Another Endgame — Tripwire


vf_aislinn_icon.gif vf_bowie_icon.gif vf_cardinal_icon.gif vf_delia_icon.gif vf_ellinka_icon.gif vf_hana_icon.gif vf_jonas_icon.gif vf_logan_icon.gif vf_lynette_icon.gif vf_quinn_icon.gif vf_rourke_icon.gif vf_steve_icon.gif vf_woods_icon.gif vf_ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Another Endgame — Tripwire
Synopsis The second team from the Hub stumbles into a trap and faces certain death at the hands of the Vanguard.
Date January 12, 2012

Make no mistake, the Vanguard are our enemies.

Fifteen foot tall windows let in long, dusty shafts of diffuse gray light from the cloudy skies. The third floor mill space was opened up years ago, with only rows of thick wooden and concrete supports holding up the ceiling to break up the cavernous emptiness. The brick walls hold in most sound, and the spacious vacuum between them provides considerable echo. There’s only sparse furniture up here, a ratty red fabric-upholstered sofa with tattered corners, a rickety coffee table stacked with cans and bottles, and a broken recliner with a white drop-cloth thrown over it. Two women sit on the couch, close to one-another, mostly silent.

They have committed themselves to unthinkable atrocities, they have executed billions of people in the name of genetic purity.

Robyn Quinn sits shakily with a handgun in her lap, eyes puffy and red, shoulders trembling from sobbing. Supportively, Delia Ryans reaches up and rests a hand on her shoulder, another on the gun. “It’s not cowardly,” Delia asserts, brows raised in worry. She’d been crying too, but she’s doing a better job of hiding it. “We know what happens, how it goes… there’s no shame in choosing to end it on your own terms.”

Those who turned to the Vanguard’s side during the early days of the outbreak are opportunists, cowards, and traitors to humanity.

Robyn gradually builds one nod into a series of slow, bobbing nods. Delia squeezes her shoulder, then draws her teeth over her lips and looks down to the floor. Her eyes shut, thick and heavy tears tumbling away down her cheeks. “You should go,” Robyn says softly, using her thumb to slide the handgun’s safety off. Delia looks back, her gaze wanders Robyn’s features, and she leans in to wrap her arms around the other woman in a momentary embrace that isn’t returned, before slowly disengaging. With a ragged sigh, Delia starts to stand, and then the sound of gunfire causes her to reflexively jolt.

When we move on that stronghold, we will be facing an army of indoctrinated soldiers who gave away their humanity for a chance to save their own lives.

Robyn looks up at Delia, then down to the gun in her lap, and then bolts up to her feet. “Was that— ” Neither she nor Delia finish the sentence. Instead, both go running across the hardwood floor toward the window overlooking the courtyard. There’s gunfire down below, Vanguard conscripts firing from behind vehicles at other people streaming in through the front gates. “Fuck!

Some of them were once our friends. Some of them are strangers. We have to look beyond the superficial, look beyond the people they once were and to the monsters they’ve chosen to become.

Grabbing a bolt-action rifle that rests by the window, Delia looks over to Robyn with a determined expression. “Let’s go, if we don’t fight— ” Suddenly, Robyn has forgotten her earlier plan, and it doesn’t take another word from Delia for her to begin hustling toward the stairs, gun in hand. Delia watches Robyn move, loading a round into the chamber of her rifle as she does, and then looks back out to the window at the sounds of shouting and gunfire.

We have to show them no quarter.

“Dad, sis… Be safe.”

We have to win

Munitions Depot

Textile Factory 17

Red Hook

“Go! Go I’ve bloody got it!” Braced in an open doorway, former Company agent James Woods braces his AK-47 against his shoulder and lays a spray of suppressing fire into the courtyard within the high brick walls of the factory grounds. One by one, people rush past him with shoes clapping down on concrete flooring. The blonde Brit ducks as a round of gunfire peppers the side of the wooden double-doors he holds open for Aislinn Graves, who is the first inside.

A blast of electricity flashes bright across Woods’ face, accompanied by a horrific scream and an explosion from the courtyard. Lynette Rowan and Steve Rickham come rushing in side-by-side after that, sparks issuing off of their hands and grounding on on the concrete underfoot. Steve’s eyes glow an electric blue as she moves, lighting up her face in the otherwise dark warehouse. Behind them, a sinuous black shadow slithers through the doorway and coils around boxes, moving out of sight with the ease of liquid darkness. A few pops of gunfire come next as Ygraine Fitzroy follows Steve and Lynette inside, and then lastly the rattle of automatic gunfire as two more Hub scouts — a wiry young redhead named Jonas, and surly former Ferrymen operator named Andy — come charging in ahead of Hana’s fighting retreat.

As they get inside the building, Woods and Andy push the double doors shut and slide heavy crates in front of it, even as bullets are cracking through the door leaving holes that bleed with diffuse gray daylight. “Fuck! Fuck’n hell! It’s too hot out there, a’lost track of Liz an’ her team!” Woods blurts out as he ducks away from the door with Andy. “This warehouse has a few back exits, uhh… we could…” he looks around, up at the shelves lined with firearms, over at a humvee covered by a large blue tarp. “Oh fuck me.”

“Oy, Woods, calmness.” Gunfire continues to pepper and pop across the brickwork as Andy rests a firm hand down on Woods’s houlder. “Ok, we’re in a good spot. The Ghost,” Andy looks over at Hana where she is positioned beside a window up against the brick, “chose a damn fine fallback, so what’s our next move?”

Jonas had moved away in the interim, wide-eyed and in disbelief as he approaches one of the tall shelves of firearms stacked atop one another, a ladder needed to ascend all the way to the highest level. No one noticed him break away, not with the sounds of gunfire popping around them. No one noticed the young man reach out for a crate tucked below one of the shelves marked grenades. “Holy shit, Jackpo— ”


Textile Factory 17

Red Hook

The ground floor of the munitions building explodes in a shower of brickwork and glass. The Vanguard conscripts ducked behind vehicles in the courtyard recoil from the blast. At the explosion, Delia and Robyn, trapped between the outer wall and the building itself, are thrown back and off of their feet. A cloud of dust and smoke rises from the building, followed by a series of splitting cracks and snaps punctuated with a corner of the building dropping down on itself in a partial collapse. Flames and smoke billow out from the collapsed area.

Fuck,” Robyn exhales breathlessly from the ground, spotting Delia getting to her feet with dust and flakes of broken glass in her hair. The redhead reaches down, pulling Robyn to her feet. They scramble for their dropped guns, hurrying down the side street between the wall and the warehouse, where the other Vanguard are just emerging from behind cover.

“The fuck happened!?” Robyn screams, and no one seems to have a good answer. There’s more gunfire echoing from elsewhere in the complex, and sounds of fighting outside the front gates as well. “Fuck, fuck, okay we need to— ”

One of the conscripts fires into the smoking, half-collapsed ground floor. “I see movement!” He screams, looking down his sights and firing again through a blown-out window.

«Movement confirmed,» crackles over radios, and from some great height, the voice of Ellinka Dolukhanov crackles to the other Vanguard. «There’s survivors inside, lay down suppressing fire. I’ll get them.»

Munitions Depot

Textile Factory 17

Red Hook

Smoke and flames fill one side of the munitions depot, choking black plumes from where Jonas Regan once stood. There’s simply no sign of him anymore, no sign of the weapon rack he was standing by. The windows of the ground floor have all been blown out, ashes cover everything, shelves are collapsed down atop one-another, and firearms are scattered along with shredded boxes of ammunition, leaving the floor glittering with brass shell casings.

Andy manages to pull himself up from the floor, blood running from a cut in the side of his head. He takes a few bleary steps forward, one hand coming up to touch at the wound before there’s a crack of some horrifyingly loud rifle from outside and Andy’s chest explodes from an anti-material rifle round. He collapses down onto his side on the floor just two feet away from where Lynette is pinned beneath a toppled metal shelf. Her right leg is driven to the ground, a length of slotted metal frame driven so hard against her knee its torn through her pants and broken skin, leaving her bleeding through the powdery cover of dust and ashes.

Steve is on the floor nearby to her, dust and broken glass in her hair, wind knocked out of her lungs. She regains consciousness from a moment of darkness to find Andy Rourke dead in front of her, the warmth of his blood sprayed across her face. She can see Woods, nearby to the barricaded doors that now sit crooked in their frame from the explosion. He’s bleeding from the brow and cheek, assault rifle tucked up against his chest. He makes a stay down gesture, and more gunfire pops and cracks through the open windows.

Hana’s vision focuses where she was knocked off of her feet and onto her backside up against the exterior brick wall by the windows. The ringing in her ears not quite stopped, but on a quick assessment she’s not seriously injured. She can see Aislinn pulling herself to her hands and knees nearby, Ygraine at her side, both of them look to be ok. Cardinal isn’t anywhere to be seen but that is, notably, what he’s best at.

“Low. Stay low,” Ygraine gasps hoarsely - chiefly to Aislinn, but ideally to others as well. Not that her words do a good job of penetrating the clamour in her own ears, let alone anyone else’s. But though she’s struggling to grasp quite what has happened, let alone where so much of Andy and all of Jonas went, the instinct to avoid moving in ‘normal’ ways is very strong indeed.

Shaking her head to try to clear it, she looks around as best she can, and is more than a little relieved to see multiple indications of life around her. A momentary flex of her ability charges her own body and sets the surface under hands and knees firmly as her down, to provide an additional sense of orientation over and above her detonation-rattled conventional ones. Then she turns her attention to Hana, waving a hand to catch her eye.

A gesture quickly indicates all the visibly-moving survivors, then points firmly to the wall holding the windows through which the fire is coming, then up it towards the roof. “We can change angle. Move.” Her hand jerks up, down, then side to side. “Firing points or a way out, if you have one. Under, over, whatever works.” The tactical option, she’s confident in offering. The tactical decision, she unhesitatingly leaves to the woman in charge.

Lynette, she looks towards, frowning, then back to Hana. “I can try to move the shelves off her. Before or after I set anyone on the wall. But even if I can, that thing won’t be quiet to shift. And I might need help.”

One moment, Lynette was upright. And then she wasn't. Her eyes open slowly, hands brushing debris and dust from her face. She doesn't have to look at her leg to know it's stuck. Or bleeding. So, instead, she's looking out at the room, trying to orient herself when the bullet rips through Andy and he falls to the ground. Blood splatter mixes with the dust on her face, but she doesn't seem to notice. Because she's staring at a body that used to have a name.

She can't focus on anyone's words, at first, ears ringing and mind struggling to push past what just happened. But eventually, her head turns to try to see Ygraine.

"Don't bother," she says. And then coughs. "I just need Steve." Her hand reaches out for her friend, fingers dancing with electricity. "Pull me out," she says, although it might only be clear to Steve that she intends to turn into her element, which will make that process less strenuous. "Pop me somewhere low, yeah?" Since there's a sniper here, apparently. "Ygraine, if you could keep this shit from making too much noise, I'd appreciate it. Until we can get clear of it?" Where the sound won't draw bullets their way.

"Andy!" Pulling herself up to her knees, the name of one of her best friends the first thing to roll off Aislinn's tongue as her eyes blur and ears ring. She stares at what remains of him, shaking for just a moment. She had been prepared for this, of course - Elspeth had literally begged her not to come.

She couldn't not. Not if it meant a way out. A way home, or to a home.

She swallows, looking up at Ygraine and nodding as she scrambles over to something solid to put her back against. Her pulse pounds, but she keeps her breathing regulated - if they made it back alive, she would have to advocate Ygraine's training to everyone. Eyes close and Aislinn takes a deep breath, reaching out around them - she made a calculated risk today, not coming to this party negated.

But that meant she could feel the plants around them. Bend them, control them, manipulate them. Her grasp of her power had never been great, but she'd always had ideas. Now would be a better time than ever to try some of them, as she listens - for whatever information she can glean from the nature near by, from the small roots protruding through the cracks in floors, from anything that seeks to reclaim man's former domain.

«Call out positions,» Ellinka instructs from her vantage point, looking for someone to take a wrong step out of their cover - or to give away their position behind it. She leans back, pull back the bolt lever on her rifle. «They're pinned. Draw them out, use whatever tricks you have to

The bolt action is slid back into place, eye to the scope as she takes a deep breath and waits for an opportune moment. This was a mistake on their part, and she would show them why. She looks to where one of them had been standing moments before. Others, certainly nearby.

She turns the rifle slightly to the left and pulls the trigger, the deafening crack thunderously echoing as the muzzle flashes. A piece of the wall shatters in, chunks of the support Aislinn has braced herself against exploding out and sprinkling over the nearby survivors.

Aislinn's eyes widen. "Oh fuck," she breathes out, remembering what happened to Liza Messer and Rue Lancaster. And now, Andy. She looks up to Ygraine. "That sound- I think- I think it's th' sniper from th' ruins. We- they're going t' tear through us if we don't-"

The sound of gunfire drowns her out, and Aislinn doesn't dare raise her voice higher.

Hana takes quick stock of the situation through the ringing in her ears, through the haze of brick dust and smoke lingering in the air, through the passing nausea that has her press the back of one hand against her lips. She takes a headcount — one injured, one absent, others dead. Dark eyes flick to Ygraine as the Brit speaks, and Hana nods, brief acknowledgement reflected more in her eyes than actual motion of her head.

"«Yes, sniper,»" Hana confirms over her team's radios bypassing any need for her to actually speak. "«I have her radio.»" She recovers her rifle, picks herself up from the floor, pretends the nausea's passed. It will. "«Keep your heads down, try not to pass windows on the courtyard side.»" The side that just received another bullet a moment ago.

Hana moves to help hold the shelving in place — quiet — while Lynette is extracted; her thoughts are elsewhere, calculating. Considering the vantage points she'd prefer, the directionality of the radio, the people remaining on her team. This time, when she addresses the others, it's out loud. "Have to take out the sniper before anything. Can anyone else operate at long range? Couple hundred feet; rifle, ability, whatever."

Steve’s head is swimming when consciousness returns to her. For a moment, she has no idea where the hell she is or what just happened. But she can feel Lynette next to her. Feel warm blood on her face. Hear her own pulse pounding in her ears and her breath passing ragged past her parted lips. Everything pieces back together in what feels like slow motion, but only spans a few seconds in reality.

’Nette.” Steve reaches out blindly for a moment before turning her head when she’s sure she isn’t going to throw up. She grasps the woman’s hand and focuses her ability. The other woman becomes living lightning and Steve absorbs her. “I’ve got her,” she confirms.

Steve’s eyes blaze brighter than usual, her skin warm and flushed with the excess power her friend provides. For a moment, she considers holding on to Lynette until they can get somewhere safer. But she has no idea what happens to her friend if something happens to her. Steve rolls on to her stomach and wipes blood from her face with a trembling hand, then she reaches out that same hand to the empty space at her side and closes her eyes.

“Everybody stay down,” she warns, “but be prepared to move.” Because what Steve’s about to do is going to cause a burst of light. It will - if the rest of them are lucky - shift focus away from them and give the others a chance to get to better positions.

“Get her to fire again, give away her position, and I’ll deal with her…” …deal with her…

A darksome whisper coils from the shadows near Hana, shadows which then slither away in a spill across the floor. The fires are bright, but the smoke and everything that isn’t on fire yet creates a maze of shadows for Richard Cardinal to navigate out of the burning building and away from whatever Steve’s about to do. The living darkness seeking a vantage point to watch for the tell-tale signs of a sniper when they fire.

Hopefully not into someone’s head.

Inside the burning building, Woods’ eyes are focused on the growing wall of flame crackling at where Jonas was before all of this turned upside down. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he hisses under his breath, scrambling on hands and knees across the floor below the tall, brick-trimmed windows. He gets into position a good fifteen feet from Steve and Lynette, checking the magazine in AK-47, then looking over to Steve with a wild eyed nervousness. “The fuck’re you going to do? The bloody fuck did you do to Lynette!” He hoarsely whispers. “Is that fucking safe?

"«I'll take them from behind,»" Delia responds into her radio as she moves into a position with cover, leaning back against the pillar and allowing her eyes to roll up into her skull, bloodshot white. A dreamwalker can only affect those who are asleep, right? Or, apparently, unconscious. One of the few medics in the Hub who had come along to assist should anyone get hit and need medical attention had been laying near where Rourke had fallen, his clothes scorched. Bowie Frederick Lin had no Evolved abilities.

Time within the dream moves differently, but as he rises up, still unconscious, eyes staring blankly. What he sees and what is actually there are two entirely different things. Sleepwalkers are capable of many things— this one lifts the AK-47 that he'd had and starts firing blindly. The dreamer can not see through his eyes, can not direct him to target individuals, but she doesn't need to to cause discord among their troops.

The man is still alive. Still on their side, surrounded in the dreams of the enemy, not his friends. But would they know this?

Woods is screaming by the time Bowie starts firing, scrambling back and away from the sounds and sights of gunfire. He can’t understand what he’s seeing as the bullets pepper the brick walls and ricochet off of metal shelving. “Lin! Lin!” Woods hisses, gun trained up on the other man, circling to try and get behind him. “What the fuck’s happening!?” Woods doesn’t want to fire, Hana can see the hesitation, they’re friends and Woods has known Bowie for years now. This isn’t, can’t, be betrayal in his eyes. “Lin, stop!” Woods dives away from a blast of gunfire, not realizing he’s silhouetting himself in one of the open windows.

Outside, instead of taking cover, Robyn Quinn moves in the open— though she's bending the light so that her area is shaded, darkened, false shadows casting in multiple areas to give the impression of more conscripts than they actually have. Muzzle flashes seem to come out of corners and the sky, though there's no actual weapons attached to them, just the flash that gives the guise that they are even more surrounded than they are, to draw fire elsewhere. The light bleeds out in places, like a flashlight sweeping toward the direction of the explosion. A light show, while she moves in the relative safety of her shadows, pulling in light around her, drawing it together, absorbing it into small little displays.

She doesn't care if she survives. She never intended to live through the hour anyway.

Having shaken her head in response to the query about long range options, pistol-armed Ygraine had moved to assist Hana, a tweak of its gravity helping the shelving to settle upwards into her hands for long enough to control its placement upon the floor-space just vacated by Lynette.

Then she’s blinking in surprise at the slowly-rising Bowie, only to find herself hunkering down and cowering as he starts spraying fire around. The sight of Woods silhouetting himself breaks her free of her startled fear, spurring her into motion. She dives towards him - but rather than tackling the man and risking a struggle in front of the window, she falls deliberately short. Instead of a body-slam, she simply extends a hand… and resets Woods’s ‘down’ to the glove she wears. His feet are no longer drawn to the ground, while the position of her hand slightly to one side pulls him down and over that way. Her intent is to yank him to the ground - atop her hand - and let him cope with a potentially hard landing in preference to being riddled with bullets.

As soon as he nears the ground (in one piece or not), she severs the link between him and her glove, so that she can try to yank her hand back and roll out of the way of the terrifying number of bullets flying around.

The warning was an important one. After a moment, a burst of lightning pours out of her. It's bright. It's obvious. And it turns into Lynette after a blink, sending her skidding across the floor. A hand on the cement slows her to a stop, crouched low and eyes wide.

It's safe enough. Safer than getting shot at a bunch.

Lynette hears the gun before she realizes who is firing it. It's loud, because she's close. And she looks up at Lin, confused. But not so confused that she won't act. She stands up sharply, hands grabbing onto the gun to direct its fire upward before she tries wrestling it away from him. She doesn't know what's going on, but apparently she doesn't want to just kill him.

She'll save that for later.

Again the rifle is loaded, a loud ca-chunk drowned out by the sound of chaos below for all but the most attentive. Overlooking the courtyard, Ellinka looks up from her scope, surveying the munitions building. Eyes flick and back forth, from window to window, looking for flashes of light that aren't sourced from Quinn, movement, and anything that would allow her to put together a idea shot point.

Careful observes can catch the glint of light reflecting off the oversized rife as Ellinka listens to the sounds of gunfire. The results of Delia's control of Bowie's unconscious dream and the flash of light and lightning that being Lynette back on to the battlefield is movement, quick and all at once. One survivor moves partially into Ellinka's view, trying not to be shot as Lynette struggles with Bowie. It's, just enough to give her a trajectory to follow. Her rifle swivels, bracing her weight against it's stock as the long barrel settles back down on it's supports. She takes a deep breath, and pulls the trigger - this time, a shot with a purpose, rather than random fire.

Aislinn breathes quick and heavy, gripping a rifle tight in hand. A hand raises as Lynette flashes back to existence, looking over at her as she attempts to wrangle Bowie, eyes wide. It doesn't help the tense feeling that's building in her. But this is part of what she was training with Ygraine for - keeping herself leveled. Using her adrenaline. Springing to action.

She nods to herself, popping back out from her cover enough to fire two shots towards the conscripts - or where she thought Vanguard soldiers were, from the flashes of light. She grimaces ducking back down. "Somethin's messin with me eyes," she warns. "I think, at least."

Again, she closes them, reaching out to what she can feel in the area, trying her best to control her breathing. One hand clenches into a fist. If she can't trust her eyes, she would have to trust her ability. Let something else see for her, in a sense. She finds something, a crack in the far wall where a sinuous vine has coiled through a broken window. She seizes ahold of it, and slowly it begins to move and snake downwards, towards the encroaching Vanguard soldiers.

"Cardinal," Hana says as the shadow sets out, peripheral awareness on Lynette's extraction, face turned away to shield her eyes from the actinic flash that ensues. "One o'clock…" She pauses minutely, thinking back to the complex layout. "There's a tower. Start there." She can't fully triangulate the sniper's signal, but the direction at least narrows his search space.

Then the chaos gets deeper. Hana reflexively crouches down as one of their own begins firing — completely unaimed, as becomes obvious in the span of a breath. Ygraine tackles Woods out of the way, Lynette wrestles with the shooter; light flickers where her awareness says there aren't radios, flashes unaccompanied by any sound save Aislinn's return fire. It's entirely likely not all of the enemy is carrying radios… but combined with the messages she overhears, it's enough to make the analyst suspicious.

There's are several radio signals in the courtyard, changing direction, growing… yes, growing stronger. "«Trying to flush us out,»" Hana says to her team, in response to Aislinn's observation. She crouches beside another window, peers out, compares vision against technopathic sense — and fires three shots at what is to her a conspicuous mismatch, slightly spread-out in the hope that at least one of them will strike what her eyes cannot actually see. "«Someone playing with vision or light,»" she sends to her team, a nearly reflexive aside.

Then Hana moves, the better to avoid becoming a sniper target herself. Also, she wants roof access, and makes for a stairwell accordingly — a route complicated by burning wreckage, but it's her best chance to provide backup for Cardinal, and to help ease pressure on the rest of the team. "«Hold on,»" she tells the others. "«We'll deal with the sniper.»"

“It’s fine!” Steve hisses at Woods when he asks what she did with Lynette, and if it’s even safe. Maybe it isn’t, but there weren’t a whole lot of options available to them that wouldn’t result in her friend’s leg getting mangled worse trying to move that shelving. Or in the rescuers being riddled with bullets for their trouble.

If she thought hell had broken loose before, Steve realizes now she was very wrong. “James, get down!” Fortunately, Ygraine is taking care of that particular concern. With Lynette controlling the gun, and Aislinn and Hana providing suppressive fire against a threat they can’t see, Steve pushes herself up into almost a runner’s starting position. Dashing across the floor to where Lynette struggles with Bowie, she reaches out to grasp one of his ankles and pour just enough electricity into him to stun him.

The tower. It's a direction for Cardinal to start in, and as there's another shot from it - he becomes just one more shadow that's streaking across the ground, blending in with the shadowplay that Robyn Quinn has started up to baffle and confuse.

Some of them aren't fooled by mere shadows though.

Darkness hits the tower and starts moving up it like a reverse image of oil spilling down a wall, moving from window to window in search of the sniper. Hide and seek, hide and seek…

One of Hana’s three shots finds purchase, the audible sound of a bullet hitting something. It disappeared into the darkness, which made it hard to pinpoint what it did hit. No one falls, no one goes crashing down— there’s barely even a grunt from that direction. Perhaps just a graze, but no— Robyn just doesn’t care enough to cry out anymore. It punched through her side, no vital organs, blood running down her hip and leg as she continues forward. She could burn it closed with the light she’s gathered, but she doesn’t. She doesn't care if she bleeds out.

The lightning— the flash of bullets, all of the light draws Robyn’s attention. She doesn’t need instructions to do what she needs to do. Lightning and bullet flashes, that’s where she heads, drawing more and more light out of the surrounding air. Everything starts to turn a reddish color, as the shorter wavelength light gathers into specific places, violet and blue orbs that contain more light than they give off.

She’s preparing, even as she moves closer and closer, not even bothering with cover, short cropped hair clinging to her scalp as she sweats, her tear ducts already starting to ache, causing her eyes to redden and bloodshot. Shadows and light play in the corners of visions, off to the side, as she draws most her ability into a handful of floating orbs.

Not inside her body, Delia continues to reach out, toy with the dreams of the man getting wrestled down. The rifle click clicks in silence as his fingers still try to fire— hand grasping the rifle and trigger when his body gets wracked with electricity. Only when she hears the bullets stop from that direction does she begin to pull back, her eyes opening once again as Bowie falls to the ground, stunned and unconscious. His rifle had run out of ammo, but Lynette had kept him from shooting more than the empty air. But now he’s dead weight— and there’s an empty gun and wasted precious rounds.

Closing her eyes again, the dreamer tries to reach out, tries to find a mind unconscious and close, but all she finds is one of their own men, pushing at him and making him awaken from his unconsciousness. There’s sobs when he does— he’d been unconscious for many reasons, probably had been better that way. He pulls his half twisted up, only to get wrapped in vines that creep out of the walls near him. The poor broken man gasps and screams, horrified as the vines dig at his skin, as he bleeds on them.

Aaaaaafuckfuckfuck!” is all Woods can scream after he hits the floor, scrambling back away from an explosion of gunfire that rockets through the window he was just standing in front of. “A’fuck me! Fuck this! Fuck the fuck fuck!” His wild eyes turn to Bowie, to the electrical snap jolting from Lynette, to all the broken glass he’s scrambling through on his back across the floor. A shadow moves into the window, a Vanguard conscript closing in on the building, and Woods opens fire with his rifle, sending the soldier jerking back and collapsing to the courtyard outside.

‘Ow fuckin’ many of them are there?” Woods hisses with a desperation to his voice. Smoke has replaced dust and debris inside the collapsed building, as walls and ceiling catch aflame. Woods looks up to the fire rolling across the warehouse’s wooden ceiling, to the lambent glow of fire at one side, and to the blood-covered sneaker that once belonged to Jonas a few feet closer. “Ohmygodohmygod,” Woods exasperatedly exhales the words.

Ygraine siderolls urgently, both to try to get away from the blaze of gunshots and to give Woods more room to move himself.

I can get people off ground level. Running around on this wall, if you want. Give us another way to move away from where they’re shooting”, she offers in a hiss into her radio. Pressing into the corner of floor and wall, she tugs free her pistol so that she can join Woods in permanently dissuading any over-eager Vanguard from entering via the windows. After a moment, she remembers to force herself to reopen her eyes and look, rather than keeping them fearfully screwed shut. After all, it’s not as if those horrible screams from outside are much less unsettling than the sights inside the warehouse.

A hasty glance up at each of the nearest windows done, the gravity-cheat then closes her eyes once more… focusing upon her usually-suppressed sense of nearby masses, paying particular attention first to the floor beneath her to feel whether there is the empty space of a cellar or chamber beneath, then peeking at the far side of the wall against which she lies, to determine whether any of the enemy are lurking on the other side of the brickwork. Some, after all, might have more sense than to walk straight up to a window and silhouette themselves.

When Bowie goes down, Lynette drops low to the ground again. She looks over at Steve, giving her a nod. Thanks. Worry. Her friend knows the layers to her looks by now. And this one becomes tinted with the warning that she's about to do something that walks the line between brave and stupid. Looking around the area, she finds the nearest conductive surface. "I'll signal you if I find anything," she says before she turns to lightning again and disappears into the metal. Wires. Anything. She runs loops around the building, scouting, hunting. She doesn't know who she's looking for, but anyone she didn't come in with is in danger of having a meeting with a live wire.

"Get low an' get it t'gether, Woods!" Aislinn shouts over to him, opening her eyes as she lets the bevined soldier be released, crashing to the ground. She's terrified herself, but yelling at Woods is as good as yelling at herself. "I'm so god damn glad Izzy isn't here lightin' everythin' on fire." Fire, after all, makes it hard to do her thing. But, there is fire. And a lot of it. "Woods! Get y' arse over here, an' bring Bowie's dead weight self if it's not going t' get y' shot!" She needs to get him upright. She can't be the only medic out here. "Just-"

But something catches her attention, pulling her away from trying to get Woods to calm down. She furrows her brow as she notices the shifting colours. "What in th' actual fuck?" She looks up from her cover, raising her rifle with her. Aiming, eyes scan the part of the room she can see - and, well, the balls of light sort of draw attention to them. Reflexively, Aislinn fires a shot, before ducking down just before a bullet whizzes by.

"Fuck!" she shouts out. "It's light! Someone's fuckin' with the lights!" An answer to Hana's earlier statement. A glance over at Bowie, and she swallows. A vine whips at another conscript, leaving a long, bloody gash across his face. It was the best she could manage, distracted as she is.

Ellinka furrows her brow as she peers through her scope. Structural damage was mounting, and she hasn't had Quinn answer her radio yet - neither of these things left her pleased. Losing the building would be bad, but it might be an acceptable loss at the rate things were going. "«Rico.»" she speaks into the radio, hoping to get the demolition expert.

No response comes immediately - almost certainly embroiled in a fight of his own. Ellinka breathes deep, returning her attention to the battle. She tracks movement again, pulling the trigger, the deafening roar of the rifle ringing out, muzzle flash bright and thunderous, too far away for the the brightness to be pulled into Quinn's light show. Another hole in the wall - another viewpoint as brick collapses inwards.

The stairwell is… hot. Stifling. Choked with fumes, littered with debris. Hana stows her rifle as she scrambles up one level, two levels, three, picking her way around some wreckage and at other times just clambering right over the mess, jacket sleeves pulled down as makeshift protection for her hands. Speed is the more important part. The stairs are intact all the way up, at least, although that isn't wholly true for the old brick walls, nor the ceiling overhead.

When Hana reaches the topmost landing, she pauses momentarily to cough away the smoke, swallowing down renewed nausea and an ache that snags the edge of every breath. She'll give more acknowledgement to her assortment of new burns later; for now, she collects herself, scrubs the sweat from her face, and tests the door. It opens surprisingly smoothly, and Hana eases herself cautiously out, crouched low; she also eases the door closed again, the better to not draw attention.

The end of the balcony very nearly points at the tower she expects the Vanguard sniper to have taken position in. The narrow platform seems stable enough, and Hana moves out along its length, rifle falling naturally and automatically back into her hands. Her vantage is slightly lower, not an ideal situation… but Hana is only half of this sally. She settles at the parapet, sighting down the length of her rifle, scanning for her target.

Steve nods in return to Lynette, her look nearly mirrored in her own face. “Good luck,” she whispers before her friend decides to do her own scouting and mount her own offensive. There’s nothing she can do for her - nothing she needs to do for her. Lynette is more than capable, and more capable than she is, if she’s honest.

What Steve has always done best is look after people. She turns her attention to Woods. “James, listen to me. Focus.” Less shouting, more… Well, anything else. Anything but dying. She holds her hand out toward him, beckoning. “We need to stall for time until one of the others can take care of that damn sniper.”

No. They need to do more than that. They need to get the hell away from the light.

Steve’s eyes grow wide, panicked. “’Nette! Don’t give her anything else to work with!” Their abilities with all their flash and dazzle are only going to give Robyn Quinn more light to draw from Steve realizes much later than she should have.

Bang says Ellinka's rifle.

Jackpot thinks Richard Cardinal.

The speed of dark isn't as fast as the speed of light, but it's enough to be up the tower swiftly towards that anti-materiel rifle's roar. The living shadow normally wouldn't be much of a threat, a ghost good for recon and distraction at best - if he wants to avoid being infected, at least - but Elisabeth Harrison taught him that there was more to his power than he knew. Using knowledge from another timeline might be cheating, but all's fair in war.

The tenebrous shape comes up over the wall like a rolling tide of black, sweeping up over the barrel of the sniper and along its length, abyssal hunger reaching out to devour the weapon as if it never was, corporeal matter torn to ephemeral shreds that drift away into nothing upon the wind.

There’s no answer from Rico on the radio, just sounds of panic from that general area. If Robyn had not already been painting the room red with lower wavelength light, they would see the fire in the other half of the building. They might even feel it. There’s explosions coming from there too, sounds of screaming that is only slightly muffled by the sounds of their own losses, and the losses they cause.

Get the hell away from the light. A good advice, but as she hears something over the radio “«They’re burning the shipment!»” the Vanguard soldier who happens to be messing with the lights stumbles and drops to her knees, hand finally going to her side, where she bleeds from the bullet wound. Out of her mouth comes a clear note, a dying song from someone who has nothing to lose, who had already lost everything. She cared not about pain, survival, any of it— and that meant she had nothing to hold her back.

Her eyes burn, her mouth burns, her blood burns. All the light in the immediate area dims, collects. The hole in her stomach that she’d been shot through lights up, a burning white in the darkness. Her eyes light up. Those little spots she’d gathered light explode outward. Each one becomes a malleable net made of light that spins and dances, lighting up the darkness with burning light, cutting through anything that doesn’t get out of the way— including rock and metal and flesh.

The display lasts mere moments.

Within the wires of the building, Lynette zips around, living electricity running through the wires, scouting out part of the building. What pieces haven’t been severed or burned. Locking onto an active electrical signal, she emerges from a socket and emerges with a flash, blasting through the person that happened to be leaning against it— Red hair frizzy and smoking, Delia drops to the ground— a grenade she’d been just about to live throw tumbles out of her hand.

Inside the burning building, Woods watches the rapidly spreading fire moving towards boxes of ammunition not set off by the initial blast. “Jesus fucking Christ!” He pivots, spurred on by Steve’s urge, turning toward the windows but staying low this time. He slams a shoulder against the brick, breathes, waits, and then pops up inside the window and lays down a spray of gunfire across the courtyard.

He had no earthly idea where the light outside was coming from until his gunfire tears through Robyn Quinn’s body, causing her to bleed more blinding white light out of the entry and exit wounds. “W-what the fuck is— ” Woods’ words are cut off by a flash of light. It was never going to be gunfire that claimed him. He lurches for only a moment, before his gun splits in half, before the wall cracks and unsettles, before he completely and utterly falls apart at four sections where he was disassembled and cauterized by a net of laser lights.

The smoking pieces of Woods’ body fall to the ground, eyes wide in confusion to the last moment of breath he drew.

The wandering invisible fingers of Ygraine's ability close on less than she would like, feeling around in the dense space beneath her feet and then past the brick wall for phantom enemies. It's probably the kind of casual sweep she's done many times before, foolproof, reflexive, and so when her ability does in fact net the moving mass of a human figure — unknown to her, and within the half-broken shell of the building, towards haze and broken brickwork — it should take her no time at all to ensnare it, or call out, or pinpoint, or whatever it is that comes next when she's reaching blind.

But nothing comes next. In fact, a sudden wintry loss blows through her as her ability evaporates from her mind, and the world — its up and down nature — becomes a little more corporeal and heavy than before. It won't be the first time she's experienced negation, and recognise it for what it is.

Steve, however—

In almost the same moment, her blood runs warm. Electricity crackles over her skin. It runs wild, snaps in the air, sparks off the ends of her fingers, makes the hair along the back of her neck stand on end, her eyes suddenly pulsing that eerie blue light. It's like a sudden hit of adrenaline, plugged directly into that little vertigo urge that makes her power go, bones jittering, heart thumping higher and higher in her chest.

Wits still about her, Ygraine can at least remember where she last sensed a presence — and it comes from the wreckage nearby, with the sound of skittering loose rock, and a sharp inhale, a sudden burst of energy that halts where it started, and then hacking, compulsive coughing.

John Logan is covered in a light film of grey dust, and bright crimson from a head injury trails like frozen lightning down his face. His eyes are a bright green that stand out through the haze, maintaining the dual blanketing effects — negation on the gravity-cheat, and something more fiery and amplifying for the zap-witch.

Spared almost all the effects of Quinn’s detonation by virtue of her position pressed into the corner of wall and floor and by the closing of her eyes, Ygraine is initially aware of little more than some fresh shaking and a bit of a light display filtering through her lids. Then a new ability hits her, jolting her out of the focus that accompanies use of the sensory element of her power.

Sickening loss and Wintry desolation? Those bitterly familiar companions help to delay her awareness of Woods’ horrific fate: when her eyes jerk open, she immediately focuses upon the dust- and blood-shrouded new arrival. And unlike so many Evolved combatants, Ygraine has usually seen her ability as a means of getting into position to do something else, rather than as her primary mode of attack.

Consequently, though she lets out a fiercely distressed hiss of air, her immediate response is simply to straighten her arms. Already pressed into the corner of wall and floor, and with her gravity set to a conventional orientation, there’s no dizziness of a shift to deal with - and plenty of loathing to channel as she lines up the sights of her pistol with Logan’s belt.

Smug. Fucker,” she snarls, squeezing the trigger… and watching in disbelief as sections of the mechanism spring out of the gaping hole in the metalwork left by a stray strand of Quinn’s photokinetic eruption.

When Lynette reforms, she watches Delia fall with stony dispassion. The woman's death means very little until she spots that grenade tumbling out of her hand. She takes in a sharp breath and scrambles to pick it up with the thought of throwing it somewhere else. There's a quick glance around to orient herself before she throws it away from her friends. And herself.

The explosion comes too fast, though, too close and Lynette has to duck to avoid getting thrown by the force of it. Brick and wood crumble under the blast, debris flies off and dust blows out over the inside of the building. When Lynette stands, she has to push chucks of wall and supports off her. Her hair and skin are grey with dust, but that isn't what gets her attention.

A piece of metal piping sticks out of her torso, through and through. Blood stains her clothes and shock turns her pale under the dust. Her fingers touch the pipe, a whimper sounding before she collapses to the floor.

As her rifle, her pride and joy, is subsumed and consumed in darkness, to never exist again, Ellinka releases it before her hands can be taken with it. Eyes wide with equal parts surprise and terror, the sniper scrambles back and up to her feet. Her sidearm is pulled from her waist in a smooth motion, three shots reflexively fired into the shadow - this was not a situation she was prepared for. That someone - anyone - in these ragtag survivors could do something like this was inconceivable.

And yet.

Impossibility like this is why she is here. She doesn't scream or shout at the shadow. She breathes rapidly, hand steady as she keeps her gun trained on the shadow, ready to offer retribution on the tenebrous mass.

Scrambling out from behind her pillar as the light explodes out, Aislinn dives her way across from one to the next, panting as she watches more than just the boxes she'd been hiding behind split and fall. She watches Woods collapse into a pile of his component pieces, and she shrieks.

It's brief, enough to call attention to her, eyes shaking as she claps her hand over her mouth. She expected to see awful things out here. She didn't expect to see that. A look back to the corpse of Robyn Quinn, and her breathing quickens again. There's no attempts at regulation this time, though. This time, she lets instinct and adrenaline take root, raising her rifle and firing at anything that moves. She doesn't even see John Logan, but she does see more Vanguard soldiers, and the least she can do is offer covering fire.

Shadow, rising. More importantly, movement. Hana focuses on the distinctly human profile that rises into view, tracking as the woman moves back. In the moment after she fires, that beat of hesitation awaiting response, awaiting cue, Hana takes her own shot. She aims up towards the woman's center of mass, firing once, then adjusts the rifle slightly down and fires again.

In the wake of her second shot, Hana snatches up the gun and scrambles back along the balcony to where the angle of the building shields her from return fire; no reason not to expect that woman is equally accurate with a handgun across the couple hundred feet separating them.

Coincidentally, the corner also shields her from the actinic flash that comes boiling out of the courtyard; even indirectly its glare stabs like knives, and she buries her face in her arm to shut it out, however belatedly. There's a muted clatter, perhaps some new-fallen masonry tumbling down the stairwell; shrieks and screams filtering up from below; gunfire in altogether too many directions. Leaning against the brickwork, momentarily both stationary and bereft of immediate objective, Hana feels abruptly weary. She feels the sting of fresh burns making themselves known, feels an inherent weight whose dragging has become all too familiar.

Either the sniper's down, or she's not. Either the team Hana left below is holding on… or they're not. She'll just… rest here a moment, and get back to dealing with it all the moment after.

Steve starts screaming. Not because of the pile Woods has collapsed into. Not because her power has suddenly gone haywire.

No. She can feel her partner’s distress. The tremor in the connection they share hits her like ice water. She can’t feel the pain, but she can imagine. Ragged breaths and sobs give away her position just as well as the electricity arcing from her hands and running in a voltaic river down her spine. “Lynette!

Her pulse is felt in her ears just as keenly as against her ribcage. She can’t sustain this kind of power bleed for long. She will burn out and she will die. Crawling on her stomach, she reaches out an arm in the direction she can feel her friend is. “We- We can loop it!” Steve cries out over the chaos. “We can stop this!”

But at what cost?

"Boo," says the 'rag-tag survivor' as Ellinka scrambles backwards and rises to her feet, making a target of herself as she fires bullets that strike the wall beneath him. …boo…

Richard Cardinal seethes along the window-sill to keep her attention; he never hears Hana's shots ring out, although he's hoping for them, because that sudden flare of light streaking in all directions from below sends him spilling into the sniper's nest for cover before he can be obliterated, a low hiss vibrating through the darkness.

Even without being struck directly by the photonic release of Robyn's death, that hurt.

Robyn Quinn, or the woman that she had once been, has burned away, only a smoldering pile of flesh remains behind where she once had been. Tore apart by bullets and her own ability alike. The building vibrates, like a great bell that’d been struck, chunks of mortar and brick breaking, collapsing. The way out slowly being covered by rubble and debris.

The light slowly returns to normal, even if there’s now small fires burning, where the lasers ripped through flesh and wall, burrowed through floors. Where a bottle of Isabelle’s swill broke on the floor, fire spreading where it touches. It won’t take long until the entire building starts to crumble.

In the corner of their eyes, they think they see a flash of red hair for a moment, something moving just at the corner of their vision, while Delia Ryans stares open eyed at the ceiling next to Lynette. Much in the same way, not too far from there, her sister and father both lay.

Over a radio that has no ear attached to it anymore, a voice can be heard saying, «Vör’s got Volken’s pet. Anyone who still can, fall back.» There’d been one piece of irreplaceable cargo in the building. The conscripts, the children, didn’t matter. Just the pet.

Almost a second later, through the Hub’s radio, another voice can be heard, Elisabeth Harrison’s. «Fall back. Repeat, fall back — target not acquired. Package is out of play.»

Logan hears Ygraine's hiss, hears the sound of a gun— breaking in hands. He senses Aislinn's presence as a ghost somewhere in his vicinity, abstracted from the shape of her laying down suppressing fire from the window. He feels panic, mainly, and he darts wildly out of sight, where shelter from the inevitable second firearm his enemy will be reaching for is shelter from fuck all else, and certainly not smoke, the inevitable collapse of the building around them, the growing fire.

"Wait— "

His voice is hoarse, barely audible, and he has to work to make it rise above the chaos around them. "Wait. Please." It does, disembodied, until they can flush him out again — but truly, he has no where he can go. Steve's electrical power dances off her skin in arcs, white light flashing across concrete. "You're here for the princess. The power booster."

Getting a grip on himself, he concentrates. That adrenalised rush will be slow to cease, in Steve's system, requiring she calm herself down on her own terms, but at least she's no longer feeling that strangle on her system. Ygraine, however, is suddenly no longer negated — in fact, power comes to her in its raw form, her heart beginning to race, and her attunement to her sense of gravity suddenly as bright and crystal clear in a way it never normally is.

"See?" His voice quakes. "Please. I can help. If you help me."

Ygraine has spare bullets, and the relevant parts of the gun to load them into - for all the good they can do her now. Lacking a backup firearm, she is instead in the process of preparing something much nastier when Logan’s power and voice reach her, fortunately stopping her before she actually lights the Molotov cocktail.

Shivering, she bites her lip, trying to call upon her eons-ago life as a professional competitor to ride the wave of the heart-racing thrill and focus. “What…? Okay - talk. What are you offering, and what do you want? And fast, before this whole place comes down on us.”

And before she feels she has to throw the Molotov, by preference: on which note, she quickly tests her potentially-enhanced sensory ability, checking that no one is coming up on the other side of the wall (or amidst the rubble in the warehouse) while Logan stalls her. Still, this seems strange enough as an approach that it might be genuine; for the time being, the bottle remains in hand and unlit.

Lynette hears the call of her name, feels the electricity pouring off Steve. Her hand reaches up, to touch the wire she came through. And she disappears, traveling to her friend's side in the space of a blink. She reforms standing, but doesn't stay that way. She doesn't pull out the pipe, instead, she grabs onto Steve, if weakly.

"I need you," she says, voice already straining, "to focus." It's something she often said when they would train together, a necessary part of learning— and to keep them from being discovered. But this time it's different. There's desperation in her words. She needs her. "I have to see him," she adds in a whisper meant for Steve alone. "Please."

She doesn't leap into her friend right away. Steve has to gather herself first, after all. And agree to carry her home.

To say goodbye.

Ellinka takes a deep breath as the shadow skitters off. She doesn't see Hana, or hear the shot aimed at her until it's too late, a bullet punching through her side. She gasps, caught entirely off guard - she had expected reprisal from the shadow, not from an unseen assailant.

She staggers a half step to the side, feet sliding slightly out from under her - enough to send her down to one knee. She doesn't have time to look for the source, to tend to her wound, before Hana's second shot strikes home, clean through the side of the upper half of Ellinka's throat. Intended target or not, it does the job as the sniper topples to the ground, eyes wide with surprise as she gurgles out a last breath. Blood pours from her neck as she chokes and wheezes, as vision fades.

The irony of never seeing her killer escapes her in her last moments, as she lays there dying.

Breath ragged, Aislinn looks back at the others - to Ygraine and an unknown man, to Steve and Lynette. To what's left of Woods. Richard and Hana are nowhere to be seen. And for the first time she feels the tinge of burns on her skin from the light show moments before. Her grip tightens on her rifle.

And then the voice comes over the radio, Elisabeth Harrison telling that that this was effectively for nothing. She coughs, stepping back towards Ygraine and Logan, while continuing to provide cover fire. "Did y' hear that?" she offers, glancing over at Steve and finally seeing the condition that Lynette is in.

"Oh fuck."

There are no more rifle shots from the tower across the courtyard; objective accomplished, perhaps. Her back to the brickwork, Hana can feel the building giving way, vibrations rumbling through its structure as various forces act upon the laser-cut masonry, teasing apart what is no longer a wholly contiguous, sound structure. The radio messages the technopath overhears are only the metaphorical cherry on top: time to leave. And odds are, the cluttered stairwell she .came up will not be so fortuitously intact and navigable on the way down.

Slinging her rifle across her back, Hana collects herself and pushes off the wall. At the far end of the balcony, she drops over the parapet and shimmies down the rough brick as quickly as she can, finally dropping to the lower roof below. From there, she can continue working her way down via parts of the building less affected by the photokinetic's outburst, insulated by the bulk of its own substance. With fire and chaos and both sides mobilizing to withdraw, it should be simple enough to work her way to the water and quietly exfiltrate on her own.

The Hub team knows how to reach the Ghost, now, if they need her to reappear.

Stephanie Rickham, pillar of the community, solid as a rock in the face of tragedy, the shoulder anyone can lean on in a crisis, breaks into sobs at the sight of her friend. Feeling it - in the abstract - was one thing. Seeing it, confirming it with her own eyes is another. Nothing said over the radios even reaches her in the haze of disbelief. Slowly, with Logan no longer forcing the adrenaline spike, Steve is able to bring her ability back under control. The arcing lightning snaps around her a few more times before it seems to shrink back up into her. She lays on the floor for a moment, trying to catch her breath even as she cries. Finally, she reaches out to grab Lynette’s hand, first bringing it to her mouth to press a kiss to her palm.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers hoarsely. “I was supposed to protect you.” Mateo may forgive her, but she will never forgive herself. Lynette is pulled close, heedless of the blood that stains her clothes. “C’mon,” Steve whispers into her blonde hair. “Let’s get you home.”

With a shuddering gasp, Steve absorbs Lynette once again. This time, she doesn’t let go. She won’t let go until she has to.

The pipe clatters to the ground at her feet.

“I’m going to kill every last fucking one of them,” Steve hisses, shaking with anger. Glowing blue eyes narrow to slits. “Or I’m going to die trying.” But not today.

"Live by the sword…" …die by the sword…

The sibilant whispers of Richard Cardinal fill the perch that the Vanguard sniper had set up in as she drops to the ground - perhaps the last words she hears, or perhaps she's already past hearing.

The man doesn't stick around the gloat, however; he's hurt and he doesn't know how badly — can’t, without leaving this form. He blends into the darkness, disappearing from the battlefield as a fluttering shadow, noted by none, to rendezvous at the arranged place. Leaving Ellinka laying there alone in a growing pool of her own blood.

So invited to talk, Logan moves into the open. He's a leanly built figure, not quite dressed for battle, his clothing rough edged and coated now in a fine layer of dust. The hunger of the age has made him gaunt, hair shaven down close to his skull, and his eyes glow in sunken sockets like a hunted coyote under a flashlight.

He lifts his empty hands.

"I can do what she did," he says. "What she does. Whatever you want her for, I'll do it, just let me come with you. I can't— " His voice breaks, real fear, terror of something sunken deep into his bones, and the desperation of an opportunity flashing in front of him, elusive and fleeting. "I can't go back. I won't."

There's a sudden thunder of further structural collapse, and he flinches. "C'mon," he says, backing up a step. "You're dead if you step outside. Dead if you stay here. I know a way out."

Ygraine scowls dubiously at the dust-coated stranger, still hefting the (unlit) cocktail… before glancing around in search of survivors. The disassembled components of Woods set her stomach tumbling, but she manages to choke back the urge to retch, instead hoarsely finding her voice.

“We either try to run through that” - her free hand waves at the collapsing entrance - “or we follow this guy. I’m going for the second option,” she announces as loudly as her queasiness permits, while moving closer to Logan… and in the process putting herself between him and Steve, just in case the First Lady’s kill-’em-all desires are in danger of coming into immediate action.

To the man himself, she offers a wary nod. “I can make the offer, if we get out of this. Confirm what I felt. But we’ve got to go.”

Even wounded, even knowing she won't see tomorrow— not in this rotting world— Lynette seems able to hold it together. Until Steve kisses her. Tears slip out, carving lines down her face as she lifts her other hand to Steve's face. "It's okay," she says, because she doesn't believe that any forgiveness is necessary. She's easy to pull close and she clings onto her friend, panic showing in how her fingers dig in, how her breathing turns shaky, how she can't seem to get another word out. She nods to the whisper, waiting only long enough to kiss Steve's cheek before she shifts and lets Steve take her.

Safe, for the moment. If she could stay this way long enough for them all to make it to another world, a better world, there might be a hope for her.

But they both know she can't.

And Steve's hiss, her declaration, is probably the best gift she could give her friend. She can feel the pulse of Lynette's gratefulness, even if no one else will notice.

"Whatever th' fuck we're gonna do," Aislinn keeps her rifle held up, slowly backing towards Ygraine, "We gotta do it soon, I think Little Miss Bright Lights kinda fucked th' whole building." She backs up close to the others, glancing back towards Logan. She swallows. "Might die either way, might as well try his way."

Her gaze snaps to the sound of the pipe clattering to the ground. She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes as she puts a hand on Ygraine's shoulder.

She reaches out, for any plant life she can pull on and influence again. She grits her teeth, vines beginning to curl out through cracks above them. One, two at first - but more and more after that, criss-crossing and trying together in as strong a lattice work net above them as she can manage with so little to work with.

That should - maybe - catch anything that tries to crumble above them immediately. But when it comes down, it comes down, and they shouldn't be here.

There’s a snap of electricity off of one of Steve’s shoulders as she shifts her glare to Logan. But she doesn’t lash out. He’s either making the right choice, or he’s leading them into a trap. If it’s the latter, she’ll make him sorry. But she has a bad habit of hoping for the best in people. Today, he gets that benefit.

I love you, ‘Nette.

Steve’s fingers curl into trembling fists, but there’s no errant arcs, just the faint smell of ozone that clings around her. “All right, then.” She lifts her chin and tries to present herself as the authority she’s taken for within the Hub. Reminds herself that her spine needs to be made up of iron. “If you know a better way out of this tomb, then lead on.”

In the corner of Logan’s vision, he’ll briefly see a hint of red hair that shifts and moves, a faint whisper like someone trying to say something, but it never fully gets said. Perhaps lost in the crumbling of the building. Those inside will need a way out, those who had done most of their fighting outside…

They have a dangerous trek back to the Hub on their own, but thankfully the one who would go to the Hub can do so in shadow form.

Logan, wide eyed, nods back to Ygraine, and doesn't appear to relax. Not really. It's just a lateral gear shift, energy redirected from pleading for his life to executing their escape. Whatever he might see out the corner of his eye, whatever he might hear on the edges of his awareness, he makes no outward reaction to. He rolls his brightly glowing eyes up at the net of plantlife creaking and spreading across the ceiling, wipes his dry mouth with rough fingertips — grey sooth gathered at the corners, bitter in his throat — before he turns to leave.

To get out, they go down, climbing down a claustrophobic tunnel that will certainly start to feel like a trap, until they land in a dark tunnel, knee deep in water.

Above them, the buildings come down as they make their escape, accompanied by the skittering of rats, getting further and further away until gunfire and the collapse of brick and steel sounds only like so much thunder.

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