colette2_icon.gif hana_icon.gif scott_icon.gif

Scene Title Breakout
Synopsis During the civil war prisoners bound for a detention center find themselves in a desperate bid for freedom.
Date July 17, 2012

Seventeen miles outside of Fairfield Connecticut a convoy of two prison busses escorted by a pair of Army Humvees rolls across a desolate urban war zone. A collapsed parking garage blocks the street, forcing the vehicles off the road and through a derelict parking lot of cracked asphalt and burned out husks of cars.

On the other side of the parking garage, the horizon is nearly flat where once was a city. Buildings are reduced to brown and gray heaps of pulverized stone bristling with twisted metal reinforcements at odd angles. Civilian vehicles reduced to charred shells are tipped to either side of the crumbling road, allowing the convoy passage.

Up ahead, a sandbag barricade surrounds the fenced-in remains of a partially collapsed office building. Soldiers in drab brown urban camouflage stand watch at a gate, and a dozen battered and broken people wait on the other side, hands zip-tied behind their backs and bags holding their heads. This isn't an official detention center, but it is a part of the detention process.

Decimation is the order of the day, and as the convoy rolls up on the holding pen, they pass by a row of soldiers executing a row of bound prisoners pushed up against a brick wall. As the vehicles stop, a soldier in a black beret steps out of the lead vehicle, bright daylight reflecting off of his chipped sunglasses.

“How many we got, Private!?” He calls out to soldiers manning the pen. One of them steps forward, slinging a carbine over his shoulder.

“Sixteen, Sargent. The ones that displayed went up against the wall. These ones are either hiding it or are untested.” The soldier looks back to the people crowded in the pen, the back to the beret-clad officer.

The Sargent nods, jerking his head over to the Humvee. “Get ‘em loaded up. This is the last bus.” At that order, the prisoners who aren't scheduled for execution are rounded up and marched into the rear bus, hoods removed as they climb in and are pushed into their seats. Zip-ties are traded out for more sturdy handcuffs around the wrist with long chains looped through metal rings on the floor.

As hoods come off, Hana Gitelman finds herself seated in front of a half dozen unfamiliar faces of men and women between the ages of twenty and fifty, in various states of shock and trauma. To her immediate left and right, other unfamiliar faces, and —

A bag is pulled from the head of an older man with high cheekbones and sunken, scarred cheeks. His shaggy brown hair is unkempt and looks to be naturally grown out. But long hair cannot hide the memory of Scott Harkness from Hana. Scott’s expression on seeing Hana is momentary disbelief, then immediately averted. A very intentional refusal of acknowledgement. But when he leans back against his seat, Hana sees the last passenger on that row.

Colette Demsky should be with Avi Epstein right now, shouldn’t be anywhere near the fighting. Yet, with a bruise around one eye, a split at her brow and lip, she looks as though the fighting found her. Hana can see Colette staring vacantly, eyes unmoving, blinded in a way she normally isn’t. They must have her negated somehow. That’s when Hana feels it, a prickling tingle at the back of her neck as someone enters the bus from the front on the opposite side of the metal mesh barrier between prisoners and driver. He’s a soldier; flack jacket, helmet, sunglasses and rifle. But he’s compressing — silencing — the digital noise down to a whisper. He’s like the others in this bus, but unlike them a traitor to his own kind.

Unlike most negators Hana’s met, he doesn’t completely snuff out abilities. She can still, faintly, hear the noise of the world, as though down a long hallway.

It’s a start.

Hood removed, Hana's gaze flicks to the man who holds it and then away, down and to the side. Harmless. A woman out of her depth, scared. Possibly one who's heard too many 'campfire' stories about what those evil loyalist scum do to their captives. It's easy to miss that the motion also gives her a fleeting survey of the entire vehicle — and that while her gaze is downcast, it's carefully not directed anywhere near her hands. Hands that are cuffed, but the associated chain not yet locked down. She slides her foot over slightly to conceal the loop and the chain pooled just beside it from easy view; there's a tiny, tiny chance he might forget.

Harkness is… a surprise. One that, fortunately, her averted gaze gives her the necessary moment to get under control. Almost as much a surprise as Demsky, whose presence simply makes Hana mad. But that, too, needs to wait.

A confined space. Two people — including that negator — as good as inaccessible behind that metal grate. One here, in reach, but… a number more outside. Hana could hear their voices, earlier, even if she doesn't quite dare steal a glance out the windows. Sitting quiescent, she calculates, estimating odds and probabilities. Ultimately, the calculation is simple: with everyone parked, opportunity is too slim, the force outside too great.

That's all right. Hana can wait.

The near-silence in her head is a strange companion, almost unfamiliar for all that it's only been half a year since her ability was restored. In stark contrast to that muffled silence is the relative clarity of what remains: the hum of background computations inside her own head, the radio seated in the dash of this bus, less so those in the other vehicles. That negator hasn't negated enough, not of an ability whose usual reach spans continents.

Taking her observations and constructing from them the first steps of a plan, Hana reaches inward, pings a system that does not in fact exist; receives a response markedly less prompt than usual. In a span of time counted only by computers, Hana evaluates that latency, queries the processor on its other end, receives summary statistics she deems workable. Sends instructions, simple and precise. On cue, she dictates, to which it responds with a computer's bald acknowledgment of directives received.

She needs only the right time to give that cue.

“Pack ‘em up!” Is shouted from the back of the bus as the rear door is shut firmly. The solitary soldier in the rear of the vehicle shoulders his rifle loosely and tugs the chains between Hana’s restraints down through the metal hoop on the floor at her feet. As he straightens, he walks to the rear of the bus and latches the rear door shut and gives a thumbs up to the soldier outside. A moment later, there’s a positive thump, thump on the side of the bus.

The bus doesn’t immediately lurch into motion, and in that time the negator up front leans in to have a conversation with the driver. Hana can pick up the radio chatter coming across all of the lines nearby. She can tell the convoy isn’t well-protected, just the two humvees and the eight soldiers split between them and one soldier in each bus. The others are remaining behind, apparently there was a shift swap at the temporary holding pen, and the soldiers in the humvee are the ones just relieved. They’re tired already, that’s an asset.

As the vehicles finally begin to move, the bus creaks and lurches. Hana can feel it’s old, there’s no hum from an onboard computer managing its fuel intake. But both of the humvees don’t have the same protection. She could stall both of their engines, or otherwise manipulate their automated internal components with ease. The radio broadcasts are likewise on digital bands, easily silenced.

The chatter reiterates what she already knew getting into this, the convoy is bound for an airfield eight miles away and the interred will be moved to New York in advance of some massive detention center’s completion. The airfield has hundreds of soldiers, clear sight lines for a mile in every direction. She has 7 miles to make this work.

Scott makes a moment of eye contact with Hana, draws her attention down to his hands bound in the shackles by rattling the chain. There’s a faint glow at his palm, quarter-sized, and he’s able to produce a four inch long mini-screwdriver from inside of his personal pocket-dimension that is palmed away.

Chained into place, Hana remains meek, silent, giving only a brief glance out the windows as the bus settles into its cruising speed. Then her gaze drops to the floorboards of the aisle as if they might hold the secrets to the universe… or just the secrets of a prisoner's fate. She feeds the sense of motion, of passing time, to that internal computer, asks it to spit out projections, to count on her behalf. It obliges readily, for all that the timing is no better than any estimate she could make herself — not cut off from the larger digital world as Wireless now is.

At the rattle from Scott's direction, Hana's gaze flicks up, bounces off his hands and the tool concealed within them; she gives acknowledgment by way of a slow, deliberate blink. The two outer fingers on her right hand fold in: three minutes, or near enough for their purposes.

Three minutes. Three miles, give or take, winding their way through what looks to be modestly hilly terrain.

It is an interminably long wait.

Time, says the thing in her head that isn't exactly a voice, and Hana taps two fingers on the outside of her knee, passing sign to her unexpected but very welcome ally. Now! she directs, and the radios in all four vehicles give forth an earsplitting feedback squeal.

Half a beat later, taking advantage of the drivers' collective startlement, Hana reaches out the two Humvees and wrenches them off the road, trying to get them to roll down the slope below. She has no such control over the buses, and her action in the next beat — depends. On Scott. On their driver. On what else the negator has up his sleeve.

Automatic steering correction is forcibly uncorrected by Hana’s technopathic will, and both humvees careen off the side of the demolished road into steep embankments. Brakes, likewise, fail at her request and the vehicles unexpectedly collide with small growths of trees, plowing through them with considerable force and disappearing into the underbrush.

The screeching radios aren't just limited to the vehicles. The driver and negator’s headsets, as well as that of the soldier in the rear of the bus, all explode with signal noise. The driver slams on the brakes, sending the negator hurling forward and stumbling down the steps to the front door of the bus. The soldier in the back is likewise launched forward several steps and yanks off his headset and throws it to the ground.

He lands on his knees in front of Scott, who has just enough reach with his shackled wrists to lunge forward and plant the screwdriver in the side of the downed soldier’s knee. He screams, reaches back for his gun and finds a boot square in his face. Colette, limited to sight within arm’s reach, repeatedly kicks the soldier in the mouth and jaw, then lashes out with long legs, grabbing him by the neck with her ankles.

The driver is bolting up from his seat, making the mistake of checking on the negative first. Scott pulls forward, Colette drags the soldier closed with her legs as he slaps and claws at her ankles, bringing him in reach of Scott’s grasp. The handgun is withdrawn from the soldier's holster and the first three shots are fired past Colette and through the metal mesh.

Blood blossoms against holes in the front window and the driver falls gurgling into the stairwell. Then, bringing the gun down to the soldier Colette has grappled, fires two shots into his chest at point-blank range. Scott then turns, firing down at the pin holding Hana’s manacles with two more shots, busting the metal latch off and freeing her partially from her restraints. But he knows her. He knows that a length of chain between her wrists won't slow her down.

“What the fuck is going on!?” Colette screams over the panicked sounds of everyone else on the bus shouting at once. Some kicking the dying soldier mercilessly.

Hana keeps a corner of her attention on the radios, suppressing messages out; she can't see what all the soldiers have done with their headsets, nor are the states of those in the rolled Humvees immediately obvious. Better to be safe, and that isn't a task she can delegate. Unlike dealing with their escort, which Scott and Colette between them do handily.

It isn't until Scott shoots out the latch holding her restraints in place that Hana takes physical action, rising to her feet and collecting the trailing chain in her hands. "Dealing with problems," Hana replies curtly, without looking towards her trainee. She glances to Scott instead. "Cut loose anyone you think can help. Negator."

Which is to say, that's where she's going.

Climbing over the back of her seat, Hana slips past the sprawling body and shoves her way out the back door. Outside, she makes her way around to the front of the vehicle, giving quick, peripheral glances towards where her ability places the two downed Humvees, and another for the second bus and its occupants. The door yields to her energetic tug, and two bodies come spilling out at her feet — one more markedly alive than the other.

Not that Hana intends to allow that state of affairs to persist for long, as she swoops down to loop that oh-so-convenient chain around his throat.

The chain around the negator’s neck twists tight, biting into skin and immediately cutting off circulation. His legs kick, hands grab up at the chain, pawing wildly in frenzied panic. As he thinks to move one hand away, Hana sweeps a leg out and hooks an ankle at his bicep, then drops backwards onto her hip and locks his arm in her leg, popping it out of the socket with a meaty snap. The negator’s scream is a strangled one, and inside the bus Hana can see commotion.

Worse, the lead bus up ahead likewise is filled with movement. She can hear pops of gunfire there, and it looks like the prisoners have turned against their jailers with a less clean cut. There’s no noise yet from the nearest overturned humvee, just the sound of the strangled negator trying to fight for his life. But he is a much larger man than Hana had originally recognized, strong, resilient. He wrests his only good arm free from the leg-lock and swiftly reaches down to his sidearm. Pulled free, he angles it up toward Hana and fires.

The gunshot is loud, horribly so, and the shot narrowly grazes across Hana’s brow in such a way that when the warmth of blood starts flowing down into her hair and across the side of her face it elicits a pang of terror about the injury’s severity. He reaches up, angling the gun again to try and get a clearer shot, when a scream comes from the open door of the bus.

Colette throws herself off of the bottom step, Scott’s screwdriver in hand. It finds its way down into the negator’s neck, face, mouth, eye, in repeatedly brutal stabbing motions. All of the puncture wounds are shallow, but the rapidity and choice of location is staggeringly painful. He swings his arm around to fire at her, and Colette drops the screwdriver, grabs his wrist, twists it inward and disarms him of his gun in the motions Hana had taught her when she was first learning self-defense. Colette presses the gun to the middle of his chest and wastes five bullets in rapid succession.

He stops struggling.

Inside the bus, Scott stands in the doorway with keys in hand. A few people are jumping out of the back, some running toward the woods without any regard for their own safety. Others are coming out to look around and see how they can help. One is shot clear in the chest and falls backwards with a gurgling cry. Scott ducks, the other prisoners start to scatter around the bus, and Hana spies the source of the gunshot from a single limping soldier coming from the now quiet lead bus, firing a handgun.

Blood drips down Hana's forehead, over her eye as she struggles with the negator, trying to maintain her lock on the chain long enough for him to at least lose consciousness. Colette comes barrelling out in short order, though, and Hana reflexively flinches back from the intimately close-ranged gunshots, face averted, eyes closed.

After, she can release her deathgrip on the chain, shake it loose and climb to her feet. Hana's ears continue to ring as she wipes the blood from her eye, scanning the surroundings — then ducking back into the door of the bus as one of their fellows topples over, summarily yanking Colette over with her. "Hands," she says to Scott, holding out the cuffs even as she squints through the windows, watching the soldier limp nearer.

"Give me the gun," she demands of Colette a moment later. Relieving the trainee of the pistol, Hana reflexively checks the magazine — three left. Checks the soldier's position, forms a mental image of her next steps, her aim, her target. Surges out around the corner of the bus, firing all three rounds at center of mass in quick succession, continuing boldly forward in their wake.

It's clockwork, precision clockwork. Colette swiftly hands over the firearm, Scott quickly unlocks her shackles, and as Hana turns around the corner she is the final gear in that machination. The gunfire pops clean and all three shots take the soldier off of his feet. His flack jacket takes all three shots and the ceramic chest plate shatters after the second, but none of the shots are fatal. Regardless, he won't be getting up.

Scott looks to the lead bus, scowling. There's no movement inside, blood on some of the windows. In the distance down the ditch and into the woods there's loud cursing and movement. Not everyone there is dead. “We gotta move,” Scott calls, unwilling to spare the time to check the lead bus for survivors.

Colette looks back to the others, her vision now fully returned with Hana’s at the negator’ death. “Get in!” She shouts to the passengers who hadn't fled into the woods, looking over to Hana with wide eyes and confounded uncertainty. Quietly, she approaches Hana while Scott takes back his screwdriver and unlocks her shackles.

“Can you drive blind?” Colette asks quietly to Hana, one brow raised. She isn't sure the limits of Hana’s technopathic command of satellites, never could fathom what her limitations truly are. “I could— try and hide the bus? I, ah— ” how did they catch you? is a question that goes unasked but is visible in her features.

Hana relieves the downed soldier of his gun, evaluates him briefly. No, he's not going anywhere. Good enough. Jogging back to their bus, she nods in Scott's direction. "Agreed." She would check the other bus — but better some escapees than none at all. Particularly when she seems to have found herself with personally important ones to clear out.

She stands still as passengers file back into the bus, as Colette's hands are released. Wiping another smear of blood across her forehead, Hana glances to Scott. "See if they had an aid kit on the bus?" It's not actually a question. The implicit query from Colette is treated as a different kind of non-question — the kind that goes unanswered.

The spoken one elicits a momentary consideration, a thoughtful glance towards the sky. "Yes. I'll need you to warn of other vehicles, though." A slight tilt of her head. "Or else just to hope we don't run into anyone."

Hana climbs up into the bus then, pausing to strip the driver's body of its gun before heaving the corpse out the door.

“G-Got it,” Colette stutters as she hauls herself up into the bus and grabs on to the handrail beside the driver’s seat. Scott holds out a hand, doing one better and calling up a lunchbox-sized first aid kit in a shimmer of distorted white light. He relieves her of one of the stripped firearms, walking back into the bus.

“Kid, take care of this.” He motions down to the first aid kit, handing it off to Colette, then walks into the back of the bus. Harkness calls out to the other prisoners. “Head down, hang on. You— shut that door! Latch it!” His booming voice carries through the bus, commands authority in the way it once did when he was a safe house operator.

When Hana settles down into the driver’s seat, Colette has opened the first aid kit. “I just— we just need to keep the blood out of your eyes for now. I— I can probably sew you closed once we can stop.” Carefully, she daubs the deep cut with a piece of alcohol-wet cotton, then tapes a gauze patch around the injury. It's not clean, not long-term.

Noises are coming louder from the woods now, shouts and clattering, slamming metal of a door being kicked out. As Colette pulls the lever to shut the door the pop of small arms fire pings around the bus and blows out a window. “Fuck!” She hisses, ducking down as glass rains in her hair.

The kit Scott provides is undoubtedly better than anything the bus would have on offer; Hana nods to him before he heads back to organize the others. She sits motionless while Colette tends to her blood-streaked face, eyes closed, her attention divided between the radios quiescent about them and the span of empty space separating her from the digital angels above. The actual job of confirming route, she passes off; Hana herself queries satellites for imagery as they come available.

The comparison of present images with recorded maps has to wait, however, as clamor from the woods below heralds a new — returning — complication. With the engine still idling from the unexpected stop, Hana promptly sets the bus into reverse and accelerates steadily, her eyes fixed on the scene in the mirrors. Monitor right bound. Two foot margin, she directs, flinching away from shattering glass and continued gunfire; routes can wait a little longer.

A few hundred feet of distance, and she can take the time to turn the bus around. Then they can really get going.

Gunfire loudly reports inside the bus as Scott fires back, a three shot burst of covering fire to get the men in the treeline to duck and cover. Another burst of gunfire comes from the other side of the road. “We’re pinned down over here!” Scott turns, firing three more shots out the other side of the bus through a window that had not yet blown out, ducking down out of sight as he does. The others trapped on the bus cover their heads, hunched over in their seats. “Any time now!”

As Hana begins the precarious dance of turning a full length bus around, Colette shuts her eyes and steadies her breathing where she kneels beside Hana. “I can do this, I can do this,” she murmurs to herself, neck tightening and a vein bulging at her temple. Hana’s vision blots with darkness, at first like a migraine headache coming on, but then the realization that it's something entirely other.

The bus ripples and bends, distorting like a heat mirage in the summer sun, before fading out of sight entirely. Hana’s world is thrown into complete and utter darkness, and she can hear the confused cries of the people in the back, Scott’s voice trying to tell them to stay out, and a strained sound of pain from the young woman at her side. The bus is consumed in a rippling field of bent light, and Colette focuses what little she can ahead.

The bus jostles as Hana finishes backing up. “Guard rail!” Colette earns a second too late. But the grinding protest of straining metal only lasts a second, and hand-over-hand turning the wheel, Hana is able to get this behemoth turned around. “Okay— okay, uh— left a little. You're drifting to the right. Uh,” she winces, making a noise in the back of her throat. “Oh my god I can't hold this— ”

Colette strains, a hand unseen gripping the side of Hana’s seat in white-knuckle strain. “Please drive faster,” she whispers more as a request to higher powers than the driver herself.

Hana's world goes dark; she closes her eyes, vision rendered irrelevant. Computer thread reports error, hangs waiting for new directions — but the thought of composing such is jarred aside by collision of bus and guard rail. Hana grimaces, focuses on finishing the turn and getting the bus pointed in the right direction, straightened out… and hopefully still on the road.

Colette's directions help in that, buying Hana long enough to get her own thoughts in order around the shouting behind them, the gunfire from the side, and the general urgency of the moment. She hears the strain in Colette's voice, nods briefly, and — now that they're in motion — picks up the threads of her previously interrupted plan. Locate and track. Dual frequency. Overlay on expected route.

The processor complies, spits out a continuous stream of position, velocity, and margin values that the technopath has no difficulty comprehending. Precise to within centimeters as far as horizontal distances are concerned, she can tell where the bus is, and that gives Hana more than enough confidence to speed up. "I can handle keeping the bus on the road," she assures Colette, even as she resumes pinging the satellites overhead, querying their imagery to supplement positioning math and to confirm the road still looks like those cached digital maps. Just to be sure. "Focus on what's ahead."

Breathing hastening, Colette strains against the pounding in her skull. She'd never tried to hide something this big before, and her concentration on spatial awareness distracts her from what's happening outside of the bent field of light. A moment later she cries out, “Left! Left! Change lanes!

Hana is able to jerk the wheel aside swiftly enough, though the rear end of the bus clips something and jostles it, sending a chorus of frightened noises through the people in the back. “I'm sorry,” Colette croaks, followed by a leveling of her breathing. “It— I think it's— ” she breathes in deeply, but then realizes that Hana had turned the bus around.

“Hana,” Colette’s voice has an uneven quaver to it. “Where are we going?”

Hana curses under her breath as she jerks the wheel to the side, dodging — nearly — whatever unseen vehicle just unexpectedly found itself sharing the road. She wishes, fleetingly, that she could retask one of those satellites to substitute for the eyes she can't presently use — but not with the surrounding background of digital noise, the interference of hills, and not without leaving traces. Next time, maybe she'll bring a drone.

Any response to Colette is forestalled by a warning from the processor, a notice of upcoming turn, of time and distance and vector counting down. Hana moves back into the right lane, slows down, guides the bus through the math given and onto a different road.

"We're taking a detour out towards Ridgefield," she replies, once she's certain they're oriented properly in the lane. "This is the only turnoff that runs the right direction and not back by their camp." Hana opens her eyes, though there's still nothing for her to see. "You can drop your field now," she adds as an aside.

"Eventually we'll get down to Wilton. Epstein had better be there," is also an aside, but of very different tone.

Exhaling a sigh of relief, Colette slouches down onto the floor as her light-bending invisibility is relaxed like an unclenched muscle. Light, color, and shapes all bloom back into existence as though they were daubed into place by paint on a canvas. Colette is pallid, with dark circles around her eyes and a messy swath of blood down the front of her face from her nose, some welled up in her tear ducts. She’s conscious, using her sleeve to wipe the blood from her face before she remembers the wipes in the first-aid kit.

She’s shaky, but seems insistent on taking care of herself. “Epstein…” Colette murmurs, still trying to collect herself from the strain of her ability. “Epstein’s— we got split up. Airstrike came in, going for a… a… I don’t know, insurgency a block away from where we were staying.” Swallowing noisily, Colette uses the wipes in the kit to clean her face.

“I dunno where he is,” is her unfortunate answer, one that comes moments before blind eyes are upturned to her driver and rescuer. “Thank you,” is firmly delivered. Whether Colette presumes the rescue was for her or not isn’t clear, but she makes the appreciation as much.

Vision thankfully restored, Hana takes stock of the view through all windows and in her mirrors before releasing her contact with the satellites above, before cuing the processor to continue its monitoring in silence.

She also spares her student a glance, taking in her state. Finds nothing particularly worthy of comment, all things considered, and lets Colette clean herself up without remark. "I'll try and ping him later," Hana allows. "Once I'm sure we're clear."

Another sideways glance is given at the expression of gratitude — and that inscrutable look is the only acknowledgment it receives. "Don't get too comfortable," she warns, most likely in context of not yet clear. Most likely.

"Harkness," Hana calls over her shoulder, "everyone settled in back there?"

“Everybody’s packed up for the field trip,” Scott calls back, rising to stand from beside a young man who was overwrought with emotion, head in his hands and quietly crying. He steadies himself as he ambles over, looking first at Colette like she has three heads, and then over to Hana like she’s the one who is a ghost.

“Likewise to the the thanks. Figure all the folks behind me feel the same. Didn’t think I’d ever see you again, Gitelman.” Reaching up to grab a hold of the door frame in the mesh partition, Scott looks out at the road ahead, devoid of vehicles and buildings. In the rear view it’s piles of rubble and debris scattered across the road. He takes in a breath, a free breath, even if only for now.

Then, with the moment passed he really only has one request.

“I’m gonna need somebody to catch me up.”

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