Birds From The Cage


abby_icon.gif anya_icon.gif cat_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif felix_icon.gif francois_icon.gif sasha_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Birds From The Cage
Synopsis Cat and Felix bring the cavalry to the aid of their captured teammates; aware of their intent, the Russian Vanguard has other ideas for how this should play out — but an unexpected ally turns everyone's plans upside-down, and then Team Charlie finishes the job.
Date December 19, 2009

Svyato Monastery, Ryazan, Russia

The fading orange of dusk's light marks this as the third day since Liz's capture, and the sixth for Abby; it's also somewhat past the usual time that dinner is brought, and this when no pills were provided with breakfast. But it's true that the women have not been forgotten; eventually, there are steps in the hall and the door does open. Opens to reveal a familiar face, the silvering blonde hair of Anya Orlova — carrying the usual simple tray in her hands. She's dressed as if expecting to go outside after feeding the prisoners, fatigues and coat all drab in color; the headset clipped over one ear is visible because her hood is down, any sidearm she might be wearing not so much.

Anya leaves the cell door partway open behind her, bringing the tray across the room to the windowsill.

Today, even Anya's not given a look from Abby as she enters with food. Sprawled out on the platform with her foot up above the rest of her body, watching out the window — Liz hasn't gotten too much out of her after the visit from Yvette and she had come too again. Just details of the visit then careful conservation of her energy, of thinking of something else other than what hurts. Sings to herself, prays now and then, then reverts back to singing.

Elisabeth merely slits her eyes when Anya comes in. She's got a raging migraine that's sent her dry heaving a couple of times already — thank you so much for the withdrawal symptoms; mostly she's just grateful that it's not seizures — and she watches Anya closely. There's nothing exactly untoward in what's going on, and Liz has just been waiting for Teo to give her some sign that he's got a plan, a clue, SOMETHING about what comes next. It hasn't come so far, but she's not even sure at this point he'll be able to get into her head, or if she'll notice his quiet little mental voice in there with the dwarves tunneling through Moria in her head.

Leaving the tray at the window, Anya looks first to Liz, and then to Abby. She steps down along the edge of the platform, taking abrupt advantage of their inertia — one hand darts out to seize that extended foot, below the damaged ankle, and under the aegis of physical contact foot and ankle both are almost instantaneously turned to stone. The petrification creeps no further up, however, and the Russian woman follows up by catching one of Abby's hands and dragging her more or less into a standing position off the platform. Or leaning against Anya in baffled confusion, however it falls out.

An ear-piercing scream is issued forth, not that she's being turned to stone, but that the suddenness of the act followed by the heaving upwards of the youngest woman in the room. "Liz!" The abruptness with which she's found herself up right prompt a quick rush of blood from her head and with it a wave of dizziness that makes her lean against the Russian Vanguardian. "Liz!" Abigail blinks rapidly as if willing the graying edges of her vision away, stone foot clunking to the ground.

Wrapping all of them in a silence field so that the guard outside won't hear the shout, the blonde says, "NYET! Leave her alone!!" Elisabeth bolts off the cot to throw herself toward the woman who is turning Abby's foot to stone and hauling her to her feet. She's absolutely going to get herself killed or turned to stone, but damned if she's going to let this woman haul Abby out of here without a fight — and she doesn't want the guards to come racing in either!!

Anya winces from the young woman's scream, hissing sharp syllables of profanity; the silence field doesn't shield her ears. Given that she is supporting Abby's weight, the Russian can't do much in counter to Liz's charge; she extends her other hand, tangling her fingers in the woman's shirt and attempting to hold her at arm's length. "Da," Orlova snaps. "«Now. Go.»" Looking pointedly at Elisabeth, she jerks her chin towards the door, just in case the curt words weren't understood: this also means you.

The reaction is … unexpected. Elisabeth slams into Anya, but pulls up short with the way Anya holds her at arm's length. With a glance out the door, she sees the sentry on the ground, and understanding dawns. She nods abruptly to the Russian woman and pries herself out of Anya's hand. "Quiet," Liz tells Abby and heads for the doorway to peer out into the hallway, making certain no one else is out there. Her eyes run over the guard — no firearm on him, and she glances over her shoulder. Moving to take Abby's other side — or even all of Abby's weight if Anya wants to lead the way — Elisabeth indicates her understanding. She doesn't have enough Russian to tell Anya anything.

Quiet? The brunette's panic ebb's a bit as her head twists, looking out the door and the downed sentry. Mouth clamps shut, surprise on her face. Anya is helping them… escape? A thousand thoughts race through her head, able to focus on what's going on instead of her ankle and face. "Thank you." She doesn't know how far they'll get, but at least, she should be able to walk. "Thank you." There's a fierce kiss to Anya's cheek before she grabs Liz's arm and tests out a step or two before satisfied that she's mobile, Abigail snatches up her jacket and follows beside Liz. It could be a trap, could be all an illusion. Could be a great many things, but they have to try.

"Cunt," Teo says. Flits pale eyes open and there's an incipient motion in the flat of his spine— to jack-knife upright in the cot he's been on his back in almost persistently for days, now, accruing data on the sundry terrorist and allied activities that have taken place within these monastery walls. He doesn't sit up at all. Merely goes stiff as a mummy, his fingers in fists; he doesn't ram knuckles against the bars or the wall, though there's a certain temptation to vault across the room and do just that, to yell until some form of justice is brought down in fork-tongued lightning. Brimstone. A hammer. "She fucking—

"She fucking turned Abby's foot t' stone." What was going to be an irritable shout is squashed down to a hiss between Teodoro's teeth; he swivels pale eyes disoriented by his astral venture, trying to track Francois with sight now he's forgotten where Francois was, what Francois was doing, even his original scouting objective lost in the sloppy tide of concerted cerebral effort. He'd make more of a fuss, but his limited clairsentience is a secret, thus far, that he's fought hard to keep. "Cazzo."

Wherever Francois was, it quickly becomes irrelevant, moving with a rustle of winter clothes and coming to sit on the edge of the wood-and-stone structure of the sleeping slab. Doesn't touch, hands braced, brow tense as he listens to what dribs and drabs of news Teo has for him now. It's been a long three days, and he's not sure if it's better or worse that he's fenced in with one person who can do something. "It can be fixed," is whispered reassurance, not because he's callous and can't sympathise, but because Teo's angry enough for two people. "Cosa sta succedendo?"

Anya shakes her head in response to Abby's kiss, her single negatory nyet spoken firmly. Don't thank me. Freed from the younger woman's weight, she steps out into the corridor and drags the guard's unconscious form just inside the door, waiting until both Abby and Liz are out before closing the door behind them. As covering the trail goes, it's lousy; but might be worth something, one never knows.

Some ways down the hall, another guard seems to have fallen asleep at his post — if 'falling asleep' happens with more than a little help. His presence marks their first stop on this little trek, Anya sliding the key to the cell door back out of her pocket and turning it in the lock.

Once Abby's on her own two feet, Elisabeth moves with them. She keeps an eye — and a serious ear — out behind them and watches for anyone possibly coming up behind them. When they stop at the second guard, she briefly checks him for weapons and then steps back to let Anya open the cell's door.

Abigail haunts the door outside, a peek in to see if who is in the cell is who she hopes is in the cell after Anya opens it. Abby's head popping in with her hopeful expression, brown hair and multi-colored side of her face. "Teo? Francois?" Please dear god, let it be them.

A hand abrades haphazardly up Teo's face. He looks up at Francois with consternation clear on his face, engraving his brow with harsh lines. "«I'm not sure,»" he answers in Italian. It isn't a waste of words: he isn't sure, not of Orlova's motivations or it's probable fallout. "«She's l— etting— she's opening the doors. Orlova's opening the d—»" Orlova's rather visibly opening the door, by now, and it's difficult to ignore that whether or not the audiokinetic on the other side is containing the sound down.

"«I can't find any guards awake. Not close.»" The Sicilian's hand closes on Francois' arm, thumb biting down almost painfully on the inside of his elbow, for a brief moment, before Teo remembers himself— and finishes hauling himself into a sit. He has a foot slung down to the floor before the gap ajar between door and frame has progressed more than an inch, tension livewire in every line of his frame. The sound of Abigail's voice almost breaks it.

Francois finishes off the movement, a hand out to drag Teo up and off cold wood, grip tucking up and under his arm to prevent any swaying as green eyes seek out blue to detect disorientation and focus. A muttered reassurance, French, something about slow down in the way you might tell a horse to calm— until the sound of the door opening has him paying it due attention. The grip on Teo is reduced to a fist around a bunch of coat, and then released once he's convinced the man isn't going to go weak at the knees. Strides towards the brunette at the door, a hand out to grip onto the edge of the opened portal as if to prevent it from closing suddenly.

His other hand goes out towards Abigail, as much as he's peering out into the hallway, blatant distrust for Anya on his features. Tugs, kind of instinctively, the Southern woman away from the the Russian, though not into the cell. He's addressing the two Team Charlie women when he asks; "Are you alright?"

Anya makes no particular response to Francois' distrust, nor his appropriation of Abby; rather, she expects just that sort of regard. "«Come quickly,»" the woman says now that she's with people who speak Russian, green gaze flicking between Teo and Francois. "«They're all looking outside, but we cannot count on that lasting long.»" She steps back from the cell threshold; touching one finger to the arch of cheekbone beneath her radio headset, her gaze drifts down the hall. "«Move the guard inside and close the door behind you. We must be down when your people get here.»" Towards which end Orlova starts moving, clearly expecting the team to follow behind.

Looking toward Francois and Teo, relief deepens Elisabeth's blue eyes. "We're okay. Abby's ankle is broken, courtesy of Ethan-the-asshole, but Orlova stabilized it." She glances at the Russian woman and shakes her head. "Other than that, I've got not one fucking clue what this is about, but she seems to be wanting to help us get the hell out of here. So I'm not looking the gift horse in the mouth. You ready?"

"I'll be better once we're out of here. I don't know how long my ankle is going to stay stone. We need to move" Abigail's hand closes around Francois's upper arm in return, grateful for the contact from the other man. She doesn't understand what Anya is saying and looks around to take a cue from the others what to do.

Move. She's telling them to move, and fast. Teo steeples himself up onto his feet, finally, yanking his jacket straight and stilting an only slightly off-balance stride or four toward, crowding into the doorway behind the Frenchman. His reach is automatic: callused fingers barring shut on Abigail's shoulder, giving her a squeeze of minimalist's affection, before he abruptly flattens a kiss on the top of her brunette head.

He glances down the hallway long enough to disguise the brief disfocus of his eyes that accompanies his glimpse into Anya's head, catching the tail-end of a radio update. A countdown. That's as legit or as alarming as you make it. Francois' turn for bad cop this time; he allows his features to retain as much neutrality as their characteristic mobility allows. Down, she says. He angles the Frenchman a brief glance, an infinitessimal lift of brows. That'll be the catacombs.

He asks Anya only one question, as he begins to track down the hallway. "«Will you be running with us?»" His Russian carries the fluency of accent with it, though it certainly isn't the local accent. A sidelong glance at Liz to check if she had already taken weapons off the downed guards. If they had any, she'd have some. If she has extras, he, Francois and perhaps even Abigail could use them.

Francois puts an arm around Abby's waist, a practical kind of hovering bracket of support in case it's— difficult to run on a stone foot, God knows. As much as some token feeling of relief that the team is reunited had flared, Francois is back to near mute bad coppishness as the script dictates, back stiff as Anya addresses them, as the other voices join in. "«Thank you for opening the doors»," is stilted but accurate Russian in Anya's direction — near dismissal as much as Teo's words are an invitation.

To the other girls— "Come, we can find our way." Cryptic, maybe, but all four know of what Teo can do, while Orlova doesn't, necessarily. The Frenchman starts moving down the hallway after a mirrored check for weapons in Liz's direction, taking Abby with.

She spares Teo a glance as he addresses her; makes no gesture in reply, but a simple statement. "«I cannot return,»" the woman says. Not the same as 'yes', but then going with them is a little more complicated than such a simple answer; until a bare few minutes ago she was decidedly in the camp of 'enemy' by their lights. Anya leads the way at a quick clip down the corridor, through a large door left ajar into one of the larger tower rooms, something that looks like it used to house a couple of shrines. Now it holds little but a thin layer of dust and several short pedestals which may once have held small figurines, vases, or relics. Setting her hands to one, Anya tips her head towards a door in the adjacent wall.

"«That door, it leads down into the caverns, probably the one your people will enter by if they continue in their car. There will be oth— Vanguard there, but surprised; they do not expect a hit from behind.»"

Once her exposition is complete, Anya gathers herself and shoves the pedestal over, a sharp grunt accompanying the effort. Beneath it is a small hole, an unlidded box, the recognizable shapes of firearms and bullet clips; handguns rather than rifles, but not to be scorned under these conditions regardless. Probably a cache left here as a contingency against desperate need — but this need likely didn't figure in the original plans.

Beyond the door is a stairway carved out of the rock itself; and below that a waterworn cavern which, unlike any room the team has seen in the monastery proper, is lit by electric lights — albeit only dimly. It winds a short path into a yet larger cavern which is anything but untouched; clear spaces have been marked out for parking vehicles, and a few of them are occupied by said automobiles. One other side-cave branches off from this main space, in addition to the very large mouth of it leading out onto bluffs where even twilight is now fading and only the gathering night's shadows remain. Several poured-concrete blocks, some three feet tall and upwards of six feet long, are situated along the main drag; tools left on one suggest that they see use as workbenches, but they might also provide cover. The same is true for several others towards the edges of the cavern; and from the right angles, the edges of one or more motionless, black-garbed silhouettes might be glimpsed behind them. Or maybe not. Most of them are concentrated in two groups, one at each of the side-passage mouths, with a few others branched out to provide flanking fire.

Their attention is indeed turned outward, at the two vehicles now arriving on the top of the bluffs and pulling in — without the moderation of speed that the phrase usually implies.

She is armed and ready as the transport she's in makes its entry toward the cavern. The AK-47 is held ready, safety off, Cat being prepared to aim out the window and fire upon any guards who might be present. She has one hand also on the handle for the door, ready to pour out at a run and achieve the same purpose. The rifle isn't her only armament, with her also is a small truncheon, a combat knife, body armor, and some weaponry for distribution to unarmed escapees.

"If you see Anya Orlova," Cat remarks to persons with her and into communications gear she wears, "shoot on sight. Recommend finding and neutralizing her first. She makes stones of living people."

Fel is ever more a creature of bitter will held together by spit, baling wire, and sheer annoyance with the universe. He's pale from pain, lines deep and harsh around his mouth and eyes, clad in dark commando gear, including body armor, and slinging an AK around with the ease of a child dangling his teddy bear with one arm. He walks gingerly, like all the cushioning in his joints is gone, and it makes his gait even more mincingly feline than it has been, as he opens the door and slips out. "Will do," he agrees, easily, behind the cover of the door. No darting in unannouced this time.

Jesus Christ, Elisabeth has time to think as the woman leads them into the tower room and offers weapons and clips. She casts a puzzled look at Anya and then at Francois and Teo. "Will someone please tell me why the fuck she's helping us?" she says softly. "It can wait til we get the hell out, but… " She doesn't waste any time in terms of scanning over the available weaponry and picking up two pistols for herself along with three spare clips. Technically, if things get dicier than needing ONE handgun and MAYBE a spare clip, it's all over anyway, but you know what? Better safe than sorry in this case. She shoves the clip into the outside pockets of her jacket and the pistols into the waistband of her pants. A third handgun is pulled out, checked over, and shoved into Abby's hand, her own hands showing the younger woman the safety. "It's safetied right now." Elisabeth looks at her and says softly, "Abby… if all hell breaks loose, you point this at whoever's coming at you and you pull the trigger until either they're down or it's over. C'mon, babe, we're outta here."

Oh god, guns. Abigail follows alongside Francois, trying to keep the sound of the one stone foot from making too much noise — near impossible in truth. The stop to weapon up and listen to Anya rattle off in Russian affords Abigail a moment to pray softly to herself under her breath till Elisabeth is pushing the gun into her hand. "Please dear god, don't let me have to use it," is intoned, but she notes where the safety is. She'll never hear the end of it from Felix, she's sure, if he see's it in her hands. Point and shoot. Like a rifle or shotgun only smaller. "Okay." Now is not the time to push it back at her and remind the woman that she doesn't like them, and that they have just the one purpose.

Two handguns are assimilated onto Teodoro's person, one wedged into approximate fit in the holster still clotted in between the layers of his three-day-old outfit the other in hand, and an extra clip or two stuffed into the gratuitous pockets of his pants. By now, the worst of the clumsiness has melted out of his movements, like spring licks frost rime off the windows. Blood heats, adrenaline goes.

"Maybe she figured out if Zhukovsky keeps this mercenary nuke market shit up, she's gonna die," Teo answers, in English, his attention swiveled down and slightly distracted by the process of arming himself, leaving it — for the moment — to his ability for sonar-pulse checks on enemies approaching. There aren't any, wonderfully: Orlova planned this reasonably well. He doesn't look up, but when he switches seamlessly over to Russian, there is no real doubt who he's speaking to. "«Disagree with the apocalypse?

"«You wouldn't be the first one, ma'am.»" For all the credit he offers the woman, however, he doesn't give her his back. Brings up her flank, instead, even as the enemy's configuration comes into view in the uncertain darkness. He makes himself small, and hesitates a moment, studying his audiokinetic comrade a few yards ahead. It's difficult to forget: her readiest response to pressure, lately, has been to defer to the authority of others, and kids die when she's cornered.

Still, it's a forward whisper to Elisabeth: "If anyone's going to get word through about Miss Turncoat, it's going to be you. On your discretion, si?"

There isn't prideful hesitation, when Francois goes to lay his hands on the weaponry. Maybe an unnecessary but brisk doublecheck upon the items he picks up, and much like Elisabeth, he sets about selecting two pistols as opposed one, one in his waistband and the other remaining in hand as pockets get taken up by two clips. Who could blame him — if he loses the weapon he's holding on to, that will be the third time this week or so. He looks up towards Liz as she makes her hasty whispers over the metallic sounds of guns being checked and loaded. "Be on your guard," is his resigned advice, regarding the Medusa. He'd already had a few colourful words in protest of following her, but ultimately—

You run where the pack runs. As they move, the Frenchman tries to shoulder close to the women, those who do not speak Russian, a glance back at Anya as if he could direct her to stay away, but he doesn't let it distract him. His voice is barely above a sandpapered whisper. "The Vanguard have their eyes, I believe, on our cavalry — Orlova implied they've come tonight. She wishes that we strike the Vanguard ambushers first."

When Felix first sets foot outside the vehicle, nothing happens — not immediately. The cavern amplifies the pop of the door and the sound of his boots cracking against the rock, bouncing it back at him in the form of a hollow echo that reverberates off the walls and in the empty space high above his head. It's rain rather than snow that blows in from the bluffs, making the stone around the entrance appear as dark and slick as polished obsidian in spite of its rough texture, surface like melted glass. Wind whistling through cracks in the cavern's foundation is an air raid siren in Elisabeth's ears, and drowns out the occasional hiss of radio static coming from behind the pillars where the black-garbed silhouettes remain swathed in shadow, hidden from Felix and Catherine's view.

There are maybe ten of them in total — the darkness makes it impossible for the escapees to narrow it down with the way those same shadows make shapes blend together into twisted chimeras with multiple heads, arms and legs. One of the soldiers is even wearing a pair of night vision goggles over his eyes, tinted red, giving the formation the appearance of a real monster that for once has nothing to do with Russian folklore or one of Zhukovsky's expert illusions.

Cat, Felix and whoever else they've brought with them are walking straight into a trap, and there's nothing their teammates can do about it unless they give their own position away first and draw the attention of the entire squad of heavily-armed men standing between them and their only route of escape.

The man in the goggles raises one gloved hand, gesturing for the soldiers that flank him to wait. Francois, having participated in the Second World War, will undoubtedly recognize as the universal signal for holding fire, but at the same time he may also note that the hand remains poised where it is, unwavering. It could come scissoring down at any moment, and when it does —

Standing beside the man in goggles is someone who looks the part of a soldier because the clothing gives her that; armor, helmet, all in dark and shadowy color. A bit of blond hair has escaped the helmet's confines; its pale ends fan across her shoulder, contrasting against the dark background; the other incongruous note is that she doesn't have a rifle in hand, but a sidearm; hasn't taken aim towards the intruders but is watching them intently nonetheless.

Following the escapees downstairs once they're suitably armed — or at least as much so as they can be — the Russian woman doesn't seem to have the same reluctance to show Teo her back. Perhaps she simply expects to die in any case. "«Now is not the time,»" is her simple reply to the Sicilian's question; it also happens to be true, given that there are only a few yards left before they meet opposition. With Elisabeth, Abby, and Francois all ahead of her, Anya can't and doesn't take the first shot; there isn't enough room in this passage to give her a clear line of fire. So she waits.

Not seeing the opposition ahead, but ready in case some appears, Cat moves forward with her rifle held ready for firing. Eyes survey the area ahead of her, as she too uses the door for cover until the initial assessment can be performed.

There has to be some. They didn't exactly show up in stealth. Fel peeks warily around the car door, trying to see what there is to be seen. "We have grenades, right?" he asks, matter of factly.

Pulling one of the pistols into her hand and verifying that it's ready to fire, Elisabeth keeps her group in the silence bubble as they get into position to actually go out there to the cars that are inbound. "There's six to ten of them — I can't narrow it more than that, too many hearts in too small a space, too many echoes," she says quietly without looking back at Teo. "They're clustered together at the front. Francois, Teo, take the right, I'll take left with Anya if she's actually going to help. If not, I've got the right alone. Abby… keep an eye out behind us, just in case, lady."

She pauses, and then looks at the group. "Stay close to me. I can keep us silent all the way up — we'll use the gunshots to warn our guys of ambush." There's something far harder in those blue eyes than Teo's really seen in her. She's not fucking around tonight; she's in a killing mood.

With the brief nods of assent from the men, Elisabeth silences them all and moves forward, keeping to the shadows herself in the hopes of surprising them enough to shoot at least one person before they get to start firing on our friends. In such close quarters, it could get dicey very fast, but once the first shots are fired, chaos will ensue and hopefully our people are smart enough to realize what's going down in here. She'll wait until the last possible moment to get the cleanest shot possible — and the sound of the gunshot will echo in the cavern easily enough. FIGHT!

Keep an eye behind. Abigail can do that. She's the slowest of the group and so while the group focuses on the front and the Vanguard members who are there between them and their group — and freedom — Abigail's keeping her eye on the back, her hands sweaty and nervously holding the handgun. Please dear god, let them make it out of here.

Even in war, Francois' never been in a killing mood. His hard gaze is turned away from in pretense of checking the numbers of the men they're angling in on, and upon their silent approach, it's the movement of the arm upwards that has the Frenchman aiming his sidearm. It's a fanciful notion, to believe he might be talented enough to take out a leg or a shoulder as opposed to impacting bullets into the center of someone's mass, but he's not. Rarely, people are. So he waits, grimly, allows himself the luxury of postponing until that signal slices down—

And fires once, twice, trying not to flinch at the feel and sound of his own weapon. He can feel more than hear and see Teo next to him, squeezing off another shot directed into he shadowy mass of gathered men. The sooner they can run, the better.

Quietly, then. Quietly, quietly, Teo skulks up behind a target selected out of the throng, checking briefly as he goes, a head-count conducted partly through the dubious clarity of astral projection and what he can see with his eyes. He keeps his shoulder against the wall, one arm held back, for a moment, to direct Abigail in behind him that no one can come up behind them, before he returns his hand to the firearm gripped in his other hand. Workbenches and automobiles loom up, complicating bullet trajectories and line of sight but offering cover, too. Closer, closer; not too close.

Francois takes the first shot. He takes the second. And, abruptly, the catacomb's dank stillness is split by noise.

There is nothing honourable about shooting people in the back, but there's nothing honourable about guerilla warfare either — you do what you have to in order to survive, and Team Charlie is no exception. The hand comes down and gunfire erupts from both sides, pinging off the sides of the vehicle and leaving nickle-sized dents where the siding is thickest and gaping holes where it's too thin to withstand the bullets. One whizzes past Felix's ear, shatters the rear window and sprays the driver's side interior with shards of broken glass.

The strength of the Vanguard's initial volley is diminished by the fact that they're already two men down by the time they open fire on Catherine and Felix. In the dark, there's no way for Elisabeth, Francois or Teo to know who is responsible for the bodies leaking blood on the ground, but it hardly matters who landed their mark and who didn't — all hell is about to break loose.

The surviving soldiers divide their attention between Felix and Cat in the truck and Team Charlie approaching from behind. Return fire rips into the wall at their backs, and showers Abigail in the rear with small chunks of rock too flaky and thin to do any damage except graze her face and tangle in her hair. Those closer to the front are not so lucky; Elisabeth catches a bullet to the shoulder while another cuts across the back of Francois' left hand and wedges itself between the knuckles of his middle and index fingers.

Anya Orlova continues down the passage behind the people who are presently her allies; spreads out so they don't present a bunched-up target as they move into the main cavern, keeping one of the stone walls at her back. She doesn't know what the team decided in their English discussion, but she does know they aren't firing, and Anya has spent many, many years working with others; the rifle slid out from beneath her coat is held ready but silent. She waits until they're in position, until the first gunpowder-sparked report echoes off cavern walls; then she too begins to fire at the dark-clad Vanguard who were her allies, her friends, the next best thing to family up until a bare few minutes ago.

Anya doesn't let herself think about it. Not yet, not here, not now. She focuses on targets at the fringes of the opposition squad, working her fire inwards towards its center.

It's not as if she didn't expect to take a bullet. She seems to have a propensity for that lately. How many times has she been shot this year?? Elisabeth couldn't say for sure. "Uhng!!" she grunts as the bullet rips into her shoulder and throws her backward a bit. She retreats behind cover, her right arm useless as blood pools unseen beneath her heavy clothes; as the pain hits, she struggles to catch her breath, and then she starts firing from cover, though her aim is off because she's now firing left-handed. Still, it's better than nothing!

Using the door as cover, Cat takes aim with the Kalashnikov and opens up on the area where those shots just came from. Her finger squeezes three times as breath is held, proper shooting techniques being adhered to. It's not yet known to her that they've got assistance coming from behind, she reacts to what is seen.

Which is why Felix, foolish cat that he is, takes one of the grenades he has with him….and lobs it overhand towards the mouth of the cave.

Abigail ducks her head lower, stoned foot in front of her, other leg used to balance on and keep herself low after the scattering of bullets and chipped rock. Takes a great deal to not let off a scream and keeping silent at the rear of the group. Her attention focused like she was instructed, towards the rear.

"Putain!" Who else could that be? Francois' retreat is only crumpling over his bloodied hand, gun still gripped as he curls under the cover of the concrete he and Teo are stationed behind. The ping ping ping punctuating the more deafening blasts of gunshots rattles all around him, and to Liz's credit, the former French Resistance soldier takes a longer moment getting back the will to resume battle. His hand! Huddling it under his coat where it can leak blood all it wants, Francois grips his gun in his right, before slinging that arm over concrete once more.

Gun twitches with three more spent bullets before he's fast to find cover. "Abigail— Elisabeth, help h— " His words are cut off by another ratatat of fire near by. Back bent, Francois goes to move from one sight of cover to the other, hoping to press closer. Teo's shoes scuff after him, sends a bullet past Francois' shoulder as they go.

"«Fenrir!»" The man in the goggles is shouting into the headset he wears attached to his helmet, and even amidst the chaos Abigail will recognize his voice as belonging to the mild-mannered doctor with the mouse brown hair and watery eyes who she last saw being dragged into a blizzard by a vengeful water sprite. Sasha Kozlow: healer, esteemed member of Ryazan's medical community and, unless what Abby is hearing is another one of Zhukovsky's tricks, undercover Vanguard operative. "«Fenrir, where the hell are you?»"

The enemy's forces have been further reduced in what little time has elapsed since those first shots were fired, leaving Kozlow with only six men under his command — and that includes the thin wisp of a woman with platinum blonde hair under her helmet, who he drags behind him, putting his body between hers and the chaos. He eventually gives up trying to contact Ethan over the radio, snaps his free hand back to his rifle and squeezes off a shot at Anya's position that would separate her head from her shoulders if his aim wasn't hindered by the bullets impacting themselves in his armor. Instead, it blows off the right side of her face and scatters gore across the left side of Teo's, filling his eyes, nose and mouth with blood and a fleshy chunk of pulverized scalp.

It's around this time that Felix's hurled grenade detonates, rocking the cavern with enough force to dislodge the light fixtures and send them plummeting to earth. One crashes on top of two of the Vanguard soldiers advancing on the truck. Another slams through the truck's front window, impales the driver through the throat and ignites in a ball of flame so bright and hot that the heat can be felt all the way on the other side of the cavern. Fire licks out the window and comes dangerously close to making the leap from the blazing truck to Felix and Liz's hair and clothes.

Team Charlie is down one vehicle. What's worse, a roar is building in the cavern's walls—

The muzzle of Anya's rifle draws a slow arc as its aim progress in towards Kozlow; but he aims at her first, the rifle falling from limp hands when his bullet draws so much more than a mere line across the woman's face. She crumples to the ground, no longer a factor in this fight — though as of yet still alive.

The surviving Company-affiliated agent scrambles away from the burning vehicle and back into his own, actually dropping his weapon in favor of scrambling back into the driver's seat. "Get in, get in!" Russian-accented English that isn't particularly audible over the building roar; but he tries nonetheless.

"Felix, n…" Too late. It's been tossed, and moments later has detonated with such disastrous results. Cat is quick to move away from the now flaming vehicle, but isn't so much intending to get into the one which remains as yet, even though the cavern starts to roar. Instead her rifle is aimed and fired a few more times at the nearest Vanguard fighters in hope of taking them out and aiding the team members in their escape. One of those rounds is aimed at the head of the man wearing goggles, she remembers Skoll wearing goggles when they fought before. Ending his life is a priority.

Jesus Christ, he will never, ever, ever live this down. Felix is not on fire, but he is very firmly deafened. He scoots away from the ruined vehicle, catches Cat's eye and points at his ears. Done. Can't hear. And then he's scrambling for cover, firing wild at the nearest of the Vanguard.

Company agent is saying something, Abigail can hear it just barely. Same as she can hear Kozlow yelling as well. Inwardly, Abigail dies just a little. He was Vanguard. Liz's shoulder is noted, and the look on the blonde detectives face adn Abigail snags an arm around her waist and with a quickly shouted "come on" from the youngest former healer present, Abigail is moving as fast as a stone foot and ankle allows towards the non-flaming vehicle.

Cat's goal may be to take down Skoll. Francois' is to cross the road, as it were. At the explosion in such close quarters, the Frenchman is crashing to the ground and yanking Teo with him, as much as the younger man would have the same idea. By the time a truck is going up in flames, he's getting back on his feet, casting a look back towards where Abby is carting along the policewoman rapidly losing blood. Bracing his back against concrete, ducked low, Francois punches out the clip of his gun, fumbles with his aching hand to put in another.

He trades a look towards Teo, as if in silent assessment about who is the sharper shooter, before he bleats out his orders— "I'll help Abby and Elisabeth to the truck. We must go. Remain here, cover us." A glance is slices towards where Anya lies, face and head ruined. Merde. "Take her with us, oui?" Merde merde merde. These Vanguard turncoats will be the death of him. Or. Not, rather.

He's just going to go ahead and assume everyone listens to him, already moving to add his help with an arm around Elisabeth's waist, supporting her weight between them. "Ready?" is asked of Abigail, a look back towards Teo. With that, Francois is shouldering on forward, aiming to power through the last of the distance between them and the last truck, ducked to avoid fire from both the enemy and their friends.

Seven soldiers becomes five, five becomes three — three almost becomes two when Cat opens fire on Kozlow from afar, but rather than pop his skull like a melon split by a hammer, her cover fire ricochets off the helmet he wears on his head. He rounds to face her, lip curled around a toothy snarl as he hefts his rifle up, takes aim at her center of mass and—

— is blindsided by a piece of the cavern's ceiling. Rubble loosened by the grenade spills down from above, indiscriminately crushing parked cars, dead bodies and live bodies alike. Dust and debris saturates the air and floods out from the back of the collapsing cave in a wave that swallows the surviving Vanguard whole and chases after Team Charlie as Francois leads the charge toward the remaining truck.

Felix throws the rear door open, one arm looped around Abigail's waist the moment she arrives at the truck, and hauls her into the back seat before moving out of the way so Francois can do the same for Liz. Lobbing the grenade might have been a mistake, or it may have saved them all; either way, he's not about to let anyone get left behind as long as he's still standing.

Teo emerges from the haze, blond hair caked with fine gray dust like snow, gun in one hand, a fistful of Anya's bloodied clothes in the other. He has the Russian woman slung over his shoulder in a fireman's carry, both their bodies keeling to one side as he fires blind shots into the miasma from which he came and continues to provide the others with the cover that Francois asked for.

So many hands going around her waist makes for the dull ache there to get a bit more. She'll want to just go curl up in a corner once they make it out of here. But she doesn't object and Abby turns in the vehicle to drop the gun to where someone can grab it so that she can start to grab anything fabric and wad it up, stuff it into Liz's shoulder wound. "There was roaring" She yells, trying to be heard. "Before the explosion, there was roaring!"

With the others emerging and Skoll rounding to fire at her, Cat witnesses the collapse of cavern ceiling. It stops her from swearing that the man didn't drop with a splitting headache caused by rounds impacting his helmet, a thing which in her mind should've been like being struck by a sledghammer. It also forestalls her taking aim and firing at him again.

The panmnesiac's priority now is to help guide people into the back of the vehicle as they reach her, then throw out a burst of rounds into the area behind them once she's sure all friendlies are clear. She's the last one into the vehicle. "Give me grenades, Felix," she calls out. "I'll toss them in once we're clear of the cavern." And not before, to ensure the same sort of disaster doesn't recur.

The sound of the cave-in has Francois relinquishing Elisabeth to Abby's care — healers aren't ignorant to bodies and what they require, even without the training she has already — and turning to peer into the dust of fallen brick and rock, expression free of the anxiety he knows for as long as it takes Teo to appear with the Vanguard woman slung over his shoulder. Francois remains where he is, darting a look around for whatever Vanguard happens to still be moving.

They're not. Francois puts out his hands to help Sicily steer Anya into the truck, crawling on in after them and ignoring talk of grenades as he sets about inspecting the damage of Anya's face, unsqueamish as to the mess the right side of it has turned into, all shattered bone and raw, bleeding flesh. His sidearm clatters to the floor of the vehicle. There's a hiss of frustration when he can't simply leak healing into her, instead struggling out of his coat in order to fashion something to stem the worst of the bleeding.

"How is Liz?" is a curt demand of Abby, ignoring the pain of his hand for now. It won't kill him, so. To Cat, once she's climbed in behind him, and Felix; "Medical supplies?" Pause, then; "Good to see you both."

Six passengers plus one driver is a lot to fit in one truck. Now, however, is not the time to squabble over clumsy elbows or missing seatbelts. The man at the wheel doesn't even bother to demand that everyone buckle up, neither does he give Felix an opportunity to seriously consider Cat's request. As soon as everyone is inside and the last door has slammed shut behind them, he drives his foot into the accelerator and the accelerator to the floor. Tires scream, rear wheels spin out from under the truck, and a moment later it's lurching jerkily forward and cutting headlights across the bluffs.

Team Charlie leaves the smoking cavern behind just as the chain reaction started by Felix's grenade reaches its mouth and brings the entrance booming down on itself. Smaller bits of rock tinkle down after. One strikes the truck's bumper as it's pulling away from the wreck. Another bounces off the back windshield but isn't large or heavy enough to do anything except crack the glass.

Anya is alive, though even Francois — with all his wartime triage experience — cannot say for sure how long she'll remain that way.

"She'll be fine. Just need to get the bullet out" It reminds her of Cat showing up on her doorstep that one time. "Just get.. just get us out of here, please" Spoken to no one in particular and to everyone. "Just.. just get us some place safe"

There are medical supplies at hand, Cat retrieves them as soon as she's in the vehicle and is stable enough to move without being jostled by the driver's actions in peeling out. As she hands them over to Francois, her eyes dart across Abby working on Elisabeth, then Francois's fingers, and finally Anya to assess the severity of her wound.

It's here she applies her attention, seeking to extract the proper items for stopping her blood loss and bandage the wound. "I've got hands," she tells the Frenchman, "and knowledge of a few things." He can supervise and instruct where she might lack.

His coat is abandoned in favour of proper bandages and cloth. Its wadded compact and, after careful inspection, Francois applies pressure to bleeding, as much as it feels like putting a bandaid on a broken leg. His other hand hangs useless and ignored from his wrist, bright red dripping down long fingers, that arm bent around Anya's neck to keep her head up from rolling on her spine, and he looks up towards Cat and her words. Decides to believe her a second later, that she does in fact have hands, and probably does know a few things.

"Help me bind this to her," is instruction for the moment, with a nod of gratitude, shifting to help the hurried bandaging, "si'l vous plait." The truck jostles and bumps beneath them, and he angles his shoulder against solid car interior, relaxing for a moment as he holds onto Anya while Cat binds her head. "We need— better plans, next time."

The sound of the underground collapses continues to chase them as they drive, until falling rock and crashing brick is drowned out by the roar of engine.

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