The Eight-Pointed Star, Part IV

Participants:

avi_icon.gif cesar_icon.gif dearing_icon.gif garza_icon.gif godfrey2_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif indira_icon.gif

jaiden_icon.gif kenner2_icon.gif lance_icon.gif lucille3_icon.gif nicole2_icon.gif shane2_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Scene Title The Eight-Pointed Star, Part IV
Synopsis SESA moves on Shedda Dinu's Headquarters.
Date February 27, 2020

«Caucasian male — mid-thirties, dark hair — just entering the building.»

Rochester New York was spared the worst of the Second American Civil War. While looting, riots, and unrest ravaged the city it was spared the block-to-block fighting, the bombing runs, the superhuman conflict that nearly razed New York City to the ground.

«Confirmed. ETA 6 minutes.»

But Rochester was nonetheless wounded. A shallow, seemingly superficial cut, but one that became infected over time. The international terrorist organization Shedda Dinu sank its roots into the city after the war, covertly took up operations within one of the city’s most historic landmarks: the Time’s Square Building.

«Boxer, this is Dancer, what’s the status on Firefighter?»

Looming high over the streets of Rochester, the Times Square Building is a concrete monument to the brutalist architectural style of the 1930s. Sweeping blades of metal adorn its spire, making it look like a wizard’s tower out of an old paperback fantasy novel when set against the afternoon sun. For a time, this infection was allowed to spread unnoticed.

«Boxer, Dancer, this is Firefighter. We are wheels up. ETA 1 minute.»

That time is over.


The Times Square Building
Rochester, New York

February 27th
3:27 pm


“Mr. Wells,” is the greeting at the door when Godfrey steps foot in off the sidewalk. The lobby of the Times Square Building serves as an entrance to a legitimate business, decorated with elegant art deco reliefs of muscular figures pulling levers and holding lightning bolts. The tiled floor in shades of black, tan, and cream tesslates out toward the elevators. The doorman offers Godfrey a fond smile, shutting the door behind him on his way inside.

There was a time, not all that long ago, that Godfrey felt at home here. There was a time when this place made him feel like his future was a bright one, that there was going to be a turning point where everything suddenly made sense. Where his dreams would be realized. Looking at those old reliefs on the walls now, his stomach turns with the reality of the situation. The fingers on the monkey’s paw have all closed.

All that is left is a fist.

A fist that was waiting for the right moment to smash right into Antonio Garza’s perfect face. A pity. Each meeting had become torture. Everyday putting on that flirtatious smile; just as he does now for the lobby security. “Hel-lo, Jimmy. Beautiful day today, isn’t it.”

Stopping briefly he brightens up that smile, “You look impeccable today, new suit, yeah? Glad you took my advice. Pity you’re married.” He gives the man an appraising look before turning to the elevators. “Tell her, she’s welcome,” he calls back as he steps in.

Once the doors close, his smile falls away as he sees himself in the dull metallic surface of the elevator. He was thankful for the cooler weather, it allowed for the long coat he was wearing. If anything he looked good today. He can see a small flicker of light behind his dark eyes, forcing him to calm his thoughts and squash his irritation. He was getting impatient. He had given multiple sources perfectly good intel on the location of Shedda-Dinu.

Yet, they still frustratingly stood.

One thing would change today, though… Godfrey pulls a card from his inner pocket. A registration card at that, but not just any… he had paid a pretty penny for the forgery. Someone out there had snitched, in a way he did not. For all he knew, his name was in SESA hands. So… he couldn’t risk getting a real registration card. He needed to look like he’d registered, a measure of protection from being wiped again.

The soft ding of the elevator told Godfrey he was nearing his destination. After twirling the card through his fingers, it disappears back into the pocket and he waits for the doors to open.

“— don’t care what the technical challenges are, I need to know why the alarms were sounded in the first place!” Godfrey can tell something is wrong from the second the elevator doors to the penthouse open. Garza’s voice rings through the palatial halls, ringing off marble and antique wood.

“They’re remote beacons,” is Jaiden’s voice, one Godfrey hadn’t expected. “The buoys relayed from something Adam had off the coast, a research station or a ship or… something. The emergency beacons only trigger if they stop receiving a signal from the source. We can’t communicate with them, they’re just— it’s like an emergency recording.”

Decades of imprisonment in a tomb of concrete did little for Garza’s technical expertise. Jaiden, patiently, explains the particulars of something that sounds dire. Garza’s response is a frustrated, “Then we need to find out what is happening. Our emergency line to command is severed. We’re blind.”

As Godfrey moves through the spacious foyer of the penthouse toward the sound of those voices, he can see thanks to the angle of gilded mirrors and glass cabinets, Garza and Jaiden in the lounge, standing in close proximity to one-another, having a heated argument.

Oooooh… this is interesting.

Godfrey takes an eager step out of the elevator and moves with a quicker step until he can see their reflections, pausing for a moment to gauge what he is walking into. What the pair was discussing was both concerning and rather exciting.

The fact that even Adam’s top men had no idea what was going on? Well, that had his attention.

Taking those last few steps, that smug self-assured smile returns like the well worn mask it was. Godfrey has worn this particular one for a rather long time. “Gentlemen, gentlemen. You’re both pretty,” he offers with hands spread helplessly. It is an attempt to break up the argument and turn their attention to him. As much as he loathes them, leaving them to argue wasn't the best of ideas.

Godfrey looks between the two men with brows lifted in obvious interest in what was going on. “I see that I've come at a rather unfortunate time, but I admit, I am now rather curious what has the two of you so snappy.” Hand fold in front of him, as Godfrey tries to look concerned.

“Should the rest of us be worried?”

Garza snaps a sharp look over at Godfrey, then relaxes when he realizes who it is. Jaiden does much the same, but already had Godfrey in his periphery and is less startled. “Leadership may have been hit,” Jaiden says as he paces the floor of the lounge, one hand slowly scrubbing over his stubbled chin in thought.

My leadership,” Garza clarifies, one brow lifted. “We also have lost contact with Espenosa. He hasn’t checked in for weeks. Between this and communications being severed with command, I’m concerned for our operations security.”

“I think you’re overreacting,” Jaiden asserts, shaking his head. “We don’t know what the hell happened to the comm buoys.” He says, turning toward the liquor cabinet, about to pour himself a drink when he pauses and angles his head toward Godfrey.

“I think Garza might have a point,” comes from behind Godfrey. “Do we have any way of sending out a mass alert to our people?”

kenner2_icon.gif


Meanwhile
Not Far Away

The Tlanuwa
Somewhere over Rochester

3:37 pm


“Civil air defense has given us the all-clear for full operations spectrum. We’re good to rock and roll.”

The X-52 ROOK is a unique, hybrid-wing aircraft with similar flight capabilities as modern VTOL aircraft and serves as a personnel transport and versatile attack vehicle. It was liberated from the US Military by Wolfhound during the Second American Civil War, the only prototype of its kind to survive the destruction of the airfield they were first deployed on. Wolfhound’s co-founder, Hana Gitelman, gave the surviving prototype the nickname Tlanuwa after the steel-feathered bird of native American mythology.

“We are at 1,000 feet and holding.”

Inside the close quarters of the jet, Wolfhound Commander Avi Epstein sits in the pilot seat, headset on and attention leveled out to the skyline of Rochester New York spread out before him through the cockpit window. With a gentle touch of the stick to the left, he pivots the aircraft in a hair-pin turn while it hovers stationary, centering the luminous HUD on the interior windscreen on a tall, concrete building nearby. The Times Square Building.

“Air Cavalry, check-in.” Avi says into his headset’s mic, glancing back over his shoulder into the cabin behind him.

“Oh uh, yeah uh, Nunnehi-02 uh…” Francis Harkness works with the straps of his conventional body armor, “pretty much good to go here. Just uh, yeah. No everything’s fine here. I’m fine. How’re you?” He slides a box of ammunition under his seat with one foot, looking back up toward the cockpit.

“Nunnehi-03 is good to go, uh,” Lance sweeps his gaze over the console, “Everything green here. Kind of wish my slice was spider eyes, though.” It’s a lot of different feeds to look at, after all! This isn’t the first time that he’s done this, though, and he’s starting to get the hang of it. “Looks like all feeds are returning image clear.”

He’s trying so hard not to let the anxiety creep through, but some of it’s noticeable to the crew of the craft. They probably think he’s worried about the op, or screwing up, though.

He’s worried his father is down there.

“Nunnehi-01, 10-2.” Signal is clear. Nicole brings a hand up to adjust the headset over her ears briefly then gives a glance over to where Lance is monitoring the various feeds. She’s a bit more on the no-nonsense side of things and has been since the war, after she left the front lines and moved into strategy anyway.

Pushing up from her seat in the co-pilot position, she moves to stand behind the junior SESA agent. When she’s sure he has her in his periphery, she rests a hand on his shoulder and gives him a gentle squeeze. They know some of what to expect here. This isn’t a search and destroy mission. The goal is to bring in as many suspects as they can. Varlane leans down and tells Lance firmly, “You’ve got this.”

Avi flips a couple of switches on the overhead console, then checks out the left side window, looking down past the nose at the street below. “Alright, I’m gonna bring this bird down below rooftop level,” he says, relaxing back against his seat. “Nunnehi-03, do your thing buddy.”

Lance glances back to the touch on his shoulder, flashing a quick, grateful smile to Nicole. “I know,” he says, burying his real worry deeper before looking back to the screens. Word comes from the man in the front then, and he briefly closes his eyes.

“Sound isolation field active,” he reports, as outside the Tlanuwa the sound of the vehicle cuts to dead, complete silence. All that’s left is a disturbance of air that the birds would notice, but humans aren’t equipped to. “Go for it.”

With the sound cut on their arrival, Nicole knows better than to stand around while Avi’s at the helm and ready to go. With one last pat, she leaves Lance’s station and drops back into her seat, preparing for Epstein and his fancy flying.

“Let’s get this party started.”

So maybe she can let her hair down just a little bit.


Meanwhile
Nearby

Civic Center Garage
400 Feet From the Times Square Building

3:43 pm


“Alright people, we have confirmation Wolfhound is in the air!”

It’s been years since Kristopher Voss was in the field like this. His epithet-come-nickname cockroach was earned in those days, survivor of a dozen fatal shootings in the line of duty. Now, standing in a parking garage beside several unmarked vans, Voss looks out over an enormous gathering of RCPD officers mixed with SESA and FBI agents. “We have two sharpshooter teams waiting to move into position so as to not give away our advance!” He holds a two-way radio in the air over his head and gives it a chirp to make sure everyone is paying attention.

“RCPD is prepared to move in and block off all streets on our order,” Voss says, his voice echoing in the parking garage. “We have confirmation that one Godfrey Wells has just entered the building, we believe that the only other active Shedda-Dinu members present in the building are Antonia Garza and Jaiden Mortlock.”

“Reminders from your dossiers! This could save lives!” Voss shouts. “Wells is registered Unmanifested, but that is very well a line of shit. Mortlock is a hydrokinetic, extreme threat. He can stop bullets if given access to enough water and will pin you down and suffocate you to death. Garza is a plasma mimic, which means he can turn into nuclear-hot fire.” All of this was covered in the briefings earlier in the week, but Voss can’t risk this going sideways.

“We have reason to believe Secretary Zimmerman and Press Secretary Shaw may be held captive on these premises, but we do not have confirmation. Remember, use of nonlethal force is preferred but use your discretion.” Voss says, pacing back and forth in front of the officers and agents gathered. “Team Alpha will breach the building at the front entrance,” he says motioning over to Wolfhound members on the ground.

James Dearing, loaded for bear in his full AEGIS armor, shotgun propped over one shoulder, pivots at the waist to look over to Huruma Dunsimi standing nearby, then past her to Lucille, before giving a nod to Agent Cesar Diaz.

Voss continues. “Teams Beta, Delta, and Gamma will enter through the west, north, and south entrances alongside Alpha. Team Epsilon will move through after the four teams have ascended to the next floor. Our air support will keep an eye on the roof and the sky to make sure we have all angles covered.”

Behind Voss, a brunette woman in a trim suit stands silently watching with a tablet held close to her chest. The plastic badge clipped to her lapel reads Indira Laghani, UN Observer. It wasn’t often the war crimes observation units were deployed in the field since the end of the Second American Civil War, but moments like today bring their scrutiny to a laser focus. Indira raises two fingers to her earpiece, nodding once, while she continues to listen.

Planning and directing is met at length with stony, affirmative silence from Huruma Dunsimi; while there are times her experience shines through as chaos, her focus is something of tall tales. Eyes alert, shining, pupils stilled. Posture upright, chin forward, shoulders back. Like Dearing, at full load with her own tools of choice.

The AEGIS helmet tucked under her arm slides free, quietly pulled over her forward features as Dearing pings her a look. While there is one on her squad she doesn't have familiarity with— Diaz— Huruma can see through to his valiance, rooted firm. Worth trusting, she feels.

"Discretion." Huruma mutters, affirmative as she can get, though she does toss Lucille a cock of her helmet, a look. They may need to check one another. Time to see. To the Alphas, a quiet set of clicking syllabes, mantra-like. "!Gâi!gâb, /Gamsa-kxau. Good luck. Burn hot."

Standing with Team Alpha, Cesar rolls his shoulders to adjust the fit of his Aegis suit. He catches the short nod from Dearing, replying in kind in mirror gesture as he listens to Voss' rundown. Bless the helmet on his head shielding much of his expression of concern with every listed Evolved individual from the dossiers mentioned. Nuclear hot fire, drowning, and other unknown abilities. It only makes him more heightened in his awareness of the powers surrounding him.

And as the sit-rep concludes and the operation leans forward to the starting line, Cesar hefts his XLRAD Banshee and checks one last time on the strap of his backup shotgun. Huruma's well-wishes get a mixed bag from the SESA agent. "Could we not burn anything, maybe," mutters Cesar under his breath as he lightly taps a gloved fist twice to his chest plate. Things had only just healed up.

At the mention of Jaiden's name, Lucille's eyes lock onto Huruma's and she hips her head. He had to have been radicalized, maybe his wife's death? This was going to be interesting one if it wasn't already. The nerves she felt on the way have been quelled by her meditative state she had tried to enter. Now her breathing was relaxed and her hands slide over her weapons. No rockets… but a grenade tucked in the pouch at her side in case of emergency. The news that there were high level officials could be inside makes the tall woman stiffen especially given her last encounter with Alice Shaw.

There's an undercut of bitterness as the name is said but Lucille keeps her gaze forward now, lighting checking her gear as she listens to the instructions.

"On my best behavior," Lucille says, looking over at Cesar and tilting her head.

“Alright folks, we’re only going to get one shot at this.” Voss says as he paces back and forth. “RCPD have orders to incapacitate the known teleporter believed to be in contact with or a member of Shedda Dinu, we can’t have her moving assets in and out of the building. We also have reason to believe the woman responsible for the Yamagato bombing — another teleporter — could be on premises. You have authorization for extreme measures to ensure that neither manages to get enemy combatants out of the grounds.”

Federal agents and RCPD officers in riot gear line up behind the members of Wolfhound and SESA as Voss brings his radio to his mouth. “Air support, ETA?”

Avi Epstein’s voice comes over the radio. «Inbound, visual contact. You’re clear to engage, we have the sky covered.»

“Affirmative,” Voss calls over the radio, then makes a circular motion over his head. “Alpha team, move out!”


The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
3:48 pm


Godfrey looks a touch bored as the other men argue amongst themselves, he has long ago moved to follow Jaiden’s example. Though he picks something at the back of the offered libations. If he has to listen to all this he would need to be a bit more inebriate.

“For an organization aligned with Praxis, we are certainly poorly prepared for an emergency,” Godfrey swirls the drink and pulls out his cellphone quite casually and holds it up. “Not even a… what do they call it? A phone tree, gentlemen? Mmm? No?” He looks at each with brows lifted, he knows he’s pushing his luck, but… “I mean, if leadership…” Godfrey motions at Garza, “Sorry, you’re leadership… has been hit, what is burning a few phones to get the message out?”

The phone is dropped into this pocket with a sigh, Godfrey shrugs. Walking towards a window, he continues rather blandly, like he was bored of the whole conversation. “I guess I could be bothered to stick m’ hand out the window and act as a giant spotlight to bring all the little lambs home.”

Godfrey moves to take a sip of his drink then and pauses. “Oh! That’s right. I had completely forgotten the whole bloody reason I was here.” Turning back to the room, he holds up his glass in a toast with a hand tucked at his back. Godfrey beams as he announces, “Gentlemen, I am pleased to say that I finally manifested my ability.” His attention is mostly on Garza, who sees nothing but emptiness in Godfrey’s eyes, until light shifts behind his pupils like a cat’s eyes in the dark. The smile on the heliokinetic’s face was rather smug and perhaps even rather pleased with himself.

Whatever Garza might have had to say about phone trees is lost when Godfrey reveals his manifestation. Jaiden angles a confused look at Garza, and Kenner — who had only just arrived — steps up and gently claps a hand on Godfrey’s shoulder and gives him a wholly unknowing and supportive nod.

Mazel tov,” Kenner says, turning a look to Garza and Jaiden who seem unusually quiet about such a celebratory discovery.

Suspiciously so.


Meanwhile
Not Far Away

The Tlanuwa
Somewhere over Rochester

3:49 pm


“Ground team is clear for deployment,” Avi calls over the comms, weaving between the buildings of downtown Rochester in the Tlanuwa. He’s trying to keep below roof level to prevent anyone in the Times Square Building from having a clear line of sight until it’s too late. “Alpha team is moving into position to breach the building, we’re going to stay eyes-sharp on the roof, clear?”

With a tug back on the stick, Avi skims over the roof of a low-rise residential building, just barely missing an antenna array. He angles nose down afterward, plunging toward the street before banking a sharp left and flying straight down West Main Street over mid-day traffic, then banks right to cut down South Fitzburgh Street. “Closing in, less than a thousand feet.”

On Lance’s console, multiple picture-in-picture windows show views of the RCPD body cameras, a separate block of windows for SESA, the FBI, and another for Wolfhound. Each camera has a name below it; first initial and last name. He can’t hear anything over each individual camera, but he can attenuate to an individual feed’s audio manually.

“Hold on to your butts,” Avi calls into the comms as he pulls up and left onto the stick, bringing the Tlanuwa into a sharp ascent that follows the vertical angle of the City Hall building’s wall almost parallel. The Tlanuwa levels out, right about at roof level with the Times Square Building, and ascends about 20 feet.

“Ok, we’re in position!”

Anyone listening to the comms may hear in the background of Avi’s broadcast a suspicious ‘whoop!’ of enthusiasm from Lance as the Tlanuwa pulls that ascent up the building, his lips curved in a broad grin as he’s pushed back into the seat.

Once they’ve leveled out, he gives his head a shake to clear the pressure before looking back over the comms. “All we need now is a moose,” he quips to the front.

Not over the comms.

“I’ve got eyes on everyone.”

Lance’s comment is responded to by an angling of Nicole’s head back, peering around from the co-pilot’s seat to give him a curious and confused look. What good is a moose going to do anyone right now? She’s also given no such sounds of excitement as they descend and move into position.

Turning back to the view ahead, Varlane’s expression is grim. There’s nothing she can say now that hasn’t already been said. No warning that hasn’t been given or advice that hasn’t yet been imparted. Now it’s just time to see what this combined task force can flush out.

Whatever hopes she has about what or who that might be have gone entirely unvoiced.

Don’t even joke about that, Lance!” Avi bellows back over his shoulder.


Meanwhile
Nearby

The Times Square Building
Exterior

3:55 pm


During the march from the Civic Center Garage to the Times Square Building dozens of RCPD vehicles swarmed out from the neighboring streets. SUVs block off every road access around the building, lights off and sirens silenced. Bystanders on the street are hauled off by uniformed officers, dragged back behind the rapidly forming barricades of vehicles to keep them clear of the engagement zone.

Team Alpha cuts a sharp, dark line across West Broad Street and onto Exchange Boulevard. «Tlanuwa is in position,» Voss’ voice crackles over the radio from the command truck back at the parking garage. «Beta, Delta, and Gamma are in position. Waiting for Alpha to breach.»

Team Alpha rounds the corner of the building, facing the double-hinged glass doors leading into the lobby of the building. Concerned noises echo from bystanders still being pushed out of the engagement zone. Snipers can be seen training their sights on the building from all the adjacent buildings.

It’s time.

It's not exactly the way they do it in the television… but it's close. Cesar takes up one side of the double doors of the Times Square Building front entrance, signaling with a short hand gesture and nod to Dearing on the other side. Swinging the doors open, he steps through the threshold and scans the entry for immediate targets and threats. There's trust for the lady Wolfhounds to follow suit, along with expectation they'll take a quiet approach at first.

Soon as the lower lobby level clears, Agent Diaz speaks into their comms. "«Alpha Team, lobby is clear. We're heading up.>" By the stairwell door, he motions to the Wolfhounds, a faint smile sent their way as he is aware of their capabilities. "Ladies first?"

"What a gentleman." Huruma purrs, rifle braced underarm from the clearing of the ground floor. She shoulders her way into the stairwell in the next breath, taking an initial look upwards despite the stretch of her empathic field, twisting its way ahead and around, skittering over minds in silent searching.

With the path ahead clear as far as she can reach, Huruma angles her head back and gives the others a gesture relaying the same. Good to go. She picks up and starts her ascent, pausing for just a few seconds on every other landing to assess the spaces above.

Lucille's movements are fluid as she stalks in after Huruma, eyes flaring hot amber gold as her radar pushes out though allowing Huruma's better range to take the forefront for any scanning, her ability was in better use for the small, hidden places people could be hiding not too far from Lucille herself. She feels the biological signs of her comrades though, them being so near.

Up she goes, quietly behind Huruma and her own firearm ready, the submachine gun she's carried with her since before the days of the war is gripped. All signs were clear, there weren't any reports of her father but maybe he was here? Lucille hoped not.

RCPD swarm in behind Wolfhound, alerting the startled building employees behind the security desk of the severity of the situation. Police officers make barked calls for the concierge staff to get on the ground, hands are raised, guns are trained. There’s a crash in the distant back of the building as the three other teams breach the ground floor by force through locked doors. Shouts of alarm and authoritative barks for compliance echo through corridors as much as shrieks and screams of confusion do.

As Wolfhound makes their way to the stairwell alongside SESA, their body cameras feed intelligence back to their eyes in the sky.


The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:00 pm


“Jaiden, I need you to— ” Garza’s comment is cut off by the shrill ring of a land-line phone on a small table across the lounge near the arm of his chair. He levels a wordless look to everyone in the room and marches over, picking up the receiver. “What?” He barks immediately at the person on the other end, the irritation in his voice is palpable.

But whatever it is Garza hears on the other end has his face sagging, his attention snapping back to Godfrey and Kenner, then over his shoulder to Jaiden. Slowly, Garza tenses, then sets the receiver back on the hook. “We’re being raided,” comes with a raise of his hackles.

Which is precisely when Godfrey feels an arm wrap around his throat into a chokehold, dragging him backwards like a body shield, followed by a handgun aimed out over his shoulder at Garza. “Antonio Garza you are under arrest!

Donald Kenner stares over Godfrey’s shoulder, sidearm leveled at Garza. “Get down on the floor, now!

Dark brows lift with curious interest as the phone suddenly rings; but curiosity shifts to barely contained excitement as Godfrey watches the shift in Garza’s expression, a hand slipping into the pocket of the overcoat he just happened to still be wearing.

Whatever Godfrey was planning to do… he’s interrupted rather rudely as Kenner’s arm latches around his neck. Godfrey’s glass slides through his fingers and shatters into a million tiny shards and puddles of expensive scotch at his feet. Being in a chokehold was not a pleasant sensation by any means. It restricted breathing and he rather liked doing that. Nails of one hand grip at the fabric of Kenner’s arm trying to pull the arm away from his throat, but not to plea or shout…

“About bloody time,” Godfrey hisses between clenched teeth, under his breath to Kenner, “Is the government always this slow? Or’s it just you lot?”

There is no waiting for an answer as he turns a look towards his boss, eyes flashing with that inner light excitedly. He wanted to see Garza’s reaction… when he realizes….

Pktink tinktinktink.

While everyone was focused upward on the gun in Kenner’s hand, Godfrey had leaped into action, using the distraction to make his move. With a flick of his thumb, the pin flies off a canister that suddenly appears at his side. It gives a sputter, then another, before the pressurised gasses within it start to curl out in an oily cascade.

Hisssss!

Lips pull back from bright white teeth into a wicked smile as he loosens his grip on the canister and lets it fall. No sooner does it hit the floor, then a pricey Italian leather shoe kicks it across the floor. Oops…. My bad. The canister skitters, spins, and bounces across the floor towards Garza and Jaiden while belching large amounts of a thick yellow fog.

There is abject confusion coming from Kenner at the sight of a canister of negation gas billowing with horrific yellow smoke. “Oh what the fuck,” he mumbles, releasing Godfrey and backing out of the lounge toward the penthouse lobby. “You idiot!” Kenner howls, staggering backwards and trying to put as much distance between himself and the canister.

Garza, shocked, presses back up against the wall as the gas begins to lick up the side of his leg. Jaiden, however, is first to react with a clench of his fist in the air as the gas approaches him. “Water vapor,” he says with a look at Godfrey, who has just enough time to raise one eyebrow in contemplation of his actions before the entire cloud of gas animates and rushes through the lobby toward him. Godfrey is overcome by the sudden bilious cloud of noxious yellow fog.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Kenner shouts as he runs, skidding to a stop across the marble tile floor. He turns to his right, fires at the window beside him blowing out the glass, then raises his other hand as the cloud comes at him. It flattens as if hitting an invisible pane and then jettisons out the window in a redirection of the water vapor that carries the negation chemicals.

Jaiden strains, curling his fingers tightly into the air, leaning against the invisible force that Kenner has projected against the gas. Two hydrokinetics, struggling in a battle of wills against the gas. “Kill him!” Garza shouts, his eyes flickering with fiery orange hues, smoke rising off of his clothes, “Kill them both!” He struggles, trying to transform into his pyroclasmic form of living inferno, but the brief contact with the gas is making the transformation a battle.

Screaming, Jaiden stomps one foot onto the ground and all the pipes in the walls rupture at once, spreading outward from his position. Water sprays in all directions, snakes around the cloud of gas and encroaches on Kenner. “Fuck, fuck!” Kenner hisses as needling tendrils of water strike like coiled vipers. He redirects his attention from the gas and waves his hands violently, dispersing the needles of water before they can perforate him, but the cloud of horrific gas washes over him next, clinging in his eyes, nose, and mouth.

Fuck!” Kenner shouts, squinting against the gas. “Fuck!


Meanwhile
Not Far Away

The Tlanuwa
Holding Position Over the Old City Hall Building

4:06 pm


“What the fuck?”

Epstein rises out of his seat to get a better look at the penthouse windows over the nose of the jet. “I’m pulling in to get a closer look,” he says as he nudges the stick, strafing to the right and then slowly closes in on the skyscraper. “Operation Command, this is Tlanuwa-2” he calls in, “We have Negation Gas deployed at penthouse. Confirm op?”

«Negative, Tlanuwa-2,» Voss comes in loud and clear, «We see deployment, but it’s not ours. Do you have eyes on?»

Epstein turns around, sitting back in his seat and grabbing the controls. “Kid!” He shouts to Lance. “Fuck, radio down to Alpha. We’ve got fucking— negation gas pouring out of the fucking penthouse! Find out if they decided it was time for war crimes!

“Command,” Avi says, pulling the aircraft around to the side, finding the window the gas is pouring out of, “gas is blocking vision. No clear line of sight. Cannot advise!”

“Fuck,” Lance echoes in a mutter under his breath, gaze sweeping over the cameras, “I’m not seeing it on any live feeds, but— “ Better safe than sorry, and Alpha also needs to know what they’re getting into.

«Alpha, this is Nunnehi-03, we see negation gas pouring out of the penthouse - be advised. One of you do something or is this an unknown variable?»

The blood drains out of Nicole’s face at the sight of the thick yellow cloud billowing from the blown out window. “We need someone in there yesterday,” she hisses, unaware that they’ve actually had someone in there for months, technically. Pulling against the webbing that will keep her in her seat in the event that things take a nosedive, Nicole leans forward as though she might be better able to see through all of it and find out what the hell has happened to make things go so utterly sideways before they’ve even begun.

“Epstein.” The name’s not quite snapped, but it has an element of the stocato to it to make it heard over the noise of the engines. “Can you get me to that rooftop?” She’s serious. They’ve made some tough calls together over the years, and goodness knows their gambits — and those of the Olympians before her time in command — didn’t always work out, but this is too important. “You don’t need an ability to be competent and neither do I,” Nicole reminds him before he can even try that argument with her.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” Avi shouts over his shoulder at Nicole without looking. “What’re you going to do politely ask the gas to stop? We don’t know what the fuck’s going on in there!” At the same time, Avi continues to circle the building with the nose pointed at the penthouse.

He dips the stick forward a touch, dropping down below the line of the penthouse windows so as to not eclipse their view of the sun and give away their position. “We stay in the fucking bird unless Command says otherwise!”


Meanwhile
Nearby

The Times Square Building
Lobby

4:08 pm


«Alpha we’re receiving report of negation gas in the penthouse, confirm?»

Voss’ confusion comes over the comms before Wolfhound has even breached the ground floor stairwell. RCPD are hauling employees out into the street with hands zip-tied behind themselves. Dearing pauses in the stairwell, looking back over his shoulder with his shotgun aimed down at the floor. He eyes Cesar, one brow raised.

“Negative, Command.” Dearing calls back. “We haven’t advanced up yet.”

«Beta, Delta, and Gamma, will sweep the building, Alpha I need you at the penthouse yesterday!»

Dearing aims his shotgun up the stairwell, then looks back at Cesar. “What’s the call, Chief? We takin’ the stairs or the elevator?”

"Coño carajo, when the hell does anything go smoothly anymore?" Cesar swears as Alpha team overhears the chatter on the radio. Standing in the stairwell, he looks up at the number of stairs left to climb, starts to gauge how quickly the team can back out.

They have seconds, maybe. Looking over to his teammates, he realizes as his gaze lands on Dearing. The SESA agent's expression turns momentarily thoughtful. Gesturing over to Huruma and Lucille, he remarks, "Now don't be mad 'cause I know it's impolite to ask a lady her weight, so. I'm gonna ask him instead." He turns to his current male teammate, motions to them as a group, and then, "Dearing. When the Man says jump, do you ever ask: how high?"

Can the guy with superstrength take them all? The question hangs in the airspace of the stairwell, as does the possible fate of those up in the penthouse.

“You gotta be shitting me.” Dearing deadpans. It’s not a no.

"Come on, don't act like you've never done it before," Maybe Dearing hadn't but Lucille masks a light grin with a wave of her hand, the news of negation gas doesn't make her feel particularly good but this is what they were trained for, any situation. Though Cesar's attitude provides a much needed levity on top of the decision being innovative, creative. He would fit with the Hounds surely.

The blue eyed woman steps up to Dearing and grabs hold, amber burning eyes shift upwards and Luce arches an eyebrow, "Just.. uh, watch your landing there bud."

Waiting for the others to take hold the woman's mind races with the impending danger they were rushing into, something had happened. Maybe a third party was deciding to make their move this day as well?

Huruma pauses in her strides to angle her face back to Cesar, listening to the comms as news of negation gas gets to them. She'd be the last one to sneak a canister. She hisses through her teeth, gaze falling on Cesar as she feels his brain jumping from point to point. Sharp one.

"You heard the man, Herakles." Huruma cocks her head, "On your right." Her voice carries complete faith; she allows that self-assuredness to drift off of her into Dearing as she hooks one arm around his shoulders, bracing her other hand at his elbow. "I'll back you up." Longest legs, AEGIS boots, sounds perfect for balance.

Once everyone is latched on, it takes no time for Wolfhound's strongman to start up through the stairwell. As promised, a couple kicks of Huruma's boots will help stabilize jumps taken as Dearing gets them to the penthouse landing. The empath can feel the drench of emotions about halfway up, and once on the same level it's a small cyclone at the back of her mind.

"Not joking at all, and I won't tell command if you don't," Cesar replies despite the amused glint in his eyes as Lucille and Huruma take up the position to sandwich the super-strongman. He holsters his weapon for the moment, free hands used to take hold on Dearing's armored backplate. "Let's just hope the straps hold up."

Dearing grunts as he looks up the stairwell.

“God fucking damnit.”


The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:10


Kenner exhales a ragged cough, staggering across the floor and pawing at his face, trying to get out of the negation gas. Godfrey can barely see inside the cloud the way he is, except for sparks of orange and yellow breaking through thin spots in the gas. It isn’t sunlight, it’s snaps of plasma.

Well… that certainly didn’t go quite like Godfrey’d hoped.

The sleeve of his jacket presses against Godfrey’s mouth as the negation gas rolls over him, something he had expected. Still…Bloody hydrokinetic. flits through Godfrey’s mind while squinting through thick lashes, trying to see through the gas for a target.

He hadn’t had his ability back long, so when the feeling of mild lethargy seeps into his bones, he isn’t too put off by it. After all, he didn’t need it and maybe it was a bit karmic that in this moment he didn't have it.

The heliokenetic quickly notices sparking through the yellow fog. Garza. Seems his plan worked after all. Watching the sparks from Garza’s struggle to shift his form, Godfrey feels a little thrill of victory and a press of time. His boss wasn’t as well negated as he hoped, who knows how long it would be before the man could transform into molten hell. He had to….

«CRACK!»

The ear splitting report of a gun fills the room from the direction of Godfrey, who stands within the think tendrils of yellow negation gas with a Ruger .357 pointed right at his… well, former-boss. Godfrey isn’t smiling now as he steps closer, using the molten glimmers to guide him. There is no bravado, and no sassy comments. He simply scowls at the man who charmed him away from his own little empire out west with the promise of power, and pulls the trigger again.

«CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!»

Bullets punch through the gas leaving twisting threads of yellow in their wake. The first two shots strike the wall beside Garza, but when he dives to the side to put some distance between himself and Godfrey he walks right into the third round that hits him square in the chest sending him back against the wall. The fourth bullet strikes right beside his head sending a shower of plaster and tile down onto the shoulder of his smoking suit.

Light leaks out of Garza’s chest wound, boiling molten blood made from energized plasma that causes his suit to first smoke, then catch fire. “Godfrey,” Garza’s voice has a hollow cavernous quality to it, “you little shit.” Smoke rises up off of Garza’s shoulders, his hair smolders and he moves his hand to his chest, but hasn’t yet been able to fully transform. “Mortlock!” Garza bellows, “Don’t let Kenner get away!

Jaiden looks sharply to Garza, then with a parting gesture of his hands makes a tunnel in the gas and barrels forward. Godfrey can briefly see Jaiden brush past him charging through the gas which is beginning to dissipate thanks to the blown-out window.

Kenner, slouched against a wall, pulls his hand away from his face just in time to blearily see Jaiden running out of the lounge at him. “Fuck!” Kenner shouts, backpedaling and lifting a hand in the air, trying to pull the water on the floor out from under Jaiden like a rug. It works, but not enough. Jaiden comes tumbling forward and strikes Kenner in the forehead with a meaty punch. The single blow nearly takes the former SESA agent out, sending him staggering to the side.

Jaw clenched, Jaiden lunges forward and grabs Kenner by the throat and keeps running, lifting him off the ground as he barrels toward the wall. Then, like he was tackling linebacker, Jaiden slams Kenner with his shoulder and knocks him through one of the cracked windows. Glass showers everywhere and Kenner goes screaming out a thirteenth-story window.


Meanwhile
Not Far Away

The Tlanuwa
Outside the Times Square Building

4:13 pm


“Alpha team is heading up, if they say for us to go down on the roof we— ”

CLUNK.

Avi Epstein’s words are cut off as a human being crashes into the cockpit of the Tlanuwa. There’s a squeaking sound of palms on glass and muffled screaming as Donald Kenner starts sliding down the cockpit of the aircraft. Avi stares up at the sight vacantly, mouth open and eyes wide.

Kenner slaps one hand against the cockpit window. H E L P, he clearly scream-spells each letter.

Confusion paints itself across Avi’s face, not knowing what to make of this. Were it any other engagement, he’d barrel roll the aircraft and laugh as Kenner fell to the street. But the feds wanted arrests. “Nicole, hold on.” Thankfully, for all the shit he gets, Avi is extremely good at precisely one thing:

Flying.

Avi gives a patronizing thumbs up to Kenner before pulling back on the stick and pitching the nose of the Tlanuwa up toward the sky. Kenner goes tumbling over the top of the aircraft and Avi judges his distance by the thump-smack-thud going down the length of the cargo hold. He pitches the ship forward again, heading one solid clunk by the tail of the aircraft, then flips a switch beside himself. There’s a rush of cold, February air that comes into the Tlanuwa as the back hatch begins to open, accompanied by Kenner panicked screaming as he hangs on to the tail of the aircraft, legs kicking free in the wind.

“Go arrest somebody,” Avi barks at Nicole.

The sudden thwap of a living being against the cockpit brings Lance’s head up in a jerk from the monitors, his eyes widening at the sight of the man that’s plastered to the canopy like a fly that survived hitting a windshield.

Wait a minute. Doesn’t he know that guy?

He does know that guy! The beard threw him off for a moment.

“— D-Director Kenner?”

The question is cut off (not that Don could hear it) as the plane does its dextrous little waggle that sends Kenner tumbling around and over it. His head jerks to look back out, and then he’s pointing at the ropes on the webbing, “Agent— Agent Varlane, throw him the rope!”

Oh my god!” Nicole’s voice cracks with surprise as a very familiar face literally smacks into the window in front of her. When Avi tells her to hold on, she jerks on the crash webbing once to make sure it’s secure, and leaves her fingers wrapped around it tightly while the aircraft pitches back. She’s not scared. Not for herself or Avi’s flying, anyway. But she is mighty concerned about Kenner.

There’s only the barest beat of shocked hesitation that passes when Avi calls Nicole to action before she’s unhooking herself from her seat and making her way to the back of the craft. There’s no mad scramble. This is Nemesis and she’s at war. She doesn’t even acknowledge Lance as she strides past, pushing off the back of his seat with one hand to propel her stride a little further. First, she secures a line between herself and the Tlanuwa, because this won’t do anyone any fucking good if she takes a tumble here. A second length is secured to her belt before she carries to herself to the very edge of the open hatch and reaches out for Kenner with the rope.

“Don!” she calls out. Whatever has happened, whatever put him here? None of it matters. What matters is getting him inside. Answers and explanations will come later. Nicole holds fast to a handle on the jet’s interior paneling, leaning out past the bounds the floor grants to her, fearless. Trying to cast the rope to him. “Grab on!”

Fuck!” Kenner screams again, legs kicking and wind rustling through his clothes. The Tlanuwa is steady but it isn’t still, and the city gently pivots and tilts when viewed out the back hatch. “Fuck!” He screams again, looking at Nicole with the rope and gasping for breath. “It’s too far!” Kenner screams, attempting to reach once and then hastily grabbing back on to the tail section of the aircraft.

Back at Lance’s console, the flash and pop of gunfire catches his eyes. RCPD and FBI on the second floor have engaged members of Shedda-Dinu, though it isn’t clear precisely what’s happening at first. Lance can hear audio crackling over his headset. «Officer down! We have shots fired! Second floor southwest co— » The voice cuts out as Lance spots one of the body cameras pitch to the floor as the person wearing it lands on their side amid a row of office cubicles.

Dark blood pools out in front of the view of the camera. There’s no more gunshots, no other officers to see what’s happening here. Lance may well be the only one who sees. Which makes his heart rise up into his throat as he sees someone walk out from behind the cover of a cubicle, loading a handgun.

gerard_icon.gif

His father.

Shit, shit, shit. Wide-eyed, Lance’s attention is split between the monitors and the screaming man out the back of the craft. The good news is, the bad guys can’t hear Kenner’s shrieking any more than they can hear the roar of the Tlanuwa’s engines.

The flash of gunfire brings his attention fully back to the screens just in time to focus in on that camera hitting the floor. It’s someone dying, maybe even dead, his breath catching in his throat even before he sees the man.

A man he’s only seen before in a vision from another timeline.

And all of a sudden he has a number of decisions to make all at once.

He hesitates for three seconds that seem like forever, and then he pulls the silence field tighter in around the Tlanuwa, leaving the tail and Kenner’s screaming exposed so he can cut off the roar of the wind and be heard over the radio.

“«All teams, this is Nunnehi-03. We have— //»“ His voice //cracks before he pulls himself together, “«We have multiple officers down on the second floor, southwest corridor. One— one unknown assailant with a pistol.»”

Shit.” Nicole levers herself back to a flatfooted position. “Hold on!” she instructs, even as she turns and starts walking back into the interior of the ship. Lance’s hesitation is noted, but it’s not her concern right now. When her tether finally pulls tight, that’s when Nicole turns on her heel again.

After a deep exhale, she takes off at a full sprint and dives out the back of the Tlanuwa when her feet can find no more purchase, pushing off with her booted toes at the edge of the hatch.

There’s no screaming, no panicked cries. Nicole simply throws her arms around Kenner’s torso and holds on tight. She knows the extra weight of her is going to cause him to lose his grip now, but she’s got him and he just needs to grab on to her.

There is a sharp gasp when they go plummeting, until the rope brings a sudden halt to it and they swing wildly in the air. It’s only three breaths she allows herself before she starts barking orders. “You’ve gotta climb the rope!” she shouts at Kenner. “You have to climb the rope, and then pull me back in!”

If he’s not on her side, that might prove to be Nicole’s last mistake. But if there’s one thing she’s always done, it’s believe in Don Kenner.

The scream that comes from Kenner is a siren cry that cracks somewhere in the middle and is broken up by a series of fucks so majestic a poet would weep. But literally no one except Nicole hears it, and for that Donald Kenner will be eternally grateful, for however long or short his life winds up being. Dangling from Nicole twelve stories over the street, Kenner screams directly into Nicole’s face with all the grace and poise of a cat that was sprayed by water.

Fuck! Fuck— fuck!” Kenner howls, pawing and grabbing at the straps on Nicole’s AEGIS armor, grasping for the rope, then struggling to climb up it. Kenner wheezes, coughs, and regrets skipping every single physical training exercise he has over the last several years since the war ended. He had a desk job. Kenner struggles with all his might, trying to ascend the remaining ten feet from the slack of the rope, all the while Nicole spins out of control twelve stories above the street.

What the fuck is going on back there!?” Avi screams from the cockpit, looking over his shoulder. “God, fucking damnit!” He sits forward and flips a switch, eliciting a soft chirp from the console as the Tlanuwa is moved into auto-stabilize. “Gerken stay on comms!” Avi shouts as he leaves the cockpit and runs the length of the Tlanuwa.

On the screens at Lance’s console, he sees Gerard Gerken scanning the office. He bends down, picking up the officer’s radio, plugging the headset in to try and stay ahead of the rest of the operation. It’s only now that Lance realizes… if he switched to the dead officer’s channel, his father could hear him.

Nicole!” Avi shouts, halfway down the aircraft as he grabs the rope with both hands. “Hold the fuck on!” Bracing himself and thankful for his new knee and back, Avi starts tugging on the rope, trying to haul the weight of two people back up into the Tlanuwa. When Kenner’s hand comes up first, Avi locks the rope around his forearm and elbow and draws his sidearm. He waits for Kenner to come chest-high onto the deck and then shouts out to him.

Fuckface!” Avi couldn’t remember his name. But Kenner does respond to a brandished gun and fuckface. “Up against the wall!” Kenner pulls himself up the rest of the way and Avi wrenches the rope back, trying to haul Nicole up with one arm while keeping the gun trained on Kenner, taking a step forward each time until he’s nearly on top of Kenner.

“I can help!” Kenner shouts, “but we have to— ” and Avi smashes him across the face with his gun, sending him down to the floor. With a roll of his eyes, Avi holsters his handgun and with both hands is able to haul Nicole back up inside the hold of the Tlanuwa, grabbing her by the straps of her body armor as he does.

“You okay?” Avi asks, exasperatedly.


The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:19 pm


James Dearing tries to never show off the true limits of his superhuman strength. Once somebody knows you can lift a car and throw it, everyone wants to see it. But now, carrying three other human beings like oversized stuffed animals won at the circus, he is leaping and bounding up from stairwell landing to stairwell landing, occasionally switching to grab the underside of a flight of stairs and leverage Huruma to kick off of it in a clumsily acrobatic fashion. Dearing may be strong, but he has the grace of a pregnant yak.

A dozen or so bent handrails and cracked concrete walls later, the sounds of gunshots ring out through the stairwell. Whatever’s happening in the penthouse has turned into an all-out firefight. Dearing bounds the rest of the way up the stairwell, kicks off of a wall and crash-lands on the stairs by a steel security door. Shaking off his comrades, he lunges forward and grabs the door by the sides and rips it out of the fucking wall with a clatter of bolts, screws, and loose stone.

Dearing throws the door through the opening and it bounces end-over-end across the marble floor, taking out chips and chunks until it embeds itself halfway into a grand piano across the foyer with a noisy clang of keys and broken strings. Dearing stands in the doorway, reaching for his shotgun to—


The Times Square Building, Ground Floor
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:20 pm


Dearing’s shotgun rests carefully against the base of the stairwell, precisely where he’d set it down before he started jumping. Safety on, because he’s responsible.


The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:21 pm


Fuck!” Dearing hisses right before literally everything goes extremely fucking sideways. “We’ve gotta— ”

The air distorts in the middle of the foyer, followed by three people suddenly appearing out of nowhere. In the middle is a tall woman with hawkish features and dyed-blonde hair, one of her hands resting on a significantly large knife sheathed at her waist. She turns to the blonde man beside her, whose face and name needs no introduction among SESA or Shedda-Dinu. But the man on her other side…

adam_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif vor_icon.gif

Is Benjamin Ryans.

"Whew," Vör lets out her sigh dramatically as the trio appears, as if carrying them was just so hard. She looks at Dearing. He gets it. Or perhaps she's teasing. "Hi little rabbits," she says with a wide grin as her hand draws her knife. She doesn't run in, she disappears from between the two men and reappears in front of Dearing. She gives him a kiss on the tip of his nose first, then plunges her dagger into his side. Attacking the bottom of the pyramid first.

She disappears.

Huruma feels the next stab, knife sliding into her thigh as Vör comes into view in midair next to her, and then she's gone again. She pops up on the other side of the little circus act, slicing across Lucille's arm in a deep arc. Gone again, none of them see her behind the group, but Cesar feels her knife in his shoulder— and then she's gone again.

She plants herself between Ryans and Adam again, seconds after she was there last, casually wiping all their blood off her knife and onto the leg of her pants.

As soon as they appear, Ryans has a rifle trained on the huddled mass of Wolfhound and Cesar. “Don’t move.” It takes a second for him to register who he is looking at, Vor and Adam can hear the soft intake of breath and Huruma can feel the sharp tang of his surprise, before he shuts down his emotions hard. Vor’s greeting is a warning for him, blue eyes snapping to Lucille. Shit. A hand quickly moves to try and grab the teleporter.

“Vor! Nnn-”

But the teleporter is too fast for Ryans and his hand connects with nothing but empty air; leaving him helpless to watch her slice up people he cares about. “Vor!” Ben practically roars as she slices Lucielle’s arm. Of course, she’s already on the move again. Son of a —

When she appears again, Benjamin fingers give a sharp twist and the knife she is now cleaning is telepathically yanked from her hand, like a father taking a toy from an unruly child. “Get us out of here,” he orders quickly. An apologetic look goes to Adam, if Wolfhound was already this far up… then this cell of the organization was already lost and the man was too important to lose.

Not to mention, Benjamin has no intention of fighting with Huruma and Lucille, so if Vor would hurry it up with the teleporting, he'd be forever grateful.

Superpowers. They're always a little stunning to witness. Cesar makes sure there's a good space for breath after that very unnatural feeling of basically flying up a stairwell the way one expects in video games. It does take some willpower not to make a single woo-hoo like an Italian-based plumber in red cap and overalls, but he manages. The emphatic swear from Dearing echoes from Cesar in the sudden suck of air as three people that practically top SESA's Most Wanted pop into existence. "The fu—" He doesn't finish.

Vor's face and SESA profile isn't one easy to forget, and it's seeing her that takes him aback more than the men in present company. Especially when she pops up far closer to the team, far faster than he could pull out a sidearmed Banshee or swing round the backup shotgun strapped behind him. But he can, by virtue of the hands free set, call in, "«All teams, alert! Multiple wanted, Alpha engaging! Ben Ryans, Adam Monroe, Ruia Henr-arrgh!»"

Instructions to not move be damned, Cesar arches and twists in pain as the knife blade buries into his shoulder and pulls away lightning fast. He paws at the handle of the XLRAD at his side, finally yanking it free as he stumbles towards cover in the form of the nearest wall where the teleporter will have a little more trouble attacking from behind. Does he give warning before he aims the sonic pistol at the trio and presses the trigger? He most definitely does not.

There's no time to appreciate the way that Dearing wrenches the door out and flings it into the piano. Not today. Instead, the barrel of a gun singularly pulls her attention into hyperfocus.

The tethers form before she can even register. Two invisible grasp of electric nerves around one- two -three. Two. Two. Two.

As a great many other things, Huruma shares that hitch of breath inward, everything tensing all at once when she stares down the length of her own rifle. No sooner than the plate of her helmet slides back to reveal wide white eyes, the signature she doesn't know vanishes, reappears with the blooms of pain from the others and the blossom of her own as Vor's knife skids through a divot of AEGIS plating.

One hand against the lines of her armor, Huruma rounds indiscriminately; her eyes are frozen between Adam and Ryans, the sharp lines of her face like razors, gaze shining hot. That expression is both torn and relieved all at once. Then angry.

Finally, to pleading. Rare. Not impossible. Jarring, from her.

Don't go. Either of you.

"DON'T YOU DARE!" If Ben can roar his way through, so can she, velvet voice snarling up an octave, complete with the finest of cracks. Out from her comes an unseen pulse, a brief extension of her own confusion despite the shriek of a Banshee; it reaches out to press stifling hands against the minds of those present.

Later on, she will claim not to know when she started moving. And perhaps that is the truth. Huruma steps forward in the wake of the XLRAD's burst, effectively in the way and stalking right on ahead, favoring the leg not currently slicking up her armor mesh.

That honed look doesn't move from Adam nor Ryans.

"Don't you fucking dare—"

The look of shock from Lucille at seeing her father here quickly changes to one of fury first from seeing Adam's face and then even more so as Vor teleports in and has her fun. Gritting her teeth against the slice of the large blade, Lucille comes forward, blood splattering the floor from her wound and with eyes wide that shift from blue to gold staring directly at Ryans, "Nathalie is dead!" The shout rings out, she's never said those exact words and the expression on her face is a mix of rage and pain but she feels that burst of confusion radiating from Huruma in that moment. Lucille growls and rubs at her forehead but her rage is unforgivable and the only thing stopping her is a bullet. "He," Practically spitting as she points at the blonde immortal, "Killed her!" Nathalie had been like a daughter to Ryans, maybe invoking her name would give him pause or make him turn on Adam. Make him come back to his daughter.

Lucille was his for crying out loud. They were blood. "What the fuck are you doing Dad?!"

As Huruma stalks forward and Cesar goes to fire his Banshee at the trio. Lucille runs and leaps with a cry, angling towards Adam with murder in her gold glowing eyes from above. Blind. Her ability unfurls to project a field of blindness around her as she lifts a blade up, hoping to stab Adam in the face as she descends.

Lucille’s knife finds home in Adam’s collar, even blinded his reflexes and close-quarters combat ability is remarkable. As the knife wrenches in Adam pushes against the blade instead of retreating away from it like any other living combatant. He locks the blade between bone and muscle in an agonizing display of prowess and then pivots his shoulders and twists the knife out of Lucille’s grip, followed up by a roundhouse kick that comes half a foot too short because of his inability to see his target.

The look in his eyes isn’t that of a physical pain, but an emotional one. Huruma can feel the layers of guilt unfolding from him like a blooming flower. Guilt, sadness, regret. Sorrow. This isn’t a fight he wants to be in, this isn’t a situation he wants to be a part of, and Huruma can feel for the first time in years Adam’s presence in her mind. They are his emotions, without a doubt. That is his pain. She has tasted it.

But Huruma’s focus is shattered in the path of the XLRAD’s firing beam. Her body vibrates internally, her skull becomes a resonance chamber, amplifying the shriek of the weapon that deafens her and buckles her knees. Adam is shielded from the beam, but is no more safe than he was a moment ago with Lucille bearing down on him. Gunfire pops in the nearby lounge, flares of light and flashes of heat emitting in rippling waves through the open doorway.

A moment later, Godfrey Wells comes skidding out of the lounge on his back across the floor, smoke coming off of the front of his suit in the shape of a burning hand print. Through the doorway, a man whose skin is made of light emerges, wreathed in flames. Emanuel Garza sees Adam, sees the threat the others are under, and struggles to protect what remains of Shedda Dinu as he clenches his fists and struggles through the miasmic negation of the gas he was exposed to, trying to reach critical mass and ignite. So far, only his clothes have.

Shit!” Dearing exclaims, clutching his side, teeth gnashed together. His focus lifts to Ryans and Vor, largely unaffected by the emergent team’s assault. Dearing steps to the side, picking up a curio cabinet full of decorative glassware against the pain of his knife-wound and hurls it at Vor as hard as he can, but the teleporter catches sight of the incoming cabinet and blinks out of the way—

—and the cabinet comes sailing straight at Ryans, who is able to raise a hand in time to deaden the blow with a telekinetic shove, but not stop it entirely. Ryans and the cabinet collide with one another and he is thrown backwards through one of the tall, glass windows overlooking the rooftop courtyard. The cabinet shatters on the wall and Ryans comes tumbling head-over-heels across the concrete roof.

Son of a bitch!” Dearing howls, starting to run in that direction only to be slammed by a massive surge of water from the side that drives him into a wall, leaving a broad impact mark where he hits the drywall. The water clenches like a fist, winds up and smashes into Dearing again, blowing clear through the wall into a sitting room. Dearing’s AEGIS armor whines and chirps as the battery reaches near-depletion. The fist of water coils back, joining its master as Jaiden Mortlock fixes his eyes on the intruders.

When Godfrey slides to a stop, he lets out a hissed, “Bloody hell.” While one hand is still gripping the revolver, the other pats out the bit of smoldering suit lapel. He’d probably mourn that lovely Armani suit later, but at the moment he was more thankful for the kevlar vest under it all.

Then there is a surprised blink up at the chaos around him, especially that curio cabinet as it sails over his head into Ryans. Oh my… That might have been a total turn on if it wasn’t for Garza. (Who are we kidding. There is no might about it. :3) However, there were more pressing things then imagining Dearing and… Oh right… Garza. Godfrey snaps his attention back to the man who was steady getting bright. Add the addition of Jaiden… This wasn't good.

“Will somebody bloody shoot him, please!?!”

Godfrey knows he sounds panicked as he tries to shout above all the noise, but the man is trying to transform into molten fiery death… that is a pretty good reason for panic. Molten lava Garza was quite the bummer at any party.

There are only two bullets left in his revolver, but Godfrey still raises it. Garza hadn't shifted yet… there was still a chance! …. Or… He hopes there is. Despite his brain screaming at him to shoot or run or maybe both. Godfrey ignores that cacophony inside his head in favor of aiming as best he can at the man's head and fires twice, a double tap.


Meanwhile

The Tlanuwa
Outside the Times Square Building

4:24 pm


Nicole is flushed and gasping by the time Avi pulls her back up onto the deck of the Tlanuwa. But she’s also grinning. Are you okay? She nods her head, hands gripping his shoulders until she’s sure she’s stable. “I’d kiss you,” she informs Epstein, “but you’d probably give me herpes.” So he gets two smart pats on the cheek before she’s disengaging and turning her attention to her former boss. “Get back to flying the bird. I’ve got him.”

With a sigh, she drops to a crouch and rolls Kenner over, checking to make sure he’s not dead, because she’s going to be super pissed if she jumped out of the jet and Avi iced him anyway. Satisfied by the rise and fall of his chest, if not very encouraged by the state of his face, Nicole shakes her head with a frown. “Sorry.” For that. And for the zip ties she secures his hands with before she hauls him back to his feet and into one of the seats against the wall, where she makes sure he’s secured in the event that they have to pitch and roll again. “Jesus Christ, Don.”

She can get that story later. Either he’s the man she thinks he is, or he’s not. It doesn’t change anything now.

Another window bursting open in the penthouse in her periphery, however… Nicole turns and hustles back up front. It feels like her heart’s stopped when she recognizes the shape and form of Ben Ryans on the roof. Her fingers curl around the headrest of the co-pilot’s seat, the leather creaking under her grip.

If she looks to Avi, if she thinks about asking permission even a little, she’ll lose her nerve. Nicole grabs the controls between the two seats and makes a show of aiming the Tlanuwa’s nose-mounted gun in Ryans’ direction. Her hands are shaking with barely restrained anger. Everyone aboard the Tlanuwa can feel the buildup of static electricity making the hair on the backs of their necks stand up.

From various body cams of downed officers, Gerard moves about each of the bodies slowly, with the headset on, listening for movement and commands. A spare sidearm is checked and placed behind his belt, and an extra clip is stashed in a pocket. He knows better than to rely on his ability. He looks so much like he had during those auroras. The same sad, angry eyes, the same set of his jaw in determination. He’s cleaner shaven and better put together than the man he’d seen, but the same sadness was still there.

That one may have even been less sad, really.

After a second, he reaches up and adjusts the radio, before he begins to move through the room, stepping over the bodies and towards and exit. Soon he will no longer be in sight of any of the cameras.

But not the radio.

If Ryans wasn’t aware of the presence of the Tlanuwa yet, or that gun being aimed in his direction, he’ll swiftly become aware as the roar of its engines becomes audible again.

Lance is hoping that the others won’t notice that he’s had to drop that inaudibility field — so that he can focus it around his headset instead, so that there’s no chance of him being overheard. There are probably recordings being made, but he can deal with the consequences of that later. Fingers reach out, switching to the dead (?) agent’s radio.

“This is Nunnehi-03, I— no, this is Lance Gerken,” he says tightly into the radio, “Lay down your weapon and surrender and you won’t be— won’t be harmed.” There’s silence for the space of a single heartbeat, and then a softer plea, “Please, dad.”

Avi doesn’t hear what Lance is saying over the comms, backing away from Kenner as he is and moving to Nicole. “Okay, okay, hands off the fucking artillery, Sparky.” Avi doesn’t quite lay a hand on her for fear of grounding out, but instead he moves into the pilot’s seat. “Why don’t we do a little cleanup?”

With a tug of the controls, Avi turns the Tlanuwa around backwards and brings Ryans out of Nicole’s firing line. Instead, he lines up the back of the jet to the roof, the rear hatch still open. “You want at the old man, he comes alive. He’s got too much to answer for.” After which Avi motions with his head over to the Banshees set up in the weapon rack against the wall beside the open door at the rear of the aircraft.


Meanwhile
Civic Center Garage
400 Feet From the Times Square Building

February 27th
4:24 pm


From the top of the parking garage, Deputy-Director Voss watches the Tlanuwa moving into position with its rear to the roof. Gunfire and screams echo out from the penthouse and communications from the police sweeping through the building indicate most of the lower-floor resistance has subsided. He picks up his radio, depressing the call button as he pivots back to the team of snipers watching the roof.

“Delta-1,” Voss calls in, addressing the leader of the Delta infiltration team, “we have a situation on the roof.” Voss pivots to look back at the building. “I need you up in the penthouse ASAP. We have multiple expressive targets on the move, highest priority right now is protecting the lives of our agents. Use your best judgment.”

Voss releases the button on the side of the radio, watching smoke billow out of the penthouse windows.

“Good luck, Agent,” he says to the air.


Meanwhile
The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:29 pm


Garza staggers back from Godfrey’s shots, white-hot plasma spraying the wall behind him, catching the wallpaper alight and beginning a spread of fire within the penthouse. Garza clutches his wound, but the blood is not the same as that of a flesh-and-blood man, his eyes now are merely pools of seething white fire and his skin looks like the mottled surface of the sun. Garza clothes have fully caught fire, burning off of his body in strips. His transformation is nearly complete.

But a growing tremor of fear is rumbling through the penthouse, not one caused merely by Garza’s inhuman appearance as an incandescent being of light and heat, but a psychic urge of dread and guilt pulsing from Huruma as she is faced with the very real prospect of fighting and possibly killing those close to her. As she struggles to retain control of her empathic ability, Jaiden opens his clenched fists and spreads the water spraying from the pipes into pointed tendrils of water, like a hydraulic pick, snapping and lashing around across the floor. He steps forward, ready to turn his talents against SESA and Wolfhound when there is a thunderous crash that strikes the back of the grandfather clock that rests flush against the wall. The clock’s glass face falls out, shatters on the floor. Then there’s another slam, this time coupled with the clattering sound of breaking hinges.

The secret entrance to the penthouse.

A split-second later the grandfather clock blows away from the wall in two pieces, crashing to the floor in a shower of tiny glass and metal fragments and flinders of wood. Moving sideways out of the narrow secret passage behind the clock is a man who matches the stature and musculature of Jaiden Mortlock, but he wears an armored vest that reads SESA in bright yellow font across the chest.

Agent Shane Bishop wasn’t this gigantic the last time Cesar Diaz saw him, but he’d heard the stories about Agent Bishop’s manifestation. Suddenly, the odds just got a little better.

Glass crunches under the heavy tread of the large boot that follows the flung grandfather clock, a hard press to get good traction, with enough unnatural force to make the marble of the floor complain. Shane Bishop didn't use his bare hand to bash the secret passage open; he used a large black snubbed metal battering ram… and most of his left shoulder and forearm. The thing is similar in design to an Enforcer (a handheld battering ram used by British police forces, though theirs are red), SESA issue and appropriate to the task.

The ram was also pretty unnecessary, but that's a hindsight thing; Shane's new to wall-destruction, and this was easier than expected (though it should have been expected, considering how many items he's destroyed by accident so far). At this point that ram is useful in another way, though, as Shane arrives. He picks his target with practiced efficiency, other hand splaying open to give information to the rest of the Delta team that's behind him.

A quick order is issued into his comm: "Anytime we can get that water shut off would be great."

Shane flips the battering ram at the hydrokinetic without warning, flinging the heavy ram, and immediately moving to follow it aggressively. He just did a kool-aid man through a wall: he might have some intimidation and surprise on his side to catch the man off guard, and he intends to use it. If he expects to tangle the water-controller up, he needs to overwhelm and get in quickly: and get out of the way of the team behind him so that they can follow the directive to assist with the Garza target!

If Shane can get in close, that'll be what he needs: a grab and hold would, hopefully, be enough: or at least Shane's juggernaut move can keep the water kinetic occupied with his new giant, bulky problem!

Vör was in the middle of a bout of girlish laughter at Huruma's impassioned plea when everything decided to kick off. A few blinks of her are seen around the room before she seems to settle again, attention drawn by the crash in the other room. Her hand reaches out and the battering ram disappears from it's trajectory on the way to Jaiden and reappears over the heads of the Wolfhounds. Just for a moment before it drops. It's rare to see her linger in one place, but she needs to in order to also port Adam away from Lucille and next to her.

"Everyone here is so rude," Ruia says to the Englishman and her hand moves to his shoulder, ready to remove them from this situation at his word.

“Just m’ fucking luck.” Godfrey growls, when he realizes the opportunity has passed him by. Feet pushing him away from any lava that is flung his way, across mirrored floors.

It’s frustration that has the heliokinetic chucking the empty revolver at Garza’s molten form, while he’s scrambling back from the walking inferno. “Bastard!” He snaps at his boss. “You really think I wouldn't find out what you bloody well did to me?!” Once he’s able, Godfrey is on his feet, hands balled into fists at his side, yet he continues to back up. “You made me forget what I am, you fucking liar.” It’s then he spots Adam and there is a flicker of recognition and surprise. It lasts only a moment before his anger bubbles to the surface again, along with the lingering bitterness he’s held for the man.

“Both of you, liars.” Godfrey adds.

By now he’s behind Cesar and Dearing and it is there he pauses. With an accusing finger pointed at Garza, Godfrey adds, “I hope they throw you down the deepest, darkest pit they can find.”

All of that said, Godfrey leans forward enough to say softly at the two men, “I think that's got him, chaps, but I’m spent.” He had nothing left on his person. “Good luck, finishing him off.” They’ll really need it now. “I’ll just stand over there and admire the view, while I wait for you to arrest me, shall I?” Godfrey nervously glances Garza’s way..

At least Godfrey isn’t trying to run.

Seeing Huruma step into the sonic pistol's range, Cesar lets go of the trigger and curses under his breath. He grabs the shotgun strapped behind him to bring it around, teeth gritting against the pain of the motion with his shoulder, and calls out, "Dearing! Catch!" With backup having arrived, things do look slightly up, but only just so, and there's no time to reflect on Bishop and Delta team's arrival. "Alpha team, concentrate on Garza!" he barks out to those actively remaining, and moves in on the molten man. Raising the XLRAD in his hands again, he makes sure to avoid friendly fire this time before pressing the trigger and focuses on bringing the plasma wielder down before the whole penthouse goes up in flames.

For a time, Huruma's world is a storm of vibration and emotion. The Banshee has her taking a knee, hands on the sides of her open helmet; what she feels is the echo of herself and everything. The pull of her field becomes a whirlpool. The ache in her is not wholly physical - Adam's impression has tethered back into place, just as Ryans' has. She feels him there and he'll feel her presence there, clutching against the skin of metaphorical heart.

She can see the chaos unfolding, even if there is little she can do in those first moments. Cesar, bless him, is quick to pull away. Huruma remains at a knee, breath heaving, everything moving back into focus. In time to hone in on the forging mind about to come crashing in. Shane is more than a welcome sight. Jaiden needs a lesson, and Garza— and Godfrey.

Too many voices. Huruma can hear herself, a sensation of being outside of her head. She isn't sure if she is yelling. A shriek of anger, Lucille's name above the din. Adam's. Ben's. Then an indistinct snarl. A snap of invisible arms pulling taut. Her eyes clear, muscles tense, pressure in her temples—

Huruma turns on her heel, favoring the unsliced leg to angle into facing the boiling plasma of a man across the penthouse. Teeth bared, posture straightening.

"Garza, gú iš…ál!" A thousand teeth bloom around the mind beneath the surface, closing in as as many spidery legs, pulling, hooked. Garza's mind is enveloped in an inescapable shroud of haze.

Devotion. Admiration. Deference. Fear. Submission.

Lucille calmly stands up proper as Adam just winks out of existence, eyes remain that burning hot amber but the focus switches from blinding to adrenaline. The woman's whole body vibrates as she unlatches something from her belt and yanks the top off of two smoke bombs. Lobbing one not too far in front of her and rearing back and hurling another towards Adam and Vor.

Black smoke plumes from the devices as she moves, disappearing into the smoke before she comes out of the other side with a glare on her face. Faster due to the adrenaline pumping through her system. Heart rate elevated and there's a dull roar in the back of her head. Tearing her Banshee out she lifts and presses the trigger as she hustles forward towards the pair, still with murder in her eyes. She might not have much time due to Vor's ability but perhaps the smoke would help her here.

Lucille does not stop charging towards the two as she fires the Banshee's sonic waves, feet pounding on the ground before she lifts off, leaping through the air at the two. Legs pinwheeling as she cries out in fury and shifts the focus of her ability down to Agony.

Dearing steps back to catch the shotgun, tripping over the battering ram embedded in the marble floor from Vor’s change of its trajectory, but certainly not its momentum. He misses the shotgun, but catches the sling and manages to keep the gun from hitting the floor. “Fuck!” Dearing shouts, kicking back at the battering ram, dislodging it from the floor and sending it skidding over toward Huruma’s feet.

At the same time, Jaiden and Shane collide with one-another. As Shane bears down on the muscled former Ferryman, he feels restriction around his arms and legs, tensile water tugging at him trying to hold him back. But for all that Jaiden is a powerhouse of a hydrokinetic, water is no match for Shane’s sheer muscle. The giant of a SESA agent tears free of Jaiden’s hydrokinetic shackles and continues with his original plane. Jaiden is muscular, strong, and powerfully build but his physical strength is purely human. When Shane grabs him by the front of his shirt and the wrist, Jaiden might as well be an angry toddler for the ease in which he is lifted off of his feet and slammed against the nearby wall.

Jaiden winds up, kicking against Shane’s chest but the ferrofluid within the agent’s body armor hardens in a nanosecond on impact making the resulting blow like kicking a wall. The shock of the kick is dispersed through the non-hardened fluid in the armor, making Shane feel as though he caught a hard-tossed football, not a kick to the ribs. Struggling in the grip, Jaiden lets out a frustrated howl, pulling more water from the pipes until—

gurgle

sputter

«Delta-1, City confirms water shutoff.» Voss calls over Shane’s comm.

Fuck!” Jaiden screams, struggling with all his might to try and break free from the hold, trying to draw water up and over Shane’s body, but the grapple he’s in makes it nearly impossible to concentrate.

Nearby, Garza’s ire has turned entirely on Godfrey. The call of a deep, dark hole is a personal terror of his resulting from the thirty some-odd years he spent trapped in his plasma form in a concrete prison underground. Just as Garza begins to energize into a less substantial form of seething white light, he is hit by the twofold shockwave of a Banshee’s nonlethal shriek, drawing his attention to Cesar, followed by the emotional shockwave of Huruma’s projected empathy.

Rage boils from Garza, white-hot and incandescent rage the likes of which Huruma has seen only a handful of times in her life. As she presses down against that with a psychic urge of something more submissive, she finds her power meeting a well of decades of trauma-born anger. It is a kindling of terror turned to unbridled anger that refuses to budge against the sensations of humility and supplication. Instead, Garza erupts into a pillar of yellow-gold fire in vaguely humanoid form. His clothes incinerate in that instant and it becomes painfully hot even as far away as Cesar stands. Waves of radiating heat extend out from his body and the floor tiles start to turn muddy under his feet.

Two SESA officers emerge from the secret stairwell that was behind the grandfather clock, led by three RCPD officers with riot shields who take a defensive stance around the agents. Unaware of the potency behind Garza’s new form, these Delta team officers and agents open fire on the swirling haze of energetic fire, but bullets melt before they even reach Garza’s luminous form. His voice is a furnace roar, echoing at the back of Lucille Ryans as she dives downward toward Adam.

The Banshee doesn’t seem to have any effect on him, the susceptibility to pain that she would have expected from the knife in his shoulder, also provides nothing. Adam looks past Lucille to Garza, tensing, and then turns his eyes up to her as she closes in on him. Blue eyes shift to gold, and suddenly Lucille learns why he doesn’t feel pain.

Melissa Pierce once had the ability to control pain and agony. An ability very much like the one Adam chose to give to one of his copies.

She didn’t need it anymore.

Lucille hits the ground with a scream of agony, her legs buckling out from under her and back arching. Her cry echoes to the ceiling, an agonized wail of bone-deep pain radiating outward from Adam’s mind. The Brit finds no pleasure in his victory, stepping back toward Vor and taking her hand. He turns his attention up to Garza, Jaiden, and Huruma.

It was too late for any of them. It was too late for Adam.

Ben.” Adam insists, and he vanishes with Vor.


Meanwhile

Times Square Building, Roof
4:30 pm


There is a groan from the crumpled form of Benjamin Ryans, he hadn’t moved since he landed in that exact spot. All of it had left the old man dazed, if he had been his true age… he wasn’t sure he’d be waking up. Slowly, one hand, then the other slides out from under him, and plants on the rough gravelly surface of the roof. Levering himself up to his knees, he huffs out a growled, “Fuck… I’m too old for this sh—-”

Ben’s words are instantly washed away by a sudden eruption of sound. The whine of jet engines pivoting, to be exact, followed shortly by a hot stinking wash of burning jet fuel. The telekinetic turns and is startled at the sight of the sudden jet.

Wha—?

Blue eyes squint against the darkness of the gaping cargo bay, until Ryans sees her. His breath catches in his throat and guilt slams into him like a hammer. He won't feel great about what he does next either, but he has to act quickly. Both hands thrust out as Ben rises to his feet, planting them wide, as unseen hands reach out towards the Tlanuwa. From inside the aircraft, there is a shudder that runs through the whole thing, everyone in there can feel it. It’s followed by the sudden creaking protest of metal being forced to do something it doesn’t want too.

On the roof, Ben leans into the action with gritted teeth watching as one of the aircraft’s wing stabilizers tries to twist under the pressure of his ability, a desperate attempt to force the Tlanuwa out of the sky and buy himself time to get back to Adam.

The nickname, Sparky, must accomplish what Avi's hoping, because Nicole is pulled out of her own mind enough to take her hand off the gunnery controls while he returns to the pilot's seat to turn them about. It doesn't take her long to realize what he's setting to do, and she starts undoing the tether at her waist while he maneuvers into place. She slaps a hand on the back of his seat to signify that she's heading to the hatch before she turns and does precisely that.

Seeing him there – seeing Ben – without the barrier between them, is different than it was moments ago. Now, she's going to face him, finally. She's been thinking of this moment since he'd left her in that cellar with their daughter. There's an instinct to cry. It's quelled by sheer force of will, and the way that he lifts his hand and the jet rattles.

Inside the Tlanuwa stabilization sensors shriek audible warnings about the pitch and angle of the aircraft. “What the fuck!?” Avi grunts, returning his hands to the control stick and struggling to keep the aircraft aloft. His eyes flick from sensor to meter to gauge trying to figure out what //updraft caused the automatic stabilizers to fail. A HUD display of the aircraft’s body shows a red flashing light on one of the wing stabilizers, and his attention moves to one of the monitors displaying the outside of the aircraft, where he sees Ryans with his hands outstretched like a man on a beach trying to control a kite.

“Fuck, fuck!” Avi Epstein was present in Madagascar when Gabriel Gray tore an F-16 out of the sky in mid-flight with telekinesis. The shock that Ryans has an ability, let alone that he has the power to move an aircraft, hits him harder than he expected it would. His battle with the stabilizers causes the Tlanuwa to pitch, yaw, and then spin like a top. Avi realized only too late what Ryans was attempting to do, how he could wrestle the aircraft from its pilot by anticipating the ways in which a pilot would react to the struggle.

The Tlanuwa goes spinning out of control, a warning alarm shrieking inside. The centrifugal force sends Nicole flying to the side, up against the cargo webbing on the wall. Lance would have been pulled out of his seat were it not for the three point seatbelt, but his world is nonetheless a whirling circus ride.

“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!//” Avi howls as the Tlanuwa loses its vertical and horizontal lock, spinning out of control.

There's no time for proper confusion to settle in before Nicole is knocked off her feet. Whatever's happening, Benjamin Ryans is responsible. She clutches to the webbing with a shout, glad now she secured Kenner. Regretful now for her own lack of tether. “I'm getting boots on that roof!” Maybe that's more for her own benefit. If she says it, she has to do it. Just before everything starts to spin horribly out of control, she throws herself out of the Tlanuwa and onto the roof with a crunch of gravel and a grunt for her efforts as she rolls end over end.

For a moment there, it looks like she might not move again. She really should have snapped her helmet on before all hell broke loose, but she wasn’t meant to leave the bird. It means Ben gets a good view when her head snaps up, the light flaring in her eyes. Brighter than he’s ever seen it before. Then she lifts her hand and hurls a bolt of electricity in Ryans’ direction.

When Lance’s voice comes through on the radio, Gerard is already moving just out of sight, but as soon as the name is called he stops. The edge of his leg can be seen in one of the downed officers cameras. There’s a shift in the stance, as if he raised his hand, and then there’s a response, “My son has been dead for longer than he was alive.”

There’s pain in his voice, and the feet start to move again, disappearing from sight. Only the radio keeps them together now.

“No! I’m not, I— we survived, I know that those assholes told you we didn’t, but we did,” Lance pleads, pain in his own voice, “Hailey and me got dumped at an orphanage— we only just found out you were alive too. We’ve been looking for you, I talked with Huruma and Niki, they said they saw you on Level Five.”

He draws in a deep breath, “I” And then the Tlanuwa is spinning and he cuts off with a catch of breath, the next thing that Gerard hears is a yelped, “Oh BOTSWARF

God damnit!” Avi howls as he fumbles across the console for the autopilot systems, his head whirling with the centrifugal force of the tailspin. Once the automated systems come online, the Tlanuwa — unphased by the spin — comes to a steady hover four stories below where it was.

On the street, bystanders are shouting and pointing up to the sky, filming the jet with cell phones and watching the smoke billow out of the penthouse windows and lightning crackle off the rooftop. RCPD push back the crowd on onlookers, trying to get them out of the way of the danger while looking over their shoulders at the spectacle with nerves on edge.

“Nicole, I need you to— ” Avi looks back over his shoulder and finds Nicole gone. He also notices Kenner clinging to one of the wall-mounted seats, looking wide-eyed at Avi. He just slowly points out the back, one eye swollen shut.

“She jumped.” Kenner sputters, followed by Avi looking around at all of the exterior cameras, trying to find a dark mark on the street below that could be her. It only clicks a moment later where she could have gone.

“Fuck.” Avi hisses. “Fuck!” He flips off the autopilot and tugs the stick back, ascending back up to roof level with a roar of the Tlanuwa’s engines.


Meanwhile
The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:32 pm


The water whips which are trying to grasp onto him and restrain him get some overreaction from agent Shane Bishop. He isn't used to being able to break free of things like that; his strength is new: so he overcompensates, lunging and twisting sideways more than necessary, dragging his captive along. His grip tenses automatically, which might not be pleasant for Jaiden's arm whatsoever. He drags him aside, intending to get out of the immediate view/warparth of Garza: to separate off this hydrokinetic threat from the main group.

And Shane's police experience is still beating strong to help in high stress. The Miranda is automatic pilot, for a Shane that is stressed out under creepy water tendrils. He's bulling through them, but the floor is slick and he feels unstable on his feet. It's made him jumpy, even if he's suppressing it. There's also a Garza screaming heat into the room. "You're under arrest. You have the right to-" Shane begins, before getting a scream of 'FUCK!!' in his face from Jaiden. Well. "but probably not the capacity," Shane finishes, bringing up his other hand sharp and quick at Jaiden's head.

"Stop it."

It's an open-handed slap, but with all of the water and chaos going on…. This may or may not really, really hurt. Shane's been accidentally breaking chairs, tables, dishes; he's been ripping doors off the hinges, with his lack of practice and scope of how much force he is exerting on things. Jaiden may or may not keep his consciousness - or his head.

At the very least, maybe not his freedom; Shane wants to get the guy into custody, and folding back towards the Delta team.

“Well, that certainly isn’t good.” Godfrey sounds rather worried as he appears between Cesar and Dearing again. This time he is clutching a fire extinguisher in his hands, as he stares at Garza with wide-eyed awe. Then he angles a look down at the extinguisher and then up at Garza again. “Here, you might need this.” Turning towards Cesar, he thrusts the red cylinder into the SESA agents arms. ”I think it’s time to go, luv.”

Taking a step towards the door to the roof, Godfrey turns to call over to Dearing, “You should be too… Mr. tall, dark and burly. It would be a pity to have those perfect features melted off either of you by a royally pissed off fire elemental.” Godfrey doesn’t wait to see if they follow. He’s done his job warning the both of them, now he is more interested in self-preservation and right now the roof was the best course.

The Banshee only made Lava Man more mad, so Cesar abandons that strategy. His immediate reaction to the sheer heat emitting from Garza is scrambling retreat as that physical, stark reminder of recent trauma washes over him in his protective gear. Once the extinguisher is thrust into his arms, he looks down at it, then up at Godfrey, then to Garza.

Yeah, no shit, the unspoken words read through his turned stare back to Godfrey as the other man heads away. Ultimately, it's the right idea - save lives, and hopefully the building. "Alpha team, pull back. Get off this floor and get to the bird before it all goes up," calls Cesar into the comms. But with seeing Lucille on the ground and no Adam or teleporter nearby, that's a cue. Cesar hurries over to help up the Wolfhound so they can run.

The flip of switch caused by her ability is just as useful an experience as if it would have wormed its way right in. Pieces stack up in more appropriate order, fallen blocks slid in and out and rearranged into what she can make sense of. Just the same as others. Huruma stays a moment in the face of what feels like a sunburst. What a time for Nicole to have her hands full- - a charge would be nice about now.

The Hound retreats one steady pace at a time, again reaching out with her field. This time, when her hooks catch, she snags that rage between teeth and slices it open; then, she pulls as many of those writhing, raging threads as she can. An indiscriminate gutting of his emotions, aimed to disorient. They only need to buy a little time for themselves, and perhaps the flux of everything can do it.

Lucille's scream is short as her instincts kick in and Alleviate takes over, cutting her body off from feeling, well, anything. As Cesar comes to help her get up Luce takes his hand before pushing off and running towards the roof. She wasn't looking to retreat, not yet. Her father was still here.

The Wolfhound operative pumps her arms as she dashes through the door out to the roof.

At the backs of the agents withdrawing from Garza’s warpath, Shane and Jaiden continue what has rapidly become a one-sided battle. With a single strike across Jaiden’s face the hydrokinetic jerks to the side, his head cracking against the wall, with his eyes immediately rolling back and knees buckling. Shane renders Jaiden unconscious with a single smack across the face. Red and blue bruising immediately begins to spread across Jaiden’s face in the shape of a big hand-print.

Other members from Shane’s squad who had funneled in from the stairwell open fire on Garza from behind protective shields. Bullets melt before they even contact his body, leaving small bubbles and bursts in the liquified plasma of his radiant form. The officers split off, with one descending back down the secret staircase, two with riot shields branching off to back up Shane, and two headed to the doorway to the roof to help protect the retreat of Agent Diaz.

Garza’s attention is divided by the hail of gunfire, turning his focus toward the one officer retreating down the stairway as he raises a molten hand. A rippling wave of heat and flame extends from Garza’s arm and roars down the stairwell, and Shane can see the RCPD officer dive down the stairway to get out of the immediate blast of heat before it reaches him. The sound of the rooftop door opening along with the whine of the Tlanuwa’s engines outside draws Garza in that direction, and the RCPS officers shielding Shane from the molten figure brace as they watch Garza turn his back on them.

Agent Bishop,” one of the RCPD officers shouts, “what the hell do we do about that!?”

But Garza suddenly buckles, molten hands grasping at his head, staggering from side to side as a wailing and mournful cry reverberates from his body. Huruma’s emotional manipulation causes Garza to stagger, shudder, and slouch to the side as his inferno flickers and gutters for a moment. Not quite enough dedicated focus to completely distract him, but it would seem the empath may be the only weapon that can hurt a man of living fire.


Meanwhile

Times Square Building, Roof
4:33 pm


Even before the electricity hits him, Benjamin has let go of the airship as it dips below the buildings ledge. He’s watching the last of it disappear from view when the bolt hits, knocking him off his feet and arching his back. Son of a… His vision darkens at the edges, but he can’t afford to black out. His heart thunders hard against his chest, tightening painfully. Still he forces himself to roll over onto his hands and knees, then with some effort to his feet.

What doesn’t come is a counter attack. Ben takes a few more stumbling steps away from her, giving them both space, while they both gather their energy. He doesn’t do anything more, then lean against the wall away from her, Ryans watches her cautiously while he catches his breath. Waiting for her to move, fingers of his free hand flexing slowly. “I’m not here to fight you, Nicole.” He glances towards the door, “Not here to fight any of you.” There is a small hiss of pain through clenched teeth as he straightens, his age was showing and he wasn’t hiding it.

How many more hits like that could Ben take? And where the heck was Adam and Vor?

When Ryans is knocked off his feet, Nicole climbs to hers. “It’s a little fucking late for that, isn’t it?” Slowly, she advances on him, the electricity snapping and crackling around her like some kind of forcefield as she goes. “But I’m not here to kill you.”

She stops, not quite close enough to reach out to (physically), but close enough to loom for once. “So if you’re not here to fight, then you’re not going to resist.” She’s shaking, trembling with anger and pain that everything they’ve been through has come to this moment. “You’re going to let me arrest you, you’re going to get in that fucking jet,” she gestures behind her to where the Tlanuwa has stabilized again, “and once we’ve figured out what the fuck to do with you—”

Nicole isn’t sure how to finish that thought. She settles on another thread entirely. “Your daughter needs you.” The electricity wreathing her snaps back into her as she holds out her hand toward him. “Come home, Ben.”

Nicole can see Ben tense when she moves closer, it is almost like a cornered lion waiting to snap. But then… she mentions Pippa and his unreadable expression falters. Through the cracks in his stoic mask, guilt flickers over his face with a furrow of his brows. Whatever she says, has him pushing away from the wall, standing at his full height.

“I’m sorry,” Ben rumbles out with regret. “Tell Pippa, I love her.”

In an instant, Nicole is swept off her feet and pushed across the roof, until she feels the wall at her back. There she will stay, his unseen hand out holding her there… gently. Dammit Vor, where are you?!

Inside the Tlanuwa, Avi sees Ryans launch Nicole across the roof and pin her to the wall. He clenches his teeth, taking a hold of the gunner stick between the pilot and copilot seats, then flips on a toggle on the console.

«Ben, what the fuck are you doing!?» Avi’s voice booms out of the external speakers on the Tlanuwa. His point is punctuated by a whirring sound of the Tlanuwa’s nose-mounted minigun rotating up to speed. «Let her go!»

It was botswarf that did it. Gerard had heard that saying only once before. During the auroras last year, when a young boy who looked like he had always imagined his son would have if he had lived had said suddenly in a fit of surprise. He had been helping fix something and had hit his thumb. He had felt himself smile, felt himself swell with emotions he hadn’t felt in a decade.

No research could have told someone that word. He didn’t even know what it meant, except that it obviously was some kind of exclamation of pain or a curse. “Lance,” he whispers into the mic, voice ragged and pained for a moment. He’s still not in sight of any of the cameras, but he suddenly asks, “Where are you? Are you safe? What happened?”

Is someone hurting his son? He could hear screaming coming from upstairs, hear the roar of an engine. And he could feel the heat, even at this distance. He hoped his son was nowhere near the man made of molten rock.

There’s a long, perhaps agonizing moment of silence over the mic before Lance’s voice comes back onto it, somewhat stressed. “No, I’m not safe, your stupid terrorist friends are trying to kill everyone that I’m trying to keep alive. So if you could stop shooting people, dad, that’d be primal. HOLD PLEASE.”

The line switches briefly, “Alpha, we’ve got Ryans squaring up with Agent Varlane on the roof, she could probably use some backu— nevermind Lucille’s jumping out the window.”

He switches back, “Where was I? Right. STOP SHOOTING PEOPLE.”

Satisfaction in knowing that she's found it. The open nerve. Huruma can't help herself but to prolong Garza's misery, standing on the far side of the room, the plasmoid man between her and the duck-and-cover RCPD officers; she lifts a hand, palm up, flashing a brief smile, fingers crushing a phantom heart. Garza's emotions unravel, tangling, slipping away, sliding down the gurgle of a drain. Submit, she said.

As for the hands-on, she'll leave it to them.

With two of her empathic arms wrapped around Garza, the rest move with Huruma when she stalks towards the exit to the roof, prodding and crawling invisibly into the sun. She herself makes it into the light just in time to issue her own manner of warning,

"Tell her yourself." Huruma may not physically cross the span of rooftop to Ryans, but the psychic part does. He isn't Garza, though. Not even close.

When she speaks it comes, a charged cable that loops itself around Ryans and back to Huruma; he knows the sensation that comes with it, having felt it many times before. Not influence - - an impression. Words are difficult. Showing is much easier. The taste of heartbreak and anger is precisely what he'd expect.

Godfrey stumbles out onto the roof, looking behind him as the wave of intense heat rolls out with him. “Bloody hell…that was awkward.” Straightening his burn suit, he’s quickly reminded about its state when his hand comes away with char smeared over his palm. He lets out an annoyed sigh and turns towards the rest of the roof, just in time for Avi’s to shout over the loudspeakers.

Following the Tlanuwa’s line of sight, Godfrey finds that old guy who had been with Adam, grunt and stumble to one knee when hit with the flood of emotions. He can see the telekinetic's jaw flex as he pushes through the emotions, turning his attention to the hovering aircraft glaring defiantly at the cockpit, but his hand doesn’t move, though Nicole can feel his ability suffering the assault from Huruma.

The heliokinetic’s thoughts are interrupted by the sound of more feet behind him, bringing him back around to see if the others were following. Godfrey felt a bit out of place at the moment, trying to stay out of the way while not appearing to be fleeing; he didn’t exactly want to get shot. It was a very delicate dance. Once he sees Cesar… “I know this is a bit of bad timing, but…” The Brit offers his wrists out for the SESA agent, even as he backpedals from the door and the raging inferno inside.

Right at the moment Cesar sees Shane slap Jaiden across the face, there is a small wince. "Bishop!" he calls to the other agent, and roll-lobs the fire extinguisher Shane's way. Hopefully the man might have a better use for it between him and the RCPD officers still dealing with Garza.

Once Cesar has his feet on solid not-melty ground again out of the way of flames and fire, he breathes a very short sigh. It's more of a huff to clear some of the adrenaline pumping tunnel vision, allowing him to assess what's happening on the roof. And it's nothing particularly good as he spots Ben Ryans wielding the invisible telekinetic power, seeing Nicole pinned and Avi spinning the Tlanuwa around.

The goal was safer ground, exfil to the Wolfhound jet. Cesar almost misses the fact that Godfrey is right there offering himself to the easy arrest. "Don't even fuckin' kid with me right now," he says in disbelief, shaking his head and casting a glance to the other officers providing cover. He then grabs one of Godfrey's wrist, not to cuff him yet but to lead the other man along to a lesser exposed spot on the roof. "«Air Team, need a pick up over here, pronto por fa-fuckin'-vor!»"

With his Banshee back out, Cesar takes aim at the figure of Ben Ryans, but the position is held defensively for the moment.

Lance was right.

Lucille is flying out of a window.

A shattering of glass as the woman leaps outside onto the roof, rolling as she does so. What she finds, her father…. holding Nicole… with telekinesis. Just like before Arthur stole his ability, his legacy. Their legacy. Gold eyes flare as she crouches and then sprints full tilt at her father. She feels a wild mix of pride at her father having what was his back as well as utter dread to see how far he was willing to go and how far he had fallen off the path. You don't get to do this. Lucille thinks as she falls to the ground and slides towards Ryans while lifting her Banshee to fire at her father.

She can hear Avi's roar over the commotion around her but she tunes it out.

Mom, help me. Praying to her mother, hoping for an answer. How was she going to get him home?

The shrieking wail of the Banshee is inaudible except to Ryans, caught in its path. He reflexively buckles to one knee under the sonic weapon’s attack, hands clapping around his ears in a way that does nothing to abate the soundwaves reverberating through his body. The knives of Huruma’s empathic barrage hook into feelings of doubt and insecurity, or remorse on abandoning his daughter to this crusade, to this cause. It had to be worth it rattles around in his

“Adam I’m not going to tell you again, let Victoria go!”

mind.

“What’re you going to do, Ben?” Adam says with a horrible venom in his voice. “Kill me?

Inside the Tlanuwa, Avi looks to Cesar and the others, hand gripping the gunner’s controls, barrel of the minigun now fully spun up. He sees Ryans take a knee from the Banshee and his throat tightens. He pivots the aircraft, swinging the barrel away and releasing his finger from the primer trigger. The roar of the Tlanuwa’s engines accompanies the vehicle pivoting toward the roof, rear bay doors open and ramp smacking down on the rooftop not far from Cesar.

The telekinetic push isn't drastic, but nor is it subtle. Nicole finds herself scrabbling for purchase as the olive branch is slapped from her hand, metaphorically, and she’s invisibly held to the opposite wall of the roof. “Ben!” While the others are starting to make their way out onto the roof and Avi is about to level the threat he told her not to, Nicole decides to make a last ditch effort.

Scrunching her eyes shut, Nicole concentrates on the sensation of the electricity coursing through her, and the additional conduit for it at her back. When she lashes out again, it’s with everything she has and then some. The battery pack for her armor makes a high pitched whine as she depletes it rapidly to throw another jolt at Ryans.

But there’s too much distance. Before it ever makes its way across the roof, the electricity arcs apart and fizzles out harmlessly. Now Nicole, blood dripping from her nose, is left without her power and without additional protection.

Then the others begin to pour out. With Ryans’ hold on her severed, Nicole goes charging forward again.

As Nicole charges forward, a knife slams into her shoulder from behind. Vor appears just above her, letting gravity slam her down into the electrockinetic— blade first. Her blows before were fast and imprecise, but here she aims far more carefully. Pinning Nicole to the roof with her legs, Vor starts to twist the knife. The worst part about it, really, is how she isn't growling or cursing or even breaking a sweat… she's whistling. A jaunty little tune sounds in Nicole's ears, a sharp juxtaposition to the knife in her shoulder.

Nicole’s eyes go wide with alarm before she even registers the pain. The knife slips so easily between the plates of her depleted armor. The weight atop her sends her crumpling to the ground. Instinct has her trying to discharge, to send a shock through her attacker that will get her to let up. But there’s nothing left to give.

An agonized cry tears from Nicole’s throat as the knife twists. On her stomach as she is, she can’t reach behind her in order to try and bat Vor away.

Yanking the knife out, Vor lifts her arm, posed to add another wound to the agent. She takes a moment to pick the perfect spot— but it also gives her a moment to process everything else happening on the roof. The jet. The weapons. Her allies. "Next time," she says, all but singing the words as she disappears from Nicole's back.

As soon as the Tlanuwa isn’t sighted on Ryans any longer there is a blur of movement that comes in from the side across the roof, a flash of black and blonde, followed by Vor tackling Ryans out of the beam of the Banshee, rolling with him across the rooftop until he is flat on his back and she is crouched on one knee beside him.

Vor smiles at Lucille and puts a hand up to the side of her lips as she mouths he's my daddy now across the roof. A laugh and then— they both vanish.


Meanwhile
The Times Square Building, Penthouse
Rochester, New York

February 27th
4:34 pm


The room is blisteringly hot with Garza spouting heat out in radiant flares like a massive oven door flexing open and closed. The blasts cause an explosion of sweat to flood faces, hands, backs, or anyone near.

"Hold him, get him out of here!" Shane orders two of the RCPD, depositing the limp but massive pile of Jaiden into their grasp. They were asking him what to do about the fireball? Well, Shane can give them something they can do something about: Jaiden.

The shout from Cesar was important; Shane orients suddenly as Cesar tosses him the fire extinguisher. Shane spots the incoming extinguisher and orients to grab it, managing to only minorly dent it but not break it. But he doesn't keep it, he hands it off to what is likely the last of Delta that was near the door. "Delta 6 — Agent Bloom, focus; stay with me here, I need you at my back," Shane says, lifting his hand some to automatically shield his eyes from a flux from Garza.

All the other agents of Alpha and Delta have left. No pressure?

"Stick close behind me, and use that, coat him good so he can't continue to ignite; I'll get you an opening if I can," Shane says, while moving to the big solid marble bar-top, and ripping it upwards with a heave. Marble is heat resistant. This could work? It's uncomfortably awkward and heavy. But it can be a shield for both of them.

With a nod to the Delta agent, Shane crosses the room in a few powerful bounds, intending to trap the explosive Garza back against a wall, to contain the heat and get in some impact to create an opening.

Just maybe.

Garza doesn’t see Shane coming in until the broad-shouldered agent is only a few feet away. As the plasma mimic pulls his thoughts away from the crushing sense of despair and isolation drilled into him by Huruma, he sees the vertical slab of marble held by its bracket mounts like a tower shield of an oncoming Roman centurion.

Lifting his hands, Garza manages to expel a scalding wave of heat and flame from his body that strikes the bartop dead on and rolls around its edges. Shane can feel the heat blistering his uniform, heating up the ferrofluid inside the kevlar weave of his AEGIS armor, but a split second later that marble countertop slams into Garza with the force of an oncoming truck. Garza is lifted off of his feet and smashed against the wall — one already engulfed in flames — at his back. Burning sheets of drywall fall to the ground while cinders of wallpaper are cast to the air on thermal wind.

Garza unleashes a bellowing cry that sounds like the roar of a furnace, one white-hot hand of molten material grasping at the edge of the marble slab to try and reach Shane behind it. At the same time, the RCPD officers are retreating toward the door to the roof with Jaiden, dragging him by the arms in a hasty retreat. They can see one of Garza’s hands come around, swipe past the marble barrier and leave a molten handprint on the shoulderpad of Shane’s armor, pulling back with the tarry string of liquified kevlar weave. Shane is insulated from much of the heat, but if Garza grasps any higher that could be his face.

A burst of flame-suffocating gas sprayed out of a fire-extinguisher helps mitigate that risk. Delta 6 manages to sweep in and follow Shane’s command to prevent that molten possibility from becoming a reality. Garza exhales a wail of pain when he’s hit with the fire extinguisher, struggling against the marble slab. Delta 6 circles around to the side, spraying again at Garza’s side, hosing him down with the extinguisher. Shane can see that one hand not pinned by the slab grasping and pawing at the air, turning from white hot to scalding yellow, then becoming mottled in splotches of black and brown as the exterior cools.

Shane doesn't have hair to get scorched by the streamers of flame licking around the marble, and his gloved hands are probably going to have some burns by the end of this (Shane just can't catch a break with getting his hands burned, it seems), but some pain just needs to be worked through and ignored.

Shane's eyebrows did get a bit of scorch though, and he's glad for the helmet for a lot of this. Garza's tall, otherwise Shane might have been out of range of those grabbing hands. Shane makes a choice, though: he saw the grasping hand come out, and he shifts the marble forward to continue to apply force to crush Garza with a slam of knee, and then brings his forearm out to allow Garza to grab it. He suspects he'll go for the bait, and Shane's confident the Kevlar on his arm will give him a few seconds.

Which means, if it goes to plan, Shane can whip his grabbed arm inward towards the marble slab, to bash the hell out of those grasping fingers. Injured fingers HURT even more than a hit to the face, and nobody's going to be throwing flame with broken fingers. In theory.

Shane just needs to keep Garza off of Delta 6: and keep him away from the rest of the team at the roof for as long as possible…

The strategizing running through Shane’s head feels like planning an obstacle course, the kind where folks stand on the sidelines and swing weighted ropes at you to knock you off a balance beam into mud. Except the weighted rope is magma hands.

Shane’s gambit begins when his arm comes close to Garza, and no sooner than he brushes the plasma mimic’s fingertips does that hand snag around the AEGIS armor. Garza’s cooling but still superheated hand melts through the outer layer of kevlar about as quick as Shane anticipated, turning the polymer into so much sticky soup and acrid smoke that boils off of Shane’s arm. In that same motion, Shane yanks Garza’s arm and—

—pulls

it off.

Garza’s arm disconnects from his shoulder like taffy that’s been in the sun too long. There’s no bone, no muscle, no sinew or tendon. It’s just a solid and animated mass of molten matter like hot steel or lava. The core of the arm still burns white hot by the exterior is stiff and cooled from the blasts of the fire extinguisher. No sooner than Shane has torn off the arm does his oh fuck hot reflex kick in and the dismembered arm is dropped to the floor. Smoldering strands of plasma dangle from around the corner of the slab, some continuing to burn on Shane’s armor, but at such a thin mass they have almost real heat left to them, rapidly cooling into hard, hairlike strands.

Garza doesn’t seem to feel the pain of his arm being removed, but he does scream from behind the slab when Delta-6 steps back out from behind the cover Shane provides and blasts him in the face with the fire extinguisher. The spray of flame-suppressant gas comes with a howling cry and then a sudden release that Shane feels in the marble slab he holds. It’s as if Garza just stopped fighting back.

It’s right about then that Shane can see the molten arm transforming from its incendiary form into dismembered flesh and blood, followed by a keening noise behind the slab, and a steady stream of blood trickling onto Shane’s boots.

Well that was properly horrifying.

On the other hand, it isn't Shane's first dismembered limb.

… Just the first one that he caused.

There's a time in every "strong" evolved's life where somebody loses a body part. For Shane, it seems to have been this day. The trail of broken chairs, dishes, and bent silverware has led here. Shane reacts with a very eloquent "URK" and an automatic jerk back of his hand and foot of the same side, which means the marble slab rotates and…

Yeah, that is going to fall on Garza.

oh.

The carnival of horrors continues.

Shane grabs for it belatedly, pulling it backwards, aware of the dismembered arm on the floor, but not entirely trusting that the rest of his opponent is flesh too now. Shane has big patches of entirely wrecked armor to prove how lethal the lava man is.

Shane clears his throat, and gives in his most authoritative no-nonsense voice: "Lay on the floor, and put your hands…"

"…Hand behind your head."


Meanwhile

Times Square Building, Roof
4:35 pm


Inside the Tlanuwa, Lance can hear Gerard’s voice coming over the radio, interspersed with the chaos both inside and outside the vehicle. It sounds like shouting, demands, orders being barked. Searching the body camera screens, Lance can see RCPD officers cornering Gerard, guns trained on him by a dozen officers or more. Gerard sets down his gun, gets down on his knees and laces his fingers behind his head.

SESA agents are quick to rush in, Banshees out, restraining Gerard and removing the earpiece he had been using with a flick. He isn’t sure if his father said something to him in those last few moments, but he can see his lips moving on the body cameras. Gerard was alive.

Avi gets up from the pilot’s seat, automatic stabilizers in control again as he marches across the deck of the Tlanuwa and grabs Kenner by the arm. “H-hey wait I’m— ” and zip ties his wrist to a handrail. “I was undercover!” Kenner sputters. “Ask— Ask Claudia. She knows!”

“Yeah well,” Avi angles a look at Kenner, “I’m sure somebody who isn’t a fuckin’ mercenary’s gonna get right on that. For now,” he pats Kenner on the cheek with a gloved hand, “hang in there Donny.”

Avi strides out the back of the Tlanuwa, revolver in hand as he scans the rooftop for signs of Ryans and Vor, seeing neither. “Fuck,” he hisses, then fixes a look at Diaz. “Where’s Ryans!?”

“The teleporter got him!” Dearing butts in, straddling the threshold between the door to the penthouse and the roof, trying to keep an eye on both situations at once. “They’re in the wind, I think Garza’s down for the count.” He doesn’t clarify any more than that. But the yikes face he has says something.

Good thing there's the roar of the jet engines to mask the curse that Cesar snaps out when Vör appears over Nicole and stabs the electrokinetic. The Banshee's scream stops when he releases the trigger, unable to follow the rapid disappearing-reappearing teleporter once she has a hold of Ben Ryans and escapes.

"Fuck," Agent Diaz swears again, this time far more audibly on the comms. Though his Banshee's charge level already showing a decent depletion, Cesar points the sonic blaster at Godfrey. "On the plane now. And no funny business," he orders the British man forth, the hand-off passed to Dearing to ensure there is no sudden breakout.

Cesar then quickly jogs over to where Nicole lies, pistol holstered for hands free to help her up. The agent also catches a glimpse towards the penthouse carnage, and what Shane is likely also to have to report on regarding the consequences of actions taken in the heat of the moment.

Huruma's tether to Garza snaps when she breaks her attentions on him in favor of what's ahead; she's destined to be disappointed before she can even cross the rooftop to confront Ryans as directly as humanly possible- -

Because Vor, in her constant vexation, takes the chance out from under them. The empath feels that tether fray as they vanish, a loud snarl of frustration given to empty air.

"Wewe ni mwoga! Rudi hapa!" Huruma snaps at nothing, voice a strain and hands unclenching; she slackens some on spotting Nicole, shoulders remaining tight even as she darts over to help the pair of them. Her assistance for Cesar is a wordless one, while her ministrations to Nicole come with a soft-voiced shift, "Samahani." Lower still, "I'm sorry."

For what, exactly, she isn't absolutely certain. One hundred things from one hundred places.

It’s with a thin cry of pain that Nicole manages to get to her feet again with Cesar and Huruma’s aid. It’s her fellow SESA agent’s shoulders she slings her good arm around for support. She’s already pale, sweat clinging to her brow. Blood still drips from her nose as surely as it leaks through the wound in her back and her armor.

“Oh, that fffffffucking bitch,” she grits through her teeth, staring at the place where Ryans once stood. Just that short invective was enough to leave Varlane breathless. Reaching up to the radio receiver at her chest, blood’s run down her arm, her wrist and slicked her fingers. She has a false start where her thumb slips off the button at first, a brief chirp on the line giving her away before she manages to get it to stick the second time.

“Boxer, this is Nunnehi-01. I lost Ryans.” A brief glance around the rooftop and toward the penthouse shows there’s not enough a sense of victory to have claimed a bigger win than what she’s already heard, re: Garza. “And Monroe.” This is a failure Nicole is claiming for herself. “The teleporter’s got them in the wind. We’re regrouping aboard the Tlanuwa.”

Lucille's middle finger is pointed in the direction that Vor and her father just disappeared from and the Ryans woman's nostrils flare. She doesn't get to do much else but rush over to Nicole with worry in her eyes and wafting off of her while mixing with the rage at the situation of this operation and the disappointment in her father. "Come on," Grabbing Nicole's arm from the other side of Cesar while eyes flare gold using her Sensing of the human body to make sure no organs or important arteries were nicked. It all seems pretty routine before she feels the spark of life residing in Nicole's belly. "Nicole…" What the fuck.

A wave of confusion washes over Lucille's face as gray blue eyes fall on her stomach and she quickly looks up into Nicole's electric blue ones to squash that look as to not let Cesar in on whateverthefuck. Luce grips her friend's arm and slowly extends her control of the injured woman to wash her pain away. "Come on, we gotta go."

Keeping her hand on Nicole's arm before it slowly slides down to grip the older woman's palm and wrap her hand around it. Grimacing from the use of her ability but walking strong back towards the others. Exhaling through her nose with a look over towards Cesar before she rearranges their order so she's in the middle and her arm on his shoulder, sharing the effects of her ability, wincing but it's worth it. The thoughts of her father run through her mind, missing him and having him right there in front of her. The failure of not getting him to stop, when Lucille gets home and can be alone in her room the tears will fall for now the utter sadness and worry echoes out from her. "What a weird fucking day,"

Godfrey doesn’t miss any of the action either, brows furrowing as he just stands there alongside Cesar and watches what’s happening with a rather disappointed look. There is a slow shake of his head once Vor and the other man are gone. Turning towards the agent with an expectant look, “Well—“ He doesn’t get any further then that, before he finds the Banshee pointed straight at him and yelled at.

Focus moving from the end of the Banshee to Cesar, Godfrey looks rather hurt; but then like that he’s being handed off to Dearing. Godfrey’s hands go out in a gesture of confusion. “Really?” He looks genuinely insulted. “Now you think of that?” He calls after Diaz’ retreating back. “I, literally, could have fled several times, Agent, and yet here I am!”

The hands fall back to his side in defeat just watching Cesar hurry to Nicole’s side. “Bloody, ungrateful…” Godfrey sighs out under his breath, like he can’t even deal with this man.

The heliokinetic turns a look at Dearing and sighs, “Well, come along. Let's get it over with.” Taking a few steps back towards the ship, Godfrey is offering no resistance, only holding out his hands with wrists together. “Looks like the honors are all yours.” There is a flirtatious uptick at the corner of his mouth that says he might not mind that at all.

Lance is silent for a moment as he watches his father arrested, shoulders slumping in relief. Relief, but why does he want to cry at the same time? His ability muffles a sob as he draws in a breath, grimacing as he steels himself, switching back to the other channels.

“Alpha,” he reports, wiping his eyes with one hand and managing somehow to keep his voice level, “Garza’s down and being arrested, but somebody needs to get in there to negate him pronto or he’s just going to melt his way free eventually. We’ve got multiple injuries on the roof, it looks like, we’re going to need medical in there. Looks like we’re in wrap-up. Good job.”

The Tlanuwa’s engines roar noisily, downdraft from the vector-thrust turbines create a thunderous downdraft. Epstein stands with a sternness in his posture, looking at Huruma and Dearing with visible concern. He notices the spots of blood on the roof, trailing from Huruma’s knife wounds. He doesn’t try to shout over the engines, but instead makes way for Dearing as the super-strong mercenary grabs Godfrey by the scruff of his jacket and drags him toward the plane.

“C’mon cheekbones, you’ve got a date with probably a fucking lethal injection or something,” Dearing says with literally zero chill after everything they’ve experienced. He shoves Godfrey forward and keeps his shotgun in hand, if leveled down at the floor, as he escorts their prisoner up the ramp into the Tlanuwa.

Inside the penthouse, Shane finds Garza markedly compliant in only that he has straight blacked out. The ostensible leader of Shedda Dinu lay motionless on the floor as reinforcements pour in from the primary stairwell that Wolfhound had breached through. Five RCPD officers, and two SESA agents quickly assist in securing the scene, even as fire continues to spread along one of the walls, cordoned in by large swaths of bare stone. Sheets of burning wallpaper fall like snow around Shane, who — aside from some burns and bruises — came out of this better than anyone might have expected.

“We need medical inside the penthouse, suspect with a limb amputation.” One of the agents says into his radio, turning to look over at Shane as he continues, “one agent with multiple burn wounds, possible contusions.”

It all felt like an eternity, and yet took place in the span of a handful of minutes.

Physically Shane might be okay. There's a sort of strained and haunted thing behind his brown eyes as he squats to make a tourniquet for the fallen Garza. The intention was to subdue him, not rip his limbs off. However, Shane hands it off to someone else quickly, after becoming aware of the tension tremor in his hand. No sense making this a lot worse.

Guilt isn't the emotion; Garza was trying to kill them all. Shane did his job. Even so. Shane waves off some assistance for his burns, and gets out of the way. He doesn't go far, Garza still has the big agent for a babysitter, at least until some nullification comes through. Shane's seeing it through to the end… whatever that ends up being.

It will be hours before the Times Square Building is fully evacuated of personnel. Six hundred and seventy-seven arrests later, the dust will have time to settle. Donald Kenner, Gerard Gerken, Jaiden Mortlock, Godfrey Wells, and Antonio Garza will ultimately be remanded to federal custody, the latter of whom will spend the majority of that time in a hospital pending his eventual trial.

Those complicit with Shedda Dinu, the functionaries and cover operators running the Coldridge financial institution out of this building may never see the light of day again. Some will plea for diminished sentences, some will attempt to plead innocence, but at the end of the day Shedda Dinu is destroyed. The organization and its command structure pulled up root and stem, even if Adam Monroe and organizers of other cells still remained.

But in the aftermath of Shedda Dinu’s collapse, in hours before charges are filed, in the hours before the consequences of this defeat are truly felt…

…there are yet more pieces in motion.


Some Time Later

Not Far Away


A single black paw treads through a shallow puddle.

Down a narrow alley between two derelict tenement buildings, a single black cat makes a low-profile approach on a rust-streaked metal door set into a brick wall. The cat circles around in front of the door for a moment, then approaches and rises up onto its hind legs, dragging its claws down the peeling paint over rusted metal. A throaty mrow fills the air, followed by a few aggressive paw thumps.

As the cat backs down from the door, there is a grinding sound of a metal security bar moved out of place. A noisy clunk comes after, and the door opens a crack to allow the cat inside before shutting behind it. Inside, the cat threads between the ankles of someone in black dress shoes, trotting purposefully down a chipped tile floor in a dimly-lit hallway.

The slim feline bounds over a spool of cables braided together and bound in zip ties that snakes off through an open doorway into a lightless room. Then, clearly knowing where it needs to go, the cat rounds a corner and slips in through a partly-closed door into a small room filled with metal gun racks lined with assault rifles and handguns. Boxes of munitions are strewn about the floor.

The cat comes up against the ankles of a woman with sensible white flats and cream colored palazzo pants. Black fur clings to the fabric as the cat nuzzles that ankle.

“Hey there, friend.” A young woman says in a rich, smoky voice, bending down to pick up the cat and cradle it in her arms. Darkly-painted nails rake through the fur under its chin, and the cat languidly rolls onto its back. “I guess that means the match is lit…”

The feline’s green eyes fix on a pendant worn around the woman’s neck. “Thanks for the heads up, Shahid.”

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She bends forward to let the cat drop down onto the top of an ammo box, causing the pendant to swing slowly around her neck.

An eight-pointed star.

“All according to the Design.”


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