Attempt to Ford the River


cardinal2_icon.gif dahlia_icon.gif gillian3_icon.gif kazimir5_icon.gif magnes2_icon.gif raith2_icon.gif rico_icon.gif ross_icon.gif veronica2_icon.gif sentrybot_icon.gif

Scene Title Attempt to Ford the River
Synopsis Team Alpha reaches a mountain river crossing and winds up having to make a decision based on the behemoth they accidentally wake up in the process of exploring its shoreline. …At which point it comes to their attention that the local wildlife isn't all restricted to land-based locomotion.
Date December 13, 2009

Argentina: Meltwater River

Eventually, the claustrophobic press of grey trunks and green brush begins to open up as soggy terrain becomes rockier underfoot. Glimpses of water flowing fast ahead are no more promising than its sound: what was perceived as softly sifting static at a distance has evolved into an ominous rush, if not an outright roar. Somewhere nearby, there is a waterfall. Some seventy feet across from bank to bank, the river pushing its way across the jungle landscape is mirrored black against glancing sunlight and glacial to the touch, its depth impossible to measure at a glance. Boulders shattered away from the frozen peak of a mountain lurched near enough now to fill the entire horizon jut against the rapid flow like broken ships and rusted, cagey lengths of carefully shaped metal litter the rocky shoreline. Even so, the only real sign of human habitation here is at least two or three centuries old and only just visible buried in greenery beyond the far bank: a decaying Spanish missionary with most of its outer walls still standing.

For Team Alpha, what begin as a distant and promising burble miles ago has flushed into the rushing roar of a river swollen black with water just a few scarce degrees above freezing. Waterlogged boulders tumbled into the flow plow against the onslaught like broken ships, churning the glassy slide of the surface into rapids wherever they've come to rest. Further along to the east, the dull, throaty roar of a waterfall fogs tell-tale through the gnarled trunks congregated there.

Once again, the group has divided itself into halves. The one led by Dahlia (with Ross tagging warily along at her heels) ventured east to investigate the falls and the potential of an easier-to-cross pool at its base; the other half is here, trekking gradually northwest along the river's rocky bank in search of slower moving water. The shoreline itself is peaceable enough, at least: cold water laps pleasantly at grey stone and gravel, occasionally broken up by the dart and jag of small fishes. Metal is occasionally littered into the mix as well, ranging from rust red to polished stainless steel in the form of jagged teeth and long, lovingly sculpted leg bones.

But the only skull they've found is one they're coming up on now. It's a great, beastly equine kind of thing, nearly two feet long with wide, empty eyes and iron sockets mottled thick with rust. Its lower jaw, if it has one, is buried in silt and stone, as is a fair portion of the cavernous ribcage and ridged spine. Overall, it bears a strong zombie resemblance to the half beast Magnes dredged up out of a stream several days back, all the buzz and screech and grate drained from its robust skeleton.

Across the river, a collapsed wall is just visible through the trees - part of a structure that looks like it might have been a church at some point. Unfortunately, there's only so much time to investigate. Getting across in the first place is priority number one, and Ross's orders were to meet up again in the middle in little under half an hour.

Not having seen the creature that Magnes pulled out of the water before, Gillian bends down to examine it quietly, wondering how much it took to take it down. Did it just run out of power and die in the middle of nowhere chasing after someone? Like batteries die. Dramatically. The structure gets a side glance, but she straightens up and looks around for the boss types first. Veronica and the Jensen guy seem to know the biz well better than she does, but she also trusts the shadow-walker. But she can't always see him. Her feet, though, could use a rest… "How much longer til we got? I kinda lost the watch when they tied my wrists together…" Actually she'd taken it off to sleep and lost it when she went to the bathroom and didn't bother to pick it up. Makes figuring out meeting times difficult.

Home sweet home. Right. This hasn't been a good few days. But not the worst that Raith has had either. There's something, comfortingly familiar about being behind enemy lines in the middle of nowhere with only your squad backing you up. It's not exactly like the Army, but close enough. Being the one best qualified for it, Raith had taken point and had been scouting slightly ahead of the rest of the group, eyes keen for rough terrain, shortcuts, traps and, of course, people. So far, all negative.

When he does stop long enough for everyone to catch up, they find him crouch down, examining the, skull he's found. At least this means they don't have to worry about getting surprised. Hopefully. "As long as it takes," Raith replies to Gillian's question. When the Avengers are assembled, he takes a few moments more to inspect the immediate area a bit more thoroughly, in case he missed anything. Old hat.

Glancing at her watch, on the opposite hand than the ugly metallic cuff she still wears, Veronica murmurs, "A little less than half an hour before we meet up with them." She stoops but touches nothing — she's learned her lesson on that one! "It's a lot of cash to spend on something that would just die off like a battery. That's optimistic… means they can be destroyed.”

"You know," Cardinal observes, regarding the skull with a thoughtful expression through his shades, "I think this is almost more… art than utility. I used to know some guys who worked in scrap metal sculpture— gettin' a lot of the same feeling from these things."

He pulls the cap he's wearing back further over his scalp, shaking his head then as he strolls along over in the direction of Raith, asking quietly, "Found anything, Jensen?"

Magnes looks over the dead Llama-bot, walking up and crouching down slightly. "This is the thing I hit, when it was just Peter, Gillian and I." he notes, reaching down to quickly tap it and pull his hand back. "It looks older though." He's once again wearing his camo rain ponco, despite the lack of rain. It's hard to say why he keeps wearing the thing, maybe he just likes it?

The bot is almost refreshing in its stolid stillness in stark contrast with the river racing through a little ways down the bank. Spiders have made a home in one dished eye socket and on through the gaping nasal cavity, spanning the gaps with cottony traces of silver and white. Crayfish nest under one crooked shoulder; various other small creatures tolerant of the cold and damp have doubtless rested within the rib cage at some point or another.

It stares at them all with peaceful disinterest, birds singing and water rushing in the background.

Then Magnes taps on its head.

There's a flicker in the unblocked eye socket like a sparking television set — a sizzle of dim color — and then a surge of vibrant night vision green lit wide and round. Chuff, says something sunk deep into rocky silt, chuff chuff chuff chuff CHUFF and with a stirring rumble reminescent of all the lawn mower engines in the world turning over at once, the mechanical beast's shoulders begin to stir.

"I meant how much time do we have before we're supposed to try to meet up," Gillian says at the old man, though since he said that, she bends down to rub one of her feet through the boot. It won't do much, really, but it was worth a try. Walking may be something she was used to, being a New Yorker. But those were sidewalks. Stairs. Not… rocks. Roots. Dirt. Mud. Water. Of course then they hear that sound and she's suddenly on her feet again and backing away. "Oh fuck. You woke it up." God damnit, Magnes.

Raith doesn't have time to answer Cardinal before that sound draws his attention to a more immediately pressing concern. Namely, that the robot thing is not as 'dead' as all of them were doubtlessly hoping that it was. Immediately, he springs into action, whirling around and charging at the thing while he draws his machete, doubtlessly useless for cutting a thing made from metal. But he's not interested in trying to cut it. If he gets the chance before it's up and starts moving, he'll practically leap onto it, using the butt-end of the hilt in an attempt to smash in whatever the thing has for eyes. He can't kill it, no, but maybe he can blind it. The last thing any of them need is for whoever its master is to see what's going on.

"Don't touch-" Veronica begins to say, but her words are drowned out by the noise of the engines roaring to life in the thing. "Shit. Can you use gravity to smash it down or something?" she shouts over the noise, her gun rising as she backs away, aiming for its eyes, to at least take out its vision if possible, but Raith is upon the thing before she can. She swears, as she had just about shot him in the head. She circles around, though keeping her distance, to look at the back of the neck, seeking any sort of Achille's heel. "Yell if you need me to shoot it in the eyes, if the knife's not enough," she shouts to Raith.

"Oh, hell."

Cardinal backs up - quickly - as those eyes flicker to night vision green, nearly stumbling over a bit of rock on the ground before catching his balance. "My kingdom for a fucking rocket launcher," he mutters under his breath, sweeping one hand to the side, "Get the fuck away from it! Guns probably won't do shit, same as with the dogs— "

"Crap." Magnes takes a deep breath after he jumps back at the sound, then holds a hand out in the direction of the things head, feeling out its weight from a few feet away, then closes his hand, trying to crush thousands of pounds of gravity in on itself. He has no idea how tough these things are, or if destroying the heads even works, but it's worth a shot. "Trying…"

Watching the undead jumble of rust heave its massive tonnage up out of months or years worth of settled shoreline is — a spectacle that would awe the most world-weary of globetrotters. Decaying metal and caked mud crumbles from the spidery, buzzing lunge and thrust of one exaggerated forelimb, scythe blade end sparking through solid rock in search of purchase inches from the space Cardinal just occupied. Its head lifts in earnest first, lurching Raith's weight right along into the air some three or four feet with a twing twang twong of worked over cable and a labored groan.

There's a sick sounding crunch with the plunge and twist of Cowboy Jensen's machete into the green of the lit socket. Glass tinkles back to earth in a shivering rain just as the glow took a turn into blood red territory, and the handle swings out again with an extra eight-legged friend: a nickle-sized, fat-ass and really pissed off spider that looks a lot like a black widow. Meanwhile both head and Raith are raising higher into the air with ever lurching shove out of the ground the Thing manages between their combined weights. Tentacled cables and exposed wires spill out of its throat like a tongue forked fourteen times over, some writhing and others hanging still without a bottom jaw to support their mass.

As a second and third limb are in the process of shoving into an unsteady tripod stand when Magnes's ability caves the remaining eye in. It's around that same time that Raith's left thigh, snugged close against the skull for purchase, starts feeling like there's a polite rhinocerous tentatively thinking about sitting on it. He might scream a little. Depends on how manly he is feeling!

At ground level, the first forelimb to emerge strikes down again, rusty mantis blade solid as a sledgehammer in trying to cleave itself through the space it saw Gillian last.

Any screams that the manly man may make quite possibly get drowned out by the shriek that Gillian gives off. She's never been one much for screaming like a girl, but when the mantis claw comes down at her, she has only a moment to really react— and then sudden pain. Which is why she shrieks. The strap of her bag where it had been hooked on her right arm is torn through, and a good sized cut slices down her upper arm to the elbow. A purple glow already begins to emit from her eyes as she scurries further away, dragging leaving the bag behind on the ground to possibly get crushed. All that energy surges out— with no control yet. The pain blew the knot open, and it may take a few moments for her to control where it goes. Could have been a lot worse if it hadn't just grazed her, really— but even then…

This is why Raith never cared much for rodeos; too many variables out of his control. Rising into the air, the squeezing in his left thigh, and the sudden appearance of purple light is enough to give Raith's brain the message it needs most; fuck this noise. The man bails out with all the grace of a drunken rodeo clown, rolling and tumbling off the thing sideways and unceremoniously landing in the shallows on his back. Although he tightens his muscles before he does, the hit still knocks some wind out of his and gives his cage a good rattle. An instant later, his instincts kick and and he thinks to scramble back away from the thing before it steps on him.

Rummaging in her bag, Veronica comes up with the flare gun. "Stay back, I don't know what this will do," she yells out to her group, now that Raith is free. "Magnes, can you make a … bubble… a shield, to protect us?" she shouts, aiming at the thing's eye sockets, steadying her nerves, or trying to, before glancing back for a second to see if there's any protest to this hasty plan of hers.

"I don't know." Magnes answers quite unhelpfully, suddenly changing tactics and raising both hands once Raith has jumped off the thing. He spreads his control to the entire thing's body, trying to reverse its gravity completely so he can get it in the air and start trying to move it into the water. "Don't waste ammo, you heard what that guy said! I need to get it into the water, then the thing will be laying in one big weapon…" He sounds as if he's straining though, still not used to using his ability this way. "And make sure Gillian is alright!"

"Gillian— !" A sharp, concern-laden shout from Cardinal as he sees the scythe-like blade of mud-caked steel slash down, and she cries out in pain - he's not at an angle to see that it's not too major an injury - and he leaps past the gouge that the mantis blade cut in the earth not far from him, across the pale scar across stone to get to her side.

He reaches down to slide an arm around her for support to haul her off. With that close contact, the violet glow spills over him… and, paradoxically, shadows spill over his skin and garments, his eyes darkening towards black. "Move, move, mo— uh— uh oh."

Naked black widow spider legs skitter and scramble for purchase up Raith's arm while he slides sideways off the skull and rolls once over himself on his way to landing flat on his back. Aaaah, water, aaaah — thinks the spider, who is temporarily more concerned with avoiding swimming lessons than it is sinking its fangs into hairy human flesh.

A shadow passes long over the stunned ex-clown, the second forelimb slogged out of water and rock to slam down parallel a ways back from the first. Its head has continued to warp in the interim, one side caved in completely, half a set of grinding steel molars rent out at obscene angles from its flattened jaw. It can't possibly see anything. But it's almost all the way up, now, red lights flaring on 'round the black case stored in the belly of the beast like florescents lighting down the length of a stout and very angry hallway. Its overlong and thin legs are unsteady — one even appears to be twisted or broken when Magnes's shift in tactics starts to lift it clear of the ground entirely. Steam vents violently through ports near the shoulders and between broad ribs, scalding anyone who hasn't hastily evacuated themselves out of range of its scythe strikes, but that's only half of it.

The other half is a sound they've all heard once before: a hollow, lonely siren wail eminating from its core that's already well on its way to building towards an ear-numbing shriek.

While it could have been a lot worse, the amount of blood running down her upper arm is enough to cause worry. Gillian doesn't notice at first that she's being pulled on, and then the hands start to become less— substantial. The flow of energy can be felt going out of her, pouring into someone else, but the pain doesn't make pulling everything back into a knot very easy.

"Fuck, I'm sorry," she says, reaching out to touch at the shadowy form that tried to come to her rescue, before looking back at the giant monster. The monster that's going on a flailing rampage. This time, she's quicker in getting away from it, but her bag isn't so lucky. Whatever gear she'd manage to gather up for herself gets spilled on the ground. Including her prize blanket. She's going to miss that blanket. But maybe it will get to double as a bandage, assuming they don't die.

Their in a world of trouble, now. Raith manages to get away, avoiding a scalding blast of steam thanks in large part to be partially submerged in water. Back on dry land, he pulls himself up to his feet and tries to work out a plan. The spider, if he even noticed it before, is completely forgotten. Without dropping his machete, his hands come up to cover his ears; he may not be able to hear anything this way, but better that than not being able to hear over a telephone that he can't answer. His eyes dart to the jungle, then to the river, and then back to the jungle. Seven hundred pounds of steel can't swim, but it might not need to, either. "Watch the trees," he shouts, unsure if anyone will hear him over the siren, and not caring if they can. Hopefully, the only thing nearby they have to worry about is the thing in front of them, and that's already looking pretty busted up. But if one of those, 'hellcats' appears, in a space this opened where it has room to maneuver, they might all end up the main course at a sushi buffet.

There's a pleasant thought.

The metallic thing seems to be self-destructing without the help of the flare gun, so she backs up warily; then the sound of klaxons in the distance has Veronica running on full throttle. Unfortunately, she's slower than usual from her prior run-in with one of the robots. "Go, go, go," she shouts, in agreement with Raith as she follows, glancing to see where all the others are and to skim for any hint of new robots coming for them in answer to the sirens. "To the river…" They need to get across to the better weapons anyway, right?

Things go from bad to worse in Argentina about as fast as they do in New York City. Which likely makes the fact that something else is crashing through the woods not entirely surprising. The sounds of multiple inbound bodies is relieved only when it is made evident they aren't made out of steel and raw hatred. Crashing out of the treeline on the opposite side of the river, Rico Velasquez is moving as fast as he can, assault-rifle out and booted foot stomping on the ground with each charging footfall.

He leaps into the air, clearing a deadfall tree and lands with a crash in a patch of soft earth, rising only to one knee as he levels his M-16 up to his shoulder and begins sweeping his scoped vision around the opposite side of the river where chaos ensues.

Behind Rico, Kazimir is not far behind, crashing through the treeline as if fully in enjoyment of a more youthful body. He comes to a skidding stop in loose stone, his backpack the only part of him that is dry, and much like Rico he seems sopping wet through and through, but at least they made it to the other side of the river. "They're here!" His voice is little more than a muffled trombone warble to the people ont he other side of the river as he calls out to Ross and Dahlia behind him in the woods.

"Don't go to the river, I'm throwing it in!" Magnes exclaims, wincing as his grip on the thing wavers, trying to put all he can into thrusting that robot /into/ the water, knowing he won't be able to concentrate long with that noise.

"Oh hell— " The first time that Cardinal said that this evening, it was because of a gigantic, horrific robot bent on murdering them all. The second time it's because of he effects of Gillian's uncontrolled ability on his own Evolved powers. He pulls one hand off of her shoulder as he begins to fade into living shadow, "I don't think this is very…"

The hand that she reaches out to him feels very odd for a moment, as if it were losing solidity, but the shadowmorph pulls away before that particular process goes any further. The violet glow permeates his being as he pulls back a step, starting to finish his statement—

— and then he explodes into darkness, a shadow that swells outwards like the coming of a sudden eclipse over the area. Vision dims, blurs as if night had suddenly fallen, pupils attempting to compensate for the sudden change in light levels.

This may complicate matters some.

Dahlia is hot on Kazimir's heels, moving as nimbly through the jungle as if she were born for it. Ross, evidently, is not, charging through at a less spry, more determined and bull-like pace and wondering why the hell they have to run so much generally, backpack bouncing from loose straps at his shoulders as he goes. All three of them are wet from likely a repeated dip in the icy river in an attempt to get across. Happily, Dahlia's shirt clings to her, but that's a constant given the summer humidity anyway.

Her boots slide in damp earth when she comes to a halt, eyes going wide at the— shadow show across to the river. Her words are at the top of her lungs in an attempt to shatter through the wailing sirens; "What is that?" Behind her, Ross trudges his way into view, a hand clasped to an ear with irritation written across his face— and then sharp wariness at the sight of the robot. He mouths something that looks a lot like, "Oh fuck."

A bass pulse not dissimilar to a current of electricity pounding bold through each and every mammalian brain within listening range rolls in under the metal on metal shriek of the metal cast llama beast. It's intolerably, painfully loud at such close range — the air itself seems to stumble back from every fresh surge of sound in throbbing recoils of pressure that bleach at conscious thought and sting tears into unprepared eyes half a second before Cardinal's side of the river is plunged into pitch blackness. Precious silence comes at a cost, as it did at the destroyed base before: Team Alpha can no longer hear the robot's dread cry, but they can't hear (or see) anything else either.

The massive creature caught weightless in the grasp of Magnes's gravity flails heavy insectoid limbs in a labored, slow motion tangle of steel cable and flashing mantis blades. In the second or so before its skull is absorbed by pooled darkness, its crushed skull and single remaining eye socket turns resentfully on those who've already made it across the water.

Out, out go the lights out all — and then the Thing is turning once over itself in its way back out of the shadow and into the light. Into the light and into the water, coincidentally.

It lands with about as much grace as might be expected: an upended brachiosaurus thrashing into freezing water in a boiling explosion of steam and slow churning limbs. The river isn't deep enough to sink it, but what parts do remain visible to those still capable of seeing do not appear to be doing well. A second explosion of steam rocks it over onto its side and into a breached boulder, ridged neck lopped slooow slow in a straining reach to keep its ruined head above water.

One last undead pry of a long forearm later, it is just one more thing to whiten the icy water between Here and There at the river's middle.

"Cardinal?" That— that doesn't happen when he uses his ability normally. Gillian can't help but stare into the darkness helplessly as she backs away, only to draw her hands up to her arms and close her eyes. The dreaded wail of the beast— not that it lasts long, cause soon she can't hear. Are her ears bleeding? She wouldn't be at all surprised. Crawling away on hands and knees, she decides it's safer not to run right now— which was a good decision. Within moments she slams into a tree. Ow. That'll leave a bruise tomorrow. But it also gives some protection as she moves around it. Hopeing to have put it between her and the beast. Not that she knows the fate of the beast at all… as far as she knows it's still waving mantis sledgehammer arms around.

The one sense she can trust besides touch is her ability. The blanket of power remains open, but she pulls it back in, and then wraps it up, while trying to hold onto her arm. Ow that hurts.

Fuck. Not good. Inadequately armed is bad, but inadequately armed and bind is factorially worse. "Rico!" Raith shouts, although he's not expecting anyone to meaningfully answer, "Ayuda! Richard, turn it off! Turn it off!" He can't tell where he is. He can't tell where that thing is. He can't tell if something else is bounding out of the trees to filet him. Nothing. Zero, zip, zilch. Blotto. Everything gone to hell in a New York Minute, an Argentinian Minute. All he can do is move away from where he thinks Cardinal is, in the hope that he'll stumble back into the light and be able to figure out where he is.

Veronica crouches as soon as the lights go out and the deafening sounds seem to have actually done the job. Best to just stop. She reaches out, hoping to find a tree or something for a little bit of shelter as she waits for whatever it is to pass. Her eyes had been on the beastie, so she didn't see Gillian accidentally augment Cardinal — she's not sure what is causing this. Her heart thumps in her chest; if she could hear, she's sure she could hear it, sure it would be as loud as a symphony's timpani drums, but everything is muffled. She simply waits.

"Jesus Fucking Christ!" Rico spits out the curse from his inability to see anything beyond the edge of the river where those shadows bloom and swirl like the ratty ends of tattered cloth. "Nothing, I've got nothing!" Flipping to night vision, there's still not but outlines and vague shapes, so little light is afforded inside that umbral blot that Cardinal has become. The sound of a splash, venting steam and the mechanical shriek of the machine serves as both a death rattle and a warning cry.

"Fall back," Kazimir intones, backing up the rocky slope, waving a gloved hand at Ross and Dahlia, "get back and— " something is moving in the jungle on the other side of the river, something snapping branches and closing through the treeline. "Get back from the river's edge…" There's wariness and uncertainty in Kazimir's voice, looking back at Ross and Dahlia before trying to see what can't be seen through the curtain of ephemeral black.

Magnes is starting to panic once darkness washes over them, far too alarmed to even stop and try to concentrate on where people are. He does the first thing that pops into his head to avoid danger, he starts flying up, as fast as he possibly can.

The borders of the shadow roil like the seas in a storm, shrinking and expanding until it rolls away from the amplifier that's drawing her power back in— spilling away like a cloud revealing the sun in places, until finally Richard Cardinal manages to get himself back under control, if barely. The darkness peels away, spilling down across the earth and flattening out, darkening the soil and ground but not the air for the moment, although even then it ripples and surges.

"Just— a moment— almost— " The words echoing, twisted and not entirely steady. Maybe he should've had Gillian amplify him earlier so he could get used to this.

Dahlia sees it when Kazimir does, the telling rustle along the brush of jungle on the majority of their team's stretch of water. Anything big enough to cause the beginnings of such a commotion is worth running away from, really, and she will feel stupid in a few seconds if it's just a stray alpaca or something, but you stay alive in the jungle by taking no chances. So as the shadow rolls back, she doesn't fall back on Kazimir's command — she moves, feet splashing white frothy water to get as close as she'll risk it to scream her own order—

"Get across the river! NOW!"

Veronica's probing fingers find something hard in the darkness.

Not a tree, not a co rock, but seething hot metal that hums through the pads of her fingers in a sleek feline roll of razor armor passing through her grasp too gently to slice or rake.

It's there and then it's gone, lost to the murk until light begins to filter in groggy bands through Cardinal's haze. From far above or across the river, keen eyes might catch a silvery glint or the flick of a corded tail, but it isn't until the black falls away in full that the hunter prowling its way from Veronica to Gillian and Cardinal is fully exposed.

Spine arched low to the ground, progress slow, its hellish red eyes don't seem aware of the fact that it's no longer invisible as it coils itself down in preparation to pounce, the only thing standing between them and the jungle. The path to and across the river on the other hand — is quite clear.

Save maybe for a loop of something slippery and grey that rolls once at the surface not far from where the monster llama collapsed to rest.

Maybe it's a fish.

Yeah, the amplifying thing should have happened a while ago, Gillian's coming to realize. Her eyes are closed as she holds her blood slicked hand against her arm, trying to slow the bleeding some. No major arteries were severed, but the slice was deep and ragged enough that it still bleeds enough to be a worry. The voice across the river, the yell, it's only a dull sound in the deafness. Like a voice from far, far away. It's unrecognized, the words can't be made out, but she decides that it means it's safe to open her eyes. So she does. And… The darkness is gone, but she suddenly wishes it wasn't.

Within seconds she's up on her feet and running away from the tree she was hiding behind. Luckily toward the river, bleeding arm and all. She'll just pray piranhas aren't like sharks and attracted to blood.

The next sounds to punctuate the silent gloom are sharp and loud, tiny explosions coming from the Glock in Raith's hand. That the water in the barrel, chamber and magazine didn't cause it to explode is a miracle. The bullets are directed at the machine crouched and ready to attack- the hellcat, as it's known in the back of Raith's mind- not to damage it, but in the hope that a perceived threat will have higher priority than any other target. He knows this won't kill it, but maybe it'll give every one else a chance to run. "Over here, you metal mother fucker!" resounds over the river and gunfire and perhaps even over the gloom.

"I'm here! Come get me! Here!"

Veronica's hand jerks back and she squints through the dark — when the darkness fades, and she sees what it was, her gut coils and she scrambles away, reaching for the flare gun she stowed a while ago. She aims at the creature as it prowls, glancing at it, to the river, trying to decide. She can't run fast, not with her injured leg, but the last time she tried to shoot at the thing didn't go well. Her theory is the flare might short its circuitry, but if it doesn't, she's as good as dead.

But then Raith is shooting at it and making himself a target. She doesn't need to be told twice. She takes off running for the river.

"Rico, now!" Kazimir bellows as the shadows dissipate and reveal the gleaming crimson eyes of the stalking hunter. As if he needed to be told so, Rico cocks a smile and aima for the metallic chassis, popping off three quick bursts of deflected and ricocheting rounds froma cross the river, bullets whipping over Veronica and Gillian's heads. But three bursts is all Rico gets before a click is all the response a trigger squeeze gets.

"I'm out!" Rico hisses, throwing the assault rifle to the ground, reaching down to his side to retrieve his .45, rising up to stand and leveling the gun at the machine, one by one firing off six rounds with thunderous report, and even the wallop impact that both his and Raith's handgun have on the hunter, it barely seems halted in its progress. Six shots go fast in a situation like this, and sooner rather than later, Rico is entirely out of ammo.

Looking back at Dahlia and Ross, Kazimir sharply frowns, then starts moving to the edge of the water, climbing up on one of the rouned river stones that protrudes up from the mud and earth along the river bank, reeds tickling his pant legs. "Come on! Come on! Don't linger in the water! Varlane take care of that thing!"

Magnes lands by the time the darkness receeds, a bit disoriented, unable to hear, but he notices Kazimir looking at him and yelling, then looks over at the metallic cat. Trial and error has taught him one thing; Stop trying to crush the freakin' things. He extends a hand out as he tries to wrap gravity around it, squeezing, then pulls his arm back as if yanking a rope, trying to slam the thing into a tree away from Gillian and Cardinal, with a few thousand pounds of force.

The living darkness recedes across the grass and earth, calming and steadying, but there's no more input from Cardinal. Either he's still getting himself under control, or he's just laying low due to the robot rampage.

Tink tink plink plonk. Bullets spark and smudge off rust-mottled metal much as they have in previous encounters, with rattling jolts of lead on iron railing the machine half an awkward step off balance. It shakes itself, obscurely almost alive for the beat it takes to rebalance and lunge with glittering needle bared past the filter and fiddle of minuscule cleansing mouthparts — into Magnes's clutches. The world whirls green around the bot and then it's wrapped around a tree, one rubber-tipped little footsie prying aimlessly for purchase as it puzzles over its suddenly perpendicular orientation in the world.

In the river, the water is cold. Coooold cold. Shocky cold that blanches faces and skips at the heart in its bitter soak to the bone. It's also moving fast. The current pushes at torsos and threatens to drag boots out from under legs only a few feet in and the deeper they go the worse it gets.

Splash splash splash. Gillian works her way through the cold water, unwilling to look back. She can't even really hear much, still, but the sickening crash of something against a tree is rather… scary sounding. Enough that she doesn't want to look back, so she just keeps going— it helps that she can see Peter — no, Kazimir — on the other side of the river. It gives a goal, even as some of the blood on her arm washes away as she splashes up the water. This isn't the first time she's plunged into a freezing cold river— but she rather hopes it will be the last time.

Unlike most everyone else, Raith hasn't finished this fight just yet. Not exactly. He holsters his pistol bolts down the river bank, ignoring the machine and head straight for Gillian's discarded backpack, slinging his own off his shoulder and onto the ground next to it. With military precision, he extracts a bundle of climbing rope from each one and quickly ties one end of each together in a seizing knot. Not the best of knots, but it will certainly do. The hellcat took a pretty serious hit, thanks to Magnes, so it should be out of commission for a little while.

Looping another end of the now extended rope through the straps of both packs and shoving his machete inside one of them, Raith wraps the remaining free end around his hand, he hefts up the entire load and turns to the river. "Magnes!" he shouts, "Boost the packs across!" Whipping his entire body around in a tight circle once, twice, thrice, he hurls the improvised bundle into the air towards the other bank like it was an iron hammer in Olympic track n' field, over the heads of the women. Hopefully, Magnes will get this right, and getting through the water will be that much easier.

And hopefully, these machines really can't swim, or functional all that well when submerged in water. Hopefully.

The agent splashes through the water, which in some ways makes it easier for her injured leg, while making it all the more difficult to move in general. She catches up to Gillian, throwing the woman's arm a critical glance, then looks over head to see Raith's handiwork. It gives her ideas, and she takes her own rope, flinging it out to the bank, in hopes Ross or Dahlia will pick it up. "Grab the rope," she tells Gillian — it's at least something to make sure they don't get caught by a current and float away down stream. Hopefully.

Eyes wide as he sees incoming packs hurled into the air, Kazimir takes a step off of the river stone he's perched on, stepping back to gravel underfoot and then up into soft, wet earth. Completely bereft of ammunition now, Rico is left to walk to the shoreline and wade ankle deep, waving the others over and offering out a hand to try and help pull those who make it to him across. "Hurry! Hurry!" Dark eyes are wide, and the Puerto-Rican soldier is struggling to keep his composure under assault of seemingly improbable creations of war once more.

Something gnaws at Kazimir though, figuratively, and his blue eyes dip down towards the river, brows furrowing in a way that unflatteringly creases the scar across his brow. A shadow, perhaps, or a glimmer of light reflected off of the surface of the water. His head jerks to the side at the sight, eyes growing wide again. Did he just see something, or—

"Oh, crap!" Magnes takes a moment to catch on, having had his attention on the cat, then raises a hand to give the packs a sudden thrust of gravity. "I could have just carried you over, y'know!" he exclaims, though he's well aware everyone's doing their own thing all at once.

Rico gets no sympathy from his sister for wasted ammunition. He was told, after all. Not looking back, Dahlia moves for the thrown packs, waiting until they come down into the shallows before risking going near. "Ross!" she demands, although the Company agent is taken to steering away from the water, all of a sudden, eyes on the surface of it rather than his teammates with enough mysterious uncertainty that he can't quite form words to yell out any kind of warning.

Dahlia's doing okay on her own, anyway, gripping onto the roped bags and digging her heels into soft riverbank mud in preparation for the team to pull across. Mostly, anyway, because in the next moment she snaps, "Rico! «Help me!»"

Something, something, something wriggles and slithers and bumps unpleasantly through Veronica's legs, leaving behind a barely tangible pins and needles tingle that's nearly negligable against the river's numbing cold.

Something else ripples against Gillian's side a little ways further along, rope or no — and with a reflexive, snapping flinch, manages to nose under the billowiy tail of her shirt. Where it sticks. In her side. Like a prickly pear, only a great deal wrigglier. Approximately a foot long for all that she can't see much of it while she's struggling to swim (and not drown), it flips and lashes and slimes about her submerged bra like an eel.

The one that breaches the surface at Veronica's back is larger — something like two and a half feet behind the gloss of a slitted eye before it's swirled back into the current. Invisible once more.

The water, inevitably, is deepest at the river's middle, and earnest swimming is required where the bottom falls away from kicking feet and the flow weighs heavy at boots and trous.

Very much meanwhile, there is a distinctly British voice cursing Magnes in between bouts of static issued forth from the feline mechanism wrapped partway around a tree.


Swimming is not Gillian's favorite things. Luckily she can do it, but with the current of the river, it's threatening to take her down stream quite a bit before she makes it across, especially as the water gets deeper. She'd already been tired from the walk… the cold gives one benifit. Numbing some of the pain that she'd had, allowing her to strain her right arm more than she probably would have in warm water. Still, the rope is welcome, and at first she grabs onto it, twisting her wrist around it for a better grip, and then going back to trying to swim— only to feel something. Inside her shirt.

Something that doesn't feel…

Suddenly she's splashing in the water, trying to do something very different than swim. She's twisting around and actually— is she taking off her shirt? Why yes, it looks like she is, or trying to get out of it, at least. While trying to stay above water. Neither are working out too well. She lets out a yell, and goes under, then splashes and appears again. The rope may be let go of if this panicked thrashing in the river keeps up. And she's not really swimming anymore.

The water is seemingly no safer than the land, and Raith doesn't care. When he sees the thing appear, however briefly, behind Veronica, and sees Gillian beginning to struggle against some unseen assailant, he throws caution, and his own sense of self-preservation, to the wind and charges out into the water. Without his machete, all he can arm himself with is the utility knife provisioned to him, but he doesn't even bother with that; too risky. "Grab the rope!" he shouts, hoping that everyone across the river will figure out why; with three people holding onto it, more weight on the end is all the better. Especially given that Raith starts swimming before he really needs to, pulling himself along with a twisting grip that is faster than slogging through the mud on the bottom.

Veronica doesn't, perhaps thankfully, see the larger aquabot that emerges near her — she does see Gillian flailing and grabs the other woman under her armpits with one arm in a typical lifeguard sort of hold, holding onto the rope with the other, dragging Gillian along with her toward shore. "Stop thrashing and get to the other side, we'll get it out and deal with it there," she shouts, splashed in the face and swallowing water for her troubles. She grabs parts of the shirt to keep them away from the skin, trying to brush away whatever it is Gillian thinks is attacking her while continuing to move toward shore.

Standing at the river's edge, Kazimir stares down into the water with a look of horrified uncertainty on his face, then quickly begins shedding his pack. "Rico, knife!" He screams, motioning to Rico only to find the Puerto-Rican is busy grabbing the packs that were hurled, helping Dahlia get the supplies up off of the shoreline and back away from the water. Quickly grabbing his combat knife from his belt, he tosses it end over end towards Kazimir, who grabs it out of the air and looks back towards the water, brows furrowed.

Dashing ahead, the blue-eyed man puts one foot on the rock he was standing on earlier, springs off and then dives into the water towards where the shadows are moving beneath its surface. Disappearing under the water for a moment, there is no sign of Kazimir resurfacing with one of the squirming machines hugged to his chest in one arm, spiny barbs lancing into his skin. His other hand holds the knife he had grabbed, and a struggle commences as he tries to drive the knife between the articulated plates, then splashes back down into the water.

Gone again, Kazimir resurfaces with a tangle of disconnected metal rings and wires clutched in one hand, a knife having punched thorugh glass, but blood is flowing from small cuts on his chest and arms as well as puncture wounds on his hands. "Fhh— " It's the only sound he can make as he sprays water out of his mouth and nose, hair slicked back to his head, blood staining his tanktop. Blue eyes scan the water, followed by a yowl of pain before Kazimir disappears back down into the water with a thrashing motion and a flail of his knife. One more time he comes up, this time looking around frantically. "Get— out of the water!" He shouts, looking around at the dark shapes moving in the rippling tide, trying to serve as bait while the others move.

The others are handling the rescue, and Magnes is no help in the water at all, especially a rushing current. "I can't get you out, you're all mixed up with the water!" Maybe it's all in his head, but, he still can't do it! Instead he follows Kazimir's lead, standing on the edge of the water, then starts thrusting a palm down at the water whenever he sees one of those swimming shadows, trying to send a crushing force of water down on to the things, one by one.

Out of the water, Dahlia puts her weight on the rope, arms wrapped around the backpacks tied to it and hands gripping. Feet lever herself back along the dry bank, pulling those still clinging to it along with her as much as she is only one woman and they are at least two + Raith. Now that she's up on dry land, however, Ross deems it okay to break from the line of jungle and grip on the rope in front of her. Aaand heave. Veronica and Raith, at the very least, seeing as Gillian is too busy thrashing like an injured shark, can feel themselves jerked closer towards the opposite shore an inch at a time.

The makeshift eel that has attached itself to Gillian's bountiful bosoms is not interested in letting go. Its spines have slid in under the skin like living IVs, but the paralyzing numbness crawling its way through her flesh seems sourced in the slime rather than contact with the spines specifically, and with enough struggling of girl against monster fish, the spines snap off. The rest of the creature rolls itself up in the flag of her shirt and is ripped off downstream by the churn of rapids foaming 'round a nearby boulder just in time for Veronica to muscle her towards the safety rope from behind. Whups. Gasping and water-logged, they manage to grip on for at least a few seconds while Dahlia's forced to dig in on her own to keep them anchored for the time it takes Ross to join here and heave.

Further back, unseen beasties bump past Raith on his ropey way without terrible incident — spines rake and stick but fail to find purchase in his skin on their way past. Elsewhere, though, the situation is not improving. Where only one or two moved at the surface before, there is a wormy mass of them roiling not far from where Kazimir has opted to make things Personal. The one he has sticking in his arm flexes and jolts — not with mechanical muscle, but with a searing burst of electricity that siezes muscle and tweaks molars into an involuntary grind just as the knife ruptures through the spine and sack of numbing gel that keeps the little bastard greased. It goes still, but there are eight, nine, ten more lashing the surface around him excitedly, spines sweeping side to side amidst an occasional flashbulb pop of light and electric shock.

Those Magnes crushes one at a time go down easily, but if he's not quick he'll suffer the same unpleasant involuntary jolt that makes Kazimir kick like a blind mule.

In more succinct terms: there's a lot going on. There is so much going on that with Gillian struggling and panicking in her arms, Veronica fails to notice that the monstrous Thing that attacked them on the shoreline has become dislodged from its bouldery breach and is now dragging downstream towards the pair of them like a razor-edged iceberg.

The ice had already been making her numb, but the needles, what's attached to her side, has a different result. They get her to stop thrashing quite as much. Gillian still kicks, flails a bit even as the other woman grabs onto her, but it's not quite as hard as moments before. But she definitely doesn't seem to be stopping completely. Gasping against water in her mouth, the rope falls out of her hand. And there goes her shirt, carried off down the river.

Without her in it, at least. The black bra is the only thing keeping her modesty in check, as apparently the government let her keep her underclothes— or possibly let her choose her own. Her marred and distorted tattoos are suddenly visible. Broken as if someone had burned holes in them.

Get her out of the water. Yes please. She's not really going to be able to help herself. Panic, and all. Though after what happened with Cardinal, and the panic keeping her from knotting up her power — it may be dangerous to get her too close to a certain someone…

Raith gives up pulling himself to shore for the time. Gillian's hurt, maybe pretty bad; they need to get her out of the water. Veronica can't pull herself while holding onto Gillian, and that means Raith is stuck until the water gets shallow enough to walk again. For the time being, they're SOL.

Veronica isn't looking up river — she's looking at the shore, trying to will herself and Gillian there. She glances down, noticing the artificial spines in the other woman's skin. "Oh, shit, Gillian," she says, pushing the other woman ahead of her so that those on the shore can reach out to her. "Help her out, she's got something in her, probably some sort of neurotoxin," the would-be neurosurgeon calls to Raith. "Ross!" she shouts to the medic, urgently.

Splashing up out of the water, despite the barbed puncture wounds in his body, Kazimir seems unaffected by the toxin of the needles, but the electrical current jolting through the water and through him seems to have a profoundly normal affect on the life-leech. With blue-white flashes beneath the surface of the water serving to outline his silhouette when he sinks beneath the waves again, the dark-haired man struggles with his assailants, coming up for air a moment later with a gasp and a scream, knife gleaming and wet before crashing back down with a metallic crunch and a glass shattering noise mixed in with the thrashing sound of the water.

Struggling to move up, Kazimir drags himself back, until he sees the sad state that is Gillian's condition. Blue eyes stay wide, confused, scared for just a moment before he hides the emotion behind that impassive mask — and a great deal of pain. Twitching and clenching his jaws as another jolt of electricity goes through himself, he tries to make his way back and out of the water towards the shore, slashing his knife just across the water's surface in some vain attempt to draw more of the robots attention to him.

Spitting out a mouthful of water, spines sticking out one arm and down his shoulder, there's something that is coming bubbling to the surface of the river, and it isn't the machines. Dead fish are floating to the top of the water one after another, and the holes punched in Kazimir's skin seem to be sealing up slowly, rejecting the needles, spitting them out to fall from closing wounds, even as he stalks back through the water towards the river's edge, every jolt of electricity slowing him down and eliciting a pained scream.

Magnes seems to be the only one on the other side and not actually in the water, so when he sees the gigantic thing making its way back up, he leaves the little robots alone, pulls the knife from under his rain poncho, then immediately starts flying towards it. "Hey!" he exclaims to the thing in the water, but knowing he can't actually pull it out, he suddenly drops down with both legs held together, Kirby-style, enhancing his weight and trying to do some serious damage to the robot.

Despite his reservations, obligation has Ross dropping the rope and splashing his way into the shallows of the river. One could attribute this to his requirements as Team Alpha's medic. Another could attribute it to Gillian's sudden exploding shirt. It doesn't really matter - what matters is that all 5'6" or so of Ross is helping haul her in, an arm wrapping secure as she's dragged up and out of the water, onto dirt and jungle foreshore.

"Gillian?" he asks, crouching down next to her and hovering a hand over where the broken spiney needles. "Tell me what you're feeling." His fingers are prodding cautious around her torso, not over indulgently, and he glances towards Veronica. "She's been injected with some kind of paralytic - but these can probably be removed without drama."

A glance around the place communicates - do we have time? Dahlia's come to stand nearby, her shadow falling over the group, only nodding once in confirmation before moving to help Raith.

Ross' fingers seek out Gillian's shoulder, her ribcage. "Gillian, can you feel this?" And careful does it, he draws out one of the needles.

With Kazimir disengaged and the obstacle navigating dozens of suddenly very dead fish presents, the boil of unfriendlies dies down to more of an occasional flip or thrash of freezing spray at the surface.

Silent but deadly, the llama bot progresses steadily downstream towards the pair still holding fast to the rope, picking up speed as its lifeless limbs stir silt from the slippery bottom some six or seven feet below the kick of Veronica's feet. As it moves it rolls, cavernous ribs turned over to swallow her whole with Gillian pushed safely ahead — but Magnes gets there first.

He strikes with such force that the beast does still another creaking, broken barrel roll over itself, this time all the way up out of the water and nearly onto shore with Varlane tangled in its spidery design when it grates to a slogging halt in the shallows some twenty feet away from the rest of the group, not far from the outer wall of the missionary hunched in broody silence over the entire affair.

A lone artificial fish flops weakly against the steel cables its caught in against a scythed forearm. Magnes doesn't flop at all.

As she lays there pulled up onto the shore and into the waiting medic, Gillian's no longer thrashing, at the very least, but she is shivering. The place where her body has gone numb can actually be seen quite easily with close inspection— there's no gooseflesh a certain radius around the holes, the skin smooth but just as cold. The blood on her arm starts to rise up again. But her eyes are open, and she's aware of things. In fact— this feels very familiar in a way. She had darts shot into her at close range that did something similar. "I— don't feel it."

It's not close to her mouth, so other than slight chattering, she's able to speak normally. "Not— very well." As she lays there, no longer in the water and panicking quite so much, she can wrap up her ability again. She already blew up Cardinal… no need to kill everyone else…

Finally, Raith reaches the shore after what seems like an eternity in the cold water. What body heat he'd preserved in his tense muscles is gone the instant he stands up, but if he's started shivering, he can still control that, at least. Sucking in a deep breath of warm, air, Raith does what any comrade worth his salt would do. Move down the shoreline to begin extricating Magnes from the mess he's become tangled in. Gillian's getting medical attention from someone who likely has better training than Raith does, although he may well be the second best choice in the situation calls for it. "No reward is worth this," he mutters to nobody in particular.

Scrambling up on the shore, Veronica takes a moment to catch a shuddering breath through chattering teeth before she brings her attention to the rest. "Oh, Magnes," Veronica says, torn between hurrying to Gillian's aid and the gravitokinetic's. "I didn't even see that," she says, really to herself, realizing that the man put his life in the line to save hers. She glances down at Gillian and Ross, who seems to have her under control, and heads over to help Raith the best that she can in getting Magnes out and assessing his wounds.

Pulling himself up out of the river, two flapping spined fish-bots are stuck to Kazimir's back, tails thrashing around wildly, spines detaching as they fall off into the water with loud splashes. Scrambling on hands and knees up the shoreline, the weary man exhales a lung full of water in a choked exhalation, then reaches behind himself frantically, grabbing at the spines with shaking hands, blood running out of the small puncture wounds, grass, reeds and vegetation on the river-side turning brown, wilting and dying in his presence. Immediately, he scrambles across the river bank away from the others, plantlife dying in his wake until he's several feet away from everyone else.

Holding one hand around his throat, Kazimir chokes out a ragged gasp, then turns blue eyes over to where Gillian and Veronica are, up to Ross, then over to Magnes' unmoving form. "Vel— " there's a ragged gasp of breath, "Velasquez." Both Rico and Dahlia look up at the call to a surname, but Rico is the one who actually answers by coming over.

Waving one hand for him to stay back, Kazimir looks over to Gillian, seeing her at least talking to Ross, but Magnes being entirely unmoving. "This— Over here." Pulling himself to his feet, shambling with each step, Kazimir makes a slogging process over to Magnes, looking down at him tiredly after each footfall. Dropping to his knees in the dirt, Kazimir realizes his knife was lost somewhere in the river, and reaches down to pry the spidery legs of the beast apart, trying to get to where Magnes is pinned.

"Give me your hand…" He growls back to Rico, who does no such thing of the sort, staring down at Kazimir with a narrowed eye.

"No." There's a scowl on his face, "I am not your battery." A step is taken back, eyes cast carelessly to Magnes, then back to Kazimir again. "Find someone else to suck the soul of, compadre." There's a snort from the Puerto Rican, one hand rubbing across his chin, then a scowl in like kind from Kazimir. "You may be him, but that does not mean I will do whatever you ask." He considers that. "In fact it makes me less likely to. Find someone else."

Covering his face with one hand, Kazimir slouches against the machine, looking out to the trees nearby, then down to Magnes again. A deep breath is drawn in, then a low exhalation of words. "Step back." Rico arches a brow, then promptly does exactly what he said he wouldn't do — follow orders — and gets the hell out of the way.

Moving a bare hand to Magnes' chest, Kazimir closes his eyes as a thin black vapor spreads out from him, reaching out to the trees, vegetation, plantlife and small animals nearby that his presence hasn't yet driven off. The smoke goes out, and then begins to draw back towards him. As the energy moves, the trees wither, leaves turn brown and dead, falling from the branches, and a few birds fall from mid flight as healing energy is suffused from them into Magnes.

The moment Varlane lets out even the edge of a choked cough, Kazimir stops, his hand coming back with tendrils of smoke still trailing from his fingertips. He hesitates, blue eyes wide, and with Magnes seemingly on the verge of consciousness and — more importantly — alive, Kazimir nods once, wearily, and then finally succumbs to the numbing darts that had perforated his body.

He may well regenerate, but even he has limits. Landing on his side in a crash, there is no movement from the life-drainer, only blue eyes staring listlessly out into the woods.

At least he still has his shirt.

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