Audentes Fortuna Iuvat


elisabeth2_icon.gif feng_icon.gif francois_icon.gif raith_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

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Scene Title Audentes Fortuna Iuvat
Synopsis Or: fortune favours the bold. Several members of Team Charlie act on a lead and investigate the ruins of Eagle Electric.
Date March 26, 2010

Eagle Electric: Ruins

Grozny, Warsaw, Stalingrad, New York. The one thing these cities have in common, aside from high population density and rich cultural histories, is that they have all been warzones at one point or another. The gutted remains of Eagle Electric stand as testament to the old conflict between Helena Dean's Phoenix and Kazimir Volken's Vanguard, which drew to a close on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge more than a year ago but will forever be a reminder of what could have been. In at least one future, the whole world is in ruins. Another: underwater.

If there are stars out tonight, they are hidden behind the thick layer of cloud cover that partially obscures a waxing gibbous moon whose light provides Charlie with just enough sallow illumination to safely navigate the snow-choked wreck and move between crumbling walls, bent steel frames and burnt-out husks of metal that were once trailers and cars unfortunate enough to be parked on the property when the warehouse exploded and engulfed part of the factory and administrative buildings in the blast.

So far, the only sign of life that Francois, Elisabeth and Teodoro have encountered was the great black bird perched on the chain-link fence surrounding the property, its hooked feet closed around a 'No Trespassing' sign tagged with lurid red graffiti that reads: RISE UP

The choice of clothing tonight was a toss-up — all-black to blend with the night once they were in the building, or all-white to blend in with the insane amount of snow on the ground. Neither option was exactly right — gray it is. Charcoal's not quite as dark as black, but it'll blend with shadows well enough. The frigid weather is not making their job any easier, certainly. Elisabeth's blonde hair is covered with a hat, and her hands are gloved in the old leather gloves she used for police work. As they pick their way through the ruins, the audiokinetic has her ability ramped up as far as she can stretch to listen for anything out of the ordinary — electrical hisses indicating power has been restored, generator rumbles, thumps that might be footsteps, crunches in the snow, anything at all. But all she's come across so far has been a few poor rats (and who ever thought she'd think 'poor rats'?! The mere thought of the creatures still gives her shudders of abject disgust and fear). She murmurs to Teo, "Nothing," and leaves it at that for now.

The cold seems like an added presence, a separate obstacle, like the slick gravel continually shifting and crunching underfoot, the gap in the fencing they'd ducked through— ladies first— and the cover of darkness they've chosen to investigate under. Vapor striking the chilly air in steam with each exhale, Francois roams his eyes over the desolate shapes of what was once, apparently, a Vanguard stronghold. It's a battlefield more familiar to the two with him, but it only takes a certain amount of imagination to put it back together and understand what dismantled it in the first place.

There isn't even really a door to contemplate knocking on, or kicking in. He darts a green eyed gaze on over to the black shape of the watching raven by now a short distance behind them, before continuing to dog the steps of the other two. He's another dark silhouette, with black wool pulled over kevlar and weaponry both and greyish jeans, boots thick against biting cold. Hands gloved as well, with the addition of a brace on his left hand that hopes to do more to help him than to hinder.

"Eyes in the sky seem to corroborate," Teo answers the audiokinetic, lifting his head to gesture to the black bird settled on the fence. Of the three of him, he's probably the most familiar spectacle to the raven in question, outfitted in tactical gear underneath his shabby street chic of peacoat and (double-layered) slacks, and his posture stiffly squared from the cold. Likely, that means the most easily predicted, as well, even his negative response to low physical temperatures aside.

His jaw levels out again. Only a gun occupies his hand. His flashlight isn't on— yet. There's enough natural light that his teammates can see the scarred hole punctured through his cheek wriggle faintly when he pulls a deep breath in, fleshy and saliva-bright where he wetted it with his tongue against the chapping ache of cold, and then there is an obfuscating skein of white-gray condensation when he exhales. "Well. Half the fucking walls are gone. That should mean we should be able to keep some good cover if we approach at an angle, and you should still be able to pick up sounds pretty clearly, right?

"Low interference?"

What Liz's ears pick up is not the sound of footsteps, but the snap of a match being struck and the noise flame makes when it crackles to life. Raspy breathing accompanies it some one hundred feet ahead behind a half-collapsed wall in the corner where the warehouse's steel frame connects with the administrative building, and although there are no footprints in the snow to indicate someone is there that she can see, she can hear the irregular flutter of a solitary heartbeat palpitating in someone's chest.

There's a pause and Elisabeth nods slightly, looking around as she squats behind one of the destroyed vehicles. Based on the blueprints of the original building they've already determined that the warehouse and the factory are unlikely if only because as half-destroyed as they are with their wide-open floor plans, keeping any part of the place sealed off and in any way heated would be next to impossible. The administration building looms ahead of them, and Liz looks at the two men. She starts to gesture toward the admin building, and then holds her hand up to freeze both men in place. Before another sound can come from either of her companions, she yanks a silence field into place around the three of them, something she hasn't done up to this point for several reasons — it lets them range a bit farther apart if necessary, and it takes more concentration to be able to listen through the bubble; she can't reach as far when she's doing both.

"Shit. Contact." Liz uses her left hand, the one wielding her turned-off flashlight, toward the corner of the building they were just about to go around to get inside. "One heartbeat." She keeps her pistol pointed at the ground, but she's visibly more tense even in the darkness. "Do we know whether Eagle is paying any kind of security for this place?" she thinks to ask. She didn't come across that information, but then again…. it is still their property.

Francois had kept his own hands free up until this point — now, he slides a pistol from its holster beneath his jacket, gloved fingers curling into place as he stops level with Elisabeth and Teo, his shoulder brushing against the edge of a burned out trailer as he looks back towards Elisabeth and her question. He shakes his head. "Non. Volken bought the property," he says, voice instinctively low and quiet despite the fact that silence is caged around them. "Eileen said that it is probably still under his name — or one of his names. I would imagine that we are as welcome here as the others are.

"Shall we go and say 'hello?’"

"I think so." The register of Teo's voice, his tone, don't change even a fraction despite that he was standing over the weather-battered windshield of the car ago, and now he is squatting grasshopper behind its nose, a pale eye pointed around the snub profile of headlights and front bumper. "I'll hang back with the grenades. And try not to hit either of you with them," he adds, helpfully. High-tension situations require the occasional minor irreverence, you see. If you paid every element and danger the proper recognition, you'd go mad.

Faster, at any rate. Cases in point, Raith and Holden have been doing this awhile. His voice is low, too. Has the edge of gritted teeth to it, not easily mistaken for the coarse rasp of his boot soles against snow. His knee is nudged down braced against worn tyre rubber. "I won't be further than forty yards behind you, but pick a safeword in case you want something thrown."

"Groovy." The word is out of Elisabeth's mouth before she even thinks about it, and she's actually somewhat shocked. But then again, so much of this has brought up hard memories. "Let's try to take him quietly," she says to Francois. "I can wrap him in the field with us so no one hears the gunshot." Eminently practical, she is. The blonde's tone is matter-of-fact as they get ready to make their move. "On the count of three, I'll go around the corner while you two cover me. I'll move immediately to the wall on the right, so when you come around the corner, stay lower and give yourself a foot or so clearance from the wall, okay?" That way they're slightly smaller targets with clear shots…. and hopefully with the silence field muffling their approach, they'll simply be able to surprise the guard and have a gun against his head before he knows what hit him.

"D'accord." Fine by Francois, and consent is further implicated with a slight tilt of his head. There's no need to worry about the murmur of— one, two, three— and then the footfalls of crunching gravel, when it comes to going into battle with an audiokinetic. Francois is still less than used to it, and as he moves on after Elisabeth, instinct dictates that he concentrates on letting booted feet strike the ground lightly, glance going up the faces of gutted buildings as he watches for a sign of something as half of the former Team Charlie make their progression forward. Quickly quickly, scurrying ants among the ruins at a zigzag between hills of gravel, abandoned husks of cars.

Teo is in the back, and there's nothing particularly irreverent about that. A few yards behind the Frenchman, and off to the right, he picks up the pace at a canine lope, his strides long and even despite the irregularity of the footing in through the blasted fence. Without a downward glance to steer, the AR-15 is fluidly swung down from his shoulder, mid-stride, its grip hitting his glove soundlessly and seamlessly.

His forefinger is in the trigger-guard within a breath, and the butt against his shoulder. He keeps himself low, and there's only the dullest smudge of a shadow sliding across the snow and frost and ragged concrete reliefs at his feet, showing the weapon's nose up, level as a slavering wolf's.

Elisabeth takes the right, Francois the left, and for the man on the other side of the wall there is no immediate escape. As the FRONTLINE operative rounds the corner and steps into view, he turns toward her, lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth and one gloved hand resting on the butt of the assault rifle he wears on a leather sling across his shoulder.

Sasha Kozlow was not expecting to find an American at his front or a Frenchman at his back; his blue eyes grow sharp with surprise, recognition, and with a quick look shot over his shoulder at Francois he raises both his hands in a gesture that probably indicates surrender.

He hasn't seen Teo yet. Doesn't need to. His odds aren't much better whether they're two against one or three.

When her blue eyes meet Sasha's over the barrel of her pistol, there is not an ounce of mercy or remorse in Elisabeth's face. She is perfectly calm and very clearly ready to pull the trigger to put a bullet between the man's eyes. Her expression is cool as she says quietly, "You have less than five seconds to tell me where Dreyfus is and how many people are in this complex. If you don't talk fast enough, I'm going to put a bullet in your brain. And they'll never hear a goddamn thing. Five…"

In the shadow of the administrative building and within the tattered skeleton that was once a warehouse, Francois only levels his weapon towards the lanky frame of the cornered Russian, standing at an angle that hopefully does not cast doubt into the idea that Sasha could well be about to die in the five seconds afforded to him. Even as he travels forward a few steps, Elisabeth's potential shot is clear. Countdown begins and Francois doesn't add confusion to it with his own questions, but does afford himself a quick glance cast while Skoll gets pinned under the woman's avid stare.

The thought process happening behind Sasha's eyes arrives at its grim conclusion before Liz's countdown does. "«I'll be more inclined to talk,»" he tells Francois without taking his gaze off the woman pointing the pistol at him, "«if your friend gives me a reason to believe she won't pull the trigger as soon as I've finished telling you what you want to know.»"

It's a gamble. He doesn't know whether or not Elisabeth speaks Russian, but he's hoping she doesn't and will be unable to determine whether or not the slurred words coming out of his mouth contain any of the information she asked for. "«Kill me and not one of you will make it off this property alive.»"

Elisabeth doesn't pull the trigger, though she has zero compunction about it. Instead, since he's speaking Russian, she lets Francois take over the questioning. She has done many many things over the course of the past year, but Vanguard is the group who put her on this path. It used to be she'd balk at firing her weapon. It used to be that she believed that people could be brought to trial for their crimes — and especially in the case of a group who blew up a school, she believed that justice could be served in that way. In this case, she'll be just as content with justice served up at the end of her gun. She wouldn't pull the trigger for herself — for what was done to her at the hands of Humanis First. But she's willing to pull it for her kids. For her father. For Teo's mother. For Francois's lover. For Hokuto. And even for Jennifer Chesterfield.

Her aim is unwavering, but she allows Francois to make the call on whether they're being told anything of use.

Francois stares at Sasha over his gun, sluggishly translating words as they come, comprehension picking up speed as slurry syllables rattle into being and context. For Elisabeth, the Frenchman's expression doesn't tell her either way, but he does glance to her after a second. Hold. "He isn't alone here," he reports, after a moment, clear cut English where the tinge of his accent does nothing to hinder understanding. "And claims we'll die if we put him down. He wants a reason to believe we won't kill him when we have what we need.

"«Trust that we will only kill those who stand in the way between us and Dreyfus — he is all we want. Surrender and speak and you save yourself,» da? «Or die here and later.»" A pause, and he repeats— so we're all on the same page; "Who else is here, and where can we find Dreyfus?"

In the background, Teo is listening with unmistakable avidness, for anyone who's watching, and he is well-aware that there's at least one Englishwoman out there who is. It's not the regard of those unseen, whiteless avian eyes that raise prickling nerves on the back of his neck, however, but what the ultimatum delivered in Russian by the man up ahead. He understands Russian well enough to have parsed it without Francois' translation. Winds up feeling that Liz was spared a whole lot of ominous atmospheric intonation.

Packed down against the half-rubbled wall, Teo's posture grows so rigid that it probably wouldn't have grated against the musculature of his shoulder more if he were actually pressing hard against the weakened masonry. He isn't. He's merely wound up, strung taut against his own freezing fucking bones. Thinking, unpleasantly, about bombs.

The bird perched on the fence has not moved for several minutes except to turn its head and track Teo's progress through the rubble. Wind tugs at its feathers and it does not dip its head to comb them back into place with its beak.

"«There is an anti-personnel mine approximately sixteen inches to the left of Harrison's leading foot,»" Sasha says in a voice scratchy, abrasive, "«and a dozen more placed at strategic points throughout the facility.» The cigarette bobs in the corner of his mouth bobs as he speaks, smoke leaking from his nose and mouth, though it's difficult for Francois to separate this from his breath's ephemeral vapour. He pauses. Makes another decision. "«In three seconds, you'll want to duck.»"

A glance towards a patch of nondescript gravel-riddled ground shows— a patch of nondescript gravel-riddled ground, and Francois is about half a second away from forgetting the fact that Sasha's warning is not in the English that Elisabeth requires for the Frenchman's glance to make much sense. "Stay right," he orders Elisabeth, pulling back a step and his imagination paints a stripe of nervousness up his spine when his heel meets the ground behind him, never mind that it's already marked with his footsteps. "And get down."

Between getting killed for not believing Sasha or looking foolish for believing Sasha, Francois chooses the latter of two possibilities — gun still trained forward, he ducks swiftly into shadow, keeping low and hoping that the skeletal form of the warehouse making shadows just behind him qualifies as cover for what a leap of logic dictates to be impending open fire.

That is decidedly unfair. Teo would like to inform the Russian that a personnel mine sixteen inches to the right of somebody's foot must be a rather sloppily radiused mine, if it's good reason to duck down right then, and then demand a further, more sufficient explanation about what is about to happen, connecting it to earlier notions of mines but—

that definitely isn't happening. He packs himself down right where he is, an arm hurled up to cover his neck and his rifle momentarily angled down, its skinny black muzzle into the dirt, the wolf in retreat. Teo, on the other hand, has his teeth bared, face in a grimace, eyes pinched shut against the expected cloudbrust of shattered concrete, ash, and particle frost, heart hammering behind his ribs if not as fast as an entirely sane person's should be. An entirely sane person wouldn't be here.

Sasha is roughly a second and a half off in his estimation. A small explosion blasts a hole the size of a fist through the wall that occupies the space where Francois' head had been, spraying the Frenchman with pieces of concrete and plaster. Liz is not so lucky; while Francois is securing cover in the warehouse's protective embrace, the sniper takes the opportunity to line up his next shot, tracking the FRONTLINE operative with the same precision the raven had reserved for Teodoro.

The body armour she wears under her clothes prevents the bullet from penetrating the cavity of her chest, but the force of its impact is strong enough to throw Elisabeth into the wall behind her. She strikes her head against a piece of exposed rebar on her way down and does not get up again.

Sasha is moving, too. Hare-swift and kicking up snow, he leaps over Elisabeth's fallen shape and disappears through an open doorway leading into the administrative building with nary a glance behind him. He does not go far, however. If she was still conscious, Elisabeth would be able to hear his scuffing footsteps skid to a halt near one of the broken windows that looks out across the clearing between the remains of the warehouse and the old factory standing across from it. Glass crunches under his feet, but what Francois and Teo will both hear instead is the sound of his rifle's charging handle being slid back.

Francois' head meerkats back up when the dust— doesn't actually have any opportunity to settle, a brief glance to see Liz's crumpled body and a lack of black blood pooling out into the snow. His own kevlar is heavy and warm and a reminder as to why that might be, so he has time to ponder instead where the hell the sniper is, crouched as he is behind caved in walling. Only two shots fired, but still, his head swivels to look Teo over with bright green eyes to make sure that he is—

And then the scrape of metal registers, and Francois moves. Not far. Two arms swinging up and over crumpled wall, leveling his pistol at the dark eye of the broken window from which the noise came, and the short sounds of two pistol blasts cracks its noise without an audiokinetic's censorship as he fires twice before sinking back.

Indeed: Teodoro Laudani lives still. He is also livid. He thinks that his darling audiokinetic may have been killed by a fucking sniper. Wintry blue eyes meet Francois', and he doesn't blink when the flash of gunfire goes off in his peripheral vision. He's already unfolding himself from his crouch, pulling a flashbang out of his coat.

Doesn't pull the pin out. Instead, he swings his arm on a graceful underhand, bowls the small canister along the floor in one smooth motion. When it doesn't blow the fuck up on a mine, he's fleet to follow its course, keeping his head down while France provides cover-fire. When he catches up to the grenade, he snatches it into a hand and then shuts his teeth on the pin, finally. Clink.

The throw goes around the corner, sends the grenade rattling into Sasha's hallway, ping-tink-clunk, a split second before he twists his head away and the canister goes off. Light and noise in earsplitting combination, like a thunderclap in the flawed compression of the half-demolished administrative building.

Both bullets Francois squeezes from his weapon clip the window's frame, taking off chunks of stone. Sasha's return fire likewise chisels away at the wall above the Frenchman's head but deals no damage to anything living. At the fence, the raven heaves itself off the chain-link and into the air with several powerful thrusts of its giant black wings.

Light and noise flood the hallway, drowning out the snarling scream torn from Sasha's throat when the grenade detonates, albeit with a distinctive lack of concussive force. He staggers, clutches claws at the wall furthest away from the broken windows and struggles to remain upright, waging a covert war against his lost equilibrium. Teo cannot clear the distance between them in the time it takes the Russian to bring it back under control, but this turns out to be a good thing because there are already bullets whizzing blindly in his direction, glancing off concrete and the floor directly in front of his feet.

It isn't a waste of ammunition on Sasha's part, or at least not from his perspective. Not if it keeps his pursuer pinned down.

Gun still levelled for the window as much as any presence there is most likely to be cleared, Francois sends a frantic glance Teo's way to make sure he isn't throwing himself into suppressing fire making echoes in the adjacent administration building. The desire to hurl himself in Sasha's direction, gun or not, is not quite as strong as his desire to run to Elisabeth — but she of the unconscious is left where she is, Francois forcing his attention from Teo and the noises Sasha is making to scope out what he can see of the dark setting for the sniper that took her down.

Very dark, the night speeding along as the hour gets later. Francois takes another half second to remain frozen as he is, before he swaps his gun to his left hand as his right ducks down to take out the flashlight he had strapped beneath his jacket. Keeping its glowing eye hidden against his stomach, Francois switches it on, hesitates, then stays low as he rolls it near Elisabeth's general vicinity. It's glow sweeps erratically as it bumps against the gravel on its bouncing journey into the open. He's not testing for mines.

Teo's back is pressed to the wall, heat coming in around the corner and from the other side, too. There are a thousand rap songs with this concept in it and he would find all of them trite and stupid and inadequate to this scenario if he was thinking about them at all. His breath goes in, his breath goes out, billowing the ugly perforation in his cheek like some nasty orifice insult. Another flashbang comes out of his vest, pin popped.

And hurled down the same hallway again. This time, however, Teodoro is coming in fast behind it. A little too quick: the auditory report cuts his hearing in half, though his fingers and a cringing squint manage to keep his optic nerve clear even as he goes hurling down the hallway. There is one point in which he is terrifyingly, perfectly equidistant between the audiokinetic's prone corpus through the doorway and Kozlow's in the hall. It's tempting to opt for Russia.

But that flashlight is one shot from a diversion no more. So he hooks in just as fast as he'd rounded the corner, a mad swerve that skids low, snares woman by arms and hauls, tucking her into the flimsy protection of his arms, the doorframe, and the cumulative disorientation of two flashbangs on a gunman who's altogether too close by.

The flashlight explodes in a shower of broken glass, snow and pieces of plastic that scatter in a semicircle around the yawning indentation left in the gravel where the bullet struck. Down one torch, Francois at least now knows that the sniper is somewhere north of the warehouse, and with its tall smoke stacks and high towers, the gutted factory on the other side of the property seems the likeliest candidate.

Another shot, this one mere inches from the doorway Teo is occupying with Liz's body cradled against his chest. The light emitted by the second flashbang bathes the windows in white, reflects off the snow outside in white and produces a glare so bright that it temporarily renders Francois blind.

At the end of the hall, Teodoro can hear Sasha retching, booted feet crunching over broken glass and pieces of gravel tracked in from outside. He's lost his cigarette at some point during the altercation, which is just as well because he wouldn't be able to taste it beneath all the bile.

"«Leave Harrison,»" he shouts down the corridor around the cover provided by the corner, a bloodied handkerchief grasped between his fingers and pressed to his mouth, muffling the sound of his voice which he himself cannot hear. His ears are still ringing. "«Dreyfus knows she's the one who pulled the trigger on his son! I can convince him to let the rest of you live!»"

As the second flashbang goes off, Francois flinches, bodily, sinking with his back against crumbled concrete and squeezing his eyes shut tight. The back of his head finds concrete, not quite in a smack, hissing out a French curse as stars dazzle in his eyesockets and bleaches out the detail around him. "Is she alright?" is noise not enough for Sasha, but loud for Teo. He does wait for an answer, but isn't slow to report a warning; "Sniper is north of us. Probably in the factory." He swaps his gun back to his more capable hand, but doesn't go to fire it, even if he had anything worth firing at.

"She's breathing," is noise enough for Francois and possibly the rest of the neighboring districts of Long Island City, but not for Kozlow. Teo is kinda deaf. Something about setting off flashbangs too close. His arm tightens around the audiokinetic's waist. Some remote backward corner of his mind, probably the same one he stuffed Ghost into, is of the opinion that he would leave her if she'd killed the boy because the boy was trying to kill her.

Well! What the fuck did the ghost know, anyway? Besides demolitions, flashbangs, some tactics stuff, computers, how to solicit sex in Hebrew— "«Dreyfus is a moron. He killed his own fucking son. Zhukovsky and I helped.»"

His back grinds painfully down the doorframe, AR-15 wedged in between. He covers Elisabeth's white face and neck with one arm, and the splay of his hand, and pulls his pistol out. "«I had one arm around him and I tricked him into revealing he wasn't who he was masked as. Harrison dealt with it because I was fucking sloppy. Tell him to write me the receipt— we'll split the cost with your fucking illusionist.»"

There's a moment where Sasha raises his rifle, looks down the scope at what he can see of the Italian's shoulder through the sight and the halo of Elisabeth's blonde hair spread across it. His finger tightens halfway around the trigger and abruptly—

— goes slack. Whether or not he'll actually pass the message along to Dreyfus is left to the other man's imagination; the harried sound of his retreating footsteps are not. They echo through the corridor and the adjacent hallway he disappears down, a dark shape swathed in rough wool and softer leather that's eventually swallowed up by shadows with no texture at all.

Outside, on the other end of the property where Francois indicated to Teodoro that their sniper might be, muzzles flashes flare in the darkness, sporadic and intermittent, but they come from the ground east of the factory rather than the one of the ledges above it. Someone, somewhere, has engaged the gunman.

Fortunately for everyone, Francois is still recovering from temporary blindness to not be too concerned with the words Teo is shouting, and he can slowly start to see the sky as he blinks up at it, the outline of ruined rooftop, and way too much cloud and New York smog to even give a chance of starshine. Which is fine, too. Shifting so that it's his shoulder up against the rubble, Francois peers off towards the direction of the sniper at a squint, the glow of gun flare as Battle Ensues somewhere else.

Moving, now, tired of being pinned down, his shadow falls across Teo and Elisabeth both as he moves off towards the corner, pistol pointed downwards and then jerking upwards, except he sees what he expected to see — fuck all. The urge to chase is strong, but—

"We have a friend," Francois notes, stepping back and nodding off towards the factory, before his gaze falls on down towards Liz, a hand out to cradle her chin, tilt her pale face aside to see the wound that rendered her asleep. Leaving his lover behind with his unconscious friend seems like the kind of thing one would hesitate over.

If Teodoro is aware that he was just spared a world of hurt, he isn't exactly in a position to holler thank-yous or wrote kindly notes to Kozlow right now. He's busy. Coarsely-callused fingers work at the fastenings of her armor, freeing her throat as well as he might. "Go." Teo doesn't look up. Deft hands drop, and she's bracketed in strong arms, the next moment. Princess carry, hauled up off the ground on only the slightest stagger of boots. "I'll deal with Harrison. Take my flashlight and the last grenade— on my vest."

Even proximity doesn't really help in the dark. Teo's face barely stands out against the dark, a polygon of blue with beard smudged ragged around it and a twist-tied ruching of tissue in one cheek; seeing anything on his vest is going to be damn near impossible without Francois using his hands. Francois has Teo's permission to use his hands, as the Sicilian tries to hold Elisabeth out of the way, pulls his own hairy chin aside and keeps still. "Hurry. Hurry."

There is hesitation, minor surprise, but before that pause can seal up to the point of Teo repeating himself a third time or jostling past Francois in exasperation, Francois hurries as told. Pistol slips into its holster before he's methodically detaching the last grenade from Teo's vest, gripped in the loose cage of left handed fingers as his right diverts to take the flashlight in the same brisk manner. "Tell the bird to watch you," is muttered, harried-sounding, which doesn't exactly exempt him of responsibility for leaving, but it's a sentiment, and less awkward than something more cinematic and time consuming.

Gone, in the next moment — in the direction of Kozlow, though that could be coincidence. There's a way out north-side too. Francois' boot-thumps echo less but mimic Kozlow's departure as he rounds the corner and disappears into shadowed administrative building corridor.

The open doorway at the end of the corridor spills out towards a veritable debris field on the eastern side of the factory, covered in chunks of rock, scattered segments of rebar and burned-out shells of old vehicles. And hidden behind the most intact of the larger shells is the source of half the gunfire they had heard earlier. Slightly illuminated by what little moonlight pushes down through the clouds, man-sized, visibly armed, sitting, yes, sitting down in the snow behind cover, and perhaps most tellingly, listing to one side. Francois arrives just in time to see them pop off two rounds from a rifle, one-handed, by lifting it up just enough to get the barrel over the body of the vehicle before pulling it back down and immediately struggling to change magazines. Whoever they are, they're wounded, evidenced by tiny, dark stains in the snow. A bullet leaps out from one of the factory's windows and punches into the body of the vehicle they're behind- looks like it might have been a sedan at some point in time.

Wounded, pinned down, and for all intents and purposes, not on the Vanguard's side. And in need of a little help from their friends. Quickly.

Trying to section off his thinking from the idea that he isn't sure where Kozlow is and the image of Teo carting Elisabeth back the way they came without cover, Francois remains huddled in the north-facing doorway, both hands clasping his pistol as he leans his shoulder against frame. He risks a slice of himself in the cold open air to peer off towards the east-face of the desolate factory, sinking back at the sound of sniper fire striking the ex-Sedan that his new friend is huddled behind.

"Hey! Soldat inconnu." Kevlar under wool buffers the feel of the doorframe as Francois squares his back against it, crouching just a little as he leans to peer back towards the factory, then towards the figure not quite near enough to hold a conversation. Down, down, until he snags his fingers against a pebble-sized piece of rubble. In the next moment, it's sent skittering towards the injured man.

The fact that whoever it is doesn't open fire when Fracois gets his attention, either because of his call or the skittering rock, is an excellent sign. Just as it is an excellent sign that this unknown soldier may not be so unknown. "Aidez moi, mon ami," he answers back, "I can't walk." If the Frenchman's memory is working, he may yet recognize Jensen Raith as the helicopter pilot who flew, quite literally, to the rescue in Antarctica. With a slap of his hand, Raith yanks back the charging handle of his rifle, using his left hand on a weapon clearly laid out for a right-handed user, before he pushes himself more upright, into a slightly better firing position. But in no better position to extricate himself from his predicament. Another bullets 'snaps!' against the snow covered pavement, passing through space that must have looked like it contained the ex-spy's head.

Francois has no urge to put himself in the same position, lest they both become pinned, but the value in remaining cowering in the doorway is quickly diminishing. However much Francois recognises Jensen, he recognises him enough as an ally. Keeping low, Francois' footfalls methodically beat against snow strewn gravel, descending into a crouch near a less than desirable piece of burned out husk of vehicle with groans when his shoulder connects into it, sheets of ice tumbling off from the minute shudder. Mourning the days when all he had to do was get to the person, lay his hands on them, and all would be well — things were simpler then, but this instance is near reminiscent of battlefields he's seen.

Including the amount of common sense behind creating them. With his pistol holstered, Francois spends the amount of time it takes to breathe in lung-searing cold air and letting it out as steam, before going low as if maybe he could blend his black and grey clad self into the shadows of the ground. Pieces of rebar and gravel both try to slice at his knees and gloved hands as he scampers on over towards the rifle wielder.

Fully automatic gunfire accompanies Francois as he moves, Raith opening up on some gap or window of the factory building. Little more than a smoke screen to keep the Frenchman marginally safer than he otherwise would be. Raith is a pretty sorry mess, he'll see once he gets close enough. Two solid hits, at the very least. One near the right shoulder, rendering his gun arm almost useless. A second in his thigh, and clearly the worse of the two, because that one warranted Raith turning his belt into a tourniquet, although it doesn't look cinched tight enough to stop the bleeding completely.

"Good thing we followed you," Raith says, "Man oh man, would you ever be in trouble without me." He has a pistol in addition to his rifle, as well as a variety of grenades, not one of them intended for a launcher. Too bad. "Daiyu's up there," he adds as the now empty magazine tumbles out of his M4. "Fourth level, third window from the left. He was, at least, probably moved now. Probably not higher, takes too long. Towards the end, better angle. I can't hit him." Being perforated clearly isn't good for Raith's health: He's beginning to ramble.

"Merci," sounds sincere, on the topic of Raith's assistance — never mind now. Rather than take a gun back into his hands or even offer to relieve Raith of his, Francois' gloves are soon slick with leaking blood when they go for the make-shift tourniquette, left hand bracing beneath the wound as he goes to try and cinch it tighter — in preparation for inevitable movement. "Both of the people I have come with have retreated," he reports, voice low, tight. No back up is on the horizon for them. "Kozlow escaped. Is there anyone else?"

"No, nobody. Eileen says no. Just us, baby." Raith is plainly uninterested in having his tourniquette tightened, giving a strangled, pained whine and pushing Francois' hands away when he tries to do exactly that. "No medic, not now," he says harshly, although he then falls silent for a moment to collect his thoughts. "He'll get us if we move. Can you shoot? I have a stupid idea."

Moonlight reflecting off its feathers, the raven — Eileen — wheels around and swings past the factory, one glittering black eye turned toward the windows as it whips by them. It cannot afford to follow the same pattern twice; birds are just as easy to pick out of the sky as men are to pick out from the rubble and she's far enough away from her body that to be killed out here would mean being killed in her bed back at the Dispensary as well.

Lifted up by the breeze, wings spread wide, the raven alights on the shortest smoke stack and lets out a low croak that can clearly be heard even from where the two men are crouched behind the car.

It's that still.

Francois' mouth sets into a small and severe line when his hands are brushed away. No medic, not now. That's unfortunate, because the ninja-half of the dynamic male duo flanking Elisabeth mere moments ago has fled with the injured in some stroke of brilliant miscasting, the doctor-half casting a darting look in the general direction of the factory without risking himself to get a proper peek. "Yes, I can shoot," he says, English always sounding clipped on his tongue without softer French to buffer it, shifting to rest his shoulder against chilled metal to huddle his shadow closer to its bulk. He hesitates, and in that time, the raven's cry fills the silence. Steam whisps out in a sigh. "What is the stupid idea?"

"Infrared," Raith says, undoubtedly referring to the fancy-looking optical device attached to his rifle. This time, Raith does offer his weapon to the Frenchman, in the sense that he literally shoves it into his hands. "He'll be, last… second to last window at the far end. That's where I would shoot from." Another beat, either so Francois can absorb that information, or so Raith can keep his focus straight. "I'll pop up, he'll shoot at me, and you shoot him when you see him." A part of the plan for revealing the plan involves Raith thumping his fist against his chest, which resounds with a dull 'thud.' Even if his brain is turning to mush, at least he remembered to get dressed because he followed them out here. "This is the best stupid plan ever."

Rifle weighing heavy in his hands, Francois at least takes the time to get a proper grip on the thing as he listens to Raith with growing incredulousness communicated in a fixed stare above a serious expression made emphatic in haughty cut features. He blinks, once, and gives a brisk shake of his head — almost a no. Instead— "'Idea'," he corrects, after a moment has gone by. "I would not elevate this into 'plan' status, even a stupid one." Which doesn't mean he isn't shifting enough to try and get into a better position for shooting.

"Best we got. Second to last on the far end, fourth level. On three." It's as close to a plan and they're going to get on such short notice. As Francois shifts into a slightly better shooting position, Raith shifts around to get his good leg underneath him. "Un, deux-" Without a doubt, the worst idea Raith has had in a while- "Trois."

The ex-spy pushes himself off the ground and onto his good leg, a prime shooting target. To keep the charade up, he even mimes holding and aiming a rifle, arms wavering just enough to make it look as though he's having trouble managing the weight of the weapon. The whole mess is short-lived, but long enough to allow for a shot setup. His guess as to location was dead-on: The barely visible burst of light that the flash hider on their opponent's weapon doesn't quite conceal is a bit of a giveaway. But the high-contrast white on black image that appears in the scope is an even stronger one.

Of course, that brief flash, followed almost immediately by a second one, is followed just as immediately by one-thump!-two rounds slamming square into Raith's chest. A stupid idea that end up knocking him backwards onto the ground. Certainly not healthy for anyone bleeding the way he is, but what else is he supposed to do? Hobble-hop around, flapping his arms lime a chicken, shouting 'from Russia with love!' That may have actually been a better idea.

The window in which Francois has to act, should he choose to, is a narrow one. In the time it takes Raith to wrench himself to his feet, his heart beats twice, and on the third strike two bullets imbed themselves in the Remnant operative's kevlar armour.

He's lucky that Daiyu wasn't aiming for his head, or he would have more than cracked ribs and a bruised chest beneath his coat to show for his efforts, and there would be more than snow disturbed beneath his dark-haired head on the gravel. Unlike Elisabeth, he's lucky enough not to crack his skull on anything going down except for the ground itself.

Through the rifle's thermal scope, Francois can see a white blur in the window Raith indicated that vaguely resembles the shape of a man, half-hidden by its frame as he prepares to line up another shot, this time aiming for the patch between the younger man's eyes.

To be sure.

Gravel grinds beneath Francois' feet as he's swiftly moving in time with Raith's more reckless, more open gestures, swinging the muzzle of the rifle up towards second to last on the far end, fourth level the appropriate window and staring down the sight with less skill and precision than Francois would like. Possibly, there isn't enough in the world. "Merde," he hisses when he spies the muzzle flashes from the window he's aiming at, and is quick to retaliate, breath catching high in his chest as his finger squeezes the trigger. The sharp sound of rifle blasts fills the air as he opens fire, before sinking back low behind the vehicle, clutching the weapon. A glance back towards Raith, near expecting to see his head split open in broken fruit pieces of skull and grey matter.

This time, at least, Raith is fortunate. The contents of his head have remained exactly where they ought to be, and it's all the better for him. He isn't sprawled out in the snow for long: Only a moment before he starts to pick himself back up. But it's plain from the expression on his face that the experience was anything but pleasant. It was, in fact, quite painful. "Fuck…." he hisses through his teeth, in no mood now to do anything other than get away and go home. "Fuck!"

No return fire erupts from the window this time. It is dark, and empty, and if sensing that the threat has passed the raven glides down from the smoke stack and angles its head around the corner, looking down at the floor behind the window and then past it at something neither Raith nor Francois can see from where they're positioned. There's nothing panicked about its movements when it springs off the ledge, snaps open its wings and rides the breeze down to the car to land on its hood, close enough for the Frenchman to see his own reflection in its eye.

There's blood, Eileen reports, for his ears only. I don't know how badly he's wounded, but if you're going to move then you should do it quickly.

Rifle safetied and slung on its strap to bounce from his shoulder against his back, Francois starts at the descent of the bird and the voice crystal clear in his head. He doesn't respond with words, only moves like he's expecting more of the same from the factory window as he pushes off the car and moves towards where Raith is trying to get up. Gloved hands descend onto the front of the man's shirt, vest— whatever it is he happened to pull on before following half of Team Charlie out on their """"recon""""— and dragging him up, a hand tugging Raith's arm around his shoulders, with his less than whole leg braced against Francois'.

"Would you ever," he huffs out as he readily takes the other man's weight along with his own, making a hasty retreat for the hulking shadow the the admin building, "be in trouble without me. It is a good thing I followed, oui."

"We're even, fuck this hurts." Train of thought not having much in the way of rails to follow any longer, Raith hobble-hops along, with Francois lending a much needed helping hand, out of the fight and into the night, bound ultimately for a speedy exit and much needed medical attention. Are they done with Feng Daiyu for good? Maybe. But that's always, always be a problem with spies that joined up with Vanguard. Developing an absolutely horrid habit of showing up, no matter the condition they were left in, at the exact moment when it's most inconvenient. If they're lucky, the condition they're leaving Feng in won't be one he bounces back from.

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