Anarchy In The UK, Part V


alistair_icon.gif claude_icon.gif cooper2_icon.gif emily_icon.gif esme_icon.gif gutierrez_icon.gif lance_icon.gif liza_icon.gif reeves_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Anarchy In The UK, Part V
Synopsis Government agents, civilians, and former Ferrymen unite for a a CIA-backed black operation to liberate detainees from a UK Sectioning facility.
Date April 19, 2021

Thunder rumbles across rolling hills in the dead of night.

A torrential rain falls on the walled compound, limiting the beams of searchlights as they sweep through the dark. Behind twenty foot high concrete walls topped with razor wire, the compound resembles a cross between a summer camp and a prison. Rows of prefabricated buildings on four foot high iron stilts are set in cookie-cutter rows around a blocky, central building that looks pulled out of the industrial revolution.

The brick building at the south edge of the compound was a lumber mill over a hundred years ago. Its purpose now is as mysterious and grim as the rest of the compound.

Trucks depart from a hangar on the far north side of the compound, past the mill. Armed soldiers ride in the back of the truck, heading deeper into the Whitehearth compound. As the truck departs the hangar, four figures move under cover of darkness. One by one they slip unseen through the open hangar doors into the operations floor, retreating behind stacked crates for cover.

Alistair McKeon tucks his assault rifle over his shoulder on its strap as he peers over the crates. Zachery Miller, Liza Messer, and the young Esme Leighton slide in behind him. Esme’s brows knit together as she looks at the scene, lips parting in wordless confusion.

Alistair’s eyes grow wide at what he sees.

“What the fuck?

Two Hours Earlier

A Remote Farm

Edinburgh, Scotland
United Kingdom

April 20th
1:06 am

Dinner ended long ago. Gone are plates and cups, replaced by maps, charts, and atlases of the Scottish isles. Ex-Ferrymen Alistair McKeon circles the table, looking at the maps under the bright glow of a hanging light. He runs a hand over his beard, sighing.

On the opposite side of the table, CIA Special Activities operative Carlos Gutierrez stands with his arms crossed over his chest and head down. Nearby Esme Leighton, a girl of just thirteen, sits in a chair with one leg folded under her, looking at the blueprints for a walled compound. She chews on her bottom lip, turning her attention to the oldest man in the room who is leaning down over the table with his brows pinched together and a scowl on his face.

Claude Raines isn’t a household name, outside of that also being the name of the invisible man from the titular film. But as far as renowned Company agents go, he’s mostly faded into obscurity. Claude preferred it that way.

“Esme, where’d you break the wall?” Claude asks, tapping the map of the compound.

Esme scoots forward in her chair, looking at the map with lips pursed to the side. She chews on the inside of her cheek as she thinks, then points to the southwest corner. Claude nods, picking up a red colored pencil from the table to mark an X on that portion of the wall.

“An emergency exit, if it comes to it. Torchlight will probably have a temporary covering over it and security will be heightened around it.” Agent Gutierrez says as he surveys the map. “Whitehearth is the largest Sectioning Relocation Center in the UK and it detains six thousand Expressives.”

Alistair’s sigh is palpable. “There’s no way we can get everyone out of there. Even with Agent Reeves’ ability, it would take too much time and we’re going up against a small army of paramilitary security forces there. How are we even going to find the kid’s brother?” He says of Esme.

“Records.” Claude says, tapping two fingers on the brick mill-building at the center of the compound. “You said Torchlight took their tricks from the Company? Well, they were fuckin’ record keepers.” Then, quieter. “Pretty sure they were.”

Pretty sure?” Alistair asks with brows raised.

“Look, it’s the bloody best bet we have. The mill is over a hundred years old, we can find internal photographs of it from before Whitehearth was constructed an’ Agent Reeves can make a doorway to infiltrate,” Claude continues, looking over at Gutierrez. “Unless fuckin’ James Bond here has a better idea.”

Gutierrez exhales a sigh through his nose. “No, it’s… it’s a good strategy. Reeves’ team finds where Esme’s brother is held. Agent Cooper and I can go with her as backup. Rains, you can take Gerken and Epstein to get them and as many other people out. Unseen, unheard.”

“And take them where?” Alistair asks, one brow raised.

“Here.” Gutierrez says, tapping a large building on the northeast side of the compound. “It’s a supply depot, it should be minimally staffed at that hour of night. Myself, Agent Messer, Esme, and Mr. Miller can rendezvous there, make sure it’s clear and secure a photo for Reeves. We all rendezvous there for extraction.”

Alistair slowly steps away from the table, one hand still scrubbing over his mouth. “We need to take photos of whatever we find inside. Recon. Blast it public. Show the world what’s going on behind the walls of the UK’s Sectioning facilities.”

Gutierrez looks over to Alistair, then back down to the map with a deep sigh. “You’re not wrong.”

Beatrix glances up from her phone where she’s been looking for photographs of the mill and the facility to add to her mental imagery. When she leans over to peer at the location Gutierrez taps on the map, her brows draw together; her face is otherwise stoic — the epitome of ‘keep calm and carry on.’ But Alistair has known her long enough to see the tension in her posture and set of her jaw.

“Doctor Miller,” she corrects quietly, without looking up at the CIA agent; instead she tosses Zachery an apologetic smile on Gutierrez’s behalf.

Her gaze then lifts to Alistair, nodding in agreement with his plan to go public; there’s a sparkle of something in her eyes at seeing him riled.

“Half of the world won’t care. But I have to hope that there’s some British citizens who aren’t aware how bad it is; this is our Cambridge, our Arcology,” Reeves says, glancing at the rest of the hodge-podge team assembled. “It’s time to wake this country the bloody ‘ell up.”

A few years ago, being here and active in this operation would have been laughable for Emily Epstein. In a Barbara Gordon as Oracle capacity, maybe. And even a year ago, she never thought she'd see the light of day again. Here they stand, though, potentially helping thousands come back into the light.

If they could be that bold.

"Aren't there humanitarian protocols? Ways to eject everyone if a fire goes off… or a given administrator flips a switch?" She pauses for a moment, one hand lifting from the tight fold of her arms. "Or if we cut the power, for example," Emily rationalizes, looking across the table at the other planners. "There's gotta be more prisoners than jailers, and if we can get all of them out at once…"

Standing with his back against a wall, Zachery looks up from the floor only when he hears his name, and then again at Reeves, with an expression halfway between appreciation and confusion. But without mustering a full response, his monocular gaze is aimed downward once more, expression clearing back to a thoughtful neutral.

"These people are well-funded," he dryly interjects after Emily speaks. "Likely incredibly well-trained, and presumably prepared for something as simple as a power outage. Even if we did manage to turn the tables on them, safety protocols would likely mean more deaths on our side than theirs. I suspect we can't do this one messy without— well. A mess."

Cooper is not as much looking at the map, as studying the man who would be leading the youngest SESA agents on a rescue mission. It’s the dad in him that scrutinizes Claude a bit distrustfully and a worried look at the kid who’s clearly in on that.

“If we can just give them a chance. A choice. It’s a human right.” Cooper finally says speaking up when it’s decided they couldn’t get them all out. “I’ll be content with that for now, because Rome and all that jazz.” He glances at Reeves briefly, before finally looking at the map. Dropping the legs of the chair he’s in on the ground, he leans forward, the cybernetic leg making a soft noise not unlike the compression of hydraulics.

“I mean, generally, in the US there is a ratio of one guard to 30 prisoners, it’s why riots can get so out of hand so easily,” Cooper says with a wave of his hand over the map. “If I remember right, in the UK it can get up to fifty to one. Some serious odds if it holds true here. I mean… Look at Stargate, when the people stopped being afraid, they fucked those alien guys up.”

Yes… he did just use a movie as an example. Don’t think too hard about that.

“If we,” A hand motions to Gutierrez, “can get to the command center, we can give them the upper hand by flipping all the switches and opening the doors. Most riots don’t get that kind of help and they still do some serious damage with just a few convicts. Multiply that by.. Six thousand you said?” Cooper spreads his hands looking confident that it was the best chance to help them. “This Miller guy is right, guys. US proved it’s gotta get messy before there can be change.” Falling quiet he looks at the others in the room. He had said that so easily with no qualms as a law enforcement officer.

“I don’t remember a lot of humanitarian measures being a normal part of concentration camps anyway, Em,” is Lance’s slightly wry observation - wry, but cynical. He learned to be cynical about how the SLC-positive were treated at an age when most people’s idea of ‘camp’ was a fun summer activity.

“Alright— let’s chalk about this. Do we know what method they’re using to keep the internees negated? If we have a way of reversing it— well,” he observes, “There’re probably some pretty powerful abilities somewhere in there that we could use to our advantage. Hell, if we can identify and free a single teleporter in the middle of the encampment…”

He gives Claude a curious once over, asking, “You have an ability at all?”

“I smell really nice.” Claude says with a shit-eating grin.

“He can turn invisible.” Esme retorts. “And he’s a right cunt,” she adds in a mumble.

I am,” Claude admits with a shrug.

"The Company certainly did have a penchant for records," Liza Messer comments quietly. The usual pep may be toned down because of the hour, or perhaps it's because she's thinking as she intently studies the map. "We can decide how much of a thing to drop on the public later, it doesn't hurt to gather as much on the situation as we can while there, but I'm pretty sure people are the priority."

She folds her arms over her chest, squinting a bit as if it helps her think.

“Based on what intelligence the US has recovered on these relocation centers,” Gutierrez says, standing up straight and crossing his arms over his chest, “most of the prisoners will be on a negation drug regimen, newer meds than what were available in the US when we ended this shit on our side of the Atlantic. Longer duration, harder to override with amplification.

“The US and the UK were trading best practices right up until the Mitchell Administration crumbled, even when the UK was sending token military assistance to the Resistance.” He adds, shaking his head.

“Two-faced fucks,” Alistair notes, eyes unfocused as he stares at the map.

“We have to assume there’s an opposite of humanitarian systems in place here, given that. Some of the final blueprints for the Manhattan Containment Zone—had that ever been finished—included a purge in the event of what was called a Moab-level prison breakout. Effectively a mass execution system that would…” Gutierrez exhales a breathy sigh. “Sanitize the entire facility and wipe away any obvious sins. Media could play it up as a terrorist attack gone wrong.”

Claude looks up at that explanation, brows knit together in wordless discontent, then looks back down to the map. “What’s to stop these fucks from doing that anyway if we pop off with a couple detainees?”

Gutierrez is silent, lips pressed together tightly.

“There isn’t, is there?” Alistair asks in an accusatory tone. Gutierrez shakes his head no in response.

“That’s shite. We’re not lettin’ all these people fuckin’ die.” Esme says with a shake of her head. “We—we haf’ta figure out a way t’get them all out.”

“If we want a one-hundred percent fool-proof plan to make sure nobody dies…” Claude says with a rub of one hand over his beard, “that’s not going.” He quickly raises his hands in conversational defense. “Which I’m not suggesting we do.”

“There’s… one possibility.” Gutierrez says with a look around the table. “There’s a reason the Cambridge massacre was a turning point, not something swept under the rug.”

Claude looks up at the mention of a massacre, looking around the room to judge everyone else’s expressions to determine what one he should have. Frownie-face. Check.

“The revolution was televised.” Alistair tiredly says.

Cooper sits back heavily in his chair as Alistair brings up one of the largest stains on America’s hands. He might not have been there, but the waves of the Cambridge Massacre reached E-ville sparking their own riots. He’d almost lost his daughter there during all that. Swallowing hard, Cooper looks…. Hesitant but also resolute.

But a mass execution system… why hadn’t he thought of that. It was a total Mitchell dick move.

“I know it's been said before,” Cooper looks remorseful to have to even say this, but… “The UK government can not know Americans, especially, government agents are involved.'' Fingers scratch at the back of his head, hating each word as he says it and it shows in his tone. “As much as I’d like to be all ‘Merica fuck yeah! It would give them every reason in the world to declare this an act of war even if we are disavowed. The US can’t handle that kind of conflict.”

A quick guilty look is sent to those stuck there, before Cooper focuses on the youngest of them. “We can barely handle our own shit at home. But I also can’t walk away from this,” he admits without remorse.

“That being said…” Cooper asks the UK home team, ”Do you all happen to know a technopath? Cause I have an idea.”

Emily's been in intense thought since the mention of televised happened. She's formed those thoughts into words only in time for Cooper to put out the reminder regarding their situation here. She begins to frown, reconsidering…

Then reconsidering her reconsideration.

"The BBC censors anything remotely favorable to the SLC," she inputs flatly. "They cut off our own debates. We won't get support from local airing stations. What we do have in our hands, though," she pauses in her argument only long enough to pull out and hold up her phone. "Are the tools of the twenty-first century."

She tosses it onto the table. "Fuck the news. We can livestream it to safe platforms. Multiple platforms, just in case. I can create dummy accounts and start atting major news outlets and influencers if we're that concerned about being found out, but…" Emily shakes her head once. "To be honest, at this point, what we're talking about doing— I'd rather my name be known. This goes… so far beyond what we initially came here to do. I'd rather, if we died, or if we're captured here, that the world go asking for us by name to demand to know what the British government did to us for exposing their atrocities."

"I can add a disclaimer to my bio indicating 'my shit opinions and actions are my own'," she adds with callous humor. "You know, the standard legalese to absolve my employers of being responsible for answering for my actions."

Emily clarifies with a look around the table at the other agents present, "I'm willing to put my name on the line. No one else has to be. But there being a face and a name to stick to who put this out there… it makes it harder to write off as a terrorist attack, right? Like what they did to write Esme's family out of history in the first place?"

Reeves retrieves a cup of forgotten tea, lifting it to her lips for a sip as she watches the others discuss the issue. She nods in agreement that to truly wake the British people the bloody ‘ell up/ it needs to be public — undeniable. Of course in a time of deep fakes and technopaths, nothing truly is undeniable.

She lifts a brow at Emily and smiles behind her mug at the passion from the younger woman, but she shakes her head at the SESA agent's offer to put her name on the information. “That’s very noble of you, but if you’re hoping to avoid a second war between the UK and the US, your name isn’t likely a good choice for that.” Despite her crisp accent, her tone is apologetic.

She looks from her to Alistair, then back to Gutierrez. “We may not avoid it anyway, and unfortunately, the Yanks are in probably worse shape than they were in 1776. Of course, Americans are scrappy. One can’t ever count them out entirely.”

“If you can get me a secure line back to the US,” Lance says, chin raising up in a nod over towards Cooper and a slight grin on his lips, “I can make some calls. Chances are I can find one within a few degrees of Kevin Bacon. They wouldn’t be local probably, but—” One shoulder lifts in a shrug, “The internet’s everywhere.”

“We could also just try the same thing they did at Cambridge,” he admits, “Just— drop tips to all the news agencies and get them down here. The UK’s a little more 1984 than we were back then, though, so I’m not sure if that’ll work here.”

Though he doesn't immediately speak up, Zachery's half-lidded look at Emily spells nothing but dry, 'are you kidding me' flavoured disapproval. Reeves' apologetic reply gets a loose gesture with one hand, because yes, thank you.

"News agencies would still be stuck at the gates," he notes. "If this is going to turn, I feel the most they'd get to see of who's held in there is in bodybags. If that. Besides, if you start calling them, what's to keep them assuming we're terrorists anyway, and sending out a warning to the facility?"

He turns his eye on Emily again. "Either way, livestreamed or not, you're not hosting the event."

Wind stolen from her sails already by Reeves' point— as valid as it might have been— Emily only closes her hands into quiet fists by her side when Zachery backs the point up. She looks off in silence, accepting being shot down with at least that much grace.

"I'd prefer not to be the cause of a war. So I think Cooper is absolutely right in keeping a lid on who we are," Liza's tone is still less energetic than usual, her teeth tugging at her bottom lip as she frowns. "I'm less worried about starting a revolution as I am getting those people out. I appreciate the thoughts everyone is having about making this an example and I'm sure we can find a way to do that… but we need to figure out how to have people not die."

She taps fingers against her arm, something of gesture of focus while she thinks. "Alright, so the simplest answer is to figure out what this system is that would cause a potential purge and shut that down. That'd give most people a fighting chance, should we be able to find a way to block it from happening entirely."

Alistair paces the floor, shaking his head. “If we had more time we could pull more people into this, resources, make a plan. But if what Esme and Rains said is accurate, we don’t have much time. The damage they caused is going to get patched up and reinforcements will likely make it out here after dawn.”

“We’re lucky Whitehearth is as remote as it is.” Gutierrez says with a sigh. “If this was one of the sectioning facilities on the English mainland, we’d already be up to our asses in a military response. But on the ass-end of Scotland?” He smiles slightly. “Gives us a fighting chance.”

Claude looks at Gutierrez, then over to Esme, then around the rest of the table. “Bare-bones, we’re here t’rescue Esme’s brother an’ find out what happened t’the rest of her family.” He says with a slow raise of his brows. “The rest is nice, but we have to keep ourselves with reasonable goals before we try an’ bite off so bloody much we choke ourselves to death. Trust me, I want to hit those fucks as hard as anyone else… but I also really want to live.”

“Are we bringing her?” Alistair asks with a jerk of his thumb as Esme. “She’s like, twelve.

Esme fixes Alistair with a steady, smoldering look but it’s Claude who speaks for her.

“Oh yeah good luck trying to keep that bloody goblin from coming. Besides, she’s a skeleton key t’any lock.” Claude notes with a crooked, appreciative smile. “She blows shit up nice.” He adds to clear up any confusion.

“We don’t have time for last-minute calls or wrangling outside help,” Gutierrez says. “We can record while we’re inside, get the data out, and then find a vector to deliver it to the masses. I could bring the footage back to the CIA, use our resources after the operation is over. Drop it quietly.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time your type toppled a government,” Alistair says out of the side of his mouth. Gutierrez doesn’t take the bait.

Agent Cooper deflates a bit as the verdict is given, shoulders slumping forward in defeat. Though he does point at Gutierrez and says, “That’s my other idea, though I recommend burners for that if there is time for that, at least?”

The expatriate agent looks unhappy as well; Reeves wants to save everyone, but she knows she’s lucky to have the back-up she’s gotten, and she can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And Gutierrez, with his expertise, is certainly a gift.

“Most burners don’t have good enough cameras for what we need, but I’m sure the CIA will be able to encrypt any footage to cover our collective arses,” she tells Cooper with a tight smile. “If there’s anything else we need to pop out for, I can do.”

Her brows lift as she looks from Cooper to Gutierrez, Alistair, and Claude.

Deflated and deflared from her earlier fire, Emily offers no further suggestions, nor reaches for her phone on the table. It's there to be there if needed, still. She draws her arms into a fold, mindful of the tone of her voice as she asks, "How do we want to do this, then? We'll pass unheard and sight unseen, sure, but I don't think we'll make it far without lifted credentials, in any case." Her eyes fall back to the map, the dark circles under them roaming. "There's bound to be closed doors, especially between us and any prisoners. And…"

She shakes her head once. "There's no way of knowing if the eyes on glass for the facility are in the records room, is there. It'll be important to keep them from throwing an alarm if they see doors opening of their own accord, especially since they know Claude's escaped, but there's only so many of us…"

Emily bites back a frown, chewing on her lower lip in the process. She's given to understand splitting the party generally is bad, and they were already doing that in spades.

"If you need a nice but possibly short-lasting distraction," Zachery pipes up suddenly, cracking a grin that pulls more to one side than the other, "you could always lend me that gun you didn't want me having."

He steps forward to peer over the table anew, and ponders aloud as though he's not actually expecting an answer to that last comment, "Surely there's got to be some way for us to sow some sort of chaos." After his eye trails over parts of the map in search, a dry laugh suddenly overtakes him as he adds, "What parts of this could excusably be set ablaze?"

"Chaos could actually be good," Liza comments, looking back towards Zachery. "The thing is, distractions would have to be well-timed. When they know we're there, we don't really get a chance to have a stealthy upper hand. So if we do cause some chaos, using it to cover our trail or waiting until we're in a good position and can get everyone out would be key."

She peers at the map. "Fire could stop them from pursuing from certain passages and avenues," she muses. "As crazy as it sounds, it might work."

“Well, I can guarantee that nobody will hear us, at least, and I can probably get through any non-electronic locks,” Lance admits— a glance to Emily, then a thoughtful one to Claude, sizing the man up from head to toe. “And if he’s invisible— yeah. Yeah, we can handle that. Me and Em can handle any of these fash that we run into, too.”

Cheerfully, he notes, “I’ll bring the shotgun!”

“Fucking bless,” Esme says with a bright smile. Alistair does not share in her enthusiasm.

“Okay,” Gutierrez says, followed by a deep breath. “Here’s how we’re going to do this…”

North Dawn, Orkney
United Kingdom

2:37 am

A door to a crumbling, centuries-old mill’s basement opens with a creak of antique hinges. The other side of the door is a farmhouse across the other side of Scotland, and as Agent Beatrix Reeves crosses the threshold, that vision begins to fade while the rest of her companions file through.

Once we get old structural photos of the Mill, Agent Reeves is going to make a door for us into a secure location.

There are rows of old hospital cots stored in this dank basement that stinks of sea water. Condensation drips from the ceiling and a small amount of water intrudes through gaps in old, crumbling brick to fill a dank puddle on the floor.

“Charming,” Claude says quietly as he gets his bearings.

Alistair comes up behind Claude, giving a tap on the shoulder and directing his attention to the bulkhead stairs that lead out and up from the basement.

From there Rains, Reeves, and Cooper…

Claude puts a hand on Cooper and Reeves shoulders, and the three of them turn invisible with a distorting shimmer. “Let’s crack on,” Claude says from an empty point in space.

Cooper’s barely contained giddiness can be heard from another point, as he murmurs with breathless excitement. “This is so cool!”

…you three are going to cross the compound and get to the command building and gain access to Whitehearth’s records. Whatever we can. If you can find out what happened to Esme’s parents, all the better.

Unseen footsteps ascend the bulkhead steps, treading wet footprints from the puddle of water. The old bulkhead doors creak and groan and open to torrential rain. “Fucking brilliant,” Claude grouses under the noise of the rainfall, leading his group up and out of the mill’s basement.

“Hey, just try to look on the bright side of life, Raines. Speaking of rains…” The sound of Cooper humming Singing In the Rain under his breath fades into the steady hiss of rainfall. Thomas just couldn’t help himself, he was nervous.

Alistair unshoulders his bolt-action rifle and ensures a round is chambered. He looks over to Esme, who flexes her hands open and closed with a subtle vibration of the air around her. Then, past Esme to Liza and Zachery. Alistair says nothing, merely nodding to the bulkhead stairs and the rain blowing in.

McKeon, you’re going to take Miller, Esme, and Liza and get to secure the storage terminal at the northeast gate for our exit. The storm should provide enough cover.

As Alistair takes point, he squints against the rain coming in from the bulkhead, shielding his eyes with one hand as he does. Esme, Zachery, and Liza follow him out into the driving rain, leaving the last group behind to take care of their business.

As for the rest of us…

When Gutierrez steps forward to address his team, it isn’t just with the soft footfall of boots, but the soft whirr of old hydraulics. The black body armor he wears is worn and frayed on the edges, patched up by aluminum plates and kevlar. The old metal exoskeleton still says the word HORIZON on the right leg, though most of the paint has been scuffed away. Those who remember it know what it is, a suit of Horizon powered armor from before the war. A little something Gutierrez picked up during the war that he brought over on the plane, just in case.

“Let’s get upstairs,” Gutierrez says, motioning to the stairs that now exist through the threshold Agent Reeves had originally used to bridge the farm house and the mill. “We’ve got work to do.”

The Mill

North Dawn, Orkney
United Kingdom

2:46 am

Security lighting hums in caged sconces in the ceiling of the barrel-topped hallway Gutierrez’s team emerges into. Out of the basement, the mill looks newer and more refurbished. The floor is smooth concrete, brick walls are repaired in places evident by the brighter red.

Gutierrez unholsters his sidearm and moves to the other side of the hall, listening. The Mill is hauntingly quiet at night, save for the distant hum of machinery of some kind. He motions for the team to follow, and for Lance to invoke his zone of silence as they move ahead. The team pauses intermittently to cautiously listen before moving again, incrementally making their way down the hall until they reach a three-way junction that leads out onto the mill floor.

It’s here where Gutierrez’ heart sinks into the pit of his stomach. The mill is a massive open space a few hundred feet across—like an old turn-of-the-century warehouse—except the contents of this facility are rows upon rows of medical cots. IV stands rise up beside each one. The whirring hum of mechanical devices they had heard earlier comes from boxy plastic intra-nasal machines connected to the IV stands. Dozens of people are strapped down to these beds, tubes up their noses, silent and motionlessly sleeping in captivity.

It evokes memories from the Albany Trials, of the detention facilities the Department of Evolved Affairs was running before the war. Medically-induced sleep, ability negation, it’s everything they feared and more.

Overhead, a metal catwalk is barely visible above the lights. Access to it looks restricted to stairs on the far sides of the mill. Though there’s no rooms or offices up there, it seems strictly for observation. Perhaps security when they’re moving patients. The two exits to the outside are sliding bay doors, neither of which are guarded from the inside.

Remarkably, there does not appear to be any human security inside, though security cameras are everywhere—black globes suspended from the catwalks.

Emily bristles at the sight ahead as much as the sight above. Even though the jig would quickly be up once they started maneuvers in here anyway, knowing just how exposed they'll be the moment they walk out from the shadows makes her take pause. At least she's got the anonymity granted by the visored helm worn over her head, and the safety of the light, powered armor enveloping her body.

She adjusts the small, durable camera affixed to the front of her armored vest. It was on, capturing everything they saw from here on out.

"Here goes," she whispers to Lance, ready to head forth and start shaking as many people to consciousness as she can while they search for Esme's brother.

Lance sucks in a sharp breath at the sight, memories of stories he’d heard while sneaking around as a child spying on Ferryman meetings that he only half-understood at that age stirring to wakefulness as they come to life before him. Horrors they’d thought past, repeated on another continent.

Just a bulletproof vest for him, but he’s wearing a balaclava as well to conceal his identity; shotgun slung over one shoulder, he probably looks the picture of ‘generic terrorist’ right now.

“Wait,” he hisses out in the safety of the silence bubble, reaching for Emily’s shoulder, head jerking towards the ceiling, “Cameras.”

The cameras’ silent black domes dully reflect the Mill floor. Outside, distant lightning flashes in the sky and the sound of the rain hitting the Mill roof sounds like hail. The soft whirr of the machines each prisoner is hooked up to creates a white noise that, combined with the rain, masks most sounds except the most obvious.

Like footsteps.

Just as Emily and Lance step beyond the threshold to the Mill floor from the hallway, they hear the soft clang of footsteps overhead. Above them, a lone guard paces the catwalk, visible through the metal grating. Dim light emitting through the second floor windows of a small office they hadn’t been able to see from their initial perspective suggests there may be an administrative area beyond.

"Lance, we knew there were gonna be—" Emily starts, then her head jerks up in direction of said cameras, because that sound overhead is certainly not rain. "Oh shit," she whispers, despite the lack of need to be quiet given the silence field. She stops in place, looking high.

She doesn't reach for the handgun at her side, but she wants to. Her mind whirrs. Is this a piss break or the beginning of a grounds check round? "If there's just one of him, maybe there's no one on the cameras now. Do we wait and see if he leaves, or get him down to the ground now and…?"

In matters like these, she trusts the judgment of the other two here more.

“If there’s anyone watching the monitors actively, no matter what we do our cover’ll be blown as soon as we get into the open,” says Lance, voice hushed even though it doesn’t need to be right now, head lifting to watch the guard, “So…”

His eyes flicker across the place quickly, “…alright. Let’s hope Em’s right.” Back to Gutierrez, he gives the man a quick up-and-down, “That stuff any good for jumping and climbing by any chance? I can keep you silent.”

Gutierrez raises one brow and looks up at the walkway overhead, then turns to Lance with a wink.


Whitehearth Grounds

The rain is coming down in sheets across Whitehearth. Floodlights up on the high brick walls surrounding the prison camp shine thick, bright beams of light out away from the facility. Armed security in rain ponchos patrol the tops of the walls, unaware that the danger they seek to prevent is already inside.

Claude Rains freezes in place when he sees a large military truck round the corner from one of the detention buildings. He reaches out, grabbing Reeves and Cooper by the backs of their jackets just as headlights sweep across them. The truck rumbles past, its driver and passengers fully unaware of the intruders in their midst.

Under cover of Claude’s invisibility, Beatrix Reeves and Thomas Cooper hustle across the muddy ground off of the camp’s main, paved road. The grass squelches underfoot and the cold, spring rain leaves a crisp chill in the air. Claude, walking between the two agents, keeps a hand on their shoulders at all times. Should that link break, so too goes their invisibility. Once he’s sure the truck is out of sight, Claude gives Cooper and Reeves a pat on the back encouraging them to jog ahead and close more of the distance. The administrative office is still a good distance away.

Silently lamenting the series of unfortunate events leading up to their presence in the wet, miserable rain, Beatrix tries not to show her nerves to the two men she’s with. She’s supposed to be a (wo)Man in Black, calm, cool and collected, after all.

That all falls out the window when the truck nears them, and she makes a very small squeak that’s still too audible for her liking. Not because any of the guards will hear it over the thundering sound of the rain or the rumble of the truck’s motor, but because it reveals she’s not all that calm under that very English facade.

She will, however, carry on.

“Cheers,” she whispers to Claude for the gift of his invisibility, as she hustles toward the administrative office, wishing that she had a Door there they could just pop through without all this jogging in the rain.

The softly hummed notes to ‘It’s Raining Men’ is suddenly cut short as Cooper is brought up short by Claude. An equally soft gerk replaces the tune when his jacket pressed briefly into his windpipe. His non-human leg gives a bit of a whirl-click of protest as his full weight on it, the other up in midstep.

We won’t mention how many times he’s almost asked them if they’d watch Doctor Who or mention he’d tried the spotted dick. Thomas coped with nerves like this. Even though he had that ghost of a smile on his lips, he was nervous.

In fact, he freezes as the truck goes by, squinting against the flash of headlights, but not moving as his heart instinctively stops. When the truck continues on, Cooper lets out a sizable sigh of relief and the humming doesn’t continue when he’s propelled forward again. He’s too busy trying to tamp down on that rising anxiety.

If Cooper hadn’t been with two persons of European descent he might have joked and asked if they peed a little, too.

But Thomas decided they are too sophisticated for that.

Continuing down the side of the road, Claude curses the rain and his abysmal luck of having to be the one to run the long way ‘round in a fucking concentration camp. Every squelching footfall has his face twisting into a tighter and tighter picture of frustration. By now he’s soaked to the bone, rainwater running off the tip of his nose, down the back of his shirt. He’s determined at this exact moment to never come back to the UK for as long as he lives.

And hopefully that’s longer than the next hour.


Whitehearth, Detention Blocks

The night and rain helps mitigate the Whitehearth sentries’ visibility, but the obfuscation plays both ways. Looking down the rain-dappled scope of a bolt-action rifle, Alistair McKeon watches the fuzzy silhouette of a guard patrol the razorwire-topped brick border wall that Esme had damaged on her initial escape.

He pans the scope down, looking at the blue tarp and makeshift scaffolding erected around the huge gap in the wall, the brick rubble across the ground, an overturned car with its windows blown out. “You pack a wallop for a little thing,” Alistair says out of the corner of his mouth to Esme, glancing away from the scope long enough to look at her.

Esme, Zachery, and Liza aren’t far away, ducked in the shadowed walkway between two large prefabricated buildings presumed to house detainees. The hammering noise of the rain on the buildings’ aluminum roofs drowns out any ambient noise they might pick up from outside, and the windows are too high to easily look through.

“Get ready,” Alistair says, holding his free hand up as he watches the guard round the corner on the wall. “Okay… go!

The dark green hiking jacket Zachery initially bought in case of a leaky tent is serving him wonderfully today, and the hood of it is keeping him nice and dry, and keeping his face partially obscured in darkness.

He rises without pause and moves with intent, following command. His stride is confident despite proceeding without a gun like he'd intended - because apparently that's not for people without depth perception nor a quite fully functioning brain.

But no one kept him from rifling through a shed before they left. His fingers tighten around the old, willow handle of a cricket bat. With all the joy a kicked around gravel path holds, he announces, "I've got a good feeling about this." He keeps his head down as he moves, choosing the detention blocks' shade and relative speed over full cover while they're still a little ways off. "This is going to be a blast."

“Nice pun,” is the reply from Elizabeth Messer as she moves right in at Zachery’s heels, sticking close. It’s a bit hard to tell if it’s a genuine compliment, but the tone isn’t one of annoyance. Liza glances briefly in the direction of the exiting guard, but her attention snaps quickly back to the spot they’re beelining for.

Mostly. The corner of her eye is keeping a careful watch to make sure Esme is able to keep up.

Esme follows Zachery and Liza across the gap between the buildings, followed shortly thereafter by Alistair. He moves ahead of the group, then drops onto a knee and lifts his rifle again, scanning the wall through his scope. Satisfied with the positions of the wall patrols, Alistair lowers his rifle and notices the shimmer of light reflecting off a rain poncho at ground level. A guard walking the grounds in the rain.

Zachery is close enough to hear the sharp intake of breath that comes from Alistair a moment before he looks back and hisses, “Get under the building!” Then drops prone and rolls through the mud under the crawl-space gap beneath the container-building.

Zachery was right, this was going to be a blast.



The Mill


Agent Gutierrez lands on the upper catwalk with a clang of boots on metal and the whine of leg-mounted hydraulic actuators. The guard he landed near has enough time to turn and recognize that he’s in danger before Gutierrez lashes out and grabs him by the collar, pushing forward on powered-armor legs to drive him into the brick wall at his back. The guard impacts with enough force to knock the wind out of him.

Gutierrez grabs for the taser on the Guard’s left hip, then releases the dazed guard and fires it point-blank range into his side. The guard convulses and shakes, lets out a strangled yelp and collapses to the catwalk with a loud clang that never leaves Lance’s silence bubble. Gutierrez looks past the guard to the office where rows of monitors show views of the floor below. Emily was right, there was no one else here and this guard was monitoring the cameras.

“We’re clear.” Gutierrez calls down through the grating, searching the guard for restraints to tie him up with.

Emily's shoulders sink down with relief, bringing her head to fall from looking up through the grating. "Find the kid, I'm going to help who I can in the meantime," she breathes out, already surging forward for the first row of life-altering coffins before she can be reminded that they can't save everyone. Despite never having seen or manipulated one of these machines before in person, she makes quick work of her initial examination, then places a hand on the prisoner's forehead.

"Hang in there," she tells the sleeping person, and firmly pulls on the tubing plugging their nose. As soon as the first person is freed of the drug-dripping tubes, she moves on to the next-closest, ready to go in a methodical line down the row.

She couldn't just leave these people here after seeing them like this. Emily looks back, hoping for the prisoners to come quickly to. "As soon as you get your wits about you, if you can help anyone else get up, do it," she says firmly back in the direction she came from. "We need to move quickly."

Seeing it more clearly now, her head turns momentarily for the truck outside, hair on the back of her neck raising up. God, she hoped no one was out there now, seconds away from walking in on them. It inspires her to move faster. The thought that they could use the truck as their escape vehicle will come in due time.

“Get to the monitors, they probably have cameras outside the room too in case of someone trying to break in,” Lance calls back up through the grating before moving to follow behind Emily into the room.

He wishes he remembered if someone mentioned how long it took people to get up and around after this ordeal. Minutes? Hours? More? Hopefully, it’s ‘minutes’. Minutes would be best. Minutes would be great.

“Get ‘em up and going,” he agrees with her, moving past as she starts extubating the captives and picking up to a short jog, glancing at faces, going over the description in his head. A quick circuit of the room, and he comes to a stop, swearing sharply before calling out, “Fuck. Primary objective isn’t here.”

Up on the walkway, Gutierrez zip-ties the guard’s hands behind his back, then steps over him with whirring strides into the security room. “I’ll take care of things in here!” He calls down, and the rain hammering on the roof nearly drowns out his voice.

Down below, as Emily finishes releasing a row of detainees from their captivity, the first person she’d unhooked from the sedation system begins to come around with groggy, groaning uncertainty. He’s a middle-aged man, pale and sunken, hungry and confused. He sucks in a sharp breath, looking around with wide eyes before panicking and trying to roll off the table. His legs don’t quite work as he’d hoped and he collapses to the floor, gasping and choking, spitting up mucus and something more acrid.

“Oh bloody fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck no,” he whispers between gagging gasps, then looks up at Lance and Emily with wide-eyed confusion.

Emily looks back in his direction, eyes clear and voice calm. She wastes no time with platitudes. "We don't have much time. Help get others to their feet, and we'll all escape together." She has to raise her voice to be heard from her position several persons down, but doesn't mind it.

Right up until the point Lance says Esme's brother isn't here. Her eyes widen invisibly as she looks to him then quickly back to the rousing few. "Does anyone know if there's a second room they keep you all in?"

The man who was just woken stares vacant-eyed at Emily, even as he straightens and his mind tries to latch on to her request. “Where am I?” He asks, barely able to hold together his panic as he walks to another detainee, following Emily’s movements to release her.

Lance’s steps are quick in getting to the first man that’s recovering, moving to help him a bit— grabbing one of the sheets from the bed to try and wipe some of the vomit from the poor fellow’s face. “It’s alright,” he says encouragingly, “We’re breaking you out of here. This is a rescue— can you help us get everyone else out?”

He looks up from the man and calls up to Gutierrez, “Hey! Do we have video on any more captives aside from these?”

“Yeah, a bunch!” Gutierrez shouts down, “I’ve got video on more than forty smaller holding buildings, it’s gotta be the prefabs outside!” His voice is clearer as he moves away from the computers and back to the doorway. “There’s no way we can get everyone, but I’m looking for the kid’s brother!”

But Gutierrez’s words aren’t really landing on Lance. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the man Emily instructed starting to release other captives, and it’s only then when a respirator mask is removed that Lance recognizes one of the detainees…

Shadows are long in the stark footprint of a construction site, bathed in enormous lights. Cameron Spalding walks across the recently-disturbed earth and points to the dark silhouette of a building across the way. “That.” He says with absolute certainty, pointing two fingers at it. “We’re going to bring that whole fucking building down… right on top of the DHS headquarters.”

The woman walking at Cameron’s side hesitates, turns, and stares at him with wide eyed horror. “There’s—people fuckin’ live there. There’s apartments, an’ businesses. Cam, y’can’t do that.

Cameron narrows his eyes and waves one hand in the air. “I can, Eve, and I will.”

It’s Eve Mas.

Or, more accurately…


…the actress who played her on River Styx.


Whitehearth Administrative Building

The administrative building for Whitehearth is a drab-looking four-story building with concrete walls and steel-reinforced windows. Floodlights on the roof brightly illuminate the grounds, but there is no immediate security presence. No guards, only security cameras that fail to notice muddy footprints on asphalt before they’re washed away.

Rippling silhouettes of people shrouded in invisibility flit in and out of existence as they move within the rain up to a series of windows along the building’s western flank. At this hour of night the compound looks dead inside, with dim security lighting only illuminating the interior. Beyond steel security doors and thick walls, smaller offices would be unreachable without forcing entry. But a row of portable toilets in an area of new construction changes that.

A few moments later Claude, Cooper, and Reeves tumble out of a doorway inside the administrative building, while behind them is the interior of a Port-O-Potty until Claude shuts the door behind them.

Drenched from the rain, he wipes his face with a damp sleeve and squints at signage on the walls. “Archives,” Claude directs with a jut of his chin at the sign.

It’s a short walk through the dead building to the archives room, and Claude is tactless with his forced entry, busting the lock to the door with a jam of his shoulder against it. Inside, the archives room is little more than a storage depot of metal shelves stacked with folder-filled boxes and a few computers.

“Take whatever we can grab, sort through it later.” Claude whispers, letting go of Reeves and Cooper. “Hard copies if they have it, whole bloody computers if not. Do you have a spot we can dump it all?” He asks of Reeves.

“Quite. Just give me a moment to reroute a bit. My map’s a bit of a disaster at present,” Reeves murmurs, her nose still wrinkled from the scents of the last route. “Start piling it up here while I do that.”

She gestures to a spot near the door closest to them, before she closes her eyes to visualize the internal floor plan that exists only in her eyes. Lifting one gloved hand, she makes several quick, deft gestures — quite like she’s sliding puzzle pieces from one spot to another, or dragging items on a touch screen device.

“Let’s drop them back in the States. SESA office?” Reeves suggests. “I’ve been in the conference room, if that works. Otherwise my DOE office?”

Out of the rain now, Cooper runs fingers of both hands through his hair and gives a little flick to shake off the clinging moisture. A glance up at the sign, he follows in Claude’s wake. “Anything we can take, got it.”

Reeve’s question gets a thoughtful look from the SESA agent. There is a soft sound that might have been a stifled laugh, before Thomas says with a cheeky grin, “I’d say the conference room just to see Voss or Miller’s reactions… Maybe freak Dirk out.. so maybe….” he doesn't finish that thought.

Rubbing a hand over the damp stubble on his chin, Cooper seems to come to a decision, “Actually, why not… let’s go with the conference room. We’ll put a sticky on the pile. From Cooper and crew with love.” He turns his attention back to following Rains. “Too bad we don't have a big bow too.”

“A bow.” Claude says with a huff of a laugh. “Cute.

Separating from the others, Claude walks past the pair of powered-down computers and starts rifling through the file boxes stacked on the high metal shelves. “The way they got this stuff organized feels familiar,” he notes, fingering through the labeled tabs. “See if you can find detainee rosters or somethin’, anythin’ we can use t’find Esme’s brother.”

For a moment, Reeves continues her rearranging, creating a new mental blueprint of her doors. She opens her eyes, and in each of her dark pupils, a tiny backlit door can be seen before fading back to black.

She turns to the door she stands by, reaching out and turning the knob. Pulling it open, the familiar — to Cooper — sight of the SESA conference room can be seen on the other side. “Smells like coffee,” she says brightly, before propping the door open with a chair.

Unsure where to start, her eyes fall on a set of boxes near Cooper. “Detainee Records, Agent, at your one ‘clock,” Reeves says. “Grab that, then just stow everything else that we can — there’s quite a lot of evidence here, isn’t there!”

Her tone is downright cheerful as she grabs a box to haul into the other room: a single box labeled Inverse Technologies. When she returns, she tips her head. “Maybe we assembly line it? There’s a lot here.”

Eyeing the intimidating amount of records looming before them, Cooper looks a little uncertain until the records are pointed out. Of course, he’s then promptly distracted by Reeve’s door again. He’s like a kid who’s seen boobs for the first time, even though this isn’t the first time he’s seen the door.

Giving himself a little shake, Cooper grabs the first of the Detainee boxes and passes it to Reeve. Names of other boxes, snag his attention and brows lift. Instead of giving her the next detainee box, he reaches for the DHS boxes. Just seeing classified DHS files in a foreign country makes him mildly sick to his stomach.

“Yeah there is,” Cooper says without the jovial tone, looking at all the boxes labeled DHS. He starts to grab them and hesitates, moving to hand Reeves another detainee box. “Some seriously damning stuff here,” he states far more seriously, still eyeing those boxes. “I think we should torch what we don’t take?”

Unprompted, Claude removes a stoppered bottle, a rag, and a lighter from his pocket and sets it down on the floor. They had talked about a distraction. He looks at Cooper in a moment of deadpan silence, he knows what to do with that.

Claude starts scanning the labeled boxes, finger ghosting over the blocky typeface. He stops on a series of boxes labeled Whitehearth Detainee Records. “The bloody shit was her—Leighton.” Claude says with a click of his tongue, pulling the box marked “L–P” from the shelf. He fingers through the files, finding two files for detainees:

Leighton, Esme
Leighton, Theo

Tucking Esme’s folder under one arm, Claude starts flipping through Theo’s file, trying to see if he can figure out where the kid is being held.

They were running out of time.


Whitehearth, Approaching the Depot

Caked in mud from crawling under buildings, Alistair and his team have nearly closed in on the storage depot they’re going to use as a rendezvous point. Crouched behind the nearest prefab detention building, he glances back at the others, then points to the well-lit metal-walled building on the edge of the camp.

“We’ve got a hundred yards straight out in the open,” Alistair says as he indicates the entrance to the depot. “No two ways about it, we’re gonna get spotted. Two sentries—” He points with the barrel of his rifle up to towers above and behind the depot, “watching the exit. We’ve got another on the ground,” he says, indicating a British soldier standing inside the hangar doors to the depot, smoking a cigarette.

Alistair draws in a slow breath and exhales against the rain. “I can get the tower sentries,” he says, patting his scoped rifle, “but somebody’s gonna need to close in and take down Smoke Break before I start firing.”

“I can get ‘em,” Esme says without hesitation, eliciting an immediate shake of Alistair’s head.

“You’re louder than a gunshot. The rain might muffle two rifle rounds at a distance, but if you blow your top it’ll shake the whole camp. Hold off until we need the shock and awe portion of the program.” Alistair recommends, looking at Liza and Zachery.

“Either of you a particularly good shot or think you can sneak up on him?” Alistair asks, a dread hint of hope in his voice.

"No depth perception, and haven't snuck up on a thing in my life," Zachery answers, a grin finding its way onto his partly mid-smeared face as he passes Alistair in a rush, voice eager as he waggles the cricket bat upward. "First time for everything?"

Before anyone can argue with his debatably poor decision, he starts walking in a brisk arc to close in one the depot, keeping low and turning his head just one more time to say, "Burn my body if I bite the literal bullet, will you?"

In the midst of braining that soldier or not, either way.

Were Zachery not already moving, there would have been a smack with his name on it from Agent Messer. “Miller,” she hisses between her teeth before she’s on his tail, gun already in hand. Should the gentle present of a cricket bat not take care of the guard, she’s ready to drag him out of sight and finish the job.

At least there was the rain to hide the well-thought-out plan.

Alistair hisses, taking a knee beside the prefab building and watching the events play out through his scope. “Esme, if this goes sideways make a run for the depot. I’ll cover you.”

But the way he says that he hopes beyond hope that it won’t come to that.

As Zachery and Liza take the wide way around they disappear into the rain for a bit, much as their allies disappear into the night behind them. Soon all they have is the light spilling out of the depot doors to guide them, and the silhouette of the sentry in his rain poncho, the glow of his cigarette. Taking the wide way around allowed Zachery to move unseen through the rain with Liza close behind. They get close to the depot walls and use them as cover as they closes in on the open hangar door.

The rain has muffled their footfalls, the clatter of it pinging off of the metal roofs sounds like it might as well be raining hammers. When he gets to the door, Zachery can see the Sentry’s shadow cast out onto the ground. It’s hard to tell exactly how far away he might be, what with the absence of depth perception he was talking about earlier. But he’s close.

Close enough that Zachery can hear him hum-mumbling Britney Spears’ Toxic.

A sneer spearheads the new expression of focus that takes over Zachery's face where he stands with his back to the wall and cricket bat hanging down at his side, eye narrowing. But he's not looking anymore, he's listening.

"What is that," he whispers, the words drowned out by the rainfall's drumming. He looks to Liza when he finally seems to notice she's come with. Barely any louder than before, he says, "Great, now I'll have that stuck in my head all week without knowing, I can feel it."

And with a bounce upward of the bat to pop it into prime swingin' position, off he goes, barreling around the corner to take the hum-mumbled lines 'I need a hit, baby, give me it,' one hundred percent too literally and intending to deliver the requested action straight to the man's temple with full force and a poorly fought back grin.

And nobody expects a bat-wielding lunatic to come charging at them out of the rain. Least of all Mr. “I just lost four teeth and am unconscious” lying prone on the depot floor. The hit still reverberates through Zachery’s hands and arms a few moments after the blow, and with his earbuds knocked out the sentry’s music is even clearer in tinny beats.

Much to Liza’s relief, she didn’t need to make a recovery for Zachery. As she slips into the depot, there’s no sign of other guards. But the presence of black dome ceiling-mounted security cameras raise her hackles and twist a knot in her stomach.

Seeing the Sentry go down, Alistair exhales a sigh of relief and grabs Esme by the hand and moves to follow Zachery’s path taken toward the depot, forsaking taking out the tower guards for the time being. The rumble of a truck’s engine starting somewhere beyond the stacks of crates in the depot makes Alistair’s stomach drop. He shoulders his rifle, crouches and grabs the unconscious sentry by the legs and hisses, “out, out!

Alistair scrambles back out of the depot, dragging the sentry with him off to the side and into the dark, trying to crouch low and stay out of sight.

"I didn't really think this operation needed a theme song, but here we are," Liza murmurs, likely inaudible thanks to the heavy patter of the rain. The security cameras mean there's certainly much more of a time constraint than the three-minutes-nineteen-seconds of Toxic. It doesn't take her a half-second of thought at the hissing tone of Alistair to react. She nudges Zachery quickly to make sure he's not in a full Britney Spears trance before she's off, making a move towards the next available patch of cover, moving low across the ground.

Now with somewhat of an absent look on his face, Zachery visibly startles at the command and then again at the nudge. He lowers himself and starts doing as instructed, halfway out catching sight of the dragged guard's face and saying sharply, "Fffffucking Christ, what ran into him?"

Esme squints one eye and stares at Zachery like he has close to six heads, looks at the guard, then back to him and kicks up an eyebrow. “Is he bloody broken?” Esme hisses at Liza over the drumming of the rain. Any answer her question may have garnered is drowned out by the rumbling roar of a diesel engine as the covered transport truck rolls out of the supply depot.

The bright headlights sweep across the road, but the driving rain and the sharp contrast of the brightly lit road and the darkness up against the depot wall helps hide the presence of intruders on foot. Armed soldiers ride in the back of the truck, heading deeper into the Whitehearth compound.

When the truck is little more than red tail lights in the distance, Alistair waves back at the others and hurries back inside the depot, his rifle held up at shoulder-height as he moves in. One by one they slip unseen through the open hangar doors into the operations floor, retreating behind stacked crates for cover.

Alistair tucks his rifle over his shoulder on its strap as he peers over the crates. Zachery, Liza, and Esme slide in behind him. Esme’s brows knit together as she looks at the scene, lips parting in wordless confusion.

Alistair’s eyes grow wide at what he sees.

“What the fuck?


The Mill

Eloise Cosgrove.

The dark-haired woman laying in sedation on one of the medical tables is Eloise Cosgrove; actress, musician, dead. Except she’s not dead. She’s extremely not dead. Here is a Non-Expressive woman known around the world for her portrayal of a famous real world Expressive freedom fighter and celebrity who—by all accounts—died of a drug overdose back in September of last year. Now she’s here. Alive. Imprisoned.

As Lance grapples with this discovery, three more detainees that Emily freed from the suspension system are coming to consciousness. One is delirious and disoriented, one doubles over and immediately begins vomiting on the floor, another starts gasping and looking at his hands and repeating over and over again, “This isn’t happening.

The middle-aged man that Emily used her ability on looks momentarily overwhelmed by his psychic directive in correlation to the events playing out. Rather than move to help any of the others, he continues on unhooking people from the sedation machines while casting furtive glances over his shoulder at the newly woken.

“Woah.” Gutierrez says to himself upstairs, followed by a louder, “Woah!” He comes running out of the office with whir-stomps of his exoskeleton, clanging against the railing and leaning over to yell down at the others. “A truck just pulled out of the depot! Full of armed guards, looks like a shift change! We might have a few people headed this way soon!”

Lance nearly trips over his own feet getting over to the table that the actress is laying on, moving to help pull the tubes from her, his mind flashing back to an interview half a year ago

“You know she had a sister.” Louis says with a look between Lance and Robyn. “Elodie Cosgrove. She was Sectioned when she was 13, sent to Oxbow. A couple weeks before Eloise left the UK to go on tour with her band, Elodie died of an overdose at Oxbow.” Louis makes air-quotes around the word overdose.

“Elie was flying off the handle the week before,” Louis says with a distant look in his eyes, staring unfocused at the windows. “Don’t know about what, but she was threatening t’go to the press about something. Fuck if I know what, but our producer was shitting thunder and lightning at the last table read and pulled Elie aside. Elodie passed away a few days later, then not long after she took off to go on tour with her band.”

Louis looks back to Robyn, jaw set tense. “Two weeks later Elie was dead too.”

“Well I just found a smoking gun down here,” he calls sharply up to the armoured agent, head snapping to look up towards the railing, “If we can get her out of here— this is Eloise Cosgrove, this proves this entire camp is an illegal operation!”

Yeah, but they all have to get out of here first before they can expose any of this.

Emily's head swivels in the direction of the window. No headlights yet. That didn't mean they shouldn't hurry. She lifts her voice, infusing it with a forceful calm. "Everybody, there's an empty truck right outside. We need to get into it and hide. Okay? We need to hide in this truck so we can get out of here." She looks between as many of them as she can, no idea how well her message will stick.

These people weren't doing well, and she can't blame them. Her head turns slightly to Lance on his discovery. "Grab Cosgrove, we'll take everyone we can." Her head afterward lifts to Gutierrez. "How much time do we have? We're probably going to need you down here."

“Three minutes, top!” Gutierrez calls down, hurrying back into the security room. “They’re stopping at one of the other shelters, looks like it’s a routine switch. We gotta be quick about this!”

Emily’s directive, instilled at a semi-conscious level in those only just waking up, feels as though it has more purchase than usual. There’s perhaps a lesson in this, in that the will of those under the influence of sedatives or other mind-altering substances may make them more susceptible to her power. It’s a terrifying revelation for the simple implication.

As the prisoners are untethered, confused and scared, shepherded by those already under Emily’s thrall, there are still so many more to disconnect. It’s beginning to become a question of who in this building they can save, more so than who in this compound.


Whitehearth Administrative Building

“What the fuck is this?” Claude mumbles to himself, flipping through Theo’s file. There’s a look on his face, brows knit together and lips parted. He pages through photographs and partially-redacted documents, eyes scanning the text hastily trying to find what he’s looking for. “What the fuck are they doing here?” Claude mumbles to himself.

Meanwhile, as Cooper and Reeves are selecting boxes to throw through the threshold, there’s a distant sound in the dark that pierces the dull drumming of the rain outside. The crackling squawk of a handheld radio.

Claude looks up, wide eyed, and freezes in place. The voice that replies to the crackle of the radio sounds far enough away down a nearby hall, but close enough to hear. He looks at Cooper and Reeves and makes a hurry up gesture. No sign from Alistair yet, either.

Now that all the detainee records are through the portal, each having been snagged and chucked into the room beyond. The Torchlight and Whitehearth boxes next on his agenda. What he can, at least.

Cooper is fully invested in this operation, especially after what he has seen. Notably, the bottle gifted to him has since been transferred to rest atop the DHS files. It waited patiently for its moment when it would light up those boxes from a failed administration. No one needed those.

And it was sounding like that moment would come sooner rather than later.

Head snapping around at the squak, Thomas freezes and listens. It is only the gesture from Claude and shakes him out of the sudden fear and back to moving boxes; taking a moment in the flurry to give the agent helping him an encouraging smile.

“There’s not enough time to get all this,” Reeves mutters as she grabs and hurls a few of the boxes labeled Interrogation boxes, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. She’s going for a “tasting” of the crime and injustices rather than the full buffet.

Biting her lower lip and rather than getting more boxes, Reeves instead unplugs one of the computers to carry more carefully from the room in the UK to the one just a few feet away in New York. It’s then she hears the chirp from the radio, emphasizing the sentiment she just said — there’s no time — and she hesitates, then hurries the last couple of steps toward the conference room’s table, gently setting down the computer — hopefully it has digital copies of the boxes they won’t be able to get.

“We should move,” she whispers. “Door or hide.” She gestures to herself, then Claude, then rubs her nose, getting a smudge of dust on it. “Which is it, boys?”

Claude looks back to the folder he’s holding, confusion and horror painted on his face. “My vote is bloody murder,” he says with a whispered exasperation, turning the file folder to face Reeves and Cooper. Claude can’t think straight in the moment, all he can do is reiterate his last point.

“Bloody fuckin’ murder.”


Whitehearth Depot

Plastic curtains partition off a large portion of the depot illuminated by stark, ceiling-mounted lights.

“What the fuck?” Alistair whispers again.

Beyond the plastic curtains are rows of hospital beds, upon which rest a dozen detainees in gray slip uniforms. Their heads are shaved on one side, mouth and nose covered by respirator masks. The soft beep-click-hiss of ventilators echoes through the high-ceilinged depot. But it is not just the presence of medical hardware that is twisting Alistair McKeon’s guts.

The detainees, each and every one of them, have some sort of implant surgically mounted against the right side of their skull. It’s a cylindrical device about the size of a beer can with a bundle of braided wires sticking out of it that connects to some sort of server rack sitting in the center of the triage space on a wheeled cart. Fresh scar tissue surrounds the cranial jack the device is connected to.

Alistair sucks in a sharp, trembling breath and looks back to Zachery, Esme, and Liza. “What the fuck?

"I'm not even supposed to be here," is the only thing Zachery knows to answer, at the end of a breath. His brow now knitted tight, his eye stays on the bodies visible, failing to blink lest he might miss something if he does.

The cricket bat still hangs from his fingers, and for a moment, he leans back on his heels as though going back is an option.

Then, after that second's consideration, he simply steps forward and away from the group. Every subsequent footfall follows more closely and more determined than the last, his eye locking onto every shaved head in turn as he begins to pass them by, searching. "You have to be here," he whispers, passing unfamiliar faces.

"Help me look for someone." He says, voice raised along with a hand, waving others forward along with him. "White, fair-skinned, brunette. Big doe eyes."

He trails off, too busy to fish other descriptors from his brain. "She has to be here."

“Wow, this is some sci-fi stuff. Though I guess science fact given we’re seeing this,” Liza remarks, though by the look on her face she’s clearly struggling with the idea of it being something real. “I don’t know what’s going on but—“

But Zachery is already looking intently at the detainees. The blonde‘s eyes train to the black globe of a security camera before going back to the very unexpected sight. She pauses, hesitating for a brief moment before she moves after Zachery.

“I don’t know that ‘brunette’ and ‘doe-eyes’ are going to help in this situation, Dr. Miller,” Liza gestures towards the row, glancing at the shaved heads and respirators that make it more than difficult to see faces, much less recognize them. “You’re going to have to be more specific than that. Though I wonder if your wife knows you’re staring at someone’s lovely doe eyes—“

She cuts herself off to look back in the direction of Alistair and Esme. “I really don’t like the idea of leaving these people but I have no idea how to transport them out with those things attached. I don’t think it’s like The Matrix where you can just unplug someone and they get flushed out a pod. We’ve got to be fast either way, not sure how actively we’re being watched.”

Liza’s full attention goes back to Zachery. “Your wife has pretty doe eyes, do you want to explain this at all?” Her tone is curious, bordering on the edge of suspicion as she directs the question towards the only one not shocked at finding human experimentation practically out of science fiction.

Alistair’s eyes track from side to side as he grapples with what he’s seeing, remembering something that had happened back at the farmhouse.

“What the fuck is that?” Alistair asks, pointing at Claude, to which the older man just gives him a befuddled look.

“Presumably a six dollar haircut?” Claude retorts, but Alistair is already closing in on him.

“No, that.” Alistair says, starting to reach for Claude’s head. Claude, of course, takes affront like an unruly housecat and swats at Alistair, and they go back and forth like that for a minute until Alistair takes one of Claude by the wrist and then pulls up his hair on the side of his head…

…revealing a port in the side of his skull.

Claude.” Alistair says, thumbing the metal rim around the port. The two lock eyes, and Claude brings a shaky hand up, fingers brushing over the metal like he’s only just now noticing it. He pulls his fingers away like it burned him, and Alistair lets his other hand go.

“He was plugged into the machines.” Esme says with a nod in Claude’s direction. “Everyone there was.”

That elicits a look back from Alistair. “I thought you meant like—intubation.”

“I dunno what that is.” Esme says with a wrinkle of her nose. “He had wires in his bloody head. They all did.”

“Jesus Christ,” Alistair hisses under his breath. “Miller—Miller.” He starts to head toward Zachery, then watches Liza trying to manage that particular moment of mania and instead turns and steps over a dangling trail of wires and over to the machine at the center of this nightmarish cyberpunk starfish.

Alistair checks a couple of the monitors built into the wheeled cart, then looks at manual switches and connection ports. He can’t make heads or tails of any of it. Behind Alistair, Esme is frozen in silent horror looking at the scene. But it isn’t out of just a child’s horror, more so than familiarity. Alistair only remembers she’s there when she pulls a Zachery and goes running into the group of detainees.

But she isn’t helping Zachery look for Nicole. She’s looking for—


Theo!” Esme yelps, nearly tripping over cables connecting detainees to the hub as she scrambles to the bedside of a boy of roughly ten years, likewise plugged into the machine. “Theo! Theo!” She screams, pawing at him and shaking him, trying to wake him up. When she reaches for the device plugged into the side of Theo’s head, Alistair grabs her by the wrist.

“Wait!” He snaps, and Esme wheels around and angrily slaps at him. He takes her other wrist. “Esme listen to Messer. If we unplug him it might—”

“I unplugged Claude and he was fine!” Esme shouts, her shrill cry echoing in the depot. “He was fine!”

Alistair looks at Theo, then the others, and back again. “Did it look like this?” He asks while Esme struggles in his grip. “Esme, did it look like this? Were they hooked up like this?”

Esme twists, actually taking a moment to look around. She is silent, breathing heavily, panicked. “No,” Esme whispers, some of the fight leaving her. “Yes? I—I don’t remember.”

Fuck,” Alistair hisses, then lets go of Esme’s hand and feels in her hair for the same thing Claude had. He finds nothing and lets her go. “Miller, Messer.” Alistair sharply whispers, looking over to them. “What’ve we got?”

Not Nicole, unfortunately.

Of course she's not. Zachery's pace hasn't slowed by the time he comes to that conclusion, coming to an abrupt halt when he turns to throw a one-eyed murderglare in Liza's direction as if he can't quite decide what to do with the fact that everyone knows him better than he'd like. But between the yelping and the questions, all Liza gets for a snappy comeback is, "Not right now, thanks."

Movements as tight as his set jaw, he looks out once more toward the beds, scanning faces while taking a deep breath, then looks finally at Esme and Alistair. "What we've got is bodies," he states grimly, because fuck, knowing more than that would be peachy right now, but here we are.

Hurried steps take him toward Theo this time. The cricket bat is slid onto the bed before he touches not Theo, but the cable, to try and track it back toward any sort of manual input short of the server rack. "If we're leaving him," he starts in the same, flat voice while he leans to peer behind the bed, under, wherever. "And they know we were here, your brother's going to be other side of the fucking grass either way. Any more of those useful words of yours, Messer?"

"I could use some of your useful words explaining why you seemed convinced just now that your wife is here," Liza's tone is serious, but it's Alistair's words that pull her attention. They need to make a plan and their time is limited. "I'm not sure we can evacuate everyone. We can risk trying to unplug someone, but even if we do they'll likely need medical attention and not just be able to walk right out of here," she notes, hesitation in her tone.

"But… we either unplug them now and risk it or we're stuck leaving them to whatever they're going to do to them." She lets out a breath. "We might be able to try and wheel your brother out, but I don't think we can do that for more than one person. As much as I hate to say it, it might be better… give them at least a fighting chance to get out of this." It seems, currently, that Zachery is going to get ignored while she focuses on the more important people. Mostly, she's looking at Esme. She's gonna have to make a choice if unplugging Theo is wise.

It’s a lot to ask a girl who isn’t even old enough to drive.


The Mill


It’s the only warning Emily gets before Gutierrez under-hand tosses a pair of keys liberated off of the guard to her. She’s able to snatch them out of the air easily enough. “One’s gotta be for the truck!” Gutierrez calls down from the second-floor catwalk.

Down on the ground floor Eloise Cosgrove, now disconnected from the sedation system, slides her legs over the side of the table and touches bare feet to the floor with wobbly knees. She looks up at Lance with wide, dark eyes and stares without understanding at him. But when she sees the other prisoners, ghastly as it is, being liberated it’s all the context for the moment she needs. Eloise reaches out and curls her fingers into Lance’s shirt.

Get me the fuck out’f here.” Eloise hisses with desperation.

Widened blue eyes turn up with alarm, adrenaline rushing now. Emily catches the keys in an awkward duck clap of hands, then moves while trying to sort by feel which key goes where. The rubber-encased key's got to be the one for the truck. "Okay, everyone, this way! Follow me." Her eyes don't lift to instill a pied piper instinct to follow. It's not even a thought in her mind to reinforce it. The urgency to get out feels imperative enough on its own.

She hard-shoves the door to the outside open, reaching up to the top to flick aside the nub of metal that'll keep the hydraulic door from closing in. One less barrier between them and the escapees. Emily moves out into the cold rain with a shudder even through her layers, a pang of sympathy for the barefooted prisoners. She moves to the back of the truck, pulling aside the hanging canvas over its back, pulling aside and down the hatch to make it easier to climb.

"Come on, come on," Emily gestures back to them with a wave of her hand, quickly moving out of the way toward the front of the truck once that's done. In her rush, she approaches from the American side of the cab and yanks the door open.

Back inside the Mill, Lance tries his best to deal with Eloise. “Hey, hey, easy—” He says, lifting his hands up towards Eloise, then flashes her a reassuring smile, “—that’s the plan, Cosgrove. C’mon, you’ve read your own scripts—I’m a Ferryman.“

Technically true, at least. The American accent certainly doesn’t hurt the claim.

He motions to the others once, his voice turning more serious, “Can you walk? We need to get everyone to the truck before the shift change gets here. If this turns into a fight before the negation drugs wear off on everyone, this is gonna get messy fast.” They don’t want this ending like the last mass rescue did.

Eloise sucks in a sharp breath through her teeth, looking wide-eyed in disbelief at Lance. She looks bewildered, quite obviously delirious from the sedatives wearing off. She blinks in a stupor and looks around at the other detainees moving out of the front door into the driving wind and rain. Those that heard Emily’s command guiding those who didn’t. She takes one more look at Lance and takes him by the arms.

We have to get the fuck out of here,” Eloise hisses, and Lance can feel her thumbs pressing hard into his forearms. There’s not just confusion in her eyes, but also a bone-deep dread.

Up above, there’s a few clanging footfalls and then a whirr-hiss as Gutierrez vaults the railing and lands with a crash on the Mill floor. “Gerken and friends, let’s go!” Gutierrez barks, trying to snap Eloise’s attention to him. It works and she wheels around toward the shout.

“Go! Out to the truck! Now!” Gutierrez orders, unholstering his sidearm as he does one last check inside the Mill. Eloise looks back to Lance, takes him by the hand, and moves toward the door.

Out in the driving rain, Emily recognizes her mistake the moment she climbs into the cab. It’s easy enough for her to slide down the bench seat to the appropriate side, hands trembling from the cold and adrenaline as she tries key after key in the ignition. Eventually one not only slides in but turns over and the truck roars to life with a rumbling growl of a diesel engine. Headlights come on bright and crisp against the torrential rain, lighting up rows and rows of detention buildings on short stilts.

Through the beams of the headlights, Emily can see the detainees walking barefoot across the wet asphalt toward the rear of the truck. Those under the sway of her persuasion leading those who are not. Up ahead, she sees something that makes her heart sink into her stomach:

Distant headlights, slowly approaching.

"Shit," Emily breathes as she slides to the right seat. The truck come to life, her head lifts again only then to see the other approaching headlights. "Fuck," she whispers next.

The truck is nudged into drive, pulled forward just enough so there's less ground the rescued prisoners have to travel to jump in the back. She leaves her foot on the brake, looking ahead nervously into the dark. The window is rolled down enough so she can tell those closest, "Hurry!" without shouting it.

“We’re going,” Lance replies in exasperation, moving to help Eloise walk as she starts to head towards the exit, hustling her out into the rain. He ducks his head against the fall of cold water with a grimace, moving to start helping people up into the back - the actress first, the most important of the rescuees in his opinion.

He’ll get in last, after everyone else.
A retreat in trucks from racists in pursuit. It’s a familiar scenario, and his heart’s beating a mile an hour. I wish Avi or Eric were here he thinks, fleetingly.

When she hears the tailgate pull up, Emily lifts her eyes toward the oncoming lights and eases carefully off of the brake. "Okay, Em," she whispers to herself. "Just like Grand Theft Auto. One and done. No save-scumming. Don't fuck this up."

And then it's time to pretend like they belong, that the truck's activity is normal, for however long possible.


Whitehearth Administrative Building

Claude drops the file he’d been holding to the floor. It lands face up and a series of photographs scatter out of it, showing both adults and children on hospital beds with surgical implants in their skulls that allow some sort of device to be plugged into their heads. Other photographs show smaller, more advanced devices that require less surgical work. There’s dozens of photographs like this; some of living subjects, others of corpses in body bags.

Claude disappears in mid-stride and the door to the office flies open as if on its own. “What the fuck was that?” A guard can be heard saying to himself down the hall, followed by a sudden and sharp scream that turns into a gurgling cry of pain, and then silence.

A moment later bloody footprints track back into the room from the hall and Claude fades back into visibility holding the guard’s radio in one, wet, red hand. “We have t’go.” Claude insists, looking back and forth between Cooper and Reeves.

In that same moment, Reeves’ phone vibrates. It’s Alistair. He’s taken a photograph of the hangar door at the depot, then two smaller interior doors that go to supply closets. He’s also sent a photograph of prisoners hooked up to some kind of machine, accompanied by a simple text:

A. McKeon

Cooper was just trying to look at those photographs when Claude drops the whole thing and disappears. He starts to protest, but hears the door and freezes.

The gurgling sound makes Thomas grimace, though after seeing those photos he doesn't protest it. Instead, he decides it is safe enough to drop to a knee to quickly gather the file up. Once it is on a messy pile, it is then held up to Reeves to toss through the gate before it closes. The damage that file alone could do…

With a whirl of leg servos, Cooper is on his feet snagging the Molotov cocktail and glares at the DoH files. It was going to feel so good to watch those files go up. Then it occurs to him…

“I don't smoke.”

Turning with a sheepish look, Cooper tips the bottle towards Claude. “Gotta light?”

Gawd! Thomas suddenly felt so uncool, in front of the cool kids.

Reeves’ fingers close on the messy handful of photographs, and she looks down at them and presses her lips together before softballing the pile into the conference room and stepping back out. The door closes on the mountain of evidence, and Reeves looks too pale by far, even for the Englishwoman’s pale complexion. Her look is grim when she looks up at Cooper, listening to the god-awful sounds in the hallway.

When Claude reappears, she nods tersely, about to open the door again — to anywhere but here, and finds the photograph of the new door she needs to go to a place a little more specific.

And another. And another.

And then another, strikingly like the ones she’s still trying to get out of her head that they just threw into the SESA conference room across the pond.

The sound she makes is part growl, part whimper, and Reeves looks up again, dark eyes flashing with anger as she reaches for the door again and flings it open, ushering through Claude and Cooper. She only then registers Cooper’s question, and shakes her head slightly — this cool kid doesn’t smoke, and neither should you, Thomas.

“Go,” she says, and they can witness the grim reality in person of the photographic horrors they’d just seen, just on the other side of the door.

Claude takes the bottle from Cooper and produces a lighter from his inside pocket. Firelight illuminates Claude’s face as he lights the rag, then, staring at the rows of files while he holds the molotov cocktail in his hand, has a pang of something uncomfortable.

“Claude, stop.”


Claude! Stop!”

He hurls the bottle with a scream, shattering it on a shelf. The fire spreads with fluidic grace, rolling down the shelves and spreading out onto the floor. Eyes wide and wild, Claude backs up into Cooper and practically shoves him through the door to


Whitehearth Depot

Esme’s long silence is broken by the sound of a locker door flying open, revealing a burning office on the other side. Cooper stumble-falls through the open doorway first, followed by a ghost-eyed Claude who turns to see the ghoulish display in the depot with further silent rage. He reaches up to feel the ports on the side of his head behind his ear just as Reeves arrives at his back, closing the door behind her just as fire alarms sound.

Alistair looks to the open bay doors of the depot, hoping that the others aren’t far behind. “We’ve hit a bit of a snag,” he says, turning to the new arrivals. “We don’t know if we should unhook them or—”

Esme steps up to a detainee that isn’t her brother and yanks the cables out of the side of his head. There’s a sharp gasp from the detainee who bolts upright with a scream, then rolls and falls off the table onto the floor. Esme drops the bundle of cables in her hand and takes a step back, covering her mouth with one hand.

The detainee, a man in his mid twenties, is remarkably alive. He immediately lets out a shriek of confusion from the floor and yelps, “Mom!?” Wheeling around, he looks up with blind confusion, clutching the side of his head where the cables were plugged in. “Wh—what—what’s—what—”

"Very much not your mum," Zachery replies in all his still dripping, scruffy, unkempt glory, the slack cables leading to Theo's head still held fast in one hand as he stares with fascination toward the door, then the detainee.

Then, when the cogs in his head grind rustily into position for a new decision, his monocular gaze snaps back to Theo. "Can't argue with the scientific method. Up you come." The palm of his free hand placed against the side of the boy's head, Zachery follows suit and pulls.


Yes, that is actually what Cooper manages to say as he comes through the door. No witty words or comments about needing to buy him dinner first. No… he says Ack.

He hadn’t had time to turn around when Claud shoved back against Thomas, so his back is to the group in the room as he stumbles back. The attempt to stop himself from falling on his ass is interrupted by the temporary lock up of his bionic leg. “Shhhiii…” He forces him to half hop until he can grab for the first table, just in time to see a little girl yank cables from someone’s head.

Oh, oh that’s just gross… Wrong and gross.

Pale green eyes are wide as he watches Zachery follow the girls lead. Leaning on the table he can only continue to stare. “Are you crazy?!” But he answers his own question, since the man did marry Nicole. He pushes away from the table, testing his leg, while waving off his questions, “Know what… Don’t answer that. Of course, you are, we all are.” They had to be, to be in this place.

Beatrix’s eyes widen and she lurches forward in what feels like slow motion to stop Esme but comes to a stop when the detainee seems to be…

Fine is a strong word.

There had been an argument about whether they could or should save everyone, but that conversation seems faint, underwater as she stares at the people plugged into machinery. “How many,” she begins, but her words don’t sound beyond a whisper, and she tries again. “How many can we get out before they know we’re here?” She turns to Alister.

“Your barn or…” she gestures to Cooper, “the US? We can just shove as many through a door as we can possibly get, and then sort them out later.” She looks to the young boy, Theo, as Zachery pulls the cord from the boy’s head.

Without waiting for approval from the others in the room, the agent darts to the closest berth to do the same to the detainee there, without waiting for approval from the others in the room. “Let’s get to it, then. Time is of the essence. As many as we can.”

"That's… one way to do this," Liza's expression is hard to read as she watches both Esme and Zachery unplug captives. That, however, seems to be the quickest route to an answer, and as they seem to be at least somewhat okay, she's already setting about unplugging a woman near her, not wasting time in attempting to free those nearby. "I'd rather give these people a fighting chance then leave them here to suffer in whatever experiments they're doing."

There's no sassy or quick-witted comment full of energy or cheer, this is something that needs much more focus than any quip about Britney Spears. Liza takes half a second to look in Esme's direction, giving the girl a bit of a nod of reassurance.

The woman Liza unplugs lets out a gasp and reaches out, latching onto Liza’s arm. “Duncan?” She cries, tears welling up in her eyes as she looks around with wild confusion. “No—no, no, no, oh no. Duncan?” She croaks with a tremor of dread and mourning in her voice. “Oh no, not again. Oh not again no. No.

When it becomes clear to Esme that there’s no immediate negative repercussions for unplugging one of the detainees, she immediately turns to watch Zachery unplug Theo. The boy twists on the table the moment the cable is disconnected and whines out a confused, discomforted noise as his eyes snap open. He has the look of someone who was roused from sleepwalking, jolting all of his limbs as if unaccustomed to them.

Theo!” Esme yells, pushing beside Zachery to throw her arms over her brother, kissing his forehead and cheeks. Theo grunts in confusion and puts a palm against Esme’s face and nudges her away.

Esme stop ugh,” Theo groans, only then getting in sync with the real world and realizing he has no context for where or when he is. His wide, bright eyes scan around the room and lock on Zachery’s unfamiliar face and freezes in panic.

Esme takes her brother’s hands and looks up between him and Zachery. “It’s okay, he’s a friend. It’s a jail-break, okay? We’re playin’ jailbreak.”

Nearby, Alistair rounds on Reeves and takes her shoulder in one hand. “Wait.” He says with emphasis, trying to ground her in place. “It’s the States or nowhere. We don’t know what kind of—tracking hardware these people have. Company had radio isotopes over a decade ago, I’m willing to bet every single one of these people can be tracked down to the fucking tenth decimal on latitude and longitude.” He taps the side of his head, indicating their implanted hardware.

“We take them to your bosses and it’s gonna be an international fucking incident. If you—they—are fine with that, then let’s do it.” Alistair indicates, glancing back at the small family drama happening over by Zachery. “But if you don’t think they will be, then we gotta figure out a neutral ground somewhere outside of the UK, and fucking fast.”

"Sure, a friend," Zachery agrees without conviction, grabbing his cricket bat and shrinking a step back once he's eyed and giving Esme and Theo space with a sharp breath outward. Relief, however short lived.

His eye lingers on the siblings for a moment, before he scrubs a hand over his face and looks out over the people still needing unplugging, giving a small shake of his head. "Where can't they touch us?" He asks, gaze snapping to Liza while he steps toward the nearest bed across a way to help disconnect people with barely any fucking forethought. "Where's a place to disappear? I'm fine with being crazy," he looks at Cooper, before focusing fully on the task at hand, "So long as you prove yourselves to be competent. Aren't you supposed to know these things?"

Grabbing a set of wires of the person lying next to him, Cooper wrinkles his nose a bit before pulling them. He stares at the leads in his hands for a moment, before giving a full body shudder and dropping them. “So wrong…” But that disgust is what drives him to move towards another.

At the mention of where to take them, Cooper pauses on his mission and looks at Lisa and Reeves. Looking back down the line of prone bodies, uncertainty and worry war with a need to save these people. Enough so he seriously considers ruining his career for them. “My first instinct is to take them to the US, but… there is no way we could take on the European Union, who's probably been waiting for something like this to give them an excuse to come down on us.” He continues to stare down the rows of people, allegedly expressives, his brain scrambling for an alternative.

Cooper snaps his fingers and points at Reeves, “The Republic of Madagascar.” One of the most advanced and forward thinking countries in the world. But then his finger sags at one thought, “Have you been there? Can you get us there? They are as pro-expressive as they get and are not a ruin of their former selves. It gives us time to petition the US… and or find a way to block trackers. And they are isolated… other than that, Germany, last I heard, has been thumbing their noses at all that… but they're also surrounded by Union states.”

Beatrix turns wildly at the hand on her shoulder, then reaches for Alistair’s arm to steady her. “You’re right,” she whispers. It’s the argument she’d made herself, wasn’t it? “I—”

Cooper’s suggestion draws a shake of her head from her. “I don’t have a door there unless we find one and there’s no time to research, is there? If you can find me a photo of a door on your phone,” she tells the SESA agent. “Otherwise…” she trails off, her fingers curling into the fabric of Alistair’s sleeve as she closes her eyes to think.

“That church in Elmhurst maybe, I’ve been there, or what’s left of Providence, if the door I have there even still exists after the fires, or…” she opens her eyes, looking from Alistair to Cooper and back. “Bannerman?” The fitting irony of that isn’t lost on her. “Just tell me where. It’ll be temporary, because then we’ll need people to get whatever’s in their heads out and destroyed as soon as humanly possible. And then we move them again.”

The mention of Zachery being a friend gets a little snort and causes a grin at the corner of Liza's mouth, but it's brief. "Bannerman's a good place to hide," she notes, "but that's in the US. It's a good stop over point to get them to safety and then move them elsewhere. Even if they are tracking them, we can get out of the US again quickly. Bannerman, at least, is somewhere guaranteed safe. Not that a trip to Madagascar doesn't sound lovely."

Liza looks back to Zachery, but it's clear she's decided ignoring him is the best bet before she looks to Reeves. "I've got a few pictures of Bannerman on my phone."

“Bannerman’s island is a tomb,” Alistair says with a sudden ratcheting of tension. “We’re not bringing them to a fucking—fucking tomb.” His hands clench around his rifle and he glances at the victims of this technofetishist barbarism. “Gutierrez has to have an idea, this was his fucking—fucking plan.

As Alistair turns toward the bay doors and spots an approaching glow of headlights, he looks back over his shoulder and hisses, “Hurry!” Then, he raises his rifle and peers through the scope into the dark and the rain…

Meanwhile, Nearby

«SECDEV this is White-3, we have a code red at the Mill.»

Emily’s heart races as that voice crackles over the truck’s radio. They’d passed the other vehicle leaving the mill thirty some seconds ago and were more than halfway to the depot, but it looks like the cat is out of the bag.

«White-3 this is SECDEV repeat?»

“Don’t stop.” Gutierrez says from the passenger seat, clicking the safety off on his handgun. “I didn’t hear any gunshots earlier, which means the sentry towers on the way into the Depot are probably still up. They’re going to fire on us.” He says with some certainty, looking over at Emily. “Stay low, don’t take your foot off the gas.”

«SECDEV this is White-3 repeat CODE RED at the Mill. Multiple escapees. Transport seen leaving north on the main thoroughfare.»

Up ahead, through the blur of rain streaming down the windshield between wiper beats, Emily can see the large warehouse-sized hangar depot and bright light spilling out of the open bay doors. At the same time, she sees two bright lights from towers overwatching the depot sweeping toward the truck across the road.

«All defense forces this is SECDEV. Security lockdown in effect. Possible escape in army transport bound for Depot, lethal force authorized.»

In the back of the truck, the voice on the radio can’t be heard. Eloise looks at the bewildered faces of the dozens of people crammed into the back of the military transport, dressed in thin hospital gowns against the frigid cold of a rainy British spring. When the peal of sirens roar in the night, Eloise turns wide eyes toward Lance, her rain-slicked hair plastered to her face making her look more like a frightened child than a woman in her forties.

“We’re gonna get out of here,” Lance tells her encouragingly, flashing a smile that shows more confidence than he feels; shifting to shrug the slung shotgun off his back, he peeks over the tailgate. “Just keep low if they start shooting, and— “

He glances back over his shoulder, “If anyone’s abilities start coming back and they think they’d be useful, speak up.” A teleporter would be nice right about now.

The moment those sirens kick in, down goes Emily's foot on the accelerator, rushing them toward the depot. This was the area she'd known Alistar, Liza, Zachery, and the kid to have been off to— and now that they know they're going to be chased, shot at, the best way out seems through Reeves.

"How large a door can she open up?" she wonders to herself and Gutierrez. "We've got so many people we need to—"

Automatic gunfire comes from above, the clattering report of two tower sentries opening fire on the truck. Every third round is a blazing white-hot tracer that zips through the sky. The gunfire is first concentrated on the engine block of the truck, shards of metal and fragmented rounds pulverize the windshield, but the truck is meant to take some abuse. Steam blasts out of holes in the hood.

In the back of the truck, Lance’s words are cut off by the clatter of gunfire. Rounds tear through the canopy cover of the truck, but the guards aren’t aiming for the passengers yet. Even still, three people are struck by ricochets and errant gunfire, Lance watches two collapse to the bed in an instant. It’s only then that he realizes he’s the third as he feels something warm and wet blooming on his abdomen.

The headlights creep up and catch a glint off the rifle Alistair has pointed at them. Emily's hand slams down on the horn in two short blasts, hoping to convey a message of don't shoot before she hits the brakes and begins to cut the wheel to and back, bringing the truck sideways in the hangar entrance.

Alistair leaps backwards, watching the truck skid into place billowing with steam from the engine and gasoline from the ruptured gas tank. “We’ve gotta go!” Alistair screams. It will be less than a minute before an armed response team has arrived.

Emily bangs her hand against the wall between truck and bed. "Take cover in the depot!" she shouts loudly, over the rain and sirens. Then she's popping her door open, slipping down to the concrete below.

She runs around the front of the truck, arms waving over her head. "It's us!" she shouts into the depot. "We have rescuees, we've got to go! Where's Reeves? We've got to go."

There is a resigned sigh as the debate ensues on where to take everyone, Cooper shakes his head and starts to counter argue the choices when the sound of the truck and gunfire overtakes the conversation.

As soon as he hears Emily screaming, Cooper does something he rarely does… “Son of a Bitch.” He curses. Without another thought he hurries intent on helping Emily and Lance, shouting back at Reeves, “Just pick a place!! I don't care if it’s in the middle of the freakin’ SESA bullpen… I’ll take the blame if they get tracked.”

His HR file was already a mountain… but there were simply more important things than his rep and career when lives were on the line.

Boom! Chk-chk. Boom! The shotgun in Lance’s hands goes off once, twice in response to the gunfire - with less intent on actually hitting the watchtowers at this distance but more hoping they duck back from their own gun placements and buy them some time.

“Is everyone…?” He turns his head, then stops— sucking in a breath as he realizes what happened. One hand drops down to cover the wound, pressing inward to suppress bleeding like he was taught. Fingers shortly soaked with blood. It’s bad, and he knows it’s bad, and he can feel a chill creeping up his spine.

Don’t let them realize, Lance. Keep them calm. Take advantage of shock before the pain hits. Before he starts losing feeling in his fingers.

“Put pressure on those injuries,” he calls through the chaos of the truck while he still has the chance, “Get— khh— out, get inside, stay low— !”

Okay!” Beatrix Reeves’ voice is a little high, shrill even, as she shouts back at Cooper. The pupils of her eyes hold that miniature backlit door that shows up when she reorders the map within her mind. There isn’t much time, and with the cacophony surrounding them, it’s hard to concentrate. Her body sways slightly, like she might pass out, but then she stumbles forward to the nearest supply closet, yanking the door open.

Beyond the door is the entryway of the Brick House Museum — quiet at this time of night — it’s still last night in New York, but the little museum has been closed for a few hours. Reeves leans against the door, both to keep it open for the people who need to pass through it and to use it as a support so that she doesn’t slump to the ground.

She weakly gestures for the others to go through with her free hand, the other grasping the door handle like a life preserver.

Thank God Reeves is already here, already on it. When Emily finds her— sees the door open to elsewhere, she knows. Her worried expression kicks up in momentary relief. "Everybody through the door!" she lifts her voice commandingly. Her head turns back to those still piling out of the truck as she waves her arm. "Let's go!" she shouts.

In reaching up to help steady the last of the prisoners scrambling off the transport, she sees one of the escapees shaking the shoulder of one of the two that were shot dead, trying to encourage her to move. Emily's eyes flicker in the shadows before she pulls deep from inside. "Hey!" she calls, her voice breaking. It's enough to get him to look up, though. "We have to go. Come on," she says, tears blotting the corners of her vision.

They were going to need to be either lucky or damn quick to make it out themselves.

Once he's pulled out, successfully urged to let go and move on by the sound of her conviction, Emily turns to see the additional mess of victims the other teams have pulled out of the machines here, a bewildered look on her face. She looks to Liza in a silent exclamation of being rapidly overwhelmed by all of this, then back to Lance. In the moment, she doesn't yet note the dampness of his dark clothing, or the way he's beginning to struggle. She leafs an arm around his shoulder anyway to usher the last of them from the truck on toward the door. "Go, go," she urges him ahead. "Don't look back."

Liza catches Emily's gaze with a tiny bit of a nod, a reassurance that yeah, it's natural for this whole entire thing to be overwhelming. The way that Lance is having a bit of difficulty does not escape the blonde's vision as she moves forward to check on him. This isn't the first time she's seen someone hide an injury. She offers Lance an arm to hold onto if necessary and he's given a tiny nod as well—though this one's to make sure he knows that she's aware something is wrong and is, quietly, there to help.

"I've got you."

"Fucking go!" This is the only thing Zachery ends up saying to one of the last detainees, after practically hauling a shell shocked looking man off of a bed by his shoulders and giving him a rough shove with the business end of the cricket bat to get him shakily started toward the newly created door.

This is why he didn't do Ferrymen missions when he was first acquainted with them, what seems like a lifetime ago. This exact kind of fucking mess, and his distaste for it sits all too heavy on his brow as he looks between familiar faces— and then at the two strangers already dead, eye lingering for a few seconds as if his brain damage may once again have gotten the better of him.

But. "Emily! OUT!" He shouts suddenly, before even looking for her, and upon finding her location immediately narrowing his eyes at Lance. His own march toward the door is accompanied by a dry scrape of a comment at Reeves. "Is it too late to take you up on that seaside retreat?" But something else occurs to him before there's even room to answer, and he whips around to scan the room. "Did Esme go through?"

Zachery scans the room, trying to do a head-count:

Lance is coming around the side of the truck with—the—actress who plays Eve Mas on River Styx. Okay. He’s also bleeding. Profusely. But Liza has him now, they’re going to the exit.

Emily is nearby, already directed to the exit. Okay, good. Cooper is nearby, meeting with Liza and Lance. Okay. Okay.

A sea of other faces, people screaming. There’s Claude, pushing them toward the exit. Like a bearded sheepdog borking his angry little head off. This is fine.


No it’s not.

Behind Claude, outside of his field of view, Esme is walking the wrong way. Theo isn’t with her. Zachery swivels, Theo is being helped through the exit by another detainee. His attention snaps back to Esme, walking toward the entrance of the depot where headlights are approaching.

No, no, no, no, no.

Leighton!” Someone else shouts. It’s Gutierrez. He’s coming around from the other side of the truck, firing his handgun at the approaching vehicle. His Horizon armor whirrs loudly as he takes jogging steps toward her. “Leighton, we’re leaving!

The approaching vehicle, a desert-camo painted Hummer comes skidding to a halt sideways in the rain. A soldier in the back takes two hands on a mounted gun placement at the back, pivoting toward—

Deafness. Confusion. Concussion.

Gutierrez is thrown off of his feet, hydraulics of his armor stripped off of him like the foil wrapper of a stick of gum. Concrete dimples downward like a thumb pressing into clay. The ceiling of the depot buckles upwards. Lights explode. Security cameras pop like grapes. The truck Emily had driven into the depot is thrown onto its side.

Claude is launched like a bullet back through the air. He passes Zachery and slides across the wet depot floor, hands shielding his face.

But the bigger—devastating—blast wave moves outward in a cone, a shockwave sweeping from Esme Leighton out to the military truck. The rain is pushed back in a sphere. The truck is lifted up off all four wheels and thrown backward like it was a toy. The soldier in the back is stripped like a par-boiled rib. Clothes shredded to ribbons, meat torn off bone, bone scattered to the wind like broken twigs from a bird’s nest.

After three tumbles the vehicle explodes in the night, a plume of fire and gasoline in the dark.

Esme wobbles in the tiny crater she created beneath herself. Blood covering her face from her nose down. Red leaking out of her ears. Her knees buckle and she collapses onto her side.

Sparks shower from the ceiling, all sound is a high-pitched tinnitus whine.

Alistair is shouting something from the exit, waving his hand toward it, issuing detainees through.

This is madness.

Emily staggers to the side, luck being on her side in that the truck had in the immediate way of being hit by that blast— and again being on her side in that the vehicle doesn't clip her as it tips on its side and lands mere feet from her. Ears ringing nonetheless, her head whips around to see Esme— Gutierrez.

"Go," she shouts to Lance and Liza and waves them on. She can't really hear herself say it. "I'm right behind you."

Then she's sprinting in the direction of their fallen operations lead, crouching and trying to lift him. The armor's fallen apart, sure, but he's still as heavy as a full-grown man tends to be. "Fuck," the little Epstein swears, as Epsteins do. She tries and fails to raise him up properly enough to shoulder his weight. "Fuck!" Instead, she kicks off the leaking pieces of broken armor, flips him onto his back, and holds on tightly to his wrist and forearm as she backpedals in step as fast as she can toward the door. She nearly jumps out of her skin when one of the prisoners grabs his other arm and helps her, but nods gratefully for the assist.

Cooper is in the middle of ushering people when the explosion occurs at his back. Working his jaw as if doing so would help his hearing - spoiler alert it doesn't - Cooper turns to stare at the crumpled form of the little girl with a slack jaw. He knew she blew a wall out, but it was different seeing it.

He gives a shake of his head and catches sight of Claude crumpled there on the ground not far from him. “Oh crap!” He says… or might have. It is hard to tell through the high pitched level tone shrieking at him.

There was no time to see if the tall Brit would wake on his own. So trusting the others are cared for, Cooper crouches at the man’s head and hooks his arms under Claude's armpits and… “Lift with your legs, Thomas,” he says through clenched teeth.

He is extremely thankful for all the physical therapy that Marlowe put him through to make sure he was ready, as Cooper takes a stumbling step back to get his balance. Claude was not light. With a grunt of effort the downed man is drug towards the portal as fast as Cooper can shuffle.

Zachery's barely stumbled back and turned his head to watch Claude sail by him before he's trying to direct his attention back to where the action's taking place. "You," he grates unheard, through gritted teeth, squinting with already limited vision into sparks and what suddenly seems like too much light between him and the fresh trail of destruction.

"You—…" He tries again, but still can't fucking hear it, and wrinkles his nose before stalking away from Reeves with all the determination he can muster, dropping the cricket bat to the floor a few heavy footfalls in and picking up his pace. "You little shit!" He yells to Esme, humourless grin cracked. "You dragged us into this, you don't get to fucking stay here!"

The girl is grabbed, first limply pulled up toward him by a fistfull of coat like she's a misbehaving cat, then gracelessly lifted further up into his arms as he turns and starts stalking back the way he came, fixing Reeves with the sharpest possible look just in case she's thinking of closing the door prematurely.

It’s only once Lance is out of the truck and leaning on Liza that the extent of his injuries become apparent; red staining through his shirt and jacket, spilling down his leg despite the hand pressed tightly to his side.

“Good,” he mutters to her, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, “Make sure— Cosgr— ove gets out, and don’t let Emily— don’t— I think I— ”

Lance falls silent, the entirety of his weight slumping against the other agent and his hand sliding limply to one side.

There's a lot going on and Liza isn't at all under the impression she can do all of the things Lance is trying to request. She did, however, say she'd got him. When he slumps against her, the blonde glances briefly over her shoulder for only a moment before she's doing her darndest to get Lance on through without it looking too obvious for morale that he's out.

She is, however, short and while she's gone through physical training, it's hard to maneuver an unconscious body. So without another look back, she drags Lance towards the portal as fast as possible. "Don't worry, you're stronger than this," she mutters, though it's hard to tell if that's for Lance or for her.

Reeves struggles to keep her feet when that concussive blast rattles the area; luckily she’s flat against the door which is pushed open all the way, with the wall right behind it, or she might have ended up concussed herself. As it is, her eyes are glazed with fatigue as she watches with horror. Lance is bleeding; Esme is collapsing. Rodriguez and Claude knocked to the ground.

For a moment, what’s behind her flashes to the interior of the supply closet, but she focuses again, and the Brick House in Brooklyn replaces it once again.

“Hurry,” she urges — though she knows they’re moving as fast as they can. And she’s holding the door as long as she can — but her ability to focus, or even stand, slips with every second.

As Zachery grabs Esme and lifts her small frame up off the ground and turns to move, three more vehicles are speeding toward the depot and the sound of an approaching helicopter is drawing closer. Zachery is the last person, other than Reeves, left in the depot. He hurries past the truck the detainees arrived in, past the hub of computer hardware Theo and the others were hooked up to, hurries past the—

Shouts erupt at the entrance to the depot, followed by a demand and then instantaneous gunfire. Bullets tear through the truck, through the machine Theo had been hooked up to, ricochet off the wall around Reeves. By the time Zachery is reaching the small door at the supply closet he’s barreling into Reeves like an out of control rugby player. He collides with her as bullets pass through the doorway, buzzing over his shoulder and past his head, shattering brick inside of the basement of the Brick House museum on the

The Brick House Museum
Jackson Heights

NYC Safe Zone
United States

10:37 pm

other side.

Zachery collapses with Esme in his arms on top of Reeves. Multiple hands reach down to roll Zachery off, and there is blood coming from somewhere. Reeves has blood on her, so does Esme and Zachery.

Alistair is quick to pull Esme out of Zachery’s arms, checking her for an injury. But when he sees blood bubbling up from Zachery’s chest, he sucks in a sharp and hissing breath. “Hospital—” he exhales breathlessly.

“Reeves!” Alistair cries. “We need to get to a hospital!

Zachery, head limp and eye somewhat unfocused, watches as Esme’s eyes flutter open next to him. She makes a small noise in the back of her throat, not quite recognizing what’s happening or happened.

They meet in the middle of a liminal space of unconsciousness, and then pass each other along on the way.

One to wakingness, and the other

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