Cineres Cineribus, Pulverem Pulveri


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Scene Title Cineres Cineribus, Pulverem Pulveri
Synopsis Following Colonel Volken into a Parisian ghetto, Eileen, Gabriel and Raith unknowingly draw themselves into a trap that ultimately claims one of their lives…
Date October 28, 2010

Drizzling rain has likely put a damper on the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and the World's Fair. The streets of Paris are slicked with the rainfall, accompanied by mud washing out from the packed earth streets onto the more luxuriously paved cobblestone ones. But there is nothign luxurious about the neighborhood whereupon time-spanned travelers are sight seeing.

Every civilization that has built cities eventually has found itself beset upon by something similar to a ghetto. While the crumbling brick buildings rising up from this riverside wharves district of Paris aren't quite the modern-day La Banlieue ghettos, they have their own old-world charm to them. The smell of musky water in the air brought out even further by the falling rain and diminishing daylight. Presence of grubby dock workers in threadbare clothing, buildings with more crumbling masonry than intact. Even Paris has its unfortunate corners, even Paris has shadows.

Colonel Vladimir Volken breezes into the outskirts of a Parisian getto with his Lieutenant at his side, sodden now with the drizzling rain at his hair, though kept dry by the boiled wool of his greatcoat. It is this out of the way and suspicious meetingplace that is only further emphasizing the unusual circumstances of his presence in the city and abandonment of what he was doing at the school.

For Gabriel Gray, who has been keeping the closest eye on Vladimir, his destination seems well-known. Further behind, Jensen Raith does not feel as though Vladimir is trying to shake a tail, he's headed somewhere specific. From an aeril point of view, birds under Eileen Ruskin's control have kept a close eye from rooftops and the chilly skies. All three points of view inform that something is amiss.

Paris, France

October 28


Down a narrow allwyway between two buildings, a hidden courtyard sporting a single, sickly birch tree growing up from a bed of grass and soil surrounded by paving stones hides the unlit facade of a building partly damaged by fire. A wooden sign hangs out front of the establishment, reading Le Poignard Heureux in faded gold-leaf script.

Walking up the creaking wooden steps to the front door, Vladimir pauses with a look back at his Lieutenant. Their conversation in German is far too hard ot hear from the mouth of the alley where Raith and Eileen watch from a distance, and Eileen's birds do little help to translate for her. Gabriel too is unaware of what the two are exchanging, but that they were going into an unlit and partly burned building in one of the worst neighborhoods in 1900s Paris suggests familiarity to all three Remnant here.

They're doing something off the books.

The more things change, the more they stay the same is the expression Eileen thinks that she's looking for, and while she should probably be heartened to discover that human behaviour hasn't changed in a century and some change, she can only manage a grim smile that makes her mouth small and tight. Brows knit beneath a veil of rainsoaked hair, she stays close to Raith for propriety's sake rather than personal comfort, but she'd be lying if she claimed his presence — and Gabriel's, wherever he is — didn't assauge some of her fears.

A slum is a slum no matter what era you're in. A woodlark dusted in pale brown plumage stained dark by the rain alights on the sign outside the establishment, taking shelter under an awning from the weather. A flick of its wings sends droplets scattering, and the Englishwoman lifts glassy eyes to the man at her side, saying nothing. The delicate arch of her brows speaks for her.

They both know French.

Under ideal circumstances, the Remnant would have come prepared for eavesdropping: Thermal scopes, directional microphones, and suppressed pistols and submachine guns in case things turned ugly, each of those things yet to become pipe dreams in the minds of their inventors. Worse still, handheld radios are out of the question as well, complicating the act of distance communication as well. And then, of course, there's the sign outside the place. "You ever notice how the world seems to have strange, repeating patterns?" Raith whispers lowly to Eileen. His sun glasses have since come off; it's dark enough now that they only interfere with his vision. A quick glance around reveals the coast to be as clear as he could hope. "Try to get a better look inside," he whispers again, "I'm going to get closer, see if I can meet up with Gabe, work out a plan. This is the worst place Volken could be in."

One more glance around, and Raith is quietly padding across the ground, towards Le Poignard Heureux and, hopefully, towards Gabriel as well, who might get the idea that they need a plan. He doesn't feel like an American spy chasing Germans, at all. Rather, he feels more like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, a hard-boiled private investigator on the trail of the suspect of a heinous crime. Maybe that's not all that far off from the truth.

For the moment, keeping out sight and staying silent is more important than finding a good position to listen from. Eileen will be a better listener than he will, and Gabriel can get closer without being seen. Raith is, for the moment, just a coordinator. Suits him fine.

Invisible feet pad along after the two men, invisible fingertips guide himself along the wall of the alleyway as Gabriel maintains his proximity of ghosting along after Volken and friend. He does stop, at one stage, keeping close to the wall as colour shifts back over his form — a form which then fluidly melts into shadow and creeps like disease across the brick, keeping to dark corners and edges, which— might make it difficult to coordinate with Raith, sure enough, but at least the other man might catch the tailing glimpse of ink in pursuit of a goal.

Gabriel is into the building first, up the wooden steps and past the fire-damaged porch where the windows are charred black around the edges. Through the doorway, his intangible matrix of obtenebrative being both feels and sees the presence of motion in an open foyer, where once lavish furniture is burned to a crisp. He cannot smell the stink of soot in the air, but Raith's can in closing the distance to the front of the building.

Inside what was at one time perhaps a gentleman's club, it is evident that the fire started on the ground floor from a hole where boards collapsed into a pitch black basement. Water drips through spaces between the floorboards in the ceiling and a chilly dampness clings to the air. Vladimir is nowhere in sight when Gabriel fully extends his shadowy ink-cloud into the building, where the back of a man dressed in gray stands. Vladimir's lieutenant paces around the lobby, flicking a look out one heat-shattered window.

Something caught in the reflection of the glass has the lieutenant's brow raising, movement in the doorway where ink and shadow blot out light. Wheeling around, the impossible sight of a night black cloud of shadow swirling in the doorway draws a hushed rasp of breath from the Lieutenant and a motion of one hand inside of his jacket, reaching for a boxy pistol contained within, eyes wide with fright.

From Eileen's perspective, there are a great many blind spots for her vision, many narrow inlets between shacks and shanties, alleyways between buildings with closely ajoining rooftops, thick shadows dark and suffocating in the gloom of impending evening and falling rain. That a fog is now coming in off of the water of the nearby river is doing nothing to aleviate a growing sense of something dangerously wrong.

The woodlark swings down from the sign and lands on the collar of Raith's coat. It's heavier than a sparrow, although not by very much, but if she's taking his instruction to get a better look inside, then it won't be balancing there for very long. Eileen herself opts to remain outside in the rain where she can also keep an eye on what's happening on the street should Volken happen to be walking into an ambush.

Pigeons — sleeker and cleaner than their American counterparts — flutter in haphazard formation across the cobblestones, seemingly startled from the gutters by a man passing by on horseback, and appear to disappear, melting away into the mist. An illusion, and not the kind that Gabriel is adept at. A soft warning whispers through their link, a reminder for him to be careful, vague impressions that something here is amiss, though she does not yet know what.

Gabriel's shadow- or perhaps for some, a ravening, hungry ghost- slips inside, and Raith changes course, crouching low as he stalks up to the wall of the burned-out building. The woodlark that lands on his shoulder is given a momentary glance, while Eileen is given a somewhat longer one before the spy is slinking around the structure's perimeter. Even in the days before well established fire codes, buildings still had more than one exit at times. And with the state this one is in, it may have several exits by now, each one of them a point through which Colonel Volken is vulnerable. Dividing his attention between not bumbling into someone's line of sight and checking the area around for signs of another party appearing, Raith is on the hunt, hoping there's nothing out there for him to catch, and that everyone can walk away from this ghetto without so much as breathing hard.

The tremor of empathy that feeds back down the link he shares with Eileen is not reassuring. It carries a distinct kind of dismissiveness, reckless, impatient. It's the kind of anxiety that Gabriel gets before he does something. (It's not always stupid.) It can also be taken to mean: too late.

In a movement that looks like it should bring with it a rush of air, but does not— perhaps the Lieutenant really is hallucinating— the shadow veers off at the sight of one man remaining. And then noise, the fabricy swip of coat fur hem speedily flitting into place as solidity shapes the incoherent mass of spinning darkness into the shape of a man, the scuff of shoes on the ground at a stagger of landing. That he isn't fast enough to have a hand, and the ability to access another power, in the time it takes to pull a trigger—

Is just one of those things.

Out in the drizzling rain, Raith makes his way around the back of the building to find that there is indeed a rear entrance. The back of the building looks ocnsiderably less fire-damaged than the front, and that the back door is also ajar seems to indicate recent passage from that side of the building. But in the rain and the thin, filmy fog, there is no one else in sight.

The report of a gun inside the building comes with bright muzzle flash out the windows and the echo of a gunshot, followed by a fearful yelp and a rumble followed by the noise of clattering wood and a crash. In that instant where the gunshot cracks off, Eileen can see through bird's-eye view both angles of the gunshot, but the soft scuff of riding boots on cobblestone is lost to her ears, right up until a hand has taken firm grip of her arm, and the pin-prickling tingle of a horrifyingly familiar power just a sleeve's breadth implies what horrible trap she has fallen into.

"Assassin," is Vladimir Volken's mistake as he yanks Eileen around, his blue eyes wide and rain running in rivulets down his forehead. Pain lances through Eileen's arm as she feels his dread grip tighten and one ungloved hand reaching out for her face.

This is how Eileen Ruskin dies

Forgotten in an alleyway behind a brothel in Paris.

The death of birds is…

Noisy. Forgotten. Also, relevantly, not today.

Hands grip onto the smooth wool-clad back of Vladimir Volken's coat, fistfuls bunching the rough fabric with a stress on seams as, with the ease of plucking a wayward child off something it's not welcome to, the Colonel is yanked back from the blind woman knowing the first prickles of degenerative energy. There is a brief second of boots being lifted an inch off the cobblestone before the man is flung back down with force enough to jar his joints and push the air out of his lungs. Gabriel is exactly the man Eileen had seen through the eyes of birds before he'd gone invisible just several minutes ago.

He just has better timing. Teeth showing in a dog's snarl, Gabriel thrusts a hand out, fingers rigid and locked like claws as he takes control over Vladimir's limbs, body whole, and flips him onto his back. Too easy to kill, and self-restraint is a little like a very tenuous leash holding a straining rottweiler at bay. There is a bloody patch in his fine fur coat, that arm kept clamped to his side.

A bullet had gone off a few seconds ago. A bullet that punctures that same spot in Gabriel's torso, bleeding brightly and gaining a gravelled cry from the serial killer around when Vladimir Volken is being flung to dirty ground. A psychic zap has the Lieutenant crumpling like a puppet with the strings cut.

Eileen's back connects with the brick wall behind her. The whites of her eyes are showing and her mouth is halfway parted around a hitching sound of surprise that she doesn't have the opportunity to voice; the force of the impact knocks the breath from her lungs, and aborts the scream that would have otherwise torn its way out of her throat.

One hand clutches the front of her fox fur coat, fabric twisted between the gnarled lengths of her pale, bent fingers. The other scrapes nails across the wall, steadying herself against it so she doesn't crumple to the pavement when she feels her stomach drop out from under her.

At first, she mistakes it for an optical illusion. She has so many eyes — the pigeons, the woodlark on Raith's shoulder — that the logical explanation involves seeing Gabriel from two different angles and mistaking him for two different people.

It's around the time she realizes there's rainwater gathering in her open mouth that — no — she hasn't made any mistake at all. She chokes out his name, sputtering and wet.

Shock registers in Vladimir's eyes as he is lifted up and off os his feet in that slammed motion by Gabriel. His mouth opens, a breath is sucked in through parted lips, and blue eyes stay wide as his focus shifts ever so imperceptibly to Gabriel's right. There's a look of confusion on Vladimir's face too at this sudden turn of events.

And then noise, the fabricy swip of coat fur hem speedily flitting into place as a small-framed figure moves through the deep shadows swallowing one wall and concealing a blind alleyway beside where Gabriel holds Vladimir. In another time, in another future, this fate would have befallen Vladimir Volken.

But history is fluidic. Moments change, decisions change everything, and even one selflessly heroic act can end horribly wrong.

A sawed-off double-barreled shotgun explodes with the force of both barrels fires simultaneously, a force enough to send Kira St.Croix sliding back on the wet cobblestone, her boots scuffing as her black leather jacket trimmed with fur flutters from the disturbed motion in the //exact same instant that there is an explosion of crimson that sprays blood across the side of Vladimir's face.

That he isn't fast enough to have a hand, and the ability to access another power, in the time it takes to pull a trigger—

Is just one of those things.

Vladimir falls as Gabriel Gray's arm go limp, red droplets of blood wet Eileen's cheeks and her coat, and the broad-shouldered and heavy frame of the man she loves jerks away from the direction of the gunshot, his head tilted at an angle and drooling a red trail through the air along with a fine crimson mist.

Gabriel's body hits the ground shoulder first, bounces once and is already pooling dark blood beneath where fragments of skull and hair have littered the courtyard. Kira St.Croix looks mystefied, her one eye wide, rainsoaked hair plastered to her cheeks, unloaded shotgun smoking from both barrels. Vladimir too is staring wide-eyed at the corpse in front of him, then the assassin he'd mistaken Eileen for.

Lightning flashes in the skies, and the sound of thunder is deafening.

There is nothing to say, of what dead Gabriel does next. Decomposes, perhaps, or begins to. Blood will thicken into sludge and a myriad of other boldily processes of no consequence. His legs splay inelegantly half obscured by heavy coat, an arm at an odd angle that would be uncomfortable if he could appreciate feeling anything. Let's move on.

To. Where Gabriel of exactly the same make is suddenly blinking into existence in Raith's periphery, having come from the inside of the building, in the twitch of a bird's view. His mouth slightly parted, this clearly wasn't his plan as he stares across at the sight of himself lying fallen. A hand grips the opposite arm where a bullet has blunted itself in tough skin and tougher bone, which he may never switch off now that he sees what happens should he ever do so. A second later, it's to Eileen he looks, the sprawled Vladimir, and then Kira's deceptively modest silhouette at the other side of the alleyway.

Did they just win? Is this winning?

It had been different in Antarctica.

In Antarctica, Eileen had seen Gabriel go down, imagine she felt him still under her hands when she implored him to stay. She wasn't aware of their empathic connection then, hadn't been as finely attuned to him as she is now. Her heart makes a fist in her chest, and when she pulls in her next breath her lungs seize up in protest. All rational thought stalls, hiccups, and then abruptly gives out.

Thunder is supposed to roll. Build, reach a crescendo and then taper sharply back into nothing. This last peal doesn't, and not because the weather is what's wrong. The darkened sky has begun to bleed black, and the swelling roar that next fills the air belongs to a swarming multitude of wings.

Eileen fixes her gaze on Kira, unseeing, and curls her lips around a silent howl of grief.

The second round of gunshots, deafening even as far from it as Raith is, and the sight of Gabriel going down- and a second, markedly less wounded Gabriel appearing by his side- forces a hard restart of his brain, and his attention snaps back onto the situation at hand. Rational thought maintains just enough of a foothold that his instincts are controlled and he does not go exploding across the scene in a sprint. That rolling, rising roar building in the sky is more than enough of a warning that the single, smartest thing he can do is stay right where he is and not move.

Kira's one good eye goes wide as she hears those wingbeats, dropping her now empty shotgun with a clatter on the cobblestone as Vladimir slowly rises to his feet, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown, Gabriel's blood running down one side of his face. Throwing her coat open, Kira withdraws a pair of MP-5 machine pistols as she makes a panicked scramble backwards, watching as a funnel of flapping wings descends like the tail of some shrieking tornado.

"No— no! No!" The assassin screams as she opens fire into the cloud of birds, thenoisy report of her automatic weapon filling the air with gunfire, an anachronism to be certain. Vladimir looks up with wide eyes to the skies, but remains statue still as birds explode around him, parting around his body like water parting around a stone, the long trail of his greatcoat fluttering in the wind created by their wingbeats.

Kira lets out a shrill cry, firing blindly into the air, screams erupting from the brunette as she squeezes both triggers, tries to shield her face as talons scrape, beaks peck and wings flap. Her hair is torn out in small clumps, beaks rip through her coat and hooked claws shred her cheks in thin scratches of deep red.

Silent and awestruck at the sight, Vladimir watches as the stranger he nearly murdered attacks his would-be assassin, and there is some small measure of satisfaction there, especially given that the disorienting sight of two Gabriels is prevented by Gabriel the second being behind him with Raith.

Suddenly the gunfire cuts off, the screaming ends, and Kira is not a shredded pile of flesh and blood on the ground but simply gone. There is no sign of her, not save for the double-barreled shotgun she discarded, and the corpse she left behind.

Back when Gabriel would have called Eileen a girl instead of a woman, she performed a parlour trick for him that was like this. The descending ravens, the vanishing act. This has a different scent to it, Gabriel's eyes hooding at that visceral knowing of the timeline being pulled apart, stitched up again in the time it takes for the one-eyed assassin to be driven back to the present.

Past Raith, past Vladimir, past his own cooling corpse. The birds still winging through the air are banished in his immediate vicinity, like wind gusting through tall grass, his shoes slipping on wet pavement as he's quite suddenly in front of Eileen, gripping her elbows and— ridiculously— trying to get her to look at him. And she will be, through the kalaedoscope point of view of the avian life swarming the air, loose feathers raining like a light and merry snow too early in the year to be so.

Eileen's first instinct is to wrench herself away from the hands grasping at her elbows, but when she feels the connection she'd just felt severed restablish itself at the touch, she relents — and so does the maelstrom of slashing claws and scissoring beaks. The birds — starlings, almost all — dissipate into the narrow alleys between buildings and are swallowed whole by the establishment's shadowed window frames. Others slice their way through the thickening fog in small clusters too dense to count, their glossy plumage glittering.

There's a solitary woodlark in there, somewhere. A few scattered pigeons. Around Gabriel's body are smaller, broken husks, some with their wings and heads sheared clean from their mangled shapes. A few dead birds are an acceptable sacrifice. What they surround: much less so.

Eileen's fingers grope at the fur lining of the living man's coat, gathering him roughly to her. That her face is wet has nothing to do with the rain carving fat rivulets down her jaw and throat.

A few moments pass before Raith moves into action, at long last. A brisk walk, and nothing more, that carries him over to the others as exactly what just happened works its way through all their heads. The spy's gaze falls down to the ground, to the dead Gabriel, before drifting over to the still-living one. He's taking care of Eileen; after the shock wears away, she'll be fine. Back down to dead-Gabriel before Raith shifts his eyes over to Vladimir Volken and, finally, to the remaining offenders. The fact that he is able to shrug off seeing one of his friends die, only to be not dead after all, speaks volumes either about his mental fortitude, or his mental stability. Exactly which one is not certain.

His fingers curl around the stock of that sawn-off shotgun as he kneels to the ground, briefly examining it as if he might somehow divine exactly where it came from. "Colonel," Raith says, taking a crouched step forward to, operating on some learned protocol hiding in the back of his mind, picked up the spent casings. No evidence, even when an op goes bad. "I'm sorry you had to see that. Please understand that we are very complex people." 'Complex' being a word that doesn't begin to describe the current situation. Volken saw things that he should not have seen, might know things that he should not know.

Now what do they do?

To his credit, Colonel Volken is certainly where his son would find his implacable stoicism and gargoylish demeanor. Where most people would likely be in a state of shock or dissonant horror at what they have seen, Vladimir Volken is stiff, though fully in control of his faculties. His throat works tightly a few times, abortive attempts at speech coming hesitant as his lips part, brows furrow and eyes narrow.

"An explanation," is his coarsely spoken request, "of what has happened here, who you people are, and why you saved me from…" Blue eyes avert down to Gabriel's corpse, then back up to Gabriel, followed by a look into the burned out building. Vladimir doesn't finish that train of thought, instead he chokes bak his words and reaches inside of his jacket, slowly tugging on his leather gloves and offering a look askance to Eileen, as if about to offer ana pology for nearly killing her, but instead reiterates.

"Explanations," he emphasizes flatly, "and…" his blue eyes track to the building again. "Where is Lieutenant Kurzweil?"


That's one explanation, anyway, rough-throated from where Gabriel is standing by Eileen, his taller, bigger frame crowding around her's in the looping of his arms around her shoulders and the hunch in poor posture to compensate for height difference. He eases a look towards Raith, raises an eyebrow as he adds, "That's not a euphamism. He's sedated." A beat, and then maybe to justify his actions, you never know; "He shot me." The scent of blood is something Eileen will be more exposed to, along with musty smell of wet fur from his coat.

Through their sodden clothes, Eileen can feel the vibrations of Gabriel's heart hammering against his ribcage, and when she presses her face into his neck her eyelids and mouth pick up the more fluttery pulse at his throat. Her fingers tangle in the hair of his nape, finding confirmation in the tactile information provided to her through touch, but also the sound of his voice and his smell, including the fresh blood that stains the pelt sewn into his coat.

Only when she's absolutely sure that her other senses aren't lying to her does she lift her head, blinking the rain from her lashes as her mouth moves, not in an attempt to form words, but to spit out her tears and what are probably residual flecks of gray matter belonging to the corpse sprawled on the pavement.

That this is a pun does not occur to her, largely because her focus is on suppressing her gag reflex and then, once she has a handle on that, applying steady pressure to Gabriel's wound through his coat with both her trembling hands.

"What happened here," Raith begins, shoving a handful of brass into the pocket of his jacket before he begins picking up more from the ground, "Is plainly obvious. Someone attempted to end your life. We are concerned persons who happened to be in the right place at the right time." Heaving a heavy sigh, the older American turns his head to look at the corpse of Gabriel Gray, before moving his eyes back to Vladimir. "The right time for you, at least." These last seven words are half spit out, as if Raith believed the German to be to blame for everything that happened. But despite it, he goes right back to picking empty casings up off the ground. "How lucky." Real answers, or at least informative ones are unsurprisingly not forthcoming from Raith. A certain degree of a lie needs to be kept up, lest the entire universe fold in on itself. Or, something. Time travel is very confusing, and people ought not make a habit of it.

"You are not from Imperial intelligence," Vladimir notes with a raise of one brow, "three Americans," simply because he presumes it would take three Americans to do something this insane. "How did…" exhaling a deep breath out of his nose, Vladimir rubs his gloved hand over his mouth, offering another look to Eileen and the way she embraces Gabriel, then down to Raith as he carefully picks up Kira's shell-casings. There's so much to process at once, that Vladimir cannot quite parse all of it himself. He, like Raith, is having a hard time putting all of this together.

"I am sorry about your brother," sounds more expected politeness than genuine empathy, and Vladimir turns a scrutinizing look down to the other Gabriel, then back up to the one being so firmly embraced by Eileen. "My Lieutenant and I were here because we had been told word that a woman matching the description of the assassin whom attacked me earlier this year had been seen in the area. We had come to lay an ambush for her. Under whose authority are you working?" One of Vladimir's black brows lift, rainwater rolling down his face and dripping from the tip of his nose, "whom do I have to thank for my continued survival?"

There's a whispered hiss of an inhale from Gabriel as Eileen's hands seek out torso bullet wound — which probably should be worse than it is— before he casts a cynical look at Volken when the man apologises. Lets it go. Correcting such an inaccuracy would be complicated and— Gabriel isn't even sure where he'd start. There's a mutter, intended for Eileen, something along the lines of being okay despite the hole in his shoulder, a hand gripping her wrist and guiding it from the leaking wound making quick work of ruining his three piece suit.

Or, it was, until he manages to stem the bleeding with a thought, scabbing over with willpower. "How much earlier this year," is a weary query, so monotone is does not deserve a question mark.

Gabriel's mutter receives a quiet reprimand in reply, Eileen's voice all broken glass with scratchy edges. Her tone and the message it conveys are more important than the exact words themselves. He's not all right. He's been shot, and she foolishly didn't bring any antibiotics or her field kit with her. "Our own," she tells Vladimir, louder now and less steady than she'd like, but she's stopped crying for the moment and sounds stronger than her stomach feels.

His arithmetic is incorrect. There are only two Americans present. "My husband needs medical attention. If you can provide me with the proper equipment and supplies, I can give it to him myself, but this isn't a conversation we should be having out in the open. Do you know a safe place where we can continue to conduct it, Herr Volken?"

"And a change of clothes, as well." It's the final bit missing from the equation. After all, if Vladimir is to believe that they are operating in secret, attracting attention, say from walking around covered in blood, is the last thing any of them needs to be doing. A final handful of casings is stuffed into Raith's jacket pocket: At pistol calibers, the 60 rounds between two MP5s don't fill that much space. "Quickly, if you don't mind. We're alone now, but I can't promise how long that will remain true." The scene of the crime cleaned up as best it can be, Raith rises to his feet, turning to face the rest of them and pointing a finger very deliberately to the deceased Gabriel. "Is there a store around here that sells kerosene?"

Crouching down beside Gabriel's body, Vladimir removes one of his gloves and looks up to Eileen, then over to Raith and Gabriel. "I am not sure which of you it is, or how many… but I know at least one of you was responsible for what happened with those birds. Soem sort of… American and British experiements? Psychics?" There's an arch of one brow, but Vladimir isn't — for good reasons — as incredulous as one may expect an ordinary person to be.

"If we are removing bodies," Vladimir notes with a press of one hand down to the still-living tissue of Gabriel's corpse. Even if Gabriel Gray himself in that shell is dead, portions of the body are only in the process of dying at the moment, not quite having had enough time to fully arrest their biological functions. Whatever the explanation, the effect is obvious.

The corpse pales, then begins to turn black around where Vladimir's hand touches the bloody skin of Gabriel's throat. Flesh begins to pslit, turn chalky, and then flake away like burned paper and wood. Vladimir himself looks positively invigorated by the effect, his shoulders squring, chest rising and color returning to his cheeks.

The process is far slower than it was for Kazimir, but presumably Vladimir has had much less time with this curse of an ability than his son eventually will. "This will remove trace of the body, I would take any possessions he may have had that could identify him." This isn't the first time the German officer has cleaned a body in this fashion, judging from his lack of hesitance.

"Is my son and wife in danger?" It isn't the proper grammar, but that Vladimir has such a command over English in an age of bilinguality being uncommon is commendable. "If they are than I need to get them out of the city and to safety. Elsewise I can take you to my Wife's home here in Paris. I have spare clothing, jackets. She and my son are not home right now…"

Gabriel isn't sure what would be worse — a pyre or this. He starts to protest, takes the breath to do so, but words catch in his throat by the time he's witnessing the familiar degenerative effect of what he feels is Kazimir's ability on himself. "He didn't bring any effects," is distantly spoken, a little dully, before he takes a step back — not to retreat, but in the direction he assumes they'll be going. Pain leaves him as easily as he'd halted his own bleeding, just another unseen parlour trick.

The best ones always are. "We'd appreciate that." A glance to Eileen, Raith, then back down towards the ashy mark that was his own self makes on rainy pavement, the crumple of his clothing looking discarded if eerily positioned.

Eileen will never be glad that she's blind, but this is the closest she has ever come. She does not have to turn her head away or close her eyes, and although her body reflexively coaxes her to do it, she resists her instincts and eases away from the wall. She smears blood from her cheek with the heel of her left hand, still shaking, and steps around where she remembers the body being, the heel of her boot hooking on the sleeve of the coat in the process.

A sharp jerk of her foot tears it away, and she grabs fistfuls of her dress in her hands, hiking her skirts up past her calves. Her jaw sets. "If she can find you, then she can find them," she says of Kazimir and Serise, "and it does not matter where they're hidden, but the country would be safer."

Well, this is one way to get rid of a body. Raith decides that maybe it's best not to dwell on it for too long or at all. "I'll get the Lieutenant," he says, starting towards the burned out building that the ambush had been laid in. As he walks, he can't help but entertain a disquieting thought that leaves them effectively back at square one. Colonel Volken asked, very specifically, if his wife and son were in danger. And he referred to the other man with him as 'Kurzweil.' If the man that Gabriel incapacitated isn't Kazimir Volken…

If he's not Kazimir, then the Remnant may suddenly be facing a much, much more serious problem than Raith initially thought. After all, he thought they were keeping track of both Volkens. Oops.

"My son is back at the school where you were following me," Vladimir notes as he presses down on to the ashen spine, crushing it like chalky powder beneath his hand, soon rising to stand and dusting off his bare hand, stamping the rest of the body flat with one foot uncerimoniously. "I presumed you may have been working for the assassin, and I apologize for what I nearly did to your wife," is directed towards Gabriel without Vladimir looking in Gabriel's direction. "It was unwise to sneak up on me."

Turning, he recalls the question Gabriel had asked of him, seeming to consider the direct — if not terse — mannerisms of Gabriel simple to understand. With Gabriel, at least to Vladimir, what you see is what you get. Perhaps it is genetic in the Volken makeup to underestimate him. "Three months ago, the beginning of July. I was attenting a public ceremony on behalf of the Imperial military," slapping his removed glove against his hand, Vladimir does his best to try and clean off the excess ashen residue.

"She, the woman? She attacked me in broad daylight, would have killed me for not my…" blue eyes close and Vladimir tugs on his glove. "My burden." Those haunting blue eyes, familiar in color, meet Gabriel. "She fled, and we could never find her. But she had killed my Lieutenant in the attack. You have had ample opportunity to end my life here, your sincerity in wishing me alive seems genuine, but there is an important question I must ask you," which apparently takes precedent over the lives of his wife and son.

Vladimir's eyes narrow slowly. "Why is it you are not surprised by what I can do, when no one but the assassin knows?"

"It's all magic tricks, Volken," is Gabriel's terse response, a disdainful head to toe glance. A hand goes out, and a tendril of black smoke seems to peel off from his palm and drift through the air like seaweed caught in current. It does not hold the same ashy smokiness of Vladimir's own power — inkier, wetter, darker, but it's a similar kind of idea, in that more than one demon walks the earth. Or rather, more than one man might find himself burdened. His fingers curl, and that drift of shadow vanishes, disperses. "After a while, it stops being shocking."

He glances passed Vladimir, feels moved to call out to where Raith disappeared; "Get my hat while you're in there." Because he dropped it. And. Apparently so had the Gabriel from a few minutes in the future, and even if he had not, it would be full of blood and brain matter anyway.

"How do we stop third time's the charm?" is probably more to Eileen, than Vladimir.

"We kill her."

The words are spoken dispassionately. Gabriel will sense, however, what Vladimir and Raith can't; she's managed to wrestle her facial expression into something that resembles neutrality in the vaguest sense, but the anger beneath her exterior hurts to even brush against, and although she'd probably been planning to execute Kira before she even knew who Kira was, it's accompanied by a total lack of remorse.

"Illusions," she suggests, perhaps when she realizes that Gabriel might be looking for more than a three word answer that sums up what she, at least right now, at this very moment, wants the most. "The next time she comes for him, we disguise Kurzweil as Volken and let her make the first move. Jensen's a fair shot, even at fifty yards. Until then—"

Which could be as soon as tomorrow, or as far in the future as— Christ, Eileen doesn't know, and her mouth presses into a fine line. If the assassin waited months between attempts, they could be here a long, long time. "I'll see to your shoulder. I'd recommend we sleep in shifts tonight, but he's a fucking Colonel, isn't he? Bastard can station his own people outside the house."

It isn't more than thirty or perhaps forty seconds before Raith vanishes into the old building and then reappears back in the rain, Gabriel's hat on top of his own and Kurzweil slung across his shoulders like a deer brought down on the hunt. The only truly significant change is a matter of firepower: Although the recovered shotgun is still in his hand, the spy has further decided to relieve the Lieutenant of his sidearm, hooking it in the waist of his trousers, underneath his jacket. Just in case, of course, since there isn't likely to be much more trouble as he rejoins his companions, plus one. "This would be much easier if he could walk by himself," Raith snorts, briefly hiking Kurzweil up on his shoulders the way Eileen earlier hiked up her skirt. "So let's just go, before it gets wetter."

It's fortunate that Kurzweil is a wiry man of sleight frame and build, but his burdensome weight slung over Jensen's shoulders is beginning to remind the old soldier just how old he actually is; It doesn't ever get any easier. Vladimir however finds himself preoccupied with the notion of his protectors whom have still refused to acknowledge who they are. While frustrating, it puts Vladimir in a situation where their trustworthiness at least extends to protecting his life from the assassin sent to take that very thing from him.

"Need I remind you that we are in France and I do not have the full weight of the Imperial military at my disposal. The consolate is only so much assistance, but I will need something more substantial for my family. I have no misgivings about my own ability to survive an assassination attempt. They had tried to have me killed once, and behold the result." Arrogance seems to be in the Volken blood as well.

Turning for the alleyway, Vladimir looks askance to Eileen, then up to Gabriel. "You will come with me," he says of the three, as if ordering them in the same way Kazimir would eventually. "To my wife's home, I will recover clothing for you and yours, then I will go to the consolate and inform them of what has transpired. You," he motions to Raith, "will come with me."

Running gloved hands over his hair to wring the rain out, Vladimir's booted feet storm acros the cobblestone. "The husband and wife pair will take my son and wife away from here," he pauses, enough to look over his shoulder with one blue eye to regard Eileen and Gabriel. "Far away, and wait out this storm. There is a farm outside of Versailles, my boy knows it well. We will rendezvous there," Vladimir instructs, "with my Lieutenant back on his feet. Then— " he wipes rainwater away from his brow with a flick of one hand, sending droplets in an arc from his fingertips.

"Then you will explain."

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