An Echo Of Thunder, Part III


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title An Echo of Thunder, Part III
Synopsis Prisoners of the Moab Federal Penitentiary make a desperate bid for escape…
Date November 21, 2014

For the past 48-hours, Richard Cardinal has not stopped experimenting with his ability, not stopped setting up for an escape that may be as ill-fated as his attempts to control a power he barely understands. The results have been harrowing. Once he figured out how to absorb a material, it disintegrated once in contact with his ephemeral form. Even partial contact resulted in partial disintegration, like a molecular dissolution. But there was no way — or perhaps just no time — to learn how to safely manipulate the objects, no grasping, no physical touch.

Whatever Richard Cardinal is, it’s not the absence of light.

It’s something far more terrifying.

Moab Federal Penitentiary

Moab, Utah

November 21, 2014

7:17 am local time

The distant cut of a helicopter’s blades signals the beginning of the end. A black military helicopter cuts across the pale blue and cloudless Utah sky on approach to the walled desert prison that is a gray smudge amid Mars-red earth. At the helipad, prison security has gathered for an emergency briefing. It's the kind of mass show of personnel usually reserved for a VIP arrival, but that's never happened at this secret prison. There's never been a call to welcome anyone.

As the helicopter touches down, medical and security personnel begin shifting awkwardly, looking to one-another, asking if anyone knows what the meeting is for, why it's happening, when their scheduled rotations will be announced. When the door slides open, they receive their answer.

Automatic gunfire sprays out from the open door. A single balaclava-masked soldier on the door gun begins firing indiscriminately into the prison staff. From the other side of the helicopter, a strike team spills out in black tactical garb and matching black masks. No badges, no patches, this is a wetworks operation.

«King of Swords, touched down. Operation: Thor’s Hammer is a go.» The leader of the strike team, CIA operative Desmond Harper — codename King of Swords — leads his eight-man team through the killing floor. As they spot prison personnel fleeing the door gunner, they take trained and merciless shots to dispatch anyone not caught in the initial hail of bullets.

«Sword 1, take Sword 6 and get down to Red Level and secure the package. Liquidate all other assets with extreme prejudice.» At Harper’s orders two of the black-masked soldiers break away from the team, headed to the central building.

They have their orders. There's a package to retrieve.

Red Level

Two days have passed in a four-walled cell with the only human contact being a shadow that may not even be human any longer. Still restrained to his bed as to keep up appearances, Magnes’ ability has made no sign of coming back. Perhaps it's the adynomine injections, perhaps his ability is just gone forever. It's one of the many things he's had to worry about over the last two days.

Worry about his daughter, worry about Elaine, worry about his ability.

If Cardinal’s plan doesn't work, though, he won't have anything to worry about.

Whatever it was that Magnes thought that Cardinal could do with his ability, it appears that he wasn't quite on the money. It's a new aspect of the man's ability that he finds disturbing, to say the least.

What even is he, anymore?

There's no time to be wasted on existential crises, though, as the moment that he noticed the security guards, the medical team, even the admin staff moving to the elevators he knew that time had run out for Moab.

The majority of the inmates wouldn't be able to stand up to what's coming, but there was one that could. If he was still sane enough to assist after the Tantalus-like imprisonment he'd been suffering for the past few years.

The tenebrous matter of the ghost of Moab slides between cracks and coiled around power conduits held within the wall and devours them, pulling them into the shadowy dissolution that he is. Sparks flicker and crackle in the air as the conduits are severed, causing him to recoil in pain from the bursts of light, but the job's been complete — and he moves swiftly to the door of the prison those conduits led to, to the door and beneath the edge.

"Rickham…!" …Rickham…

The shadow rises up from the floor of the cell and into the darksome form of a man wearing a fedora, a shadowy yet three-dimensional image regarding a statue of iron. "They're going to kill everyone in the prison. I've cut the power. You're free. Help us." …help us…

The iron figure of a man does not move, does not respond. It's hard to tell if he's really even alive, or just a statue of pitted iron.

Magnes figures things must be going a bit nuts. Gravity tends to shift one's brain a bit, especially with the ways he'd been augmented recently. There's just… even without his ability… something in the air. The sounds, the movement of people. He's learned to be hyper-aware of little things. He was so used to his gravity that he wasn't always entirely sure what was or wasn't his ability.

Some things, like his hyper awareness of his surroundings, weren't entirely his ability, even if he thought that was the case. But, whatever might be going on, and he's pretty sure he knows what, he has to find a way out of it. He's come too far to die now, too far to be trapped forever, so he starts to violently pull at his handcuffs, very hard, trying to do it as much as possible without injury. "Cardinal! Are you there?"

Of course he's not there, but if Magnes knew what he was doing, he might have some ideas of how to help.

Shit. “Rickham…?” …Rickham…?

The shadow-man waves his (its?) hand in front of the pockmarked statue’s face with no response. Maybe the once-presidential candidate isn’t even alive anymore. How could anyone tell?

Three dimensions spill away into two as the shadow that is Richard Cardinal slips back beneath the door in a river of darkness, navigating the familiar - and now-empty - corridors, flowing over magnetic locks that he passes and dissolving them into so much fading wisps of shadow. At the very least he can give people a fighting chance outside of their cells.

As he reaches Magnes’ cell, he flows through the hole where the lock used to be, swirling into the form of a dark bird that comes to perch on the medical table. “I tried to wake Rickham, but he’s not home… just a statue now…” …just a statue…

A peck to one handcuff, a tug of oblivion that bleeds metal away to nothingness, and then he’s hopping to do the same to the other, “They’re probably already killing everyone upstairs…” …upstairs…

"I have a few theories. If he's been in that form for years, it's possible that he's gone insane. It's also possible that it's hardened from not moving for so long. I could at least tell if he was alive if I had my ability, but that's not an option." Magnes moves his arm, trying to stretch and get used to it as Cardinal works on the other. "I don't know much about his personal life, since he's pretty different in every world I've been to. In my home, he was working with what was essentially a terrorist cell, in the Virus world, he was the president and married to someone named Steve. He died in that world… so did Steve."

He frowns at that, as 'died' is an understatement, but he starts trying to think, while they have some time. "We need to start breaking people out of their cells, it's our only chance. We start in order of priority, with the priority being anyone who has an ability that couldn't be negated, like Rickham. After that, anyone with combat or military experience, and after that, anyone else you can possibly manage."

"Once you're done, if we have time, I need you to find out exactly how many people we're dealing with and bring the intel back with you if you can. But… we might not have much of a choice here, there might not be much we can do, depending on who they have with them…" He stares down at his wrist, then looks over at the shadow. "They best way to escape, might be you doing this, to the people who are coming to kill us. And then us getting out before they have reinforcements who get suspicious about the lack of contact."

"So, what do you think would work best? It's your ability, all I can do is try my best to strategize." he asks, staring at the door intently, expectantly.

“There’s an armory on green level, but I don’t know if we’d make it that far without Rickham…” …without Rickham… The eerie echo of Cardinal’s voice stirs through the cell, the ‘bird’ perching upon Magnes’s shoulder in a silent movement, wings spread but not flapping. “The door’s unlocked already, you can go out. There’s nobody on Red Level but us prisoners right now. Everyone else is being murdered upstairs.” …murdered…

“Rickham’s cell is down the hall, take a left, fourth door. See if you can wake him the hell up… use what you know about him, I don’t know shit,” admits the shadow, “I’ll start freeing people from their cells… maybe we can set up an ambush, they don’t expect people to be outside their cells. If we can jump the first few and get some guns, we might have a fighting chance…” …a chance…

The bird leaps from Magnes’s shoulder, becoming a twisting tendril of darkness that darts beneath the door to do its work. To free prisoners, to plan an ambush, to do what he can to organize this jailbreak and hope that the man from another world can wake up the man who would have been President.

Magnes slides out of bed, feeling around his body, stretching a bit, trying to get some of the aches and pains out.

He raises his shirt, looking down at the complex network of shallow scars that almost make him look like a pretty Hollywood version of a Frankenstein monster. But he ignores that, scars are cool, Elaine likes his scars.

Heading out the door, he looks around, uneasy about the lack of gravity, but he heads for Rickham, then stands there, arms crossed, staring at the man. "Without my gravity, I can't tell if you've died or not, I can't tell if you've gone insane either way. But I do know that you're a good man. All you've ever wanted was the best for the world. I've seen you in multiple worlds, though I don't have time to get into that."

"I know that you're the kind of man who will sacrifice his life to save others, that you put yourself last if you have to." He holds his hand out to Rickham, nodding to it, trying his best to look into the man's eyes. "We're all going to die here if we don't do everything in our power to escape. You're one of the only people with access to their ability. There are people being murdered upstairs right now. If I die here, I'll be leaving two daughters and my fiance behind. For all I know, Arthur Petrelli could get to them any day now."

There's a grim look on his face, and he takes a deep breath. "I know that you understand loss, and family. So if there's anyone in there, I need you to help me, or tell me what I need to do to help you, because you're our best hope to make this work, to stop Arthur Petrelli, to do something."

"I gave up on everything once, on saving the world, on thinking I could make a difference. I just wanted to be on my own, with my friends, and ignore all of the big things happening, ignore all the good I could do." He pushes his hand forward with even more aggression now. "But in my world, you brought me back into that life, you talked me into trying to save the world again. You're a part of the reason I'm here right now. I don't know if that's good or bad, but at the very least, you could return the favor in the place of a different version of you. Help me like I agreed to help you, and we'll both get out of here."

Momentarily, a green spark flickers off of Magnes’ shoulder, like an ember rising off of a nearly burned-out piece of firewood. It reflects dully in Rickham’s metal countenance. While that strange phenomenon is remarkable, it isn't what stirs the iron man to life.

Cold, hematite eyes slowly turn toward Magnes, and the living statue’s brows begin to furrow. There's a grinding sound of metal on metal, momentary confusion, and then sudden movement. Rickham’s iron hand comes up around Magnes’ throat accompanied by a hollow scream as he rushes ahead with the young man held aloft. They clear right out of the open cell and into the hall, with Rickham not stopping until he's holding Magnes up against the hallway wall.

For the barest of moments it looks as though Rickham is infuriates, but then the confusion comes back, the bewilderment, and then a hollow and confusing sound of what might be a sob. Rickham’s hand unwinds from Magnes’s throat and he lets him down slowly. Like a wild animal recognizing that Magnes is not a threat, Rickham takes a step back, and as he is now moving both Magnes and Cardinal bear witness to the depths of his injuries. There are paper-thin lacerations across his stomach and chest, that when he moves gape wide open like slices in clay. Laser-fine cuts that — should he ever turn back to flesh — would spell his death.

Where is Arthur?” Rickham bellows, his voice reverberating like someone shouting from the bottom of a well. But then a distraction erupts from behind Rickham, a buzzing and flashing, an orange light flashing on the wall above freight elevator doors.

The elevator is coming.

Richard Cardinal had assumed that the metal man had remained in this form to avoid negation, to give himself a chance at escape should things ever fail. As his torso opens partly as he moves, unfolding like an accordion, there’s both a surge of empathy and anger for what’s been done to his fellow bodymorpher.

He knows what it’s like to be forever separated from the world of flesh.

“Whoa, whoa,” he hisses out, a splash of oozing darkness across the wall above Magnes, “We’re not your enemy, Rickham, we’re— “

Then buzzing, then flashing, and he observes sharply, “Arthur’s goons are on the way. Magnes, we need to get these cells open— take that hall, Doyle and Norman are down there, I’ll start with April and John— “

The shadow of a bird soars down the hallway, intent on at least giving the prisoners here a fighting chance against what’s coming. Hopefully, the man of iron will buy them some time.

"We have to get out of here if we're going to get Arthur. I want to find Arthur too, but we can't do that if we die here. I think it might be best if you wait by the elevator, and ambush them when the door opens. It'll buy us time, since they're not expecting it." Magnes is rubbing his throat, as somewhere in the back of his mind he remembers Elle for some reason.

"What you do to those men in the elevator is ultimately up to you. This is life or death, they're trying to kill us all." Then he heads down the hall, moving to open Doyle's cell, then before waiting much, he heads immediately over to open Norman's, and speaks for both of the men to hear, assuming the cells are close enough. "We're getting out of here. They're about to come kill us, so I hope you're ready for a possible fight."

He noticed the green spark from the corner of his eye, but if he dwells on figuring that out now, he'll be distracted.

Right now, he needs to focus.

Turning toward the flashing lights, Rickham narrows his eyes and curls his hands into fists. There's a steady look of determination on his face, a seeming presence of invulnerability, even if the lacerations in his body say otherwise. He scuffs bare, steel feet on the floor and walks with a confident stride toward the flashing lights.

I've been ready for a long time.

Cell 007

Red Level

A ten by ten concrete cell has been the only home April Silver has known since her capture in New York City in 2012. She has come to understand the rhythm and schedules of this world, the time when food will be delivered, when injections will be administered. Disruptions to the pattern were uncommon, measured in minutes rather than hours. Morning injections came, but no food delivery. No morning security check. The routine, disrupted.

Voices in the halls of Red Level permeate through April’s door, shouts, echoing conversation. She was not yet a prisoner when the first breakout happened in January of 2012, but she doesn't need to have that experience to tell that something is amiss. That after two years of imprisonment, something is stirring.

Two years of isolation, of emptiness; two years bereft of interaction save for the daily checks and the spike of an injection under her jaw. Yet April Bradley — who no longer goes by that name in her own head, no matter what the system says — still counts the days as measured by that routine, even if their passing has no meaning except to add to her own despair.

She gave up fantasizing about escape somewhere along the way, retreating instead into the recriminations of everything that went wrong, the grief of everything that should have been different, the melancholy of daydreams that now can never be. Eventually, those pastimes wore through as well, paths too well-trodden to evoke anything more than numb habit.

When a voice from nowhere said to expect a jailbreak, April figured the only thing breaking was her own mind.

But the feel of today is… decidedly off. She's just not convinced it's the kind of 'off' worth getting excited over.

The magnetic lock is a thick, solid feature of the door that makes certain the woman doesn’t just open the door and let herself out without authorization.

At least it was, until darkness bleeds across it slowly and then the entirety of it rends into wisps of fading shadow, leaving a gaping hole where it once was.

After a moment, Richard Cardinal’s whispering voice reaches through, “…I, ah, can’t actually open the door, so if you’d like to join the jailbreak you’ll have to let yourself out…” …let yourself out…

Seated on the oversized brick that masquerades as a bed, April's thoughts are focused on the outside, or such awareness of it as she can glean; she doesn't notice her cell's newest feature until the murmuring voice draws attention to it. The sheer novelty of being spoken to with something that isn't curt directive shatters her reverie… and leaves her momentarily dumbfounded, blinking at the hole and its implications.

Is this really happening?

…if not, does that really matter?

"Who are you?" she asks, quiet but not whispering. Rising from her seat, April walks over to the door, crouching to peer at (or through) the hole but making no move to touch it.

On the other side of the door is a shadow in the shape of a man; three dimensional and standing before the door, its outline wispy and indistinct.

“Call me Cardinal,” says the shadowman, “You don’t have much time until you can’t call me anything, though. They’re coming to liquidate the prison and I don’t know how long Rickham can hold them alone…” …hold them…

“We’re freeing all the prisoners and hopefully we’ll stand a fighting chance, even without your abilities,” comes that echoing, whispery voice, “It’s better than dying locked in a cell, though…” …locked in a cell…

It's with obvious hesitation that April reaches out to touch the site of damage, tentative contact firming up once it's clear there's nothing residual there to eat her. The caution seems warranted.

She's already confirmed there's nothing else to be heard out there, and the hole provides only the most abbreviated field of view. Ultimately, April simply has nothing to lose. Shoving the cell door open, she steps out into the hall, casting quick glances up and down its length before returning her attention to the animate shadow.

"Liquidate?" April echoes, but it's more a sigh than a query. "Well, it'd help if we can find me a gun."

That shouldn't be too difficult, if liquidation is in progress.

“We sent Rickham ahead to the elevator,” Richard Cardinal sweeps a ‘hand’ out in that direction in an unnaturally smooth motion, one movement flowing into the next in a wispy tide, “He’s still a giant iron statue so chances are… there’ll be a few guns laying around near some pulp that used to be fascists.”

He has opinions of prison guards and their ilk.

“Let’s get moving.”

Gestured forward, April starts jogging in the direction indicated, not hesitating over any of the other cells, remaining alert for any signs of guards. Even if what her present ally said implies there shouldn't be any — not down here, where all the inmates are supposed to be securely sequestered at all times.

The mention of fascists gets the shadowmorph a sharp sidewise glance, but no vocal disagreement. Not for any guards here — not when those remaining are presumably on board with liquidation.

"That'll do," is all she says. All she needs to say.

The only thing that matters right now is getting out of here alive.


Magnes’ uncomfortable flat-soled slipper-sneakers clap hard against the concrete floor. His prison jumpsuit doesn’t fit well, too tight in the shoulders and waist, restrictive and uncomfortable. They’d never really intended for him to be up and about like this. As he comes to a stop by the cell doors the next people to release are on opposite sides of the hall. Both doors have their lock burned through by Richard’s shadow form, though neither man yet realizes there’s a way out.

A voice, deep and weary, echoes from one of the cells. ““You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.” Magnes knows Eric Doyle’s voice, and that most assuredly isn’t him, which means it is Norman White. “But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.

It’s time to liberate the oppressed.

"Okay, so uh…" Magnes walks over to Doyle's cell and pushes the door open. "Hey, I don't know if we know each other in this world or not, but long story short, I trust you and we're all about to get killed. If you have any advice on Norman White before I push his door open, I'd appreciate it."

"My name's Magnes J. Varlane, by the way, if you don't know me." he introduces, then backs away from the door to peer down the hall really quick.

A plain grey uniform drapes shapeless over Eric Doyle's broad frame; he's lost a great deal of weight thanks to his time in prison, but he'll never be a small man. Since the warning he'd received regarding a jailbreak, he's been anxiously pacing his cell back and forth on a pair of matted, dirty rabbit slippers.

Leaving him those was someone's idea of a joke.

Then the door's pushed open, and he's so rushed in getting to it that he almost stumbles over his own feet. His eyes wide, almost bugging out of his head as he grabs either side of the doorway, looking desperately back and forth. "God, is this real? I'm free…" A slow smile curves across his lips, "I'm free. I'm free!"

The words are crowed out as he steps into the hall, giving the young man that's freed him a sharp look. "Norman's a loon," he declares, "Thinks he's doing the will of the divine. Give him a few well-chosen bible verses and he'll throw himself on a sword for us." Manipulation second nature to the puppetmaster. "How are we getting out of here, kid?"

"We have to stop the people who are here to murder us first, which Rickham is on the frontlines of. After that, I'm thinking Cardinal has probably figured out a good way for us to escape. I have no idea if anyone knows I'm here, so we'll have to do the best with what we have. Since they're here to kill us all, I'm guessing there's minimal staff to worry about." Magnes explains all of this while heading over to Norman's cell, taking a deep breath.

It's in this moment that he's thankful for his past constant fixation on Abby, and doing things specifically to try and impress her.

"Norman White." he says as he dramatically pushes the door open with one hand, and stares over at the man without fear in his eyes. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound."

"So I'm gonna need help with this whole breaking us all out of prison thing." he adds, motioning for Norman White to come out.

The man Magnes comes to find sits cross-legged in the middle of his cell, a tangled mane of blonde hair hanging in front of his face, thick beard covering his mouth and chin. The sleeves of his prison uniform are torn from his arms, both of which bears small scars all along their length. The walls of the cell have faded brown writing on them, scratched in with fingernails and clearly painted in his own blood. Some of it looks recent, as small cuts on his bicep don’t appear to have healed yet, while others look as old as the scars.

Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him .” Norman recites back, slowly looking up to see Magnes with tired eyes. “We are the clay, you are the potter;” Norman says with affirmation, putting his hands on his knees and shifting his posture, “we are all the work of your hand. Does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?””

Slowly, Norman rises to his feet and looms taller than Rickham. “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me.” The towering, broad-shouldered man calmly approaches Magnes and rests a large hand on his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “God has told me of your coming through his Eye.” That hand starts to fall away, and Norman steps to move around Magnes and out into the hall. “The Resurrection is upon us.”

As he spots Doyle, Norman lifts his chin up and regards the puppeteer with a momentary silence, then turns to look to a door neither Magnes nor Cardinal had indicated to. “We must rescue the Prophet,” he insists, “for he has yet a hand to play in God’s plan.”

"The prophet…" Magnes considers, and then it hits him. "We're in Moab." he mutters to himself, and heads to the door, staring at it. "Edward, can you hear me?" It always comes back to Edward, that's what he suddenly thinks. There's no staying off his path.

One has to wonder how much of this is predestined, if not caught in this Edward's web, then some other Edward's.

He reaches out to try to push the door open, unsure if Cardinal has tried to open this one yet. "They're going to kill us, and we need your help to escape. Can you hear me?"

Going silent, he has to consider something. How much information does it take to gain Edward's interest, Edward's begrudging trust. Is freedom really enough for him? "I know about your family, about Michelle, about everything. I'm willing to help you with those things. So, now is the time to step up to the plate again."

A sickly little smile curves its way across the puppeteer's face at the regard from Norman, Eric Doyle's hand lifting to wriggle his fingers at the enormous terrakinetic in a little wave. "Norman," he greets, false bravado to cover up his worry, "So good to see you again. So, hey, maybe you can— oh, no."

His attention sweeps over towards that door as it's looked upon, Doyle's smile fading for a grimace and both hands lifting as if weighing something, "As useful as I'm sure ol' Eddie would be, kiddo," he offers almost sarcastically, "I don't think you're going to be getting a lot out of him right now. I think they were scared of his— well, go in and take a look if you really gotta. Maybe we can wheel him out of here, use his bed like a battering ram— pow!" Hands spread dramatically as if to show death squad troopers being scattered like tenpins.

"April's gone to give Rickham some backup, see if she can get some guns from anyone he's stepped on…" …stepped on… whispers the shadows as they sweep down the hallway, swirling up into that semi-humanoid form once more as Richard Cardinal urgently explains, "The element of surprise won't be ours for much longer." …longer…

Doyle gives a bit of a jump, eyes bugging out of his head for a moment as he stares at the man. "Oh. So it was you— man, that's a nice trick. I bet you do one hell of a shadowplay, hey, maybe we can talk business after we get out of here. Speaking of getting out— " He grins, and it's an unpleasant sort of grin, hands rubbing together as he leans forward with eyebrows going up, "One floor up. If we can get past the guards up there, I can promise you, we’re home free.”

This door, like all of the others, has had its lock hollowed out by the shadowmorph. When Magnes pushes it open, it reveals a weary-looking man of familiar features strapped to a bed by leather restraints, an IV in his arm and draped in a hospital gown. It is nearly the same setup that Magnes was in, and implies that this may have been his final fate. But Edward is unresponsive, eyes shut and brows relaxed, looking as though he is sleeping. But he is not, miraculously, comatose. Instead, his eyes flick and and forth behind his eyelids, appearing to be in some sort of drug-induced stupor.

In the hallway behind Magnes, Norman offers a tilt of his head to Doyle. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Slowly, Norman sets a hand on Doyle’s shoulder, eyes manic and wild. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and our God will be with you.//” As he moves his hand away, Norman looks into the room at Edward.

“I can carry his weight,” Norman indicates, gentle-voiced in spite of his tremendous size and ferocious mien. Nearby, the sound of gunfire is finally audible, and whatever confrontation April and Rickham have found themselves in is gradually spilling closer. The screams are evidence enough, were the gunfire not.

Magnes heads in and carefully removes Edward's IV, then removes his straps, motioning for Norman to enter the room. "You can lift him from the bed." he offers, and heads back out before Norman can enter.

He looks over at Cardinal and Doyle, arms crossed. "So, we need a plan. We have the beds, they could potentially be used as weapons, maybe. I don't know." He rubs between his brows, thinking hard. "Without my ability or a gun, it's hard to fight other people who have guns."

“One more prisoner to collect, and we can go… there should be some weapons near the elevator, I’m sure Rickham’s killed at least a few of the execution squad,” whispers Richard, the humanoid figure bleeding into a stain upon the wall that flickers down along the corridor to one last door, coiling through the opened lock. “John! We’ve got to go…” …got to go…

There’s an unsure smile from Doyle as Norman’s big hand rests on his shoulder. “Yeah, uh, exactly that, big guy, “ he encourages, and then Magnes asks for a plan, and the broad puppeteer gets a frustrated look on his face.

“No, look, I— “ Doyle grimaces, and he takes a deep breath, blowing it out. “Okay. Look, like I said, we need to get to the next floor. The medical center, they keep a store of amphodynamine there, we can use it to counter the drugs keeping our abilities negated! Do you understand? Once our powers are back - I mean, hell, me or Bible Thumper here could take out the death squads by ourselves, and I don’t even know what you can do!”

Another pop of gunfire and a howling scream comes from down the hall, followed by a crash of stone and grinding sound of metal on rock and more gunfire. Then, there’s the soft tinkling of shell casings rolling on concrete and a heavy, wet slap. After a moment of silence, thudding footsteps start making their way back from the far end of the prison level.

Norman enters Edward’s room, scooping him up into his arms and then swinging him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. “His weight is enough,” Norman admits, and it’s hard to tell of that aas paraphrasing of scripture or not. “This is good and pleases God, our Savior,” however absolutely sounds like Norman’s usual scripture-laden tone.

As Cardinal’s shadow slithers back across the floor, there’s a man with him walking with an uneven and plodding pace. In his gray jumpsuit he looks like any other person in prison, brown hair cut short to his scalp and lips downturned into a frown. Magnes Varlane is brought face to face with Tyler Case, the man who had his body stolen by another timeline’s Richard Cardinal. Curiously, his jumpsuit only reads: Doe, John.

“Hey guys,” John says with a raise of his hand and an awkward smile. “What’s uh… “ he looks down the hall where the heavy footsteps are coming from. “Is this really a good idea?”

"It's this or we die." Magnes stares at Tyler, because, well, he doesn't know the entire story, he doesn't know it in detail, but he looks between the shadow, then to 'John Doe'.

Who knows what he's thinking, but now isn't the time for those questions. "Alright, let's hope Rickham did all the work and we won't have to fight people with guns. I do gravity manipulation, so between all of us, there's not many who can really stop us."

He slowly walks towards the footsteps, because he can't be sure if it's Rickham or someone in the kill squad. He just wants to take a peek.

“Like he said, it’s not like we have a lot of choices…” …choices…

The living shadow of Richard Cardinal slithers down the hallway towards the sounds of thudding feet, assuming that it’s probably Rickham. Otherwise there would still be more gunfire going on, likely, and besides — what can a bullet do to living iron?

“You just keep a hold of him, big guy,” Doyle offers up to Norman, giving John a thoughtful look for a moment - and then he’s turning to move with the others down the hallway, hanging just a bit behind in case things get too dangerous.

Down the hall, the group of escapees run headlong into Rickham, no worse for wear than he was a few moments ago, save for the blood spattered on his chest and slathered up his hands. The iron man turns his level stare to Magnes, then looks back over his shoulder where April returns with an assault rifle. Rickham offers her a nod and looks back to the others. “There were only two of them, they’re both dead. There’s another rifle in the elevator, and I can hear gunshots coming from upstairs.

The former president looks at Doyle, then Norman, and John. Finally, his eyes settle on Edward with a momentary look of uncertainty. “We need to get going. What’s the plan?

“There’s a plan?” John quips, looking with raised brows between everyone. “Because if there was, like, nobody ever told me.”

“God has a plan for us all,” Norman offers to John, “but I don’t believe that’s what the President means.”

No.” Rickham affirms. “No, it’s not.

Coming to a halt where she can see around Rickham's metallic bulk, April considers the group with a critical eye — one man burdened, another who looks mostly clueless, and a third who at least seems to have some idea how to handle himself. The man being carried doesn't count, and her gaze settles last on the animate shadow. "This is everyone?" she asks, not concerned about introductions in the heat of the moment.

When they survive escaping, that'll be the time for kibbitzing. Or not.

April's brows arch at the expressed expectation of a plan — or its implicit lack. "Up and out seems straightforward enough. I can't say I'm familiar with this facility's layout, but after a point, a prison is a prison."

Also, it's not like they have many options.

"I've seen you on TV. I think you're the only one here I don't know from my world." Magnes says regarding April, completely unaware of the fact that years ago, his double briefly encountered her. "Then again, I've had my memories erased so many times, who knows at this point."

"Let's go up. We'll have Rickham lead, since he's got, well, a metal body. I have hand to hand combat training, so if I can catch someone by surprise or without a weapon, I should be able to take them. I'm kind of guessing that she's more combat capable than the rest of us, so she can run backup behind Rickham." He tilts his head, asking, "April, right?" just to be sure.

"If you see a weapon, grab it. These people are here to kill us, so no hesitation. It'll be better if we go up now, while they're occupied, because they won't be expecting it. We're pretty much going to hit them hard and fast before they know what's even going on." Then, as he's starting to walk towards the elevators, he adds, "We don't know if any of them have abilities, or what those abilities are, and quite frankly, I'd rather we take them out before we find out. But let's try to stay in groups of two if we split up at all, just in case any of them are telepaths or have some other unpredictable ability."

“I am,” is Doyle’s response to April’s mention of the layout, “Look, we don’t know what they have waiting for us up there— “ Hands spread a bit, and he offers an uncertain smile to the others, a crooked tug of lips up at one corner, “I think our best bet’d be to get to the medical center— I know where they keep the amp, it was there for… emergencies.”

“We can try and save who we can on Yellow and Green levels, too…” …yellow and green…

A whispering susurrance from the living shadow, Richard Cardinal sparing some concern for the other residents of the prison as well as those present. “More numbers, the more likely we’ll be able to get out… but whatever we decide, we need to move. I’ll head up to the next floor to see what’s going on…” …massacre…

Tenebrous substance twists into the air like an uncoiling cloud for a moment, then flattens itself against the ceiling and sweeps away towards the elevator.

Yellow Level

Moab Federal Penitentiary

Gunfire pops at regular intervals through the gray-walled basement corridors, marked with a stripe of yellow paint along the middle of the wall. Still below ground, Yellow Level represents a unique challenge to the escapees, as the liquidation team is operating in force here. The black-armored soldiers wear no insignias, balaclava covering their faces, and stalk room to room, opening cell doors with a keycard and executing restrained prisoners in cold blood. By the time Cardinal’s shadowy form has breached the elevator doors, he can see an entire hallway of open cells, each spilling with pools of blood. The bodies have been left in the cells, many of whom never even left their beds. But the complex is sprawling, and the execution sounds as though it’s still underway.

As the shadow slithers off across the floor, the freight elevator makes its way up slowly from Red Level. Rickham, standing front and center at the entrance, keeps moving his shoulders up and down as though working out tension — a perfectly vestigial gesture for someone made wholly from living iron. When the elevator comes to a stop and the doors open, Rickham has his arms spread to his side to shield the most of the prisoners from any emergent threat. But it turns out, other than a sense of survivor’s guilt, there is none.

Shit,” John murmurs at the back of the group, seeing all the cell doors open and blood on the floor. “That— could’ve been us.” At the next pop of gunfire, Rickham looks back over his shoulder and makes a motion for the others to follow.

It might still be,” Rickham grumbles, making lead-footed progress into the hall. At the same time, as Norman carries Edward ahead, the fragile-looking man suddenly jolts awake. Wide, blue eyes stare around the prison with abject confusion, foggy and disoriented from the drugs.

Pawing at Norman’s shoulder, Edward struggles and looks around, and Norman. “Uh,” Norman doesn’t have a scripture for this. “I think the little guy’s awake.”

What the hell?” Edward exclaims, looking around with utter bewilderment. “Where— what— ” he stammers, eyes settling on April first, then Magnes, Doyle, and John. “What— the hell is going on?” Blue eyes wander the halls, unable to piece together anything of use. “I’m— we’re— what— ”

Magnes recognizes what’s happening immediately. Edward Ray is negated, and for the first time in a long time, he isn’t the one with the answers.

As Magnes addresses her, April quickly becomes too hung up on the casual proclamation of 'my world' to realize she's seen his face before on one particularly adrenaline-imbued evening. It takes her a bit to shake off the bewilderment as irrelevant to the immediate moment. "Right," she affirms, both to the name and the plan.

The mention of amp gets Doyle a sharp, thoughtful look, and then a nod. Amp would solve so many problems right now.

But first, they have to climb. Figuratively speaking.

April follows in Rickham's wake, slightly off to one side where she's less protected by his metallic bulk, but has more leeway to shoot past it. Not that there proves to be anything immediately on offer to shoot at. Edward's voice has her glancing over her shoulder in reflexive distraction. "We're getting out of Dodge rather than waiting meekly for the death squad," she supplies, sympathetic to his confusion but still very aware that someone else with a gun could come around a corner at any time; she redirects her attention forward, leaving further explanation to others.

Her fingers itch where they grip the stock of her rifle, an itch that exists only in the confines of her negated mind.

"We're going to the injections immediately. So whoever knows how to get to them, lead the way, because I have no idea what the layout of this place is. I've never been to any prison before, let alone Moab." Magnes then notices Edward waking up, and looks over at him.

"We need to get Edward an injection immediately, he's the first who is getting one, because if anyone can get us out of here, it's him." He stares at Edward, then addresses him directly. "Edward Ray, I know you're confused right now, but we're all about to be killed, so we're going to get injections, getting our abilities back, and then we're getting the hell out of here. I know what you can do, so as soon as you have your ability, you're in charge."

Then, addressing everyone else, "Edward Ray being in charge isn't negotiable. At least, once he has his ability." Then, remembering that this one probably doesn't know him, he adds, "My name is Magnes J. Varlane, by the way. I'll have a lot to discuss with you once we're out of here."

He sounds significantly more sure of himself now, for whatever reason.

"For now, Edward, just remember, I have ranged gravity manipulation, Norman White has something like terrakinesis, Cardinal has some sort of shadow form, and Doyle can puppet people, and Tyler Case there can… I forget, you augment people, right? I've always been a little confused. What do you do, April? Edward will need to know." he asks, as he just sort of spills that he knows a hell of a lot about almost everyone here. "Edward Ray can determine probability to an almost precognitive level, so he needs data for when he has his ability back."

There was hope in Richard Cardinal’s shadowy heart that there would be survivors up here, that the liquidation teams wouldn’t’ve hit this level yet… but it’s proven wrong by the blood staining the hallway, by the dead still lain in their beds. Executed. They didn’t even get to put up a fight.

The shadows seethe with anger at the sight, wisps of darkness hungrily licking at the edges of whatever he’s become.

“That way,” is Doyle’s tight, urgent instructions, “Hopefully the guards are busy with the cells and they’re not going to be paying attention to the medical center.” The broad-shouldered puppeteer is keeping behind Rickham, for the most part, as he gives his directions.

Just how he knows where everything is, he doesn’t say.

“I’ll scout ahead,” the shadows whisper, “See if these bastards are covering the way…” …the bastards…

Cardinal slithers ahead, keeping hidden in the shadows as he does.

Everything is happening so fast, shadows slithering, April and Magnes explaining the situation, it leaves Edward with little reaction other than squirming weakly out of Norman’s arms to wobble at his side. Bright blue eyes alight to the blonde terrakinetic, then level on Magnes after the echo of something he said finally registers clear in his clouded mind.

Cardinal?” Edward parrots back, urged to keep walking by Norman. As he falls into a hobble-step, Edward’s eyes track from side to side momentarily, then settle back on Magnes with a concerned look. “Richard… he's not supposed to— ” Memories of a plan bygone flit through his mind, and Edward is left with no string to connect the dots.

None of this was supposed to happen…” Edward whispers as he looks down to his hands, continuing on behind the others.

Up by April, John offers her the flash of a smile and a wave, then extends one hand. “Hey so, uh, name's— uh…” he looks down at the name on his jumpsuit below his serial number. “John? I guess? Really nice t’meet you, I don't meet many women h— ”

The distant pop of a gunshot cuts him off.

“This… probably isn't the time. Is it?”


Several corridors ahead, a shadow scouts on the path to the medical center. Unaware of his presence, two black-armored security operatives stalk from one cell, each with their assault rifles at the ready. One walks to the door, using a magnetic key card to open the lock, and the other braces and readies himself as he trains his sights down the barrel, waiting for his partner to open the door.

Richard is presented with a choice, to remain a shadow in the corner of their vision, or the hungry darkness that could save a life. Judging from the open doors all around, there aren't many left to save.

The living shadow that is Richard Cardinal - who, apparently, isn’t even supposed to be here today - hesitates as he comes upon those two ‘liquidators’ preparing to kick open another cell door and end another life.

He’s not as ruthless as most of those in Red Level. He’s only ever taken a life once. And he doesn’t even know if this newly-discovered facet of his power works on living people.

The whispering voice in the back of his head that made him stage this jailbreak tells him he has to try, though.

Darkness spills up the wall across from the two guards, as if a bright light were shining from the cell they were about to open… and then tenebrous tendrils uncoil like serpents from the black, hungrily lashing out to try and stop them.

Any way he can.


April regards Magnes sidelong, less than convinced by his emphatic aggrandizing of a man she doesn't know, and whose first impression is rather different than described. She doesn't argue, though. "Forcefield manipulation," she supplies instead, answering the question posed.

Any further comment she might have given is cut off by John's — Tyler's? — words, which earn him an incredulous look. "It really isn't," she confirms dryly, looking down the hall in the direction of the latest gunshot. A slight gesture with her own gun draws attention to the fact that the woman's hands are occupied and it's not exactly a good time for handshakes either. "And I'm married," April adds in short order, the better to forestall the conversation resuming later. Or at least set its bounds.

"Let's just focus on getting out, now."

"None of this was supposed to happen, Edward. But something that happened in my world changed everything, and me being in this world changed everything. But this isn't the time to worry about that, we have to focus on getting out of here." Magnes looks over at April as he follows behind Doyle, appearing deep in his thoughts. "This is the course we're on now, and that's just something we have to live with and make the best of. When you have your ability back, things will seem less confusing. Just hold tight."

He looks to John now, frowning. "I guess you can't remember your name. When I referred to Tyler Case, I meant you. Your name is Tyler Case. You're a John Doe, so they have you listed as John. Unfortunately, I don't know enough to know why you can't remember who you are, but I know someone who should. Just be patient."

His demeanor is ridiculously calm, and internally, while he feels an intense righteous indignation at what's happening around them, there's just something in him that isn't being hit in the way that it should. Instead, his thoughts are focused. Trying to clear up confusion, trying to motivate people, to give people reasons to listen. All he can think in this moment is that he has to keep control, of everything, including himself.

John — Tyler? — looks back and forth between Magnes and April, brows raised and one hand scrubbing at the back of his neck. “So, wait, you know me?” He leans in Magnes’ direction and asks under his breath. “Is there a chance you know why I'm here? Because I'm kind of— ”

Norman claps a hand on Tyler's shoulder, shaking his head slowly, and walks past behind April. Tyler grimaces, nodding once, and watches as Edward hobbles along following at Doyle’s side. “Right,” Tyler murmurs, grimacing awkwardly again.

Edward slips from Doyle’s side and looks askance at Magnes. There's a cautious, knowing look in his eyes, but also an unspoken fear of the unknown. “I suppose if we aren't riddled with bullets,” Edward says quietly with a look into one cell at a prisoner laying face down in a pool of blood, “we’ll need to figure out what's what.” But then, Edward furrows his brows and looks around. “If I had to guess, this might be a repercussion of Arthur’s deat— ”

A horrifying scream cuts Edward off, agonized and gurgling, and as April rounds the corner of the next hall with Rickham they see the billowing and shadowy form of Richard Cardinal hovering like an empty cloak in the hallway. There are two guns laying on the floor, and partial human remains that are missing large and irregularly shaped portions of their bodies as if they just ceased to be. Rickham stares at the corpses, then turns a hematite gaze over to April with one brow raised.

Oh my god,” a woman’s voice comes from the cell. “Oh my god.” The prisoner who was nearly executed steps forth from her cell, prison-issue slippers sliding in a growing pool of security officer blood. Her dark brown hair is unkempt, dark bangs looking just a little shaggy. “Oh my god!” Is all she can say, hands trembling at her side.

I didn't go into rehab for this!” The prisoner screams, backing up against the wall with wide eyes. “I— I don't know anything. Please— you don't have to— kill me or— ” she turns dark eyes down to the corpses. “Whatever you did,” comes as a whisper.

The woman’s gray jumpsuit reads a serial number across the right side of the chest, and below that ASHFORD, ISABELLE in block print. For a moment, Magnes can't even be sure which Isabelle it is.


“Wait,” Isabelle murmurs in seeing the group. “What the heck is going on here?” Heck? Definitely not his Isabelle.

“I.. I didn’t know I could… that I.. I just, I needed to stop them…” …stop them…

There’s a thready, desperate tone to the whispers that flood through the corridor, the hovering shadow twisting in the air like a coiling ouroborous. If he had eyes he’d be staring at his work in horror.

But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even know what he is anymore.

Then the woman screams, and the shadows abruptly still like a sudden freeze-frame.

IZZY?” …Isabelle…

It’s been a long time. Since before his ability had manifested, even.

The state of the corpses halts April mid-step; she squeezes her eyes briefly shut as if to reset their view, but of course when she looks again, nothing's changed. Catching Rickham's glance her way, she returns the iron man's look, lips pressed together in a thin line.

She'll probably have nightmares about that sight later, perhaps in common with the woman Cardinal killed them to save. For now, April does her best to shove it in a box — and to avoid looking directly at the corpses again.

"We should — keep moving," she says, looking first at Isabelle, then the animate shadow, and finally the rest of the group. Moving somewhere not here. April puts words to action and starts forward, leaving their new foundling to the others. "Doyle, how much farther?"

Magnes can definitely tell that isn't his Isabelle, the moment she opens her mouth. And living with her for a few years now, he knows her very well.

"Isabelle! It's me, Magnes, we're getting out of here. This is very dangerous, but don't be afraid, okay?" He most likely looks different than when she last saw him, as his hair is much longer, and he has some facial hair. Not to mention the fact that he isn't stick thin. "We'll talk about it once we're out, just stay close to us. This is very dangerous and those people were going to kill you." He reaches out a hand for Isabelle, ushering her over.

Then, to Tyler, he shakes his head, "It's a long story. I don't know you, exactly, but I'll explain later." Then, to Cardinal, he shakes his head. "You're doing what you need to do to get us out of here alive. There will be time to think about the moral implications when we're far away from here."

After April asks her question, he's listening intently to Doyle, continuing to follow as he tries to keep things calm.

He almost looks to ask Edward to elaborate on what he was about to say, but holds his tongue for the time being.

The shock and horror on Isabelle’s face shifts to abject confusion when she sees Magnes. The look of distant recognition in her eyes is clear, but everything is hammered upon by the adrenaline-spike that nearly being executed in a prison, then witnessing whatever it is Cardinal did keep her from focusing on the seemingly mundane. Instead, Isabelle Ashford just starts to sob as she slouches up against the wall beside her cell door, hands tucked into the sleeves of her jumpsuit, covering her reddening face as panic becomes overwhelming.

Tyler looks immediately sympathetic, but offers a look over to Edward who affords Isabelle s blank stare. He tries concentrating, brows furrowed and a vein visible at the side of his head, but it’s pointless. “I have no idea what to do with her,” Edward murmurs helplessly to Norman, who eyes Isabelle and instead walks past the bloodied masses of the two dead men. He stops long enough to pick up an assault rifle, leaving the other behind on the floor.

We don’t have time for this,” Rickham rumbles with a look to Isabelle. “Come or stay here and die, we’re getting out of here.” Rickham, instead, motions down the hall by more of the open cells. “I see a sign for an infirmary and a security checkpoint, we can’t be far now.

«Sword-3! This is Sword-4! We’ve got incoming topside!» A panicked man’s voice crackles over a radio clipped to the mangled assassin’s body. «Sword-3 come in! Three unknown Evolved just blew down the gates. They’ve got the chopper key!» The radio crackles again. «Where the fuck is everyone!?»

"Sounds like we have a convenient distraction." Magnes quickly adds, reaching out to gently take Isabelle's wrist. "Come on. When we get out of here, we'll go find Brenda and everything will be fine."

“Izzy, it’s…” …me… The whispers fade slowly in the hallway as Cardinal thinks better of trying to explain who he is. Does he really want his childhood friend thinking of him this way, hovering over the corpses of his victims — even if they deserved it, even if it was done to save her?

There’s a low, sussurant sound like static’s hiss from the shadow, and then the swirling darkness sweeps down the hallway, leaping from wall to ceiling to floor as it goes, scouting ahead rather than deal with what’s just happened.

Magnes can watch over her.

“That’s it,” Doyle agrees, pointing one thick finger at the sign before starting forward, “We’re almost there, and then? Then we can get the hell out of here— “ The radio gets an anxious look, licking his lips nervously, “— whether the people outside are here to rescue us or not.”

A sidelong glance to April, a smile tugging up lopsided at one corner of his lips. “Married, huh,” he asks conversationally, as if there wasn’t literal carnage all around them, “I’ve got a girl waiting for me on the outside too. She’s beautiful, and she loves me. Hair like— like gold, and a temper like fire.”

He chuckles as though at some private joke, lifting one foot and hopping over the remnants of the executioners, carrying out some elaborate ballet to keep from stepping on the gore before moving onward.

“Come on, come on, almost there!”

April pauses as the radio sounds, head turning towards the bodies but not quite to where she has to actually look at them. "Incoming," she echoes quietly, more musing than questioning. Her gaze flicks forward, but the shadow's already forged off ahead, and yelling after him isn't worth the question she does have.

Doyle pretty much says what she's thinking, anyway.

Continuing forward, she returns Doyle's glance, offering a brief smile of mostly social nature, faintly shadowed around its edges. "That's good," is all the inane reply April can muster before Doyle moves on, directing attention towards their destination once more. She looks after him a moment, then resolutely stuffs those memories back into their box, too, reaffirming her grip on the rifle and continuing forward.

"Since we're almost there, there's a few things I need to mention, as far as how we'll do this strategically." Magnes looks to Tyler, then to Edward. "I'm sure Norman pretty much has a divine idea of how to crack the prison basically. I've seen what he can do back in my world."

"But Tyler, and Edward. When you have your abilities, Tyler, I need you to augment Edward's ability. Regardless of if we have our abilities or not, knowing absolutely for sure how to get out of here alive and what exactly we need to do is the most safe and secure way to do all of this." He's looking very seriously at Edward, as if searching for disagreement. "If you've never been augmented, I know it might sound scary, but I know exactly what happens when someone augments you, so I'd say that it's the desired outcome for all of us, including you."

Then, glancing around at the others a bit, though still very much not moving far from Isabelle. "I'm sure that most of you have your doubts about me and what I'm saying, but I'm also sure that you can't deny that I know some of you better than I should, if I've truly never met you before."

He motions a hand to Doyle. "For example, Doyle is great with kids, they actually love him, I'd trust him with my daughter. Well, I don't really trust anyone with my daughter because I'm an overwhelmingly protective dad, but you get my sentiment." Then, looking back to Edward. "And Edward, I know about Warren, Michelle, David, and…" He motions his head to the shadow, without saying it out loud. "I wouldn't be saying any of this if I didn't need everyone's trust and cooperation, because I'm asking a lot from you and I can't expect you to just blindly listen without reason."

Then, adding one final thing as they continue on, he says, with a sigh, "So many things have happened in my world that I'm sure haven't happened here, but I know the outcomes of some of those things to know the risks involved. I just need you to trust that."

Edward, slinking up to Magnes, grips either side of the young man’s face and just stares at him. “Who are you!?” He screams in confusion, unable to put the pieces of this complex and unhinged machination together. Norman pries him off, gently, and drags him along with the others.

“There'll be time for questions later,” Norman admits, offering Magnes a wordless look about his plan to crack the prison. Isabelle, panicked and in shock, may not have heard any of the exchange. She allows Magnes to pull her along, but stammers and stutters over herself. She looks down at her feet, tears still wet on her cheeks. She refuses to look at the bodies as they move past, down the hall and toward the security checkpoint.

Eventually, the entourage makes it past the Yellow Level checkpoint, past cell upon cell of nothing but corpses. Isabelle was the last prisoner they've seen alive on this floor, her survival perhaps a small miracle. When they get to the medical lab, Rickham smashes the door off of its hinges, sending it collapsing to the floor. Meanwhile, Tyler takes up the rear and watches the elevators that move between Yellow and Green level.

Alright Eric, what's it look like?” Rickham asks as he steps inside, looking in coolers and refrigeration units. But Doyle can already tell this isn't going as he'd hoped. The refrigerator that carries the adynomine and amphodynamine stores is nearly empty. One rack of adynomine and a single bowl of ink-black amp.

They never received this month's restock.

The shadow of Richard Cardinal, traumatized as he is by his own actions, lingers behind; watching the security checkpoint from the shadows, a silent sentinel in case the would-be executioners send another squad down.

Fortunately, from that sqwalk over the radio, they seem to have some time.

“Ah-ha! We made it,” Doyle grins from nearly ear-to-ear as he steps into the medical lab, hands rubbing together briefly before making a bee-line for the fridge in question. The grin fades for a sickly expression as he sees what he does through the glass, and then pulls it open sharply.

“Oh, no. No, no, no— no! There’s almost nothing left,” he shouts, slapping one hand against the fridge door before turning to glare back at the group as if this were their fault, “There’s barely any adynomine left, and there’s less amphodynamine here— maybe enough for one of us!”

April remains by the door as the others proceed into the medical lab, complementing Tyler's watch of the hall. No matter where her focus is, though, it's impossible to miss the outcry from farther in the room.

She looks to the distraught puppeteer, then at Magnes and Edward. "Time for a new strategy, then," she observes, because that simple deficit renders moot most of the grand plan that's been laid out during their progress here. "Frankly, I don't think we need a grand convoluted plan to get out of here. Up and out. We have a distraction already, and from the state of things, we only have a few enemies to get through." A few dead assassins. One voice on the radio. Otherwise empty halls.

April looks back out into the hall, but continues to address the people behind her. "A probability predictor is only as good as their data," the former agent reminds. "Facility layout's in Doyle's head, not his. And we don't have data on our enemies: who they are, where they are, whether they have a purpose beyond 'liquidation'. Between that and the rest of us being mundane for the duration, how much of an advantage is prediction really going to be?" she asks, now glancing questioningly to Edward, inviting him to provide an answer — if he has one.

"Beyond that… I'm not convinced your ability is amplification," April continues, looking apologetically to Tyler, "otherwise that would be a gamble worth trying. Terrakinesis is typically either too small, or too grand to be anything but chancy in an underground facility," she adds with a similar nod to Norman, "and… well."

"The way I see it, we have two trump cards in this hand that don't need any special planning. Me, I can cut or block anything." She jerks her head in the direction of the ceiling. "I could put stairs up right here, for one." A nod to Doyle. "Or the puppeteer could forestall any enemy we ran into." Assuming that as a group, they trust him not to puppet them.

Trust, ultimately, has the potential to be a problem all around just now.

"Tyler would make the most sense in this situation, but that's only if we could reliably depend on his ability to amplify us. I'm not entirely sure, considering that he can't remember his own name right now…" Magnes admits, arms crossed, frowning. "You're the only one here who I don't know, April, but I can't deny the points you make…"

He holds his hand out to her. "You take the amp, I'll take the gun, then we have multiple people with some manpower. I have plenty of weapons and combat experience."

But, raising a finger. "I will point out, before you take it, that in my world, Norman broke out of Moab before. But I can't say I know the exact details, or if it was just with his ability… and I will say that I'd prefer a clean break, if you can provide that, April."

He looks to Norman, because this seems like it'll be necessary. "Norman, everyone else, are you willing to trust her? I don't know her, but I think we can. It did take an entire FRONTLINE team to stop her. Or maybe it was SCOUT, I honestly get the differences between worlds confused."

"We don't have time and she's very confident, so I think we should do it."

All he can do is wait, now, for the others to weigh their trust.

“God says that trust is beautiful,” Norman starts to opine, before realizing that there isn't time for a sermon. He's silent for a moment, the prison is silent with him, the sound of gunfire forestalled and an eerie quiet come over the facility. “His voice tells me to trust in her,” Norman finally concedes, motioning to the amphodynamine.

Edward, side-eyeing Norman as though he were a talking dog, turns a wild-eyed stare to April. “She's right,” is something Edward doesn't often concede. “Even if I had my ability, I don't have enough data to understand our situation. Let alone enough certainty that amplification wouldn't result in false positives. I've only been amplified once before, and Miss Childs did it on accident. I'm still… uncertain of the repercussions of that.”

Who?” Tyler calls from the hall. Nobody answers.

Then we’re in agreement.” Rickham indicates with a motion to the amp vial. “Grab a syringe for that and let's get out of here before it can get worse.” As if having heard someone invoke a curse Edward recoils at Rickham’s words, about to say something when the sound of clanking metal stairs breaks the silence.

“H-hey— woah— somebody’s coming!” Tyler scrambles back from the door to the stairwell by the elevators.

The living darkness spills upwards like a waterfall played in reverse, spreading itself across the ceiling above the stairwell as if ready to ambush anyone who comes through… even if Cardinal’s not sure he can bring himself to do what he’d done to the guards back down the hallway.

Doyle sucks air between his teeth as he listens to all the ideas and the discussion of who can be trusted, of who should be given the amp, gaze periodically returning to the dark liquid with a certain yearning in his expression.

“But— I— “ He grumbles, hand wavering between the fridge and the group, and then he reaches to grab a syringe up in thick fingers, “Fine. Fine! Give me your arm, girly, and you’d better hope that ability of yours is as impressive as you’re claiming.” Black draw up into the syringe expertly, glistening in the reservoir. It’s almost as if he’s done this before.

Of course, once upon a time it was here for him to use in case of a breakout. Before he ended up in a cell himself.

April looks to each person in turn as they respond to her proposal, nodding once when the last of them — possibly the most important, as he's the one holding the drug — chimes in with agreement. Shouldering the rifle, she turns to present her arm to Doyle, looking on as he preps the syringe. Her attention is distracted by Tyler's exclamation, by the sound of noisy steps, but she saw enough to recognize Doyle knows his way around a hypodermic needle. Small reassurance, there.

Though she's the least able to act, at least until Doyle's finished, it's all she can do to remain still, to not crane her head and peer towards the stairwell in anxious anticipation.

It would be poor luck for the enemy to show up just before her power is restored…

"I'm guessing it wasn't a severe amplification. I know exactly what happens when you're amplified to an extreme degree, which is why we're doing it as soon as we all have our abilities back." Magnes says to Edward while Doyle prepares to give April her injection.

He's on alert when Tyler speaks up about someone coming, though he does take this brief opportunity to address everyone, now. "Once we leave here, we have to stick together. If Arthur ends up with any of our abilities, he'll be even more dangerous. If I can find a way out of this universe again, any of you are welcome to come with me if you don't want to be stuck here and hunted forever."

Focused squarely on Edward again, he adds, "I know that you're a vital piece of the puzzle for leaving, so I can't let Arthur have you. He already has Looking Glass working, but it's still unstable and barely understood, and you're basically the last piece he needs." Then, looking to April, he holds his hand out for the gun, figuring she won't need it once her ability is back.

“I've been Arthur’s prisoner here for— ” Edward starts to say, but then stared vacantly at Magnes as the weight of something finally hits him. Looking Glass. There's a look on his face, a shift, confusion and disorientation. “What year is it?” Edward asks pleadingly, “what— what day is it? Is this now?” Wild blue eyes sweep from Norman to Eric, to Magnes and April.

“Arthur couldn't have— he can't be— I…” Edward’s eyes track from side to side, helpless and unable to focus on what he wants them to focus on. “I killed him. I— I know it. I— I calculated. Arthur should be…” Suddenly, the distinct possibility that Edward failed to stop Arthur settles on his shoulders.

Shut up.” Norman urges, clapping a hand on Edward’s shoulder as the sound of footsteps reaches the door at the bottom of the stairs. There's a moment of silence, of uncertainty, and then—


“Just be careful,” is whispered in the dimly red-lit stairwell. Fingers wind together, and mismatched eyes square on Tamara’s silhouette in the dark. Colette holds the seer’s hand firmly, but her words aren't for Tamara. They're for the woman ahead of her at the bottom of the stairs, opening the door to Yellow Level.

As Kaylee Thatcher, armored in a black bulletproof vest with no insignias or markings, moves through the door she emerges prepared into the presence of multiple thinking minds. But their placement as she'd sensed through the wall isn't quite what she envisioned. The fear and confusion in their thoughts indicated they were prisoners, but…

The President?

Allen Rickham may never have actually seen office before he disappeared from the public eye, but this is the last place anyone would have imagined he'd be. If the lacerated iron statue of a man bearing his likeness is the President. An assortment of other unfamiliar faces fill the hall, the sounds of voices elsewhere nearby.

“Uh,” Tyler unsteadily vocalizes. “Guys?” Behind Kaylee, Colette Demsky-Brooks cuts a narrow silhouette in a matching bulletproof vest, handgun held out and mismatched eyes scanning the hall. At her side, the blonde hair and pale eyes of her partner Tamara Brooks is a familiar sight to Magnes and Cardinal, at the least.

Hi?” Tyler welcomes, bewilderedly.

Gun at ready, Kaylee reaches across herself and pushes the handle down; pulling just enough to stick her foot in and kick it open, so that she can slip through with gun raised…. Her ability assessing, though they feel like prisons mentally, she isn’t so stupid to throw caution to the wind. But one figure catches her attention immediately…

“Presid— Mr. Rickham?”

What was going on here? The barrel of her glock dips down at the sight of the metallic figure, Kaylee’s shock apparent. She had voted for the man. Then she catches the sight of the others and the gun comes up, though with less certainty. Tyler’s greeting pulls her attention, blue eyes flicking towards him. “Hel—” The word is never finished. She suddenly looks up confused, lurching to the side away from the darkness pooling above her head. “What the…”

Then she spots April, which has her instantly on guard again quite quickly.

And… Wait… why is Varlane here?

Yet, still this group held one more surprised in the form of the small man with the glasses. The arm holding the gun drops to Kaylee’s side completely with utter shock. Of all the places… in all the world… It takes a moment for her to even form words, they might be flustered and a little angry.

“What the hell…. Ray?”

Kaylee sounds a lot like her mother right then. She has a photo of him… Colette’s seen it. Tamara, too. She wants to say more, but ends up comes back around to one thought…


The darkness uncoils from the ceiling like a spiral inverting itself in reverse, pouring down into a tattered wisp of blackness that moves to curl ephemerally around Tamara’s shoulders, whispers echoing in strained tones, “Tamara… Colette…? What are you doing here…?” …here…

It’s been two years since he’d seen the pair, but Richard Cardinal still remembers their kindness from the time he spent with them.

“I hope you’re our reinforcements… we’re all that’s left…” …all dead…

“Don’t rush me,” mutters Eric Doyle, “I’ll miss the artery.”

The puppeteer takes April’s wrist in one wide hand, the other deftly wrapping a length of rubber around her elbow to make the veins and arteries show more visibly. The syringe is lifted up, and he carefully chooses a blood vessel before sinking the thick needle through her skin and into it— plunger pressed down, gleaming black fluid slowly vanishing from the syringe and into April’s veins.

An anxious glance at the door of the medical center as the newcomers are greeted, skittish, and then he’s tossing the syringe towards the medical waste basket. He misses, but doesn’t seem to care. Carefully he steps back from April, eyes looking over her in a quick, appraising gaze. “Give it a minute— maybe two— “

Obligingly, April remains still while Doyle works, except for the modest motion of shrugging off her rifle and handing it over to Magnes at his unspoken request. The fact that the corridor outside the lab doesn't explode in chaos and gunfire is reassuring, and helps with that exercise of patience — but eavesdropping on the apparent bewilderment all around only whets her curiosity. One deduction is readily made: whoever's out there must be the arrivals the 'Sword' had reported, now working their way down.

That's as much as she has time for before Doyle has finished, black cocktail now working its way through her bloodstream. April nods to him as he steps back, then closes her eyes and lets her head dip, breathing deliberately measured. Waiting, attending her own self-awareness.

Emerging from the stairwell with her two companions, Tamara initially gives the crowd little regard; it's to the ceiling the seer looks, head tilting back, the better to cast a welcoming smile to the shadow above. "Hello, owl," she says, and, "It'd be nice if you stayed there a while." Neither of which explain anything.

She draws in a deep breath, then, a centering kind of breath; releasing it, Tamara looks to the others, the one who knows her and the several who don't. She steps forward, past Kaylee, her hands empty and her posture neither threatened nor threatening. There is an urgency in her demeanor, though, one not present during the trio's journey to this point.

"Magnes. Edward." Eyes gone dark from unnaturally dilated pupils settle upon the two so named. "You have… five minutes, before leaving gets… difficult." Impossible can be read into the sybil's somber tone, or something only a hair shy of that in degree. "There's backup coming, and not for us."

April's been amplified before, negated before — but not both at once, and not with this particular version of amp. The first thing she notices is that her fingers go cold, tingly in the pins-and-needles way that is one step shy of numb, and as white as if they'd been transmuted to bone. Her toes feel the same, beneath orange prison slippers. April holds her hands up, turns them over; they shake, and her eyes don't quite want to focus on them. Her mouth is dry. She can hear her heartbeat: too loud, too fast. Her breathing wants to be, too.

Letting her left hand fall, she curls the fingers of her right, staring fixedly at the negative space so defined. One breath passes. Two. Silver light flickers, then fizzles into nothing; April doubles down, and a moment later a smooth marble of light made tangible blinks back into existence, nestled within her cupped hand.

Breathing out in relief, she lets it fade a second time. Fingers curl beneath her thumb, then splay out, four slim lances flicking across empty space at eye level, tracing lines straighter than anything April could manually draw right now; they disappear a foot away, less than half the range she'd intended. She'll have to be cautious, conservative. The cognitive space where her ability resides doesn't feel right — it feels unsteady, diminished — but that's still a significant improvement over completely absent.

Out in the hall, Tamara turns to Kaylee; she holds up a hand, key dangling from her fingers, tag cryptic but provenance known. "Reunions on the helicopter," she states, though with sympathy. "Remember you'll need one of them to fly. Go north." There's a pause, a tilt of her head, an almost challenging look. "You want to break them?" she prompts, extending the hand with the key. "Give me the phone."

Though really, there's exactly one probable response to that, given their relationship. When the exchange has been made, Tamara pivots and steps back to Colette, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, breath tickling her ear. "Don't wait. I'll meet you outside — far outside."

And then the sybil is gone, racing up the stairs much faster than she'd come down — a whirlwind blown in and right back out again.

Within the lab, aware of the prophetic declarations outside in only the vaguest sense, April curls her fingers fully into a fist, then lets her hand drop, looking to Doyle with a small smile. "All right. We're in business."

When April steps forward, she feels lightheaded, unsteady, like she might stumble at any moment. But nothing adverse happens on the first step, or the next, or the one after that. Outside the lab, she regards the two remaining newcomers with no recognition, never having laid eyes on the detective the day she'd been apprehended. Nobody's shooting, and apparently some of them know one another; that's good enough in the moment.

"Let's get out of here."

Bonus, there's now two other women for Tyler to try and chat up, after.

Magnes takes the rifle, looking it over a few times before he starts to head out. "Let's get out of here." But, looking to Tamara, then Colette, he decides to ask Colette, "Are Elaine and my baby alright?" he wonders, because even he has a limit to how much he can refrain from asking questions he desperately wants the answers to.

He does, for a brief moment, consider which Kaylee this is. It's getting harder to tell with things like this. Though he goes over the way she addressed Edward… that's not normal, maybe, so, a new Kaylee? "You're the Kaylee who works with the other me, right?" he idly wonders as he waits for April to get ready. "So, this must seem pretty weird. I'll explain later."

For Colette, there’s a lot happening at once. For Colette, the world is spinning upside down while it folds inside out. Mismatched eyes flick around the room, registering Tamara’s departure by the way he hand unlaces from the seer’s and the seer’s arm winds briefly around her shoulder. Then she’s watching blue sneakers disappear back up the stairs in the liquid way they do when Tamara is working. Fear, at first, knots in the middle of Colette’s chest and then sinks down to simmering uncertainty restrained by one simple truth: she trusts Tamara with her life. This is that trust in practice.

Magnes,” Colette exhales breathlessly, “I— I thought you were dead.” There’s disbelief in her eyes, confusion. “They— they told Elaine you died.” Which is enough of an answer as to their well-being, at least for now.

In that same moment where Colette is experiencing a well of certainty building up inside of herself against the deafening throb of her heart beats against her eardrums, Edward Ray is experiencing that same sensation from an entirely different source: dread. Recognition of Kaylee’s voice after so many years brings immediate tears to Edward’s eyes and a look of horror that does not abate. “No, no, no, no, you’re not supposed to be here!” Edward shouts, “You’re supposed— you’re supposed to be safe!” He looks to Magnes with the assault rifle, to April’s renewed confidence, to the ceiling as his chest rises and falls with hyperventilating confusion. “What the fuck is happening!?

Then Norman slugs Edward in the stomach. The tinier of the two crumples over like a heap of unfolded laundry, right into Norman’s arms as he hoists Edward over his shoulder. Rickham and Norman share a look for a moment, and then the two shrug in unison. “I’d like to ask that same question,” Rickham begins, “but if you’re the ones who fought your way in, then I’m hoping you have a way out.” The iron man directs his question to Colette and Kaylee, the former of the two looking bewildered.

Mister President?” Colette asks in a hushed voice.

“Yeah, look, okay. He’s the Tin Man,” Tyler jerks a thumb over to Rickham, “I’m Scarecrow,” then motions to Doyle. “Cowardly Lion,” a motion to April, “Dorothy,” and Edward, “Toto.” He squints, nose wrinkling. “Fuck I ran out of characters.” Neither Norman nor Rickham are listening to Tyler, though, and both are moving toward Kaylee and Colette with an eye at the stairs.

“Up is out,” Norman concedes, looking to Magnes as he does.

“W-wait!” Colette wheels about and looks at Norman. “There’s still some guards up there. Two of them by the helicopter outside, with guns. And…” mismatched eyes flick to Rickham, then April. “Oh.” Colette looks at Kaylee, then closes her eyes and looks back to the stairs. “Yeah, up is out. Let’s go.”

She is probably staring, she knows it… and it is the seer that manages to pull her back into reality. The trust that Kaylee has in Tamara is absolute, the exchange of keys for phone is done with very little hesitation. “You know damn well I do,” she says softly, giving the seer a firm nod. “I know you will, but be careful.” Watching Tamara disappear up the stairs, while standing alongside Colette. A hand rests briefly on Colette’s back, reassurance.

Of course, then Ray is shouting and that leaves the telepath completely confused. “Safe?” Clearly, he has no idea what she does for a living. How could he really. Then her father is getting slugged and she reacts, weapon coming up part way, but quickly stops as common sense prevails. Plus, there might be a touch of satisfaction seeing that. Still Norman does get a narrowed look. “Next time he wakes up, tell me. I can calm him without having to resort to breaking ribs.” It is left vague as to what she could do.

Giving a shake of her head, Kaylee half turns towards the stairs. “Tamara’s right. Let’s talk about this later when there aren't people running around killing anything and everything.” Already she is ‘listening’ ahead, a small grimace as the pressure thickens in her head. “I got point,” she states firmly heading back up the stairs.

Though Tyler’s idea of an introduction makes her pause midstep. “Oh… so we’re doing code names, huh?” She eyes the man, sends Colette a side glance. Kaylee can’t help herself, “Jubilee,” head jerking at Colette, a flicker of amusement in her eyes. “Jean Grey,” she motions to herself, before turning back towards the stairs.

“And I hope one of you knows how to fly a helicopter.” There is no doubt she has training as she moves up the stairs wary and cautious. “Or else, we need to avoid shooting first, until I can find us a pilot.” Which way had those guys gone?

If there’s one thing that Cardinal knows — and the situation has him pretty uncertain of what he knows, what he is, and what he should do — it’s that Tamara’s never steered him wrong. So when she says it’d be good for him to stay there, he does, a half-formed owl in shadows seething in unstable darkness upon her shoulder.

Then she’s sprinting up the stairs. “Wait, where are we…” …going… The whispers drift back down the stairwell, with no answer heard by the group.

“Eric,” is the name the puppeteer provides, a broad smile curving to his lips and hands swept out to either side, “My heroines. As it were. Well, I suppose it’s our heroines, eh? Haha— “ It’s nervous laughter, anxious, living up to the name that Tyler’s bestowed upon him.

“So, uh, yeah. Let’s get the hell out of here before we’re all corpses, shall we?” A sweep of his hand to the stairs, “Stairs or elevator, take your pick so long as we’re moving. And I hope the two of you have some useful abilities, most of us are, ah, out shall we say.”

Incredulity, declarations, and a few doses of levity fly every which way across the hall. Most of them pass around April, hinting at things she doesn't know, broaching concerns immediate and unfamiliar alike. Moving forward quickly in Kaylee's wake, she pauses momentarily by Colette, venturing a light touch to her shoulder. "Down here isn't any better, trust me."

Then April jogs forward to catch up to 'Jean Gray', or nearly, respecting the woman's evident determination to lead the charge. Even if it seems a bit reckless, vest or no. "I won't shield in front of you," the former agent remarks as they climb. "Ricochets."

Which is to say, if she wants to change her mind about being point — now's the time.

"I swear to god, if I see Arthur, I'll tear him apart…" Magnes says in response to Colette, gripping his gun tightly. "I'm alive, Arthur said he brought me back. I saw some strange green spark on me not long after."

He follows behind April, trying to keep some loose formation with her, in case he needs to be backup while she uses her ability. "None of them have what you'd call big explosive abilities, but they're perfect for escaping and infiltrating a prison. And I need to talk to Edward later, I owe him some explanations I think, so that he doesn't go entirely insane."

Briefly shooting a look to Kaylee as she starts to ascend the stairs, Colette's expression is mixed with trepidation and uncertainty. The future wasn't supposed to be like this, she thought the fighting was over, that the “good guys” won.

Since coming here, Colette has been questioning the nature of her reality. The answers aren't promising.


Green Level, North Wing

Warden’s Office

Stacks of paper files are moved from filing cabinets into stacks by the office entrance. The door — kicked in and hanging from its hinges — does nothing to shield sight of the office from the north wing hall. The office itself is ransacked, a computer on the desk currently in the early stages of a full hard drive format, CDs and thumb drives are collected into a metal waste basket.

Walking around the office, another figure dressed in black and body armor without any insignias is going about different work than those who went off to the cells. With a can of gasoline in one hand and a radio in the other, Desmond Harper is planning to burn everything down in the most literal of senses. “They're almost back upstairs,” is Harper’s incorrect assertion over the radio. “Look, I need reinforcements now. You said this place was clear. These aren't Petrelli’s goons, I don't know what the fuck I'm dealing with here. Over.”

«Look, buddy. I'm halfway there, ok? Once I touch down we’ll all have a nice drum-circle chat, okay? Over.»

“How soon is halfway there? I repeat, I don't know who the fuck I'm dealing with.” Harper’s ire is about as caustic as the gasoline he's pouring around the room on a plethora of incriminating documents.

«Hold tight. That's an order. King of Pentacles, out.»

Desmond threatens to throw the radio across the room but hesitates, then exhales a ragged sigh and clips it back to his belt. “That motherfucker.

Thank you, the seer said to her passenger during their headlong charge up the stairs, and We have a visit for a ghost to make.

Tamara runs through the halls, until she doesn't — until the need for stealth overrides the need for haste, her tread on the final stretch as quiet as it needs to be. Which isn't as much as might be expected in a place otherwise silent as the grave, not with her quarry making plenty of noise all his own.

Make sure his name gets said. Desmond Harper. He's the king of swords, was added as an afterthought, another keyphrase supplied for Cardinal's arsenal. To the seer, its sole significance is the meaning it holds for the man who owns it.

Outside the office, Tamara comes to a halt where she can neither see nor be seen through the doorway, thumb tapping key points on the smartphone screen entirely sight unseen. Not that it takes much to ready the camera, queuing it up for video. All she needs now is a convenient distraction.

Best if he doesn't know I'm here, was her final statement to the shadow. The cue for him to go is entirely unspoken.

At first, Cardinal's rather confused about what's going on— why does the man's name need to be said?— but then he sees her getting the camera on her phone ready, and all the pieces of the puzzle click together in his ephemeral head.

"Got it," he whispers, slithering from her shoulders. …got it…

It's showtime.

The living shadow spills across the floor, rising up from its stygian pool in a swirling column of black that takes the form of a man… roughly, at least, the edges blurred and drifting, the 'fedora' on its head merely a suggestion of shape.

"Desmond Harper… the King of Swords," is the louder, susurrant whispering that rises in the room like a chorus, "Well— for a massacre, well done. Your men have killed nearly every prisoner in Moab Penitentiary. What's next on your agenda?"

…going to Disney World…?

The can of gasoline falls from Harper’s hand with a metallic clank to the floor. In the same motion, he’s unholstered his sidearm and fired two shots square into the center mass of the shadow, and each bullet whips harmlessly through the cloying darkness as though it were smoke. Both bullets wind up traveling into the wall behind the shadow, and that frightening darkness keeps Harper’s attention fast, leaving him unaware of the mindfully-placed deer just out of his peripheral vision.

After the reflexive firing, Harper’s attention squares on the shadowy mass, his eyes within the circular holes of his balaclava narrowing. “What the fuck are you?” Keeping the gun trained on Richard with one hand, Harper slowly reaches for his radio with the other. Harper’s blue eyes dart to the computer, 15% complete, then back up to Cardinal. That he is known is a true fear, that his title — clandestine enough that even the CIA disavows its existence — is known is an even greater one. But to associate a name to a title, to strip him of his anonymity. That’s a feat few can accomplish. “Who are you?”

Eyes closed, Tamara does not heed the shadow's disappearance inside, not directly; rather, she watches shadows of an altogether different sort, keying on the moment where their dappled interactions shift to give her the opening she needs. Leaning just around the doorpost, she angles the camera to catch the gas can striking the ground, then to slowly survey the masked man who is so quick to open fire, and the state of the room around him.

Just of itself, that state belies his attempted explanation.

The question as to what Richard Cardinal is gives him a moment's pause to decide how to answer, as he isn't sure himself anymore. A flicker of memory stirs to find an answer— Chinatown, a tattoo artist, a story she once told him from her family's culture.

"餓鬼," is the adumbral hiss of response, the shadowy figure's 'head' tilting in an unnatural way as the other man reaches for the radio, "The ghost of Moab. The witness to your crimes. Are you waiting for Epstein, Mister Harper?" …King of Swords…

The nervous glance is noticed, and the shadow turns with a stutter-flicker as if to move towards the computer in question, reaching out — and then that tenebrous arm sweeps suddenly back in the man's direction in an attempt to take him off guard, the 'limb' stretching out and then abruptly expanding into a twisting cloud of silent darkness towards those traitorous blue eyes, hungrily grasping not for flesh or bone but for the one thing standing between Desmond Harper and his greatest fear.

His balaclava.

He gets it. Mostly.

Harper recoils with a sharp, horrified scream as the inky appendage rakes across his face. The balaclava disintegrates in threads that crumble away in black flakes, the remainder of the mask sloughing off like a second skin. That same cellular disruption rips through a swath of the CIA agent’s face in claw-like lines. Harper jerks back from the icy cold pain, slamming back against the far wall and clutching his face with one hand. He fires, blindly, bullets both missing and hitting Cardinal to no effect. Hand moving away from his face, both Cardinal and Tamara can see he's bleeding profusely, but from largely superficial injuries. Superficially agonizing injuries.

“If Petrelli sent you you're a fucking idiot!” Harper brandishes the gun as though it were a cross, going to keep this phantom at bay. “He's gone off the deep end, he's out of his fucking mind and he needs to be put down like a rabid dog!” Cardinal is a man who spent much of his life with con artists and criminals, he can tell there's truth to this assertion but he knows what the truth to power is being extolled.

Harper is trying to buy time.


April and Rickham emerge first from the stairwell into the Green Level main concourse, just in time to hear a blood-curdling scream erupt from further down the hall, along with a few pops of small arms fire. Isabelle, at Magnes’ side, comes out next with eyes wide and hands trembling. “I didn't get sober for this, I didn't get sober for this, I didn't get sober for this,” she repeats like a mantra.

Norman, carrying Edward, steps into the hall next and offers a look over at Kaylee and Colette. The latter of the two focuses toward the noise of the scream and the few pops of gunfire. She's tense, looking like she wants to run in that direction, but trust — faith — keeps her in place. She and Norman may not see eye to eye on anything but their beliefs in higher powers. One above, and one below.

“Hey I'm Tyler, apparently, by the way,” is said as an aside to Kaylee as he sidles up to her, one hand offered out for a handshake as he smiles both endearingly and vacantly. “I know it's not a good time right now but maybe after we could…” Tyler catches Rickham’s hematite stare and clams up.

Which way, Eric?” Rickham asks over his shoulder to the last man up the stairs.

"I normally," Eric mutters audibly as he grabs hold of the arm rail and starts upwards from the rear of the group, "Took the elevator, do I look like I'm a man built for stairs, Alan?"

Clearly, he thinks he deserves better than this. He's not going to get it— not today, anyway.

"We should— " A hand flaps upwards, as he huffs and puffs his way up the steps, a body that's spent too long in a cell complaining about the effort, "If we go up— two floors we should be on the surface, and then we can get the hell out of here, assuming you and April can handle any gunmen that our ghostly friend hasn't, uh— done whatever he did back there to. They mentioned a helicopter?"

"Tyler." Magnes says, as if to tell him to chill, and then he's looking to Eric, rifle at the ready. "The fact that we aren't fighting robots means I've gotten out of more dangerous situations than this. We can do this. You've all, well, not sure about April, but the rest of you have all gotten out of more difficult things than this. So let's keep it together, we're almost there."

He looks to Tyler again, tilting his head. "Well, technically Tyler ended up possessed, but possessed isn't dead."

His understanding of Ezekiel and how all of that worked might be a bit off.

The scream has Kaylee on alert as she comes up behind April and Rickham, having given up point. Which is tough since she is the one who took an oath to protect and serve. She looks down that direction, half tempted, because someone she cares about is down there… but Colette isn’t moving that way, so Kaylee takes a deep breath and turn her back on it.

Tyler gets another look of amusement, because it really wasn’t a good time. Her gaze drops to the offered hand. Oh hell, why not. “Kaylee,” she offers, but then offers an apologetic smile. “You’re cute,” the build up, “but I have a boyfriend,” and there is the kicker. He gets a wink and she hurries to close the distance between April and Rickham.

“They had a helicopter out that way,” A finger motions in the proper direction through the silent sea of death that is the green level. “I saw where the guys guarding it went, after they tried to fly it.” key are held up briefly with a jingle, “If we need someone to fly, we need to find them.” There is a deep breath and Kaylee sighs out a reluctant, “I feel pretty confident I can ‘convince’ them to help.” She makes a living out of making bad guys do what they don’t want to. The detective just doesn’t like doing it if she can help it.

April squints in the direction of all the ruckus with one hand raised before her chest, fingertips and thumb poised just barely apart, gesture interrupted — or not yet committed to. Nothing immediately appears from that part of the corridor, and her poise remains exactly that: stillness, not action.

The only problem with stillness is that she still feels like things are moving, reminiscent of a ship on gentle seas but utterly incongruous on land. Her focus frays, splinters out of alignment; Kaylee catching up, and most of all her address, helps crystallize it back together.


April's gaze goes to Magnes, and she nods to him, then glances to Colette as well. "Keep alert to our six, if you would." There's clearly someone with a gun back there, after all, even if they seem to be getting the worse of something. Mindful of the positions of Kaylee and Rickham in particular, people any forcefield she raises must avoid, April then starts forward in exactly the opposite direction.

Up has been accomplished. The next part is out.


Green Level, North Wing

Warden’s Office

Down the hall, in the direction the escapees are not going, Tamara waits patiently until that patience is rewarded — until artificial eye captures the last but oh so far from least necessary frame. Then the device is quieted and tucked away, a bare moment further spent in calculation. Evaluation.


Dropping low to the floor, threading the temporal line between wayward wild-eyed glances and drifts of obscuring shadow, Tamara eases her way forward while the King of Swords makes his emphatic, hyperbolic proclamations.

Slim fingers curl over the rim of the wastebasket; and when Tamara beats her retreat, it — and all its digitized contents — go with her.

On that retreat, the seer's feet carry her not towards the outside, but deeper into the prison, albeit only just as far as she needs to go.

If a shadow could make a horrified expression, Richard Cardinal would be making one right now. Fortunately, he cannot, so Harper doesn’t realize just how inadvertent his injuries are, or how much the living darkness truly is horrified by his own power.

There’s a long moment’s pause, and then the seething abyss of a man turns towards the computer, billowing in twisting black ribbons around the electronics. He doesn’t know very well how to use it, but he knows whatever that percentage-countdown is, it can’t complete without a power cable.

“You’re right,” comes the vicious whisper, “He locked everyone up here like animals. But you came to kill them in their cages. What makes you any better…” …better…

“If the American people knew what was going on here they'd riot!” Harper hisses at Cardinal, carefully clutching his face with one hand. “We bankrolled this black site because Arthur had our balls in a vice. But if this gets out when he goes down — and he's going down — it'll ruin everything.

Harper’s back straightens and his tone becomes a desperate, keening scream. “You think the world was bad before? Just wait until the riots start! Wait until every bigot against our kind can use Arthur Petrelli as leverage against us and we look just as complicit.” Harper uselessly fires his gun into the shadow, unaware that the materials for this liberation of information have already made it out of the room and into Tamara’s hands.

“It'll be world war fucking three!” Harper cries, brandishing his gun like a cross. “Is that what you want!?


Down the hall and away from where Harper faces the shadow of death itself, Colette falls back with Magnes, offering him a sidelong look. “So this is laying low?” She asks him with a raised brow, echoing the warnings she, Tamara, and Kathleen had given to the travelers on their arrival. Isabelle, sticking to Magnes’ side leans around him and points threateningly at Colette.

Hey,” Isabelle sharply whispers, “he's living his best life, okay? He is sober and he is clearly in better shape than he ever had been. He doesn't need you to— to judge— ” the fire in Isabelle’s words fades as she remembers her predicament, looking wide-eyes at Magnes and then shifting to an apologetic expression. She won't harass their rescuers further.

Up ahead, April and Rickham move at point through the grim sight of the Green Level central hall. Cell by cell passes by on either side, doors hanging open into the hall and prisoners laying in pools of blood where they were summarily executed by the strike team. As they lead the way and the others move along behind to follow, they find their path out of Green Level unrestricted. The front security checkpoint is wide open, gates rolled back and a clear path to the desert outside visible beyond the yawning front doors, just past a long driveway lined with chain link fence and a perimeter wall.

A desert?” Rickham asks, bewildered. He hadn't been aware of where they were transporting him when he was captured. But to see the scorching heat of the southwest on display now is troubling. “That must be the helicopter,” he says with a gesture beyond one of the tall chain link fences to a body-filled exercise yard and the black, unmarked helicopter parked at its center. “I think we can get there through here,” Rickham explains, moving away from the door that leads into the desert and to a side entrance in the foyer.

“I think this is Utah,” Doyle explains, shaking his head as he moves along at the back of the group, “Maybe Nevada? I was never really clear on exactly where this place is…” Hands clasp together, wringing a bit as he glances left, then right. “This is too easy,” he mutters, “They couldn’t’ve come with this few people, could they?”

"I had two choices. Work with Arthur, or risk becoming Arthur's enemy. I did what I thought I had to do, he came looking for me because of my research. I have Addie and Elaine to think about, I'd rather put just myself in danger than them." Magnes moves to pull Isabelle a bit closer, trying to give her reign to lean on him if she needs to, then returns the other hand to his rifle.

"Isabelle, this might be a bit confusing, but we need to talk later. You'll be fine, I'll protect you, okay?" Then, looking back over at Colette, he sighs. "Arthur Petrelli is something I never learned how to deal with. I never had to face him myself in my world, even though I tried to plan for it when he was alive. I thought I could get us out of here and that would be that. I had to make very difficult decisions, I didn't know what else to do, I just wanted everyone to be safe."

"I swear, no one knows how to make me feel guilty like you do." he admits, clearly referencing his Colette.

“Utah,” Kaylee corrects the puppeteer, standing in the doorway briefly to look out at the scorching desert. “You know, it use to be a japanese-american internment camp for trouble makers.” There is a huff of amusement at a thought, glancing at the people she is with. Go figure. She might have researched the area before the trip.

A glance goes to the fence and the helicopter beyond as she turns to go back into the cooler shade of the building, eyes narrow a little. “Yeah that’s it,” Kaylee agrees with Rickham. With a resigned sigh she follows after him.

However, the mention of ‘his world’ has Kaylee coming up short and turning to look at Magnes and then Colette. Clearly, her friend knows him. “Why do I feel like I’ve been kept in the dark on something pretty important? Because I believe him,” She points to Magnes, blue eyes settle on him, her head tilts slightly as if listening to some unheard music, “I don’t have to look in your head to know your mind sounds way different than Varlanes.” Gaze flickering over and narrowing at her best friend, assessing maybe what else she hasn’t been told about.

After a moment, Kaylee shakes her head. “Know what…” Her hands go up, “Maybe it’s better I don’t.” She turns her back on the pair and hurried to catch up with the others, turning her thoughts from the chaos of recent revelations, to getting the hell out of here alive. Which just as she reaches the metal man — “There…” The telepath says softly, head turning slightly toward the wall, eyes unfocusing. “Through that door…Two men. The pilots.” She points towards it even as she continues to stare at that point beyond. “We only need one of them,” her voice sounds cold even to her own ear. It is probably one of the darker things she has said — ever. Then again, all she has to do is think of those cells full of bodies.

Making her way through the hall, April does not look through the gaping doors into the bloodied rooms inside. She's seen enough already… and she still feels like each step should end in a fall.

Also, getting here seems — too easy.

Looking out on the arid, sun-baked landscape makes her squint, light brighter and more pervasive than she's become accustomed to. The space is surprisingly empty, no one standing by the grounded helicopter. The telepath pointing out where the guards have gotten to explains one thing, at least.

April nods to Rickham. "I'll cut the hinges, you lead through." Technically the telepath could probably just wrangle both — but the former agent is no more inclined to mercy than she. Her gaze flicks to Kaylee. "And you subdue whoever's left."

Then she steps forward, moving to the hinge side of the door to do exactly that: remove two of the things holding it in place, and shield in the iron man's wake if needed to keep any stray bullets from impeding the telepath at her work.


Green Level, North Wing

Warden’s Office

The computer monitor fritzes and fades to darkness as the computer's cables are swept from existence, wisps of shadow bleeding away. The wraith whirls unnaturally in the air to stare without eyes at Desmond Harper when he speaks, ignoring the bullet that passes through his ethereal form without contact.

"I was told that you had something I'd want to see," says Richard, standing in the aisle of a church with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder, face to face with a tall, clean-cut pastor with an uncertain look on his face.

"Who— no, it doesn't matter," Joseph replies carefully, studying the criminal's face, "Are you certain? Some people would rather not. It's as much burden as gift."

Thirty-six thousand dollars twice over is a large enough sum for Richard to say he is.

He's wrong.

"You funded them. You came here to murder the people he put here. Innocent. People. You are complicit," Cardinal whispers sharply, the sound echoing weirdly in the room as he hovers there unmoving, as unnatural as an animation cell superimposed on live action. …complicit…

He sees himself sitting across from Arthur Petrelli, the patriarch's smile broad as he slides a contract across the table. "Your mother was an amazing woman," he encouraged, "And I think you can more than live up to that, Richard."

The Commonwealth Institute. A research subsidiary of Pinehearst. His Institute.

He sees the atrocities hidden behind the polished image created by marketing and public relations. Kravid. Varlane. Bao-Wei. Gregor. Horrors whose records have his name on him, butchery and worse whose blood is on his hands. All hidden for the good of the world.

The end justifies the means. That's what Arthur says.

"And if revealing the truth will set the world on fire…" The 'ghost of Moab' billows upwards and outwards like a cobra spreading its hood, darkness blocking out the overhead lighting one bulb at a time from Harper's perspective. "Then a phoenix will rise from its ashes."

Thirty-six thousand dollars left on the floor of the Guiding Light Baptist Church, thirty-six thousand dollars and the anguished scream of a shadow willing to surrender everything to make sure that the sort of horror he saw in that future never happens.


And hungering darkness descends upon the King of Swords.


As the escapees glee the ground-level of Moab, blood-curdling screams emit from at their backs. It is a howling, mournful, and anguished scream that then diminishes into nothing. Colette stares vacantly in that direction, but is spurred on by a touch of Isabelle’s hand to her shoulder. “Whatever that is, we don't want any sweetie.” Colette eyes the hand, jerks her shoulder away reflexively and then offers an apologetic look after the fact to Isabelle.

Gunfire changes the focus from the horror behind to the threat ahead. As April slices the door free from from the frame Rickham kicks it out into the yard to a hail of bullets. As he strides out into the blazing sun, gunfire ricochets back against the screen of force April erected at Rickham’s back.

The field outside is littered with bodies, all of the prison staff mowed down together, likely corralled into one place to make the killing field simpler. Their bodies are strewn in a fan around the side of the helicopter where an enormous door-mounted machine gun is currently unmanned.

As Rickham moves forward through the field of bodies, so too does April and the force field. The two soldiers left from Harper’s team fire first from cover behind the helicopter, but one is quick to move into the door gun position to the mounted .50 caliber gun on the gyroscopic mount. As Rickham begins to build momentum on a forward charge the massive firearm begins firing with chest-shaking report. The first round hits Rickham like a sledgehammer, punching a hole square through one of his arms and spinning him off of his feet. The metal man gets back up as another round hits his chest and leaves a crater-like impact that sends him stumbling back again.

Holyshit, holy shit!” Isabelle screams, hiding behind Magnes. Colette slips away, past Isabelle and Magnes, past Norman, Edward, and Tyler to the front of the group.

How close do you need to be!?” Colette shouts to Kaylee over the roar of the belt-fed machine gun. The telepath already knows what the photokinetic is planning, without needing to be a mind-reader. Not but a few feet away, April’s forced flickers and flashes with rounds deflected off of Rickham, but even the man of iron cannot hold out against a weapon of that caliber for long.

But there's worse problems. A sound building over the roar of the door gun: an approaching helicopter.

«Sword Team!» Crackles over the radios, both inside the helicopter and what remains of Harper’s radio on the floor of the warden’s office. «This is the King of Pentacles with backup. King of Swords, sit-rep!»

The King of Swords can give no answer, for there is nothing of him left.

“Shit!” As the gunfire starts, Doyle nearly throws himself prostrate on the ground to duck away from it—ending up in a half-crouch, eyes wide and wild as the jackhammer-roar of the gun continues, tearing up their ‘invulnerable’ iron man quite effectively.

“Somebody, I don’t know, somebody get that guy,” he shouts, ducking down behind the others as well, peeking out from around Norman, “We don’t got a lot of time, we’ve got— we have incoming!”

"April, I don't know how, but try to keep me from getting shot!" Magnes doesn't waste any time. He's been shot before, he's sure he'll get shot again, but he can't let everything go to hell, he can't let them all get caught here.

He rushes forward with his rifle in hand, while the man is occupied with Rickham, then he falls down to one knee to steady himself, aims his rifle at the man firing the door gun, and then just opens fire, focusing entirely on his aim rather than trying to protect himself. "If you think a gun is going to stop us, you have no idea who any of us are."

Knowing exactly when Colette is thinking, Kaylee takes her hand, tendrils of her ability already working towards the one man still hiding. The fear in his thoughts, he clearly doesn’t want to die. The telepath can use that.

As she is plunged into darkness, fingers tighten on that hand as she relies on her best friend to guide her. Kaylee is already working on what she needs to do to turn this pilot to their side. Waiting until there are within a few feet «Here.» The word fills Colette’s mind before the telepath is gone and sliding into the mind of the pilot. She’d rather do this gently, but even she heard the helicopter approaching before she slipped her own head.

The pressure behind her eyes is immediate as she starts changing details, weaving a new narrative. It wouldn’t be her best work and she’d have to keep an eye on him, but it could be enough to get them airborne and heading North like Tamara told her.

As she works, he’ll suddenly realize that he wasn’t there for Harper or his people anymore, he was there to help get the survivors out. Kaylee strengthens any doubts the pilot has for what they had done to all of these poor people. Adding guilt and determination to save the survivors. They needed him.

«Take them somewhere safe. Take them north.»

Kaylee sharpens that urgency to get the helicopter started, spurring the man into action… Colette and possibly the others will see him suddenly straighten from his hiding spot, climbing into through the door on the side furthest from them. If Magnes or the others don’t take out the man on the 50-cal, well… the pilot under Kaylee’s control could finish the job with a snap of the gunner’s neck.

Either way, in moments the hum of a starting engine and the slow lazy turn of the rotors should tell everyone it is time to go.

The gun is a definite problem.

April turns her head at Magnes' shout, and steps aside as he rushes forward — not so much to clear his way as to clear her own line of sight around Rickham. One hand remains steady — well, slightly shaky — with palm out and fingers splayed, gestural mnemonic for the shield she's maintaining. The other is lifted on an in-breath, oriented towards the helicopter door, fingers curled in.

It takes a blink longer than it should for her focus to firm and a second bit of silver light to coalesce, palm-sized square suspended just below the machine gun's barrel. A few inches ahead of the supporting stock, parallel to the ground, the forcefield offers essentially no impediment to any of the projectiles flying around. But the moment after it manifests, April flicks two fingers out — and the sliver of force slices through the gun's stock, severing it from its support.

Problem solved. Or at least interrupted to the point where someone else can finish its solving.

The squawk of the radio is a sign that things are entering the endgame for the escapees; either they get away now, or the reinforcements will be there to try and pin them down.

Shadows grow deeper in the halls of Moab, then fade as Richard Cardinal heads towards the surface, his work within the prison’s corridors done for now. Time to go.

When the monomolecular forcefield plane slices effortlessly through the barrel of the door gun, the gunner lets out a high-pitched scream, both from surprise and from the several rounds that punch into his chest armor, then one into his abdomen and another into his head. He jerks back like a ragdoll, landing on his back inside the helicopter with one leg kicking. Rickham, struggling to get up from the gunfire touches one of the impact craters in his body and looks up at the helicopter, watching the pilot starting the engines.

Hurry!” Norman shouts, hustling across the field toward the helicopter, carrying Edward over his shoulder still. Overhead, the sound of another approaching chopper fills the air. Behind him, Tyler hustles out with a look back to Isabelle, waving her on. “C’mon we gotta go!” He reaches out, offering a hand that she hesitantly takes, and then is hauled behind Tyler as he makes his run for the chopper. Both of them pass by Rickham, who slowly gets up to his feet and looks back to the prison, then over to the helicopter with a wary eye. Hesitantly, he begins walking over, one hand still atop where the heavy machine gun struck his body as though he was actually hurt. It’s more a vestigial fear than anything.

Colette separates from her proximity to Kaylee, ending the invisibility that had thrown them both into darkness. “Come on, let’s get out of here!” She hurries toward the helicopter, behind Norman who hefts Edward inside and then drags the dead officer out by his leg to slap down against the ground. Colette scrambles up inside, wide eyes staring at the blood stains on the cramped confines of the helicopter’s deck. It comfortably fit the six-man team, but this group…” Colette looks back to the others approaching, and then to Rickham.

“I really hope that you can keep that other helicopter’s guns off us,” Eric Doyle huffs out in April’s direction, breathless from the run as he clambers up into the chopper, immediately ducking as out-of-view as he can — as if expecting a bullet to go through at any moment.

He realizes the issue about the same time that Colette does; looking around the helicopter’s deck, and then back out the door. He peeks back around the edge and a hand comes up, thick fingers wriggling in a little wave, calling, “Sorry, Mister President. I don’t think we’ve got the weight limit— start running and maybe we can meet you at the edge of the desert!”

That seems unlikely.

"Shit, if I had my ability this wouldn't even be an issue…" Magnes gets into the helicopter and stares at Rickham, frowning. "I don't know what to do, we can't just leave you here… Fuck!" He holds his hand out of the helicopter, offering his gun to the man. "This isn't fair…"

Coming up alongside the President, Kaylee ponders the problem at hand. Just like the others she sees the truth. Though, the fat man gets a glare and a warning look, blue eyes snapping with anger and irritation. Turning, she considers Rickham’s condition with concern. The telepath wants to ask if he’ll be okay, but she knows that is a stupid question.

He can’t go with them. Not unless others are left behind.

“I now know why Tamara insisted on the larger, 4-wheel drive SUV. She sees these things. The helicopter won’t handle that much weight. You and I know that.” And that he was too damaged to become human again. The keys are held up and offered to the metallic man; a hand points out the door they came in not far away. Her focus is all on the keys, unable to get herself to look at him. “Its — Its not much, but it’ll give you a fighting chance. Just go north till we can meet up again. Please know, Mr. President, I’d rather take you with us….” Kaylee trails off, finally look at him. It was hard for her to do this. She is supposed to save people, not leave them behind. She glances back at the entrance, hoping to see Tamara.

She had to trust in the woman’s ability. Kaylee still didn’t like the idea of her being left behind. But the cavalry was almost there and her head was throbbing from the exertion to get the pilot on their side and to keep the threads from unraveling from her manipulations.

“Good luck, Mr. President,” Kaylee offers gently as she moves to pull herself into the helicopter.

April pauses at the helicopter door as the others scramble in, looking towards the source of the distant rotor sound — the southeast. She turns back as Doyle addresses Rickham, making the same evaluation as the others. Green eyes narrowing, she studies the space inside, then gestures for others to clear back from the door.

"I think I can make this work," is her dissenting opinion, voiced with a weary sigh. "We wouldn't have gotten this far without you." She gives the iron man a sympathetic, lopsided smile, then climbs into the helicopter herself, taking a seat on the floor, back to the wall near the door. Holding out a slightly shaky hand, she forms a thin block of force — three-dimensional, without the edges that are so inherently hazardous — above the floorboard, touching nothing. Weighing nothing.

A moment later, a second outside offers a step into the cabin.

"If you're willing to try," April adds, glancing out the door to the man who faces a potentially final decision. "Just don't anyone distract me."

The doorway that the escapees had emerged from is silent, dark behind them — until that darkness swells outward in a twisting coil of whatever Richard Cardinal is made of, swirling around the massive iron form of Alan Rickham in a protective haze of tenebrosity.

I have you, Mister President," comes the dire hiss from the enraged shadow, voice and echo mingling as one without any delay, “Let’s get the fuck out of here.

Whether or not he can actually protect the living metal statue that was once the President, well, that remains to be seen.

Impossibilities layer atop one-another as the helicopter’s rotors wind up, nearly ready for takeoff. Rickham looks at the keys in his hand, ready to accept his fate and the grim finality of where this life has taken him. But it is April Silver that presents an option, presents the unthinkable with a power so great that those who didn’t stand beside her, feared. Those hematite eyes settle on April’s, and then down to the luminous platform of monomolecular panes of light. At first he regards the keys, watching the others cram in, and then in sheer defiance of time’s inertia, steps up onto the platform of light.

Allen Rickham will not go quietly into the night this time.

Looking down to his feet, Norman white considers the platform of light as he is moving Edward away from the door, looking to the cramped confines and the black silhouette of an approaching helicopter. “How’re we going to hide from that?” Norman asks with a look to April, who seems to be the one capable of making the most decisions among them. An answer instead comes from beside, as Colette levels mismatched eyes on April, noting her concentration on the block below, then looks to the pilot.

Get us in the air.” Colette steps into the copilot seat with a moment’s hesitation, pulling on a pair of headphones and adjusting the microphone to her mouth. She then motions to the other pair of headsets for whomever else would be wanting to listen in.

Whatever you do, don’t panic!” Colette shouts to the back of the chopper as it begins to pick up off of the ground, displacing the grass in swirling rings of downdraft air. With April’s forcefield maneuvering parallel to the helicopter, supporting weight it would not otherwise be able to hold. The other helicopter moves in swiftly, and over the radio a voice crackles in anger.

«Whoever is in that fucking chopper is about to be dead. There’s nowhere to run you fucking idiots. It’s an open desert for miles in every direction!» The King of Pentacles as Cardinal had heard him call himself.

But as the helicopter lifts off, with Kaylee psychically urging the pilot onward in spite of his best instincts, Colette presses her hands to either side of the copilot seat and wrenches her eyes shut. “Nobody distract me,” she says in mirror of April’s instructions because, honestly, she sounded cool and in charge when she said it.

Kaylee. Colette’s voice rings true in the telepath’s mind.

Tell him to fly north. No matter what.

All around the escapees, the world begins to become thrown into darkness. First mottled swaths of shadow swarming around the helicopter, as if somehow Cardinal had grown to encompass everything. But then, it would seem, the darkness threatens to shut out all light entirely, with its leading edges a blurry heat-haze mirage of bent light.

Tell him to fly blind.

Aboard the heavier Chinook heading in toward Moab, Avi Epstein flings open the side door and watches in bewilderment as the helicopter lifting off from Moab simply disappears from sight. He slams a fist against the wall beside the door, his shouted curse lost over the roar of the rotors and wind. The four armed soldiers in black behind him look at each other, then the space where the escaping helicopter was.

Where prisoners of the Moab Federal Penitentiary disappeared in broad daylight without a trace.

To where an echo of thunder resounds the loudest.

The horizon.

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