on the floor feels the outside influence for what it is, though, and panics for it. Straining, she lifts her hand again despite the physical toll it's taking on her. She lets out a shout and a long table along the wall near the door previously playing host to personal photos and a small potted plant tips to its side and goes flying into Kaylee's side with excessive force, slamming into her and sending her into the door.

Each crash and shout from below incites a new panic upstairs, those gathered in the room alarmed. "Someone call the police!" Someone actually cries out, moments before Liz's voice booms through the floor and shakes through everyone standing there. The Chinese handlers of the experience start to take a step back from the door, from the boxes still spewing blue fog. They're retreating from their prized product, instead shoving their way into the crowd. "Out of the way!" they order.

They're moving closer to Rue.

The man sitting next to her turns to look at her as he's queried for what's going on, shaking his head in confusion. "It's… it sounds like…" is as much as he manages before there's a flicker of visible confusion in his gaze. He recognizes Rue from the club, and his arm jerks away from her hand. He's on the verge of saying something when his eyes glass over, his head turning away to listen to some distant sound. The energy in the room suddenly changes, movements slowing.

Rue hears it, too, compelled to act on it. It's the very voice that warned her about the rolling force of Liz's voice a moment before. Except… different. Listen, Kaylee's influence bids, as disorienting as the sonics that came through given Rue knows she is who she is and it's not her that needs to be surrendering.

"Ah," the man by her side says. He has a stuttering shake of his head. "沒有4." His eyes close hard, and Rue can feel the weight of outside compulsion diminish just before it disappears entirely. The movement in the room was suspended for only a moment, and while the experience coordinator remains dazed from whatever happened, the remaining man and woman continue to close in on Rue.

"Wong," the woman orders as she comes closer, and then it becomes apparent she's not looking at Rue— not exactly. It's the man beside her. "走吧5." He wears a helpless look, still seeming overwhelmed from everything. The woman's response is to grab him by the arm and drag him from his seat.

Huruma's suit does part of the work in buffering the unseen pressure, but a good portion is also the woman herself. Boots plant and her aura flicks outward as she is pushed back towards the door, heels leaving scores in fancy tiling. Banshee up and ready to fire- -

"HA!" She can't hold her laugh in, when the SPOT comes careening into view and takes out the woman's legs from under her. It was good. Good boy, SPOT. Huruma, rather than wait for the obstruction to land in her way, pushes forward again and jumps for it; one hand grabs the back as she comes close, hoisting herself up and over.

For the telekinetic, there is already a Banshee in hand. Huruma aims and fires as she makes for the stairs; the scream from the gun is high frequency, rattling the fallen woman's skull and knocking her out where she lies.

Huruma starts her ascent over again, eyes ahead and empathic field opening its arms to the quarry ahead. Chaos fills her senses, and for a moment it is exhilarating. But she knows that's not what they need.

What they need is powerlessness. And as the empath moves, it is what they get- - a wash of hopelessness that fills the air.

She’s been made. That look of recognition from the Chinese man is met with a small shrug and a little smile in the midst of all the chaos. One hand lifts, the fingers wiggling in greeting. Hi.

Everything seems to slow for a moment. Compulsion that she shouldn’t be feeling tugs at her core, like a piece of string tied to her sternum. This is wrong. And then suddenly, it’s all chaos as usual again.

Giant starbursts made of faux gemstones dangle from Rue’s ears. One is pulled off, followed by the other. They’re deposited in Marie d’Sarthe’s hands as the redhead climbs to her feet. “Here, love. Hold my earrings,” she requests with a bright smile and a wink. "«I’m about to do something stupid,»" she warns the others as much as the people in her immediate vicinity.

Rue lashes out to grab the wrist of the woman who’s dragging Wong from his chair. “Sorry, he’s my dance partner,” she apologizes with a little pout. Then she shifts her body weight and moves to throw the other woman to the ground.

The heavy pulse of nausea-inducing subsonics is abruptly cut off when Elisabeth is jumped from behind the door. Her arm comes up to attempt to deflect the blow that she only sees coming out of the corner of her eye — rookie mistake, she has the half-second to think. She'd relied on others to pinpoint where the threats might come from, focusing up on the upper floor instead of her own proximity. She catches the metal baton on her wrist, but not soon enough to block the baton from slamming into her head. She might have come up from that, albeit dizzy and concussed, had the damn thing not also been a fucking tazer. The Aegis suit absorbs enough of the electricity that she's not badly hurt, but the 1-2 punch of metal bar to the head followed by the electric boogaloo has the audiokinetic on the floor in an unconscious heap. (Yeah, yeah, HELMET. I KNOW, Richard! Shut up!)

Kaylee might have known it was coming and prepared for the blow, if she wasn’t preoccupied with seeing her sister-in-law getting ganked from behind. “Li—” she doesn’t even get a chance to warn her as the table slams into her. The breath gets knocked out of her when she hits the front door, the edge driven into her back, before it slams shut behind her. Leaving her slumped against the door in a daze, with the piece of furniture on top of her lap and legs.

Thank heavens for the armor, but fuuuuck that hurts. There is a couple of choice and colorful words over the com. That was going to be bruised ribs for sure. She’ll take it for the alternative. With a pained grunt, Kaylee shoves the table off her, and finishes off with a kick of a heavily booted foot. The woman doesn’t move yet as she gets her bearings again and catch her breath; not so easy in a helmet. A part of her wants to go after the telekinetic, but instead her helmeted head turns directly to the man that just clocked Elisabeth. Thankfully, Huruma has the telekinetics number. One less worry.

Bracing on the downed table, Kaylee pushes to her feet, wincing at a stitch of pain in her back. Yeah, definitely a bruise.

“«Harrison’s down.»” Kaylee calls a touch breathless over the com.

It takes everything in her to rein back a familiar impulse to tear into the brain of Liz’s attacker, even without a serpent hissing in the back of her mind, the urge is strong. Instead, she’s reaching for her sidearm. Kaylee’s banshee come up to fire at the back of the man standing over Liz, with the intention of taking him out. A little round-a-bout vengeance for the woman with the non-lethal weapon was named after.

«Oh shit,» Hart's reply is near immediate over the comm. She can hear the chaos over the comms after all, but has been trying to exercise patience instead of getting ahead of herself. «Do you need backup??»

Erin looks up in the midst of cuffing the man who'd shot at Huruma, who's now actively started fighting her. With a grunt she cinches the cuff down tightly and throws him to the ground, standing back up a little breathless. Even under her helmet, a strand of hair has torn loose from the bun at the back of her head, wisping as she looks this way and that. "«I don't know.»" she pronounces into her comm, looking from Huruma's success, to Liz lying prone on the ground. Her gaze settles on Kaylee, wide-eyed. "«I don't know!»" she repeats, looking to Kaylee for guidance. She'd just put down Liz's attacker, after all. Would they be fine without calling in the remaining Hound and SCOUT officers on standby?

She's just stood back up to her full height when she takes a gunshot to the chest, her armor working overtime to absorb it. A second immediate shot causes the battery pack to spark behind her. She's dropping down again, intent on using the loveseat off to the side of the couch as cover, and the third shot whizzes past her head and buries itself in the spine of a particularly thick tome on a floor-to-ceiling bookcase.

The caterer is sitting on the ground, back to the wall in the kitchen doorway. After Erin drops out of view, he snaps the gun in Kaylee's direction while she stands over the writhing electrokinetic. The man on the ground has one hand to his head to try and save himself from the noise, albeit futilely, while the other hand swipes, visibly dancing with electricity as he swings for Kaylee's ankle. The caterer takes a split second longer to make sure he makes his shot count, then reaches for the trigger to fire…

Upstairs, Rue hears none of the frantic calls over the comms, and notices only too late how quiet it's been ever since Liz sent charged sonics up through the floor. Out of the corner of her eye, Bruce Waters catches the arm of the older man sitting next to him as he clutches at his chest, beginning to fall to one side. She's a little busy, though, to do more than vaguely notice it.

After all, she's about to do something stupid.

The woman holding onto Wong's arm pauses in her aggression when Rue grabs her, glancing back murderously at the intervention. When Rue shifts with all her weight to throw her, the woman tenses against it … and holds her ground, her strength easily winning out against Rue's.

Uh oh.

The woman does end up letting go of Wong, only so she can grab Rue and fling her across the room at the wall in a far more amplified version of what Rue had attempted to do to her. She breathes in through her nose, head arching back as she looks down at Rue, nostrils flaring. "射她6." she growls. That's when Huruma's charging wave of negative energy rolls across the room. The three men with their guns had lifted to fire at Rue, but two suddenly turn away instead. It's pointless to take care of Rue … the cops were coming, anyway.

The cops were coming.

The SPOT Bot crests the landing before Huruma does, turning this way and that as it scans using the infrared sensor attached to it. Then it rotates back to Huruma quickly, seeming to look at her directly in its half-turn. "On your right," the bot suddenly speaks, sounding distinctly unmechanical, and definitely not like Hart.

In a panic at how hopeless their situation seems, the two men open fire directly at the lounge door at roughly waist height, automatic gunfire ripping through the wooden door and continuing through to the other side. Bullets whiz over the top of Huruma's head with abandon, just barely over the top of the SPOT Bot's clearance. While its body is safe, the arm attached to the front of its body isn't, taking hits that shear the metal and wreck its ability to run ahead and open doors with its pincer. "くそ7." comes from the bot, reconfirming its apparent humanity.

Inside the smoky loungeroom, screams erupt, people ducking and covering their heads while the machineguns fire. The woman turns away from it all, heading for a wall to an adjacent condo. Where the men in the room are deeply, negatively affected by the strange phenomenon assaulting them, it seems to have the opposite effect on her. It makes itself manifest as she clenches a fist, letting out a despair-filled scream while she punches the wall twice, shattering drywall and punching her way straight through.

It's the experience director that has his handgun trained on Rue, and he's more cautious than his fellows, impacted differently by the wash of emotion assaulting him. "Hands up," he orders. Behind him, Wong looks back to Rue with widened eyes, stumbling a step back and toward no one in particular. He recognizes her, but he can't figure out how exactly she fits into this, and it's bothering him. "Wong," the woman with superhuman strength screams at him. He blinks and starts backpedaling in her direction, but his eyes take a long time to leave Rue, and as his head starts to turn Rue feels something inside her tugged at in kind.

A cop?? A thief??? External whispers pull at her mind, hooks in her that are forcefully ripped away rather than peaceably as Wong breaks into a run through the crowd for the wall the woman has created a hole through.

The one Triad member continues to keep his weapon trained on Rue, his attention ultimately not leaving her despite glances to things in his periphery as the room churns with negative emotion. “Hands up!” he orders again, beginning to approach her.

“«Erin! Calm the fuck down. Take a deep breath. Huruma. Take the fight out of them. Mellow them out. Love not War.»” Kaylee calls out over the com. The woman is strangely calm even with her voice raised, but then… this wasn’t her first rodeo even if her badge was still shiny and new.

Maybe it’s pride that keeps Kaylee from answering Hart right away. Of course, in her defense she was trying to keep one man down while facing down another with a gun. Why won’t this guy knock out… “Fucking useless piece of….” She doesn’t finish her thought on this non-lethal equipment, quickly sensing a shift in the mind of another. The caterer sees her attention shift to him, even as the banshee is held on the electrokinetic.

«STOP!»

The order is strong and clear in his mind, just before his world explodes into chaos. Memories start invading his thoughts, as the telepath yanks them to the surface. Kaylee strengthens them till they are strong and clear. His parents, his kids… family. It’s hard to know what is a memory and what is now. The telepath isn’t trying to avoid the shot, so much as making his flinch enough that it isn’t fatal.

"«Send them in. And a medic.»" Erin and Hart are the targets of Huruma's voice over the comms. There is something heavy and anchoring to it, or perhaps that's just the aura of the woman herself.

The Hound comes to a pause at the top of the stairs, Banshee leveled as she— and apparently, the SPOT— scan the floor. It looks at her, she looks at it, and when it speaks, her head leans back, eyes narrowed.

Wot, m8?

She doesn't have time to really— figure that out. It's a problem for future Huruma, who isn't ducking away from the whisk of bullets with a grimace and an arm guarding her head.

Crowd control time, then, as she ducks from oncoming fire and veers to her right.

She focuses her mind's eye on the field of bodies, picking out the ones she needs to address first. Among them, the anger and blackness of the woman fuming her way through walls. Love, not war. Warmth blooms in drops amidst the negative field she's created; calm crawls back, cloyingly so. It feels like shelter. Safe?

Well, this did not go at all according to plan. Rue has just enough time for her head to snap up and stare incredulously at the woman when she does not budge an inch. Christ, it’s like sparring Dearing.

She doesn’t have long to think about what that means when it’s made extremely evident as she’s sent sailing through the air. Hitting the floor, she tumbles twice before she slides to a stop. She’ll have bruises, but the real wound is to her pride. Lifting her head, Rue is prepared to go toe-to-toe with the woman again, but finds a gun levelled at her instead.

Good. That’s something she can deal with easier.

“Oh god,” Rue cries out, eyes wide and panicked. “Please don’t shoot!” She freezes - not out of fear or even as part of the ruse she’s playing, but because of the telepathic hooks sinking into her mind. Zeitgeist is starting to make a lot more sense. Whatever compulsion she was starting to feel, however, doesn’t last as Wong starts to make his escape.

“My- I’m tangled in my dress!” She isn’t, but it gives her a chance to carefully reach down and smooth out her skirt, feeling for the knife strapped to her thigh. Good, still there. Pressing her palms to the floor, Rue pushes herself back to her feet, wobbling like a fawn in her modest heels. “Please don’t kill me,” she begs as the man draws closer, tears in her eyes.

They always fall for the tears.

As he reaches out to grab her, she reaches out for the gun, shoving it toward the floor even as she pulls him the rest of the way toward her. Red hair falls free from where it’s pinned to her head as she tilts her head back and then brings it forward quickly, slamming her skull into the man’s, followed by a swift knee up to his abdomen. That should get him to loosen his grip on his weapon.

“Feathers for brains,” Lancaster growls.


Meanwhile, outside the building


"«Copy.»" is all Hart says into the comms, but she knows they know she's on it. Leaning back in the truck she's holed up in to look out the back, she finds the other two specialists who haven't gone up in the building quickly. They'd been standing close by, after all. "Dearing! Caliban!" she calls out. "Harrison's down, they need backup and a medic."

With the urgency behind it taken care of, she takes a moment to look at Abby in particular. The tension of the current situation is diminished none even as she acknowledges, "Looks like you get to get in there after all."

"Looks like. No pressure." Abigail remarks as she looks to James, a quick twist of her neck before the helmet is picked up. "Can't call it a proper day less the good lord throws you in feet first to the fire." Ripe words coming from the blonde as things snap into place. "You first James." This to Dearing as she slides her helmet on and grabs up the compact pack to sling over shoulders with what she'll need to get whomever is down stabilized and her weapon. "See you when we get back Hart." And she's scrambling out of the vehicle in James' wake.

Settling his helmet on and lowering the visor on his way out of the truck, Dearing offers an askance look to Abby as he tightens the chin strap with gloved hands. “This your first day on the job?” He asks her, but it's a rhetorical question as he looks ahead to the building, squinting at the distance he estimates they'll have to cover.

Dearing picks up a hard plastic riot shield from up against the side of the truck and starts on a jog toward the lobby. “Just stay behind me,” he calls back after her, “and you'll be fine.”

“Gotta start some time.” Abigail claps down the visor and is soon jogging right behind Dearing. “Now’s better than ever. Let’s just hope I don’t have to slag anything. Let's get up there.” And she’s swift on his heels jogging and keeping an eye out as they go.


Meanwhile inside the building…


Between Huruma and Kaylee, Erin’s brief bout of nerves being shook rights itself the fuck out. The SCOUT officer takes in a deep breath, eyes closed for a moment. She refixes her Banshee to herself, and when her eyes open again she sees the squirming Triad member fighting the handcuffs behind his back. It wasn’t like they ever thought they’d show up at the wrong party, but the number of SLC-E guarding the Zeigeist is high. Who’s to say he wasn’t one, too?

Erin draws her sidearm and rolls back hard into the loveseat, phasing through it.

The caterer hears Kaylee’s command and freezes, wide-eyed. The images of the things most important to him disorient him greatly, finger hovering over the trigger instead of depressing it. The sound of the machine guns upstairs is heard over it all a moment later, and results in further disorientation, and panic. He fires after all.

The report is loud in his ears, and he can see Kaylee again as clear as he can see the hole in the door behind her, his shot having gone wide. His expression turns angry, pale freckled face scrunching as he lifts his arm again —

Bang. Bang.

It’s not him that fires. It’s Erin. She’s standing in front of the loveseat now, both arms raised to brace her gun as she leaves it pointed at the caterer. Red blossoms on his right shoulder, and he drops his weapon. She looks quickly to Kaylee, her thoughts an unreadable mirror of adrenaline before she looks away, turning to the stairs she can’t entirely see up at this angle. “«Dunsimi?»” she asks over the comm, having the presence of mind not to shout. “«You alive??»”

Behind Kaylee, the doorknob politely begins to jiggle and then pushes in slowly at her back. Knock, knock. It’s the other two SPOT Bots. At her feet, swipe swipe, it's the agonized electrokinetic.

The good news is he's wearing down quickly from the excruciating pain the close-range Banshee fire is bringing him. The bad news is he's still not yielding, and he's oriented himself just enough to know where exactly Kaylee is now, and he scrabbles on the ground to lunge for her ankle and make contact with his charged palm.

Upstairs, after firing, the two guards' shoulders sag with visible relief after emptying their clips into the wall. The party crowd around them both continue to leave their arms covering their heads, terrified. But those two? They got 'em, both are very assured of that. So is the woman, but she doesn't believe it wholly, a result of her emotions rarely being her own. She grabs Wong by the arm and shoves him through the narrow hole in the wall, awkwardly squeezing in the narrow space to head after him.

The man cornering Rue takes his time as he gets closer, letting her fix her dress. He’s amused just enough with the 180 in her emotional reaction to get out a smug, “Where’s your bravado now?” before he’s roughly manhandled about. The hit to his head has him dazed, and the knee to his gut winds him, slacking his posture. There’s a muted clatter of his gun hitting the short-haired carpet that’s nearly lost among all the other noise going on. The woman doesn’t look back at hearing he’s been overpowered, firmly focused on getting Wong out of there, but the same doesn’t go for the two remaining guards in the room.

They go to fire on her immediately— and are out of ammunition to do it with.

One of them quickly reaches to reload in light of that, while the other rushes across the room to engage with Rue anyway. He’s emboldened. He doesn’t watch where his feet go, much less pay enough attention to note that someone else has stuck their foot out in front of his.

Iván Allende quickly pulls his leg back when the man trips and falls to all fours, trying to make it look like it was an accident. That it wasn’t him who did the tripping. He keeps Rue’s confrontation in the corner of his eye, deciding he has no idea what’s going on, but he likes the woman’s moxie and dislikes all the shooting. What can he say? He’s a fan of bold underdogs.

Outside the lounge room, the rogue SPOT Bot is doddering forward, determined to be useful of some variety despite the damage sustained to it. It pauses before the door, then pushes the pincer on the end of its arm straight into the door. “Knock knock.” it barks boldly, its thin legs shifting in a dance of surprise when the door swings right on in from the force of the push. It provides a clear line of sight into the room for Huruma to do what she will with it.

The man standing close to the door is nearly finished reloading his weapon, though, and is aware now that maybe he didn’t succeed in killing the police like he thought he did. “Oh, no.” it remarks, skittering to sidestep out of the doorway. The blue Zeitgeist smoke begins to filter out into the hall, the same way it trails after the Triad members who make their escape through the hole in the wall.

There’s a scramble to reach the discarded weapon before her foe can reclaim it, or one of the other guards can reload. She’s still in a crouch when she whips around to aim the firearm at the approaching guard when he goes tipping forward and lands face-first in the carpet. Rue catches Iván’s gaze for the briefest of moments, silent acknowledgement before she pushes herself to her feet to close the distance between herself and the downed guard.

She brings her fist down onto the back of his head hard enough to either knock him out or at least stun him long enough for her to keep moving. “He’s all yours, Huruma!” she calls as she rushes forward, weaving through chairs and crouched bodies, panicked people. With the SPOT to provide a distraction for the guard by the door, and Dusimi with the clear line of sight, Rue trusts in her Wolfhound partner to buy her time.

“«This is Lancaster,»” she announces over the suspiciously silent radio, uncertain if anyone even hears her now, “«Targets are fleeing on foot. I’m in pursuit.»” Charging forward, she goes racing after Wong and the Kool-Aid Woman.

"«Of course I am.»" Huruma answers Erin, somewhat breathlessly, but hale. She is tucked behind the untouched span of wall astride the door to the suite, listening now as much as sensing. The SPOT she's been escorted by stays in her peripheral vision as it knocks, ever-helpful; a few things happen in strict order when the door opens. Fog rolls. Huruma steps through it. Her head swivels, eyes alight. The Banshee shrieks into the guard by the door at point-blank range, high-power enough to cow him even without her ability. The rest of the room, however many left, are faced with the miasma sucking the marrow of bravery from their bones.

One boot braces on the neck of the guard now at her feet, and as for Rue's stunned foe left behind, Huruma makes him the center of attention, Banshee at the ready.

"Everyone stay down." Her dark voice aligns itself with her ability. The 'or else' is implied.

Her heart might have been in her throat after that miss. Kaylee was sure she could hear it passing her head. It was a hell of a gamble that paid off. The telepath shifts a look to Erin and gives her a nod of thanks and all her sympathy since the paperwork for an officer involved shooting will be hellacious.

At her feet, the shift in thought is all the warning she gets before the electrokinetic lunges at her and his hand connects with her ankle. Little does he know he gives her the opening she needs.

There is a small twist of her lip just before the electricity flows through her, arching her back as all muscles seize and the battery pack for her Aegis armor sparks. More notes for their development team… Shielding against electricity.

Meanwhile, as her body collapses to the ground, in the man’s head Kaylee has to work fast. As soon as he lets go, she could end up back in her body at any moment. Standing in the darkness of the man’s mind, she crouches and presses her hands to the metaphysical ground with fingers spread.

Take this, motherfucker.

He won’t know what hit him, literally. A shaky brick wall erupts from the ground and rises up from the ground of his mind to block all access to his memories. It won’t last, bits of mortar are already flaking off, but it might give them time to negate the man.

The triad thug will be lucky if, for the next thirty minutes, he can remember who he is much less know he has an ability to use. There is satisfaction in that for Kaylee… and maybe a lecture too.

"Thatcher!" Erin calls out to Kaylee as she sees the electricity spark up and away from her body, hears the hiss-pop as the battery for the armor pack is unloaded. She lowers her gun, walking right through part of a sidetable and the loveseat again on the way back to Kaylee, her free arm extended out. "Kaylee, are you—

"—okay?"

There's Kaylee, staggering and down to a knee and her Banshee no longer wailing, but the electrokinetic has stopped sparking entirely anyway, looking dazed like it's him that's been hit with a dose of electricity, head lolling to the side. Erin looks for a moment to the caterer, sidestepping quickly to kick his gun away from him, then looks back to the telepath. "Kaylee??" Her worry turns to a momentary scowl as one of the SPOT bots huddle its way in through the front door, sidestepping past Kaylee. When it settles in by the man already handcuffed to keep watch on him, her ire with it fading.

Upstairs, the guard under Huruma's heel groans, head ringing from the shriek that had been assailing him right until he'd been knocked onto his face. The grunt who'd been tripped and then hit senseless is now stumbling to his feet, realizing that Huruma is there from her shout only. He's seeing stars even as he glances at his companion in the white tie, who wraps an arm around his abdomen and watches Rue make off with his gun with an expression best described as sour.

The empath can feel how they're both seething. The one still with his gun stops rising any further after Huruma's command, facing away from her, but he slowly begins to reach across his body underneath his jacket. One nods at the other. They're both brimming with anticipation, one feeding off the other. The only reason they don't act is that neither of them are brave enough to go first.

The SPOT bot trails into the room behind Huruma, immediately catching sight of the hole in the wall Rue dives through. "They're getting away," it notes unhappily.

Exiting the smoke, Rue finds herself in a bedroom, rubble blasted away from the hole in the wall. The room itself is dark, but the hall isn't. On hearing Rue call out her pursuit, the woman guarding Wong had stopped at the top of the stairs.

And then on seeing Rue with the gun, leaps forward down the stairs several steps at a time. "Go, go," she rushes Wong ahead of her, scowling. He's not moving nearly as fast she'd like him to be. Once they hit the bottom of the stairs, she pushes him forward out of a potential line of fire as much as she pushes him out of her way, heading straight for the middle of the sparsely-decorated modern living space of this other home. There's no preparation given for what she does save for clasping both her fists together above her head and then slamming them down on the floor beneath her, wooden panels splintering.

But no hole to the next floor appears. She hits it again. Nothing. She punches straight down into the floor with a shout, and her hand comes back bloody for her effort.

Wong looks at nothing in particular, one hand held before him like he might as well be blind. He blinks hard as he makes sure to stay directly out of sight of the staircase … but then his head turns back. Instead of heading for the door, he presses his back flat to the wall, listening for Rue's footsteps.

He waits.

"I would much rather you not." Huruma says, very sweetly, Banshee swiveling towards the woozy one that has gotten to his feet. Anticipation, anger, tension, the shift of body— she is well versed in these. A silent pressure of being cooperative still weighs upon the room, both from her aura of influence and her very manner.

That telltale little squeak of servos and patter of feet tell her the SPOT is back even before it speaks.

"So fetch, SPOT." As if this were the most obvious answer. Rue needs the little thing more. Huruma's voice comes over comms. "«I've got a pair heading down through the east stairwell, Lancaster in pursuit.»" All those backup bodies that followed them— and the ones now arriving— have a specific quarry now.


Meanwhile


“Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes…” Dearing closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose, having been whisper-singing to the melody playing over the elevator. “Alright, fuck this.” He sets down the riot shield in the shower, then wraps one arm around Abigail’s waist and hoists her up against his chest. Dearing reaches up and slaps the emergency hatch at the top of the elevator with the flat of his palm, sending it clanging to the roof.

“Backpack,” Dearing instructs, shifting his weight so Abigail can wrap her arms around his shoulders. He then boosts himself up into the roof of the elevator, then begins climbing up the interior of the elevator shaft at a faster pace than the crawl of the elevator’s old motor. “Just uh, don’t look down.” Dearing mutters as he continues to climb.

“Or look down.”

“Or catch fire.”

Flick, flick, flick, forefinger going back and forth between coronal and not at the tip in time with the girl from Ipanema. But then Dearing’s decided the elevator is too damn slow and as he’s reaching to grab at her waist the glove is slid back on and when she catches on and as his hand is hitting that emergency exit, she’s reaching out to slap at the emergency stop and grind that thing to a stop.

“Backpack.” She confirms to his instructions and once they’re through and on top, she shifts around to his back and hops on. Arms around shoulders and wrapping her legs around his waist, she clings like a barnacle. “Aww Dearing and here I thought you’d enjoy extra crispy.” Abby quips. But they’re off, faster than that elevator.

“When she walks she’s like a samba, that swings so cool and sways so gentle…” Muzak. Sticks in your head.


Meanwhile


On seeing Wong’s guardian paused at the top of the stairs, Rue lifts her gun and takes aim, but hesitates to pull the trigger. If she doesn’t have to kill someone today, she’d rather not. A dead suspect is one that can’t impart any information, and information is Rue’s bread and butter.

Hissing a curse under her breath, the gun is lowered again as she hurries to the open stairwell. She really should have worn sneakers and accepted the strange looks, but nothing says I’m super up to something like not fitting in at a well-to-do party filled with who’s-whos. So taking the stairs one-by-one it is. It’s hard to tell what’s going on in the room below over the sound of her own footsteps echoing through the well. Her pace slows as she nears the landing, weapon raised again.

The sound of fists attempting to punch a hole to China through the floor mean that they haven’t fled the space just yet. “Just put your hands up,” Rue calls out her warning as she makes her way forward.

In the space with Huruma, the force of her presence continues to hold everything in place— a still life glued together by tension only.

Except for when it's suddenly not.

The quieting of the room means other smaller sounds in it start to prevail. Bruce Waters is on the ground, and so is the elderly man that had been seated next to him. The older man is dazed and out of sorts, quietly trying to come to an understanding about what's happening to him by talking it through disjointedly. A woman crouched by them both observes worriedly, holding the man's wrist to feel for his flickering pulse.

With the risk of gunfire deemed to be diminished, she finally finds her voice. "We need a medic." the woman demands, because clearly what's happening here needs addressed first before literally anything else.

«East stairwell?» comes Hart’s voice back over the comm, seeking confirmation. She sounds confused. Clearly she’s missed something. The schematics for the newly-built building only had one stairwell in the home, and one door in and out of it, which she thought was covered.

The SPOT bot takes off as ordered, barely making its way through the hole in the wall after Rue. Fetch, SPOT. It stops at the top of the stairs, its cameras searching and refocusing. It sees something Rue at the bottom does not. “Lancaster—” it starts in its terse, unfamiliar female voice, trying to shout down the stairs to warn her in time.

But a hand slides onto her bare shoulder as she comes to the landing. One moment, Rue can see the woman punching her way to China, and the next her world inverts entirely. She doesn’t hear the SPOT bot only a dozen feet away.

She hears herself. Feels herself speak.

"What do you want from me?" She keeps one arm slid through the bars and brings her fingers with the cigarette up to her bruised lips. There's the spark in her eyes. There's the conviction growing.

"I have given everything to you!" Not the Ferry, but to Eileen. What she saw in her leadership gave her hope that the organization could survive against the government by playing on their level. There's no chance of going back to a normal life for Rue now. Even if they get off this island alive somehow and avoid capture. Even if she continues to avoid capture, she'll never be able to have normal describe her life ever again.

The corners of Eileen's mouth are beginning to get sore from the effort required to keep from smiling. "Not everything," she corrects Rue, and she likes to think Kazimir — may he rest in peace — might even appreciate that one. It's dramatic enough to make a good story later, even if Eileen won't be the one who gets to tell it.

If she's going to destroy what's left of her reputation, she might as well do so with a flourish. "I meant what I said about Richards. You shouldn't have been made to suffer the way that you did. A firing squad would be quickest, but we can't afford to waste the bullets. You'll hang instead."

Rue's lips come purse together tightly and her eyes burn with anger. "I always knew that's what it would come to." No traitor could be simply shot. It would have to be a spectacle to make everyone feel better.

"I didn't do it." She's not bargaining for her life. "Tell me you know that." Because after all this, she'd still hate for Eileen to believe her a traitor.

Eileen rises from the chair, hefts the cane, and taps its tip against the bars of Rue's cell. Her eyes alight on Rue's. There's a delicate rise to her frame as she breathes in to make her point, the cane's tip leveraged as punctuation for it.

Rue knows what Eileen says next. She remembers the heartbreak, the burn of it. But the words agonizingly fail to come. The moment, that breath before delivery, it lasts. It drags, the flint in Eileen Ruskin's dark gaze apparently eternal.

At least it is, until something collides with the back of her legs, throwing her balance. The bars that separate Rue from the rest of the world are confusingly enough gone, though her surroundings are no less dark. She can hear the grunt as the woman who was guarding Wong leaps down through the hole in the floor, momentarily interrupting the light shining up from the unit below. In the dark of the home she stands in, the SPOT bot nudges the back of her leg forcefully again with its head. It’s the only living thing in the room with her now.

They are getting away.” SPOT protests, its voice eerily human. None of the robots, that she knew, talked. It maneuvers around Rue in a sprint for the hole in the floor, front legs bending to angle itself to better get a look through the opening with its frontal cameras as well as the unit attached to its back. “I cannot follow.”

Shouts of confusion can be heard from the home below this one. Someone was home when two strangers suddenly jumped through their ceiling. The SPOT bot turns away from the hole in the floor, facing toward the front door instead. The pincer on its arm lets out a whirr as it tries to open, and fails to.

The thing they don’t tell you about being tasered, it doesn’t knock you out, so much as make you feel like you had a full body workout all at once. It wears you out. So Kaylee is a little slower getting to her feet, but once there… she’s mostly good again.

“I’m fine,” Kaylee, finally confirms after a moment of reorienting herself, giving a shake of her head. Working to handcuff the confused man, she adds to Erin, “He'll be fine in a few, but he needs negating before his head clears.” She doesn’t let the worry of her actions settle in, yet moving to secure who needs it.

Back in Bannerman’s Castle, Rue is awaiting execution without fear of death. The fear she holds, that takes up residence in the pit of her chest and chokes the life out of her lungs and crushes the muscle of her heart, is that the woman whose respect she craves now hates her.

This moment will haunt her for years. The very last time she would see Miss Ruskin. This is the moment that would make her. Harden her and cast the mold for the woman who would spring fully formed from the other side of the war.

Rue stumbles through the bars.

Wait.

Anger burns inside her eyes and her heart when the world around her snaps into focus.

They are getting away.

Rue’s suspicions about Zeitgeist are now all but confirmed. “I got it!” she tells the robot as she hurries to catch up to it. When it doesn’t move aside quickly enough for her tastes upon arrival, she nudges it aside with a bump of her hip. Reaching behind her back, she tugs down the zipper of her skirt and lets the garment drop to the floor, leaving her in the bodice of the dress and a pair of black cropped leggings before she lowers herself through the opening in the floor.

Where’s Lucille when she needs her?

Huruma's strange tableau aside, her ability paws around the building restlessly. She can pick out Abby and Dearing inching upwards. Rue on the descent. The women downstairs. The tension of her own room. The break of it hinted by the boldness of the woman speaking as it burbles up a second prior.

"«East.»" Clearly, prohibition thinking never truly went away. "«Medical. Post-haste.»" Huruma's eyes swivel some to take in the situation with the three nearby. "Already on the floor." Is the Hound's reply to the woman. The threads between herself and those remaining stay firm, though for the injured there is a whisper of determination, obscure in origin but reassuring in practice. You can do it.


Meanwhile


“…tall and tan and young and lovely,” echoes down the elevator shaft as Dearing holds on to a ladder rung by the door to what he presumes is the correct floor, forcing the doors open with his other hand and a boot. He slings Abby in through the open doorway into an unpopulated hall, then swings himself through the opening in return. Far below, the elevator is still making its ascent.

“Okay we’re— ” Dearing eyes the number beside the door, “fuck one floor down!” Directly across from the elevator is the stairs access, and Dearing exhales a flustered breath as he shoulders through it ahead of Abby but skids to a stop when someone comes barreling into view at the top of the curve in the stairs.

«Did you say East stairwell?» Dearing asks over the comms, eyes wide and holding a hand behind himself to ward off Abby.

Tuck and roll into a crouch, palms to the floor and look either side when Dearing tosses her through that door. She’s stopped singing along with him and blue eyes regard the hallway to either side of them as he’s pulling himself through. “Just one floor? I’d say that’s better than two or three Dearing.” She lets the man take lead again, he said stay behind him but as his hand comes up, she’s staying her next step and flattening herself against the wall, hand on her banshee and ready if needed.

The sound of uneven footfalls patter on the stair heading down toward Dearing and Abby.

«Confirmed. Dunsimi said 'East stairwell'.» Hart chimes over the comm.

Step. Step.

Stepstep.

The shiny red body of a SPOT bot rounds the half-landing steps above Dearing and Abby, stopping as it catches sight of them in its sensors. It appraises them in silence before determining they are neither an enemy nor a threat, then begins to head down the stairs to meet them.

One black-striped leg has only just begun to move when a door slams open in the hall on the eleventh floor, with enough force a shudder can be felt through the frame and floor nearby it. The unit in question is far enough down the hall that the person who comes running through the open door doesn't see Abby at first in the stairwell doorway. The bespectacled older man sprinting in her direction stops though as soon as he catches a glimpse of her form. He'd backpedal, but the woman running after him prevents that from happening, an immovable object behind him that nearly bowls him over.

"干嘛呢8??" she snaps at him angrily. Then she looks up.

"Shit." the woman says quietly. She hears footfalls resounding behind them — the woman in the dress with the gun having dropped through the floor and chased them through the apartment. In those heels.

Shit.

It's a sentiment shared by the men cornered by Huruma's ability, feeling less and less confident they're making it out of here free men. That any of them that were here are.

They make eye contact for just a moment when Huruma speaks to the woman. It's a break enough for them both to make a final desperate attempt to regain control of the situation. The one in the white tie who had his gun stripped from him by Rue charges Huruma yelling as he barrels at her. The other one produces the clip from the inside of his jacket pocket finally, beginning the process of swapping it out. He reaches to free the current magazine, and it drops to the floor in a muted clatter.

On hearing the shout from upstairs, the comm crackles again. «Hang on, Dunsimi, I'm coming up.» Erin, this time.

Emerging from the apartment door sans skirt and with her weapon raised again, Rue only skids to a stop to catch her breath when she lays eyes on Dearing and Abigail. “Hey, hot stuff,” she greets in a deadpan. “Watch out for her. She throws a mean redhead.” She rolls one shoulder, a bruise beginning to blossom on her bicep from where she collided with the floor.

“And he,” Rue gestures with her weapon toward Wong, “is Zeitgeist. Don't let him touch you.” She's still burning with fury for the violation of her mind. Her finger itches to pull that trigger. A bullet in the knee and neither of them is going anywhere fast. But legitimate establishments sort of frown on that sort of behavior, and this relationship with the NYPD needs to be a good one. This isn't the wild west of the Dead Zone.

“Do us all a favor and get down on the ground, put your hands behind your head.” Rue's mouth is pursed small in her annoyance, gaze like stone, daring to be tested.

As both of her prisoners decide to move on her, she can feel the shift between modes as it happens. With the pair still latched within her mental claws, they are met with a terror akin to a falling man with concrete risen to meet him; a plummet of heart and head, coming to an impact. Huruma steps off of the one at her feet, backpedaling with a growl. It crackles into her comms as Erin moves to join her. She doesn't need to tell the officer to be ready, especially with that ability of hers.

That Banshee in her hand is quick to pepper them with a spray of vibrato from one to the other, a sweep of cover fire as she ducks back. Or close enough to it. You work with what you have.

SPOT bot on the stairs. Oh well. Abby’s attention goes from the stairs though at the sound of the door slamming open and people behind them further down. Even as the bespectacled gentlemen is grinding to a halt the Banshee’s lifting and pointed at them. Innocent people don’t open doors like that. Then there’s a Rue behind them and just like that, the trigger’s depressed, aimed at the man and kept depressed. “Dearing, she’s yours!” He throws a mean blonde, it figures that he can handle that one at least. “I got him.”

«Gordon, I got her. Stick by Harrison, please.» That ‘please’ is more the plea of a sister than the LEO she is in the moment. Even before the words can sink in… Kaylee is already on her feet heading to the stairs with Banshee in hand; more so her ability is already winding itself around the mind of the man attempting to slap in a fresh clip.

The tendrils of her ability works to sow doubt as she plays Jiminy Cricket, whispering softly and seductively into his ear. Words slipped into his thoughts with a precision of a surgeon.

«What am I doing?»
«This is wrong.»
«I should give up.»

At the top of the stairs, Kaylee slows looking for the signs of blue fog. Even though it looks clear, she checks to ensure that her faceplate down and locked into place.

Only then does she surge forward into the room, Kaylee really hopes that the air filters are as good as her company says they are.

She is never going to hear the end of this clusterfuck. Richard is going to have an absolute shit-fit. Elisabeth's eyes finally flicker open. Her head is throbbing from whatever the hell hit her and she's seeing double, her wrist is killing her, but she knows enough in her disorientation to realize the people are still yammering in her comms. She lays still, trying to keep the room from spinning as she listens to the updates in her ear. Rolling to one side and pushing herself upright, a move that she regrets damn near instantly because it puts weight on the wrong wrist, Elisabeth subsides and growls low into the comms, "Gordon, sitrep?"

In the stairwell, which is becoming increasingly crowded, Dearing bellows out, “All mine sure, sure!” Sidestepping around Abby to give her room to move and hopping over the SPOT robot, Dearing drops low and nearly trips, palming the floor and pushing himself back up while maintaining his forward momentum like a linebacker about to charge at the blow of a whistle. His boots chew into the carpeted floor, weight sends him pitching to the side where his shoulder leaves a dent in the wall. He springs forward after that, lunging forward and grabbing Wong by the collar of his jacket.

Like a fulcrum, Dearing pivots on his heels and hurls Wong like a hammer throw on a downward arc to the ground winding up at Rue’s feet. In that same circular momentum, Dearing throws himself in the opposite direction, kicking off with one leg as he tackles Wong’s superhumanly strong bodyguard into the wall. Wood framing splinters, plaster cracks, and a mirror on the hallway wall falls off and shatters on the floor. Arms wrapped around her, Dearing winds back and smashes the faceplate of his riot helmet against her brow. The visor shatters — snaps off entirely — and Dearing pulls her back and throws her against the opposite wall, leaving another person-sized dent in the wall and knocking a sconce to the floor with a flicker-snap of the lightbulb burning out.

You’re under arrest,” Dearing exhales breathlessly, shoulders heaving and jaw working from side to side. He isn’t a cop these days, but it’s a reaffirming sentiment to make.

When Elisabeth comes to, Erin looks downright relieved, head turning to put the police lieutenant in better view. "This floor is clear. Dunsimi and Thatcher clearing upstairs now."

On the upper story of the home, Huruma's banshee fire swings between targets. The one closest to her lets out a tone of agony, tripping and coming to a knee when he's hit with the disorienting close-range fire from the Banshee. The man with the gun looks merely annoyed by it, finishing reloading his weapon. He looks vaguely satisfied as he lifts it back up, right as Kaylee crests the top of the stairs.

The thoughts cutting into his mind him as soon as he sees her face, his mind caught in a blue fog. It's one that Kaylee can manipulate with far more ease than anticipated, despite all the effort she's exerted already downstairs. His expression crumples when he sees her, intense guilt and regret forming as he wonders how he could have thought about hurting her. It was wrong. His eyes go back to Huruma. He's still deathly afraid of her. He should give up.

The gun in his hand slides between weak fingers, clattering to the floor along with the magazine he'd dropped moments before.

On the 12th floor, Erin shakes her head to steady herself, looking over at the bleeding, groaning caterer. "Lancaster is after a runner who went through a… hole in the wall, or something." she says, continuing on with the rest of the situation. "Dearing and Caliban are on their way up.

"They might smack face first into the runners."

Wong doesn't have enough time to complete a windup to disorient Abby. He doesn't even have enough time to lift his hands in surrender when he's drawn on. Instead, he cringes in discomfort when he's hit with the Banshee fire, his ears ringing. There's no time to feel anything aside from disorientation— then pain when he's thrown to the ground. There's no time at all to recall any negative emotion that might help bolster his guardian…

And with the way Dearing barrels through the hall, a bull in a china shop, there's no telling if it would have been enough. With an angry roar, she grabs onto the back of his armor with her bloodied hands as he tackles into her, trying to brace to stop him— for all the good it does her. She's swept back into the wall with only a brusque grunt, nostrils flaring in pain and rage both as she starts to grapple with him. Her knee kicks up from the ground, ramming into his groin in the moment it takes for him to headbutt the senses out of her.

She lands hard into the denting wall when he throws her, and lands almost as hard onto the floor when she falls. Her head lolls to the side in a daze, finding Dearing's bullish face looming over her. She doesn't have the wherewithal to stand and swing again, but she has enough energy to spit venomously at his feet. Wong similarly looks up at Rue, at the gun she holds, except he wears a very different expression.

Now he has time to raise his hands in surrender, and he does so slowly, fear plain in his eyes.


15 minutes later

Outside


They’ve had to call for more cars to transport the suspects in. All of them were apprehended.

It’s Erin who forcefully pats the back of the ambulance twice after closing the doors on the perp she’d shot, stoic as the vehicle begins to drive away. She watches for some time before looking away, shaking her head and rubbing along the side of her neck. “Hey Gordon, nice job,” an officer says as they pass her, clapping a hand on her shoulder. Her mood picks up for just a moment, cocksure grin fired in the officer’s direction, but it fades as he heads off. She looks across the street they’ve shut down while the roundup and sendoff of the Zeitgeist guardians is organized.

She can breathe easy knowing that the blue blood of an NYPD officer wasn’t spilled, between her and Kaylee’s actions to stop the shooter. Liz was already trying to shrug off what had happened to her inside, only grudgingly letting herself be looked over. But blue blood of a more traditional sort had still been endangered, despite all their best efforts. A second ambulance had pulled away a short time ago with one of Mayor Short’s biggest donors aboard— a man whose pacemaker had failed when the sonic shout through the floor had rattled the delicate electronic. As far as Erin's concerned, she's willing to chalk that one up to you can't win them all.

Inside the van she’d been monitoring from, Hart swings her legs out from under the computer bank and sighs while she looks out over the field. Two SPOTs stand on the ground outside the van, both of whom she considers thoughtfully while patting a beat on her leg. She doesn’t look at all displeased with how things went, and is ready finally to see how the others feel, too. She slides off her seat and hops to the ground.

Given the situation and the ensuing chaos, the results are a lot better than Huruma expected. She made sure to assist with the physical arresting as much as the rest; it helped mainly to clear a proper path for the medics. After this was a study of the floor with her mental touches, then above, below, skimming around on her way back to the entrance of the suite, then the entrance of the building itself.

Outside she stands apart from the others, helmet under one arm and features starkly lit by the contrasts of streetlamp, ambulance, police interceptors. The bones of her face sharpen the lines and angles of light. Huruma's eyes are elsewhere from watching the loading of cars and vans. Away from the rest, at least until she looks to the ground, brow furrowed and mouth tight. Something on her mind, but what and to what degree is unclear.

Instead of remaining where she is, Huruma soon moves off from her skulking and hones in on the van Hart was working from. Her striding approach may seem intimidating at first— though her stop makes it clear that she is merely focused.

"…Where is the third one?" Huruma plants a hand on one of the SPOTs' mechanical arms, glove thumping against the tool-end.

Cr-ka-pop.

Rue tilts her head to one side, then the other, working the kinks out of her neck. Her dress has been reassembled, though she stands barefoot on the pavement, her heels dangling from her first and third fingers.

Squinting, she counts the SPOTs. One, two… “Huh.” She didn’t remember one getting pulverised or anything, but that doesn’t mean anything. She shrugs it off. It isn’t her problem. Or Wolfhound’s (which would make it her problem by proxy).

She brushes at one bare shoulder with her free hand, watching the faint puffs of her breath in the air. “Dearing!” she calls over to the second lieutenant. “Give me your fuckin’ coat.”

Finally annoyed enough with the damn penlight that keeps flashing her in the eyes to push it away, Elisabeth gets to her feet. More slowly than would be normal, if only because she has a raging fucking headache and a rather large bump on the crown of her head. There's blood in her hair, from the scalp splitting, but the paramedic said she didn't need stitches. So she waves the medic off, her wrist wrapped where she blocked the blow and sprained it, and makes her way to the van herself. She catches Huruma's query and her blue eyes swivel toward the building, her brows pulling low. "Hart, if you don't find the third one, let me know. I'll have it tracked." Her good hand is holding an ice pack to the lump sometimes, but she observes, "I'd like your write-ups on my desk tomorrow. For tonight…" She grimaces. "For tonight, I'm gonna get a ride home and get my ass yelled at."

She is never going to hear the end about the fucking helmet.

No she is not.

“Thank you,” Kaylee murmurs to a medic who hands her some much needed aspirin and a bottle of water. Something to calm the mild migraine that came from excessive use of her ability.

As she pops the pills, she catches the sound of Liz’ voice. Another nod to the medic, Kaylee makes her way closer looking none too pleased. She doesn't stop; the telepath speaks up as she passes, “Don't worry, I asked Richard to get Alia on tracking the bots.” There is a special look for Liz, showing how upset her sister-in-law is ”He’ll be waiting with ice for your head.”

That’s right.

Kaylee snitched her out to her brother. Liz might be her boss, but she is family first. “Meet you at the car, sis,” she calls over her shoulder as she moves on with her own mission. Probably to just get a few moments of mental peace.

“No you won’t Liz. You’ll be going to the hospital to get checked out. Whether you like it or not. Then, once you’re cleared, Richard will be waiting at home with an ice pack. But you know the drill by now.” Abby gives the woman a pointed look. “Last that is needed is the news to be splashed about that one of SCOUT is dead from a brain bleed in their bed. It’s going to cost you two hours then you can probably go home and get spoiled by Richard. So. Come on, I’ll come with you”

Tongue against the side of his cheek, Dearing moves the ice pack away from his crotch long enough to belatedly flip Rue off. “It’s cold,” he explains in a frustrated and tense voice, which is the same as saying go get your own jacket.

As the others break away from the scene, letting non-SCOUT police officers, DEA, and other federal agents into the building Dearing lags behind. Eventually, he’s disappeared into the din of police and medical responders, maybe to get something a little stronger for the pain. It’s a reasonable assumption, given where and how hard he was struck.

But maybe not.

“Hey,” Dearing says in the alley between the crime scene and the next building over. His face is partially illuminated by the screen of a chunky, black burner phone, “it’s done. Zeitgeist is a bust,” he says quietly into the receiver, looking down toward one end of the alley where flashing blue and red lights illuminate the asphalt. “Yeah, I mean— No, it wasn’t. It was a telepath or something.” Dearing glances down to the opposite, darker end of the alley. “Arrested, yeah. Look, I don’t have a lot of time, I just wanted to check in.”

As Dearing exhales a sigh that comes as a cloud of steam from his mouth, he nods in response to something said on the other end of the phone. “Obviously,” he says with a roll of his eyes. “Yeah, just— of course, yeah. Just make sure to tell him I did as much as I could. I don’t think he’ll have to worry about the Ghost Shadows for much longer…”

“…I know how much Mister d’Sarthe hates them.”


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