A Very Bad Place


eileen_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title A Very Bad Place
Synopsis Teodoro Laudani and the Remnant head deep into Staten Island's Greenbelt in search of Humanis First and uncover a corpse that ends up being more trouble than it's probably worth.
Date September 19, 2009

Staten Island — Happy Hollow Park

Once upon a time, before the Bomb, Staten Island's Greenbelt was home to a miniature funfair affectionately known to the locals as Happy Hollow Park. It still goes by that name today, though it hasn't been in operation for more than two years; here, the laughter of children exists only as a distant memory, as fleeting and ephemeral as the wildflowers that bloom sporadically throughout the overgrown property.

Kudzu and thorns cover the carousel and its painted ponies, peeling flecks of vibrant colour only partially visible through the leaves and branches that wind snakelike around prancing legs and arching throats. Metal no linger glimmers in the light of the setting sun, too rusted and matte to produce even a twinkle. When the funfair's owners decided to heed the government's evacuation orders and close the its gates, they locked up under the impression that they'd only be out of business for a few months and that the fence would keep trespassers out during the interim.

They were wrong on both counts.

Tonight, five shapes move through the twilight with the ease of shadows, picking through the tall grass and weeds that grow out from between the cracks in the concrete. It didn't take long for Nature to reclaim this patch of land after Man abandoned it; Happy Hollow is as much a part of the tangled parkland as the woods surrounding it.

Gabriel's foot steps have carried him towards where a park bench and picnic table jut out from the overgrown weedy land of the funfair. Once painted green and now flaked naked in patches of pale wood, his dark eyes are scouring over the signs of human life around it. A tag of graffiti is painted on the surface, obscuring and overpowering subtle stains and cigarette burn marks that scour the surface. Glittering broken glass is sprinkled all about, debris of trash and neglect speaking not of the families that may have sat here beneath the sun to enjoy the day together, but of miscreants and trespassers claiming the territory as their own.

But nothing recent, nothing that looks like it's existed here for more than a month, maybe longer. Nothing of Humanis First, either, and Gabriel restlessly kicks a half-emptied beer bottle aside as he moves away, filled not with liquor but rain water and filth.

This isn't his war, he'd told them. Phoenix, the other side of the Humanis conflict. But there are favours to be had, especially when they align with what he wants. Gabriel folds his arms about his torso as he moves, expecting nothing to fall under his gaze save for the nearby figures of the rest of the Remnant. The slightest of them all gets a lingering glance back, near envious - this is a task better suited for having as many sets of eyes as there are birds. A moment later, Gabriel is extending a hand and a vague and filmy beam of light scans over the darkening setting when it leaps from his palm.

Fucking kudzu. Not that— it really drags at the black of his clothes or snags his boots or gets in the way of anything tactically relevant, it only nips at sentimentality without physically slowing him down. Evening's darkness and unfamiliar territory mean Teo's moving fairly slow as it is, picking his way around an ashy pile of rubble and the taloned, rust-sanguine shred of one fencing section that had traveled very far from the rest.

The Sicilian is neither at ease nor particularly uncomfortable, trampling around leftmost in the presence of erstwhile serial killers, erstwhile terrorists, mercenaries, and whatever other labels that you might apply to this conglomerate of friends and acquaintances, estranged, distant, and otherwise. That is nothing so surprising. What might be stranger is that the abductees who constitute the reason he's with them might fit into the same categories.

Though, as sacrifices go, a mosquito bitten greenbelt safari, two or three instances of phone tag, and an astral romp probably aren't all that impressive. Thus far, the expedition has been beautifully uneventful.

This changes when his eyes slide back into focus on the back of Eileen's head for the seventh time. "Somebody else 's out here. Three to five of them." It's a rough reading; his ability doesn't come with a strenuous sense of spatial reasoning, and the presence of his cohorts themselves fuzzes his accuracy. "Inside a couple hundred yards but I don't know the area well enough to figure. Birds getting anything?"

Failing light is never the best time to put an operation into effect. It's dark enough that it becomes difficult to see, but it's still bright enough that the darkness doesn't provide much useful concealment. And that means that what darkness for concealment needs to be preserved as much as possible. When Gabriel produces a beam of light from the palm of his hand, Raith moves alongside him and carefully places his own hand on Gabriel's forearm, pushing that beam of light down towards the ground. No verbal reprimand; once he has Gabriel's attention, he simply shakes his head. Not a good move, Eyebrows. But that's the end of that, and Raith moves on to his other reconnoiters. They've already been doing their jobs, so rather than speak, he'll simply wait for more information. And, of course, converse with Ethan to make sure that whatever plan he proposes is 'acceptable.' As long as the Wolf is happy, there won't be an altercation that will give them all away.

If nothing else, he's ready for action, packing an automatic carbine and attached grenade launcher, sidearm, plenty of ammo, and even additional hand grenades of various types strapped to his body armor. And, of course, a knife.

Gabriel's kicked beer bottle skitters to the side, rolling in front of the rest of the group before coming to a slow and still stop.

Until it lets out a clang as it is properly booted into the air and over the tall grass. Crashing and shattering a good distance away from the group, Ethan hardly looks sorry at the sound he made. He's upset about life right now. Although he is a seasoned veteran, assassin, experienced killing thing tonight he seems most like a child having a moody fit. When Teo says there are other people though, he frowns. Woops. He looks a tad guilty, but the expression bleeds off after a moment.

"Fuckin' 'ell. Can I finally shoot somethin' this fuckin' stroll is makin' me cramp." Ethan growls. "And not in my legs." He adds in, setting one hand heavily on the sidearm at his… side. His complaints are mainly directed towards Raith, knowing that they bother him the most. And as if his string of whining wasn't satisfactory enough to deliver into Raith's ear, Ethan simply says: "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fucking fuck fuck fuck." Grr. "Fuck fuck." Apparently sated now, Ethan goes back to looking for trouble. Hmph.

Eileen is less inclined than Ethan when it comes to making noise. Teodoro's query receives no verbal response; instead, a large shape wings overhead, its silhouette blotting out what's visible of the sun between the trees in the instant that it crosses the Sicilian's path. Talons the size of a child's hands seize the top of the fence several meters away and send vibrations reverberating through its rusted length as an animal with thick black plumage alights itself on the chain-link.

Too big to be a crow or a raven, the bird rumples its feathers and stares down its long, bald face at Teo, mouth split wide into the closest thing it will ever come to a smile. It's a turkey vulture, and it neither croaks nor shrieks out a shrill greeting like a proper buzzard might — instead, a low hiss escapes its parted beak, and it directs its attention toward a sliver of ivory peering out through the grass near where Gabriel and Raith are standing.

Gabriel's sidelong glance to Raith is irritated, but rather than bitch about it— the light flickers and dies, and Gabriel sends the appointed Remnant leader another look at Ethan's outburst not a moment later. Like I'm the unprofessional one. Not about to press the point, the erstwhile serial killer is quick to stroll a little aways from the two, his hands tucking into the pockets of his coat, turning his back to Ethan.

He can't hear. It's been a long time since Gabriel has voiced this complaint, inaccurate as it is - he can hear, obviously, just as well as any of them. But he can't hear, all the same. The immediate noise of cursing and foot steps and mutters feels like a buffer against the important noises of distant heart beats and things he can no longer pick up, no thanks to Arthur Petrelli.

The bird's sudden appearance halts any attempt to wander and sulk away from the group, however. No glance is cast back towards Eileen, the vulture getting Gabriel's attention in her stead, or at least acting as a proxy. There's no real question that Gabriel moves towards where it seems to direct both he and the rest - he's followed birds before.

All right. Creepy. Useful. Teo stops staring after a moment, realizing that Eileen might well be inside that luridly bald avian face and not appreciate the rudeness. Ahem. His brow furrows, black bars on the chalk-blue of his dusk-lit skin, and he shifts his eyes down the trajectory that the vulture's attention has taken. He blinks, hazards a glance toward Gabriel.

A moment's hesitation turns into a decision to hang behind, his fingers latticed around the handle of his Glock, his expression pleasantly neutral, eyes attentive should someone motion to propose he's better suited in the front lines or some shit. Remnants first, otherwise. It's— polite. You know. What with all the bottle flinging and knives they've come with.

The shattering bottle draws Raith's attention away from Gabriel for a brief moment before his attention is focused firmly on his hand. In the palm of which he has placed his face; slick, Ethan. Super slick. But there's nothing that can be done about it now. All anyone can do is hope that Ethan doesn't open fire as soon as someone who isn't one of them comes into view. He'll give away their position. Worse still, it might be Petrelli, playing catch-up. Then they'd really have a problem.

The vulture certainly does not go unnoticed, and while Raith's combat experience doesn't deal heavily with birds, he's picked up enough over the months to know that he should pay attention to its attention. He's also picked up enough to know that no matter how much he wishes it, he's never going to go into any operation with an ideal team. Briefly, he picks up the pace to catch up with Gabriel. He's picked up enough over the months to know what the smart thing to do is. "Put on your shades and go take a look," he whispers, "Come back with ID and number." That said, he stops moving forward and, looking back over his shoulder, instinctively gestures that everyone else should get out of sight. Raith himself does the same, ducking behind a rusting and long unused garbage can. It's not going to stop anything bigger than a .22 (so really, it won't stop anything), but it's better than nothing. It's not cover, but it is concealment.

Finally tired of bitching, Ethan goes to ease the assault rifle off his back. Looking to Raith he takes two fingers and points at his own eyes before motioning forward. The only other member of the Remnant with similar training as himself, the pair can make a formidable duo. That is when Ethan's not trying to make Raith's head explode using only words and sheer willpower. He hasn't been leader for some time, nor has he wanted to. And when you're not leader, you have more time for asshole shennanigans. :)

Ethan makes himself scarce as well. But he's going scarce a little closer near the danger zone. Staying low, Ethan finally nestles on the ground near a little mound of dirt and tall grass. Propping his rifle up on his little hill, the Wolf waits.


Everyone in the group has done more than seen corpses before — at one point or another, they've all made them. This doesn't make the putrefying remains that Gabriel finds in the grass any less offensive to his senses. The stench of decay hangs so heavily in the air that even the breeze blowing in from the ocean fails to make the smell more tolerable. Mud-encrusted black fatigues, all in tatters, suggest that the funfair isn't the body's original resting place, and if there was any question about how it got here, the deep grooves in its sun-bleached femur provide him with an answer.

Those are teethmarks.

Mousy brown hair in a crew cut tops off a skull with half the face eaten away, including both eyes and a large strip off the left cheek. Somewhere along the way, its lower jaw went missing.

As everyone fairly scatters into hiding, eliciting a glance back from Gabriel and a raised eyebrow, but little more, he crouches down by the putrid corpse. Nose wrinkled, Gabriel's hand gropes for the radio he has on himself, fingering the switches before bringing it up to speak into, voice quiet but projected down radio lines.

"Corpse." If the vulture didn't already act as an omen of such news. "It didn't die here. Probably one of the stray dogs out here got to it. Old - more than a week. Dressed in fatigues."

Likely, he should check a little closer, but the smell— but he's not about to be told twice. Gabriel touches a knee down in the grass beside the body, a pale hand going out to search for any trace of identification, glancing up around him briefly before focusing on his task.

While the Vanguard's behaving true to its name, Teo's somewhere off the flank, shouldered up against something that looks like it used to be attached to the shoulder of a building, hewn concrete and exposed rebar resting light against the oblique muscle of his bicep and the angle of his hip.

He tips his head back, strains his ears. Hears nothing that doesn't find its origin either in the low-lying stratum of crickets and worms or the electronic radio clipped to the hem of his jacket. A check through senses a little more perspicacious than the average set results innnn… the same findings as earlier, which is both helpful and decidedly not. "Sounds promising. The men Danko brought with him wore simila—"

His voice sizzles short without punctuation of static, because the electronics are decent like that. His brow knots hard below a twinge of what might be either a side-effect or mere effort. "Bogey's coming up on us. From the outside, can't tell the direction. Ruskin?"

"Stay dark, Gray, standby," Raith says into his own radio. Unlike Gabriel, who with his abilities, has the benefit of keeping his hands free to use his radio, Raith has a headset hooked up to his transmitter, leaving his hands free to manage his weapons. His attention shifts to one side, the one he's closest to, and he watches for movement in the distance. There's just enough light left that he might still see something, meaning he doesn't have to inconvenience himself by shouldering his rifle just so he can look through the small sight mounted on top of it; a simple, passive infrared sight. With nothing else to do for the moment, he waits for Eileen to report what she can find.

Setting up shop as it were, Ethan's gaze roams to the vacant spots where he knows his allies reside in the dark. Holden gives out a soundless sigh, resting his head against the cool black metal of his weapon. Ever vigilant, at least he has some downtime to think about his life. His dark gaze then flash towards where he last saw Eileen. His lips purse together, this waiting is annoying. Looking back to scan his surroundings, he listens to his ear piece and continues to watch.

The body hasn't been unearthed long, but it was either buried without anything in its pockets or someone else has already beaten Remnant to pilfering through them. They're empty, and offer little insight into its identity. The military tattoos on its exposed skin, flecked with dried blood, are much more telling, even if the advanced state of decomposition makes it difficult for Gabriel to read what the markings say. Three bullet holes ventilate a naked chest spotted with clumps of hair matted in still more dirt and gore. Whatever was tearing at the femur recently came back to bury its muzzle in the corpse's ribcage and feast on the jellified organs inside.

As flies continue buzzing merrily around Gabriel's face, Eileen's voice crackles over the radio. "North. Three unidentified males. They've got a dog with them. Guns. Coming up on Holden's position."

And speaking of Holden's position— A pair of dark brown eyes are studying Ethan from behind a tall swath of grass. Two long, tapered ears swivel like satellites, picking up on the sound of tinny voices channeled between the radios. Make that two dogs.

Fingers coming away grimy, scent of death clinging to them, Gabriel has little alternative but to scan the tattoos for anything recognisable, though it's nothing he reports through the radio now that something is happening. The radio is tucked away and the body, harvested now of its information and anything else useful, is abandoned as Gabriel straightens up from his crouch and moves away from it. His attention switches from it towards Ethan's position at the report crackling down the radio.

It seems an unnecessary salute back to childhood, the whole 'being chased around by dogs' thing. The part of Teo not frowning and trying to remember what the best worst case scenario recourse besides shooting the damn things would be is the part trying to dismiss the part of him that's cheerfully giving Ethan 'the Wolf' Holden up for dead. That's what you get for killing children.

There's no 'fuck him let's go' in 'team,' though, and Teo holds his ground for a second, two, before dropping halfway into a crouch, shifting in the indistinct shadow of his cover. He squints an eye around the edge of the concrete, rakes the greenery with a careful eye, starts to move, carefully marking the corpse's location in his mind's eye, between the landmarks he can think of. "See anything, Holden?"

Three men with guns and a dog. Those odds are even enough. "Gray, move north and come up along their flank, watch out for others," Raith says into his radio, realigning himself to face north. Now, he //does raise his rifle and look through the infrared sight, fixing to acquire a target. There are trees to consider, but closer to the park, the ground is pretty open, and at that range, between him and Ethan, they could probably drop all three of the men. At least two of them, for certain, leaving Gabriel to take care of the third while Teo and Eileen can worry about the dog. If that doesn't work out, everyone can fan out and move in, catching the approaching group in a pincer maneuver. And if that doesn't work, they've got enough explosives to frag all of them and be done with it (expensive and noisy as that option is).

Yeah. They've got this.

"Radio silence."

It's a curt, rigid, and halting command. The rifle is slowly slid and deposited to the ground below him. His hands moving instead to secure several knives he keeps hidden about his person. Laying the knives out on his little mound, Ethan looks straight forward. Grabbing the rifle it is tossed up into the air about ten feet away from his own position. It doesn't discharge but certainly makes a loud racket at the end of its descent.

"Hello there!" The voice echoes through the fairgrounds like a gunshot, and a moment later the first of the three "men" comes into view, a canine of mixed heritage moving purposefully alongside him. He's a stranger — or at least no one any of the Remnant remembers seeing — and wears his long hair pulled back into a ponytail the colour and consistency of grease. A wife beater soaked through with sweat covers a lean torso with broad shoulders that lead into muscular arms. Much more legible than what little Gabriel was able to glean from the corpse, the words Mara Salvatrucha are tattooed across his left bicep.

The dog in the grass startles at the sound of Ethan's rifle cracking against the pavement and shrinks back, presumably to rejoin its master and his two human companions, a lanky teenager dressed in leather and denim and a young woman whose hair is trimmed so short it doesn't look like she has any at all. "You'll excuse me if I'm being pre-sumptuous," the man with the dogs shouts out at Teodoro's position, "but do you mind if we borrow a few minutes of your time? A couple of you look awful familiar."

As soon as Raith's command is rattled down the lines, Gabriel defaults into militaristic obedience, the same kind that had allowed him to run with the pack ~Back In The Day~. Dissolving into a shadow far more agile than anything human limbs and restrictions, radio cutting out as if it not longer existed, the shifting mass of darkness that was Gabriel leaps over the corpse he'd been studying. Tendrils dart out from its thicker centre, seeming to grasp at the ground and drawing itself along at a supernatural speed, through weeds and trees.

There's an electric crackle of static down the radio when it morphs back into life, and feet land heavy in the grass somewhere behind the group that's made its presence known. The scent of human will waft towards the dogs, no doubt, but Gabriel attempts to remain out of sight, brow tensing at the words being called out.

Unhappy to have his position being shouted at, Teo moves it to the most proximate piece of cover he can get. Through some unfortunate coincidence, it happens to be closer to the strangers than he was: a burly tree bole, branches coming down in palatial arcs and dense with summer foliage. He drops into a crouch at its base, sighing through his teeth. A haphazard glance through Ethan's camera view shows him tattoos, the dog's long-muzzled face, blurred and impressionistic: he doesn't even make out the distinct and individual letters, not really.

The first sign of bad news was when these guys apparently knew where they were and who they might have been. The second sign of bad news was the tattoo; these guys are bad hombres. Raith isn't about to give up on talking their way out of the situation, because if some of them 'look awful familiar,' then it's probably from a news cast or wanted poster. Or a survivor from one of their pals that happened to be on the wrong end of a rifle. Stealthily, hopefully undetectable in the twilight, Raith draws one of the two knives he has with him and introduces it to the muzzle of his rifle. The business end of firearm is a painful place to be, but so is the business end of a bayonet.

"We're hoping you'll excuse us," Raith says back to the ganger that addressed the group, "Didn't know this place belonged to you. We don't want to inconvenience you anymore than we already have, so if you don't mind, we'll just pack up and get on out of here." Probably, it won't get them off whatever hook they're on, but Raith tries anyway. He knows that Ethan will know what his general plan is; try to talk this little problem out, and if that doesn't work, make sure that only the Remnant and guest leave the park.

Humans can be easy to deceive. They are distracted easier, get focused on people's words or distractions like flying assault rifles. Dogs are a little tougher. Dogs and their stupid noses. Slowly sifting through the tall grass as Raith speaks with his long lost pals, the Wolf is placing himself in position, prepared to strike with great bladed vengeance should the opportunity show itself. Or should they need it.

His movements are slow, only creeping when the wind moves or some other sound could cover his nigh inaudible shifting through the darkness.

The woman with the short hair — easily mistaken as a man at a distance by Eileen's birds — leans in and whispers something into the tattooed man's ear, her lips moving without making any sound. His lips are curling into a bristly smile the next moment. The dog that had been watching Ethan in the grass turns its head in Gabriel's direction, nostrils flaring, but none of the gangers seem to notice that its attention has strayed from what's in the front of them.

"Hey," he says, spreading his large hands, "mi casa es su casa. I only want to know: do the words Moab Federal Penitentiary mean anything to you?"

Kill them and go, kill them and go. Without the ability to project a voice into anyone's heads, or even sense tremors and impressions through the smaller minds of birds, Gabriel feels not only deaf but mute. It's for the benefit of the radio that he does not simply convert back into that high-energy form of a black, roiling matrix, though he does silence the sound of his own foot steps to even the sharper ears of canines as he moves to press his back against the thick trunk of a tree.

And then the magical words. Moab Federal Penitentiary. Few people know those words - Phoenix. The government, Evolved prisoners. Gabriel doesn't move or speak, seemingly waiting for a command. Or the opening of a chance.

Gabriel's holding position is mimicked on a different coordinate by the Sicilian by the tree. He squares his shoulders around that keyphrase, his eyes wide in the dark, seeing and unseeing by turns as frenetic as epileptic seizures. Snapshots strobe in and out of his head, capped off the instant that he brusquely shoves his other, earlier concern back into his mind, trying to remember and map the corpse's location against their unexpected visitors.

They're waiting on Raith's word, though, and he knows this even if he can't be considered one of Raith's men under even the most generous definitions of the phrase, and even if the notion in the back of his mind has little to do with the alliance he's currently assembled himself into. He breathes in the scent of peat and foliage, leans his shoulder into the trunk of the tree. Cranes his head, looking into the ragged glade that Sylar had just crept out of.

Magic words indeed. Raith knows, without a doubt, one thing about Moab: he doesn't want to associate with it. No way, shape or form. This poses for Raith an interesting problem. On the one hand, he doesn't want to talk about Moab. On the other, he doesn't want to piss off MS-13. Unfortunately, those two desires seem to be in direct conflict with each other.

Raith's simple reply is, well, simple: "A very bad place." It's not a code phrase for the Remnant, but maybe it should be. Raith wishes, really, that he'd bothered to give Gabriel a headset; anything he says into his radio risks giving away the other man's position. The good news is that Raith has been keeping his weapon trained on the group as soon as he finished fixing his bayonet, and based on what he's seen so far, has decided to zero in on the one that was whispering to the other: the woman is the most serious threat, based on what little information Raith has to work with.

That bayonet means he can't use his grenade launcher, but it wouldn't be helpful right now anyway. Without knowing exactly where Gabriel is, the risk of catching him in the kill radius is unacceptably high. Bullets will have to do.

The tattooed man raises one hand as Raith speaks as if gesturing to his companions, both of who are armed, to continue holding their fire. The expression he wears on his face is considerably less steady, and transforms several times during the course of their exchange before eventually settling on a facsimile of something steeled and stony. The only thing that's clear is his implicit agreement with Raith's assessment.

Yes, Moab was a very bad place — and neither he nor his companions have any intention of going back, because he snaps his fingers together next and issues a terse order through clenched teeth. "Ataque."

At command, the two dogs explode into action and surge forward like a pair of lions carving a path through the tall grass. It isn't just meant for the animals, either; the teen in denim, silent until now, pivots on a heel toward Ethan's position and brings his hands together in a thunderous clap that produces a concussive blast powerful enough to blow the Briton off his feet and into the chain-link fence when it hits him square in the chest. The vulture that had been perched there launches off its post, wings buffeting air, and climbs noisily into the sky.

Eyes widening ever so slightly as the teen turns to face him, a knife is flung through the darkness low at the man. A split second before his hands clap together. Launching him off his belly, Ethan's remaining knife drops to the ground as he soars through the darkness. Slapping his back against the fence he growls loudly, before his body sails back down to the ground his head slapping hard against a jagged rock on his descent.

Eyes going fuzzy his hand slowly reaches down for his sidearm, easing it out of its thingie, Ethan doesn't get much further, the gun is dropped as Ethan's eyes slide shut.

There is no sound as Gabriel reappears from his position, but Raith and Teo will see him clearly— as for the others, their attention is elsewhere. A hand goes out— Peter had preferred telekinesis, and so does Gabriel, but all the same— two fingers point as if perhaps a magical wand from a popular young adult book series were clasped in the others curled inwards, but it takes no pseudo-Latin evocation for a kinetic kind of force of its own, soundless, to rip through the air towards the denim-clad teenager.

One second, two second, and something that feels a lot like the swing of a metal baseball bat invisibly strikes the concussive blaster's shoulder in something like a taste of his own medicine. The head would have been better, but beggars can't be choosers.

Havoc's enough of a signal, remnant drawing and giving fire. Run, little weasel: Teo runs, bolts out from behind the tree, shoulders clinched low, the distance to assailants and chances of getting hit at this or that distance by x or y projectile marked out in the rough, slap-dash sketch of the greenbelt and probabilities half-remembered stashed in the back of his head. Boots scratch, thicket whispers, and he comes skidding elbow and heel into Raith's peripheral, sinking boots into the fetid depression where the corpse.

He'd apologize or something for going off the direct and obvious course of action, but his jaws are locked, teeth, grit, and he's busy swinging the sudden white of his knife at the corpse. Ripping loose fetid skin, putrescent muscle, a ragged fingernail or three, fingers clipped and wrenched loose for lack of the time required to saw off the entirety of the human hand.

Raith wasn't expecting Teo to bolt like he did. He really wishes that he hadn't, because it completely spoils his aim, disorienting him enough that he loses his shot. Luckily, he doesn't also lose any ammo. However, he doesn't have time to think about reacquiring it, because if there's one thing Jensen Raith respects in battle, it's dogs. Dogs can be more vicious than any soldier, no matter how well armed. Ethan's gone down, Teo appears to have bailed, and Eileen is, doing whatever Eileen does. That doesn't leave Raith with much to work with. Trusting that Gabriel will manage to keep things somewhat under control, Raith focuses his aim on the charging dogs and, flicking his rifle's selector to Rock 'n' Roll, opens up on the dogs until the bolt locks itself opened and the magazine is empty. These are dogs. You don't fuck around with dogs.

The teen crumples to a knee under the force of Gabriel's blow, clutching at his shoulder with one hand so tightly that his knuckles go white and the colour drains from his face, thin lips pulled into a painful grimace. The other plants five fingers on the cement to support the weight of his torso as the woman beside him whirls to face their attacker and puts out her left hand, knuckles wrapped in gauze, and focuses her gaze on his. There's a moment where blue eyes connect with brown, and in the next darkness floods Gabriel's vision.

He's blind.

Back at the corpse, cartilage tears and gristle snaps wetly, decay oozing between Teodoro's fingers. The dogs are thundering at his back one minute, paws slamming into cement as their momentum carries them forward through the grass. Then Raith's rifle is tearing up fescue and spraying dirt across his field of vision. One of the animals lets out a shrill yelp, though the former Vanguard operative has no real way of knowing whether he hit anything or if the threat has effectively been dispatched.

It doesn't particularly matter, either, because the dogs' master has unshouldered his rifle during the interim, and although he doesn't have the luxury of multiple settings like Raith does, his aim is true and the other man has made his position painfully clear. The first shot he squeezes off impacts Raith's shoulder, spattering one side of Teo's face in blood.

Gabriel's head jerks back as pure darkness seems to settle, throwing a hand out which sparks a contained flurry of light, a sphere of ghost-pale and golden flashes of illumination that make shadows off the overgrown ground, the bark of trees, before dying away completely. They're no use to those who can see, with the sun still huddled in the horizon, and no use to him when the shadows prove to be his own. His mouth pulls back into a grimace, in much the same way a cornered animal bares its teeth—

Hearing is chaos and not much to go off. Gun shots, dog squeals, thudding foot steps. Nothing is happening on the radio. Gabriel abandons it and dissolves into that familiar amorphous shadow, a tornado of black ink that sees in a way that his eyes don't, sensing everything at 360 degrees, a sensory mix of audio and touch that will have to do for now. The cost of sight being the loss of— being able to do much else.

Apart from move, which he does, darting away and into the thick of the battle, towards the dog master. It leaps up with the aim to swallow him whole, gun and all.

Fingers, check. Both his own and the ones Teo's collecting off the mutilated corpse. He is about to call it done when Raith's blood suddenly heats up the right side of his face in a roostertailed wil-o'-puff of coppery moisture. He closes that eye just in time, barely to spare himself a slick slime of blindness, flinches down, an arm up to cover his head from sprayfire that wasn't intended for him.

About a quarter a second later, he realizes he kind of fucked up Jensen Raith's shot up, which is kind of like getting Jensen Raith shot. Yikes. "Ruskin.

"Air support?" He makes it a question, which makes it more polite than orders that he hasn't the right to distribute.

Where is Ethan? Teo lands on one knee, skids away from the cadaver, almost falls into his hip, his torso jack-knifing straight, up the incline of scarred and wet earth, stretching out to grab Jensen by the vest and haul him down under the level of ground vegetation and a cage of arms. He lifts his own head into the ragged horizon, a single blue eye peering out of the wet, red half of his face through the underbrush's choppy canopy, searching for the one with the rifle, a silhouette distinct enough to lance his mind at, weaker than it was once, clumsy but vehemently intended psychic blast.

Level III Dragon Skin is wonderful armor, able to defeat nearly every known pistol and rifle round, and even absorb the blast from a grenade (warning: do not attempt). But that doesn't change the fact that it is still a vest, and while it protects the chest, it doesn't cover the shoulders. A fact Raith is very unhappy about, because that's exactly where he suddenly acquires an entry wound. The force of the bullet knocks him off balance, and while he drops his rifle as he falls to the ground, it remains firmly attached to him thanks to its sling. Regardless of that fact, however, Raith's gun arm is out of action, and when Teo gets his act together and pulls him out of the line of further fire, he's all too happy for it.

His immediate course of action once he gets over the shock is to yank one of the grenades from his webbing - a hefty, cylindrical one - and thrust it into Teo's chest, hoping he'll figure out what to do with it. "Smoke." Concealment will give them a little extra protection while they assess just what to do about Raith's shoulder. Most likely, it will result in one of them using their belt as a tourniquet until they can perform proper surgery.

Hopefully, Eileen and Gabriel are doing better than he is.

In times of panic, it's easy to forget about commands like radio silence, which is exactly what Eileen does now. Not that Ethan is in any position to reprimand her for disobeying him; a thin trickle of blood darkens the earth under his head, seeping from his temple. "Both dogs are still up," she reports, her voice broken by sporadic flashes of static and sputtering gunfire. As distracting as the disruptions are, they fail to prevent the speaker from conveying her message in between gasps of air. Raith was right; Eileen is doing whatever Eileen does, and at this exact moment that's running away. "Taking them east. Laudani, Raith — someone get your ass up there and cover Holden."

Teo can forget about air support, at least for the time being.

The dog master has a split second to respond to the shadow spilling toward him before it engulfs his stocky frame, and he uses it to swivel around, pointing the barrel of his rifle at Gabriel's shape as it yawns open, then closes around him.

It's as far as he ever gets.

As soon as contact is made, the dog master's form crumples, dissolves, assimilates into the terrible shadow that Gabriel has transformed into. Mass enough for two men, it sharply withdraws, an agile spin that flows past the woman's legs, away from the teenager, curving an arcing before it suddenly breaks apart. The rifle that had sliced through Raith's shoulder is flung somewhere into thick bramble and bush, while the man is tossed through the air upon release, his spine snapping, if not literally, where it connects against the solid trunk of a tree, left to fall like a rag doll.

Gabriel staggers, rolls with less force and blindly sets his hands down against the grass where he's crouched. Rapid blinks aren't returning his sight, reaching out a hand to grope air before it feels the chain link fence he could swear he was nearby. Mouth in a line of frustration, his skin a little pallid from the effort of going in and out of Wu-Long's former wraith form, but his fingers manage to hook into the wires to ground himself.

The grenade's ring catches between Teo's teeth, with little time or space left available to question the hygiene of the thing. He flips the canister up, overarm, pitches out into the screen of foliage between them and the throng of enemies and the unimaginable black wraith that they are—

— abruptly no longer fighting. He glimpses Gabriel's dissipation the instant before the plumed smoke rakes the treeline with blind color. Can't tell which way the man'd gone. No radio means— something else; Teo isn't going to go through his options there.

Eileen's voice across the radio is acknowledged with blank silence: Teo doesn't have time or mental space available for surprise, exasperation, or even a visceral burst of courage as sitrep clarifies with the rapid-fire clip of her words. "Can you walk?" He hooks fingers underneath the bulk of Raith's arm. The pocket of his jacket vaulets a brief faceful of stench into Raith's face, even as he moves to help upright, his boots clawing tracks into wet dirt, his gun angled uneasily away, into the darkness.

His ability doesn't work on fucking dogs. Where the fucking fuckety fuck fuck

"Get me on my feet and I can run!" With his still working arm, Raith ejects the spent magazine from his rifle and struggles to insert a fresh one. After a second, he realizes that this is stupid. "Load me and get Holden," he orders, now shoving the clip into Teo's chest, "I'll cover you." For the moment, Gabriel is on his own. Eileen can take care of herself, but Ethan might be in trouble. how Raith plans on covering Teo with one good arm is a mystery, but it probably involves idiotic bravery in the face of reason.

If Gabriel had anything to worry about from the lanky teen or his female companion, then he doesn't anymore by the time the grenade discharges, filling the air with thick, choking smoke. Even if he could still see, his vision wouldn't be doing him much good in the haze, though he can still hear the sound of retreating footfalls clapping against cement as the two gangers left standing decide to cut and run — or stumble, as the case may be. At the foot of the tree, rag doll limbs draped over its roots, the body of the dog master lies as still as Ethan's, unmoving.

Somewhere in the distance, meanwhile, dogs are baying. Eileen is quick on her feet; if she keeps her wits about her and doesn't trip up, she may well outrun them or lose them somewhere in the underbrush like a fox splashing through a stream to throw off its scent and confuse the hounds. Ethan really is the more pressing concern.

Honor among thieves is supposed to be farcical frilly fiction f-f-fff just like any given archetype x with a heart of gold thrown in: Teo isn't sure what it is that Raith's trying to pull, and it shows in the brief, gaunt look of incredulity he pulls at the periphery of the older man's vision, even as he lurches up, moves back, behind him, in something that suspicously resembles obedience. Ghost was, after all, a soldier before most things.

"But fall back, okay?" he hisses in Raith's direction, even as he scampers, drops down over a rotted log, stows into the shadow of a refreshments stand made up to look like a leering clown. His grip is tight on his gun, still, eyes darting this way and fro, the whites of them flashing blue in the dwindling dusk like figments of blacklight in relief even to the flattened tan of his skin. He takes his best guess where Ethan was blown off to, moves there, the plug and swing of his feet as fleet against the vegetation as he can keep them.

Fall back? There's no way in hell he is staying out here any longer than he needs to! Ready to rock and roll, Raith moves out at the same time that Teo does, although his action is not a hurried run in search of Ethan, but a headlong charge through the smoke, complete with a roaring battle cry as he emerges, counting on his sudden, fearsome appearance and seven-inch blade to demoralize the opposition. There's a reason bayonet charges are still used in modern warfare; they are fucking terrifying.

But no one is on the other side for him to shout at, shoot or stab. And you know what? That's not so bad. Next things first, and the first word out of Raith's mouth is a projected, "Gray!" If Gabriel is still conscious and can hear, then he'd better have the sense to start calling out his position.

Gabriel twitches his head in the direction of Raith's cry out, and his own mouth opens— hesitates. He shouldn't hesitate, but he does, lingering anxiety that as soon as he does, bullets from the darkness will zip through the air and rip open his chest like the long dead corpse hacked to pieces in varying ways. But then again, he doesn't hear the same thing happening to the other remnant anyway.

"Here!" he chimes out, pulling himself up to stand, a hand unwilling to let go of the fence he's found. "I'm— here."

His voice cuts through the smog the smoke, not so far away. Not even very far away from Ethan, actually, in a happy moment of random chance, or perhaps that had been partially intended. At the sound of foot steps, he takes a chance and states, flatly, just within hearing range— "I can't see." His voice suggests that tension strings through his throat, tightly bound. Anger, bewilderment, explanation. His eyes are still brightly amber brown, dark and glimmering, but blank and vague in focus.

Dozens of yards away, twigs snap, leaf litter splits underneath Teo's shoes. The moment he finds Ethan is the instant he finally safeties his gun, throwing glances over his shoulder, up into the canopy, his mouth buckled flat around an Italian curse. He doesn't put the weapon up, yet, lets the clumsy crabwise grasp of his half-occupied hand stumble over a little trouble locating purchase on Ethan's vest. It's all right; his other hand makes a decent go of hauling the older, heavier man's body into carrying configuration, loose-jointed limbs in gravity-skewed splay and sandbagged head sagging down his back and bent arms.

It's going to take its toll on him sooner than he would have liked, far sooner than his older incarnation would've wanted to admit to, but for now, Teo makes rapid tracks toward the Greenbelt's perimeter. Not a word on the radio, despite that his hearing's straining, hope caught up ginger between the clench of his teeth that everybody's okay.

It doesn't take Raith long to pinpoint Gabriel's location, and not much longer than that to dash over to him. "Yeah, well I'm shot. Life sucks." Direct and to the point, as Raith often is. Wanting to keep his weapon handy (and not wanting it bouncing around with the bayonet attached), he practically drives himself up underneath Gabriel's left arm, which leaves his left arm free for gun work. "Don't let go, I'll get you out of here." And as soon as he's sure that Gabriel won't let go, he's jogging towards Teo's position, careful to take his charge over terrain that is unlikely to result in tripping. All of them are getting out of there, and getting out right now.

"Move it, trooper!"

Gabriel's limbs, back, body, all lock up and freeze at Raith's sudden presence, but he moves, after a false start or two. Legs work, a hand locks around a fistful of Raith's clothing. His stride causes boots to stamp the ground almost angrily, as if threatening that any tree root, tangle of bush, or bear trap that gets in his way and makes him fall on his face and drag Raith down as well, he will crush. It.

As quickly as they came, the Remnant drags its own from the temporary battle field, leaving only two corpses behind, and one of them isn't even their fault.

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