Dragonslayer, Part I


adam_icon.gif alia_icon.gif devi_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif hahn_icon.gif huber_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif seren_icon.gif valerie_icon.gif warren_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Dragonslayer, Part I
Synopsis It begins.
Date February 28, 2020

From a distance, the city of Detroit looks to have remained like a fly trapped in amber over the last decade. Its sprawl has not grown much, its iconic buildings remain tall, its skyline largely unchanged. But from a distance, appearances are deceiving. That Detroit hasn’t changed since the Second American Civil War is nothing short of a miracle. But at its heart, in its streets, and under its roofs Detroit is more alive than it has ever been. Thousands of formerly abandoned properties were seized by the US government, offered as resettlement shelters for tens of thousands of fleeing civilians following the civil war’s conclusion. But the story of how Detroit clawed its way back from the brink is impossible to discuss without mentioning the serendipity of it all.

Prior to the civil war, Detroit was in a state of disastrous decline. Businesses within the city were folding, beginning in 2006 with the economic instability caused by the Midtown explosion and spiraling out of control as America did over the following five years. All of the major automotive companies in Detroit collapsed during this time, unable to be bailed out of their insolvency by the struggling US government. Detroit’s population fled en-masse to where there was work and those who couldn’t afford to or chose to stubbornly remain behind watched as the city’s infrastructure and industry imploded. It was this desolation that spared Detroit. When the civil war came, Detroit was not a strategic target. There were no active military installations, no government facilities, no industries to leverage for the war that would be worth the effort required to make them operational. Detroit slipped under the radar, and in doing so became a bastion for the future.

Following the civil war Detroit was populated by refugees and survivors. With nearby Chicago in ruins, Detroit became a hub of the new America that was rising from the ashes of war. The arrival of the tech company RayTech Industries started what is known as the Detroit Renaissance. As one of the few major cities untouched by the war, Detroit became a focus point for the rebuilding effort, for active resettlement, for the reconstruction of the American way of life. Detroit’s silhouette hasn’t changed, but once empty veins now pump with blood, a once dead heart now beats with the life of commerce and industry. It is perhaps fitting that the RayTech Tower — once bearing the General Motors brand — rises higher than any other building in the city.

It is within this complex of glass and steel that innovation is reborn. RayTech’s growing partnership with Yamagato Industries has opened the city up to an economic tsunami the likes of which haven’t been seen since the end of the second world war. It is no surprise, then, that the pursuit of bleeding edge technology begins here in the heart of RayTech’s enterprise.

That those seeking a new start find it in the city of renaissance, in the city of resurrection.

Where what was old can be new again.

What was new could…

Bishop Conference Room
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

February 28th
9:12 am Local Time

“So, ah, what we’re looking at is a state-of-the-art virtual intelligence model.”

The most luxurious of Raytech’s conference rooms showcases some of the company’s personal innovations alongside cutting edge presentation equipment. The soft whirr of a RayTech Spot prowling the floor with a tray of coffee and donuts creates an ambient white noise behind the conversation at play. The black glass conference room table is laid out with illuminated tablets and cell phones, in-glass touch screen displays flicker off and on as portions of the presentation move to and from them.

“Our goal is to create a learning computer based off of algorithmic models of technopathic consciousness.”

Maxwell Huber stands in front of a board of RayTech’s chief officers and a hand-picked selection of creative minds. He speaks with a noticeable German accent, a little awkward and certainly sweating from nerves. Huber was supposed to be joined by two business partners, but delays on getting clearance to travel to the US meant that Huber had to come and deliver this business proposal himself. Alone.

“We’ve built our adaptive learning models…” Huber looks up to the massive, curving display that fills the wall behind him, motioning for the slide to change. It goes from a blueprint of a robotic chassis to what looks, to Richard Ray, like a string web. “Models of how a technopath’s consciousness appears when mapped against a computer system. It’s taken years. Our goal is to create a uh, a um…” Huber looks back to the table and the Raytech members present, “a working-state blank slate, an adaptive learning computer that can become, over time, sapient.”

Huber's lips twitch up into a hopeful smile. “What InVerse is proposing is a partnership to create an artificial intelligence, one that will grow and live like a person.” He excitedly looks back to the screen, waving his hand and moving to the next slide, where there is a 3D model of a genderless humanoid machine. “It will begin as lines of code, then be moved into a baby’s chassis, and over the course of time we will build developmental stages, treating it uh…”

There’s a slow smile forming when Huber looks back to the table. “Did you Americans, in school, have the uh…” he makes a boxy shape with his hands, “have to take care of a sack of flour? Pretending it was a baby?” His hopeful smile grows. “That. Except it’s a robot.”

The fact Alia is here for this likely surprises no one. The fact that Alia is not seemingly vibrating or otherwise speaking up immediately might be more surprising. She's got an actual laptop with her and is taking notes. Lots of notes. There's the occasional frown, maybe a bit of worry. Okay lots of worries. Perhaps with some reason: She's seen how an AI based on a Technopath can go wrong and right.

“I think it was an egg,” Valerie speaks up without really meaning to. As soon as she realizes she did, her cheeks flush and she looks embarrassed. “I didn’t really go to school, but it’s always an egg in the movies. A robot sounds so much more interesting though, please continue.” She goes back to toying with a small pencil in her hands. It isn’t something that a chair member of a company would probably have, due to the fact it has a big Hello Kitty eraser on it. It matches the one on her desk, though that one is a Pride Hello Kitty in all the colors of the rainbow.

Sitting next to Valerie, Seren Evans is leaning back in their chair, watching Huber give his presentation with what they hope is as much enthusiasm possible for it. They know what it's like to be put on the spot and to hate to stand in front of a crowd.

At least he doesn't have to worry about the standard advice of just imagine everyone in their underwear backfiring on him.

Almost on cue, Seren's fondest representation of their devil-may-care imagination pops his head up from their lap. Amber eyes of an unnatural creature stare owlishly in Huber's direction, the snow-white fennec fox in the junior architect's lap flicking the tips of his leafy green ears. A soft shuffling comes from browned leaves that crinkle with the sound of autumn, folded neatly as wings over his back.

He's been good and stayed hidden until now, but Baird can't help but be curious about InVerse's aims, too.

Someone seated heavily in one of the chairs furthest from the display looks like he does not belong. Zachery Miller has nothing in front of him, largely due to the fact that he was not expecting to be here in the first place. But when you've been assigned a watchful eye, you apparently attend that watchful eye's meetings too.

All the same, he's paying attention. With minimal time passing, Zachery has gone from near sulking to visibly scrutinising the information presented to them, folding his arms over his chest and fixing Huber with an attentive stare.

His head dips at the talk of bags of flour and eggs, unimpressed. "I'm sure you're familiar with Luella and Winthrop Kellogg's experiment with Gua the chimpanzee. Raising something as a child does not a child make."

He looks like he's about to say something else, before his attention drifts, instead, to his colleagues, a weary expression slanting his eyebrows as though he suspects he may have already crossed some boundaries with the very first thing he's chosen to comment on.

“It was an egg,” Richard confirms, leaning back in his chair and bringing a hand up to rub against his mouth thoughtfully, “On this side of the pond. More fragile that way.”

The fact that the business faces haven’t shown up is actually a plus in his book, since the actual geniuses tend to be more honest and less evasive about things - even if they sometimes speak in fifteen syllables if you don’t reign them in.

Finally he leans forward, hand resting on the table, “This is an— ambitious proposal on many levels. Have you thought through all the ethical concerns of this project, not to mention the cultural impact? People are just finally getting used to the presence of the Evolv— ah, the SLC-positive or whatever we call it these days. Adding in sapient AIs would be a big rock tossed into a still pond, Mister Huber.”

As is typical, Warren is slightly late, but just in time to catch the beginning of the speech, so he doesn't miss anything.

Warren Ray's been in and out of things lately, people haven't heard much from him, but he's been quietly doing work.

Unusually quietly.

When he walks in, his little chromium-plated robot capuchin, Robobo, is on his shoulder, and he has a rather fancy black outfit with a nice Victorian style vest. He looks around at everyone, not taking his seat yet, he's listening first with his hands behind his back. When it finally seems time for input, he clears his throat.

"My monkey Robobo has been gradually learning to adapt to my personal needs! Though his mind is based on comparatively primitive machine learning, we're bonded and learned to work together like a team! He is, of course, rather dumb! But has helped me progress my mental illness forward in a more capable way. That said, my baby sister is here and I made sure to get her the perfect gift!"

He immediately rushes over to Valerie, moving his hands from behind his back to sit an absolutely massive Garfield plush on the table in front of her. "I read somewhere that little sisters love stuffed animals, so I found this large Garfield from a collector!"

Then, clearing his throat, he heads to his seat and plops down, folding his hands on the desk as he's suddenly all business. "I believe that I now have perhaps more experience than most people at training a domestic artificial intelligence! And as you can see, there have been zero fatalities and very minimal injuries in the process. So I would like to support you in taking this endeavour to the next level with this project."

He looks to Valerie, as he tends to laser focus on Valerie when she's in the room to make sure that she's okay and enjoying Garfield.

Devi sits on the end of the large office vent that frames the windowed side of the conference room, usually serving as a sill instead, but sufficing well enough as a perch for the darkly clad woman. Her hair is piled in loose ringlets, falling here and there to frame a face accented in various shades of purple and even magenta. Her pupils have dilated in their telltale abysmal black only once during the presentation, out of sheer habit and intrigue, but have garnered nothing additional from the blueprint such that an actual prototype might have provided.

She shifts, one knee bent to support her resting arm, the other stretched out so that a boot thuds the vent casing with a hollow thud when the Spot drifts too near. “It’s all well and good to consider his ‘ethical concerns’,” she comments quietly. “But, what is our ethical stance on this concept, really?” Her dark gaze flits to Richard and then back to her coworkers… minus one doctor whose ethics she already considers to be well and truly absent.

Huber makes a noise in the back of his throat, attention focused on the monkey perched on Warren’s shoulder. “Eggs,” he says in momentary distraction, soon returning his focus to the whole of the room-at-large. “Yes, eggs and flour, we can make the whole cake!” He laughs, briefly, at his own joke and then claps his hands together, crossing to the other side of the display screen.

“Ethical concerns are very important to InVerse,” Huber explains, “Sweden would look poorly on InVerse were we to violate these things. Our technopathic mapping has come from employees contributing to our consciousness network research in the interests of developing advanced robotics for humanitarian purposes.” Steepling his fingers, Huber steps a little closer to the boardroom table. “Obviously, I understand America’s caution with regards to robotics. Fully deserved. Fully warranted. But obviously we cannot let fear dictate innovation… “ he inclines his head to the side, “but that does not mean we cannot be cautious.”

“It was actually Warren’s papers on…” Huber motions to the monkey, “his research on simian-mimicry in artificial intelligence that gained the attention of our CEO. We’re very interested in coordinating with Raytech and Mr. Ray— Warren— on this partnership. Obviously it would be an equal share in patents and profits.”

Realizing he forgot something, Huber switches to the next slide which shows a rather accelerated timetable for the project, with AI development beginning next month and continuing on through the summer, with the robotic chassis developed by July. “The production schedule may seem hurried,” Huber explains, turning back to the table as he fishes some odd pieces of junk out of his pocket, “but allow me to show you…”

In Huber’s hand is a tangled ball of copper wire, a cube of aluminum, and several small steel screws. “…our fabrication process.”

Before the entire room’s eyes, Huber visibly concentrates and each of the materials begin to dismantle into hair-fine threads of nanomaterial, lift up in the palm of his hand and reassemble themselves in real-time into a two-inch tall square-headed wind-up robot with a pair of copper cymbals in its hands. Huber flashes a smile and sets it down on the table, gives it two cranks, and the little wind-up toy marches forward with a clink, clink, clink of his cymbals.

“Perhaps I have your interest?” Huber wonders with a sheepish, optimistic smile.

Alia raises an eyebrow. Okay, that is an impressive display of fine-control metal-manipulation if she's ever seen one. She remains otherwise quiet as she considers implications of a true AI. "Property, voting, citizenship, personhood. This gonna be fun" she states, plainly, even if she'll admit the fabrication method is impressive as hell.

While most young women her age who were in charge of a small part of a major corporation might have been insulted by being called a ‘baby sister’, Valerie beams up at her brother as he hands over the Garfield, whom she holds in her hands happily, looking down at with glee. “Thank you, Warren!” This wasn’t really her department, but— she still nods, even if she can see everyone’s point of view. A robot wasn’t a true child, or even a pet. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t just be a robot. If it could help people and do things, why not?

When what is probably an ability comes into play, she gasps a little, looking somewhat surprised. She hadn’t imagined the factory would basically be… “Oh my.” That is definitely interesting.

She wondered how him and Devi and Warren would work together? She can’t help but look over at Richard, a flash of excitement in her eyes before she looks back down at her little gift.

The Garfield.

Seren blinks, their line of sight to the presenter and presentation blocked by the massive plush set down in front of Valerie. They unfold their arms in their surprise, revealing better the red tie worn over their grey dress shirt. The grey in their eyes stands out even further as the edges of them gleam silver.

The smug-looking Garfield plush tilts its head upright after being settled into Valerie's lap, its eyes focusing up to her directly just before it gives her a cartoonish grin. One of its paws discreetly wave a hello.

"Isn't he just amazing," Seren murmurs as an aside to Valerie, trying and failing to keep their focus on the deeper details of the presentation. While Baird climbs onto the armrest of their chair to lean forward and sniff at the plush, Seren tries to look back to the timeline for the sake of contributing something useful to the discussion… but it's hard to focus on images so mundane.

The live demonstration quickly snares their energy, though, brows arching up. "The level of focus required to make sure everything's in its place is…" impressive, if Seren's tone has anything to say about it. They have an appreciation for that, the detail required to make something seem real, and can only imagine what goes onto actually creating it. But awe needs to take a back seat. They clear their throat, trying to come back to reality.

It's painful, but they do it.

"The level of incorporation of SLC-E into your project is admirable, Mr. Huber, but your production method has a single point of failure. Full reliance on the use of an ability with such a tight schedule puts anyone at risk of burnout, which is something you should better consider in your projections." Seren smiles sincerely to follow up their comments. "You should also consider the likelihood of running into issues in the development of your AI. If you are intending on creating a self-thinking creature, consider it may not focus on what you want it to focus on. Healthcare is a noble goal, but it may not be what interests it."

"If you're going to create an entire artificial person, you have to be prepared for the child to grow up and not pursue the course of study and life's work that the parent set out for it. And you have to be prepared for the child to argue, maybe even fight back at being told what to do, as it matures into an adult."

Settling back in their seat, Seren's smile turns slightly apologetic. "If we're all still talking in metaphor about this."

Whatever potentially useful commentary may have been floating around in Zachery's head seems to dissipate with a blank stare ahead of him upon Warren's entrance and all that it entails.

Huber's demonstration draws his attention back to the front, and is watched with easily returned interest and a lean forward in his seat. But when others speak up, his eyebrows start to lower again.

"Seren makes… a fair point," he concedes in the kind of slow words that usually precede criticism, "though I'd argue the problem may not necessarily lie in what happens if it fails, but rather in what happens if it succeeds. Just not in the direction you'd want it. What will you do when this 'child' of yours needs to be limited in its capabilities? Gua the chimpanzee could be left to die, mysteriously, of pneumonia when she became a problem to her sibling's development," not so mysteriously according to him, if a dip of tone is any indication, "but that might not be as… acceptable a solution, here. At what point does the AI get made aware of the possibility of failure and what might follow?"

Finally, as if realising he's been talking a tick too long for comfort, he leans back in his seat, exhaling a final comment a little more quietly — "Ah- sorry, I wasn't really anticipating being here, was this discussed internally already?"

Richard can’t help but crook a bit of a smile at the giant plush animal handed to their sister. It’s so far from the person Warren was once upon a time that he feels a flicker of pride in his brother’s progress.

Then he’s returning his attention to the man giving the presentation, and the demonstration of his ability brings the CEO’s eyebrows upwards.

“That is an impressive ability you have there,” he admits, leaning forward slightly to regard the clang-clang-clanging little robot, “And I can see how it might speed up the production process quite a bit, but— ethical concerns aside— “

An eyebrow lifts, “You mentioned profit and I’m rather uncertain how this would result in that — I’m not opposed to the idea of working together for pure scientific advancement, but let’s both be honest, pure scientific advancement rarely produces money. What did InVerse have in mind there?”

Warren suddenly stands, flexing his chromium-plated fingers before he begins to slowly pace around the room, Robobo picking through the CEO's hair. "The question of ethics is a fascinating one! You know, I use my ability much less outside of an actual workspace, and it's fascinating how well you can work things out that aren't machines after a while! You know, my ex wife, Elle, she started reading Kant to become a better person. I never did, but I listened to her talk about it."

He walks up to Huber, his eyes briefly flushing with that metallic liquid as he watches the display, then they just as quickly shift back. "Ethics! I'd say that ethics really depend on who we stand to harm from our work! As I am indeed one of the most intelligent people on Earth, I have thought considerably about both the downfall and the salvation of humanity! So, I would weigh the ethics of our endeavour between these two factors, destruction and salvation, and where the morality of our project lies in between them!"

Holding up his reflective artificial hand, he looks up at it to draw everyone's eyes to it as well. "This hand, something I've upgraded and innovated over the course of many years, with help from many people. I've turned it into a weapon on many occasions, I have in fact kept this as a non-invasive unfeeling prosthetic for its mere potential to be a weapon at all times. And it could always be more of a weapon!"

"But fundamentally, this is a hand, and my other hand…" He holds up his flesh and blood hand now. "Could also be a weapon. I could hold a gun in this hand, a rocket launcher, or simply press the button that hands humanity! Don't worry, we scrapped that button."

Lowering both hands so that people can simply stare at his lowered palms, he nods. "One of these hands holds the potential to be innovated into something even greater, the other is simply flesh and blood. But both hold an equal amount of potential for destruction, and salvation. Just like my robot monkey here has helped me greatly, despite the destruction that robots have caused for many years!"

"So…" He reaches over to pat Huber on the shoulder. "I believe that if we create this A.I with good intentions, and use it in a way that adheres to the salvation of humanity, then what we are doing is ethically sound. But like all technology, there will be people who acquire and use our research for destruction. Therefore, the only ethical decision we can make is the dedication to protecting what we decide to create, and defending the world from it if someone decides to abuse what we've done!"

"Beyond that, we don't yet know what being a true artificial intelligence means! So let's treat it well and not have too many expectations, or else I'll just start shooting people or something!" He laughs, waving his hand. "That's a joke!"

Devi remains a quiet bitchasticly colorful gargoyle in the corner. Until Huber’s display. The woman spins, fingers curling around the edge of the ventilation casing upon which she sits, as the black of her pupils expands, smothering the dark of her irises and threatening to bleed over into the sclera. She chews on the inside of her cheek as she watches the little creation clack-clack. With a blink, her gaze returns to normal and her narrowed gaze of concern dances from Seren, to Richard, and finally around to Warren.

Warren - the walking, talking, shooting warning label on her favorite pack of refrain. She rolls her head on her shoulders till a few cracks snapping quietly from her corner and ease some poorly disguised tensions. Her painted lips part, but ultimately seal again. It’s all been said - the money, the possibilities, the ethics, the risks. For now she’s a spectator waiting to see which way this rollercoaster is headed.

“I, ah, salvation might be— ” Huber tries to salvage the thread of the conversation, mouthing several words (some in English, some in German) before closing his hand in a fist in front of his mouth. He makes a small noise in the back of his throat, then looks back up at everyone seated at the table. “The profit of this design is in utilizing the developments in artificial intelligence from this project to build new specialized AI for numerous tasks. They needn’t be as…” he searches for the word, “bespoke as this one, but what we learn about emulating human consciousness in a purely artificial form could very well have medical applications we don’t even yet see the— ”

The conference room door opens and a thin young man in a black suit wordlessly excuses himself as he steps inside. A glance is fired over to Huber, apologetically, and the man eases over to Richard and leans down to speak quietly and confidently to him. “Mr. Ray, we just received a call from the Department of Homeland Security from a Secretary Lazzaro?” he glances around the table, then back to Richard. “There is a potential immediate security threat to the building and we need to— ”

Was ist… das?” Huber whispers, taking off his glasses as he walks over to the massive floor-to-ceiling windows that make up the entire left wall of the conference room. Huber isn’t the only one who can see something amiss. There are a half-dozen or more massive quad-rotor aircraft coming in to Detroit airspace on an extremely low approach vector. One of the aircraft is billowing with smoke and flames, visible even from several miles out.

Alia spots the sight. And grabs her backpack from under the table, throwing her laptop in it, and tossing it over her shoulder before grabbing Richard's shoulder and, quite frankly, shoving the man towards the door. "Safe room in this building? Escape plan?" She's already quizzing the building's security systems for options she can offer to help but… that's a LOT of really big birds, and they aren't anywhere near close enough for her to do much about directly right now unless someone's been putting way more fun but not quite legal things on the security grid then they really should have.

While the moving Garfield was absolutely idolized for the few moments that Valerie could, she blinks at the sudden interruption and puts the toy down in her lap, shifting her hands to back up the chair she’s on. Not to stand, no, because her chair, while raised up, also happens to be a wheelchair. To no one’s surprise, really. Probably.

Even Zachery who had never met her could feel that her spinal cord had been damaged and she had no movement below the waist. She doesn’t follow to the window, instead picking up her phone and dialing in a few numbers. She had lived here for a while, and she had made some plans for this sort of thing. Her wheelchair is automated, specially made for her by Warren, and it lowers down to a normal level (rather than sit at table height) as she sends the message off.

While she had seemed somewhat childish moments ago, she looks completely serious now. Though that may be offset a little by the fact her phone is resting on top of Garfield’s little head. She doesn’t even need to see the birds in the sky to know that they need to move quickly, but she allows her older brothers to make the actual call, even if she’s sending a text.

The sight in the distance would be curious but not intimidating if not for the flames, if not for the warning murmured to Richard across the table. Seren pushes back from their seat, Baird in their lap losing the purity in his coloring. Snow-colored fur turns to sleet, leafy growth at the tips of his ears drying and yellowing. "Mr. Huber," they say with a gesture for him to follow. Baird clings to the bicep of Seren's suitjacket. "You should probably get away from the window." The shine has gone from their eyes.

They can't imagine anything good can come from whatever's about to happen.

After whatever he's babbling on about hits a dead end, Zachery's already visibly disengaging from the conversation at hand - he's slumped part way back in his chair when his attention is finally aimed outside those windows. His eyebrows twitch upward in a wordless 'oh shit', and he throws a look around at several people rising from their seats before he begins to do the same. "I expect that's not part of the demonstration, then."

As the man interrupts the meeting, Richard looks over with a concerned frown. He leans in as he speaks, and he’s just about to reply when the disturbance catches his attention. Rising from his chair, he slowly walks over towards the windows, gazing out to the approaching rotorcraft. One hand comes up to pull the shades off his face, his eyes widening at the sight.

“Those are Z-12s,” he breathes out, “Praxis. Monroe, what are you— “

He whirls back, “Evacuate and secure the towers. Warren, whatever crazy security measures you’ve set up behind my back, make sure they’re ready— someone get Mister Huber to safety in the downstairs bunker. Valerie, you should go with him.”

If she wants to watch, she can do that from down there, thanks to her ability.

Turning his head to look back to the ships, his brow furrowing, “Anyone else who’s staying, get yourself in armor and kit. Alia, can you get me in radio contact with those craft? Or at least get me a closer camera feed?”

"First, someone take care of my baby sister. And second, I take offense to the accusation that I would go against Raytech protocol, the company that I founded and built from the ground up, and build polyurethane missiles into the roof with their power perpetually turned off so that no one could detect them!" Warren holds his reflective hand up, then reaches with the other to pry open what was before a seemingly invisible seam in the flesh.

From his arm he starts to unfold a complex series of antennas, then leans in to speak into what is apparently an unseen microphone. "Execute World War III Anti-Air Countermeasures."

He looks back at Richard, clearing his throat. "As I was saying, just because I literally did that doesn't mean it isn't rude to assume!"

“I’ve already issued the evacuation protocol,” Valerie states simply, before she puts down her cellphone and secures Garfield, her chair revving up to begin moving toward the exit. Alia at least would know that what she sent out on her phone went to most company phones and was a simple order of “Tangerine”.

She doesn’t seem the least bit surprised by Warren’s orders, turning instead to the guest of honor, “Come along, Mister Huber, if you please. You can tell me more about your plans.” She’s not as smile-y as she had been, distracted, but immediately moving to follow the order given by her big brothers.

“Don’t fire yet,” Richard comments dryly in response to Warren. “Let them take the first shot.”

Seated as she is on her hollow metal frame before the windows, Devi's attention follows the manus interruptus into the room with mild curiosity. Until all the occupants begin to look in her direction. There's a furrowing of her brows. Wait, had her inner voice become her outer voice again? No, she's sure she didn't say that Warren was… nevermind. "Something on my face?"

The biker is feeling over her face with one hand still when she looks over her shoulder at the incoming cluster fuck. "Fuck me." Her eyes flood with inky blackness, reflecting the scenery, the pinprick of fire in the distance like a demonic spark. This time the effect doesn’t fade, even when she looks back to consider Richard and Seren, back and forth and back again. She claps one hand firmly on Richard’s shoulder. “Toots,” quiet, simple, and yet heavy.

With that Devi heaves off the vent unit and jogs towards Seren. Her hand unfastens a thick cuff of black and polished steel from her own wrist and aims to slap it securely around theirs instead, holding firmly a moment longer. “You keep Baird safe, okay, Little Bird?” She winks and taps thrice on the cuff, a small magenta glow coming to life under its surface.

The cuff throbs when it’s attached to Seren’s wrist, contracting snugly like a well-fitted wristwatch, though a little bulkier and heavier. A green LED immediately lights up on the side, beating to a relatively steady rhythm. On the touch-screen faceplate several different waveforms in green, blue, and orange become visible, each appearing to monitor something about Seren’s well being. A small notification pops on to the top right corner:

RayTech CADUCEUS online
emergency medical trauma response online
auto-resuscitation systems BETA online

Then, after a second it reads:

Simplified UI on

All systems output is then simplified down to a single emoji of a smiling face, beneath which “HEALTHY” is displayed.

Bunker?” Huber interjects, alarmed. He turns to look back to the windows and the approaching aircraft, “Is this— I thought the American war was over?” But whatever answer Huber was going to get is cut out by the roar of jet engines flying low and tight to the Raytech Renaissance building. Three old A-10 Warthogs come screaming into view, their bulky-bodied forms banking around the building, contrails streaming off the tips of their wings as they move on an intercept course for the Praxis aircraft.

Scheiße!” Huber howls, backing up and away from the windows. Around that same time, all cell phones begin vibrating and ringing, screens replaced by a bright red emergency banner.

Detroit residents are asked to SHELTER IN PLACE as a result of an impending live-fire military response.
If you are not in a safe location, please find shelter and cover immediately.

Links for emergency shelter locations then scroll by.

“Sir,” the Raytech security officer says with a gentle hand indicating near Richard’s elbow but not quite touching, “please, you should evacuate with the rest of us.” Two more building security officers attached to Valerie and Warren emerge into the room, finding their respective wards and encouraging them to head to the basement-level executive security center.

What is happening!?” Huber yelps as he backs up away from the windows.

It’s an excellent question.

Two Miles West

The Skies over Detroit
9:22 am Local Time

«Angler-1 you have been cleared to fire.»

Inside the cockpit of an A-10 Warthog, a US Air Force pilot tugs back on the stick, pulling up at the lead of his formation. “River Squadron,” he calls over his comms, “this is Angler-1 we’re clear to engage. We need to take down the lead aircraft, try and drop it into the river.”

«This is Angler-2, Copy.»

«Angler-3, Copy.»

The three jets roar through the sky, putting the Raytech Renaissance Building behind them as they close in on the fleet of Praxis aircraft. Five vessels move in a tight formation a thousand feet above the ground. One of the rear aircraft is smoking, fire billowing out of the back, its right-rear rotor blown out causing the vessel to fly at a crooked angle.

“Move to— ” Angler-1 starts to say, watching as small shapes begin to emerge from the bottom of the lead aircraft. “What the fuck is— ” the small shapes start to swarp forward, “Drones! Drones! //Open fire!

A dozen sleek automated combat drones scream through the air, sleek and angular arrowhead shaped bodies cutting like missiles through the sky over the city. These autonomous aircraft move at breakneck speeds that a living pilot couldn’t survive, passing under the A-10s before they can fire. The drones scoop up behind them and perform a strafing run, peppering the three aircraft with artillery fire.

“Command this is Angler-1!” The pilot screams into his comms, “Lead ship released five— six drones! They’re moving too fast to engage! We need support!” The heavily armored A-10s stay in the air against the gunfire, the rear jets pulling up higher into the sky to try and evade their automated pursuit.

“Angler-2, Angler-3, double back on me and— ” there’s a thump on the top of the cockpit, and Angler-1 looks up to see feet on the glass. He sucks in a sharp breath, looking up to see a woman standing on top of the aircraft, anchored in place as if her feet were glued to the ship, wind thrashing her body. She raises one hand, and Angler-1 grips the flight stick to try and shake her off, before a crackling bolt of electricity blasts through the canopy.

Bishop Conference Room
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

9:26am Local Time

An explosion blooms in the air, visible through the windows in both the Bishop conference room and the hallways adjacent. Raytech employees have flooded into the halls, standing with hands clapped over their mouths as internal alerts call for emergency safety precautions and alarm klaxons blare.

One of the A-10 Warthogs moves in a burning arc through the sky before striking down somewhere in the Detroit River. The unfurling of a parachute is the only signal of the pilot’s fate. Drones and jets scramble in the air, followed by the flash of artillery being fired from the Praxis aircraft at the Air Force.

Mr. Ray!” The security chief calls out, alarmed. “The basement!

Alia closes her eyes, and reaches out, then shakes her head. "Nothing for eyes. Network's clogged." She mutters, reaching out as much as she dares while still remaining, you know, in her own body. Now is -not- the time to be passing out. So she stretches. Seeking first any remaining anti-air, or anti-missile, defenses that might be left on the network. The second thing she reaches for? Is the radio towers. She might be too far away to snatch one of the drones or mess with its code… but she can sure as hell make any remote piloting or requesting new instructions difficult to nigh impossible with what is within reach, just by tweaking the outputs on the radio towers to match the drone's communication chirping… and then blasting all of them at max power with pure random garbage.

She also isn't leaving Richard behind so if he's being stubborn… well, it won't be the first time she's ended up in stupid situations due to her own stubbroness.

“Please, sir, we need to get to safety,” Valerie tries, before she grips the Garfield tight as if protecting him and grimacing at her bodyguard. Yes, yes, they should get downstairs, and she can’t even take the stairs. Well, technically the wheelchair Warren made for her could take the stairs, it would just take forever. “Get me down to the bunker, please,” she says to the guard. “Don’t wait for the others.”

Cause they can move a little faster than her anyway. Or a lot faster than her. She hopes the employees in the building are proceeding better than the man who didn’t know that wars never really ended.

They just took a short nap.

Like she is.

As the guard starts to get her wheeled out the door, she slumps a little in her chair, eyes closing.

Then there’s suddenly a second Valerie that is standing in the room, rather than in a wheelchair, moving over to the window and sticking her head through it to look outside.

Outside the conference room in the thronged hallways, Elisabeth's voice rises above the chaos and panic, clearly audible to the people in the conference room and both calm and commanding even as it approaches. "~PEOPLE. Get to ground level, as quickly and as orderly as you can. Go now. Use the stairs. Stay away from windows.~"

"Ma'am! Ms.— No wait! There's a mee— Hey, stop! Dammit!! Put me down!" The squeaky-sweet voice of the intern receptionist from the main lobby of this floor is exasperated.

Even as the casually dressed blonde basically steamrolls over the intern and through the conference room doors, the young woman is running after the two people entering, throwing her hands in the air, and wailing at the security chief, "I couldn't stop them!" There are plenty of reasons for that. Not the least of which is the Majestic Mountain known as Mike Gordon, who persistently and 'gently' bulldozed through the businesspeople and lifted the small intern right on out of Elisabeth Harrison's path.

Blue eyes skim the group and Elisabeth steps immediately sideways at the door to avoid the person pushing Valerie's chair out of the meeting, her gaze on the air battle that's taking place outside the large windows. "Well, shit." The words are breathed out not in a panic or in anger but in a tone of resignation. She is incongruously and darkly amused that she heard Richard tell Warren not to fire first. Don't start the fight. Just finish it. And as her gaze flickers back to her husband, the subtle buzz around her doesn't have the same feel as anxiety — her body language is combat-ready instead of uneasy when she offers a cheeky sideways smile and murmurs simply, "Fight or run, General?"

The snap of the cuff around Seren's wrist distracts them for a moment, looking down to the humming device and then back up at Devi. They smile for just a moment at the order they're given, one that shows in their eyes more than on the rest of their features. "Yes, ma'am," they tell her, touching their other hand on her shoulder before moving on to continue herding their overseas guest out of the room after Valerie and the security guard looking after her.

After that, though, between the notification everyone else has, and the mandatory security training all Raytech employees went through, more than that would be a nuisance. Everyone should know where to go to be safe.

"C'mon, Baird, let's—"

Everyone, apparently, except them and the false confidence loaned to them by the prototype strapped to their person. Baird isn't having anything to do with leaving, not with the air feeling the way that it is. The moment that they begin to lean for the door, Baird clings to their sleeve and beats his wings in an attempt to drag his summoner back in the opposite direction. So for at least another moment, the two stay.

Elisabeth asks her question and Seren's eyes widen. "Fight?" they echo back incredulously. Then they turn and see Valerie standing, sticking her head out the window, and they blink once in surprise, shoulders settling. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to, pulling the corner of their mouth back in a smile. "It's not going to be safe here if those things crash into the building, or…" Well, they can imagine any number of bad things potentially happening.

A lot of them involve them being shot.

"We should head down, too," Seren suggests, looking to Devi and then to Richard.

Zachery stands frozen for a moment, after Monroe's name is spoken. A quiet, bitter laugh escapes him through gritted teeth, and he smacks a hand down over his face as he takes a step back to make room for Valerie and a guard to move past. There is no amusement on his face when the hand comes down, and as his monocular gaze scans over the people and interactions in the room. None of them, blessedly, involving him.

After a cursory look out of those windows (and blinking in surprise at the brand new Valerie that's just materialised), he waits for what feels like the most opportune moment in the midst of frantic interaction to do what he's so often done - slipping into the background of things - and begins to make his way out of the room by way of assumption.

The faintest of smiles flickers to Richard’s lips at Elisabeth’s arrival, and then his head turns back to regard the aerial combat outside the window - ignoring, for the moment, the security guard’s attempts to get him to retreat to safety. He flinches a bit from Devi’s clap on his shoulder, but it’s brief enough that she’s safe.

“The Civil War is over, Mister Huber,” he reports, watching the drones swarming in the sky, “Those are Praxis Heavy Industry’s forces…”

Fight or run, indeed? He can feel the web tightening, can feel the likelihood of him doing either. Standing defiant and fighting until the end seems the most like him, with retreating to safety to fight another day another likely option. And what other choices are there?

He trails off, then declares firmly, “And I am not going anywhere until someone gets me radio contact with them, god damn it!”

"This is corporate espionage!" Warren says as he starts to open another section of his arm, turning a small knob. Then he speaks into it, and the numerous public speakers in the neighborhood begin to blast his voice. "This is Warren Ray, one of the CEOs of Raytech Industries. What you're committing now is corporate espionage, and you're illegally entering our property and possibly our airspace, I'm not sure how that law works! But you have approximately five minutes to turn around, or do an impressive stunt that makes me reconsider defensive action."

He turns around suddenly, holding his hand over the microphone. "By the way, since I calculate at least a 30% chance of us all dying based on the current mechanical variables involved in this situation, I just wanted to say that what I've been doing all year is Eve. We're a couple now. Eve is my girlfriend. Well, she's a mature lady, so I'll say that she's my lover and soul mate. When I die she gets all my duck bombs. Duck bombs are our song." he explains, turning his head back to watch the aircrafts.

Mauve hued lips teeter into the most amused smile as Devi’s dark eyes take in the newest arrival. “Almost as much flare as the light show outside, mamasita.” The biker winks at Liz and promptly turns to Seren, giving Baird a little prod. “You’re probably right, Little Bird. But, you know we aren’t generally the sort to do what we should.” She lowers her chin slightly then, leveling her gaze at Seren. Her pupils seem restless despite the otherwise natural brown of her eyes and her grin widens. “You and Baird can head to the bunker and keep everyone safe. Be our ears and eyes, if you wanna.” She gives Baird a little boop on the nose and turns to consider Richard and Liz anew.

“What, no one got that asshat on speed dial?” The biker pops a penciled brow.

Outside of the human drama playing out, Alia is finding one of her own within the digital space around the Ratyech Renaissance Building. Attempts and finding and communicating with the drones come up like she’s grasping at thin air. There’s no in or out transmissions coming from the machines, no broadcast and no receipt. Which means they have no way to communicate with one-another or another ship. It reminds her of darker times, of the Institute’s automated AETOS drones. Flying walled gardens. These must be built on a similar AI-controlled infrastructure. She’d have to get precariously close to attempt access.

What Alia does notice, however, is that there is a television broadcast coming from the lead ship. It is streaming across the public broadcast spectrum to all receiving antenna and dishes. She could stream it here to the conference room television, or… maybe it would be best viewed elsewhere.

Huber shows no reservations to leaving the corporate office in the face of what looks to be outright warfare in the skies of Detroit. He never quite removes his hand from over his mouth, watching plumes of smoke tracking through the sky out the windows. He turns his attention to Seren, then to Baird, then back up to the window and slowly shakes his head while corporate security guides him by the elbow out of the conference room with Valerie’s physical self. The others in the conference room get one last look at Huber through the glass conference room walls before he’s finally met by armed security in AEGIS body-armor and escorted out of sight.

Around the same time that Huber begins to disappear, a voice can be heard echoing from the direction he’d gone in. A baritone woman’s voice, clear and clarion, experienced in shouting over others. “No, get them down there now! I’ll handle Mr. Ray.”

From the hallway the executive field guard captain of the Raytech Renaissance Building comes storming into view, still fastening the straps of her AEGIS armor around her waist as she walks. As she rounds the corner into the conference room she is clearly talking to someone over an earpiece headset while finishing clasping on her armor. “I’ll inform him. I’m there right now.”


Raytech executives rarely have call to see Diana Hahn. There has never been an emergency corporate security threat at the Raytech Renaissance building on her watch and — aside from a brief appearance during her initial interview back in 2016 — she and Richard have rarely even seen one another. “Mr. Ray, I have to insist you, your wife, and the rest of the board immediately evacuate to the executive command center.”

Hahn offers a quick look to Elisabeth, then back to Richard. “The lead ship is broadcasting a video message over public airwaves,” she says with a look out to the aircraft in the distance. “Civil air defense is scrambled and jets are coming up from Kansas City and should be en-route within thirty minutes.” She eyes Warren, “I got the alert that you activated security countermeasures, sir.” Then back to Richard. “But I insist you come with me, sir. For your safety and the safety of everyone else.”

"… can't get you a line, but they have something to say to us" Alia frowns. "Play it back later, or somewhere better. This, not good." She shakes her head as if to figure out what to say, then says it simply. "Air drones, flying Khans." The words are aimed at Richard and Liz, who will likely get what Alia is driving at. The woman meanwhile is moving, with her backpack on to follow the two people she trusts to see them through this.

"Old times are here again." She quips sarcastic.

“Same game, different players,” Valerie says with a small sigh as she pulls her ghostly head back inside the window. It’s going to be a long day. The personale might be evacuating, but she’s still worried about everything else. Detroit had been doing well, in comparison to where things had been for the city a decade ago. Even better than they’d been before the war. Even if they kept damage to a minimum, she feared that this would set them back again. “It’s probably a good idea we see what they have to say, Richard.”

She’s no longer the peppy young woman who had sat at the table, looking far more grown up than normal. She could be an adult when she had to be, and this would be one of those moments. “We can try to shoot them down if they fire, but they’re already in a position to do major damage to the infrastructure of the city if they go down. If we don’t have to shoot them down at all, it would be better.

“I’m not close enough to go over there and see if there’s actually anyone on board, and I doubt I can get close enough unless someone I know flies out there.” If only she didn’t need the tether of a living mind to latch onto. “So listening to their message is probably our best option. Somewhere safer.”

Though her query of her husband was cheeky, Elisabeth's blue eyes on the tableau put the window are deadly serious. Alia's words make up her mind even as Hahn is insisting at Richard. That rarely goes well. "We're better off at ground level," she agrees quietly. Blue eyes flicker to Hahn and she says, "Have someone meet us at ground level with AEGIS armor please?"

Her hand rests on Richard's arm and she whispers for his ears only, "If they're shielded the way Khan is, you're not going to get them talking. Let's see what the asshole is broadcasting and work from there. We're tossing our usual playbook, remember?" Which means we need a clearer look at what's happening so that outside-the-box responses can be assessed.

The confirmation they're all heading down was all Seren needed to head in that direction, Baird ruffling his wings and leaping ahead through the doorway and banking to head for the stairwell. The imagineer edges around Hahn, eyes on their phone as they swipe away the warning and pen a quick text to their family to let them know what was happening before they saw it on the world news.

It's followed by a second, similar text to Rue, and then they're hitting the stairwell with the other flood of people who are finally listening to reason and protocol.


The news about the lack of reception and the broadcast just deepens the frown upon Richard’s face, staring out at the rotor-craft and the drones for a few moments more before the words from Diana and Elisabeth have him turning - his arm drawing away after only a moment’s contact from the latter, since he’s fully aware his emotions are in tumult at the moment.

“Alright. Let’s go. Where’s— someone round up Miller, make sure he’s in the shelter as well. There’s a chance Monroe’s people might come after him.”

He turns to head towards the door, expression distracted as he tries to figure out just what Praxis is hoping to gain from this.

He supposes he’ll find out from the broadcast once they’re safe.

Regarding Warren’s proclamation regarding Eve? He files that away for later, under ‘things I don’t want to have to deal with’.

"I am the third most intelligent person on this planet. Hector Steel is directly under me." Warren reaches into his blazer and pulls out a .50 golden Desert Eagle. "I had one of my robots steal this back from Leonardo Maxwell. I got the other from an old police station. My babies are finally back!"

"Oh right, my point. I know approximately how long it'll take before impact, an approximate calculation of the effect my attack will have on those things, and, assuming they they aren't housing unexpected weapons because people, probably Hector Steel, or capitalism as the children say, keep tampering with my designs, then I think I can handle this!" He holds up his gun, pointed at the ceiling, then speaks into his arm. "Lock on and fire. Seven second delay."

He looks back at Hahn, his eyes reflecting herself back at her, his ability going at full swing. She's offered a sincerely friendly smile. "I can't believe we get to bond like this! Is my baby sister safe yet? Also, once those ships impact with the building, the building itself should remain stable if the polyurethane missiles function as intended. This first test should give us some idea of how stable my design actually was."

“Miller?” A dark brow pops into a sharp arc. If Devi makes an attempt to hide the devious curl to her smile, it fails. Beautifully. “Why haven’t we put that one on a shock collar, yet?”

The biker slips out behind Seren, her husky call taking on a sing-song quality despite it’s rasp: “Doctor! Oh, doc-tore!?

«Maximum effective range exceeded,» emits from a tiny speaker at Warren’s wrist. «Activating pending payload, tracking. This turret will automatically fire when the target enters effective range.»

Hahn slides a look to the synthetic robo-voice emitting from Warren’s prosthetic arm, then looks back to Richard with one brow raised. “I’ll have security find Miller, let’s get you all down to the executive shelter.”

Hahn had been considering discussing a raise. This may well now slot into that conversation.

Two Miles West

The Skies over Detroit
9:28 am Local Time

The quad-rotor aircraft have come to hover over the outskirts of Detroit, just near midtown. Canadian civil air defense has sortied into the skies, not crossing international borders, but the fighter jets from just across the river roar in a pattern like angered hornets defending the nest. The drones that were released from the Praxis aircraft continue to zip through the air, arrowhead-shaped and sleek like a fusillade in flight, moving in tight formations between buildings, zipping through underpasses, and turning sideways to cut paths between closely-packed skyscrapers.

The drones move in circular patterns, covering a city block and then taking a branching path out to one block further. It’s a concentric sweeping pattern. News vans parked on the street catch glimpses of the wedge-shaped aircraft as they zip between buildings with a shrieking howl of their engines, while police helicopters keep a wide distance, having seen what happened to the jets scrambled from the nearby airfield.

At street level, a distorting surge of rainbow-hued light dimples reality, expelling someone onto the sidewalk in the shadow of a bus terminal. Peter Petrelli looks up to the sky, standing in the shadow of a Praxis air carrier, brows furrowed and jaw set. He reaches up to the collar of his jacket, pulling it against the back of his neck, then takes in a sharp breath through his nose before disappearing in another blurred haze of iridescent energy.

He has somewhere to be.


Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

9:38 am Local Time

Far below the soaring heights of the conference centers in the reinforced concrete foundation of the Raytech Renaissance Center lies a new construction, carved out of what was once an executive automobile garage. The concrete walls here were reinforced with two feet of woven steel braiding charged with an alternating electric current proven to be a deterrent to many forms of phasing. Beyond the four foot thick steel vault door, the Executive Secure Shelter is not just a hole in the ground for Raytech to wait out a crisis…

…it is a command center.

A half dozen 70” monitors suspended from articulated arms on the ceiling show a mixture of internal and external security feeds as well as local and national media coverage of the current threat. Desks are arranged by the door with laptop stations of essential Raytech personnel and an armory door not far away contains rows of AEGIS armor, banshees, and traditional firearms locked behind wire mesh cages.

“Peterson I need a head-count!” Hahn calls as she strides through the open vault door, motioning to a security officer in full armor guarding the entrance. A quick bark of compliance comes, followed by a screening of the executives already in place. Among which, Zachery Miller sits at one of the long tables in view of the angled monitors with Maxwell Huber and Valerie Ray, watching Hahn and the others making their arrival not long after their own.

On one of the screens, a reporter speaks to the current situation in Detroit on a television feed coming from across the river in Windsor, Ontario.

«…footage you are seeing is live. We have confirmed from the RCAF that the aircraft currently in position over Detroit belong to Praxis Heavy Industries, a Chinese technology firm currently facing a legal battle with the American government.»

Footage of the massive quad-rotor aircraft hovering over their city and brief, blurry tracking shots of the drones accompanies the voice-over.

«Just ten minutes ago these aircraft shot down jets that launched from an American airfield in what could very well be an act of war against the United States. We’re…»

“Ms. Chavez,” an information technician in the command center says upon seeing Alia’s arrival. “I’ve locked on to the broadcast signal you identified,” he says with a motion to another one of the overhead monitors, “several local news outlets are broadcasting it right now.” He taps a key on his laptop and overrides the news broadcast with a massive image of Adam Monroe standing inside of a spacious aircraft loaded with ZZ-7 autonomous tanks.

«To the people who have persecuted my kind for hundreds of years,» Adam’s voice rings out across the broadcast, «to the frightened and pathetic among you who orchestrated a genocide and escaped your justice by hiding yourselves in the current American administration…» Adam steps closer into frame, covered in all but his head in a suit of armor that looks like some sort of advanced powered armor, a modified Horizon, or…

No, Richard’s seen it. The armor of the Horsemen.

«Today we say no.» Adam rests a hand on the side of one of the ZZ-7 autonomous tanks. «Today is the last day of humanity, when the ashes of your civilization will grow wet with the blood of traitors and cowards alike. Today marks the day when the Children of the Eclipse rise up to take their rightful place as heirs to the world.»

As Adam moves his hand off of the leg of the tank, it stirs to life as though it were some great beast. At the far back of the aircraft, the rear bay doors begin to open, filling the aircraft with a howling wind. «Today your world burns and from its ruin we will build a better one!»

«Humanity had its chance.» Adam proclaims to the camera. «They wasted it.»

The broadcast pauses and the technician looks down from the screen. “It’s been looping for about ten minutes, whatever those machines are they haven’t come down to the street yet. I’ve got some predictive models of the drones…” he gestures to a map on his laptop, “they’re sweeping the city, moving out from where the aircraft are holding position…”

Alia glares at the TV feed, then sighs, closes her eyes briefly, and gives a 'good job' nod to the tech who's done an exemplary job of staying calm in all this. She then sits herself down infront of a computer terminal. Those drones, even if AI, or gods forbid, Technopath piloted, need to 'see' somehow. So she's looking for sources of radio and infra-red she can maybe manipulate into blinding cameras and RADAR. And, meanwhile, she tries to again, raise communications (two way) with the command ship. Not likely to get far… she too has seen that armor, and that's another couple points of frown on her face, having tangled with it before and knowing exactly what's inside, or close enough.

A single satellite dish is tasked with making an uplink, and sending two simple messages back to the NYCSZ. An immediate lockdown order for home base, with a very, very terse description of what's going on.

And Shere Khan is spun up from standby in the basement of the NYCSZ, in case this is a two pronged mess.

With Valerie, once again, back in her body and awake, she moves the wheelchair enough so that she can see the broadcast well enough, a frown on her face. She wishes she had actually met Adam Monroe, so she could see if he was actually there, but probably a good idea cause she’s not sure how well it would go right now. She doesn’t know enough about the situation to talk him down. “What is he planning to do?” she asks, looking toward her big brother in curiosity. Not Warren. Warren may be one of the smartest people in the world, but he doesn’t always… know things?

There was a big difference between knowledge and intelligence. Richard often knew more than people gave him credit for.

And never enough at the same time.

Humanity. Non-SLC-Es. Those were what he was talking about… Valerie can’t help but look toward Hahn, the technicians. All those in the room who were on that list.

And she wishes she knew Adam Monroe even more.

Just so she could appear in front of him and slap him across the face just once.

"Son of a bitch," Elisabeth breathes out quietly, her eyes taking in the screens. Which one of the fucking assholes from Bright came through and gave Adam access to that shit? she wonders. It's kind of irrelevant right now, but she grimaces. "We can't protect everyone," she murmurs under her breath. It doesn't fucking mean they won't try. "Alia…" She has no idea if this is just Detroit they're hitting or somewhere else too, and she hesitates a moment debating whether the kids and parents are better off staying low in NYC or trying to get the hell out of the city.

In the meantime, a frown pulls her brows low. "Why, if he's planning on fighting the Entity, is he basically doing exactly what she wants?" She feels like she's missing something — and it's probably something important.

Surely this is all a bad dream. Seren got little to no sleep the night before, so maybe they've nodded off back in the meeting upstairs. Surely, surely

There isn't a man up on the television saying he wants to murder every non-Evolved in the world.

"Baird," Seren whispers for their familiar, their hands lifting to curl around his shape for comfort. He responds by climbing off their shoulder and into the cradle of their arms, the very clear form he had minutes earlier diminished to something greyed and lacking proper definition. Baird's amber eyes remain, though, looking up at that screen without reflecting the light that comes down off of it.

His summoner's shoulders begin to shake, and their contribution to this terrible situation is to step aside from it in favor of giving the stage to those better prepared to combat it, coming to stand beside the table Zachery's seated at instead.

Zachery looks like he sank into a chair and hasn't moved since, save for the fingers on the hand he's got on the table ahead of him tapping out an idle pattern into nothing. His expression is kept carefully neutral, even if his rapt attention on the screen easily hints at tension underneath.

Finally, he turns his head so he can fix Elisabeth with a frown. If she's missing something, he's missing the whole damn cargo ship it came in on. "'Entity'…?" He asks, but of no one in particular, gaze drifting first to Seren in confusion, and then to the table in what looks like attempted recollection. Should he know this.

“Hahn,” Richard is already ordering as they walk in, “Make sure that the Tylers and their daughter have been gotten to a secure location as well. I’d prefer here honestly, but whatever’s closest will do. Their safety is essential.” Really, it’s their daughter’s safety, but it’s hard to explain the reasoning behind that without crossing some lines he personally classified.

As the broadcast comes on the screen, he looks up at it with a deepening frown. Not of anger, or worry, but confusion. “What…”

The broadcast ends, and he motions, “What the hell was that? That doesn’t even make sense, the man’s been fighting wars since the sixteen-fucking-hundreds, the tactical foolishness here is… oh. Oh.”

His gaze sweeps back up to the news screen, and he asks the technician, “Get me visuals on those planes. That broadcast showed the backs opening up - I’ll lay fucking odds that they haven’t. This is a smokescreen — they’re trying to hide something else going on here in Detroit. Alia, get me traffic cameras, security cameras, find what they’re hiding.”

His jaw sets, “Of course there’s nobody responding from those vessels. I’ll put money down that there’s not even anyone inside.”

"He has that weird armor that the bird woman won't let me examine!" is Warren's comment on that, listening to the technician as he considers the drones. His eyes are watching everything from the perspective of his ability, listening to everyone, trying to put pieces together here. "This building is the most valuable thing in the city, isn't it? Unless they plan to go for the city's power grid to try and sabotage us and attack when we can't defend ourselves. Hah! Obviously we'd have emergency power."

He considers this, holding a gun in each hand now, but careful not to actually point it at anyone. He just points them at random things as he thinks out loud instead. "The other option is that one of us is a spy and coordinating an assault by leading us to a particular place they want us to be after telling them our security protocol."

"Or…" He points his gun in the general direction of 'outside'. "There's a far more valuable target in the city that we've all forgotten about because of our extreme genetic predisposition toward narcissism!"

While Warren shouts, Hahn presses a finger to her earpiece. “On it,” she says to Richard, stepping aside to leave the consideration of impossible events to the larger brains in the room. While Hahn communicates with additional security, the technicians working the console attempt to gather information for Richard’s request.

Alia finds herself unable to scramble or jam the drones at this operational distance without specialized equipment. It’s hard for her to tell what visual sensors they’re using, what data input they have, not without getting up close and personal. They’re not communicating to anything she’s able to connect to.

However, getting into the traffic camera feeds is easy enough for Alia, and thankfully Detroit has them in great number still, unlike the New York Safe Zone, where much of that infrastructure was destroyed. That data is handed off to the technicians as connections are made, data collated, information processed and prepared for presentation.

“I can confirm,” one of the technicians says as she analyzes the data, “those arrowhead drones are cycling through the streets in a grid, spreading out from the aircraft. It’s a search pattern.”

Another technician, looking at cell phone footage scraped from social media outlets looks up. “Sir, the aircraft did open up. Smaller jump ships are being deployed across the city, I’m counting ten, and they’re hauling some kind of heavy cargo.” That technician pulls the shaky video camera up on screen, showing twin-jet single-seater aircraft similar to a Yamagato Industries K-713, but a Praxis Heavy Industries variation.

Warren can tell what the cargo is from a glance, even with the footage being shaky. It’s a quadrupedal robot, probably two meters tall at the shoulder, with some sort of mounted cannon on its —

They stole his design.

“Is that a Banshee?” One of the technicians asks, freeze-framing on another video of one of the quadrupedal robots being deployed down to street level by these aircraft. Four heavily armed soldiers rappel out of the aircraft, disconnect the robot from the tow lines, and it rises up and activates with a whirr of its top-mounted Banshee cannon, roughly ten times the size of the hand-held Raytech model.

“Wait, what?” Hahn says to the side of the main conversation, looking confused. “Hold on.” She turns back to Richard and the others. “Sir? I’m sorry to interrupt, Mr. Case is on his way to a secondary secure shelter, but he said you need to tune to Channel 7 news.”

One of the technicians switches a new feed to ABC7 - Detroit and what shows on the screen is nothing short of gut-wrenching. While the kyron at the bottom of the screen reads DETROIT UNDER SIEGE the video captured by a bystander on the street shows the Hart Plaza just a block to the west of the Raytech Renaissance Building.

Crowds of people are running for cover but Richard can see the plaza amphitheater, where several figures are gathered at the top of the concrete steps. Most of them look like soldiers of some kind, dressed in drab gray and black tactical gear. But one of them is a tall, dark-skinned man in a sleek plum-colored suit. His glowing blue eyes haunt Richard’s nightmares.


But what is worse is the woman he holds at his side by the arm, dressed in a flowing red gown with gold floral patterns on the sleeves. Even though she’s made up with gold lipstick and red eyeshadow, even though her blonde hair is braided behind her head. She herself is unmistakable to those who know her.


It’s Claire.

Alia also picks out both the face she memorized after recent events and one she hasn't seen since a library with a shotgun, so long ago. There's a whole lot of emotion crossing Alia's face.

For once, Alia is wishing she'd packed her personalized armor suit. She's getting rather tired of feeling rather behind the eight ball and unable to _do_, just watch. It's a feeling she's had before and it wasn't fun then, even if this time she at least still has a body. So she tags the pair on the video feed for tracking across other cameras, pulling up the grid around where that news feed is happening. And starts considering what resources she has to intercept, if any.

For a moment, Valerie looks as if she wants to defend their father and family— but then she closes her mouth and makes a small shrugging gesture. Yes, that’s fair. They all had more than their fair share of ego. Herself included, even though she was pretty empathic in nature. But so much is happening, so very quickly. Valerie doesn’t know a lot about some of this topic, she was starting to wish she had taken her father’s advice on eavesdropping more often on people. Her ability allowed for it a little bit, after all, even if she had to hide in a wall or on the floor.

Leaning forward, she looks at the screen and can recognize the woman. She had been in Wolfhound for a time, and had been featured in articles and news. And most importantly she knows the location… “I’m going to get a closer look.” Without even waiting for anyone to tell her no, her eyes go distant and suddenly she’s just not there anymore. Well, mentally. Her body slumps a little, her eyes slide shut and it’s like she fell asleep again.

They don’t see her on the video, cause her projection isn’t captured by cameras, as she pops into the edge of the amphitheater, tethered off of herself. It’s at the edge of her range, but close enough she can project right there, before she transfers the mental anchor to one of the people close by— specifically the young woman she recognized from Wolfhound.

The question about the Banshee brings Elisabeth's blue eyes to the frozen image. "Oh ffffuuuuuuck," she murmurs. "Love…. I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that thing is not likely to have controls in place to limit the ultra low and ultra high frequencies like the handheld ones. If it sustains a loud enough sound, the buildings around the Plaza will come down just like ConEd did." She was at the hospital when Conrad brought the place down, but she's done enough work with her power to know it pretty inside and out. "And if they lace it, …. " She looks at Richard. She had nightmares for a long while about what she did that day on the bridge near Suresh Center. And that cannon likely can sustain a note a hell of a lot longer than Elisabeth could that day.

And then there's Claire on the screen and the man Elisabeth only knows from pictures — her husband's personal bogeyman. She instinctively reaches out to clasp a restraining hand around his upper arm, unafraid of the ability he harbors but definitely as if to stop him from going shadow — a futile gesture if he were so inclined but instinctive on her part anyway. "And the hits just keep on coming," she hisses under her breath.

She releases Richard's arm after only a brief moment, casting a glance toward the body armor hanging on hooks down here. But she doesn't, for the first time in their history, just get to work. Elisabeth waits, murmuring quietly, "That looks like how you'd dress someone up for a ritual sacrifice to an ancient Japanese power-mad god, yeah?" Because Baruti isn't working with or for Adam, he has his own agenda — or so we believe. "Do you think Adam's trying to hit us or him?" Both seem like valid possibilities to her.

Do any of those people outside know they're in danger?

Seren's fear stills at that insistent, creeping thought.

None of them can see the television broadcasts.

"They've got their phones. They got the same alert everyone else did." they murmur to themself, to Baird in their arms, heard perhaps only by Zachery, and only if he's listening.

But still, they worry to themself. And the protective embrace of the device strapped to their forearm emboldens them.

With a furrowed brow, they begin to slink back from the table. And then talks of Entity and jumpships go right over their head, right between their ears and right back the other side, mainly because

they're not there to hear it. Slipping Baird's poorly-formatted self up onto their shoulder, Seren slips out of the bunker.

Maybe they're just stepping out for a quick bathroom break.

There is an indication that Zachery does hear Seren, but by the time he manages to tear his attention away from the news, he only just manages to catch sight of them leaving.

"Should they be—?" He starts with a gesture toward the door, but then abandons his query for one of the ninety-nine other issues at hand. "That's… nearby, isn't it?" He asks of the news, clearly struggling to keep up and sinking ever lower into his chair. An immediate follow-up question leaves him sounding like what he is understanding is not doing his anxious streak any favours. "So is this building going to collapse on us, then, or what."

Then, one last baffled, rapid-fire question leaves him in a slightly unhinged chuckle as his hand sweeps out to the TV again, "And who the fuck are those clowns?"

As they reveal that the dropships are dropping people (and worse), Richard brings one hand up to rub over his face, shades pushed out of the way as he tries to push back a slowly forming headache. “…or maybe the only tactic you ever learned through all those wars was ‘I’m immortal so I’ll smash it with my face’. Right. Let’s recalibrate based on the knowledge that you’re fucking horrible at tactics, then…”

The sight of the siege Banshee has him grimacing then, adjusting the set of the sunglasses he’s wearing as he does so, Liz’s words only making things worse. “Wonderful. I don’t think we’re the target, but keep an eye on what that thing is up to - and keep on those drones,” he calls over to the techs, “If they find what they’re looking for, I want to know what it is!”

Interrupted by Hahn, he moves to watch the television feed… and goes deathly still at the sight of those glowing blue eyes in that face he’ll never forget. His wife grabs his arm, and the conduit within him stirs in response to the raging emotions beneath the surface, its kiss an aching numbness as it starts to pull against the contact. It’s probably good that she releases him a moment later, even as his shadow stirs, smoky, ashen

“That, Doctor Miller,” he hisses low, “Is Baruti Naidu of Mazdak, and the man who killed me.”

Every instinct tells him that he should get out there, should send someone to rescue Claire, should— no. He closes his eyes, drawing in a slow breath, steadying himself, trying to steady the conflicting forces within him.

“We…” J’adoube.

“We— do nothing. Continue to monitor events.”

"No! This is corporate espionage, they stole my intellectual property without my consent, and just like with HECTOR FUCKING STEEL and the government, they're using my designs to attack a city, or whatever they're doing right now!" Warren holsters his guns, then starts to rip his clothes off, tossing his blazer to the side, then his shirt, and finally his pants and shoes. "I built this company with my bare hands, and I refuse to allow these people to damage my brand!"

Thankfully, he doesn't remove his boxer shorts.

He dials something into a seemingly blank spot on his arm, though there's clicking, suggesting that there's buttons under the synthetic skin. Skin tight black material stretches from his belt until it covers his entire body up to his neck. He unfortunately doesn't have his helmet on hand. It's one of the older Horizon designs, one of the ones he regularly upgrades and customizes himself, and thus never really bothered entirely updating its aesthetic.

Turning around to head for the door, he pulls his guns back out. "Someone get me a helmet! I'm hunting robots! Also, do we have rocket launchers or electronic harpoons here? I forgot what I left here in Detroit."

The door to the armory is propped open by this point, a none-too-subtle rustling and banging reverbarting into the command center proper. Devi’s attention had severed some time between the ‘today your world burns’ and the rest of the zealotus bullshit that spews forth from the blonde’s televised rant. Somewhere in the back of her mind she’s aware of Warren with a gun. But, really, when is he not? When is she not, for that matter? For all she tries to avoid becoming h-… Nevermind that.

The biker bitch's head pops out through the cracked doorway, brightly painted lips tick up as her body follows and she lobs a helmet Warren’s direction. “Look at you. And here I thought your girlfriend was more the dom in that little pairin’.” She makes a swirling gesture towards Warren’s ensemble before tucking a helmet under her own arm, smiling twitching ever so slightly when her attention drifts towards the screens and Cardinal’s reaction thereto. But it does not falter, that smile - a beautiful and sharp little crescent of mauve. Steadfast. Ready.


Hart Plaza
Detroit, Michigan

As Valerie appears on the eastern edge of Hart Plaza, she can see a thinning crowd of onlookers scrambling back from the presence of armed men gathered at the public amphitheater. The assault-rifle toting soldiers are fanned out at the perimeter of the amphitheater where the stairs meet the concrete plaza, while Baruti Naidu and Claire Bennet stand not far behind them.

“You should be proud, Ms. Bennet,” Baruti says with a turn of his piercing blue eyes down at Claire, who seems as if in some sort of stupor, eyes half-lidded and not struggling against Baruti’s grasp. “You are a participant to history in the making.”

Turning to look up to the sky, Baruti stares directly at the sun. “There will be stories written about today, legends told that echo out into millennia beyond when we are all dust and bones.” Claire continues to stare ahead, unblinking.

“I must thank you…” Baruti says, unconcerned with the presence of bystanders, “without you, Ms. Bennet, I would not be able to see the face of God. But today, I will bask in her glow and bring about the dawning of a new age of peace for this world.”

Baruti looks from the sun to Claire. “You will thank me, one day.”


Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

“They were electric rocket harpoons,” Hahn says flatly from beside Warren, “and we put them in a locker. After the incident. With the bus.” She looks to two security officers and gives them a nod, which implies babysitting, to which they both sigh deeply and stick to Warren.

“Sir,” Hahn says to Warren, “for your own safety I… I would strongly advise staying indoors until we have a better assessment of the situation. We don’t know what chemical agents might be in play.” She can’t give Warren a directive, though, she can only suggest. He, after all, is one of the people who signs her paychecks.

“Traffic camera feed is picking up five more of those quadrupedal machines,” an information technician says, transferring his smaller screens up to the larger monitors, showing these lumbering robots with back-mounted sonic cannons stalking through the streets. They’re ignoring pedestrians fleeing from the scene, even ignoring police officers hunkered behind squad cars, aiming firearms at them. The soldiers that are with the machines likewise seem to be doing the same.

“National Guard has been deployed,” another technician calls out, two fingers pressed to her earpiece. “They’ve been given orders to remain within response range but not directly engage until authorized. No word on further military response.”

Hahn hears something in her earpiece, brows knit together, head angled to the side. She looks over at Richard, something in her eyes, but whatever it was she heard she grapples with. As a technician waves to get Richard’s attention, Hahn moves over to Elisabeth and shares a furtive look with her.

“Ms. Harrison,” Hahn says quietly. “I just heard from Raytech security in the Safe Zone…” she glances back at the technicians showing Richard more feeds of the drones, “they can’t find one of our VIPs, Michelle Cranston. She isn’t responding to cell phone calls or a door check, nor is she on any local Raytech campus. I was told this was critical information but I…” she glances to Richard, then back again. “Mr. Barazani said to deliver it to you first?”

Hahn, like many at Raytech, don’t truly know who Michelle really is.

“Should we— ”

Whatever Hahn was going to say is drowned out by a technician shouting, “All the drones have broken off course!” There’s a flashing map of Detroit showing the estimated positions of all of the black arrowhead-shaped aerial drones converging on a single point. “I’m getting a feed from Ms. Chavez… one second.”

The technician drags the camera feed up. “On screen.”


Corner of 6th & Howard St
Detroit, Michigan

Cars are stalled at an intersection, rows of traffic backed up to avoid a low-speed collision. Two cars are crumpled into one-another in the middle of the street, smoke and steam rising from under their hoods, drivers scrambling away from their cars. Onlookers on the sidewalk stand in curiosity and fear, some with cell phones raised, others unable to look away from the body of a man reduced to molten bone and flesh, strewn about the street like a bucket of chum.

Standing half-spattered in the blood is a dark-haired woman in loose-fitting clothes billowing in the cold, February wind. She is not dressed for the weather, bare feet leaving dark red footprints on the pale asphalt, gold eyes staring up at the wedge-shaped black drones circling overhead. There is an expression of both uncertainty and calm on her face.


Eve Mas, eyes glowing a radiant gold, looks down to one of her hands — the whole arm covered up to the elbow in someone else’s blood — and then to the bystanders. “Sorry, sweethearts, but I have a date with a bad friend.” She says in a flinty, sarcastic tone before disassembling into motes of swirling light.

The drones, once just circling, now break off in separate directions in search once more of their quarry.


Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

10:07 am Local Time

That was Eve Mas.

“Mr. Ray, the drones are in pursuit of that unknown,” says a technician who has no idea who that was. “We’re seeing coordination with the ground forces and— ”

The audio on all the video feeds becomes an incoherent screech.

Ah!” Multiple technicians shout, pulling their earpieces off as a high-pitched scream comes from them. Elisabeth can feel something bone-deep, a subsonic sound reverberating through her entire body. The others might notice it as a subtle, pulsing vibration with an arrhythmic beat, but to Elisabeth it’s as clear as someone dragging a nail across the inside of her skull.

Alia can see analog broadcast stations going offline one-by-one as some sort of signal hits the city. Digital signals seem unaffected, but all recording instruments are picking up a subsonic frequency interfering with audio transmissions. To her, it is an unfamiliar technological countermeasure of some kind, but Richard and Elisabeth have felt this subsonic frequency before.

Many years ago.

"What the fuck are those?" Perched atop a rocky outcropping surrounded by a field of snow as far as the eye can see, Howard Phillips looks out of place in his olive-drab jacket and no shirt worn beneath. Waves of steam radiate up off of his body, and the air around him is palpably warm. Howard's focus, however, isn't on the concrete building in the crater valley below the ridgeline, but the recently constructed concrete obelisks surrounding its perimeter. A look is offered to Ryans, who inspects the site with a pair of digital binoculars. Ryans shakes his head, brows furrowed, handing the binoculars off to Howard. "Those weren't there in our time…"

"I don't see any external security," Ryans assesses the others gathered around him on the freezing hillside, all swaddled in winter gear. A pointed look is delivered to Nicole, one he can't help but give, before he returns his attention to the others. "There's a CH47 Chinook helicopter on the pad outside, that could be a good backup plan out if…" Ryans glances over his shoulder to the heavily-bundled form of Mary-Anne Stack, hunched by Howard for warmth. "If Miss Stack doesn't want to go into harm's way."

Two of the Brians, each with a pair of binoculars of their own, survey the area surrounding the Mount Natazhat facility. "No communication equipment, no antennas, no satellite dishes. Everything's gotta be done by hardwire." He hands one pair of the binoculars off to Liz, who looks across the snowy field. "I'm estimating it's about a quarter mile between the ridge and the facility. Those obelisks might be the beginning of some kind of superstructure, I don't see anything else around them. But they've got new scaffolding, construction equipment everywhere. They're building them for…" He shrugs, helplessly.

"No good," Cardinal chimes in, the whirring hydraulic hiss of his Horizon armor sounding worse for wear in the cold. "We've gotta get in there. The place is pretty big, and thanks to the kids," he eyes Howard, then Kasha and JJ, "we've got a distinct advantage. We'll split up into the designated teams, and follow the plan." He tugs his balaclava down, covering his windblown and cold face. Kasha stands unaffected by the cold, her visible skin no longer flesh, but bare stone. She nods, affirmatively, before turning her attention to JJ, who nods back to her in return.

"Central core is going to be a nightmare to get into," Howard admits, squinting at the obelisks again. "We have the manpower to blow through the security doors, but not the time. The longer we're in there the more likely it is we're all dead. We need to disarm three separate security consoles before we can get inside. After that," he slaps a fist into his palm with a brief shower of sparks. "Night, Night." Kasha rests a hand on Howard's shoulder, squeezing gently with a stony hand, then lets her hand lower reluctantly.

"Alright then. You know your orders." Ryans looks up to Mary-Anne. "Let's start moving people inside, two by two. No need to push yourself." Mary-Anne nods, reaching out for two of the Brians. Her hand grips on their shoulders. "I'll be right back," Mary-Anne notes, and with a rush of air and a whirl of snow she and two Brians are gone. Ryans turns, looking to the Natazhat compound, when something horrible happens.

Mary-Anne and both Brians manifest between two of the obelisks, hundreds of feet off-target from where they were supposed to arrive. All three of them begin to convulse, stagger, and then in a shower of red on white, all three explode as though they had struck a land-mine. There's a spray of body parts and shredded clothes that litters the snow for a hundred feet in every direction. The remaining Brian clutches his head and lets out a howl of confusion and pain as the experience travels like a shockwave through his senses.

"Oh my fucking God!" Lucille screams, hands clasping over her mouth.

Something is happening, and Richard can feel it twisting in the pit of his stomach. A noose is tightening, but he can’t tell around which neck.

Alia frowns at the data in front of her. And she switches what cameras she can to digital sources near them. "… Richard? Save a cheerleader?" She motions to the one feed. "Before Entity decides she makes good house."

Do something about what we _can_ do something about. Doing something about Adam and the Entity having a fight is a bit past what she has resources for at the moment.

Elisabeth's attention is pulled by Hahn, and her brows furrow. Michelle is missing? What even the fu—

Then it seems like fifty things happen at once. Something about the way Baruti Naidu is looking up draws her attention, and she's not entirely certain but she asks the technician, "Please tell me there's no solar eclipse or fucking solar storm today?" Because well, that … seems like it would just be icing on the Cupcake of Fuckery. She stops long enough to see Eve out there.

"No," she whispers, horrified. And the sound. Dear God. Liz's hands fly automatically to her ears even though the pain is blossoming inside her head.

"Ffffuuuuuuck," she groans, squeezing her eyes closed tightly even as she instinctively and immediately fights to filter out those wavelengths. When she opens her eyes again, she is torn. "The civilians on the ground are going to fall like dominoes if that fucking thing keeps broadcasting," she tells her husband quietly. "Richard… if they're working at cross purposes, Adam trying to stop her and Naidu trying to bring her fully into being… one or both of them is going to be trying to rip open that gateway again." Her tone is grim.

It's then that she realizes both Warren and Seren have already evaded the security teams who should have stopped them, and she groans. "Get me an earpiece, Hahn," she says tightly, apparently intending on going out there herself. There are vests on the wall, even though she doesn't have full armor here (that she's aware), Elisabeth looks at her husband.

"He's expecting you to try to stop him. If we're upending the chessboard, we don't stop him — but we can still get the civilians on our street out of the line of fucking fire. Field command from here." It's not in either of them to sit here and do nothing with civilians on the ground. When she meets Richard's gaze, she adds quietly, "And I need to be out there to feel if one of those assholes also has something like a Looking Glass spinning up. I'll go after Claire." For several reasons… not the least of which being she doesn't want him anywhere near Naidu and she sure as hell doesn't want him to have to make the call to kill Claire Bennet.

An answer obtained, Zachery continues to try and follow what's being reported on the news. When the noise happens, he narrows his eyes at something distracting filtering into his mind, but does not look away from the screen. His expression relaxes when Eve's face is shown.

That clown he knows. "Oh. My drug dealer." He says unhelpfully, mostly to himself, things starting to click into place faster than his brain allows him to function alongside of — yet still supremely out of his depth, so he just slumps right back down in his chair as he adds with slanted brows but flat affect, "That's nice."

“Eve.” Richard sucks in a breath at the sight of the woman - not because of seeing her there in an unexpected place, that’s normal for the ex-seer, but because of her eyes. “Oh, fuck. She’s the new host.”

Information pours in, more and more of it, but none of it good.

He closes his eyes at the news that his mother is missing, his adam’s apple rising and falling as he swallows once. He starts to say something, and then—

That sound.

A hand comes up to press against the side of his head as he grimaces, “That’s— fuck, they deployed Sirens— “ He snaps loudly towards the techs, “Priority alert to all Raytech personnel, do not utilize any spatiotemporal abilities right now, the Sirens will kill anyone who tries. Pass that warning along to the National Guard and local emergency services, get the word out to the best of our ability. The last thing we need is people trying to teleport and getting spread across the street!”

A tight shake of his head, “It’s painful within range of the sound, but the Sirens aren’t that dangerous to the average person— Adam’s trying to use them to trap the Dragon here, I think. Baruti…”

His gaze sweeps to the screen. “He’s trying to draw me out. He appeared there on purpose, in the open like that— no.”

An arm sweeps out across the room, “We all fucking stay here. We can’t play into their game, and they badly want us to play. We’re fighting against probability manipulation, and the last thing they could predict is that we don’t act. Edward said that to change the future, we need to move mountains…”

Back to watching the screens, expression grim, “…so let’s hope that sometimes the mountain will come to Muhammed.”

Warren slips his helmet on, considering everything going on around him, everything being said. "Little brother, big brother, I forgot which. Big brother definitely! Anyway!" He looks back at Richard from behind his helmet. "The thing about probability prediction is that you can only figure out what's going to happen within a certain parameter of pre-established and actually predictable variables! Which means, because, I should remind everyone, I am the third most intelligent person in the world… no wait… yes, third, if I stay here then their plan is far more likely to actually be accurate if they're dealing with probability manipulation. Now, someone go get me an explosive."

Then, holding up a gun, pointed at the ceiling. "If you try to stop me I will shoot you in the leg. You'll be fine we're rich." But with that, he starts heading for the door.

"There's a lot happening out there that I can directly stop by either shooting things with thermite bullets or blowing them up. If this is a game of chess, then we have to destroy the board. Someone keep a line of communication open in my helmet! And someone watch my monkey for me." he requests , starting to hum.

"I have this song stuck in my head, one of my alternates with their memories embedded in my brain, or maybe it's my own memory, I can never quite be sure." He shrugs and shakes his head. "It was something like, du du, du du du du, du du…" he tries to hum with du's. "It's your move! I've made up my mind, time is running ouuuut! Maaake a move! Yeah, that's the one, I'm doing that now, I'll be right back."

When he heads to the door, he doesn't lower his gun, as if prepared for Richard attempting to stop him.

Heading towards the door in Warren’s shadow, less some of the more eccentric fanfare, Devi stops short at the sharp cut to Cardinal’s voice. Both hands holding a helmet overhead, the biker stops to consider her boss, her friend, her-… Dark eyes flit about the room, considering the reactions and the compliance of those around. All except Warren and… Her beloved Little Bird. She meets Richard’s eye with a penciled brow drawn into a daring arc, giving a little side-tilt of her chin. She is resigned to a fact… just not his fact.

There’s a brief glimmer of her spirited grin before the mirrored surface of the helmet comes down and the armored wildling jogs out - chasing after that very thing which she fears becoming.

Funny how that works.


Raytech Renaissance Building
Detroit, Michigan

There’s dozens of people filing down escalators to the basement level of the Renaissance Center, employees and their families preparing to shelter-in-place in the safest place within the building. As Seren Evans makes their way up the largely empty escalator going to the lobby, there’s building security shouting at them from across the way, warning them not to go up.

Most everyone headed down has their eyes peeled on their cell phones, watching whatever chaos is transpiring outside. Seren takes long strides up the escalator, not waiting for its leisurely pace, but leaping two steps at a time.

As they reach the ground floor lobby there’s still close to two hundred people standing inside the glass-walled foyer, looking up at the skyline. Though the Praxis Airships aren’t visible, the plume of smoke coming from one certainly is. Seren moves with determination through the crowd, forcing their way between awkwardly standing Raytech employees and employees from the other businesses that call the Renaissance Center home.

Through the front doors and out into the February cold, Seren can now see the aircraft hovering in the distance and the swarm of black drones whipping through the air like a school of arrowhead-shaped fish. There’s no one directly outside the Raytech building, but they can hear the sounds of shouting coming from the other side of the concrete block complex of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel that occludes their view of the plaza. Baird follows along, swimming through the air in the periphery of Seren’s vision as he balloons away from their shoulder. Greyed limbs stretch into color, ending with a surging growth of wings from the back of the great creature he turns into. The smaller form and larger beard and mane of a Sumatran tiger blends with the catlike tufts of feathers from a great horned owl, Baird's amber eyes reflecting determination as he leaves the ground in a single pouncing bound, wings beating to allow him to clear the top of Seren's head and guard from above.

It is the Raytech Mantis leaning up against a bicycle rack, left behind by a retreating employee, that gives Seren the mobility they need to reach their destination. As they get hands on the bike, it is no longer a bike. The motorcycle feels more quadrupedal, bearing a golden horn and silvery mane the color their eyes take on when their ability is as active as it surely is now.

This scenario is not comforting. A unicorn is. And both creatures provide Seren with the illusion that they're not alone.

With a rev of the throttle and an unreal whinny, Seren peels away from the Raytech Renaissance Center atop a mythical steed. There are distant thunderclaps echoing across the city, small pops of gunfire and explosions. Something terrible is happening far beyond even the aircraft, beyond the plaza. Much to Seren’s horror there are still cars on the street locked in traffic. It was morning on a Friday, people were going to work when all this started, running errands, living their lives.

"You need to take shelter!" they shout, all the best of intentions. Cutting out onto East Jefferson Ave, Seren weaves between traffic and draws every single eye of motorists stalled in the gridlock caused by this event. "It's dangerous! You need to find shelter!" A person riding a unicorn running between rows of stalled cars elicits wordless what the fucks from every single motorist. But soon that novelty eclipsed by an explosion in the sky.

Seren is nearly knocked off of their motorcycle steed when one of the Praxis aircraft explodes in mid air. It is a tremendous, earth-shuddering explosion that blows out the windows of every building within the block. Even nearly a mile away, Seren can feel the shockwave hit them in the middle of their chest. Against their better judgement, they look in the direction of the sound for just a moment despite their forward movement. The burning wreckage of the aircraft begins to descend, crashing into not only the nearby buildings but another aircraft.

That second Z-12 Qingniao spins out of control, flames spewing from its demolished ducted rotors as it skims over a rooftop and shears off the antenna array atop it. The massive aircraft rolls over the side of the roof and pitches down toward the street out of Seren’s line of sight. Two massive fireballs erupt from street level a mile away and people are now screaming. The crowd Seren was headed toward at the plaza now scatter into traffic, running away from the carnage as Seren’s steed mounts the curb to reach the plaza.

Okay, if people didn't get that it's dangerous out here by now, that's really on them— but Seren's also committed to their course. They remember the last glimpse they'd seen on the television down in the shelter. The video of players at the amphitheatre stay in their mind— the fact that they're not likely to know there's danger. They had been too close to not warn.

Then they'll head back themselves. Do their part, and then head back out of harm's way.

Imagine their surprise when they assume see they weren't the first person with this idea. Valerie standing at the edge of the plaza comes as a surprise to them, leading them first in her direction instead of their goal on the other side of the plaza. "Miss Valerie, what are you doing! It's dangerous out here." It's a spot of advice they could stand to heed themself, except: "Those people over that way— they looked dressed up for a play. I didn't think they'd have their phones. I came to warn them." Overhead, the large cat owl banks to keep within Seren's range, eyes on the figures standing across the plaza at the top of the amphitheatre's stone steps.

Valerie doesn’t understand a lot of what she’s looking at, but she takes it all in. Was this some kind of ritual? Cause she was pretty sure it was not a weird play that took place even if it had costumes and a stage and a guy with glowy eyes. She’s not even attempting to shoo people towards a place to evacuate, because she’s too busy just watching, and trying to figure out what is happening as much as she can, before she will head back and relay what she’s seeing and hearing— but then…

Seren. What were they doing here?

“I’m only projecting my mind here!” Valerie explains in a tone of voice that sounds normal for her. Her body seems to move a little odd, the wind not hitting her hair right, no shadows cast on the concrete below her feet. She’s wearing the same thing that she had worn upstairs, but has no wheelchair to go with it. She looks a little more. More colorful, more mobile. Just more. “It’s much more dangerous for you!” As for the people that Seren had come to warn…

“I don’t think— “ she looks up at the stage. “I think they’re part of this. That’s Claire Bennet! She was in Wolfhound, not an actress. You should get back inside!”


Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

Warren had made his case, storming out of the emergency shelter against Hahn and Richard’s wishes. But getting between Warren and what he hyper-focused on had always been a losing-man’s gamble. There were more pressing concerns at the moment.

Hahn’s eyes are fixed on the screens overhead, showing fireballs rising up from the streets of Detroit where two aircraft crashed and exploded moments ago. Though the blast happened over a mile away, the reverberations of it could be felt in the Raytech command center. But there was yet more news coming in from the ground.

Something was happening at the Saint Anne Catholic Church almost directly below where those explosions took place. Shaky cell phone footage showed people fleeing the church and armored assailants in ANCILIA armor rushing inside. But among them, not in armor, was a child.

Jac Childs, wielding the Kensei Sword.

The footage was from minutes ago, prior to the explosions, and there was no telling what had already transpired there.

It was Elisabeth who held the most subtle clue, feeling the vibrations she had sensed earlier change. After the explosions something had felt off, like the harmonic fence Adam had erected suddenly…

…had a hole in it.


Hart Plaza
Detroit, Michigan

Seren hadn’t seen the woman here among the group at the amphitheater, not on the television screens before she left. Valerie had watched her appear, just a moment before the explosions, watched her take Baruti Naidu by the neck. Her black armor is riddled with wounds weeping chrome blood, her chestnut brown hair falls to chin length, powdered with concrete dust. Anyone who knows her would suspect this is Chess Lang, except it isn’t.


Baruti stands with luminous blue eyes fixed on Chess’ doppelganger — Lanhua Chen — her fingers wound around his necktie as if it were a noose, a sword held in her other hand. He follows her sight-line to the plumes of smoke coming over the buildings. Claire, as Valerie had identified her, continues to stare off with half-lidded eyes into the distance as if in a deep trance.

Baruti says something, a single word, and Lanhua snaps a look up to him and makes a keening sound in the back of her throat. She releases Baruti and grips her head, exhaling a sob of anguish and horror as she realizes what is about to happen. The air around her distorts, a rippling mirage of heat and light and—

— she is gone.

The sword she’d held falls to the ground with a metallic clang.

Part of this? Seren mouths the words back in an echo, turning to look across the plaza. The unicorn they ride on stamps its hooves on the ground uncertainly, given all that's happening around them. With silver-limned eyes, all Seren can do is shake their head at what Valerie says.

Claire was Wolfhound? So was Rue, and Rue wasn't the type to stand around while something like this was going on. So it stood to reason that…

"Something's wrong here." Seren observes, sounding unnerved as their previous interpretation of the events here rapidly unravels. They see the garb Claire wears as abnormal at best, given she's surrounded by others garbed as she'd expect Wolfhound members to in the field. And Claire herself looks… they're not even sure how to describe her aloof expression. They've never seen anything quite like it.

Then there's the matter of the girl with the sword, who suffers just before she vanishes. With a shake of their head, they look past her lack of a presence to the man with the shocking blue eyes, their own still gleaming silver and grey. "Baird," Seren whispers for their friend.

The winged tiger alights to the ground with a powerful stroke of his giant wings. He paws ahead of Seren further still, another step closer to the scene on the other side of the plaza with a rumbling growl. Claws flex and scratch on the concrete.

But Seren turns back to Valerie, eyes wide. They look to her for direction, despite the fact it's already been given. Perhaps what they're seeking is permission, instead. "Miss Valerie?"

This was— not good. Whatever was happening in front of Valerie told her that everything was awful. She wanted to jump back to her body and talk to her brothers, let them know what was happening, but— then she sees Seren looking at her for something. Oh shit. Was this what being a leader was like? Suddenly she did not envy Richard and all the things he had to do. “Maybe we can— distract him?” she says quietly, looking as if she’s not sure that they can even do that. He said one word and a girl seemed to just poof. What if he could do that to them?

But Seren had their illusions. Valerie had her projected body that couldn’t really be hurt by most things— maybe they could manage something.

“Stay safe. You can still get shot out here.” She says to the young architect that she had hired over the internet and then she’s suddenly— somewhere else. She shifted, moving away from Seren and closer to the stage, but still a decent distance away. “Hey asshole!” she yells up at the stage, waving her arms over her head, trying to draw his attention. She knew that Seren could send out their imagination, but she wanted to draw attention away from Seren first.

It isn’t clear if Baruti hears Valerie, for all that he looks up instead of at her. His focus seems drawn somewhere else, to a point high above them, or perhaps above and behind. The soldiers, on the other hand, absolutely hear the call and raise their rifles and hone their sights on Valerie and Seren.

Get back!” One of the black and gray uniformed mercenaries shouts in a strongly-accented English. It sounds eastern-European, maybe Russian? “Get back or we will— ”

The crackling roar of some kind of gunshot cuts the mercenary off.

Moments Earlier

Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan


Richard’s attention is drawn by one of his analysts. “We have movement on the northwest tower roof!”


A live security feed pops up, showing Niki Zimmerman perched on the edge of the roof with some sort of futuristic looking rifle with two rails on the top and bottom, snapping with electricity between the rail guides. “We don’t know how she got up there, no elevators have— ”

Niki fires that monstrous gun. There’s a crackle-snap like a lightning stroke that comes with the shot and a blast of plasma out vents on either side of the railgun. It’s impossible to tell where the shot went, until Elisabeth sees it on the screen ahead.

She doesn’t see the moment of impact, but she catches the flash of electricity and plume of blood, and watches as Claire Bennet crumples to the ground from the stroke of a railgun’s magnet-driven round to the head. Baruti is sprayed with blood across one side of his face, the soldiers in the plaza are aiming guns at Valerie and Seren.

Claire Bennet is dead.

Alia is a creature used to dealing with data. This is a _lot_ of data even for her. She's grabbing feeds as fast as she can… Kensei sword there, Niki Zimmerman doing… well…

Well, so much for saving the cheerleader… Why can't they ever shoot the effing bad guy?

And in her own head, is at least wishing she had an AETOS on call. Or anything, really, that didn't leave her stuck here behind the 8 ball. So she reviews her options, even as she keeps the communications lines open and keeps grabbing info, filing almost all the data away for later review again.

Needless to say, she's already tasking SPOTs to retrieve Seren, which isn't likely to end well for the robots. And a task to get an idea what is going on at that church. And the list goes on.

Watching the screens, Elisabeth narrows her eyes as she considers the tactics. "The walking terror machines aren't engaging the cops or Guard personnel as yet, and they're not targeting civilians," she says slowly. She's still having trouble sorting out — are we fighting one faction or two here?? And why, if Adam is so fucking set on taking over the world for Evos are those things not indiscriminately firing? The tactics make no sense until—

As Richard turns and pivots with his Banshee, the electronic device clicks into a high-pitched whine and fires a focused beam of sound toward the incorporeal entity. … Squeaks runs to Elisabeth and Carina. She pulls in a breath as her feet skid to a stop beside the two women, then in the next second starts noising. Just like with the sound machine but with a lot more urgency, she chirps and clicks. … When Elisabeth turns her harmonic power toward that same source, pushing out with all of her might, their combined sounds alone create a cascading resonance that seems to be vibrating in a discordant manner to the being.

Bright gold eyes stare at Richard with a mixture of confusion and dread a moment before crushing gravity waves compress vibrating molecules down in on themselves.

She looks at him and says softly, "I don't know the Banshee well enough — can it accommodate a sliding scale of frequencies?" Because what she and Squeaks did back in the observatory was by feel, not by knowing what frequencies to use. Now that she's figured out why they're armed with Banshees, Elisabeth bites her lip. "God, I wish he'd fucking well talked to us."

Although she's watching the screens, she's also paying attention to what she's 'hearing'. The aerial explosions draw her eyes back to those screens as she watches one of the crafts detonate and the other spin out of control because of the detonation. She can actually feel the shockwaves of that blast too. Even down here.

Despite her alarm, Elisabeth's tone is calm as she relays to Richard, "There's a pylon down." She isn't guessing, she knows. And even as Lanhua appears, she points to that same screen. "The field is compromised. It won't hold the Entity." And then Lanhua is gone, and Elisabeth yelps, "Oh fuck me sideways. Did he just trigger-word her??" Not again with the goddamn trigger words!

Horror and a deep pang of grief pierce the audiokinetic as she watches Niki take Claire out of play, but there's also gratitude — none of us had to make that particular choice. It also appears to answer the first question — definitely more than one faction out there. It's taking everything she has to follow the order to stay put.

Where everyone else's worlds seem to grow with the possibilities of what might be going on, Zachery - looking increasingly uneasy with every disaster that seems to play itself out before them - finds his own world shrinking. After tearing his attention away from the screens he'd been watching, he hunches over the table he's seated at and takes his phone out to start tapping away a message.

There isn't much he can add to the conversation. Except… on the off-chance that it's relevant, he risks playing into the role of quietly raving madman and says, between frantically sent messages: "Eve — Eve, the… 'I got my head glued back on' Eve, the 'I have micro-seizures that completely restart my cerebral processes every five seconds and have to expend continuous effort not to turn into a fucking cloud of microwave death' Eve — was telling the truth."

He'll process the rest later. Maybe. One step at a time.

“That’s not Eve anymore, Miller. At least that’s not who’s running the show inside that fucked up little druggie head of hers,” says Richard in quiet, serious tones, his head turning this way and that as he tries to keep up with the flow of events on the monitors and the radio.

“They’re not here for the cops. Adam’s still trying to fight her memetic properties with this fucking puppet show he’s putting on - he must know that the Banshees showed promise against Uluru in New Mexico. Liz, with one of those pylons down, can you triangulate the others from the change in reso— is that fucking Squeaks out there? That son of a bitch…”

Some days he’d kill to at least have been multicognitive. He knows he’s missing things here, there’s too much happening at once, and if he misses the wrong thing, they could all be dead. Then there’s the call about someone on the tower, and his attention snaps that way, eyes widening at the sight of one of his oldest friends and co-conspirators holding a—


The name falls from his lips in a bare exhalation as she falls in a spray of blood. One hand comes up to cover his mouth, and he half-stumbles back a step in shock, eyes wide and staring behind his dark glasses.

“Easier to think than it is to see, isn’t it?” No one but Richard hears that voice at his side, the one that comes when his heart is shattered by extreme violence. It is a voice Richard Ray has never heard in his life, the voice of a man who died before his own life changed in extraordinary ways. Old and weathered, like sandpaper and cigars.

“You’re being played.” The dark silhouette at Richard’s right side isn’t obvious as anything other than a silhouette, blurry and indistinct. Gradually it comes into focus, like a sleep-paralysis demon brought into the waking world.

“But you already knew that, didn’t you?”


Kazimir Volken cleans his glasses with a black square of patterned silk, looking out of the corner of his eyes to Richard. “You’ve been made to believe the only way to win is to take your hands off the board.” He slides the glasses back on, as if he were a real flesh-and-blood person and not a hallucination from beyond the grave.

“Didn’t some old women play that trick on you once before?” Kazimir notes quietly, turning his attention up to the same screen Richard is viewing.

“Fool you once…”


Hart Plaza
Detroit, Michigan

There is still a fine red mist in the air around where Claire Bennet was once standing. Though her body lay motionless, the memory of her haunted and transfixed expression is burned into Seren and Valerie’s memories. The man at her side looks unphased by the violence, by the blood flecked across his face and neck. His attention is still fixed upward, toward the distant roof of the Raytech Renaissance building.

Out of her peripheral vision, Valerie catches something. What Baruti is watching:

Someone falling.

Moments Earlier

Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

For all that Kazimir’s warning was an obvious one, it does nothing to deaden the blow of what Richard sees next. On the screen showing the rooftop camera where Niki is perched with the railgun, there is a crackle of static causing the image to go out for a moment. When the feed cuts back on, Eve Mas is there.

Niki turns, and there is a moment of something exchanged between the two, and suddenly Niki is launched off of her feet and over the side of the roof. More than sixty stories from the street below.

Kazimir says nothing, but his expression hardens.


Hart Plaza
Detroit, Michigan

In the same moment Valerie is watching Niki Zimmerman fall from the roof of the Raytech Renaissance Center, Seren sees an auroral curtain of light burn into existence between themself and Baruti. Through the curtain of light a woman emerges, with wild raven tresses and loose, dark clothing. Her bare feet are stained red with blood as they touch down on the concrete plaza floor. The soldiers around Baruti part like water, moving out of this woman’s way.

What was once Eve Mas approaches Baruti, and he bends and takes a knee, lowering his head. She looks down to the body laid in cloth of crimson at his side, eyes halfway lidded.

Níggenada aba indadi namti ìùtu.1 Baruti says with his head lowered, and the Entity raises one brow slowly. It is the only attention he receives from her before she turns her focus to the body of Claire Bennet laying near headless on the ground in front of her.


Executive Secure Shelter
Raytech Renaissance Tower
Detroit, Michigan

“How does the game end?” Kazimir asks of Richard.

If this were any other day, Richard's reaction to the abrupt voice and presence of Kazimir Volken standing beside him would be very different.

This isn't any other day.

Dark eyes stare at the screens, not at the ephemeral presence of the Vanguard's messiah beside him, watching the scenario continue to unfold even as that smoke-roughened voice observes the mistake that he's made. He barely seems to notice that there’s anything unusual about Kazimir’s appearance.

"You're right," he answers, voice rough as his throat tightens up, "I'm being played for the fool I am."

Everyone else in the room may think he's talking to himself. If he were being honest, he's not sure if he's not - he may have just finally snapped at the sight of Claire's death and started hallucinating. It might be a coin-flip as to which is the truth, but at the moment it doesn't matter.

"Liz, go after Warren and Devi. Whatever Adam's planning with those new robots, you should be able to amp it up to eleven, and they should be able to bypass whatever controls it's got. If it looks like Warren's about to go side with his possessed girlfriend, remind him that Mortimer wouldn't just let an Elder God in his girlfriend's body push him around," he orders suddenly, jerking into movement and heading for the elevator, "Miller! You're with me. I don't have any horses, and you're the closest thing I've got to a king's man right now. Hahn, give me a security detail, I'll need some bodies with me."

If Niki somehow survives this, never tell her that Richard made a Humpty-Dumpty reference.

"Alia— those Praxis ships may be protected against technopathic interference, but the military jets aren't. If you could eject a pilot and crash one of them on Naidu's head, that would just be primal, thank you. Doctor Huber, if your ability works on organic molecules then I'd appreciate your company as well."

And he's on the move.

"I swear, if this is just your way of getting a new host, old man," he mutters as he goes, "I will have words with you in the Graveyard."

“We will anyway.” Kazimir says, but he’s not there when Richard looks. The voice was in his head.

Alia considers the challenges, then grabs a scoped armament from the wall, and pulls the scope off of it, heading for the elevators. Whether or not she has bodies isn't going to matter this either will work or not. Her goal is the roof, and on the way up, she'll be pulling apart the laser pointer, to adjust it into the infrared, and using the lenses to make a focusing aid. Ejection systems are almost universally physical trigger in most fighters…

Sidewinder Missiles however, can be remotely targeted and fired. They just need something to lock onto. Like an IR highlighter. And have over the horizon reach. It's a good day to reach out and touch something. Explosively.

Or so thinks Alia, whose mood is pretty bleak at the moment. Though, given what they do know of the Entity. Technology confuses it. And dealing with a supersonic explosive? Well. That's challenging for almost everyone.

Oh thank God, Liz thinks. "On it!"

Almost before he's even finished giving out the orders, Elisabeth is in motion, snatching Hahn's earpiece from her actual ear with one hand and a vest from the wall with the other. She is barely a step and a half behind her husband and moving fast. Her bodyguard/shadow drops his head for a split second and then grabs his own vest and a comm off the wall, sharing a Look with Hahn.

By the time the exiting group hits the hallway out there, Liz is already at a ground-eating run toward the lobby and then out to the Plaza, fiddling with the commlink and throat mic on the move to get it set up so she can keep track of orders on the fly.

She can't think about Niki falling right now. She can't think about Claire's being shot in front of their eyes and her body maybe being taken over by the Entity. Grieving is for after, like always. She can't do anything in this moment but focus on the orders in front of her — Use what she learned tuning to the Looking Glass and see if she can disrupt that bitch's connection to this world.

From the way Zachery sits still, transfixed, staring at his phone as it fails to find new messages in reply to the ones he's sent, one might be excused to think he's checked out of reality completely. It's with equal amounts of surprise and exasperation that he lifts his head when he hears his name again, meeting the command with a look that is considerably less than gladness.

"… Alright, sure, yes, okay." Acceptance comes in stages, one word at a time. "Let's… go toward the many shades of danger." He pushes his chair back with a wry grin - less amusement and more incredulity - giving his phone one more hopeful, wasted glance before he puts it away and starts in a saunter out. Adding only, quietly, "So does the king's man position come with a pay raise or… a gun to defend himself with, at least, or…"

Huber only looks away from the monitors when he heard his name, shaken from a stunned stupor by something he can relate to. Huber’s eyes search Richard’s face for some sort of sign of humor: Americans appreciate dark humor, maybe this is a joke, he thinks. But no, it is not.

“If it’s… all the same,” Huber says with a hitch in his throat, “I— I’m— I think I’ll be safer here.” He isn’t sure whether his reluctance to enter this peril will affect his work with Raytech, but he also would love to live long enough to find out that answer. “I— uh,” Huber stammers. “Please be safe out there, Mr. Ray.”

Hahn snaps a look to Huber, practically ready to throw him into his chair, but she halts when he does it himself. Instead, her attention fixes on Richard. “I’ll get a team on you, sir.” She says while unholstering her Banshee. Part of that team, it seems, is Hahn.

As they make their way out of the secure bunker into the oncoming storm of a centuries-old war, Huber is left to consider the choices that brought him to the United States. As the secure bunker closes again, he turns to the monitors covering the unfolding chaos, watching plumes of smoke winding from buildings in the downtown area, watching civilians fleeing down car-lined streets, watching the world change again.

Huber swallows down a lump in his throat and hunches forward in his seat. He shuts his eyes and tries to shut out the sounds of the carnage.

None of this could end well.

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