Convenient Casualty


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Scene Title Convenient Casualty
Synopsis Emile Danko reconsiders his choices in allegiance when his reward for services rendered is not to taste.
Date January 16, 2010


The sky looks like it's on fire from the way the sun is setting. Smoke hangs in the air where clouds should be, and the fiery orange glow of a Malagasy sunset tinged the bottoms of those choking black clouds the shade of an inferno. The source of the smoke is the mountain city of Antananarivo, where entire city blocks still burn from the bombing campaign a full day prior. Ashes rain down from the smoke like snow, blanketing the ground in a charcoal fallout.

It's here, in the shadow of a derelict ICBM driven into the ground like a lawn dart where Emile Danko awaits contact with his superiors. More pointedly, it's where Emile Danko waits for contact with the one surviving member of Team Bravo-1 that he's had contact with. The ground here is blackened and sooty, from fies that have since run out of things to burn. It was at one time a soccer field, now it looks more like a barren patch of dirt surrounded by stadium seating and chain-link cages where people were forced to fight one another under Rasoul's regime.

The ICBM wreckage is strewn about the field in twisted heaps, the lion's share of which still rises up at a crooked angle from the upturned soil. It won't be long now, before he's extracted, and the heavy backpack filled with reconnaissance from the chemical plant he raided sits nearby. One mission complete, but undoubtedly still more to come until they let that leash go.

The volcanic vista of Antananarivo doesn't really lend itself to quiet rumination, but it feels like it's been a long, long time since Danko's had time to stand and think. He's as soot-smeared as the terrain, eyes twin points of fierce gray against a sea of swarthier stuff. He's got a beard growing in behind the trembling ember of his cigarette to boot, more abrasive than the fuzzy buzz of his hair and approximately as colorless.

The ground's still warm beneath his feet. He can feel the heat rising up through thick treads if he keeps his weight shifted to one side for too long and has settled into the creases of his black jacket like flour.

Never was a fan of soccer.

The hand that isn't holding an AK-47 lifts to dust fluffy fallout off the back of his head and out've the catch of his collar, glove disguising the same cadaverous pallor that smeared soot masks across his face. For those paid to pay attention to such things, he looks worse than usual — inclined to shiver and fidget and hunch for as long as there's no one around to care.

From the seventh to the ninth in a few short weeks, Emile Danko's on the fast track to eternity in a twilight wasteland not so different from he's racing across now.

The snowmobile grinding away under his boots cleaves across the ice and snow at a high-pitched rumble and whine, black fender spattered with slush tainted a wet shade of red that's hard to forget. At a distance and at speed, he could be anyone. The matte black of his hood is pulled down snug over a matching balaclava; goggles fill in for lifeless grey eyes with flashes of sunlight reflected like a beacon across an undisturbed field of white and blue.

Seven men went in with seven snowmobiles. Now there's just the one of each, with details resolving themselves into something like an identity with an ease back on the throttle once he's near enough the checkpoint and far enough from the compound for adrenaline to have dissipated.

That pillar of black behind Danko is still firm in the sky, a massive hand of shadow that reaches up at the sky like like an angry fist trying to punch heaven down. It will take hours to dissipate, the umbral remnants of Richard Cardinal and Munin, entwined somehow in so much lightless minagerie. To think, if it weren't for that one shadow-morph, all that would be left of Antarctica is the scraped barren rock four miles below all this ice.

Up ahead, beyond the haze of blowing snow and falling motes of ephemeral shadow that is the intangible fallout from the explosion, Emile can see the sleek black silhouette of a nuclear submarine sticking up through the ice. Frost has turned patches of the sub's hull a chalky color, the same collection of frost that threatens to obscure the ever narrowing band of visible lens on his goggles.

The arrival of a five-man squad of Marines to the area is no coincidence, and not a part of the traditional scouting groups still scanning the city for remnants of the Vanguard. The five men split up as they emerge from the stadium entrance onto the field, two moving up into the bleachers to take sniping positions, crouching down on the seats with rifles laid over their laps, not readied. Two more just move out onto the field but keep a fifty yard distance. The point-man on this endeavor, however, is the only familiar one out of the lot.

Stomping out onto the field, fiery skies reflected in the mirrored lenses of a new pair of aviator sunglasses, the man who's taken his operations nickname from that fancy piece of eyewear has his M-16 laid across his arms casually as he walks, booted feet kicking up a pig-pen style cloud of ash and dirt as he walks. Admittedly, he's more looking up at the leaning tower of ICBM rather than the scruffy soot-caked man in its shadow.

"Kinda' want one of those for my back lawn," Aviators admits with a nod of his head to the obvious nuclear decoration behind Danko. "About time you made contact, Kershner's chainmail panties were in more of a twist than usual."

"If your luck holds out the way it has been so far," says Danko at a weary drawl, "maybe one day you'll get your wish." As coolly impassive to the arrival of armed marines as he is Aviators' unhurried approach, he lets his eyes fall to the M-16 before they rise at a lazier drift to measure glasses' glint against the sunset. Only one eyeball back behind them as per last count, but he manages to keep his curiosity about the current total to himself in a furl of tarry smoke and a shift in weight from left foot to right.

The rifle in his hand slants back across his shoulder in a calculated swing and lock of muscle that might otherwise be inclined to twitch tell-tale under ash and jacket and cold sweat, and he forces himself to stand up a little straighter, gaining something like a half-inch to the hopeless cause of being able to stare the dumb son of a bitch down at a level. "Mission accomplished, sir. If you've got an issue with an ETA conflict you can find yourself a goddamn tissue or take it up with my supervisor."

As the snowmobile roars across the ice, the noise of the engine winds back as the approach to the ice-breached vessel is made, and a lone figure stands on the ice in expectance of Danko's arrival. The gray subarctic survival clothing covering his body makes it hard to discern exactly who he is, save for those shiny mirrored lenses covering his eyes where the opening of his balaclava should have goggles instead. What a prick.

To think, the United States Government went all in on a rag-tag team of mutant outcasts and it paid off. The world is changing and it's changing fast. Danko's been around long enough to see the way the wind's blowing, even when it's hard to see much of anything else.

The black matter pillar of death at his back is ignored as easily as one eventually learns to ignore the way the moon chases highway travelers at night, its shadow as negligable as the sun blinding through ice-choked goggles. He turns into a brake and skid close enough to sheet powdery snow across Aviator's shoes, goggles and balaclava stripped off to spill the hoarse whorl of his breath out harsh into the cold once the engine's cut and he's off. Pale and hollow-eyed even by undead standards, he lets keys, goggles and mask fall through gloved fingers at an unsteady trickle and trip, breathing hard, brows knit.

Rolling his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Aviators seems like the kind of guy who can't take a good joke every now and then. "Right," he rolls off his tongue with a smack of his lips. "That the package?" He motions with his free hand down to the backpack on the ground. "All the brass really cares about is that you fill out all the little lines on the mission, not whether you dot the I's or cross the T's." Shifting his weight to favor one foot more so than the other, Aviators breathes in a deep breath and exhales a sigh, fishing around in his pockets for a pack of cigarettes, only to find nothing but a half empty book of matches

"Speaking of filling out all the lines…" Aviators adds, as if this were all some sort of aside to what was being discussed earlier. "The brass has revised the terms of your arrangement with them," his lips creep up into an amused smile at that. "We put together a little assignment that you're pretty much cut right out of the proper cloth for; Wetworks."

"I hope so," tipped down after the 'package' in question, Danko bites back a tremble and twitch with a deep held breath and teeth grit hard under oil and soot. He reaches up to flick ash off the end of his cigarette once it's passed, foul-smelling smoke kicked out through his sinuses at a slow, draconic roll. "If it's a bomb it's gonna make a mess out've both of our evenings."

That he doesn't reach down to toss over the backpack himself may bode ill. But it's likelier he's just a douchebag.

That he can't summon surprise for information regarding his own status is probably no surprise in return. Neither is the weathered annoyance that bleaches pale through his glare once it's wandered back to take Aviators in anew. "That so?"

Cracking a wry smile, Aviators heads over to the backpack, grabbing it up by the strap and lifting the front flap open. He looks down inside and tips his sunglasses forward over the bridge of his nose, revealing that white patch of medical gauze covering his missing eye. "Fantastic." The flap is closed, buckled shut, and Aviators is flagging down one of his boys on the field to come pick up the backpack.

"Straight from the top, they want you to take out the Midtown Man." Both of Aviators brows rise, and he's smiling because the idea of this makes him so very happy. As the soldier comes trudging over, Aviators hands off the backpack, but doesn't derail from his white-toothed smile and explanation of pressing matters of screwing Sylar over.

"Orders are to drop off the team's radar, disappear. We've got a transport for you at the Antananarivo airport that's going to take you to the USS New Mexico when it arrives in two days. From there you'll stay on the sub and trail the George Washington until it reaches McMurdo base in Antarctica."


Aviators nods to the soldier now carrying the pack, which instructs him to hustle it back to the others. Pushing his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose with two fingers, Aviators' focus turns back to Danko. "From there you'll be joined by a long range reconnaisence team that will escort you from Ross Island to Antarctica proper, and follow the Antarctic highway up to the Amundsen-Scott south pole station. The job's all yours from there on out, you team will serve as spotters to cover your exit after you've cut down Gray. The captain on the submarine will have a SatCom for you to patch in to their communications and track their movements. All you have to do is confirm the kill, then reconnoiter with your scouting team…"

Then, of course, Aviators rolls his shoulders in a shrug. "Once you get halfway out from Amundsen-Scott after the job is done, reduce the members of the scouting party. We're keeping this a quiet job."

Danko listens at dry attention once the backpack is on the move, shark eyes focused too sharp and too clear through a fine wind of smoke to jive with the way the corner of his mouth slants into the vaguest of lifts. Not for the orders themselves, but for Aviator's unmitigated good cheer through the course of their delivery.

After everything, all the way from to his careless agreement at the start to the ride time he had out here to cool down, he's wound up. Maybe a certain level of detachment doesn't quite cut it when you've got six fuzzy gung-ho heads to put bullets in at the end of a successful mission.

"Well?" He'd heard the radioed in comment about mission complete, but there's a certain level of finality it hearing it from the horses' mouth as it were. "I was kind of expecting his head strapped to the hood of your snowmobile, but…" A few lazy steps take Aviators towards where Danko's getting off the snowmobile. His chin lifts up, regarding the black mushroom coud behind him, then settles back down on Danko, mirrored sunglasses hiding the scrutiny being afforded of the small man.

"I wanna' hear it straight from your mouth, mission accomplished?" Both of Aviators brows go up and then drop, save for one that stays quirked like a facial register of his query. "Because if this turns around and bites me in the ass…" a puff of steam issues forth from the matte black cloth covering his mouth, "It ain't going to be pretty."

"It's done," rasped off once he's racked up enough freezing air to force thought back into his buzz-burred skull, Danko staggers half a step when his pant leg catches frozen against the snowmobile's tread and he has to jerk it away. He's almost disoriented he's so shaken, pale eyes wide against the wind's best efforts to freeze them solid in his skull. Not many've seen him like this — and with good reason.

He hasn't made it more than a few steps away from the bloodied transport before he's started to pull himself back together again. With his ears already stricken numb and breathng a chore, he scuffs a sleeve up after a tag of rapidly solidifying drool at the corner of his mouth and peers blearily back at bloody snow, ignorant enough of the threat inherent in Aviators' warning to let it slide without reprisal, petty or otherwise.

"Good… good." Aviators words are a distracted mumble as his booted feet bring him crunching up behind Emile, the noise of rustling jacket cloth and the growl of a zipper almost lost on the howling antatctic wind. But the problem with this approach to cleaning up business, is that one of these days, it's going to come back around. Emile Danko has spent the last several years of his life expecting that the next man to walk up to him may want to put a bullet between his eyes.

He hears the sound of a safety being switched off behind him, hears the proximity of footfalls crunching in the snow.

"I guess we're done here, then." Aviators adds in a voice designed to project authority and confidence, or perhaps finality." Emile Danko also has come to expect bullets aimed at his back.

This is par for course.

"You're one sick son of a bitch, you know that?" inquired after a beat given over to quiet review, he lets black amusement manifest in an appreciative tip of his head and lift at his brows, one blunt instrument to another. That he's already having to tip his chin up to maintain eye-to-glasses contact at close range only underscores the question.

There's a tick of the secondhand where the shrieking wind and impossible cold fall away and all that remains is the deliberate crunch of boots through snow and the perfect mechanical click of a hammer settled back on its haunches. The promise of imminent death isolates itself all in a twitch of his ear and the kind of stock stillness a snapped twig can break. Then he's moving.

Right hand open over the left's vice curl around gun and grip plows its heel into the lens that masks Aviators' remaining eye at a turn as well greased as a doorhinge. The gun may discharge, but if it does it'll be far left of a stiff, automatic hook, jerk and crack that snaps the younger man's elbow ninety degrees in the wrong direction. It all happens in the span of a single reptilian beat and concludes with a sweep of long legs out from under the strip of the gun from his lax hand.

Somewhere in that fluidic and oiled motion, there's a thwip of a silenced gun firing, but the only casualty is a pile of snow and ice twenty-six feet away. But before the snow from that impact has even settled to the ground, Aviators is on his back and choking out a strangled noise of pain from his now very broken arm— just as broken as his goddamned sunglasses. Breathing in and out a shuddering breath, Aviators stares up at Danko with wide eyes, swallowing tensely as his cyclopean stare focuses on the barrel of the gun now angled down at its former owner.

"They're not expecting you on the sub." The CIA operative spits out thorugh clenched teeth, the noisy growl in the back of his throat perfect punctuation to that sentence. "You think you're going— nnnhh— to— to get off this hunk of ice? You were never a part of the plan, Danko. You were just a convenient casualty."

The cigarette's replaced at a slow drag, thoughtful as it is condescending in the way it forces the taller man to wait. "Shouldn't be a problem so long as I can get the jump on him. I'll — " a spasmodic jerk at his shoulder jumps the gun slashed across it and he squeezes his eyes shut hard, nose rankled for the half second it takes him to bite everything back again. "I'll need a layout of the facility and a drop in on their communications, among other things."

"It'll all be on the SatCom," Aviators affirms with a nod of his head, smiling from ear to ear. "You've got to have a certain level of detachment to work in our line, you know?" One brow is kicked up, but the tone of Aviators' voice implies I know you know with some sort of smug sincerity. "After you're done, evac to McMurdo and I'll meet you there for debriefing." Canting his head down, it's clear that Aviators is eyeballing the cigarette thoughtfully, tongue sliding for a moment across his lips.

"You got another one of those?"

Breathing through his nose now, mist still visible at a humid churn from breath and sweat rising off the back of his neck alike, Danko's shed every last trace of humanity like a skin — every bit as temporary and papery thin. His eyes are pinned out into the kind of focus that'd be capable of melting ice if he had an ability to go with it, pupils constricted and lean muscle lined taut through the loose skin at his neck. The pointed gun quivers at its end, from cold or something else — but hardly wavers otherwise even as the ex-ex-ex(?) marine steps forward enough to settle himself carefully down on Aviators' supine middle.

He just breathes for a few seconds once he's there, taking stock, pulling his hoodie up to keep his ears from turning black once it registers he can't feel pain nipping after them anymore.

"Normally," he starts after what seems like a hell've a lot longer than it really is, "I'd say this is the part where a piece of slime like you'd try to cut a deal, but I'll save you the trouble and decline in advance." His expression is impossible to read save that it's suddenly laid back in all the wrong ways, dishearteningly at ease despite the way this scene has sbruptly narrowed itself down into a sub that doesn't want him, a faulty piece of meat, a snowmobile with half a tank of gas and whole lotta Antarctica. That's about the time the butt of his gun comes down to clock Aviators' front teeth right on down the back of his throat, too. "That's so," he pauses the necessary couple've seconds for pain to catch up with shock, "next time I put my cock in your mouth, you can't try to bite it off."

"No," passed off at a slat that can't quite regain its former smugness with a cramp still locked like a railroad spike in his shoulder, Danko declines to salute on his way to stepping around Aviators to initiate their departure under his own power. Powdery ash lifts sullen in his wake, perfectly pressed in boot prints a few sizes smaller than the ones Aviators stamped in on his way over.

It's hard to tell if Aviators heard Emile or not, from the way he's gurgling a scream out from behind his balaclava at the smash of the gun to the front of his face. Gloved hands are cupping his mouth, blood is trailing behind him in the snow and he's struggling to turn his head to the side and spit through cloth in a totally ineffectual manner. The blood is freezing against his lips, saliva and blood mixing slithering out through the now wet front of the mask, and he's choking back a pained noise that sound like something a wounded animal would make. Worst of all, there's thousands of miles in every direction where you could hear that noise fine, but the submarine just thirty feet away has no way of knowing he's in so much trouble.

Convenient Casualty, Aviators had called it; That's cute.

Maybe they should've kept the periscope up.

Helpfully, kindly, gently Danko reaches his free hand to drag Aviators' balaclava off his head so he can better see the mess he's made underneath. He looks appreciative once he has.

It's a pretty big mess.

Just in case, he thumbs a wad of blood-warmed balaclava down into his open mouth to muffle further screaming and settles the gun muzzle into a stinging cold rest up under current company's blood-slick jaw. Makes it hard to think. All that noise. And he has a lot of thinking to do.

All in all this experience has been a negative one for this particular CIA operative; from his team getting shot up on approach in Madagascar, to losing an eye, to being cold-cocked by a diminutive mass murderer, everything has gone rolling down a very shitty hill so exceptionally fast. His one remaining eye is wide now, noisy muffled screaming coming with a side to side shake of his head.

Having a gun placed under his chin isn't the worst place this day could end for him; Certainly, there's worse places.

…This place is starting to look a little too much like the seventh circle for his liking.

But right now, he can't think of a one.

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