Bloody Earth


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Bloody Earth
Synopsis Mounting a last minute rescue effort to save Thomas Zarek's life, Albert Winslow and Peyton Whitney put their own lives on the line. In the aftermath, Hiro Nakamura and Rhys Bluthner butt heads, and an unexpected result of their meddling in the past endangers the future…
Date May 23, 1915

Were wishes fulfilled, they would not have reunited under such strained circumstances.

By the time the rain has stopped falling, the fog has grown to a soupy thickness. Far enough north of the city of Ypres that it is little more than a fiery glow on the horizon, one to match the glow of flames that Albert Winslow and his time-spanned daughter Peyton Whitney are approaching. Together on the back of a tired horse slogging through muddy roads, they approach signs of humanity's cruelty.

Through the fog, with the noise of gunshots still echoing in the distance, bodies begin to appear on the roadside. They emerge like warnings, some perched upon by the blackest of crowd, pecking at strips of cooked flesh blasted by fire. Others lay in bloodied heaps, men stacked upon men, shell casings glitter coppery in the mud like stars against a night's sky.

Winslow is cold to the presence of violence, live as long as he has and man's inhumanity becomes less and less surprising. By the time he has lived double this life span, perhaps the weight of man's cruelty to man has simply become too much. For all the things, all the terrible things that Peyton has seen in her life, could she still be sane after two centuries worth of it?

When the horse finally comes to a stop, Winslow tugs back on the reins, looking down to the tiny hands his his stomach from arms wrapped around him. "The battle is not too far ahead of us, what… is left of it." That the gunshots are far less intense, fewer and further between one another is an unsettling reality. "We should walk the rest of the way," is said as Winslow turns to look over his shoulder to Peyton, his next question all the more important.

"Do you have a gun?"

Ypres, Belgium

May 23, 1915

Her arms reluctantly loosen from his waist so that he can dismount, though her fingers curl around the edge of the saddle until it's her turn. The ride hasn't done her any favors — aside from being afraid of the horse, Peyton has no experience in sitting one without jostling, and the up-and-down motion served to jar her already aching head.

She shakes her head. "I did but it fell when Zarek hit me. He grabbed it," she explains. She hastens to add, lest her father try to kill the man she's trying to rescue, "It wasn't his fault. He was really trying to help me, I think, until I pulled out the gun, I think, and made him second guess me. I guess I wouldn't trust me either, if I were him."

"I only have the one," Winslow explains as he nods to said firearm holstered at his belt, turning to swing one leg over the horse's saddle and then slide off and into the muddy soil with a squelching noise of his boots. Fully soaked by the rain now, Winslow looks down to himself and shakes his head, not even the oiled cloth of his greatcoat could keep him dry with how fast they'd been traveling. But at least the rain has abated. "Not having a gun, maybe will make you less brave… I'm fine with that for now. If we find one along the way, maybe that opinion will change."

Offering up a hand to Peyton, Winslow plays the part of the gentleman, even when surrounded by the horrors of war and the sounds of gunfire. The fog is covering their approach, that much he has the most to be thankful for. "When you get down, I'd like you to… to do what you do, again, if you could? We need to know where Thomas is before we carry on any further."

She peers down at him, not liking being on the animal without him to cling to, and she trembles a little. "I'm not brave at all," she says with a low laugh, shaking her head at him. "I don't think I could be any less brave if I tried."

Peyton takes the hand offered to him, pulling one leg over the horse's back and the saddle until she's sitting sideways, then hops down into the mud, her Louis Vuitton boots completely ruined by mood and rain, but at least her feet within are dry.

Once down, she keeps her hand in his, focusing on Thomas Zarek. As she stares into the distance, her pupils dilate, the inky darkness swallowing up the brown of her irises. Her long lashes dip as she drops her gaze seemingly toward the ground, though the mud and muck and her own feet are invisible to her as she peers at the world through Zarek's eyes.

"You're here," is Winslow's response, growing distant as Peyton's senses hook in to Thomas', "that's bravery enough for most anyone…"

THere's wood on three of Thomas' sides, planks of wooden supports leaking with wet mud from between the boards. It's a narrow alcove, the kind designed to be a storage depot for ammunition or supplies in a trench, a square box. The one open face empties out into a seven foot deep trench filled six inches deep with rain. Hunched into the alcove with a rifle clutched to his chest, Thomas Zarek is hyperventillating.

There is shouting, German, echoing nearby in the distance. Dark shapes stalk at the top of the trench, silhouettes in the fog beyond Thomas' field of view. There isn't enough here, though, to tell exactly where Thomas is. There's no telling how many trenches there are, how far away he is.

When Peyton pulls out of the vision, it becomes eminently clear they they're going to need to figure out a way to find out where they are in relation to Thomas before the Germans find him.

The clairvoyant looks up, her brows furrowed with worry. Her hand drops out of his so she can push wet strands of hair out of her dirty face. "I … I can't tell, he's in a … like a box, I think in the trench. He's freaking out and there are German soldiers close to him, above him, I think, but they don't know he's there, I don't think. He's surrounded by them and he's hiding from them," Peyton gasps out, a pleading tone in her voice. She needs his help but at the same time, she knows this isn't where he's supposed to be on this day, this isn't what he's supposed to be doing on this day.

She peers through the fog and rain, shaking her her head. "How many trenches are there," she gasps plaintively, tears filling her eyes with the impossible task of finding Zarek in time. She doesn't expect an answer. The other question she wonders, but doesn't say aloud, is why anyone thought she could do this.

"Too many to check all at once," Winslow offers in a hushed tone of voice, stepping over to his horse, holding one side of the reins and soothingly stroking one hand down the side of his neck, trying to soothe jittery nerves so that it doesn't bolt. "Too many for us to check an' not be caught by the Germans either." Looking back to Peyton, Winslow offers a slow shake of his head and a worried look to her.

"Can…" Winslow hesitates, his tone softens, even as a gunshot sounds closer than the others did a few moments prior. "Is it possible for you t'look around with what you do? I don't— I've never met someone else with an ability, with something special that they could do. I don't— I can't even imagine how it might work, what it's like… how…" he trails off, expression turning somber as he shakes his head.

Worry steals Winslow's tongue for a moment, though as he releases the reins of the horse again and turns to face Peyton, he has a plea of his own. "Is there anything I can do to help? Any way I can make this easier for you. You're our only hope of findin' Thomas before whatever it is you're trying t'protect him from comes t'pass…"

"I can only see what he's looking at," Peyton says apologetically. "I can… I can change to one of the soldier's but I can't because all I see are feet, and that's just… I need to be able to focus on the person and I guess feet aren't enough for me to get into their head…" She's trying, but failing. Combat boots are not the windows to the soul.

One hand comes up, rubbing the palm into her eyes hard enough to cause spirals of silvery fish and pinwheels to swim behind the lenses for a moment. "Do you … who is it that came to tell you about this? Do you know who's supposed to be coming for Zarek? I … it's a long shot, but if I know them, I can see where they are, maybe."

"Two men and a woman," Winslow offers in a hushed tone of voice. "The man who made me the offer, he had an accent of sorts, sounded like he may've been Irish? Probably in his late forties, dark hair, eccentric style of dress. He called himself Samuel." Unholstering his sidearm, Winslow crouches down beside his horse and urges for Peyton to do the same with a tug of her sleeve as he hears another gunshot drawing closer. "They came t'me… some ten years ago, Peyton. They said that there'd be someone coming, someone who… someone who would say they're from the future. Promised me that all I had t'do was detain them, and that if I did they'd owe me, save my life. They knew… they knew everything about me, I thought— I didn't know what t'think."

Wetting his lips, Winslow looks down to the muddy ground, ashamed. "The other man was older, much, much older. He had t'at least be seventy, maybe eighty years old. He was wheezing and coughing the whole time, stayed very close t'Samuel, but never spoke or said his name. The lady with them wasn't very ladylike, she dressed like a soldier, long and dark coat, dark hair, she carried a rifle and…" Winslow reaches up to tap his left eye, "she had an eyepatch too. She couldn't have been any older than you though… poor thing."

Looking through the horse's legs to the fog on that side of where they crouch, Winslow furrows his brows. "I think— Samuel called her by a name once, called her Kira." Looking back to Peyton, Winslow shakes his head slowly. "Does— does that help at all?"

As Peyton listens to her father, she tries to think of who any of these people might be, but nothing strikes a chord, and she gives a frustrated shake of her head. "No… no, I don't know any of them," she says, rubbing her eyes, before turning to look out across the battlefield — it's like looking for a needle in a haystack, and they don't have time.

"It's useless," she whispers, wrapping her arms around herself, her wet coat no longer keeping her warm. "All I know is he's in a trench, and that the Germans are nearby… the only thing I can do is keep watching, but then I can't see where I'm going," she tells him, dark eyes starting to shimmer with tears of hopelessness again.

"You can watch while you move?" The notion has one of Winslow's brows rising as he offers Peyton a smile. "I have an idea," he offers with a look up to the clouded skies and then around to the fog. "The German's can't see their hands in front of their faces in this fog. Can you hear things too? What people are saying or sounds? We can play bloody Marco Polo in th' fog. I can shout, or maybe fire my gun in a pattern that you can recognize. If it's just sight I— we can figure it out, I might be able to make a light in the fog, maybe some sort of beacon…"

At that comment, Winslow is sweeping his eyes over the fallen soldiers, looking for something that he can use in their possessions to make a distinctive noise or distinctive light, something that can help them pinpoint their location in regards to Thomas'. "I'll do my best to make sure you don't trip or fall, but I'll need you to tell me what you see and what you hear."

"They had Marco Polo back … now?" Peyton murmurs, her voice a little wondrous — it's hard to imagine children in 1915 — or earlier, whenever Winslow was a child — playing the same games that she played with her friends in Manhattan growing up.

"I can hear," she affirms. "I … I can't understand German though, but I can hear… I won't be able to hear you, though, so you'll have to shake me or something if you want me to listen to what you're saying, okay?" Her hand goes back to his, trusting him to keep her safe, to help her do this. She looks at him, her eyes imploring for a moment, as she lets his face fill her vision, memorizing the eyes that hers echo, the long face, the dark hair. "But be careful — I don't… I can't lose you, not again, okay? Not twice." Not to mention if he dies —

Peyton swallows and gives a small nod before her eyes change again.

"Shh," cuts off Peyton's words, a whispery shush interspersed with distant gunfire. Lifting up one gloved hand to Peyton's cheek, Winslow closes his eyes and shakes his head, brushing a gloved thumb across her cheek with a weary smile. "Don't worry about tha' for now, right now let's focus on the mission, yes?" Moving his hand from Peyton's cheek to pat her on the shoulder, Winslow's lips creep up into a weary smile. "When I was growing up in London… painting, doing restorations," there's a dry laugh and a shake of Winslow's head, "I never wanted to be a soldier. I wanted to be an artist… I wanted to change the world thorugh pictures."

Coming up to stand straight, he reaches down to take one of peyton's hands in his and helps her to her feet. "Now look at me, a Captain, more blood on my hands than is honest… just— " he cuts himself off, exhales a sigh and looks over to Peyton. "It's life-affirming, knowing." He nods towards her demonstratively. "Knowing that this long life of mine has an ending, has something worth living for in it…"

Smiling fondly, Winslow squeezes her hand and breathes in deeply, then raises his gun over his head. "I'm going ot fire, three short bursts together. Tell me if you can hear it, how far away it is. With any luck we'll move towards the sound and not away, or…" he snorts out a laugh, "let's pray for the best."

"You are a photographer in the future. By hobby, not trade, but… you're very good," Peyton murmurs, letting his hand on her face and her hand help ground her. "I … I wasn't very good in my life either, not until lots of bad things happened to me and I had to stop caring about just myself," she admits. "I… you probably saw me do a lot of bad things while you watched me grow up, and yet you somehow cared for me anyway, and that meant … means a lot. Thank you."

Her focus finds Zarek's hiding spot once more, and she nods. "Okay, I'm watching. I can't hear you, so remember to shake me if you need me to listen or come out of it," Peyton tells him, brows furrowed together in concentration, ready to listen for the three blasts of his rifle.

Winslow is silent in appraisal of his daughter, a strong and independant woman by contemporary standards of the early 20th century. That she has shared as much about him as she does seems to imply a certain level of trust, both in that he will use the knowledge responsibly and that he deserves to be as much a part of her life as he is, even if it sounds like he had viewed her thorugh a lens more so than as a father. Both facts have unfortunate fine print, something that Winslow has neither the time nor the perspective to focus on at the moment.

Thomas is still right where Peyton had last seen him, hunched down in that foxhole, rifle clutched to his chest, breathing slower and more steady now that it seems the Germans passed him right by. But that security can only last for so long, that safety can only last for so long. Peyton can feel her feet moving as she walks, urged on ahead a few steps by Winslow, though that she can only hear the environment of Thomas' point of view is disorienting, no surprise when she stumbles and feels Winslow catch her around the waist and by one arm.

Steadied, she feels one of Winslow's hands move away from her, feels a squeeze of her hand even as she watches Thomas' point of view as he peeks up towards the top of the trenches at the fog rolling in off of the muddy land above. Three quick and rapid shots in sharp succession sound much closer than Peyton had anticipated. She can feel the vibrations from the gun in her body, knows its was Winslow's going off, but it sounded like it came from right behind where Thomas is crouched in the foxhole. The nearby gunfire has Thomas hunkering down again, covering his head with one hand and exhaling shallow breaths.

/As Thomas is hunkering down from the sounds of Winslow's gunshot, someone comes into view, silhouetted by the fog. Short, shorter than the German soldiers were, a long coat unbuttoned and loose, the trail of it rustling about the silhouette's legs. The cool and damp breeze blows long hair around, it's a young woman with — a rifle. "All around the mulberry bush…" is offered in a sing-song whisper as she starts walking closer to the edge of the trench.//

There isn't much time.

Her eyes widen and those black holes constrict. Peyton turns to her right, eyes narrowing as she points to where it sounded like the gunshots came from — before she self corrects, realizing that if that's Zarek's perspective, he'd be to her left, and somewhere in front of them. She shifts again, turning and narrowing her eyes, trying to see through the dense fog as she points in the direction he should be. "It's not far," she whispers, her voice much softer than moments before. "And there's a woman with a rifle, singing … what's the nursery rhyme with the mulberry bush…" Pop goes the weasel isn't something she's thought about or heard for years, and her mind is much to frazzled to connect the first part of the melody to its punchline.

"They're here," she whispers, as if it weren't clear, and she trembles. "I don't know if she knows where he is," she adds, "but she's close."

"Stick close t'me," Winslow urges, but he isn't taking Peyton's hand, he's trusting her to keep up. Gun out and a few rounds left in the magazine, the British soldier charges ahead with splashing footfalls, mud slung up behind each footfall. Peyton's several hundred dollar boots may have kept her feet dry, but the standard issue British infantry footwear is soaked through and through for her father.

Off like a rocket, Winslow charges up and over a mound of earth with his handgun held out, disappearing into the fog nearly as fast as Peyton can even see. She knows what's out there, that the assassin sent to kill Thomas could very well change history in wholly different ways by taking the life of her father.

Yet there he goes, charging headlong towards that very danger.

The only sound she makes is neither agreement or disagreement but a slight whimper in the back of her throat that is too quiet to even be heard, and Peyton has no option but to follow. She takes a sob of a breath and breaks into a run, her long legs making it not too difficult to keep pace with him, though she slips and slides in the mud.

She can't cry out for him to wait, or she risks giving away their location — gunfire may be normal, but a girl in the trenches yelling for help wouldn't be, not in 1915, and certainly not in English with an American accent. If they get separated, she won't be able to use her power to find him — all he'll see is all she can see — blue-white fog that bites into her bones and numbs her to her core.

When Peyton catches up to Winslow, she can see him halted on one side of a trench coming into view, the one that Thomas has to be somewhere in. When Winslow is skidding to a halt, Peyton can see that black silhouette on the other side of the trench leveling a rifle at him. Winslow raises his gun, firing into the fog, but the silhouette reacts like a kite on the wind, reflexes snapping her away like a dancer, practically pirouetting on one foot and gaining some small altitude in a sideways hop before landing in a crouch with a slap of the leather from her long coat, firing with one noisy shot from what is clearly a shotgun and not a rifle.

The ground is kicked up from the epxlosion of buckshot tearing across the divide of the trench, Winslow lets out a yelp of pain as he recoils from the blast, falling backwards onto the med with a half dozen tiny red spots of blood darkening the front of his jacket. He's hissing and swearing, at this distance it's all extremely painful flesh wounds.

Rolling onto his side, Winslow opens fire again and the little black silhouette in the fog is leaping up and away from the gunfire, landing in the mud and skidding, slipping and sliding around but somehow making it all look like some fantastic //Cirque de Soleil display of acrobatics.

When she brings up her gun again, Winslow rolls out of sight, landing in the trench with a splash before the shotgun fires, sending buckshot pellets //whipping past Peyton so close she can hear them buzzing past her ears.

"No!" Peyton cries when she sees the recoiling figure of her father, tears springing to her eyes before she realizes he's not fatally wounded — though any wound in this unsanitary environment could be potentially fatal, especially without the wonders of 21st century medicine.

When the buckshot whizzes by her, she throws herself to the ground, the mud squelching beneath her slim form, and then her long legs scramble to stand in a crouch, propelling her into a run toward the fox hole that Zarek hides in — he has her gun.

Peyton may only have a high school education, and only a 2.0 GPA in that lacklustre academic career, but even without any advanced math, she knows that three guns are better than one.

There's a snap sound as the assassin breaks open her double-barrel shotgun and ejects the shells from within, giving Peyton time to drop down into the trench while her attacker is reloading. It's a disadvantageous position, however, being lower than a gunner, it turns the trench into a shooting gallery. Ducked down up against one earthen wall, Winslow has taken the time to reload his pistol as well, nodding to Peyton as he watches th sky above.

With Peyton whipping around to find where Thomas is, she discovers the Frenchman only when she once again has a gun pointed at her. Thomas' rifle is aimed squarely at Peyton's chest, his eyes wide and hands trembling, staring at the brunette with a terrified look in his eyes. Thomas' backpack has been taken off, laying in the six inches of murky water at his side, pistol laid out atop it.

Click goes his rifle when he pulls the trigger, click, click, click. He's out of bullets. But he was going to shoot her, it was probably just nerves though — probably.

Please don't kill me,»" is Thomas' whispered plea.

The first click is met by Peyton squeezing her eyes closed, waiting for her brain to splatter the wall of the foxhole behind her. When she hears the next click, her eyes fly open and she shakes her head at him. "«I'm here to save you! If you'd just trusted me in the first place, we wouldn't be in this mess!»" she hisses, a little exasperation bleeding into her French.

"«Now — where did you put my gun? And is there…»" She looks along the length of the trench, to find any fallen soldiers that they can pillage ammunition or another rifle from. "«The woman up there, she's … she's not normal. She can … react faster than is humanly possible. But if there are three people shooting — I don't know if she could manage to avoid all of us at once.»"

"«Your gun is a worthless piece of trash it does not shoot.»" Thomas barks back in a hiss of French, motioning to the gun on top of his backpack with a wave of one hand. It's only when a handgun report rings out in the trench that he hunches away from Peyton and cowers in the corner of the foxhole. Above and behind Peyton, the veiled assassin is jerking away from a gunshot fired up at her when she leaned over the trench to sight her quarry. With Winslow providing cover fire, there's only a matter of time before the assassin manages to come up with a different angle of attack.

Take it it's yours!»" Thomas hisses as he flails towards the gun, "«I'm out of ammunition! I won't be a whit of good to you— maybe— maybe we could surrender, yes? This— this is preposterous, we're all going to die!»" Thomas Zarek is not the best representative of the French military one could hope for.

"«Your gun is a worthless piece of trash it does not shoot.»" Thomas barks back in a hiss of French, motioning to the gun on top of his backpack with a wave of one hand.

Did you know safeties on firearms weren't common in 1915?

It's only when a handgun report rings out in the trench that he hunches away from Peyton and cowers in the corner of the foxhole. Above and behind Peyton, the veiled assassin is jerking away from a gunshot fired up at her when she leaned over the trench to sight her quarry. With Winslow providing cover fire, there's only a matter of time before the assassin manages to come up with a different angle of attack.

Take it it's yours!»" Thomas hisses as he flails towards the gun, "«I'm out of ammunition! I won't be a whit of good to you— maybe— maybe we could surrender, yes? This— this is preposterous, we're all going to die!»" Thomas Zarek is not the best representative of the French military one could hope for.

"«There's no surrendering. This isn't the Germans,»" Peyton says softly, crouching to pick up the gun on his backpack, turning it so she can disengage the safety. That done, she moves along the wall of the trench until she finds a place she can see — the problem is that it's so hard to see — she resists the temptation to go 'blind' to take on Winslow's or the assassin's point of view — she could be on them too quickly and kill her and Zarek both.

"«I'm from the future. This woman is too, and she came specifically to kill you. I'm here to stop her — I know, it seems ridiculous that I could possibly help you, but… but I guess I'm the best they had.»" She considers crawling out of the hole again, not liking the inferior position in relation to her enemy's.

You're insane.»" Thomas hisses as he leans forward, as if trying to spit the words at Peyton from the sfaety of his foxhole. Then, like the shadow of death that woman in the fog emerges again, poking her head out just enough for Winslow to fire before she jerks away, a different part of the trench that time, turning this into some terrible game of Whack a Mole.

Thomas ducks and winces again, but when he hears something splash at his feet in the water, there's a scream of, "Grenade!" which may be the only English he knows as he drops his gun and throws himself out of the foxhole, diving towards Peyton and throwing her to the ground before the grenade explodes behind him, sending a shower of mud and water rocketing into the air.

Ears are left ringing as Peyton is smashed down into the muddy water by Thomas' weight, and in the time while they're stunned, the assassin finally makes her appearance. Landing with a splash down in the trench, she levels her shotgun up towards where Thomas lays flat on his back atop Peyton, only to hear a loud pop of a handgun behind her. A round from Wisnlow's gun hits the assassin square in the back, sending her staggering forward to collide with the dirt wall of the trench. She's young, face contorted into a pained scowl, dressed in a long black leather trenchcoat with faux fur trim. Her brown hair is dark with moisture, stringy with locks plastered to her cheeks. An eyepatch covers her left eye, duble barreled shotgun slouched barrel first towards the mud.

Smoke issues from her back where the low-caluber British handgun round flattened against her body armor. Wheeling around, Kira crosses the barrel of her shotgun over one folded arm and trains it on Winslow. Bottlenecked in the trench, the explosive muzzle flash and report of gunfire sends him the only way he can go, down. Falling prone he misses the blast of the buckshot that tears apart the dirt trench's walls.

Kira St.Croix is a dangerous woman, more for her catlike agility than anything. With her shotgun emptied, she drops it down to the watery trench floor right beside Peyton and Thomas rather than reloading it, reaching inside of her jacket to withdraw two machine pistols.

That's unfair.

Somehow, Peyton manages to hold onto the 'useless' gun, despite being slammed to the ground into the mud yet again. Her head jarred and rattled from the fall along with the blast of the grenade, Peyton has to bite her lip hard enough to make it bleed to keep herself from passing out from that head-trauma induced nausea.

Still lying prone in the cold, numbing mud, Peyton raises the gun, her left hand cupping the bottom of her gun hand to steady it, remembering her practice session and Cardinal's pointers from the day before. She aims for the woman's chest, pulling the trigger — twice, if she can get off two rounds.

Seeing the gun coming up, Kira is able to react with just barely enough time to move, flipping backwards away from the gunfire, sending two rounds punching into the wet earthen wall. When she lands with a splash in the watery trench, another gunshot rings out and she throws herself to the side, impacting with the trench wall to dodge Winslow's gunshot. Lifting up her machine pistols, Kira trains one down towards Peyton and Thomas and another out and over at Winslow, but the sudden and tremendous blast of an explosion knocks Kira off of her feet, guns firing upwards in a sawing arc thorugh the air until she lands on her backside.

Mud and earth mixed with water rains down from above as a plume of black smoke winds up nearby. The roar of shouting is drawing closer, gunfire approaching, whatever fight had been pushed back past this location was headed this way once more. The chaos and distraction has given Thomas enough time to get his footing and when he rises from the water it's with Kira's unloaded shotgun in his hands.

Screaming at the top of his lungs, he charges Kira with the gun held like a club, receiving a swift kick to the face as he gets in close, hard enough that it launches Thomas up off of his feet to splash down in the water, while Kira impossibly uses the momentum of the kick to flip up through the air off of her back and land on her feet again.

Another explosion shakes the trench, and Kira has lost both of her firearms into the murky water below. With blood running from a cut on her forehead from the fall, she reaches to her shoulder and unsheathed a long, gleaming knife and whips it around to hold backhanded.

"So they sent someone else, did they?" Kira's American accent is clear as she notices Peyton's modern firearm. "Fine," the brunette hisses, "you die forgotten too."

The blast that shakes Kira off her feet only rattles Peyton — prone as she is, she doesn't have to fall. She scrambles back and away from Kira when she sees that knife. "Why are you doing this? What are you trying to do? You don't know — you can't know everything you're going to undo — you might undo yourself or someone you love, if you keep trying to change things!" Peyton gasps at the other woman, realizing that as long as the other can see her shot coming, she's going to be able to dodge it.

Not for the first time does Peyton wish her power could affect someone else. She lifts the gun and points it at the other woman, but holds her fire, not wanting to waste ammunition on a shot the woman can evade. "Why are you doing this?" she asks again, tilting her head curiously as if waiting for the answer, even as she tries to discreetly squeeze the trigger without alerting her target.

Shouting and gunfire is drawing closer, Winslow trains his gun on Kira, swallowing noisily as he creeps up behind Peyton, then steps around and inf ront of her, pushing her back with one warding hand held out behind himself against her stomach. Staring down the iron sights of his handgun, Winslow's shoulders rise and fall with heaving breaths.

"Who says…" Kira murmurs as she looks down to Thomas writhing on the ground, clutching his bloodied mouth from the kick he took, "that I don't want to stop existing?" One of Kira's brows rises slowly, a slithering tendril of black hair sliding down her forehead. "Unlike you people, I realize this world is shit. I realize what a cellpool it is, what a garbage dump we all live in… and it isn't even as bad as it gets in your time."

Scowling, Kira holds that knife with a perfect stillness, water running down the edge of the blade to drip off the tip. "I say… let it all burn, and start over fresh."

Were it not for the question Peyton had asked, Kira St.Croix may have noticed Peyton's subtle pull of her finger on that trigger. But there's osmethign that hits home, the question of why to a psychopath akways comes with an answer, even if sometimes it's just self-satisfaction.

When the gun goes off, Kira is blindsided by the shot, hitting her square in the chest of her vest, knocking her off of her feet, knife spiraling through the air before slicing down and sticking into the mud, handle poking up out of the water.

Shouting and gunfire is drawing closer, Winslow charges past Peyton after she fires, pushing her back with one warding hand held out behind himself against her stomach before rushing over to Kira, gun trained down on her but unable to pull the trigger onan unarmed woman who stares up at him with one wide eye. She isn't that much younger than his own little girl.

Staring down the iron sights of his handgun, Winslow's shoulders rise and fall with heaving breaths.

"Who says…" Kira murmurs before she spits muddy water out of her mouth and to the side, her face contorting into an ache from the bruising the shot against her vest caused, "that I don't want to stop existing?" One of Kira's brows rises slowly, a slithering tendril of black hair sliding down her forehead. "Unlike you people, I realize this world is shit. I realize what a cellpool it is, what a garbage dump we all live in… and it isn't even as bad as it gets in your time."

Not far away, Thomas is writhing on the ground, clutching his bloodied mouth from the kick he took, dazed and trying to figure out what it is that happened. Winslow finds himself in his own predicament, having Kira pinned at close range, rainwater running down the tickled bridge of his nose. He calls back to Peyton, without taking his eyes off the woman.

"What d'we do?"

Not an easy question.

"You think I don't know the world is shit?" Peyton retorts, her brows knitting together as she stares at the woman in front of her, moving cautiously forward to get any of the weapons she can to keep them out of the other's reach as Winslow holds Kira at gunpoint. "But … whatever you're doing, this isn't the right way. You can change the future from the present — but going to the past is wrong. You might just make it worse. And it can be worse, as horrible as that sounds, it could be… I've seen what's possible!"

She doesn't know how to answer Winslow's question. "I don't know…." she murmurs again, not taking her eyes off the woman's face. "I'd say tie her up but I don't think she'll be a very cooperative prisoner." A gunshot to the face would do it — if they can surprise her again, but Peyton isn't sure she can do that.

Shoot her!»" is Thomas' slurred request from where he lays on the floor, "«shoot her for God's sake!»" While the request is a most reasonable one, Winslow can't seem to make it. Staring down the iron sights, all he can do is shake his head, breathign in deeply and nearly squeezing that trigger as she stares up at him with blood running down her forehead and her one eye wide. The sounds of the German advance are drawing nearer, closer gunshots, screams.

"You should've… when you had the chance," Kira hisses, sliding her tongue over her lips in the moment before there's a rush of air and Kira is simply gone, water sloshing over to fill the void of where she was. Winslow's eyes snap wide as he jolts up and away from her, sweeping around brows furrowed and gun aimed in every direction. "Where— where'd she go? What the bloody hell!?"

The disappearance so abrupt could only mean one thing, and in Winslow's confusion, there is a sudden grinding halt to the world. A droplet of water hangs in the air in front of Peyton's face where it was slung from the barrel of Winslow's gun, Thomas is laying on his sie, frothing brown water around his body motionless like glass. The world has suddenly ground to a halt and stopped entirely.

"Peyton" is uttered from a man standing beside her, a hand on her shoulder, narrow eyes fretful with apology. Hiro Nakamura is here again, whole again. Behind him, Rhys Bluther stands in silence, his head bowed and shoulders hunched forward, a blue umbrella keeping the rain off of him and eyes focused on how the muddy water is soaking into his shoes.

"She is gone," Hiro explains, "the assassin, snatched back up into time by the people who brought her here. They know I am here now, they will not try to face me head on…" dark eyes angle to where Winslow stands frozen in time as he says as if only a suggestion, "you can go home now…"

Peyton was still planning on shooting Kira — trying to buy the right moment, when the woman won't see it coming, when she's distracted by a sound or a motion by one of the two men with her — but then it's too late. "I was going t—"

Peyton gasps as she hears her name, turning to stare at Hiro with wide eyes that immediately fill with tears. Relief, wistfulness, pain, fear all flooding through her eyes at the now-familiar face of the time traveler.

"What— will they be okay? Will they get out of this? The Germans are nearby, even if she's gone — they wouldn't be here, alone, if it weren't for them. They lied to Winslow, they lied to get him to —"

Dark eyes move to the silent form of Rhys and she shakes her head angrily. "You lied to me. You're no better than they are," Peyton exclaims, her voice bitter with betrayal and pain. She turns to look at her father, frozen in this moment and her face contorts as new tears chase the recently spent down her dirty face.

"He almost… he could have died trying to help me," she whispers, realizing how close they came to failing, for it to be all for naught.

"I'm sorry," is Rhys' whispered answer as he tilts his head forward, brows furrowed. "I— I didn't lie t'you, Peyton, I just… I'm sorry. When I found out who you were goin' back to save, I realized that you were going to miss a chance to see your father. To— to share time that had been stolen away from you with him." Sliding his tongue over his lips, there's a slow shake of Rhys' head as he breathes in deeply, then exhales a slow, steady sigh.

"I knew if you went to see him, you'd eventually run into Thomas," green eyes look askance to the prone Frenchman. "I lied to you, and to Hiro. I— I apologize." Drawing in a deep breath, Rhys exhales a sigh, eyes falling shut as he shakes his head slowly. It was wrong of me to— to try and…"

"To try and project your own problems onto others," Hiro says sharply, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a scowl. "They will be fine," Hiro notes as he looks up to Peyton, brows furrowed in thought. "I will return here with Kaylee Thatcher, she will help patch the holes in history that were made, Rhys believes that Thomas and Albert will both be fine now. It is the Canadians who are approaching, driving back the Germans. Albert and Thomas will ultimately help outflank the German forces from their position here, and…" he motions over to where Kira's machine pistols lay in the mud. "A little help."

Dark eyes narrow slightly. "I need to send you home, Peyton. You… were never supposed to see Albert Winslow here. But unfortunately," there's a look askance to Rhys, then back up to Peyton. "Your actions here with Winslow have caused ripples, and there is one more stop on this journey you must make."

Offering out a hand to Peyton, Hiro furrows his brows and looks sorry. "They are going after Winslow. Not here, not now… but out there," Hiro explains as he looks up to the sky, as if explaining the vastness of time, then back down to Peyton. "I am sorry that you are not done. But I have arranged for you to be able to take a brief… respite, before venturing back into the stream of time."

Peyton's delicate features crumple at Rhys' apology, the hand still holding her gun coming up to cover her eyes, the back of her hand pressing into them as if to push the tears back into her head. "Okay. It's okay, Rhys. I under- thank you for…" she tries to murmur, but then Hiro's words register and her hand drops, eyes widening.

"They're after him because he helped me," the clairvoyant says quietly in a flat tone, dark eyes darting from Hiro to Rhys, and back again. The words are spoken as a statement, not a question. His helping her put him in danger in yet some other time.

She swallows hard and closes her eyes, her hand coming up to rub the side of her head, sticky with dried blood. "I'll do anything to help him — you know that I will, but I- I don't know what I'm doing. I messed this up so badly. I'm not good at this. I'll just mess it up again," she whispers, wet lashes trembling against pale, dirty cheeks. The men in her life will tell her she's too hard on herself, and that she needs to cut the self deprecation — Cardinal, Smedley, and most recently even Rhys have all said as much to her — but for all of the self doubt, she will do what Hiro asks, if Albert Winslow's life is on the line.

"You are strong," Hiro opines as he takes Peyton's hand, squeezing it in his, "the day you learn to believe that, is the day that nothing in this world or any other can stop you." With those words of affirmation spoken, Peyton disappears in the blink of an eye, a rush of air filling the void where she stood but a moment ago. Viewed clearly now that Peyton is gone, Hiro's reproachful stare squares firmly on Rhys, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown.

"You jeapordized everything with this," he says in the frozen span of time between breaths, where Winslow and Thomas are unaware of the conversation happening at light-speed around them. Rhys' face flushes red, not just from the blustery cold, but from embarrassment, frustration, shame and anger. "You could have undone everything Rhys, it was irresponsible, it was childish and now you have not only continued to put that poor girl at risk, but forced me to send her closer to our present in order to fix the damage done."

"No." Rhys spits out, "Oh— oh no, don't you go blaming all of this on me Hiro Nakamura!" There's a firm flourish of Rhys' umbrella towards the swordsman, sweeping it aside since the rain is both no longer falling and time is also stationary. "You told me you'd be able to get names of the people doing this so I could find them easier. Where's that? Where's anything you promised? Don't— don't pin this all on me. Where were you when she needed guidance there?"

"That was not my fault," Hiro flatly states with a furrow of his brows, "they are laying traps for me, whoever is helping him through time is pushing me around like a marble. It— " Rhys points the head of his umbrella up into Hiro's face, cutting him off.

"Excuses," the boy shouts, "You know and I both know that it was an excuse. I'm no moe guilty for this going badly than you are Hiro! You know that!" At the shout, Hiro winces, lifting up a hand to the side of his head, fingers splayed and the pads of his fingertips feeling the fatness of veins at the side of his head.

Exhaling a shuddering breath, Hiro turns around and away from Rhys, starting to march down the wet trench away from him. "Oh no you don't!" Rhys practically shrieks as he wheels around to follow Hiro. "Hiro Nakamura! D— "

Rhys is gone in an instant, sucked up like Peyton into the streams of time. Now in silence, Hiro breathes in deeply, then exhales a slow, steady breath and lifts a hand up to his nose, wiping away a faint trickle of blood from beneath it. His brows furrow together, throat tightens, and as he turns to look back over his shoulder to Winslow, Hiro has an idea.

Trudging back through the murky water, Hiro lays a hand on Winslow's shoulder, brows furrowed and head tilted to the side. "Mister Winslow…" Hiro murmurs in a thoughtful tone of voice to nothing but himself and frozen time and space.

"I believe you and I may have to come to an agreement."

New York City

February 16, 2010

The smell of acrylic paint fills the air when Peyton Whitney surges into view, appearing like a spliced edit in an old film reel. Mud slides down the legs of her pants, drops off of her jacket, squeaks wetly under her boots. Her face is reddened, hair matted down with yellow-brown mud caked all over her clothing and spattered up her face, eyes are reddened and puffy, she's been crying.

The surroundings aren't immediately recognizable, pink neon light filtering in through the Venetian blinds of the windows, hardwood floors marred with paint just as much as they are now with mud. Canvas tarps are laid out on portions of the floor, and it's only when Peyton's eyes take in the sight of easels and canvas that it all starts to make a sudden, confusing sense.

There's a name on her lips, one hushed and warmly exhaled. In the kitchen, a glass clinks and clatters together, and stepping out from the kitchen doorway, there's a dark-haired woman who's all arms and legs, all elbows and knees, in a pair of flannel pajamas and a frumpy but thick sweater to keep out the winter cold. Steam rises up from the pair of tea mugs she has in her hand, one brow raised and full lips quirked into a smile.

"What?" Wendy Hunter offers with a bright smile.

"You look like you've seen a ghost."

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