Midnight, Part IV


cardinal2_icon.gif claire2_icon.gif danko3_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif hector_icon.gif kazimir5_icon.gif wagner_icon.gif

Scene Title Midnight, Part IV
Synopsis Team Shield-4 makes their way to disarm Munin, but a horrible chain-reaction of events turns a sound plan into a catastrophic one.
Date January 16, 2010

Amundsen-Scott Antarctic Research Facility

There was a time when Gabriel Gray thought he was going to die here in Antarctica…

…presented now, with that same land of eternal ice, the memory is hard to forget.

Ice and snow stretches out as far as the eye can see in nearly every direction, a plain of white that gusts with swirling crystals of wind-driven ice and snow. The sky is a matte azure tapestry to cold to abide a single cloud, thin enough that the stars shine like tiny diamonds through its colorful atmospheric cloth. On the horizon ahead, where long shadows are cast black and inky against the ground, lies the Amundsen-Scott Antarctic Research Facility.

That familiar, iced-over sign displaying the structure's name lies some two hundred feet behind the group trudging thorugh the ice and snow towards the facility's walls. The sound of many boots crunch and crack against the ice underfoot, the subarctic wind steals breath away like greedy phantoms, and the prickling cold stings just like Volken's own life-draining ability.

These intruders themselves move like black-clad phantoms across the ice, stalking into the long shadow of the enormous facility, soon able to see the rays of sunlight sliding beneath its raised body. Amundsen-Scott does not sit directly atop the Antarctic ice shelf, but rather rests atop a series of ten foot thick concrete pylons driven hundreds of feet into the ice, with only portions of the facility touching ground level.

Passing by the derelict hulks of industrial snow-moving equipment, Gabriel Gray's insertion team sees the telltale signs of something being amiss about the facility. Snow rests in drifts around Amundsen Scott where a year prior it was scraped clean to flat ice. Plows, tractors and back-hoes used to dig thorugh ice sit skewed and frozen over with inches of frost, dully glittering in the shadow of the research center.

Their approach gives the team a brief glimpse of other small, dark silhouettes on the opposite side of Amundsen-Scott making their approach. Hopefully the third team, across the entire compound at the dome will now be moving into place. For this plan to work, everything has to go off without a hitch; how many times have each member of this team heard that?

Up ahead, they can see their own objective approaching closer, the medical lab wing of the Amundsen-Scott facility, the single closest entrance to the drill site. The large metal staircase ascending up from the ice connects to the hermetically sealed iron door at the entrance, ice crusting over its cold metallic face, and the barely legible black marquee above the door proves as much. Int he shadow of Amundsen-Scott's frozen walls, team Shield-4 faces the greatest responsibility.

Disarming Munin.

They're almost possible to identify from one another, bundled up as they are in gear meant for both warmth and combat protection; Cardinal feels burdened by the heavy gear, slowed down, the reflexes that he relies on in his usual style of fighting dulled by the weight upon him. The brilliance of the light that gleams off the snow and ice leaves him too afraid to use his ability until they're inside - and regardless, he couldn't get through that entrance anyhow. Some things not even a shadow can slip through, and the hermetic seal and crusted ice make the door one of those. It's bad enough in the shadow of the building, his eyes squinted and kept somewhat low so as to not risk looking at the sun - hovering where it is as if it'll never go away, as if dusk will never come.

"I hate Antarctica already," he mutters against the scarf wrapped about his face as they trudge along towards the building, the rifle in his hands shaken a bit to make sure it hasn't frozen up or anything. Wouldn't it be unfortunate if the weapon just refused to fire when the time came?

He's keeping in the rear of the group, watching their flanks as best he can given his — disadvantages at the moment.

Closer to the front, Eileen carries her rifle in her hands, though it's the leather sling pulled taut across her shoulder that supports most of the weapon's cumbersome weight. The woolen scarf she wears protects her nose and lips from the cold, and would muffle her voice if she attempted to communicate using the radio — she hasn't, so far. For Claire and Gabriel, both who served on Team Bravo with her in Madagascar, this isn't unusual; even outside combat situations, the Briton isn't a very talkative person and prefers the sound of silence to her own voice, which has become solemn and heavier since returning from Antananarivo.

When she does speak, she's drowned out by the whistling wind, audible over the SatCom headsets the other members of Shield-4 wear under their fur-lined hoods. «What's our plan of attack?»

Gabriel is taking a lead in that he's moving somewhere along the front of the group and following only his own feet making deep sinks into the ice and snow. They all look the same in heavy hoods, face hugging scarfs, and in some cases goggles, a wandering cluster of identical soldiers coming up to the staircase unrolling up towards the door sealed tightly. «We could knock,» he suggests over the radio, steering his attention up towards the door and ignoring the wind that whistles beneath the facility and its pillars. «Except there's no one on the other side.»

He isn't holding onto his weapons, his better ones readily available when he has his hands free. His sidearm is holstered and his rifle hangs from its sling, tucked under an arm for comfort's sake rather than intention to use it. «I can sense warm bodies further off— maybe a hundred feet.»

There is no getting rid of the twisting nervousness in the pit of her stomach, Claire is just that worried about what was to come. Richard's bitching, gets a small quirk of a smile in amusement, but thankfully it's hidden behind her scarf. Her rifle is still cradled in her arms, of course it's not exactly her other weapon. She made sure she had back up, to include a shotgun across her back and a good size sheathed knife under the warmer clothes. Though she has the shotgun, while in Madagascar she got use to the AK's and felt a bit more comfortable with it.

The tiny regenerator never really said much either in the face of anythign that needed doing, even now she's quiet as she watches the others, glancing back to make sure Cardinal is still back there, Liz would probably never forgive her for losing him. More pressure.. Save the World, Save Peter.. Keep Cardinal safe.. She sighs softly, her breath misting heavily and rolls her eyes skyward as if asking the higher powers, 'Anything else?'

"I have a mansion," Hector muffles into his scarf, arms folded in stiff across his chest, footfalls marching along at a pace just a little quicker than that of some of his longer-legged brethren, "forget the price. I've never been there; they tell me it's nice." Ronch. Ronch. Ronch. Tuneless recitation of Eagles lyrics devolves briefly into equally tuneless humming and his boots carry on without pause despite how much they'd like to have a sit. Positioned towards the rear mainly by virtue of being a little slow, he vaguely resembles a stocky alien over an antarctic explorer all bundled up in black behind the shock of the sun's glare white off his goggles.

"They say I'm crazy but I have a good time."

He slows still further when talk of plans and knocking on doors interrupts the music in his head, trudge falling to a more uncertain drag at the fact that they haven't already worked out something brilliant. Fucking hell. Well he's not picking up his rifle. So says the resentment in his blue eyes if anyone could see them behind his goggles. His hands are fucking cold and there are more than enough being pointed randomly around already. He will stand here huddled and be fascinated by how distinctly visible his breath is until they decide something.

The snow whips in ice procession across the barren field of white outside of the facility entrance. Beyond those walls, Gabriel can feel the remote presence of moving forms with a ping of his psychic radar, bouncing off conscious minds at a far distance, and moving further away from them than last time. The door is likely locked, given the secure nature of the facility, and the lack of any exterior keyhole indicates that the locking mechanism on the inside is probably an entirely mechanical and simple twist-valve system, like on a submarine door.

With the ice and cold bearing down on them, the team would normally be hard pressed to find a way to get inside, were it not for one of them being able to turn as intangible as the air itself to phase through solid steel.

«By the way… a precog placed Claire in the same place and time as Volken on this mission,» Cardinal's voice comes over the comm, quiet, low as he trudges along with the others towards the door, «Odds're good that him… and Wagner… are in this building somewhere.» What interesting information - perhaps something that would've been nice to know before they started the mission! «Not a hundred percent guaranteed, though. Buyers beware. No exchanges or returns.»

Annoyance knits Eileen's brow beneath her hood, and she tips her head to regard Cardinal's shape in her peripheral vision, eyes shileded from the flecks of ice wafting up off the ground beneath their feet by her goggles. It would have been nice to know, wouldn't it? «I'm going to assume that you have a good reason for being withholding,» she says, voice crackling over the radio. «Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?»

Up the staircase we go, Gabriel scoping out the door with some interest at its completely impenetrable self, blocking cold and people alike. Pressing a gloved hand against the steely surface, icy enough to be painful, whatever he's trying doesn't seem to take, not right away. But before they can shuffle off to find some other way inside in all unlikelihood, the man abruptly disappears inside, passing through the closed door, and there's a wonderful moment where his rifle goes clang against the metal, for all that its straps pass through solid steel, catching there before the gun, too, is phased through.

Luckily no one saw that on the inside.

Three seconds of wintery waiting goes by before there's the grinding sound of the mechanical lock being played with. A hiss of seals breaking, and a heavy sound of a weight dropping, before the hatch is levered open with some resistance, letting the snowy wind blow on through. Gabriel's goggles now hang somewhere in his collar, face free of scarf and hood pushed back.

«He didn't withhold it.. I did.» Claire offers in a low grumble, to get that blame off the shadow man. «And I have my reason.» She didn't know how to explain that someone on the mission was going to betray them without alerting the possible killer. «I told him cause I was pretty sure it had nothing to do with it.» Hmmm. Of course, she doesn't offer up anymore really.

Her head tilts to the side to watch Gabriel do his little trick, brows lifting under Claire's hood. Damn. She moves to follow the others inside, pulling goggles and scarf off her face, with a soft sigh.

The interior of Amundsen-Scott is much as Gabriel recalls it from his brief time here a year ago. Polished floors and bone white walls, very few — and very small — windows to the outside barely letting in any natural illumination. The hanging fluorescent lights bleach color and vibrancy from the place, while exposed pipes and power conduits in the ceiling give it a very industrial, if not somewhat sterile, feel.

The facade of sterility on the inside, however, is shattered down the hall, where a long since dried line of arterial spray is crusted coppery brown against the white paint. That corridor ahead is wide enough for two people to traverse shoulder to shoulder, ending at an open door that probably creates a strong heat seal to the outside. Vents in the ceiling force hot air down into this corridor, creating a shocking sensation of prickling warmth for those inside. Beyond that door at the end of the corridor, the light-boards and examination tables of a medical bay can be seen.

While all of this is singularly fascinating in its own eerie silence and ambience, Gabriel's focus is brought omre to the presence of approaching motion on his psychic sense, a feeling of movement heading hastily — and from the lack of noise down the hall, silently — towards the medical bay, likely from the sound of the hatch door being opened. It's just one man, but even a single bullet can make a world of difference.

A faint smile twitches to Cardinal's lips beneath the muffling of the heavy scarf wrapped about his face, his head shaking ever so slightly as he watches the gun clang against the surface of the door. «Kazimir's plan is still sound, Eileen,» he says simply into the comm, «We don't all need to know all of it. Let's move.»

Of course, what did what he just say have to do with Kazimir's plan?

As the door opens, he moves up behind the others to step inside, one hand raising with relief to pull the scarf down from his lips - taking a moment to adjust his gaze to the dimmer interior, blessed shadow.

Eileen exhales slowly in response to Claire's defense and that is all. Quiet fury makes her body language rigid and tense as she steps through the portal, reaches up and snags her scarf's weave in her gloved fingers, pulling it down around her throat. Her hood and goggles are next, though the latter is pushed up high onto her forehead, elastic band used to keep stray wisps of dark hair from floating around her face and interfering with her vision.

Flakes of snow and ice stuck in her eyebrows and the fine hairs of her nose frost them silver and white, giving her a hoary, disgruntled appearance as she assesses the medical wing with a downturned mouth and eyes that smoky eyes that smolder with resentment for the blonde at her back. This is neither the time nor the place for an argument, and although she can resist the urge to press Claire and Cardinal about Claire's mysterious reason for keeping secrets that may mean the difference between life and death, her emotions are more difficult to brush aside. «Sod off, Richard.»

He hates this place. Gabriel does, that is. He hates that he was here and he hates that he's back and fate is just being very cute right now. These thoughts aside, including the conversation going over comms lines, Gabriel stretches his awareness out, spine going rigid when a presence suddenly glimmers into being in psychic radar, unexpectedly close. «Wait here,» he instructs his team, words cutting at the heels of Eileen's muttered rebuke.

His body twists, goes boneless as skin and clothing and hair all melt into the same fluid black shadow, and he's zipping off with all the intent of a shark towards the sensory feeling of someone's approach. The last thing seen in solidity would be a knife being unfolded in one gloved hand, as opposed to a gun wielded.

The low growl of a voice makes it way into Gabriel's ears after the sound of silent shuffling precedes it. Fluidly sliding around a corner, two eyes sink down to the hand at Gabriel's side. Slowly shifting up to his features, he tilts his head to the side grinning lightly. "I knew I shoulda killed everyone, last time we were 'ere."

The Wolf rounds the corner, glancing past his shoulder down to the rest of the group. Pulling his hands up, he closes his large jacket a little closer together. His fur lined hood pulled down just over his brow. "But I guess we can just do it this time, roight?" A light smile plays on Ethan's lips as he watches Gabriel for a moment. "Good to see you, Gabe." He lets out, eyes searching the crowd. Satisfied at what he finds, he glances back to Gabriel before turning slowly.

"Fuckin' antartica, oi?"

Watching the black shadowy blob of Gabriel slink away, Claire can only stand there, rifle held ready in case she has to bring it up to use on the bad men. She gives a soft sigh, before pressing lips together as part of her feels like she should say something, but yet at the same time, that fear that it might provoke the action. Choices.

A gloved hand rubs over her face, before it moves to push back her hood, letting the tight blonde pony tail swing freely, as she glances back at Eileen, eyes narrowing as she considers something. Nah. She's been pretty suspicious of all the woman, cause she at least knows the killer was a woman from one of the teams. Claire looks away and down the hall, moving enough to make her the first target should people find them.

Claire's rifle comes up as the figure comes around the corner, it's someone she's never met. She glances at the others looking a bit confused.

The room where Ethan Holden and Gabriel Gray are unexpectedly reunited is the very same medical bay where Gabriel was treated for frostbite a year prior. Lightboards holding x-rays from someone's chest are stuck up in monochromatic display, examination tables are skewed at awkward angles, and tucked away behind a rolling cart of antiseptics and surgical tools, a Vanguard soldier in red antarctic weather clothing lays on his side, a darker pool of crimson still wet beneath his motionless body.

The Wolf's been hunting.

There's no reply to the invective spoken in Cardinal's direction because, really, he's quite used to it by now. Once the scarf's hanging loosely around his neck, he turns - still in the back of the group - to pull the door closed behind them with a low groan of cold metal being drawn back into place.

Then he steps over to the nearest wall and pushes against it, his form darkening with shadow as he melts away into two dimensions of chiaroscuro. Shadow passes beneath them, bleeding over their feet to pursue the thicker, sinuous darkness of the Midtown Man, pausing as a silhouette across the floor at the sight of Holden. Well, well. He does pop up in the strangest places.

The familiar growl of Ethan's voice, not quite gritty or gravelley enough to belong to the late Richard Santiago, swivels Eileen's head. It's her turn to bring up the rear as she follows Claire out into the open, two fingers resting against the edge of her snugly-fit earpiece as though this might allow her to better hear. In reality, all it succeeds in doing is ensuring that she doesn't lose her SatCom somewhere between the hatch and the room where the dispatched Vanguard soldier lies dead and bleeding.

«Come on,» she urges the younger woman, only a few months her junior, «it's only Holden.»

Out of the two swatches of darkness that come up on Ethan, Gabriel is the first to become corporeal again when Ethan's familiar self comes into sight. The knife in his hand is closed, pocketed, keeping dark eyes locked on the Wolf with a twist at his mouth that's meant to be a smile. His attention ticks to the fast cooling corpse, then back to the man who made the mess, jutting his chin up in greeting. "It hasn't changed," he observes, wryly, before looking back towards the group with a nod of confirmation that yes.

They can chill out. As it were. The knife is replaced with his SatCom device, palming it and reviewing the screen and the blueprint-like map written in matter-of-fact lines of white. «We need to keep moving», he tells the others, briskly walking to head deeper into the medical wing and beyond it. «Entrance to the drill site is out through here, past the research labs. It's too bad, I've been here before, back when they weren't keeping weapons of global destruction.»

"Joining the party?" is said past radio to Ethan, a glance to the dead body as he goes, an eyebrow lifting up.

"Just visiting." Ethan rumbles, glancing to Gabriel.

"But since I'm 'ere, I might as well join you all." Holden steps forward to walk beside Gabriel. Glancing down at the corpse he sighs softly. Looking back up, the man lowers his shoulders slightly, stepping over the body. Glancing to Gabriel's SatCom he smirks lightly. "Very well prepared. Impressive. Any untrained midgets on the battle force t'night?" The Wolf flexes his gloved hands, stepping past the body towards the next hall.

«Who?» She seems to say that a lot lately. If Claire ever met him, she sure as hell doesn't remember. But the other woman's words reassure her enough that the rifle lowers again and Claire follows after Eileen. The tiny blonde studies the new player curiously, for a moment, before glancing to Gabriel. She passes by the cooling body with only a glance, while she follows the rest. The rifle is shifted to where she can hold it in both hands again, ready to get ahead of the group of needed.

"Bongo bongo bongo I don't want to leave the congo oh no no no no no," Off in his own world, Hector's moved into an entirely different decade near the back of the line, and even though his voice has fallen to something scarcely above a murmur, the close cut of the hallway virtually guarantees an echo as he tucks his scarf away into — somewhere. A pocket it in his coat, one presumes. Out of the same pocket comes an ear bud, small and black to fit into his left ear opposite the radio whatever that's already snugged in his right. Some quick toggling with his iPhone later, Hector has the rest of the song playing tinnily in his ear while he sees to his gloves and finally shrugs his rifle down to rest in his hands. "Bingle bangle bungle I'm so happy in the jungle," safety off and on again, he frowns faintly at the austere simplicity of the mechanism overall, "I refuse to go."

He pokes the dead body in the head with the nose of his gun in passing to see if it twitches, because he can't not, even if he is somewhat preoccupied with looking suspiciously at Ethan. He has a certain look about him. Like he's the sort to pull the trigger in an important room with things things that were not made to withstand gunfire.

The medical bay is eerily silent as the team converges on Ethan within it. Much as that corpse at Hector's feet is likewise an unhelpful character to explain the particulars of their situation. Having infiltrated Amundsen-Scott prior to the other teams by way of his tag-along arrival with soldiers from the People's Republic of China, it has become increasingly clear that Ethan Holden may have actually cleared the way for the entire team to their destination. One might even believe Kazimir had put this all together as some sort of immaculately designed secret plan.

Unfortunately that is very much not the case.

Out from this particular medical room, a short corridor connects to a research lab where computers idle silently beneath an array of fluorescent lamps. Each of these devices seem to be monitoring atmospheric temperatures and general conditions outside of the station, some displaying internal water pressure values, heat indexes and power levels from backup reserves.

One row of computer screens the group passes by on their way out of the medical wing are security camera feeds. First it indicates that Shield-2 has not deactivated the security systems yet, and secondly it shows that whatever these screens normally monitor, no one is watching them. Across the screens exterior cameras show the snow fields from different angles situated across the facility, while one views a large and open room with a tier of catwalks circling the outer edge. A crane and pulley system has been erected in the middle, where a steel cable descends down an eight foot wide hole in the ice; clearly it's the drill site.

They're not far now, if Gabriel's map is correct. Down this corridor should be a set of stairs that leads down to the entrance of the drill site, which is maintained by a series of mechanical and electronic locks, according to information supplied on the SatCom. Alarms are wired into this whole system, and hopefully at some point in this venture, the other teams will finish their jobs and disable the alarms, so Wagner does not know when his precious bomb is being defused.

Hopefully Kazimir can keep him busy after that point.

Hopefully none of them get to see a nuclear explosion up close.

A shadow passes over those monitors as the team strides past the screens, taking note of the various scenes that appear thereupon - although none of them seem terribly important for the moment, aside from the ominous view of their destination - before Cardinal slithers along with the group, a ghost upon the wall that passes them to scout ahead just a little bit.

"Ethan Holden," Eileen elaborates, speaking to Claire directly rather than filter her explanation through the SatCom's tinny microphone. "He was assigned to Team Charlie in Russia, used to work for Volken with Gabriel and I." And that's as much as she's willing to divulge for the time being, not because the rest is a closely guarded secret but because their focus needs to remain in the present and not the past. Her footfalls squeak through the corridor, melted ice and snow leaving glistening tracks on the floor behind her that reflect the glow of the fluorescent lamps overhead.

Her eyes track across the display shortly after Cardinal's shadow does and flick between the feeds in search of familiar shapes or faces. They haven't heard anything yet from any of the other Shield teams. This is either cause for concern or a reason to allow herself some relief — she's not sure which. «Steel,» her voice hisses in Hector's ear, «once we get down there, how long will it take you to disarm her?»

"You could have left some for me," Gabriel observes as the group makes their rushed if not panicked way through the corridor, towards where stairs lead downwards. He glances over one heavily padded shoulder as if to back up Eileen's query to the engineer in a look — one of unnerving interest, too. Because surely whatever Hector can, do— Gabriel can do better.

Now isn't the time. He shuts his eyes briefly as he walks, sweeps around the immediate vicinity with psychic projection, struggling to see through the cluster of distraction that is his own team.

"There's plenty to go around." The Wolf rumbles, falling in line. As the group catches up, Ethan takes a step forward to let his gloved hand close down on Eileen's shoulder. Holden dips his head to the young woman. "Ello princess." A light smile clim bs up his lips, but lasts only a moment before fading. Glancing to Hector, the Wolf lags behind a moment behind Gabriel.

Pulling his suppressed weapon, Holden places it in both gloved hands as he stalks behind Gabriel.

The explanation from Eileen gets a nod, "Thank you." There is relief in Claire's voice, since Ethan is someone she hasn't met. "This memory thing is irritating at times." Hand shift their grip on the rifle, a sign of the tension she's feeling over the whole thing. The vision Etana showed her, haunting her thoughts.

The ex-cheerleader's blue eyes fall on the monitor with the view of the drill site and she pauses for a moment studying it, though the shadow rolling over the equipment pulls her gaze away from the view. "No pressure…" Claire murmurs, voice thick with sarcasm, to the shadow nearby as she follows the group. "No pressure at all," she repeats as her head turns so that she can follow Cardinal progress as he moves out ahead of them again.

«Fuck if I know,» says Hector with a slanty grin that is very white under crisp florescent lights and no doubt tremendously reassuring for everyone relying on him to not be completely mad. «Less time than it'd take the lot of you.» He ignores Gabriel's look maybe slightly deliberately, rifle following the line of his right forearm to trace absently after the vermiculate arterial spatter of someone decidedly more dead than he is.

Now that he's warm, he does not seem quite as grumpy about having to be here, even if he is damp and still cold and dressed like a special ops Eskimo.

Gabriel's brisk lead takes the team to the far side of the research lab where the computers lay, to a T-Junction corridor in clear view of some of the computers still, where a short staircase descends down to a door matching the one they had entered the facility thorugh. At the side of the door, an electronic keyplate likely controls the locking mechanism, and seems designed to be operated either by a number code or a proximity badge.

When Gabriel reaches the bottom of the stairs, about ten feet out from the doorway, he can see the lights on the keypad still on, securely glowing a bright red color that likely means locked in a color-only language. Its hauntingly quiet here in the hall, in the whole damned facility, no sign of noise and all movement seems to be on the periphery of Gabriel's senses. Then, not a moment later, he hears the very distant sound of gunfire from across the facility.

To everyone, it sounds like someone making popcorn in another room, a very effervescent popping made dull and without impact from how far away they must be from the targets. Gabriel's connection to the presence of thinking minds indicates that there's a cluster of minds very rapidly diminishing where the sounds might be coming from. Probably one of the teams running into resistance.

Unfortunately, there is a group of some twenty men headed in the direction of the Computer Lab from this side of the facility, likely in response to reports of gunfire, leaving Shield-4 caught in the middle.

"This would be where the shit hits the fan…" Richard Cardinal's shadow sweeps up the door, looking for all the world like someone was standing before it with a light shining behind him - only he's obviously not Gabriel's shadow. One hand gestures towards the lock, "…if they don't get the security down, do we have any other plans on how to get through there?"

Eileen's own psychic radar only applies the birds and other animal telepaths — of which there are none in the immediate vicinity. Although unaware of what's approaching them, she stands at the ready with her rifle and her sidearm in its leather holster, utility knife hidden somewhere under her bulky winter clothes as an absolute last resort. Her lips trace a faint smile at Ethan's greeting that doesn't make it all the way to her eyes or even the corners of her mouth, which resemble the leather strap attached to her rifle: flat and tight.

"Taking out Munin is the priority," she says in response to the shadow, her eyes and unwieldy weapon trained on the stairs behind them. "If it's a straight shot from here to the bomb, maybe Gray could take Steel down while the rest of us hold the door. Do we know what to expect on the other side?"

"I can't take people with me when I phase," Gabriel states, words thin through his teeth as he stares at the glowing lock. Goddamn. "And I shouldn't be the one to leave you people to cover. We have company— twenty odd men— coming down on us from the left corridor." He doesn't need to tell them to be ready, or warn the incoming firefight. He closes his eyes for a moment, tension knotting in his brow and he briskly shakes his head. "I don't know— there's no one on the other side but there's plenty of radiation. It's fucking with my projection, but we're clear."

If the door was unlocked, anyway. "Cardinal, get out of the way," Gabriel instructs, letting his rifle go to swing on its trap before he's raising a hand towards the door, almost ignoring the sounds of the approaching team of Wagner's men — trusting the team to cover him for as long as it takes to build up some energy and—

He releases the concussive blast from his palm like a gunshot, air rippling cylindrical towards the steel doors.

"This would be where the shit hits the fan." Except this time it is in a less masculine tone and in a more juvenile, mocking tone. "You never gave me my iPhone, fuckface." Ethan growls lowly in the direction of the shadows. His attention slowly reeling over to Eileen. "But if we can't do that, make sure you don't mess up th'place too bad, might be 'ome, soon enough." The slight smile sliding up his lips as he lowers his eyes over his rifle. A quite 'tch' is made at Gabriel's comment at the twenty something team approaching. Ducking to the side, Ethan goes to plant his back against the corner.

Bringing his rifle up, the Wolf glances to Eileen, jerking his chin as if to suggest either following him or making /some/ quick movement that puts her out of way of the approaching team.

At the mention of men coming, Claire does as she always did in Madagascar, she slowly turns to watch the corridor in question. An amused glance to Ethan, Claire's rifle is lifted and she presses her back against the wall where she can see the corridor. "Let me draw their fire first. I'll live through it. Then you can take them out while they are busy with me." The tiny ex-cheerleader says directly to Ethan, giving him a lop-sided smirk, since she has no idea if he knows what she can do. Leaning against the wall also prepares for the bullets to rip through her body, giving her something to keep her upright when the bullets rip through her body. Taking a deep breath, she holds it for a moment, as she focuses on the corridor. Hopefully, she can take several down before she goes down the first time.

A part of Claire has been waiting for something like this, a chance to work out some stress and frustration on some poor Vanguard bastards.

The metallic door doesn't quite come off its hinges when Gabriel directs a rolling wave of force towards it. Instead it dimples inwards like a bent tin can, immediately followed by a flashing red light on the key pad and a flashing red light above the door — a silent alarm. With the door bent hideously inwards like some steel bowl from the force of the impact, the feeling of freezing wind pulls from the edges of the corridor where the impact dislodged a section of the compartmentalized hallway, splitting it open at the seams to the arctic air.

The distant sound of gunfire on the other side of the station has stopped, whatever brief firefight was going on over there has ended, but the security team is already responding. From Claire's front position to the chaos, she can see a door on the opposite side of the computer lab come open, followed by the sounds of stomping footsteps as members of the security team dressed only in their arctic survival gear come storming in, skid to a halt, and then fan out in stunned confusion the moment Claire spots them and opens fire/

Computers, monitors and chairs are perforated by her awaiting gunfire in that moment of ambush, sparks shower bright in the air, and two of the scrambling attackers are gunned down in the process, leaving red spattering marks on the walls behind where Claire's M-16 rips through them. Ethan's cover fire is soon placed over Claire's shoulders with much more trained precision, shots taking out four of the unarmored men before the actual lead starts truly firing.

When these soldiers lift up their M4 rifles and start firing, the rounds are the same armor-piercing anti vehicle rounds used by the execution team at the hangar, in fact some of these men are the same soldiers that were there. The first round that hits Claire punches straight through her armor and then explodes inside of her body, blowing open a six inch whide hole in her chest as she's thrown backwards from the force of the impact.

"Watch your fire! Don't shoot at the dig site you idiots!" One of the men states as he takes a knee, flipping over a table with demolished computers on it for cover, another six men coming into the room and firing down the hall. Bullets punch through the walls like rice paper, sending quick fiery bursts of heat and pressure with each shot.

And most of the team is pinned down at the bottom of a stairwell.

Any response to Ethan regarding the iPhone is swiftly prevented by the impact of Gabriel's concussive blast - and the arrival of the soldiers.

"Keep going - get the damn thing open," Cardinal's voice hisses out from the shadows of the stairwell before his presence stirs back up towards the hallway, washing over Claire's fallen form like a shroud to get a better look at the growing force that's opposing them before drawing back around the corner, "There's at least twelve of them still up - Holden, tell me you've got a grenade or something in that gear."

Eileen's aim is not as accurate as Ethan's — he's had decades more to perfect his skills, and even if he hadn't, her talents ultimately lie elsewhere. As with Team Bravo, she was in part chosen for this mission because of her ability to perform the role of field medic, which emphasizes preserving lives over taking them. While she does not hesitate when it comes to popping off shots at the Vanguard soldiers taking cover behind overturned tables as she follows Ethan's lead and crests the top of the stairs, she takes no pleasure in the thought that she might be killing someone every time her finger constricts around her rifle's trigger.

In short: spraying the enemy with gunfire may help alleviate Claire's stress and frustration, but it only increases Eileen's. Moab Federal Penitentiary and Pinehearst weren't any different. A look angled over her shoulder confirms that Gabriel hasn't been able to get the door fully open yet. She doesn't need to reiterate what Cardinal has already said.

The sound of gunfire is like distant thunder, Gabriel's lips pulling back in a sneer when the door only bends beneath the force of the blast. It would be enough for him, but unfortunately, it isn't just him that needs to get through. Moving down towards the door, Gabriel glances over his shoulder to see if the battle has migrated all the way down here, psychic radar going haywire as he tries to sort through who is where, who is who, but it's like trying to pick individual insects out of a swarming mass of gnats.

But he can sense it, fear, like smoke catching on the wind and stinging nostrils. Hands on either side of the slim corridor, he breathes it, making the world and its details draining away as he feels that scent convert into something else — raw strength leaks through his muscles like adrenaline, making his heart beat harder rather than faster.

The sound of his heel impacting against the door slams through stairwell, blasting icy air inwards when the door flies clear off its hinges beneath the determined kick, snow and ice whipping past him.

The next two shots fired are not sourced around the computer room. They aren't even from upstairs.

Bang bang from beyond the drill site entrance and two distinctly solid whaps where lead slaps itself through flesh later, twin patches of brackish moisture begin to blotch their way warm into the outermost layer of protective gear at Gabriel Gray's chest.

Standing some ten or fifteen feet beyond the rock of the felled door, Danko is an unmistakeable presence with his sidearm raised and his hood tipped back to expose colorless grey fuzz and austere hollows cut deep into his gaunt face. He doesn't wait for Sylar to fall before his eyes tick unfeeling and unflinching over onto contestant #2. Whoever that might be.

"Fuck me, Dick. It seems I only brought Chinese Yoyo's today. 'ow silly of me. On all the days to mix up my gear." Ethan lets out an irritated sigh as if frustrated that he wore the wrong tie to his staff meeting. Ethan scrubs one glove at his chin before returning it to the weapon. Shooting Cardinal a look, he pops out from behind his little corner. A few shots ringing out, Ethan is quick to dip back around his cover. Dropping into a crouch, Ethan rounds out on one knee, letting out another flurry of bullets at the oncoming assualt force.

Reaching into his coat, hand leaving his rifle for a moment. A grenade, not a yo-yo is retrieved from inside his coat. The clip flicked off nigh-instantly, held for a moment before tossed powerfully into the hall behind him. Followed by yet another flurry of gunfire.

Thown backwards, her body slides down a few stairs, smearing blood down the wall with it pooling around her where he body rests. Of course, even as she hits the ground, anyone close enough to see that huge hole in her chest, can see it slowly closing, bits and pieces of flesh moving to connect and fill in the gaping space. Before it's even finished closing up, Claire is rolling over choking and coughing spitting out blood and bits of metal, her hand reaching to grip her rifle again.

Turning she comes up again and starts to open fire again at the bad guys. Each time she's hit with a round, she'll rinse and repeat. Of course, praying the whole time not to get shot in the head again, she'd like to keep the memories she has.

Jumping a bit at the sound of the door being kicked, Claire manages to glance over in time to see Ethan throw the grenade. She ducks behind the corner, taking a moment to look down at her shredded clothing. "Damn, it's fucking cold," Claire murmurs as the cold air freezes the blood soaked into her clothing and exposed skin where the round blew apart her chest. At least her bra held. Sorry boys, no little red hearts this time, not that anyone can tell with all the blood. Good thing she doesn't have to worry too much about frostbite… That would kinda suck.

"Royal fucking — clusterfucking fuck," is what Hector has to say about all of this. A hand lifts automatically to shield his head from muzzles flashing bright overhead, and for anyone close and/or mentally present enough to notice, he might just be shaking beneath the michelin poff of his winter gear. Robots bent on self-destruction are one thing, but this is precisely the sort of thing he wasn't brought in to take care of. Meanwhile a ricochet's gone and sparked off the stairs and someone nearby's been shot and there's — blood gone all splatty on the side of his face and oh. It's. Gabriel.

Half ducked down a ways off to the side of the door itself at the base of the stairs, rifle still in hand but as of yet unemployed for anything other than poking dead people, Hector stands and pants and stares and eventually thinks to shout up at where people are doing the fighting thing, "Help!"

The firefight in the research lab is drawing the primary fire from the group, so much so that everything seems to be going well as far as it is concerned for Emile Danko's side mission. But the protracted gunfight seems to be slowing down as a handful of the Vanguard who aren't dead or wounded backpedal towards the door while firing in an attempt to escape the battle. But about eight seconds later, the situation goes from bad to catastrophicly worse.

That closed door at the end of the hall on the opposite side of the facility from the firefight explodes off its hinges and comes careening down the hall, bouncing and skidding across the tile. Coming with that door is a darkly dressed man bouncing head over heels, striking the floor, then the wall, then the ceiling like he's being thrown by some large and horrible dog. When he finally crashes down to the ground, the surging tendrils of black smoke that rise off of his tattered suit are a good indication of just who he is.

"Treachery at even the core of our work!" Beyond where Kazimir Volken lays battered and bruised, walks a tall and rail-thin man with sunken cheeks and steel colored hair. His eyes are narrowed, old and parched lips downturned into a sagging frown that matches the jowels on the sides of his face. One hand held out, Mikhail Wagner's approach is preceeded by a telekinetic vibration that rattles the hallway and yanks Kazimir off of his feet, before throwing him against a wall.

Several tendrils of blue-purple energy crackle off of the tall old man like electrcity, but they all seem to be directed towards the doorway behind him. "Your excuses do not matter to me." It seems they have been having a bit of a falling out. "I— " Wagner looks up, eyes focused on the battle down the hall in the Computer lab. His teeth clench together, and Kazimir screams as he is flung bodily over Claire's head to smash into one of the computers.

Wagner, watching the blonde regenerating from her wounds as expelled organe and blood slither back inside her body, narrows his eyes. "I see." In the next moment, his fingers are pointing towards her, throwing her into an adjacent wall and out of the line of fire as a slithering tendril of blue-purple energy rises up off of her body pointing towards a reciprocal tendril on Wagner.

Suddenly, she doesn't feel so invincible any longer.

"Mik…" Kazimir chokes out, getting to one of his knees, "Mik stop. Think about what you're doing, we don't have time for— "

Wagner whips his hand to the side, slamming Claire into Kazimir and knocking him off of his feet, then slamming her into the corner of the doorway fiercely.

"I have thought about this all my life!" Apparently they were having an argument. "I did everything for you! I abandoned my whole life for you! I let Diana die in Germany to protect your plan!" Venom is in the old man's eyes, and soon fire is rolling down one of his arms. "I will not let her death be pointless because you suddenly have a change of conscience brought on by being trapped inside a simpering moron!"

No plan survives contact with the enemy, and this one appears to have gone straight to hell in a handbasket.

The first urge that Cardinal has upon realizing which handbasket he's in is to push out of the shadows and make use of that little present that Claire brought back with her from Madagascar— but in these close quarters, it'd even the playing field too much, leaving them easy prey for the gunmen down the hall.

Instead, that shadow spills down to the floor, keeping out of clear sight as it slides towards Kazimir and Claire's fallen forms, creeping slowly in hopes of evading Wagner's attention in all his rage.

Eileen's body is going through the motions before her brain has finished processing what's happening. If she'd been looking away, attention focused on the firefight around the corner, she would have missed it — it happens so fast. She swings her rifle up and returns Danko's fire, two for two. The first shot ricochets off the metal doorframe with a shrill ping. The second disappears somewhere in the yawning darkness behind him.

She takes the steps two at a time, graceless and ungainly, but even in her haste she knows better than fire again while she's moving. At the bottom of the stairs, she drops beside Gabriel's prone shape, Hector's call for help dwarfed by the blood roaring in her ears. Time is supposed to feel like it's slowing down in situations like these, and in a way it does — to Eileen, it takes an eternity to close the distance, but as soon as she's on the floor next to her fallen teammate, she finds herself dumped unceremoniously back into real time.

As real as it can be where there are ghosts involved. Emile Danko is supposed to be dead, or if not dead then lost in the Malagasy jungles with U.S. forces following his scent through its Adansonia trees.

«Gray's down,» she reports over the radio, her voice distraught and aching, made rough by a complex combination of emotions that has a rapidly changing composition. «What the hell is going on up there?» Another shot discharges, this time aimed at Danko's center of mass. She wants to place her hands on Gabriel, cover the holes in his chest and stop the bleeding, but such actions would be futile until she's driven off the man responsible for them. Eileen can't help him if she's shot, too.

It's very uneventful, really. Bullets punch holes, Gabriel's body jerks, the second one sending him back to collapse against the stairs. He breathes in, once, and breathes out with a wet spatter of dark blood, the rifle free of the hook of his shoulder falling from loose hands and clattering down the staircase, into the drill site. Black shadow ripples over his body, some instinctive attempt to hide, but perhaps the damage forces him to remain flesh, or the snagging unconsciousness steals away the opportunity.

Blood floods beneath his clothing and probably destined to freeze when it hits air, but between layers of padded winter clothes and flesh, it's very warm. Though Gabriel's eyes blink open, he doesn't reach for Eileen, doesn't see Eileen, not really, drawing in another rattling breath before his eyes slip closed. Somehow, it's better than the cold blowing inside.

Danko's seen better days, no doubt, but he's alive enough to manage a smug, sickly slant at the corner of his mouth for the look on Eileen's face once her first two shots have gone wide and wild respectively.

He waits for her to succumb fully to the distraction of life leaking out of the Midtown Man like water through a sieve to pace forward. One foot at a time, right across left with the semiautomatic held level on Ruskin's fool head every step of the way. He's not just aiming to put her out — he's winding himself up for point blank execution. All the way up until that second door goes flying inward up the stairs and to the right, Kazimir's body flung out after it. His skullish head tips back to squint after smoky tendrils and more than one familiar voice, the tide turned such so quickly that the fact he's reconsidering his play reads out clearly in the squint of his lifeless eyes.

Fortunately Eileen is kind enough to remind him of his present position with a bullet.

It clods itself against the brace of his vest like a sledgehammer. He jerks and nearly buckles, near enough that the rush and wheeze of his breath through his teeth is audible. There's something more than the cold biting deathly pallor into his cadaverous features and glassy eyes. He's flat not at the top of his game.

Her head comes up, when the door flies open ahead of her, Claire's eyes widen as she watches the form of Kazimir go flying over her head. She ducks, but next thing she knows she's being flung into a wall. He impact leaves her breathless and a bit dizzy. Then she feels that familiar sensation, everything suddenly aches, her head pounds with a sudden headache, brought on by the Malaria.

No! Now she's really scared.

That's about all she has time to think before he throws her again, sending her into her uncle and then the door way. Claire throws out her arms in a vain attempt to stop, but that's a mistake as the impact of her hitting the door makes something snap in her arm, making it hang oddly as she hangs suspended by Wagner's power. She cry out as break sends a flare of real and blinding pain. Without her ability the pain is almost unbearable, she wills unconsciousness to take her, but it won't come. All she can do is groan out her pain, her head rolling from side to side as she tries to focus her eyes. "Ouch…" She murmurs before coughing, which sends a fresh jab of pain through her skull, making her eyes screw shut against the pain, not good.

Of little help to anyone at the bottom of the stairs and still cursing between bouts of uneasy silence for Eileen and Gabriel's predicament, Hector waits until the creeper with the gun looks to be in a fair amount of pain before he skirts in through the open door onto the ice at a narrowly balanced skid and onward to do what he was brought here to do. …Hopefully without anymore shooting. Jesus fuck.

Gunshots rise in a crescendo in the hall as Ethan moves out from cover, running past Kazimir's prone form to break into a slide. He slams one shoulder up against a flipped table. Jettisons an expent magazine of ammo and slaps another one in place, then pops up into the line of fire, letting one of those armor=piercing rounds whizz past his head. Ethan, however, is a better shot than his attacker, unloading several rounds into the gunman, then the remainder of his clip into the retreating members of Wagner's security force. "Bugger," he snorts out, dropping that gun entirely and retrieving a single-action revolver from inside of his unzippered coat, "I shoulda' packed a few more."

Unaware of what has happened to Gabriel, unaware that a man is dying or dead on the stairs, Kazimir strides forward towards Wagner, holding out a hand to allow a tendril of entropic energy to slither down one of his arms. "Not so interested in my ability, Wagner?" Blue eyes narrow to cold slits. "Don't do this. You're a better man; you're a good man. Don't throw this all away, don't…"

Wagner's scowl cuts a thin line across his face, attention releasing from Claire as he allows her to fall pront to the ground, telekinetic grip now focused around Kazimir's throat, lifting him off of the ground. "You took everything normal from my life, you made me turn into this so that I could make a better world!" Kazimir's legs kick back and forth, gloved hands scrabbling to find something at his throat he can latch onto, but the fear in his eyes is palpable. He tries to speak, and only a strangles groan comes out.

"You told me to live for a future free of our curse." He takes a step forward, slowly. "You told me to do this for Diana." Another tendril os blue-purple energy is directed towards the hallway leading to the stairs as he passes by it, slender profile visible to Eileen for a moment. "You told me Diana would be safe in Germany!" Gurgling now as his throat is crushed by Wagner's telekinetic grasp, Kazimir's legs continue to kick and flail helplessly.

"You will not take this from me." Raising a flame-shrouded hane, Wagner reaches out for Kazimir, lapping blue fire rising off from his body all the way to one elbow. "You will— " Suddenly, the flames snuf out like a candle on a birthday blown out, and Kazimir drops to the ground. In that exact moment, four of the electrical tethers rising off of Wagner — the ones that point to the opposite side of the facility — disappear in a crackling pop.

"Wh— " The loud report of a gunshot sends Wagner staggering back as Ethan places a round from his revolver dead-center into his chest. Wagner moves back with the force of the gunshot, and Ethan's rising up from the ground by the table, bang, "You," bang, "little," bang, "fucker, bang."

Crawling on his hands and knees across the ground, Kazimir reaches Claire, breathing heavy and choking out blood as he retrieves a gun from inside of his jacket. "I'm sorry." He murmurs, shooting the dart-gun of tranquilizers into the side of Claire's neck at near point-blank range. The pain is immense for about an instant, until that massive dose of tranquilizers causes her eyes to roll back in her head and a sharp exhalation of breath later lose consciousness.

"Wolf." Wagner spits blood onto the floor, his body spitting a bullet out from the hole in his chest. "I should have expected you would— " A tendril of light disappears from Wagner. His gray brows twitch, chest heaves, and blood begins to gurgle up from his mouth.

Eyeing Claire unconscious from the dart gun, Ethan narrows his eyes and looks back down the barrel of his gun to Wagner. "You shoulda' paid more attention." The next gunshot sends a round square between Wagner's eyes, launching the ability manipulator off of his feet and down to the ground with a spray of red misting the walls and floor.

Kazimir looks back over his shoulder to Ethan, who is comtemplatively considering Kazimir down the barrel now. The Brit narrows his eyes. Click. He looks to the gun, then to Kazimir, and shrugs his shoulders in a oh well motion. Swallowing awkwardly at that, Kazimir rubs a gloved hand at his throat, and begins limping away from Claire carelessly, meeting the stairs where Hector is headed inside of the drill site, towards the large pulley and winch system and the yawning hole in the ground where a steel cable descends down into darkness.

It's only now he sees Gabriel laying bleeding out on the ground, and Kazimir's blue eyes widen in a sharp look of confusion, then dart towards Eileen. A moment later, the lights flicker, the power goes out, and all of Amundsen-Scott rumbles as though an earthquake were shuddering the facility. Bracing himself against a wall, Kazimir looks to to Eileen — his expression converys no possible emotion, save for helplessness. A heartbeat later, he's looking away from her, then out to Hector and the mission at hand. "Steel!" He screams, "The bomb's casing is broken open! It's spilling radiation into the drill site!" He can't mourn for Gabriel, or stop to save his life, there's no telling how long that bomb is going to stay idle for. "Wagner said the timer never counted down, the bomb's a few hundred feet below the ground level…" His footfalls clang metallic clanging against the stairs on his descent. "Is it possible the timer you constructed was damaged? Would that stop the detonation entirely?"

Claire'll be well; she may be unconscious, but her ability's hers again, and she'll heal up from whatever was done to her. The drugs probably won't even last very long, from what Cardinal remembers. Forgotten by many, perhaps, the shadow brushes over the blonde girl's hand where it lays upon the floor before slithering after Kazimir, mingling with his own shadow as camoflage as they head in.

Ah, hell. All that shouting is not good news.

Eileen loses her visual bead on Danko when the power goes out, the flickering flourescent lights blink off and the stairwell and its inhabitants are plunged into inky blackness. Her eyes are slow to adjust, picking out the vague outlines from the shadows but whether or not the shapes they resemble are human or an optical illusion is impossible for her to determine. Even with the residual light bleeding in through the drill site's windows, she dares not risk firing on Danko's last known position lest she hit Kazimir or, worse, Hector by mistake.

Instead, she lets her rifle dangle from its strap as she leans over Gabriel, cupping his face in her hands. Her forehead touches his and, spreading outward, her dark hair forms a halo around it. There is nothing sensual about the close proximity of her mouth to his — she's listening for the rattling sound of his breath, searching for warmth with her lips. There is none.

"No. No, no, no." Although it remains at the same volume and pitch, each repetition causes Eileen's voice to increase in intensity, growing haggard, wet, raw. "Stay. Stay."

Mission accomplished — for now — Danko knows an opportunity when one falls in around him like a gloomy cloak. Even at a breathless hunch, he manages to move quickly in low light before eyes can adjust and priorities can be filed and reorganized. He pauses only long enough to squint back over his shoulder at Kazimir's brisk entrance before he vanishes in full. On into deeper shadow, and if the scuff of booted feet on metal rungs is any indication, eventually up a ladder somewhere.

People are being shot, people are dying, radiation leakage is rapidly assuring that Hector will never have children of his own and yet Kazimir screaming his name is the first thing that's really literally made him cringe. "It's — possible, however highly unlikely," conceded in the same irritating fashion certain people use for correcting impossibilities as merely improbabilities, Steel has to take a moment to shake his hands out to take the edge off their trembling enough for him to be able to type whatever it is he's attempting to type into the first computer console he's come upon with emergency power.

"Perhaps if you'd informed me of your intention to impliment the software at the time of its creation…" takatakataka. Fast cast in shades of blue and white by spilloff from the monitor, he types quickly, which is probably a surprise to no one. "I think Gray is dying."

With his index finger in his left ear, wiggling it around due to the tinnitus rattling at the side of his head, Ethan cocks a brow as he walks past Claire's motionless form down the hall, dropping his revolver to the floor as he crouches down at her side. An assessing look is given over her, just long enough to determine she's in no condition to be handling a firearm, relieving her of her M-16 as he pulls the shoulder strap over her head and hooks it over his and rests down on one shoulder.

Hearing Eileen's pitiful sounds from the stairwell, his brows shoot up and Ethan rises to stand straight, walking across the hall's suddenly silent floor save for the brief rise of distant gunfire again, and the sound of shell casings rattling at the soles of his boots. It's only once he rounds the corner that he sees Sylar laying there, not moving, not doing much of anything except being cried on. The Wolf's jaw tenses, throat working before he starts coming down the stairs.

He can't see where the attack came from, can't see who could have even hit him from where he was, let alone how they could've gotten the drop on him. Ethan says nothing, just takes a knee beside Eileen, brows scrunched up as he rests one hand on her shoulder, and looks into the dim, shadowy illumination of the drill site and that dark hole at its center.

In that dark hexagon shaped room, the sound of footsteps on metal catches Kazimir's attention for a moment, now that the facility has gone momentarially quiet. He swallows, audibly, and moves to stand beside Hector, reaching up to pluck his SatCom earpiece from one ear with a gloved hand, hooking it over his own afterward. "I know…" Kazimir offers in quiet answer to Hector's question long after it was asked. "Go up and get the SatCom from him on the stairs…" He offers in a hushed tone of voice, "guide me through what I need to do." There's a tone of silent solemnity in the scarred man's voice. "I'll climb down on the cable, describe what I see, and you can just— walk me through." The levels of radiation emanated from the cracked casing of the bomb could be fatal, nothing Kazimir would survive for a prolonged period of time.

On the screens Hector is accessing, the machinist finds the drill depth of the hole at 650 feet from surface, originally intended only to be eight inches wide for a core sample of the ice, now some eight feet wide to accomodate the massive bomb undoubtedly down at its depths. Facts later added in b the Vanguard include digital photographs of the bomb after its delivery, including a massive fissure in the rounded hull of the weapon, reports of radiation sickness and death in the delivery crew, coupled with logs of reports indicating that the bomb counted down to seventeen minutes and then ceased its reports. With no qualified nuclear technicians, it was left to Wagner to attempt to discern the reason for the bomb's failure to detonate, and sabotage — the likes of which had been experienced all around the base — was deemed the likely cause. Instead of investigating the bomb itself, Wagner devoted countless hours of manpower to discover the sabotaur. If only he'd tried the simpler solution — well— then everyone would be dead likely.

Watching Hector work, Kazimir reaches in to his thick jacket to remove a flashlight, clicking it on and shining a beam up light up to where he had heard those footsteps on metal, only seeing an iron runged ladder, but no one on it. He squints, then shakes his head and begins to move towards the drill hole. "Can you— "

A sudden and violent explosion of quaking from the ground cuts Kazimir's words off as the entire facility of Amundsen-Scott and the ice shelf it is perched upon is rocked from side to side. The sound of ice splitting and cracking is almost the same noise as a gunshot, piercing and quick. The noise of twisting metal and the shrieking wail of straining steel is nothing like that, however, it is a prolonged cry of something very wrong happening. Sudden panicked chatter comes over the SatComs, teams confirming mission successes, teams screaming and the sounds of gunfire, and then another violent shake, and that groaning crunch of snapping metal sounds just a little closer.

The noise echoes thorugh Amundsen-Scott, makes it sound twice as loud from the reverberations shaking through the metal supports. Kazimir falls to the ground, hard, slides across the ice but braces himself with both feet against the bottom supports of the winch frame perched over the drill hole. His flashlight goes skittering over the edge, a light-dark-light-dark flash of it spinning end over end repeats for thirty some odd seconds before the crunch of it hitting ice is heard. Somehow, it doesn't ping off of metal, doesn't hit the bomb, and when the flashlight lands, it lands lens up, shining a beam straight up out of the hole.

"Wh— " Kazimir's blue eyes go wide as the ice shelf shakes again, that groaning creak of metal gettng closer and closer, like the station's dying cries as something devours it. Bracing himself with his hands, Kazimir moves to his knees and holds one hand on the struts of the winch support, leaning over to stare down the hole.

For a moment, the bomb isn't there. The braided steel cable is taut, extending all the way down several hundred feet, to— nothing. It just hangs there with no bomb, and the flashlight embedded in the ice at the bottom, shining up reflections off of the slick ice wall of the wide hole.

Then, like television static brought to reality, the bomb fizzles into being like a scrambled image once Kazimir's eyes settle on where it should be. His mouth hangs open, breath hitching in the back of his throat, and Hector hears the soothing femenine voice he designed the bomb to call out the countdown to Armageddon in (the same voice he used on the crab tank!) in crackling echo from the deep hole.

T-Minus fifteen minutes and thirty seconds until detonation.

"No" Kazimir breathes out, using the metal struts of the support as a brace, unable to fathom what he just witnessed but far more able to comprehend what he heard. "No!" One gloved hand holding him up against an angled steel support for the winch, Kazimir looks back towards Hector, then towards the doorway where Eileen is watching Gabriel die.

When the ground quakes a second time, Kazimir presses ihs hand to one of his ears to speak over the comms, trying to warn the other teams. «The bomb is going to blow! There's no time left if we can't stop this shaking!» The lining of the room, the electromagnetic interference from the bomb, so many things contribute to the signal's crackling and sputtering quality. «Evacuate the facility, everyone else— get out!» That much is lost beyond those who can hear him in this room, transmissions disrupted too much by the interference.

«We're out of time!»

T-Minus fifteen minutes until detonation.

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