Labyrinth I - The Minotaur

Participants:

cardinal_icon.gif colette_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif francois_icon.gif peyton2_icon.gif ghost_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Also featuring:
Assembly of NPCs and suddenly—

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Scene Title Labyrinth I - The Minotaur
Synopsis A team of independent operatives, including a couple erstwhile serial-killers and part-time terrorists, goes up against the Institute's fledgling psychics to rescue one of their own. Or is he? What's independence mean if you have one of your own, anyway? Who can you trust? Why are you here, if these people have fucked you so hard before? Are you hearing this? This is your inner-light speaking.
Date October 10, 2010

Braintree, Massachusetts — The Institute Psychic Training Facility


It's verging on closing hours at the Braintree facility of the Institute, 'classes' adjourned early in deference to the fact that it's a Sunday, trainees scattered with brusquely-delivered instructions not to get too drunk or to forget their five o' clock workouts in the coming morning. There's an 'or else' slapped on somewhere. It is hot over Manhattan, the latter end of a heatwave that had raged up to a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The pavement seems to have soaked it up, is radiating it out again in waves that make clothing suck on skin.

There had been a veritable stampede toward the MBTA's Green Line station, heading for the clubbing district, beering district, whatever you're into. There's a range of student ages, genders, ethnicities, a middle-aged woman jogging to catch up to a somewhat more gangly youth with black gloves pulled tight up his forearms. The jogging doesn't last, of course. The vast majority of individuals motivated enough to get through the Institute's screening process has no plans to die of heat exhaustion halfway to success.

Hopefully, the original truck driver won't die of dehydration in that alley they left him concussed in. That takes at least a few hours, right?'

As Deckard perambulates the halls toward the administrative building, the giant plastic cooler water bottles in neat rows before him jostle shoulders, and the uniform— slightly too wide at the shoulders— wads up wetly on the insides of his elbows. The bead of the radio-comm dot in his ear has remained (reassuringly— eerily—) quiet after Peyton's initial sound-check, and the shadow beneath his uncomfortably narrow shoes flows casually apace of him, its unnatural saturation concealed by a combination of the harsh afternoon sunshine and the fact that everybody's too busy squinting and shielding their eyes to check out his footwear. Or whatever difference of negative space he happens to be trampling them along.

"Hey, don't forget to get one of those up into Varlane's office, will you?" An abrupt voice. A girl whose ponytail is cinched practically on the top of her head flags at him with an appreciably toned and tanned arm as she lopes by. Doesn't smell like a psychic, and there's nothing in her smile to indicate there's anything more there than idiotically superficial, Crest commercial civility, but who knows? "He's been a niiiightmare."

A shade scruffier (and less lucid) than most current company recalls him being, Flint is the natural choice for replacement water bottle delivery man. Tall, middle-aged, lean, grizzled about the sideburns and showing the bleak tip of a tattoo at the scruff of his neck. Just above the back of his collar.

But perhaps most essentially, he looks resigned to his position.

And he has the requisite attention span, or lack thereof. A clamp-jawed look at Ponytail's recommendation later, he's past her and she's past him and he's slowing, slowing, stopped to crane his neck back around so that he can see if her aft is on par with the fore, eyes blanched a shrill shade of silver against the sunlight searing at everyone else's corneas.

Peyton sits in the back seat of the truck, her brown eyes appearing black with wide dilated pupils. She's devised a system for her colleagues to tap her arm twice if they need to speak to her, three times if they need her vision, since yelling at her won't break her from her clairvoyant trance now that she has audio. Though she wears the radio in her ear, it's a one-way communication, her informing what she sees, but not hearing anything in return unless told by that tactile interruption to listen.

She shifts perspectives from those within to those she saw Francois speak to, to make sure their paths are not colliding unexpectedly, that everyone is where they should be. Any divergence from what they expect, she will report.

A dozen yards from where Deckard is pushing the water cooler replacements, the young clairvoyant sees the laddered text of yet more paperwork laid out in front of Francois, and the shapes of the doctor's hands alternately splayed to hold the sheet down and gripping the pen to pen in initials on the half-dozen modifications to a contract. His proctor, barely visible out of the periphery of his vision, is a mastiff of a woman— broad-shouldered, tall, her hair in brown coils bundled close around her head and lipstick a shock of sanguinity to her mouth in a debatable effort to feminize herself. McAlister is stepping away from the table, her meaty arm swinging casual at her side, before it's hitched out of Peyton's secondhand sight.

The girl Deckard looks at isn't as turned off as one might expect. The flirtation comes easy, the corner of her mouth hiking upward, teeth whiter than the sands of Rio flashing, before something snags her attention in turn.

Teodoro doesn't even notice she's looking at him, insofar as that he's looking at her, but only in that rote, distracted puppy way that the Sicilian (occasionally problematically) conducts the vast majority of his relationships. Smile for her, and then passing by to catch up with the older man, his clipboard banging against his hip. His uniform has the same logo as Deckard's, but his is a two-piece, shirt and slacks, no suit jacket required because the guns are lashed to the underside of the push cart, more the office-worker's air, a pen clicking shut, open, shut under his thumb as he goes.

"Psychic training facility's the building behind this one," he says, peering at Deckard's long-jawed profile for a considerably longer few seconds than he spent on the girl. His foot lands on what might be Cardinal's shoulder, and his eyes cut down, stop just before slipping focus onto the shadowmorph proper. "And then the gym. Four coolers in each. We doing the admin hallway first?"

Having Deckard along is not entirely unlike trying to film a hotdog commercial in a hotdog factory with a live bear. Wacky hijinks may occur. Uniform sleeves rolled canvasy thick at his elbows, the deeper in he gets the more prone he seems to distraction.

Which is a long way to say that he smiles slightly back at the girl when she smiles at him, teeth whiter than the average crazy old delivery man's in turn. He hasn't pushed the cart any further than a few inches since he stopped, and there is a creaky tension bound through the gloves he has wrenched against the grip that insinuates some kind of mauling might be imminent if he's poked in the nose with a stick.

He doesn't get to play outside very often anymore.

He flinches when Teo's dumb face fills his field of vision in the stead of sassy ponytail, t and a, nose rankled and focus shuttered to readjust when he rolls a shoulder grudgingly back down into 'push' mode. Wheels squeak; bottles jostle. He resumes moving with his shadow. "Psychic training facility," he says, voice sanded and gravelled to a barely-audible mutter. "I didn't bring any foil."

Francois got to review his contract today as he signed his initials on repeat, line after edited line, until even McAlister took off out of boredom. Even if it didn't explicitly say don't break anyone out of the training~ facility, this charade is probably going to make keeping his job difficult. Just as well. He is tired. Running circles on a field, lifting things in repetitive motion, prove mostly to make him feel old.

When he's moving out of the admin building, it's with the pace of a man looking to escape the late Sunday. Deals a passing wave to the receptionist still trapped behind her desk, a smile that crinkles skin around his eyes as he steps out through the sliding doors and into sight of one water cooler guy and his shadow. Dressed in plain clothes, a linen jacket over a thinner grey T-shirt with sweat darkening around the neck hem, untucked over jeans. A duffle bag is slung over a shoulder, containing a change of clothes, maybe.
His trajectory for his car is interrupted by the time he spies Deckard, a glance over the cart being pushed and understanding in a smile dealt his way. "Those are for the other building," he says, in case the delivery man doesn't know, and then an offer, a tilt of his head; "Here. They'll want these in before the gym gets taken over." And he starts off for the facility after a step to see if he's taken up on of his offer, like he isn't sure he will be. Which he is.

By now, they've all learned how to lie, to some degree, with the smallest components of their daily conduct. How they walk, how they talk. In Cardinal's case, how they sort of float around wordlessly discorporealized, or in Peyton's, how to sit inobtrusively in a van. The sky beats down sledgehammer of stinging needle-toothed heat. "Yes, sir," Teodoro says to the Frenchman, hitching the clipboard close to his side. He salutes at the receptionist, smiles at her, mostly because he is trying not to do anything hysterical in response to Deckard's joke.

It's true. Thank God for diversions.

The mentalists' training facility-slash-gymasium looms up, forty feet tall and a long, sprawling L-shape, its walls faintly pitted to stave off the necessity of constant repaints. In this weather, however, the surface shines so white it seems to burn phosphorescent in the heat. Once they step inside, however, it's clear that the chosen shade of paint contributes to keeping the building substantially cooler than the rest. Long, forest-green linoleum floors smell crisply of ficuses and menthol. A ridiculously innocuous basketball court sprawls out to the left, tidy offices dead ahead, and the first cooler (however delightfully irrelevant) is enthroned neatly between elevator doors to the right.

It's fucking quiet in here. Not a mouse, as the rhyme goes, though distance-faded skeletons stilt ghostly in Deckard's preternatural sight. Teodoro reaches up to undo the top buttons of his shirt, gaps black kevlar into view— pre-emptive, but he can't help it. Not even his particular affinity for Mediterranean weather makes this situation particularly comfortable. "Can we start fucking unloading now, or what?" is cleverly vague, but probably partially (mostly) nerves talking, underlined by the brusque jerk of his chin down at the push-cart full of giant bottles. After all, there's no one to shoot at.

Or so is the case for three seconds. Four, if the twist and wind of cubicles back there is particularly labyrinthine. To Deckard, it's like watching a canopy full of birds respond to the reek of a rainstorm, the sudden jolt of alarm simultaneous through the two armored figures in the office, one on the floor above his head. Rickety leg-bones herding toward the green-floored lobby, massing the clomp of boots toward the dingle-jingle-blip of elevator music. Security's coming, treading ominously toward them through the dwindled hive of civilians that haven't changed their sluggish beat.

Someone set off an alarm. A little one.

Infiltration of a facility designed to train telepaths, psychometers and clairvoyants how best to counteract Evolved security threats is like trying to swim through a shark tank wearing a meat necklace. The Institute's psychic training facility may be relaxed with its physical security, but the mental capabilities by which their security force can detect, assess and neutralize threats is greater than most everyone else here has had to deal with before.

If Colette Nichols' time with the Ferrymen has taught her anything it is that patience is key to any infiltration. It was a lack of patience that got her captured by Bella Sheridan on trying to rescue Joseph Sumter, it's patience that has her waiting for everyone else before pursuing any further activity inside of the facility she has stowed away in.

Crouched down on the floor beside rows of metal-framed chairs in the lobby of the training facility, the young photokinetic remains unseen, much as the plan dictated. No heroics to try and get the elevator keys on her own, no thinking that pulling a fire alarm would be a great idea. This time, she's sticking to the plan, just like at the Staten Island Hospital. This may not be her first time performing one of these infiltrations, but she's still the least experienced person here.

Checking her digital watch under the concealment of refracted and bent light, Colette tries not to strain out a sigh as she shifts focus of her blinded, Mattise-style sight in this lightless invisibility towards the doors. Colors swirl and bleed, dappled together with muted shades of value.

What's taking so long? Rattles around inside of her head like a marble in a tin can, she is unaware of the danger creeping closer.

"Security incoming," Deckard mutters in the same quietly, politely frustrated tone of voice people use to talk to themselves about slow service at a bank making them run late or long lines at the bathroom. Having already lifted from the knees and not the back, he stands with a toddler-sized jug of water balanced in his arms and curls bony toes in shoes that don't fit anything like his boots.

Then, a stiff breath and, "Two of them," on a delay is either a gross miscalculation or a very carefully calculated lie, the hardened knit of his brow inscrutible while he stands with his water and glances tick. tick. tick. to the faces he's occupying this span of green tile with.

When the number gets closer to something more like ten and counting, he stiffens himself out with a harsh inhale and tips his bottle back onto the cart. "Je plaisante. We should probably run now."

As that warning's whispered from above, the living shadow of Richard Cardinal stills for a moment beneath Deckard's feet - stirring independent of the man's movements finally, although it's doubtful that anyone's actually looking for a moving shadow there.

Doubtful, but not impossible.

This is ridiculous, he thinks to himself in growing irritation, Who the hell came up with this plan anyway? It's almost as if they want us to get caught… and where the hell is Colette?

"Alarm got triggered," Peyton says softly, for the benefit of those with her in the truck. Blind to her surroundings in the truck, she suddenly stiffens when she hears Deckard's words that security is on its way. Her brows knit together into a deep and irritated looking scowl, though her eyes still hold that vague, far-off look.

"Security's coming," she murmurs, still sotto voce but there is an edge of something hard to her words. It's an expected obstacle — no time to panic. Her heart beats a little harder, however, not out of fear but out of anger. Her cheeks flush and she gives a bitter shake of her head, arms crossing her chest as she all but glares through Deckard's perspective.

"Oui."

Unfortunately, the way to run is not out. It could stand to be. But back the way they came is not the direction that Francois moves in — with the expectation that he must be leading some kind of charge, he wings for the right as opposed to the directly in front that catches Deckard's blazing attention. It's a fire exit, likely designed to allow for people to come up this way from the basements as opposed to flee back down, but they're just breaking all the rules!! Madness.

A black pistol is in his hand by the time he's shouldering through, a glance back for the next through to catch the door so as to better lead the way, or maybe for any invisible girls to duck through, if she hasn't already— goddamn left. It's probably not like Francois, the hesitation and sudden impression that they will all just bail on him, jaw set and clenched where he pauses for a scant second in the frame of the fire exit.

A flash of silver glitter beneath the clouds and outlines the areodynamic shape of a falcon's winking wings. Heat ripples through the air, distorting its silhouette, but even contorted by the shimmering undulations, there's nothing unusual about a bird of prey on the hunt. A breeze ruffles through its feathers and tempers the sun's heat licking off its back, black like the asphalt.

Inside the van, in the seat beside Peyton, Eileen Ruskin's body is completely still but for the rhythimic rise and fall of her chest that corresponds to her shallow breathing. The Englishwoman's voice manifests as a sibilant whisper somewhere in the back of the clairvoyant's skull. Telepath, she says. I don't know where, but I can feel the ability working, and not on me. Tell them there's someone else in their heads.

Teo acts swiftly enough. As swift as anybody who knows him could possibly expect, when he has that face on: grim line to his mouth, furrow to his brow. He stoops over to grab the edge of Deckard's trolley, and hauls it up, hard enough that the whole damn thing flips over. Giant bottles of water hit the floor in a whunk-thunk echoing slosh, and weapons blink up into view duct-taped carefully across the belly of the cart out of the way of tiny wheels and easy peripheral view. Two AR-15's, a pistol or two, clips wadded together in batches shiny as foil. They don't run steel carts through metal detectors.

One rifle is yanked loose with a sticky snapping noise, slung across Teo's shoulder in an easy flip of his shoulder. He pulls away a pistol after that, and then he's already moving toward the fire-escape with a stride that's single-minded, brusque, shoves him shoulder-first past the Frenchman who's just in the way, and perhaps that isn't exactly what anyone expected at all. It doesn't matter. He's already running long-legged down the stairs, his boots striking sharp, a hitchy, galloping cadence on his descent.

The door opens so near Colette she feels the air push against the fabric of her shirt. A two-hundred pound man with the bulk of kevlar underneath his buttondown shirt and heavy trousers hauls up a pistol that probably weighs as much as her head. He hauls up so close she can make out the lines in his sock, slams a shoulder into one pillar and points his weapon—

past Deckard, instead at the Frenchman standing in the doorway. "GET DOWN!" he hollers at the lankier figure. Behind the security officer, there's another figure lurching into view, identically dressed, speaking orders in a grizzly bear's register.

Teo acts swiftly enough. As swift as anybody who knows him could possibly expect, when he has that face on: grim line to his mouth, furrow to his brow. He stoops over to grab the edge of Deckard's trolley, and hauls it up, hard enough that the whole damn thing flips over. Giant bottles of water hit the floor in a whunk-thunk echoing slosh, and weapons blink up into view duct-taped carefully across the belly of the cart out of the way of tiny wheels and easy peripheral view. Two AR-15's, a pistol or two, clips wadded together in batches shiny as foil. They don't run steel carts through metal detectors.

One rifle is yanked loose with a sticky snapping noise, slung across Teo's shoulder in an easy flip of his shoulder. He pulls away a pistol after that, and then he's already moving toward the fire-escape with a stride that's single-minded, brusque, shoves him shoulder-first past the Frenchman who's just in the way, and perhaps that isn't exactly what anyone expected at all. It doesn't matter. He's already running long-legged down the stairs, his boots striking sharp, a hitchy, galloping cadence on his descent.

The door opens so near Colette she feels the air push against the fabric of her shirt. A two-hundred pound man with the bulk of kevlar underneath his buttondown shirt and heavy trousers hauls up a pistol that probably weighs as much as her head. He hauls up so close she can make out the lines in his sock, slams a shoulder into one pillar and points his weapon—

past the man with the lambent eyes, and at the Frenchman who is flashing by the doorway. "GET DOWN!" he hollers at — Deckard, of all people. Behind the security officer, there's another figure lurching into view, identically dressed, speaking orders in a grizzly bear's register.

Sucking in a sharp breath thorugh her nose, Colette stares wide-eyed at the security personnel flooding into the lobby. The tread of shoes on the tile and the noise of fabric brushing together brings Colette's back up against the wall, shoulders spreading apart and arms lifting as they tremble. Her pupils are already saucer wide int he pitch blackness of her invisible shroud, but the throb of her pulse that comes next is accompanied by a sort of cognitive dissonance brought on by telepathic intrusion into her own metafaculties.

As the sudden flush of adrenaline lights into Cole's brain, the surge of fear that normally comes with this heightened state of adrenal suffusion is abruptly transmuted to a horrible resentment of Deckard. He is fucking up somehow, unmistakably, and suddenly his long absence seems incredibly suspect. She's been trying to juggle the Ferry and Endgame— where the fuck has the old man been? Why isn't the security guy pointing a gun at him? Paranoia conspires with confusion and a sudden flowering of realization that Deckard looks healthier, now, heavier, and surely he is not all that he seems. God knows who he's really working for.

She has no difficulty holding onto the mission objective for now, but these ideas are insinuating themselves in her cognitions first, and working their way down to an emotional level. She realizes she should not and can not trust anybody who is in that building— everybody has their own agendas. Even if this does not necessarily make her more afraid than she was, it does make her extremely angry.

Anger translates into action the moment Colette realizes that a gun has been drawn on Francois. Reaching behind her back, Colette's index and middle finger hook in a hoop of wrapped metal clipped on to her belt, pulling it away, the hide-away knife is drawn out and swung out towards the knee of the security professional with a backhanded chopping motion. The tiny knife's two inch long blade penetrates between patella and ligaments, twists as Colette uses the leverage of the knife in place to wrench herself to her feet, and then charges across the tile floor, ripping the knife out as she runs and leaving a spatter of blood across the floor.

The young girl's booted feet squeak and slap as she runs, her panic inducing a tremor in the illusion of invisibility, a shimmering ripple of her motion as she charges for the stairs, trailing drip-drop-drop of blood in her wake in the hopes that the sudden shooting pain is enough to give Francois time to escape. To hell with Deckard.

Deckard does a pretty good job of looking dim-witted, possibly because he is naturally predisposed to look that way when his wiry hair is mussed and expression falls off his long face and leaves him at a morlock hunch, all wide eyes, sloped shoulders and scruff. Allowing for a beat of genuinely baffled ??? re: the ignorance of two brutish skeletons of a tinier third at their ankles, he — stands there until Colette is on the move, tension seized up through his shoulders.

Outward enough, perhaps, to convince him to do as he's told. He crouches uncertainly, awkwardly down behind the overturned cart. The gun side of it, actually, blunt nails still raking at duct tape a raspy breath later when he pokes his bristly head back up and helpfully tells the guard still on his feet that: "I think they're getting away."

It's entirely possible that the guard's only been warned about Francois, and thinks that Deckard is, in fact, just here to do some dumb technical job. Then again, it's also possible that he's the one that called security in the first place, and that's why they're aiming at him. Really, Cardinal can't be sure.
As things descend from bad towards worse, the shadow slips away - in pursuit of Francois and the stairs, as a matter of fact, a flicker of dark slithering across the floor in a dart of motion.

"That makes sense," Peyton breathes out, then for the others in the van and the comrades inside, she pushes the talk button on her radio comm. "«There's someone in your heads. Telepath in the vicinity. Don't trust your feelings. Focus on the mission. If it's like what I'm feeling, you're angry - don't trust it»" she says, the words angry, the emotion transferring a bit to whomever it is doing this — but suddenly she gasps, sitting upright. "They just shot at Francois — told Deckard to duck," she gasps to those in the van with her. "They either know Francois' a spy or the telepath's in the security team's head, too, I guess?"

"«Deckard, Colette, Card can't hear when he's in shadow, make sure he knows there's a telepath around,»" she snaps, a little irritated that shadowman can't hear her words, though she knows that's not really her thinking, but the telepath's insidious insinuations. "Eileen, can … is there a way to block it? Should we like — mentally sing the Star Spangled Banner or something?"

Francois hisses a curse as he crashes down the stairs in a way where falling is only just losing out to balance and running, Peyton's voice in his ear from where he'd slipped the device inside it on the walk from admin to training facility, but only barely comprehending what it is she's saying. The urge to go on is more or less fueled by the urge to not get shot in the back, anxiety and anger both winding tight through his chest as he finds himself in the hallway below, a steely glance at Teo's back.

He presses his palm against the ear with the comms piece, blinks once. "Peyton says there's a telepath in our heads. Try to keep focused— Richard, which way?" Assuming recon went fine — last he'd talked to the man had been before he'd slipped back into his role for the day, and it's been long hours of not knowing.
Like the girl in his ear says — he's angry, manifests now as practically ignoring Sicily down here save for one knifeish glance and; "Watch the stairwell."

Stay alert, is Eileen's recommendation. Tell them to keep moving. That you're aware of what's happening gives you an edge. Don't trust your instincts. At the same time, the falcon is wheeling around the other side of the building, its dark eyes combing the ground below in search of the culprit as though she might be able to identify him — or her — by sight alone.

Her body does not stir in the seat beside Peyton's; although she can vaguely hear her voice filtered through human ears, distant and vestigial, she cannot see what's happening inside the vehicle or feel the other woman jerk upright. Niki and Monica will provide them with cover as soon as they're able. I'll do all I can from the air.

"How would she know…" A sullen whisper from shadow, a questioning of the clairvoyant that's certainly out of character for Cardinal - but then, they're all acting a little off at the moment. There's a silent moment, and then Cardinal's whispers stir in the dark, "…to the right. Two cells down and three. I don't know which is which… do we really need both…?"

Nobody expects an invisible air knife to go in and rip one's kneecap off. While anybody trained by the Institute to maintain order among the trainees' equivalent of frathouses necessarily expects to eventually have to deal with more than your average tactical assault unit, but what the fuck was that? The leading security goon lets out a howl that doesn't seem human, too much shock in it, crumples like a piece of paper with his heavily-gloved hands clapping down around his knee. The pistol goes off an instant before it clatters to the floor, bores a hole in the wall five or six feet above Deckard's head.

Not close enough that the hapless water cooler man has to worry about his hearing going funny. The man's cohort is shouting, pulling out a pistol and aiming steadily to follow the telltale drip-pat-pat of blood trailing after Colette's retreat, forefinger hauling back on trigger once, twice, squeezing shots off even as he comes tearing after her in a dead sprint. He passes by Deckard's make-pretend stupefied scarecrow's post in a blithe rush of adrenaline and, fatefully, so does the third man to abruptly slams in through the elevator door. "Sir, sir— I need you to move aside, please wait outside—" a wide hand claps heavy against Deckard's lanky shoulder, a push aiming the bony stack of him toward the doors, even as he turns toward the fire escape.

It's like a bell in there. Acoustics bouncing Institute-lingo and the screechy whap-swing of doors, the patter of Colette's invisible feet, and then the ricochet of bullets snaking at her slender back. For him, there's no unseen blade, no razor-edged intimacy stolen out of the illusory quiet. When the psychic taser crashes into his cerebral cortex and sends him piledrivering head over heels down the stairs, it comes from nothing more than a big blue eye peeking out of the door at the bottom of the stairs. And if two hundred and fifty pounds of goon accidentally land on Colette, well.

Teo has more important problems. Ghost has more important problems. He has hung a sharp halt inside the doors, and his lips are contorted back into an uncharacteristic sneer, affronted like a cat. Turning away from the window, he glares at Francois but, inconveniently, sheer pragmatism nails his shoes to the floor. He doesn't have Cardinal clinging and whispering the vagaries of the basement's layout to him. He can't lone-wolf it. The hallway spans out sterile and white, with interchangeably numbered doors: he doesn't know where to go. That doesn't stop him from snarling when the shadowmorph's voice crackles up like burning. "Why the fuck are you even here?"

A question that resonates among all of them, more, with every passing second.

However, for one of the birds trailing elegant pinions in the sky, the waves of telepathy are as unmistakable as the rising convection currents that carry it through the air. Eileen can taste it. The sour notes jarring through her cohorts, and the silkier symphony that dims the helpless shrieks of the crippled man in the lobby, that keep the startled security personnel focused. There. The bulk of a brick shithouse of a woman inside the administrative building's sealed window, her dark eyes lancing the gymnasium, a vein standing out in her heavy brow.

Knocked headfirst down the stairs, Colette becomes visible in the way a high-diver penetrates the surface of a pool. She explodes into view, with bubbles of color streaming off of her body that peels into view in the same way a diver viewed underwater looks to tear through the surface. The enormous body of the brain-shanked security guard comes tumbling down after like some sort of comical Jack and Jill homage.

When Colette hits the ground with her shoulder, she rolls onto her back just in time to see the black-clad security guard freefalling down the full flight of stairs, arms and body limp, like a human missile drifting in mid-air. Colette's legs kick backwards, feet and knees swinging up over her head as she rolls backwards across her shoulder, allowing the enormous guard to crash just a hair's bredth away from her at the base of the steps.

Colette continues that roll, tumbling until she's back up against the base of the stairwell, the white skin of her patched and sewn leather jacket wrinkled, creased and hanging crookedly on her frame over the matte black of the kevlar vest velcroed into place beneath. Patting herself down as she sits there, feeling for blood or sharp pain, Colette's hands tremble and her eyes go wide. Sucking in a sharp breath, the young girl looks up to Teodoro's narrow silhouette viewed askance through the partly open door. "Don't yell at him! Deckard's the one who's— " Colette clamps down on the vitriol burning at the back of her throat with every word, that tiny little hideaway knife shining red at one of her hands.

When she pushes up to her feet, the top part of her body is already fading away, rippling and distorting as she peels back like acrylic paint dissolved by a thinner off of a canvas. Boots squeak wetly on the floor, leave a couple corners of bloodied footprints before she's sidling past Teo and then sidestepping to stand in the corner of the downstairs hallway.

"Which— " she lifts a hand up to her ear to readjust her earbud, voice disembodied as she speaks to the group downstairs. "Which way?" She's sincerely hoping the answer isn't start picking doors.

"Goddamnit," Peyton snaps inside the van as she sees and hears those inside the building snarling at one another as things start to unravel — she can't hear Monica or Niki, but they're probably bitching at one another as well, for all she knows, and she decides she really doesn't care — after all, how much time at every meeting can Endgame devote to their dysfunctional clan? she thinks to herself, but she has enough presence of mind, irritated and cynical as her thoughts are, to remind the team to get to work.

"«Eileen says keep moving. The fact we know they're in our heads is an edge. Stay alert. Don't trust your instincts — don't hurt one another. Monica and Niki will cover you as soon as they can. Keep moving.»" Not precisely part of Eileen's advice, she adds, "«Don't make this a waste of time, all right? It's not like I have a lot of it.»"

"Be quiet and keep watch," Francois snaps in Ghost's direction with more snarl than strictly necessary, gun in his hand twitching like he might gesture with it, but common sense manages to strangle immature compulsion, before he glances towards where Colette is swiftly fading, where the shadow tracks down the hallway, and renewed anger at the ridiculous situation of two doors to pick apart for one man rises bitterly in his throat. It isn't very difficult, to remember the rainy rooftop, the stink of gore and the rising fire that had been the first raid to get back one of them.

Fight later, is what he tries to focus on, moving down the featureless hallway. Yell at him later. There's a telepath pulling some strings, he knows, but it's not like it isn't correct. Teo did sleep with Delilah, did break himself in two like a starfish against everything Francois wanted, did

The chord of his keycard zwizzes out from its wheel as he swipes it through the lock with— no outcome whatsoever. Worth a shot. Francois instead takes a step back, aims carefully, and fires twice until a nudge of his foot has the door skittering open. "Check in there," he tells Colette, moving for the next door without actually peering in. "Richard, go with her." The faster they can confirm that they can leave, the better. "Richard, go with her." Muzzle fire and gunshots flare out again as he treats the second door as indicated by shadow the same.

Doesn't think, about Deckard's conspicuous quiet upstairs. Or the fact he left Sicily alone to fend off any attackers.

A pane of glass stands between the falcon and the woman on the other side, and although birds belong outdoors — it's why Eileen did not volunteer herself to be a part of the extraction team — there are exceptions to every rule. This is one of them, much as she wishes it wasn't.

The falcon's reflection hops from window to window as it swings past the administrative building on the first pass before swinging back around for a second. Its eyes catch sight of a door on the ground floor, left open to get some air circulating downstairs with the help of a slow-buzzing fan and, with a subtle shift of its wings, abruptly lowers its altitude and like a guided missile blasts through the yawning frame.

"I'm starting to wonder that myself, parasite…" There was a time, after all, that Cardinal lay dying because of Ghost… and watched him simply walk away. Although it's been a long time since he'd reacted as if it mattered, that old enmity stirs in suspicion within the shadow. He'd betrayed them once, might again. Why is Richard here helping him?

At the moment, he couldn't really tell you. But he's here, so he might as well, ungrateful as his 'comrades' are… his anger and suspicion stirring beneath the surface like a thick stew being mixed by another's spoon.

The living darkness flows in an obvious river of black towards one of the rooms he'd pointed out, leading the way for Colette like a line painted on the floor.

The Sicilian's brows shoot upward, incredulous, puts the Ghost's borrowed frinkle-face plainly into the expression: the Hell did you say to me, old man? but just as he opens his mouth to translate his razor-edged rhetoric into words aloud, he's interrupted by the reverberating KHOOM of firearm discharge in the trapped space. Teo whips his head around again, but he thinks better than to look through the tiny emergency door's window with his eyes. Drops into a crouch, ducks his head down below the handle and disfocus smoothes his features in a near facsimile of calm.

"Deckard shot some bad guys in the head," is the first thing he says, pale eyes blinking back to clarity. Reassuring. Less so: "There are a lot fucking more than two." This, mind you, isn't strictly speaking true. There were a lot more than two, but there's more rid running viscous down the stairs than there was ten seconds ago, gray matter in Pollock's chunky hand scudded down the wall. Three, now, calibrating rather belatedly to friendly fire.

Sparks jump out of the keypad by Francois' side. There's a reek of scorched rubber, exposed copper entrails, before the scent of antiseptic mingled with the organic sweat of the underfed and too long-kept force strange and unwelcome notes into the bouquet that meets the Frenchman's nose. His lover, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, is sitting on the bed with a half-dozen electrode smudges red down his face, an EEG to his left, curiously at odds with his casual outfit's choice of plain T-shirt and Khakis. Peers up at him with a slightly drunken, owlish surprise, a queasy vagueness to his recognition.

It's fortunate Colette and Cardinal had an example to follow— assuming they're planning to follow. The keypad beside the next door over, the one that presumably holds the ghost's body, abruptly keens red and there's a whiny chuff of hydraulics, a somewhat more ruthless locking mechanism ramming into place. And right about then, the klaxons start to wail, loud enough to press like the dull, cold edge of a butterknife into their ears, disturb the matrix of Cardinal's flowing form with auditory kinesis.

In the administrative building, too. A woman shrieks in Eileen's face and drops a mug of stagnant coffee, tosses up paper like confetti. "«The Braintree Training Facility is under attack. Code red. Please remain calm.»" McAlister's husky, practically tenor register doesn't allow even the faintest edge of distraction to edge in. "«Security personnel, move toward the gymnasium basement. Civilians, do not attempt to escape. I repeat, do not attempt to escape. Stay close to the ground and do not engage the hostiles.

"«Do not engage the hostiles.»"

"On it," Colette replies with as much confidence as she can muster, her boots scuffing on the tile floor as she straightens herself out and begins following the river of shadow slithering towards the door. "Richard," is whispered as she walks, "you look like an ink blot test." A moment later, the shadow of Richard Cardinal simply ceases from view, fading away like a black smudge on a canvas painted away into the background by a skilled artist's hand.

For a creature of living darkness, being deprived of visible light is no impediment to Cardinal. Whatever eldritch means by which he perceives the world, it is neither through eyes nor light. If nothing else, turning the world to complete shadow around Richard may improve his vision quality, but the true inner workings of his — as Liette called it — obtenebrative transsubstantiation is known only to him, and even then perhaps not in excruciating detail. Some things just work, and the world needn't know why or how.

She hesitates on approaching the door though, unseen as she is, lifting up a hand to her head and wincing, teeth gnashing together as her invisibility turns to a distorted and partly visible shimmer int he air.

Moved away from the rest of the team, the imparted sense of distrust wedged into Colette's mind expands toward resentment too. Endgame suddenly seems like a treacherous group that keeps far too many secrets from her to be risking her life for, and they, like the ghost, are mixed up in all this time-travel weirdness that nearly got her killed recently.

It's a mixture of insulting and merely ungrateful, all given the pounding urgency of realizing— no matter what side Deckard is on— did he just switch?— they're far too outnumbered. Fear starts to leak in now, and it's getting harder and harder to think clearly.

Staggering back, Colette hesitates at the door, clutching her head, trying to sort out her thoughts. On the one hand, there is the devotion to trying to save Teodoro on the other side of that door, trying to rescue the person who got her into the Ferrymen. There's Peyton's warnings, not to trust her instincts, but Colette is by nature an instinctual being, someone who operates solely on the instinctual level most of the time.

The disonnance is crippling.

At Francois' words, Peyton's cheeks flare red with anger, her eyes hardening so she sees the world from Francois' eyes from a pinched squint, peripherals narrowing as her heart begins to hammer — though she can't hear it. All she can hear are those nauseatingly loud klaxons, pounding into her skull, and all she can feel is the swelling resentment. Cardinal and Colette once more to the rescue — Colette's just a teenager, and they trust her more than Peyton, and Cardinal — Cardinal doesn't even realize she's only here for him.

She can't decide whose vision to share, what words to say into the radio — they can all hear one another, after all, right? They don't need her — they probably only put her here in the van to appease her, to make her feel important, while they all share the glory of the rescue, laughing at her for thinking she's a part of something important.

"«Is that him? Is that the right one? Get him and get the fuck out of there, already — Monica, Niki, head's up, I think it might be almost time»" she hisses into the headset, then rakes a hand through her hair, eyes stinging with angry tears, Francois' world blurring. "Nichols, tell Cardinal not to fucking die, all right? I'm not doing the mourning thing again," she says, her words cruel with bitterness.

The soles of Francois' shoes squeak and complain as he rushes into the room, incredibly different to choking hope and relief that he'd known the first time this had happened. Acrid resentment makes breathing high and shallow, panic registering through nerve endings and too many churning notions to really want to fling his arms around the man blinking over at him. That Teo isn't strapped down, caged in some manner beyond a mere locked door—

"It's time," is not barked at Teo, necessary, who is maybe only cued into the fact he's not being talked to when Francois' hand lifts to activate his own ability to talk through the comms system. "Tell them to go, now." His hand is dropping away, but Peyton's own ability, now with sound!! might be able to catch the rapid French, "«Last time I let children take my life into their hands— »"

Teo certainly can. An arm is taken by Francois, not so gentle, as he unhooks him from IV wires. "Make yourself useful and help me," is muttered, voice at a quaver. Unable to look him in the eyes. His fingers tremble as he works, from suppressed rage and panic both. "Unless I am intruding on your fucking beauty sleep."

There are two flightpaths that Eileen can take. The first is the most direct and carries her straight over the tops of the cubicles. The second brings her around them and should, notwithstanding spilt coffee and fluttering paper, allow her to preserve the element of surprise.

She chooses the longer way, momentarily alighting on the back of a vacant chair to survey the obstacle course ahead of her, though she does not linger there long. Dropped cups of coffee, provided they don't break, can be picked back up again and hurled. So can staplers and keyboards.

A powerful thrust carries the falcon from the chair to the edge of an adjacent desk, which it kicks off again with its claws, hurling its small body across the aisle between cubicles. Groping talons and thashing wings don't portray Eileen in a very graceful light, but she lacks the space to make proper use of the body she's in and trades agility for purposeful determination.

It's from atop the closest cubicle that she launches herself at McAlister's face, a fraction of warning in the shrill, warbling battlecry that pierces the air before sickle claws do the same to skin.

The aptly-described Rorschach-blot that is Richard Cardinal flows up the side of the wall across from the door as if he were getting ready to step out of the shadows… but he doesn't, just yet, lingering there for a long and silent moment despite the fact that Colette clearly needs his help here. He's safe like this, after all… what the hell is their escape plan, anyway? Run through a gauntlet of armed men?

No. Easier to stay like this, to run and hide, evade and survive like he always doe— did. Did. He vaguely remembers something about a telepath, about not trusting his instincts. He has to act, to keep moving—

Someone needs to protect the kids anyway. God. They're panicking, not moving fast enough. Why'd he even agree to let them come… he's going to get them killed, like he got John killed, like Sonny, like Angel…

At last he bulls through his own instincts, and out of the shadow, tearing forth into three dimensions after far too long flickering silent on the wall. "Disable the keypad," he says tersely, "I'll take care've the door." He braces himself, ready to slam himself into the hinge side of the door once - if - Colette follows his instructions. "Move damn it! Faster!"

Outside, the ghost's voice couldn't sound tighter if he had plastic around his throat. "More people coming at us from the other building. Deckard's holding the door, but we need to fuck off out of here really fucking soon. Where— where the fuck is my b—" Surprise cuts him off when he sees something through someone-else's eyes. A glance over his shoulder to verify, that Cardinal is no longer in shadow-form. Relief wars with more nerves than there had been: strange, what realizing people aren't going to utterly fucking let you down will do for one's sense of pessimism. If you aren't worrying about one thing, you're worrying about another.

Still, he turns around again. Jolts the door three inches, and there's a blam-screech of an assault rifle round ricocheting off the slick metal of the railing, but he ignores it, looses off a handful of rounds with the AR-15 that are so loud in the acoustics of the fire stairs that every single one of them can hear it through the klaxons. Another body hitting the steps, but there are more boots clanging down after it, and his next shots miss, skewed by the distraction of psychic onslaught. "Incoming," he hisses, crouching back in the hall. "Hurry the fuck up!"

The door implodes under the combination of Colette's frenetic pop-pop-crackof autofire and Cardinal's burlier shoulder. Metal squeals, snaps like the sound of a flour sifter bursting in a particularly talentless cook's hands. The long, prone case inside looks some combination of a cooler, tanning bed, and a coffin; strange to see Teodoro's body open-eyed and prone within its open surface when he was yelling at them just outside, though this one is older, lines around his eyes that not even the flattering glow of fuck-off sci-fi equipment can efface. Electrodes and IVs tendril his arms.

Inside the interrogation room— prison— whatever this plain little dorm the other other Teo has been languishing in, the Sicilian-shaped creature there is helping Francois sluggishly, frowning at him. "I may need you to pinch me," he says, in a tone of voice that's difficult to pinpoint, exactly, but not unlikely to contribute to the ambient levels of aggravation and interpersonal ugliness orchestral in the dynamics of the rescue crew. When he does move to help, however, there's a push of adrenaline to help, clarity that quickens his hands, burns at the fog of misery, ennui, and drug effects, and—

— brings it into high-definition when he lifts his eyes to see a Japanese man with an inconceivable sword behind Francois, black leather flaring under the gust of kinesis otherwise unfelt and unseen. "Francois!", the whining throb of alarms, and the whites of Teo's eyes come through distorted as the world around the Frenchman begins to grind toward something eerily like an ice-lock. The gifts of basilisks and Medusa have nothing on this.

A snake nest of IV tube and electrode wire falls from Francois' hand and with jerky, puppet-string energy, the gun is pointed at the door, which remains empty and broken with smoke from the damaged locking mechanism hanging frozen in the air, and then a full-bodied swivel around towards Hiro Nakamura when he sees the dark shape of the man in his periphery. Silence whines around them, a surreal kind of klaxon ringing shrill in his ears, and Francois' breathing suddenly sounds loud enough for him to make an effort to slow down.


Time Has Stopped


Sneaky hate spiral is stalling out, at least, tension loosening. It's why Francois' first thought is gratitude. It's the sword and some iota of common sense that keeps his gun level at Hiro's chest. There is silence and tension, feeling himself calm, paranoia keeling over in favour of a more muted mistrust and suspicion. He takes a step back.

In the middle of battle or raid or— dying— the question, "What do you want?" is ludicrous. Faced with all the time in the world, suddenly, it's all Francois can think of to say.

"To make things right," Nakamura answers. The recognition is mutual, despite that there's something— there's something off about this, the temperature of dark eyes that level on the Frenchman's face, the way he holds his sword even though the weapon remains over his back, undrawn. There is a timeline, out there, where Hiro Nakamura is a surprisingly understated, nebbish master of space and time, but that isn't this one. This one isn't even the same creature that has prowled along the margins and turning points of Francois' life so far, salvaged butterflies in cupped hands and predated on the forces of evil with a thirsty katana.

But they do look alike. Sound alike. And have a vested interest in those who have tricked their lives out of their fates. Abruptly, the gun in the Frenchman's asymmetrical hands ceases to move with the minute tremors and tensions of his finger-bones and wrist sinews. Remains lodged in thin air, immobile enough that he could probably do a chin-up from it.

Abruptly, Teo is staring at nothing but the thin air past Francois' shoulder, and in Francois' peripheral, the edge of Colette's wispy frame is locked in space, one foot in the air, like the figurine on a music box. "It's time to go home. I do not want to fight with you: you are an honorable man for good reasons with all that you have done, but this life is not for you. Come—" he puts out one gloved hand and glides an agile foot forward, "and have your reward."

Nn. Francois' arm locks up like he'd received an electrical shock as opposed to the eerie feeling of the gun freezing in the air. A squeeze of the trigger— sorry Hiro— does nothing, and so he lets go, veers left and away from that outstretched hand. Towards the door, even, for all that his compulsion to leave Teo behind because it serves him right has vanished with the wail of klaxons. "Non, you— you are too late. Home is here." Maybe not here. Not even in Massachusetts. But they aren't really talking geography, the horizontal mappings of the space-time continuum.

A look back towards frozen Teo, then towards Hiro who has a different vibe when he changes his fucking mind, and Francois isn't sure how to reckon with it. Or where to run. Maybe he has time enough to—
— take the second pistol out from its holster beneath the flap of his jacket, not think about what happens to frozen time should the time-freezer die, and pull the trigger aimed somewhere for Hiro's torso. He can be an honourable man, sometimes. On paper. During a coherent timestream. (Not on a horse.)

The round connects with armor and makes a hole in the intervening layer of leather. If Hiro is particularly upset about his Batman costume having been perforated, he doesn't show it, but then: he doesn't show much of a response to the round's connection, either— a jolt of breath, round shoulders shuddering once, but his boots were already braced. Stoic like someone cut out that part of him a long time ago, and a few other things besides.

You can't measure time here, or Francois would have said it was half a second, less, too little, when he blinked to the feel of cold steel pricking horizontal on his throat, a whuff of air like laughter, dim acknowledgment of his efforts. "Now you may say you tried." In Hiro's voice, even this one, that sounds like a favor, however self-righteous the act of dispensation was. On the other hand, "They'll be fine," doesn't sound like a promise, or not to the ringing of adrenaline in Francois' ears.

Colette's foot begins to fall through empty air, and a groaning note of klaxons mingles with the molasses ripple of a rifle discharge completing its echo through the air.


Time Goes


Shoulders, spine and scapulae rolled forward to exchange delivery uniform for sinew, scars and the sooty sketch of whatever tattoos he's accumulated over the last four decades or so, Deckard reanimates with a stiff jerk of straw-colored canvas past sore knees and snaps the entire uniform over the fire stair railing behind him. Klaxons howl in his ears. He wasn't wearing a vest.

Boxer-briefs, socks and a serious time constraint combined force him short of his ultimate (sudden, spontaneous) goal of complete nakedness on the battlefield. Because hey — he's finally killed someone who looks to be about his size.

Ribs flexed and splayed like overgrown gills at every breath, he proves to be as efficient at looting a twitchy corpse as he is a still one. Massive Internal Bleeding McGee is flipped and shucked like a slippery ear of corn, trousers, vest, blood-soaked shirt and boots all exchanged in the lobby with room for occasional itchy scuffs at the base of his nose.

If anyone was close enough to see that his chickenscratched knuckles come away with a few flecks of fine white powder all sticky and damp with sweat… they could probably find more important things to be surprised by.

Spare gun fumbled up off the wet floor on rickety impulse, he finally thinks to shoot the poor asshole still wallowing around somewhere off to the side (distantly audible as an isolated 9mm pop) where Colette made a mess of his knee.

At a loss as to what to do with the remaining lull and the dead body lying nearby in his underwear, Flint wastes an uncertain beat deciding to overturn the already-overturned bottle cart onto him. Fixd.

When the door swings inward and then off its broken hinge to crash against the wall and thenc latter to the floor, it upends a surgical tray and bedman, noisily rattling to the floor together along with a scattering of capped syringes that roll wildly like a box of dumped out pencils in every direction.

Skidding through the door as a vaguely tangible ripple, Colette comes to a halt inside, still concealing Richard from sight in as much Predator mode as her scattered focus can allow. "Where— " it's like some stupid fucking Las Vegas magic show, they put a Frenchman in a box and he turned Sicillian.

"Where's Francois!?" Colette shouts, her voice tinny over the comms for those not directly in her path of confusion. Invisibility peels away from both she and Cardinal, revealing the MP5 she has tightly gripped in one hand, the small machine-pistol a far better suit for someone of her delicate frame than anything else. That tiny hide-away knife is still looped around her index and middle finger, pointing away sharply on her other hand.

"Francois!?" Colette wheels around, turning towards the door to put her back to Teodoro. "Get him out've here!" Because Colette assumes that Cardinal's ability works like squidink.

"«Go, go, go! Diversion team!»" Peyton shouts — minutes later, perhaps to Francois, but only seconds in her chronology, unaware of its interrupted stream. In French, she adds, "«Je ne suis pas un enfant foutu»" to Francois' hissy fitting remarks — I'm not a fucking kid. Likely, the seeming exchange of Fran├žais to the mix will only add to the feelings of resentment and paranoia amongst the ranks.

A second later, now that she's gotten off her retort, she blinks — Francois is not in the same position as just a second prior — the effect like dancers in a club with a strobe light. "«What the — Why the fuck is Hiro there? Tell him to take his cranes and stuff—»" Peyton swallows and bites off the words, realizing that diverting the infiltrating team's attention to her harangue about certain temporal manipulators and her issues with him is not the diversion the plan calls for.

Shutting up, she wraps her arms around herself to fume in silence.

It's a whole other kind of slow-motion lapsing over the lobby-floor office of the administrative building. McAlister stands with one fist on her hip, sidearm still holstered, and the other gripping the wireless unit to her ear, her oxen jaws packing disciplined furor into the open lines. The disturbance from behind her, she'd attributed— mostly— to civilians who can't hold their shit together under stress. It isn't until the beat of soft-pinioned wings breathes in that she realizes something worse amiss is near. Starts to turn, her plucked brow curlicued in consternation. "«I repeat,»" she starts to say.

The falcon collides with McAlister's face. It's not quite the same as snatching a pigeon out of the air and pinwheeling halfway down to earth. For the thing, the moment of impact doesn't break her target's neck. For another, she's many, many times her size. Wings batter her ears and talons hook into the doughy skin of her throat for purchase and perhaps in the vain hope of opening up an artery.

The falcon's beak aims for the woman's eyes, and even Eileen has no compunctions about that, but whether or not she succeeds in wresting one from its socket, she does not remain attached for very long, lest large hands find her and twist her body's neck from its head. The falcon falls back, hits the office floor, the drop cushioned by its wings.

Feet are just as dangerous as hands, however, and she wastes no time fluttering under the nearest desk.

The confusion of men asian and french who may - or may not - belong here in this place and time is missed entirely by Cardinal for the moment, his thoughts too much awhirl with self-loating and suspicion to pay attention to the situation around him with his usual acuity.

"Probably making out with his boyfriend," he mutters curtly to the words spoken by Colette, walking briskly past her and ignoring the bruise on his shoulder - as the invisibility peels away, he slides his hand over the side of the tube, turning a bit to bark back, "Ghost! We've got your fucking body, come get it, because I'm sure as hell not carrying the damn thing!"

No orders to contradict that. The ghost stops staring at what appears to be Deckard getting naked, and his eyes cut back, down the hall. "«Deckard, there are dicks in the stairs and they might come your way. Find cover.»" With that, Teo is off like a freight train to find Cardinal and Colette, skidding in to haul at the body in its absurd— coffin-like— thing. IVs snap, spill inscrutable fluid, wet the floor enough that frinkle's frinkle-sized Boots leave dull dirty-dishwater marks on the floor. The body ragdolls in his arms, eyes hooding as if from gravity. His mouth flattens, clearly aggravated; perhaps even afraid. Hesitating. He has never forgotten the law of true death.

The next moment, though, the ghost makes the jump. And there's a totter in the version of himself that he'd just abandoned, and both eerily-alike bodies shock visibly. The ghost's toes slide messy on the floor, and the baby version clears his throat, eyelids squeezing shut. "What do you mean where's Francois? Hiro? What the shi—"

"He fucking disappeared." The hybrid's suddenly staggering out into the hall, carrying a pistol still warm from the grasp of Francois' hand. He's a mess, dishevelled, wearing civilian clothes in some hilarious assertion of himself on the continuum right between baby-Teo's tactical armor and Ghost's unshod medical smock. He's even wearing flip-flops. "Come on. We'll get him back later. Where—"

The entire compound hears it, the instant the falcon's bill rips a gelatinous burst out of the membrane of the McAlister's eye. She'd had her thumb on the comm-unit, after all. "AAAAAUUUuuuuUGH!" a distended syllable, howl, even as huge hands are whapping at empty air, and the electronic unit drops out of her hand, clatter-bounce to fall on the floor a foot away from Eileen's retracting wings. The telepathic net of effect shreds like someone had just put a school of three-dimensional school of pirhanas through it.

And it's about then that sniper rounds finish weaving a silky arc up the asphalt on the street outside, shatter the administrative building's front windows inward. Coffee runners and Xerox boys who'd already been crouching at their desks flatten out on the floor, screaming thinly under the droning vowels of the klaxons. The cacophony of cars wrecking one into the next like dominoes squeals out through the campus' open air, and the boots whapping along behind Deckard begin to reroute, jostling, like rained-out bees.

Dicks? Literal ones?

Crouched over another dead or dying body in prying aye-aye search after a box of cigarettes in an inconspicuous pocket, Deckard hesitates at the sound of his name again. He seems to have set his gun down somewhere, surreally, and only realizes as much when he looks over his shoulder to see if it's at his feet. It isn't.

Resigned to occupy his hands with prying at an extra one on the guard instead, he is already lying long and pretend-dead on his side in a kind of unburied mass grave watching Head Trauma Ted's eyelids flutter when the glass shatters. Goodness.

With the Teo they were here to rescue ambulatory, Colette's wide-eyed stare is locked on the ACTS case, a matte gray-black piece of frightening technology, dangling hoses like some sort of mechanical womb that the clone— clone!— seems to have lumbered out of like a nightmarish Science-Fiction piece.

Tucking her gun in the back of her pants, Colette takes out her cell phone from her pocket right as the psychic scream hits her, and she staggers to the side, dropping the phone and wrenching her head around, trying to find the source of the noise, even as blossoming motes of light spot confusedly around her, almost like visualizations of spots in front of her eyes.

She scrambles down to her knees, grabs the phone and levels it up at the ACTS case, snaps a shot with an audible ker-snikt, then begins snapping shots all around the laboratory, flipping the phone closed and sliding it into her pocket before withdrawing her MP5 again, boosting up to her feet and charging towards the door.

"Which— how— which way do we go?" Colette wheels around once she's out into the hall, looking back into the lab room and angling her gun down the hallway opposite of the way they'd come in, her body rippling and distorting before she's once more painted into the background, boots clunking on the floor as she backpedals.

Under the desk, the falcon's focus ticks between McAlister's clomping feet, the discarded comm-unit and the carpet around her transformed into a sea of broken glass by the shattered windows. Eileen is safer down here than she is out in the open, but she won't be for very much longer, and rather than remain sheltered by the furniture, she takes her chances in the air and pumps the falcon's wings until she's collected enough lift to drag her up, up, up and hopefully out one of the gaps where a pane used to be.
She certainly isn't going to attempt to escape the same way she came in.

Eyes shifting to another perspective, Peyton's eyes widen a little, no longer in that painful, angry squint. "«Most of the security is heading toward the diversion. The plan's working — do what you need to and get out quick.»" Her voice is less bitter, and she closes her eyes, resting them for a moment, before shifting back to that of Francois', searching for Hiro — how like him to just disappear when they could use his help.

Without Francois to look through suddenly, finding nothing but darkness, Peyton frowns, shifting perspective to Colette's, then some of Francois' colleagues, trying to take in the whole scene from one person's perspective and then another, searching for Francois and not finding him — either through someone else's view — not even as a corpse on the ground, which is her first fear. And then she realizes. She'd seen Hiro for a second before that world went black.

Hiro took Francois»" she gasps, all the hate and anger flooding away and replaced by icy cold fear. "«I saw Hiro there — and now Francois is missing,»" she repeats, surprised at the trickle of warm wetness down her cheek. "«The security is heading in the direction of the diversion»" she adds in a softer after thought. There's still the rest of the team to get out safely.

"What— what do you mean he disappeared? Fuck, I should've known he'd just take off and leave— " The sardonic sneer that curls across Cardinal's lips is wiped away in an instant as the falcon under Eileen's guidance plunges its beak into the telepath's eye in a sure strike that tears him free of that web of loathing and fear, and he all but stumbles to one side from the disembodied scream of agony that rips through the mindscape around the training facility.

He wonders if he sounded like that when he died.

"Hiro?" Now that he's corporeal, he can hear the crackle of voice in his ear, "…what? Well, hell, what the hell's Nakamura up to…" A shake of his head, "Forget it. Let's get the hell out've here before that telepath gets back online… uh." A pause, as he slants a look to Teo - well, A Teo, he's not sure which - "Sorry. Telepath." Right.

The man's substance turns to darkness as he moves forward, cast against the wall and slithering in a wash of nothing out to check on their escape route. My, it's bloody out there.

Up and up. Even without Francois' tersely barked orders, they remember easy enough: escape route diverges from the way they came at the lobby. Instead of rampaging out the front, their path marks the way across the basketball court squeaky floors and the wide doors toward the back of the compound, leaving out of the bays through which the cafeteria supplies usually come in. It's a mess of open spaces down through which the sun is still coming down in punch daggers, but a thing at a time.

The stairs are a war-zone, and the Teos in their various states of psychic, pharmeceutical and post-coma discombobulation herd rather awfully like ducks over them. The youngest puts out his hand at Colette only to curl it back a few inches, deferring to the certain sense that— fuck, they owe her now, and she isn't a child for it, shoulder hunkering up under the AR-15 and armor to lend her backup instead. Ghost's bare feet slap unsteadily as a toddler's first (twelve, maybe) steps, and the hybrid, peculiarly, has the best aim out of them, or a lot of luck. Catches a loiterer two landings up on the gap where vest meets trousers, dropping him with a yell. Gut shots are a bitch, but it'll be survivable.

The basement crew spills back out into the lobby in time to see Deckard comfortably high on the floor. Outside the wide front doors, two figures have split off the main group that's wafting toward the gate, meatheads no smaller than the crippled and efficiently-dying creature slumped down below the water fountain across the lobby from Deckard's napping place.

«I'm coming to get you guys!» Peyton yells over the comms. The frequency and equipment cut out the noise of the engine gunning, but somewhere out there, there's the promise of grinding tires, Eileen's body shifting faintly in the grasp of seatbelts.

The falcon that enhouses the rest of her is pitching wide-winged out into the walkway. There's a mail-cart boy facedown right before her amber eyes, but by now, the vast majority of civilians are plastered against the floor, arms up to protect their heads and necks from falling glass or the threat of sniper bullets whizzing past; they have no way of knowing Monica's aim is precise and her intent largely nonlethal, as far as hapless mail boys and fax machine operators go. McAlister hurtles heavy steps behind Eileen, hollering. Even crouched, she comes up nearly as high as Eileen in person is tall. "Someone get that fucking bird! Get the bird!" But anybody who knows their ass from their elbow tactically speaking is out there, and her prior orders hold sway. Stay down. Do not engage.

No longer covering Cardinal's umbral form out of some sense of bitter resentment needling at her subconscious, Colette is scrambling along behind the Teodoro stampede, skidding to a halt only when she realizes that there's a face missing among the crowd. "Deckard," she hisses sharply under her breath, her invisible outline shimmering breifly visible, brows furrowed as the chatter comes scrambling over the radio.

But the telepathic probing is sharp enough to have riddled her still with that resentment towards Flint, but as she wheels about and continues to follow Francois' liberated and liberator Teodoro, there is a certain hesitation as she sees Deckard, the incision of doubt cutting through feelings of something else. Her brows twitch, eyes snap to the doors where distant figures of disrespected authority are moving, then back to Flint again.

"W— what're you doing h— " Colette stops dead in her tracks when Rickham's metallic form finally filters in to the fringes of her vision. She shrieks, loudly, the shrill cry of a frightened young girl piercing the air as she stumbles back, her heels catching on the tail of her white leather longcoat, causing her to fall backwards and slam down to the floor. "Oh shit! Oh shit!"

As she scrambles back, Colette's body ripples and distorts, shimmering like the disturbed surface of a pond before fading out of sight entirely. Her panicked screams and panting breaths are still heard though, despite all her attempts to render herself anywhere but here. Clomping bootfalls come across the concrete, eventually meeting in splashes in the stagnant water, reflecting the sparking electricity overhead.

The water splashes up her, runs down like some optical illusion over her invisible body, bending and distorting the water droplets in the bending of light. Rickham's focus is entirely on her, a moving target he can feel the vibrations of, his sight no longer working on anything resembling visual acuity. But then, all of the tremorsense in the world cannot save him from the sudden report of a shotgun slamming into him, knocking him off of his footing. As he wheels around to turn, a second shot stops him dead in his tracks, blasting a five inch diameter crater into the back of his head, molting out like a blossoming flower.

Rickham lurches forward, letting out a metallic squeal as Colette rushes past him with splashing footfalls, her invisibility bleeding away and peeling off of her as she runs to Deckard's side, "Y— you!?"

"Flint!" Whatever compulsion it was driving her to turn on her own team, it snaps in the memory of Pinehearst's basement, and Colette is rippling visible, her boots slipping with lacking tread on the floor as she wheels around and runs towards where Deckard is laying prone on the ground. "Someone— someone help me! Flint!" Her tiny voice squeaks over the intercoms, booted feet slapping on the floor as she charges across that lobby towards the prone form of the scruffy old man that shotgun rescued her on more than one occasion.

If Flint Deckard getting caught was part of the plan, Colette is woefully out of the loop.

The falcon narrowly avoids slivering itself open on a shard of glass still clinging to the window frame as it passes through it. A risky gamble, and not only because Eileen could almost decapitate herself or separate one of her wings from her body. The one she's in right now. Not the one strapped into the vehicle, dark head lolling with every turn that Peyton takes.

She could have chosen one of the windows that Monica and Niki haven't yet broken. If she did, she'd be bouncing off it with a sound like a tennis ball shot back across the net with a clumsy plastic racket, and collapsing on the carpet in a mangled twist of bent wings.

That she can't hear what's happening over the radio is a blessing in disguise. She's having enough trouble getting herself out, and trying to make sense of Colette's panic would only distract her further.
Or maybe it wouldn't have any affect on her at all. McAlister is thundering at her back, and that's pretty fucking preoccupying.

It was all going so well too… well, aside from their frenchman being kidnapped by Hiro, that is.
As Colette yelped out about Flint being endangered, the river of shadow that makes up Cardinal's substance pauses… and then twists in a flickering motion to head after her and over to the unconscious old man.
As if he were climbing from stairs set into the floor, Cardinal's darkly-clad form emerges into three dimensions when they get closer, rippling upwards until he's jogging along over, swearing under his breath, "What the fuck… grab his fee— no, grab his head, I'll grab his feet."

As it turns out, Deckard is not naked or unconscious. He does not have any bulletholes or even bruises. Boots slapping in close and the sound of his name again are enough to turn his scruffy head, both registered on a hollow delay. Dirty water drains out've his ear, the beach in a shell and all that clamming at klaxons and other terrible sounds. He's wearing a blood-blotched guard uniform, boots and all, and looks to be at least passably lucid until Cardinal's mundane (for once) shadow passes over his overlarge feet and he kicks at the nearest knee or gut or grasping hand (or stooped face?) like a mule.

The same (awkward) movement carries him up onto his feet somehow, improbable in the same vein as a freshly dropped wildebeast remaining upright amidst placenta-slopped grass. He is high. And wet. And wild-eyed. And about three times the size as Colette.

In a few seconds, the gangly older man strung out between his two abused allies (?) is also being shot at. So are they all. Confused exclamations run rife on enemy radios, clashing with reports of cars flying in and high-caliber sniper rounds. Deckard's costume has the bizarre and pleasant side-effect of making the incoming security personnel hesitate to fire into the lobby— it isn't until a bizarre assembly of approximate triplets and semi-autofire has driven them off to hide behind trees and benches that they realize the supposed friendly they were sparing wasn't. Couldn't be easier if it had been buttered.

Forty seconds later, a van door is cracking open and allowing a maximum capacity of passengers to sardine in. Variously bruised and battered and sprained by stair-falls, but everybody's okay: telepathy's not an Evolved set that any modern tactician has learned to work-around yet. Yet, apart from residual headaches and a victory flux of serotonin, a little cocaine if you happen to be a specific somebody, they're out. Home free, assuming the diversionary team's sticking to the plan and Peyton's mumbled stop-start snapshots of the two women promise things aren't dire out there, if tense. Shadows are gathering on the asphalt.

The uneducated may presume, at first, that it's unpredicted rain. The searing glare of sunlight is being eaten up in great, black brutal bites by the multiplying silhouettes of bird life, all of them keening territorially down at the grounds massing with Institute security hires. Bills, feathers, avian bowels unloaded en masse.

The streets outside the training facility are a mess. Barricaded with cars, some of them decidedly not the right side up, and more people yet choke-holding the junctions, under lambent lights and summer-wilted conifers, as the local law enforcement and trainees coming in a jangling clash of jurisdictions. By the time they get a chopper in the air or Feds on the ground, there's nothing but an anonymous tire-mark pitting the back street like a signature, and maybe a GPS tracker that Wireless squints at, a dozen miles away, and snuffs out with a pinch of psychic fingers to the Ghost's heaving shoulder.

Varlane hadn't expected much different, to be honest. Disappeared is disappeared in their industry. Leaves all the time in the world to learn who you want to be found by.


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