Dragonslayer, Part IV


adam_icon.gif alix_icon.gif chess3_icon.gif gillian2_icon.gif ivy_icon.gif squeaks4_icon.gif

joy_icon.gif lanhua_icon.gif lene2_icon.gif niki2_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif val_icon.gif

Scene Title Dragonslayer, Part IV
Synopsis Operation Dragonslayer commences.
Date February 28, 2020

«Approaching engagement zone.»

The dull roar of quad-rotor aircraft has become a constant white-noise for the passengers aboard a fleet of Z-12 Qingniao. Their destination had been shrouded in secrecy up until halfway through their voyage. From the lead aircraft, the skyline of Detroit comes into view with a purposeful and slow approach.

«Radar is clear, no inbound.»

There had been no further attacks since the engagement with the A-10 Warthogs over Montana. But now, approaching the second largest city in the post-war United States, it’s impossible to imagine anything other than an all-out war on the horizon.

«We are T-Minus 3 minutes from LZ.»

Within the hull of the Qingniao, Adam Monroe’s final line of defense against Uluru prepares for the unknown. Ivy Hollows looks uncomfortable in the restrictive body-armor of the ANCILIA defense system, flexing her gloved hands open and closed. She reaches up to press a button by the side of her neck, causing the helmet to mechanically assemble over her head in a swift and fluid motion, accompanied by the six orange eyes on the armor lightning up in unison.

«Beginning broadcast transmission, broad spectrum.»

Seated on the sidelines, Alix looks nervous as she watches Ivy don that angular helmet. Her attention soon turns to Adam, coming out from the cockpit in his own ANCILIA, helmet not yet engaged. “In a few moments we’re going to be hitting our engagement point,” Adam says with a seriousness unbecoming of him. “We’re going to deploy a swarm-AI drone system equipped with Compass technology to locate the Entity.”

«Radio chatter on civil defense channels, we’ve been spotted.»

“Once we have a bead on her location,” Adam says with a broad-sweeping gesture, “Val will teleport Niki to the rooftop with the clearest vantage point.” Adam turns to Lanhua who stands confidently in her futuristic armor, shoulders square and chin up, “Lanhua, you’ll take Gillian, Jolene, Chess, Ivy, and Jac down to directly engage the Entity.”

«Be advised, civil defense aircraft preparing for scramble.»

“Ryans and I have a weapon to prepare in another ship,” Adam says with a motion of his chin to another one of the aircraft, “Val, we’ll need you to take us over there as soon as you’ve dropped Niki off.” He then looks over at Ryans with a look of appreciation at his old friend’s patience at the secrecy.

«Counting three jets on satellite imagery. A-10s.»

“Those of you on the ground will be joined by mechanized support,” Adam notes, flexing his hands into fists, “and as soon as Ryans and I are done we’ll be there to join you.”

«We have reached LZ.»

Jolene reaches out, taking Gillian’s hand and squeezing it firmly as she listens to Adam talk. Mention of the weapon has her eyes wide and jaw set, throat working up and down in a tight swallow. She breathes in sharply, then exhales a less steady breath out.

«Operation Dragonslayer is a go.»

Z-12 Qingniao
The Praxis Fleet
Somewhere Over Detroit, Michigan

February 28th
9:18 am

Like her sisters, Chess finishes zipping herself into her suit of armor, the helmet still unengaged and likely to remain so until the last possible second. The thought that she and Lanhua are now identical to the other sisters, but for the small modifications in their suits, is a fleeting one.

Chess’ gloves are fingerless, leaving her fingers bare so she’ll be able to charge the personal arsenal her suit makes room for: blades stashed in boots and holsters, ball bearings in varying sizes in her pockets. A quiver across her back holds carbon arrows and a few slim batons. A replacement bow is thrown over her shoulder.

She listens quietly to the plan, mostly expressionless, as she has been for a few hours, though her brows draw together as Adam mentions another weapon, and her dark eyes pull away from Adam to consider the other man on the plane.

The broadcasted words shake away some of the flat affect and she takes a breath. There are words she wants to say before everyone is teleported to their dictated arenas, but she can’t seem to find them to speak. She isn’t so identical to Lanhua after all.

No, Gillian really didn’t like the sound of another weapon, but she covers most of her discomfort by focusing on getting her helmet on. “How are we supposed to see in these—” her complaints trail off as the helmet gets on all the way and then a moment later she goes, “Oh, that’s how.”

Maybe they should have tried these things on in transit to get ready for how they would need to move in them. The helmet was the last thing she needed, though, she’s tested her arms and legs and hands. She can still move her fingers to form the signs, which she does in the direction of Squeaks. A silent message to be safe and stay close by. She could have said it easily enough, but she wanted the message to get across any way it could. They had planned to talk like this if she had needed to wear the earplugs, but the suit offered as much protection as they would have.

After a moment, she’s looking toward Niki and gives a small nod of respect. The other woman knew— or at least part of her did. They would do whatever needed to be done. A monster to fight. “Why couldn’t you have chosen a less populated area for this baiting?” she has to add in Adam’s direction, cause it’s a question she’s sure almost everyone had.

And one she thinks she knows the true answer to.

Niki stands apart from the others as they all suit up, letting her gaze drift from knot to knot. Everyone here seems to have someone. Chess and her sisters. The Childs family. Joy and Adam, and Ryans seems to be his brother-in-arms. But her siblings are elsewhere. Barbara’s back in the Safe Zone. Niklaus is in the wind god only knows where. Hell, even Tracy would be a welcome sight right about now. At this moment, as they go over what the plan is from here, the woman once called Nikolette feels alone.

At least you have me, her own voice murmurs to her, as if standing at her shoulder. And she isn’t sure if it’s really her counterpart — with her husky register and her cocksure tone — or just her imagination filling in a gap. You don’t need them and you never have, that voice of doubt — Jessica — tries to convince her.


Blue-grey eyes close, shoulders sag. The shift in demeanor is apparent the moment that gaze lifts again, focusing with a laser sharpness on Adam. “What’s this weapon of yours do anyway?” Jessica asks smoothly, brows lifted in inquiry. “What does it look like? What should I expect to see?”

Standing a little apart from the others, Benjamin is silent as he watches out of a port. His suit is already in place, though his helmet isn’t on. The old man has always been quiet, but since his return with Adam yesterday, he’s seemed… haunted. After a moment of watching, a hand brushes over the pocket with the remotes Adam had given him.

Something about it all wasn’t sitting right with him.


There were still parts of Ryans’ memories that felt spotty. Like he was on the edge of remembering something important about the man. But that was a worry for after.

Rubbing his hand over his face, Ben tries to get his head back into the game, pushing back on whatever is bothering him. Whether it works or not, it doesn’t matter. Ben turns to retrieve his rifle to add it to his personal arsenal. As he settles in to give it one last look over, he listens to the concerns of the others. He may agree with Gillian, but Ben won’t show it. There was too much potential collateral damage.

Without armor to put on or any equipment that needs preparing, Jac has moved herself from the seats near the back of the craft and taken one near the cockpit. As before, her sword rests against her shoulder and she watches the changing landscape through the small window. It's light now, a new day, and the world below isn't the same one they'd left the morning before.

Blue eyes turn away from the window when Adam enters the hold talking. The girl watches, listens as he speaks. Gillian’s movements are noted, recognized with a nod. Her response is to sigh against a twist of fear and want for there to be another way — one that didn't involve endangering any of her family again.

Her eyes flicker from Lene and her mom to Ben but, like him, like he'd tried to teach her, she's built a mask over her thoughts. Or she believes she has. Jac watches him for a moment, then moves on to regard her dad — Adam — and observe his answers to all of the questions.

Adam, seemingly lost in thought, slowly blinks a look over to Gillian. “To fool the devil the lie has to be so believable as to be true.” It’s his answer for why Detroit, but he doesn’t clarify any further.

“As for the weapon, if all goes well you shouldn’t see anything at all. A knife held close to the chest, planted squarely where it needs to go at the last moment.” Adam’s answers have become increasingly cryptic the closer to Detroit they’d come, but now it felt like he was being purposefully opaque.

“Just focus on your respective responsibilities.” Adam adds. “Air Command,” he says with two fingers coming up to his earpiece, “Deploy the Jīnjī drones, have the Xiezhi and their squads waiting once we have an aerial pattern established.”

There’s an unexpected sound of jet engines roaring and gunfire that echoes through the hull of the aircraft, followed by the nearby sound of two explosions and small aircraft screaming through the air. Adam seems neither surprised nor distressed by the sudden eruption of violence.

Approaching Jac, Adam lays a hand on the scabbard of the Kensei sword over her shoulder. “Remember, you are strong enough.” He says intently.

While that exchange is happening, Alix approaches Chess and lays a hand on the armored sleeve of her armor. “Come back in one piece,” she insists, leveling a look at Ivy and even Lanhua. “You too. I didn’t… I didn’t get this family back just to have us all lost again.”

Lanhua, her face shrouded by the helmet of her ANCILIA armor, shrugs. «We do what we’re ordered to. Nothing’s changed.» Her voice has an electronic quality when it comes through the helmet’s speakers.

In that same moment, a swirl of rainbow-colored lights heralds Val’s return to the aircraft. “Director,” she says in a small but clear voice, “enemy aircraft have been disabled. We’ve been given the all-clear to deploy.”

Alix beckons Val over, and the pink-haired young woman finds herself quickly embraced by her sister. Though she returns the embrace, Val is also quick to slip out of it and offer an inscrutable smile to Alix. Adam shares a wordless look with Val for a moment, one that Jessica catches just enough to feel like there’s a part of this plan she wasn’t let in on. More than the obvious.

“You sound like a fortune cookie.” Chess’ appraisal of Adam’s answers is spoken in that wry manner of hers.

It’s the first she’s spoken in several hours, and her voice is husky for want of use. There’s the smallest tic at the corner of her mouth into something akin to a smile, but the amusement doesn’t reach her eyes. She glances over at Niki to share a little of the frustration of not getting straight answers — though she understands the need for the secrecy.

Her hand comes up to touch Alix’s shoulder, and she knocks her forehead against her sister’s, then looks to the others. “When we finish this,” the words are much more confident than Chess feels, “we clones are definitely going on spa retreat or something.”

She even resists the urge to make a comment about needing her name cleared first, thanks to Lanhua.

Her dark eyes sweep over the rest of the team — Ryans, Adam, Niki, Jac, Lene, Gillian. “Good luck.”

It’s a good thing that Gillian has the helmet on, cause Adam can’t see the face that she’s making at him behind it. Or hopefully he can’t. Because she is making quite an epic face at him from the safety of her helmet. It might even include a tongue stuck out of him a little. Her stance seems to speak volumes, the way she’s holding her arms and hips and legs— yeah she’s not pleased with his secrecy. “«Truth never damages a cause that is just.»”

If someone wanted a fortune cookie, she pretty much just gave one in response to him, before she turns to her daughters and nods to them. “«We’ll do what we need to do, because we are stronger together.»” They were a family. Fighting side by side with an even bigger family that they were somewhat apart of. Then she turns to Niki— Jessica? — again and adds on a, “«I’ll trust you to watch our backs.»”

And she did. Trust Niki. And possibly even the woman inside of her that she didn’t really know that well. “«Good luck.»” is added to the others. She might not know the sisters well, but she knew they needed all the firepower they could manage for what was going to happen. She didn’t even really know Ryans, very well, but she hoped what she did know of him was right.

Jessica catches Chess’ eye and offers back a faint smirk and a tip of her head. She’s not wrong in her assessment of Adam’s lack of candor. And then there’s that smile that passes between Adam and Val that raises her hackles when combined with his lack of willingness to explain what his secret weapon is.

“Fine,” Jessica scoffs, lip curled. “But if I shoot your fucking messenger, that’s your own damn fault.” Her expression does not soften when her gaze shifts back to Val, assessing what she knows and isn’t letting on about.

Now, she begins moving across the craft, to where the Lei-Gong waits for her. A tap to the control at the side of her neck engages Jessica’s helmet. There’s no break in her stride as her vision distorts momentarily while the helmet snaps into place. She makes sure she’s pointing the weapon at the ship’s wall — away from the others — as she determines how the ANCILIA influences her sights.

The gun is lowered again after a moment, apparently meeting with her approval, though she may get frustrated enough to kill the helmet once she’s on the rooftops. “«If Jem and the Holograms are ready to go,»” Jessica’s narrowed gaze may be hidden behind her helmet, but it’s obvious in her tone, and her attention is honed in on Val now, “«then let’s get this party started.»”

“Make sense,” Benjamin rumbles from his place, even if it still wasn’t setting well for him. Before his face can betray him, Ryans presses the button that would encase his stern features. Once it is in places, he shifts his head back and forth to feel how well he can move.

Once the HUD settles in, Ben stands and slings the rifle on his shoulder. «Everyone be careful out there.» He moves to give Squeaks shoulder a supportive squeeze and looks over at the girl’s mother, having been where she is now as a parent. «Our families don’t know it, yet, but they’re counting on us.» A reminder of what was at stake or maybe it was more to convince himself.

Jac’s head tips with a small nod, acknowledging Adam’s affirmation. Fear tingles like pins and needles without the prickly sensation. The time for turning back is too far gone. She holds his gaze for a moment after, searching or waiting for something more. She'd done exactly what she needed to when the craft was attacked hours ago. She will do it again when she faces Uluru. The moment passes, and only another nod, perhaps more sure or understanding than the first, answers him.

Her hand grips her dad’s wrist as she looks next to Ben, then follows his gaze to her mom and Lene. A strange sort of anticipation takes her, a readiness that isn't, prompts her to stand. Her family is here, with her. A concern the girl had thought was hours behind by now settles like a tiny stone in her stomach.

Blue eyes tick over each person, a collection of sisters by blood, but barely known. Jac studies each armored body, weighs the electronic voices, lingering longest on Niki, Chess, Lanhua and the other sisters. Trust may come kind of easily for some, but from her it's very reserved and rationed. One of the many deeply ingrained life lessons refined during her stay in Praxia. She has her reservations, but she covers it with sobered determination.

The teen's eyes return to Adam last. “Let’s go save the world.”


Corner of 6th & Howard St
Detroit, Michigan

The aircraft hovering over downtown Detroit and the shelter in place alerts triggering over cell networks have done little to halt the traffic through the heart of the city. Bystanders on the street watch the aircraft in a fixed position while many are fleeing into buildings or watching from windows. The plumes of smoke coming in the direction of the river indicate the path a pair of civil defense aircraft took after Praxis drones downed them.

Many bystanders simply don’t know what to do. They watch in transfixed horror as military aircraft loom in the sky, as night-black arrowhead-shaped drones begin weaving between buildings, cutting low paths down streets. The commotion of impending chaos feels unreal, and to many who survived the civil war, it triggers a panic response that has no immediate relief. Where is safe in this scenario?

A sudden rippling mirage and wisps of green and blue auroral light in the intersection of 6th and Howard Street sends traffic into a chaotic snarl. Cars moving through the intersection swerve out of the way of the light-show and when a woman becomes manifest in the center of the street, a pair of automobiles swerving to avoid her crash head on into one-another.


The entity that was once Eve Mas barely reacts to the sound of crashing metal and shattering glass, even as bystanders scramble to get off the sidewalk and out of the immediate vicinity of the accident. She turns, gold eyes scanning the wreck, dark hair caught in the frigid winter wind. The wreck only keeps her attention for so long until her eyes uplift to the aircraft hovering above the city, jaw set and throat working up and down in tense anticipation.

“Hey,” she barely hears. “Hey!” Louder, this time, and the firm grasp of a Detroit Police Office’s hand at her elbow draws the entity’s attention in a sharp snap. The officer was about to say something, mouth open and brows furrowed, demanding compliance or perhaps recognition that this woman just caused an accident.

Instead, he explodes like a balloon filled with human viscera. His body unravels and spirals outward in a shower of gore that paints the street red. A wash of blood sprays across one side of the entity’s face, one entire arm drenched in blood.

Bystanders scream and flee from the area, while some scramble backwards with cell phones pointed at the scene, trying to film the indescribable chaos spilling out on the streets. Overhead, those arrowhead-shaped drones have begun to close in on the area, circling like birds of prey overhead.

The entity looks from one side of the street to the next, then takes a few bloody footsteps away from the car wreck, neither driver willing or perhaps able to leave the vehicle. Finally, she laughs, a horrible and bubbly thing that is in no way appropriate to the situation at hand. The entity looks down to her blood-covered hand and then to the bystanders.

“Sorry, sweethearts, but I have a date with a bad friend.” The entity 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.


Z-12 Qingniao
The Praxis Fleet
Somewhere Over Detroit, Michigan

Attention drawn to something, Adam presses two fingers to his earpiece then looks sharply to Niki, then over to Lanhua. “It’s here,” he says with a sudden urgency in his voice. “Jīnjī spotted… “ Adam’s brows furrow, jaw set. He swallows audibly and with it his words. Instead of the people in the room with him, Adam communicates with the individuals on the other end of the command. “Send out the audio pulse to the Siren towers, activate the shield.”

Adam hadn’t anticipated this, and he reacts as best as he can to the situation. “Lanhua, take them to the Saint Anne Catholic Church, it’s almost directly below us!” There’s a look in Lanhua’s eyes at that command, something imperceptibly suspicious, but then compliant.

«You heard the boss,» Lanhua says with a turn of her helmet to the others. The air around Lanhua, as well as Gillian, Jolene, Chess, Ivy, and Jac ripples with a heat-mirage quality and begins to twist, bend and distort. A moment later, they’re gone.

Alix takes in a sharp breath, looking with wide eyes to Adam. But Adam’s expression shifts, hardening, looking at Niki more like the man Jessica knew a decade ago in Level-5.

“Alix, I need you to get eyes on Hart Plaza.” Adam instructs hastily. “Baruti Naidu is there, do not lose sight of him. I don’t care how hard you have to push your ability. Keep your eyes on him and stay in constant contact…” blue eyes level on Niki. “…with Jessica.”

Alix’s expression twists, looking at Niki with confusion as she makes sure her earpiece communicator is in place. “Y-Yes, Director.” The apprehension in her voice is tinged with fear. This is a familiar tone from him, a familiar steeliness and cold calculation.

This is the Director she’d fled from.


Outside the Saint Anne Catholic Church
Detroit, Michigan

Lanhua materializes in the middle of a brick and concrete plaza in the shadow of a looming cathedral in the shadow of the Z-12 Qingniao aircraft. As Chess, Gillian, Lene, Ivy, and Jac likewise materialize from the teleportation, they are met by the sounds of fleeing crowds leaving the church and screaming for help.

Over the comms, Adam’s voice comes clear. «The situation has changed,» he says with some trepidation. «The Entity has changed hosts, but that does not change your objective. I’ve lured her into the cathedral, but she won’t stay for long.»

At the same time, a dull harmonic vibration washes over the plaza. The sound seems to come from multiple directions at once and causes a tinnitus ringing in Jac’s ears. A low, throbbing pain vibrates for a moment behind her eyes, then fades. Those in the ANCILIA suits don’t notice the sound beyond a faint vibration.

«I’ve deployed a technology that has created a fence around the city, it will prevent teleportation beyond the towers Ben installed. If the Entity — or anyone — attempts to move beyond the towers, it will result in rather immediate death.» There is a clinical detachment as Adam relays this information. «I’m sending the drones to mark the perimeter of the fence, do not teleport beyond them.»

Sleek black drones shaped like arrowheads, roughly the size of kites, zip and scream through the air, moving like birds around the spires of the cathedral. Some of the drones circling the cathedral break off, screaming through the sky to the outskirts of the city to form a perimeter, making the borders of the fence.

Lanhua, flexing her hands into fists, angles a look over to Chess. «Looks like we’re going to church.»

When Lanhua teleports them, Chess takes a deep breath and finally depresses the button on her suit to activate the helmet. As it wraps around her face and skull, she becomes identical to the others, despite all of her efforts to make herself distinct with the blond hair and tattoo.

The only feature that makes her unique is the lack of gloves, her ability useless if she can’t use her hands. Her fingers find one of the ball bearings in a pocket to roll, worrying at the cool metal surface as she listens to Adam’s calm voice on the comms.

Her head jerks to look to Ivy when Adam informs them that teleporters leaving the field will be killed instantly. Of course her sister can’t see her horrified expression, only the amber lights of the helmet that make them look like aliens or robots. Inhuman things… doing inhumane things, in Chess’ mind.

“«That might kill an innocent person just trying to get somewhere safe,»” Chess protests — no doubt Adam knows it’s her by attitude alone, if he can’t tell her voice from the others. “«If that field was enough to kill the Entity on its own, you wouldn’t need the rest of us here.»”

“«Are you fucking— we have multiple teleporters on our side as well as innocents who might teleport!!»” Gillian responds with the same horror that Chess is voicing— yeah she’s starting to think she really liked this woman she barely knew but was thrown together to fight beside. A good head on her shoulders, and not just trusting things that may or may not be a guise to hide what was happening. Under the helmet, she can’t hear the sounds, but she can’t help but turn toward the two teleporters in their midst.

Was this to force them not to run? Because it was obvious this wouldn’t be enough to stop the Entity just as Chess had said. It might keep her corralled, though, for a time. She supposed that would have to be enough. But she really, really didn’t like this.

And she suddenly had a horrible thought about another teleporter who might try to get involved— but she couldn’t hold onto that thought too hard. Not with everything they needed to do.

Today won’t be a good day for any teleporters in Detroit, that was for sure.

With the people in the Church running and screaming, Gillian just does whatever she can to stay out of their way, so as not to have to use force. “«Get out of here and go somewhere safe!»” she cries out to the people. Her voice is too distorted to be recognized, even with her fame, but she’s already opening up that knot in her head and starting to send a gentle stream of energy toward Jolene. “«Be ready, Lene.»”

She might be one of the only things that could slow whatever that was down so that Jac could fight it when it showed up.

Blue eyes track over the fleeing crowds following forms at random. The teen’s focus on one body to another seems drawn by the difference in voices or a flicker of color, but her eyes move constantly, scanning. It's all done with seeming apathy, a calculative indifference that twists with a momentary cringe as a sudden pressure and whine in her ears reaches uncomfortable levels.

“It's like the barrier around the Ziggurat,” Jac explains to no one really once the sound passes. And it's a guess, based just on the minute detail: teleporting out will kill you. It's a warning she's intimately familiar with. Since the day she began learning to control her new powers, a healthy respect for that invisible line was instilled in her. It also means walking and running should be safe.

She looks at the others, Chess and Lanhua briefly then her mom and Lene for a few seconds longer. This is it. This is the event horizon.

Leaving the adults to clear the square and cover her back, the girl starts moving against the flow of bodies. Small as she is, weaving past hips and shoulders isn't too difficult. Jac begins walking, pulls her sword free of the scabbard, then runs as soon as there's a fair break in the crowd.

The presence of the black-armored squad (and a sword-wielding teenager) gets most of the bystanders scattering away from what is increasingly appearing to be a combat area. Adam’s voice rings out over the comms as they rapidly approach the open doors of the cathedral.

«If we fail here there’ll be more than civilian teleporters who are dead.»

The cold pragmatism of Adam Monroe on display in its fullest.

As the group approaches the cathedral there are parishioners running out of the building, some covered in blood and all screaming. They push past Chess, one bumps straight into Gillian, and another is seen covering in the foyer space covering her head with her hands. Lene stops by her, taking her by the wrist.

«It’s not safe here!» Lene shouts through the speakers of her helmet, «You have to evacuate, now!» The elderly woman rises, tears in her eyes, and scrambles as fast as she can out the door.

Up ahead, the sweeping heights of the cathedral serve a choir of terrified screams of those who fled to the corners of the chapel, hiding behind pews and decorative columns. At the head of the nave, a woman in loose, dark clothes with blood covering one arm stands with her back to the entrance, a tangled mane of ink black hair spills down her shoulders and back.

Two Adam Monroe’s stand inside the church, one with an assault rifle and another with a handgun, both looking wounded. The dark-haired woman waves a hand and eviscerates one of the Adams with what looks like some sort of distorted forcefield effect, ripping him limb from limb in the process. The Adam with the handgun fires twice, striking the woman in the chest and the bullets exit out her back and hit the pews behind her.

Lanhua skids to a stop, hands clenched into fists. Before she can so much as say a word, the dark-haired woman lifts a hand and that Adam is rendered into a fine crimson mist that sprays up a stained glass window like a blender running at full speed with its top off. Ribbons of meat and clothing rain down from the air, while his mangled handgun lands with a clatter on the floor.

The woman turns, bright gold rings burning within eyes that everyone recognizes. It is the worst possible case scenario, a nightmare by which Gillian had been warned of more than a year ago when Eve Mas had a nightmare about killing Jolene.

But no one could have imagined it would end like this.

“What’s this?” The woman who was once Eve Mas says with a cock of her head to the side. “A party? For me?

Chess swallows back the retort that rises in her at Adam’s, shaking her head angrily as she watches the terrified Detroit residents scurry, terrified of whatever’s happening inside the cathedral and the presence of the black-armored women.

There’s not much time to think as Squeaks heads into the church, so she casts a glance at the others, but follows. Her fingers have already charged the silver ball, about the size of a golf ball, in her hand, and she’s ready to throw it at the woman. She stops short of bumping into Lanhua, just in time to see yet another Adam die. And another. That makes four.

Her hand lifts, but that face stops her, and she sucks in a breath.

As is usually the case for Chess Lang, her heart overrules her mind, and trembling fingers tap the button at her neck to disengage her helmet.


The mannerisms are Eve’s, that cock of her head. Somehow whatever makes Eve Eve is still there. Or so Chess hopes.

Fight this bitch. You’re stronger than it is,” she hisses, her dark eyes pleading through a veil of tears. “Please.

As the teen takes out the sword and starts running off, Gillian makes a vexed sound under the safety of the helmet and tries to follow her, cause she didn’t want her to get too far. She could give energy over a distance, but it got weaker the further away. She trusts that Lene will follow.

But she doesn’t get too far before she sees a spectacle that takes her back into the past. Bodies being torn apart was always a horrifying sight. It reminded her too much of the Ark. And the war. And it made her want to curl up into herself. She hated the sight. But what she hated more was the face of the creature they had come to fight. Her throat goes dry. Those over the coms can hear a choking sound.


It was Eve. She had been taken. Those weren’t her eyes, even if they were her mannerisms and voice and style of speaking.

Suddenly Gillian feels a flash of horror, remembering the dream, the painting on the wall of one of her bedrooms, the wall she had had to paint back over again. Eve was here. Eve wasn’t Eve. The sword was here, in Jac’s hands. Jolene was here.

“«nononononono»” can be heard in that voice over the coms, a denial unravels the tenenous control that Gillian always has to keep. Energy starts to pour out of her, thankfully most of it toward Jolene because that is where she had it focused before, but some siphons off of her in smaller amounts. It’s Chess who, again, snaps her out of it. The helmet shows the young woman’s face, she tries to talk to the other woman whose body was held hostage.

The suit gives her speed that she probably could never have managed, even under these circumstances, but suddenly she is running up the aisle right toward Eve, trying to get close. Close enough.

And trying to make herself look like a target and not her daughters.

As much as her hands hold tightly to her sword and scabbard, Jac holds fast to conviction. If she didn't, if she doubted for even a second, her steps would falter and she would never have made it into the sanctuary. The noise of frightened screams and running, of the others trying to coax and direct terrified people to safety, all becomes the same droning sound. Just a blanket roar muffled behind a closed door. Ignored as she would ignore a vacuum cleaner or dishwasher.

Her steps slow after crossing the threshold, no longer running but striding with a purpose. Long steps carry the teen between rows of pews. Her eyes lock on the forms ahead — two more of Adam’s selves and…


The name is hissed with such venom, replacing the anguished cry as her dad suffers two more unnecessary losses. Jac doesn't even look surprised when she speaks. The former seer had warned that war was coming, insisted it was at least and in part because of Adam and that he was bent on destroying the world. She remembers the paired voices too, even though she only heard them once, but those voices accompanied eyes just like those in that familiar face. There's no shock to witnessing the face and form she remembers to be eccentric and cryptic now possessed by Uluru.

Suddenly hatred kindles a spark that ignites a deeply buried anger.

Blue eyes dart to a sudden movement out of the corner of her eye and track the path Gillian’s chosen. The girl then seeks out Lene and Chess and Lanhua. Then returns to Gillian. All of it done within a second and then she herself moves.

Only she doesn't choose to run. She teleports. While her mom moves in to act as a distraction, Jac’s form crackles out of existence. It returns again an instant later, above Eve’s form. Her sword slashes downward with her fall, as gravity pulls her body back to the ground.

Ivy comes to stand beside Chess, regarding her behind the four-eyed visor of her ANCILIA armor. It is a show of unity, coming to stand beside the woman she has accepted as a sister. She will be Chess’ shield in this confrontation. «I’ve got your back,» Ivy says quietly.

The entity inside of Eve stares with stolen eyes, ringed in gold, at Chess. There is a tension in her expression, a crease of her brow. For the barest of moments, there is something other than rage in them. There is… recognition. The entity’s features soften, lips part, and she opens her mouth to speak until—

The Kensei sword cleaves down through Eve’s collarbone, becoming wedged in her shoulder. Jac can feel the grind of blade on bone and those who know Eve are forced to watch in horror as she is maimed. Even if the woman behind her eyes is no longer there. The entity’s burning gold eyes lock on the Kensei sword, recognizes it, and is overcome with unbridled rage.

The scream that erupts from Eve’s mouth instead of words is a banshee’s wail. Jac is able to teleport back and away with the sword as the entity lashes out at her with one hand. But even though she puts distance between herself and the gold-eyed being, she can feel its metaphorical claws sinking into her.

The entity’s fingers curl at Jac, twist, and the girl can feel her skin slither like someone was trying to rip it off of her body. Her stomach turns, a chill rolls over her. But… nothing happens.

The entity’s eyes grow wide, confused.

Even though she knows the plan, Jolene is horrified. «Jac, stop! Stop! That’s Eve!» She cries out. «I can stop her! We don’t have to hurt her!» A wave of violet light ripples around one of Lene’s hands, and as she curls her fingers closed into a fist the entity exhales a keening breath and clutches as her head.

Lene struggles, synchronizing herself with the entity, trying to lock down her abilities, negate her. Gold eyes flicker, the Entity exhales a whining breath and—

«I’m sorry.» Chess hears her own voice behind herself a split second before a loud snap and a muffled scream from Jolene. Ivy Hollows drops to the ground beside Chess with her neck snapped and the armor plating at her throat bent and twisted by an incredible force.

«Chess!» Jolene screams, turning around and extending her hand a moment before there is a shockwave of kinetic force that launches the young woman across the room, off of her feet, and into one of the pillars in the cathedral floor. Lene smashes against the stone column and drops to the ground, colliding with the back of a pew, then bounces off and out of sight onto the floor.

Gillian and Chess both were thrown off of their feet by the same shockwave, but they were only on the periphery of it. Chess, spun around by the blast, lands mostly unharmed on her back in the aisle between the rows of pews, looking up at Lanhua with one hand extended and the other—

Jac feels an unexpected tug that rips the Kensei sword out of her hand. It spins end over end through the air and winds up in Lanhua’s outstretched palm. The four glowing eyes of her helmet flicker softly, and the entity levels a look at her with noticeable confusion, even as her sword-wound begins to stitch itself shut.

«Baruti Naidu has brought you what you seek!» Lanhua says to the entity, reciting verbatim what she was told to say in this exact moment.

For one second, there’s hope. Chess’ eyes widen when she sees that recognition. One hand comes up, to keep the others from acting and she glances back at Ivy with a small nod of gratitude.

But all the hope is dashed away as she sees the body of another person she loves split by the sword wielded by Jac. “NO!” she cries out. “She recognized us!”

That cry is lost in the chaos of everything else that happens in a matter of seconds. Chess has no time to navigate the horror of seeing Ivy crumple behind her or turn to Lene in time before they’re all flung, and she lands in a crash and clatter. Chess sucks in a breath, rolling up to a crouch as she catches Lanhua’s words. Her dark eyes flit from person to person, appraising the situation. War was a lot simpler than this.

Miraculously, she still holds the silver ball bearing, warm in her hand and ready to throw.

The problem with a plan with secrets is Chess isn’t sure of anything right now, and she’s already killed one sister today.

Instead of throwing it at Lanhua, with a practiced flick of her wrist, Chess sends it slamming into the ground beneath Lanhua’s feet, to knock her sister off balance and possibly send her through the floor in a newly created cellar.

“«Lanhua’s against us,»” she gasps into the comms as she finds another weapon to charge.

“«Jac, no!»” Gillian finally finds words, horrified behind the helmet that covers her face. If anyone could see her they would see pain, horror, sadness and— something else she couldn’t even really quantify. But she doesn’t have time to live with that horror as Jolene screams and she’s thrown backward—

And one of the suits, one of the other sisters, is gone.

At the hands of a third. Lanhua. Gillian didn’t know the sisters well besides Chess, but she still feels the bile in her throat. What she thought would be a tough fight had turned into the worst thing she could have ever imagined. This was why she hated secrecy. This is why she thought this entire plan might as well have never been made. It was all gone now. There was no plan.

Eve might die, when they might have gotten through to her, there was so much happening and she wasn’t going to be mobile anymore.

There wasn’t much she could do, and she chooses to dive toward Eve— the golden eyed creature that’s wounded and it’s like she’s got a sudden burst of strength and speed. Helped by the suit. Motivated by friendship and worry for her children and there’s a crackle of pale hot energy around her gloved hands. Not the violet or purple of normal, because she’s throwing everything she can into it. The lighting surges out and into the entity once she’s close enough.

Not giving energy this time. Taking it.

She’s felt power before, but not like this. If most people had a small glow within them, this is a kaleidoscope of colors and light and energy. It’s almost blinding, but not to senses that most people have. The purple glow that normally reflects off her eyes on the HUD seems to take on a cascade of colors.

“It's not!” Certainty that the face before her is no longer Eve’s lashes out in a violent tone. Jac takes a step back, defying the requests to stop her attack, and brings the sword up to strike again. The movement helps fight off the unseen creepers and claws that find no purchase on her skin. The sensation is unsettling, and the girl clutches to her anger like she does her sword as a means to keep her mind from it.

The further yelling, the explosions, she tries to keep those pushed back too. Let them come to her when this is over, but for now ignore it.

Her feet shuffle, her weight shifts, but the attack she intends to move into is stolen in the same instant as the Kensei sword is ripped from her hands. The girl’s head whips after it, lands a look on Lanhua, then turns to face Uluru again.

Suddenly, she twists around and snaps to Lanhua’s position, using whatever tiny monologue is begun as cover. Jac yells as she reappears, nearly screaming a reverberating sound, the thrumming of which pulses painfully within the ears. In the same instant, the empty scabbard is thrust at the woman's throat as if it were the sword it usually contains. The teen’s other hand follows to reclaim her weapon. If this works, she can finish what she began with the golden-eyed demon.

An explosion from the floor up interrupts Jac’s advance on Lanhua and sends Chess’ clone flying backwards into the foyer of the church. Shrapnel harmlessly blasts across Jac, skittering off of her skin but lacerating her clothes, leaving shredded gaps where sharp stone tore through.

The entity, distracted by the sapping light spilling from Gillian’s hand, turns her golden eyes on the ability augmentor, lifting a hand to block the bolt of snapping energy. It grounds out on her palm, but Gillian can feel it still, that connection. “Gilly, sweetie,” the entity says in Eve’s voice, with Eve’s mannerisms. “You could do better.

That bolt of energy suddenly shifts to crimson and the entity throws a hand out and slams Gillian against the stone wall. Her armor’s damage sensors flash vibrant red in her HUD. Alarms buzz inside the helmet.

Stop!” Jolene screams, her helmet disassembling from around her head as she comes up from behind the pew, vaulting it and locking on to the entity again, sapping her power from her. “Eve! I know you’re in there! Sibyl was inside the last host! You have to fight this! I know you can!

In the foyer, Lanhua struggles up to her feet, gnashing her teeth inside of her helmet against the horrible clicking shriek coming from Squeaks.

«Fuck this,» Lanhua curses, then blurs away in a haze of distortion, teleporting somewhere beyond the church…

…but likely not beyond the Fence.


Z-12 Qingniao
The Praxis Fleet
Somewhere Over Detroit, Michigan

Adam lowers a hand from his earpiece, brows knit together in a furrow. He looks lost, for a moment, eyes searching something. He turns to look at Ryans, Niki, and Val. “It’s time.”

For all that there was worry in Adam’s eyes a moment ago, it has solidified into a look of certainty. There is a clarity in him that has not been there this whole journey and now — presented with the final movements of a plan decades in the making — Adam Monroe finds himself at peace with his sins.

“Jessica,” Adam says directly to Niki. “And I’m only talking to Jessica here. Val is going to take you to the roof of the Raytech Renaissance Building, your target is not Uluru. You’re to lock your sights on this man…” he says, retrieving a weathered photograph of a Black man with piercing blue eyes from where it was tucked into the collar of his armor. “Baruti Naidu.”

Adam’s eyes narrow slowly.

“He doesn’t leave this city alive.”

Jessica disengages her helmet, fixing Adam with a look the moment he first utters her name, and not her sister’s. One brow quirks upward and the lopsided smirk she was already wearing ticks a little higher. “So nice to be remembered,” she intones, her own voice and her own inflection. She’s grateful to not have to keep up the façade of playing Niki, however thin it may have been.

Reaching out, she takes the photograph and studies it with mild interest. “Should’ve known you wouldn’t trust bullets with your all-powerful entity,” Jessica muses. “Things make a bit more sense now.”

The photograph is passed back with a nod of acknowledgement of her adjusted assignment. “But don’t think I don’t realize you’re still holding out on me.” This isn’t all of it. It can’t be. After all, Adam is a man of his secrets. She can appreciate the irony in her not wanting to allow them while keeping her own.

“I just need to make one thing clear,” her tone shifts as she takes another step forward. She can’t loom over him, but Jessica’s always made up for a lack of height with a threatening aura. “If we get out of this, you are going to do right by Niki. For some stupid reason, she wants you around. If you exploit that again…”

That’s when she veers finally. They know each other well enough by now that she doesn’t need to finish that thought or posture any further. Jessica re-engages her helmet and comes to stand next to Val. “«Let’s go solve the world’s problems.»”

Let’s go kill some people.

While Adam dispatches his teams, Benjamin has been quiet. Watching each group disappear on their assignment. Blue eyes narrow at Jessica, untrusting of this extra personality… even if it looks like Niki. «Stay safe out there,» he offers at least.

Once she moves to stand by Val, Ben angles a look at the other man. Patient for his own part in the play.

The look that Adam gives Jessica is a distant one, not in a way that implies a lack of emotional context but an overwhelming amount of it. He breathes in a sharp breath through his nose, then nods once in the affirmative. “Were we not the people we are,” he says with a sad smile, followed by: “You were the family I chose to have.”

Val looks up at Adam on that comment, then down to the floor with a slouch of her shoulders. She knows the dynamics, the complexities, but it still hurts her to hear that he places his original daughters above his other flesh and blood. “Come on,” Val says softly, taking Jessica’s hand. A moment later they disappear in a swirling haze of rainbow colored light.

Adam exhales a slow, heavy sigh and brings one hand up to his eyes, massaging them with forefinger and thumb. Ben knows what’s going on now. He knows that pain. He felt it when he said his final words to Nicole and Huruma on the roof of the Times Square Building. Adam doesn’t expect to make it out of this alive.

“When Val returns, we’re putting the final phase in motion…” Adam says as he swallows down his feelings on the matter.

“It’s almost over.”


Outside the Saint Anne Catholic Church
Detroit, Michigan

A rush of displaced air heralds the arrival of Joy into the plaza outside of Saint Anne’s. Two massive quadrupedal robots join her in the moment, each of which rises to stand as a mechanical assembly on each machine's back unlocks and opens, revealing a seven foot long sonic cannon, like a Raytech Banshee, but magnitudes more powerful.

Heavily armed soldiers step out from behind the silhouette of the machines, each of them carrying heavy backpacks with braided cables connected to massive rifles in their hands, all of which resemble the cutting edge Raytech sonic cannons. Except as they’re powered on there’s something unique about them, emitters on the outside edge begin to glow blue and radiate heat and ultraviolet light.

The sound of screams and crackling lightning coming from inside the cathedral spurs Joy into movement. “Advance!” She cries, and the machines rise up to their full height and begin galloping forward toward the cathedral, soldiers following behind.


Northwest Tower Roof
The Raytech Renaissance Building
Detroit, Michigan

Jessica and Val materialize in a swirling haze of rainbow-colored light on the windy and frigid rooftop of the Raytech Renaissance Building’s northwest tower. From here, one of the highest vantage points in Detroit, Jessica can see the entire city spread out before her. She can hear the distant crackle and pop of electricity from wherever Chess and the others left. She can hear screams of panicked crowds, she can hear the roar of those small, black drones circling the city.

The weight of her railgun is heavy in her hands, bereft of the superhuman strength she once held in her distant memories. Val says nothing when she teleports back to the Qingniao, her own jealousy stalling her tongue. It is Adam’s voice, instead, that she hears in her earpiece.

«Jessica, if you turn your attention west you’ll see a plaza with large sculptures roughly a block away. Find the amphitheater, there you’ll see a semicircle of armed men and your target along with a captive.» He doesn’t address Claire Bennet’s name. «Line up your shot, you’ll only get one chance at this.»

It takes Jessica a moment to get her bearings after Val leaves her in position. Teleportation is undoubtedly useful, but disorienting all the same without that innate sense those who possess the ability seem to have.

Unruffled, a quick glance around helps her determine her position and she focuses her direction west as directed. Her gaze narrows faintly as she takes in the situation at the amphitheater. No concern on her part of return fire having much chance of being accurate before she can work on taking out the adds.

“«Any idea what they’re doing down there?»” Claire Bennet’s face is recognized. So is the state of her. With only one chance, Jessica is not in any rush to throw it away for the sake of expediency. Measure twice, cut once. With the wind whipping about her, she takes a moment to just feel the way it pulls and tugs at her, notes the way it doesn’t have the same influence below.

«Have you ever seen the end of Ghostbusters?» Adam asks over the radio, a momentary flippant question quickly stamped down by a follow-up. «It doesn’t matter. Take your time, line up the shot. One in the head should suffice.»

With a railgun.

Adam isn’t taking any chances.


Saint Anne Catholic Church
Detroit, Michigan

It all is happening so fast. Jac pivots after driving Lanhua off, bereft of the Kensei sword. Her eyes scan around the cathedral, to Gillian drawing power from the Entity with crackling bolts of white-hot energy, to Jolene, advancing on the gold-eyed monster with one hand curled into a fist and violet light surging from between her fingers. To Chess, shaking stone dust out of her hair as she twists away from where Lanhua was, back in the direction of the battle taking place.

Two crimson smears on the ground where Adam Monroe once stood.

Ivy’s broken body.

Jac’s blood pounds in her ears as her heart races.

The Entity turns toward Gillian, with one hand and a seemingly endless reservoir of power throws her back with a telekinetic shove against one of the columns, pushing pews out of the way in the process. Gillian stays standing thanks to the support of her powered armor, even as the HUD flickers and gutters from the impact. Her armor’s alerts whine about damage.

But the Entity isn’t finished, as she raises her other hand and spreads her fingers wide, electricity of her own crackling around her palm. She throws her hand out, launching a bolt of howling lighting toward Gillian —

— intercepted by her daughter.

No!” Lene screams, the bolt of lightning striking her square in the chest. It blasts through her ANCILIA armor, smoldering globules of ferrofluid spraying out of both the chest plate and the back of the armor, hitting the ground and sizzling on the stone. Smoke and steam issues from the burn mark on either side of her chest as she crumples to her knees, then falls onto her back on the floor, sucking in a shuddering breath.

The Entity is frozen in place, gold eyes wide, smoke issuing from her hand. There is a look of confused horror on her face as the thunderclap from that lightning reverberates through the cathedral. “No” she whispers, flashes of anger and betrayal briefly showing.

You were my protector,” the entity screams, exhaling a shuddering breath. “I brought you back for me!

Jolene, on the floor, exhales a ragged breath and lays her head back on the floor. The air around Jolene ripples, distorts, and bleeds away like a chalk drawing on the sidewalk in a rainstorm.

It is not Jolene.


Yeah,” Peter exhales with a shaky breath.

“I quit.”

Moments Earlier

«I’m sorry.» Chess hears her own voice behind herself a split second before a loud snap and a muffled scream from Jolene. Ivy Hollows drops to the ground beside Chess with her neck snapped and the armor plating at her throat bent and twisted by an incredible force.

«Chess!» Jolene screams, turning around and extending her hand a moment before there is a shockwave of kinetic force that launches the young woman across the room, off of her feet, and into one of the pillars in the cathedral floor. Lene smashes against the stone column and drops to the ground, colliding with the back of a pew, then bounces off and out of sight onto the floor.

Screams and shouts fill the air, and Jolene lays on her side between the pews, exhaling a keening breath. She touches the button at her neck to open her helmet, gasping for breath; winded from the impact. Even through the armor she can feel her ribs ache with every breath. She holds her side, tries to sit up and falls back down onto her elbow. “Fuck.”

A warm hand cups her cheek, Lene’s eyes snap wide, and she looks up to someone kneeling between the pews beside her.

Dad,” Lene whispers, and there’s an exchange of light from Lene’s cheek to Peter’s hand. He offers her a smile, brushing a tear away from her cheek with his thumb.

Peter’s appearance shifts and distorts in a heat-haze mirage to mimic his daughter’s appearance in her heavy armor. Then, disguised as Lene, Peter brings one finger up to his lips in a ssh gesture, even as an explosion shakes the cathedral around them.

She can’t get up and fight.

But he can.

Stop!” ‘Jolene’ screams, her helmet disassembling from around her head as she comes up from behind the pew, vaulting it and locking on to the entity again, sapping her power from her. “Eve! I know you’re in there! Sibyl was inside the last host! You have to fight this! I know you can!

And Now

Petey?” The Entity whispers, her head tilting to the side.

Fuck. Chess coughs and fans away the dust as Lanhua turns heel and flees the church. Relief mingles with fear and the anticipation of inevitable regret — that will most probably bite her in the butt, and she knows it. Her stinging eyes water as she wheels around to face Eve, just in time to see Lene transform into Peter.

“The fuck,” she murmurs, but the Entity’s recognition fills in the gaps there. A little.

She takes a step forward, to join this new player in the game — an ally, as he tries to reach the woman they call Eve behind the Entity’s eyes.

“Eve, please,” she says. Glancing back and seeing Ivy’s broken, twisted body, a sob racks her chest and she brings a hand to her mouth. Tears streak her dirty face, and she looks back to the woman whose body the Entity possesses.

Chess is completely off the playbook, but that plan disintegrated minutes ago.

Please fight this. I don’t want to lose you, too.” Her voice cracks. She glances at Jac and holds her hand out in a desperate wait gesture, her eyes pleading. “Try. Eve loved you, too.”

No no no no.

At first Gillian felt the horror of watching her daughter take the blow for her, but then the illusion fades and— a whole new terror rises in her throat. She didn’t know where Jolene was, how long had he been— she can’t really ask. So many things flash through her mind, and she has new fears. What if that dream had never been about Jolene, just someone who had looked like her?

She still can’t move, held firm against the wall by that telekinetic grasp. She couldn’t run to him to find out if he would be okay. She didn’t know how many abilities he might have. He didn’t have the armor they did, even if the HUD was trying to tell her it can’t handle all this damage.

There was one more part of the dream that she recalled, vividly.

“«Eve, what have you done.»” she says loudly enough, hoping that it adds to her pause and seeming hesitation, before she takes what energy she has and pushes it toward Peter. That purple glow in her eyes turns makes the screen reflect back with even more red, until she can barely even see beyond it.

The world seems to move in time to the hammering of her heart, a sort of slow motion but high speed hybrid. Everything is moving too fast and out of control and she's still processing what happened three seconds before. The noise of it is a dull roar and a high pitched whine that both reaches its peak and silences with an abruptness as if it had been severed by Lene's voice.

It's that no that restarts the teen's engagement. She catches up with the rest of the universe in time to see Jolene's armor take the full brunt of a lightning hit, one that was meant for their mom.

Blue eyes level on The Entity and burn with anger. This. This is what she feared. Her mom and her sister being destroyed because she wasn't fast enough or strong enough. Jac growls, a throaty, semi-yelled sound. Her anger spikes, heart and blood pounding. How can they keep missing that? Eve would never have attacked Gillian. "It's not Eve!" The sound turns to yelled words at the continued insistence.

Little enough time for her statement to be made is finished, the girl's form crackles and vanishes as abruptly as Peter's interception. The continued talking and debate wastes what time Lene — or not Lene, the observation is made although not acknowledged — has bought.

Jac reappears just as suddenly, electricity clawing it's way around her small form, and takes full advantage of the distraction Peter has created. A pair of fists are thrown and she screams, "If Eve's really in there," knuckles driven with a superhuman force, "Then how about Uluru comes out of there," in a jab-punch sequence with one high and the other low, "and fights me themself!"

Superhuman strength lends the needed force behind Jac’s punches to harm something as resilient as this entity — Uluru. Her first strike sends Eve’s body staggering back, the second throws her backwards into the pulpit at the front of the church, shattering the wood and sending her toppling to the floor. The entity rises straight up and extends a hand, launching the shrapnel of the wood at Jac like a thousand flaying knives, but they skim harmlessly off of her indestructible skin. Scraps of cloth are all that is lost, guttering in the wind behind Jac.

The telekinetic grasp around Gillian ends and moves to Jac, grabbing her by the throat and lifting her off of her feet. The entity tries again, slamming her into the floor once, twice, three times — hard enough for the tiles to shatter and fly up into the air — but before the fourth hit can come there’s a crackle-snap and Jac teleports out of the grip and comes right back at the entity with a roundhouse kick that sends her sailing backwards and into the towering cross at the rear of the cathedral.

The impact shatters the cross’ base, sending it falling to the side, smashing a stained glass window. The glowering icon of Jesus with his thorn crown gazes down at the display of violence with a reproachful stare. But the entity is not stopped, barely stalled. She rises to her feet, wounds sealing shut almost as fast as they had been made.

“Sorry,.” the entity says in a rasp, “Eve’s not here right now.” Then, she vanishes in a blast of light and heat, reappearing behind Jac, standing over Peter with her palm extended down to him.

Petey,” the entity says with Eve’s voice. “You were supposed to save the world with me, not— ”

A galloping sound of heavy metal and whining hydraulics grows worryingly loud behind Chess. A split second later a horrific, high-pitched wail erupts through the entrance of the church as a beam of ultraviolet light and shrill clicking sound fires from a cannon mounted on the back of a massive quadrupedal machine. As the beam hits Eve, she unleashes a wail and claws at her head, a shimmering silhouette of golden light and crimson lightning pushing out from her body like a second shadow.

“Fire again! Don’t let up!” Joy comes striding in with the robot, joined by several of Adam’s soldiers, armed with large variations on the Raytech Banshee. They, too, hit Eve with concentrated rays of ultraviolet energy and high-pitched sound, and it seems to draw that shimmering silhouette further out of her body.

Amid the chaos, irrespective of it, Jolene Chevalier drags herself out from behind the pews across the floor. A brilliant beam of light burns overhead, crackling with bolts of electricity. She can hear Eve’s distorted scream paired with another more inhuman cry. The noise of even just proximity to this sonic weapon throbs in her skull and behind her eyes.

But she crawls, determined, the battle around her a blur out of focus. When she reaches Peter’s side, Lene takes his hand, trying to say something to him but the noise is oppressive and steals her words. Tears roll down her cheeks and she grips his hand as though afraid that any minute he’d simply disappear.

Now!” Joy shouts, watching the entity writhing around in absolute agony.

Kill the host!


Northwest Tower Roof
The Raytech Renaissance Building
Detroit, Michigan

baruti_icon.gif claire4_icon.gif

As Jessica peers through the digital scope of the railgun, trying to negotiate a clear shot of Baruti Naidu, there is a change to the scenery. A rippling distortion appears in the line of fire, manifesting in the form of a brunette woman in their powered armor—


She drops to one knee, breathing heavily, slamming a fist into the street. Claire Bennet, trapped in a trance of soporific delusion, stares vacantly at a point in space so far away.

Baruti’s glowing eyes narrow.


Hart Plaza
Detroit, Michigan

Lanhua,” Baruti says down to the battered and bloody woman in front of him. Lanhua looks up, fear and anger in her eyes in equal measure.

“It’s started— everything you said. I did what you told me to do I did everything!” Lanhua screams at him, standing up and grabbing Baruti by his necktie. “I did everything!” Tears roll down her cheeks, a telekinetic hum vibrates in her open palm. “I want what you promised me!

Baruti looks down to Lanhua’s trembling hand, then up to her burning gold eyes and the ring of broken blood vessels around them. This close, he can see the spiderweb of ruptured capillaries in her cheeks and temples, the bruising around her eyes, the signs of final stages of neurological decay from the Gemini process; accelerated by how many abilities she had taken.

But there is no gift as promised. There is no cure.

“Yes,” Baruti says in a smooth voice. “You have done everything as asked,” he says diplomatically. “Here,” he says, slowly holding his arms out to the side. “Your reward.”

Baruti looks to his right, toward the hovering Z-12 aircraft Adam had left hovering over the city. He closes his eyes, a show of faith. “Prophets…” he whispers, and one of the Z-12 aircraft explodes so violently it blows out the windows all around it. The massive aircraft careens to the side in a ball of flame and smoke, smashing into another carrier, which then goes spiraling out of control.

The first Z-12 to explode crashes down between the buildings, a second ball of fire rising up from its impact. The second Z-12, windmilling through the air and leaving a corkscrew of fire in its wake, crashes across the roof of an adjacent skyscraper and then slides over the edge. A crashing noise of destruction reverberates through the streets, followed by a second massive fireball as it impacts the ground. The two remaining Z-12 begin to pull away from their positions, twin pillars of black smoke rising up into the air.

Lanhua, distracted by the massive explosions on the edge of the city, doesn’t notice Baruti has turned his attention back to her.

Akkil1 He says, without emotion.

As the Sumerian code word is said, Lanhua’s voice becomes a strangled cry. 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 Kensei sword falls to the ground with a metallic clang.


Northwest Tower Roof
The Raytech Renaissance Building
Detroit, Michigan

« — essica! Jessica, tae the shot!»

Adam’s voice is a cry of panic, terror, grief, and horror. This is not a part of his plan. Something terrible has happened.

Baruti Naidu turns and opens his eyes, looking directly at Jessica through the scope of her railgun.

Like the end of Ghostbusters, she recalls.

That’s just enough context to convey that this is Not Good and what’s about to happen needs to be stopped. Her focus is momentarily derailed as she watches Lanhua appear before Naidu, watching how that plays out. While she can’t hear what’s happening, Jessica knows a double-cross when she sees one.

“«I don’t know what Naidu just did, but Lanhua is—»” The breath catches in Jessica’s throat as her target turns his attention to her, as though he knew exactly where she would be standing at this very moment. Knew she would be preparing to pull the trigger and end his wretched life.

A lifetime of being told what to do, and a lifetime of defiance led Jessica Zimmerman to this moment. A lifetime born from the choice made by Arthur Petrelli to put Niki Zimmerman with an abusive parent who would break her mind like glass, leaving her splinters of a mirror. One such splinter, now the triggerwoman, making this choice. In a carefully orchestrated battle, one in which the participants cannot know the weight of their choices but must trust the plan, could Jessica be trusted to do precisely what was asked of her?

How many choices had to be made for Jessica Zimmerman to be here, in this moment, at this precise time, in this state of mind?

“«Fuck this.»” Jessica shifts her aim to the blonde at Naidu’s side. “«I’m sorry.»” And pulls the trigger.

Only Uluru knows.


Saint Anne Catholic Church
Detroit, Michigan

There is a sudden lurch of agony as Joy staggers forward, her eyes wide in horror. As beams of ultraviolet light sear toward Eve, as the entity’s essence is torn from her body by the same sonic attack that discorporated her at Sunspot, in the most crucial moment in Adam’s carefully wound agenda, she feels twin terrors born inside of her.

“I know that there’s a tide inside of me.” Joy says with a look back over her shoulder to Jac. “A whirlpool, drawing inward, the thoughts and aspirations of others. Who they are, or… I suppose more who they were.” She pauses, standing beside a broken piece of concrete jutting out toward the water. “I know that when someone dies, a piece of them comes here, to me.” She reaches out and touches the middle of her chest with two fingers. “And that part of them, changes me.”

Joy begins to walk again, carefully choosing her steps on the way down to the water’s edge. “My abilities come from those deaths. They are born in me. When someone dies, a part of them changes as a part of me, and I reflect their memory.” She looks over to Jac, brows furrowed, curious to see how the young woman responds.

No,” Joy hisses, one hand at her chest, feeling two abilities blossom in her heart. Telekinesis and regeneration.

Her mind races, her heart aches, and she looks up to Uluru. “No!

A shockwave ripples out from the entity, shattering the lens of the advancing machine’s sonic cannon. It sways to the side, smoke issuing from that demolished piece of technology, and the entity folds in on herself and vanishes in a distortion of light and sound. “No, no!

We have to follow her!” Joy screams, but it will take time for the drones to find her again.

Time they do not have.


Northwest Tower Roof
The Raytech Renaissance Building
Detroit, Michigan

Through her scope, Jessica can see Claire Bennet’s body laying on the ground beside Baruti Naidu. He maintains his unflinching stare up to her position at the tower, but all the hair on the back of Jessica’s neck rises as she feels that she is not alone on the roof. There’s a scuff of footsteps, a ragged breath, and a figure taking two steps toward her.

The entity — Uluru — stands in the center of the roof with flickering eyes of burning gold, guttering waves of orange ember-like light rising up and off of her body. She stares at Jessica, then raises one hand and wiggles her fingers in a greeting of hello.

Jessica’s role is to protect. Defend. To make the hard choices so Niki doesn’t have to. It’s the aftermath of this choice that brings her back to the surface, clawing her way back into control as she surveys the horror. Her friend is gone. There had to have been another way.

The presence at her back is left to linger a moment. “«Don’t suppose Val’s got a minute?»”

She already knows the answer to that one.

Niki turns around to face Uluru, wearing the familiar face of Eve Mas. She lowers the heavy railgun until its nose rests against the rooftop, the butt of it against her hip. With her free hand, she reaches up to disengage her helmet. Blonde hair is immediately whipped by the wind. It stings at her eyes, adding new tears to the ones already shed for Claire.

The horror of all of it, of everything, crushes the glass of the mirror into dust. “Alright,” Niki offers dryly. Like a greeting, like a resignation. The things that she’s done, the things she’s allowed to happen. Everything has led to this moment.

All the lives she couldn’t save. All the bodies in her wake. She lifts the Lei-Gong, trembling, but determined.

“One last dance.”


Saint Anne Catholic Church
Detroit, Michigan

The cathedral is silent.

A half dozen soldiers stand in confused disarray, lowering their weapons, looking at the damage done to their robot. Joy is slouched up against one wall, holding her head with a hand, breathing in labored, shuddering breaths.

On the ground beside Peter, Jolene holds her father’s hand with tears welled up in her eyes. “Dad,” she croaks, and Peter stares up at the ceiling as smoke issues up from his chest. He holds her hand, firmly, tears rolling down the sides of his face from the corners of his eyes.

The entity is gone.

Despite the knowledge Jac can heal nearly instantly, Chess can’t bring herself to enter the fight between the entity and the teenager — it’s too dangerous, anyway, with Gillian, Lene and Peter close at hand. At least that’s what she tells herself. Her ears are still ringing from the explosion at her own hands that took the life of her sister just hours ago.

When Joy arrives with machines and soldiers, Chess stumbles to where Ivy lies, pulling the bent and lifeless body out of the path of so many boots, then sinks down to cradle her sister in her arms, lightly pushing the button to release the helmet, if the machinery still works. She shouldn’t be just a faceless loss in this losing battle.

Her head tips when she hears Niki’s voice, Lanhua’s name a short squawk of radio noise without context. And then the words I’m sorry.

Joy’s cries draw her dark tearful eyes that way, and then they dart over to Lene and Peter. She skims the smoky haze for Gillian.

“«We need medics,»” she manages to whisper hoarsely into the comms before standing. “«Giving someone healing with Gemini would have been a good idea in hindsight.»” Her tone is bitter but under it, heartbroken. She can’t bring herself to say it’s too late for at least one of them. Chess casts a glance over her shoulder at the others and turns to the door, stepping through the debris — to get a head start on following Uluru.

Once she was released, Gillian fell down to her knees in the armor, watching everything happen in quiet horror. She knew she couldn’t do anything— she couldn’t interfere. She did the only thing she could, she funneled a little bit of her energy toward Jac, to help make her just a little more invulnerable, just a little stronger, just a little faster with her teleportation. It didn’t appear to be enough.

At Joy’s sudden appearance, she stumbles forward, out of the dust, looking on in horror at what’s happening to Eve. She reaches down to pull out the weapon she had asked Adam to give her. She’d not known if she would use it— given his hint that it could only be used against security guards who might interrupt him. With a click, she turns off the safety—

Eve wouldn’t have wanted this. Eve wouldn’t have wanted to kill Gillian, or Chicken, or Peter, or Squeaks. Eve would have rather died. Gillian knows this. She hated the knowledge, but she knew.

She didn’t get the chance to even level the weapon at her when the Entity folded in on itself and vanished. With a grunt, she drops to her knees next to Peter and Jolene, a gloved hand landing on Jolene’s shoulder. They would be going after her soon, after the entity. After Eve. “«Niki, do you have eyes on Uluru? It’s in Eve Mas.»” she sends over the coms, trying to sound calm, but her voice is hoarse and tired and pained. The suit absorbed most of the damage, almost all of it really. It would not have absorbed the hit that Peter had taken for her, though. “«We got a stupid ape here now too.»”

With a click, the faceplate pulls back, revealing her tired, flushed face, and the tears she probably didn’t want anyone to see, but she’d rather her face be visible for the moment. “Why did he bait it into a church? I thought Niki was supposed to be covering us?” She would have been able to take the shot faster than Gillian could have— it might have been over. She looks over at Jac, checking to make sure she’s as okay as she always insisted she would be with these new abilities— she can still worry, though.

She doesn’t start to move to find the creature, trusting that they will learn a location faster from Niki or the drones than they would running around the city. But she also doesn’t put away the side-arm she pulled.

Jac twists away from the blast wave that rips through lenses and defies the banshee-type weapons. She holds there for a second, one knee and both hands planted against the floor. Her eyes bore into the boards beneath her. The cacophony of sound batters against her. The yelling, explosions, destruction, leaves a faint ringing, almost like a high pitched whisper that says nothing at all.

Her head comes up when a familiar voice screams. She finds The Entity still gone, Gillian and Lene and Not-Lene. Then land on Joy, screaming and anguished.

She doesn't think, doesn't explain.

In a snapping crackle, Jac reacts.

The teen isn't there when Gillian looks for her. Teleportation has taken her from the scene of battle and destruction within the cathedral to the courtyard. She stutters a step in her rush to finish the task. Her small form turns a full circle, eyes searching high and low.

Uluru!” Jac turns another circle as she screams for the demon. Her feet carry her a few steps, if that might give her a better vantage point. “Uluru come and face me! Or are you afraid of a kid?” She sprints a short distance, opposite where here slower pacing had taken her. “Some supreme being you are!” The girl turns around, holds her hands up as she yells. “Won't even stop hiding and face me!”

Jac’s voice rings out in the plaza, tiny and insignificant against the roar of flames and the distant cries of panicked citizens. There is a terrible sense of helplessness that sits at the pit of her stomach, and the comms have gone dead. The second aircraft that had gone down was Praxis’ Air Command, the nerve hub of the entire operation.

Adam was silent on the other lines, there was no guidance, the drones designed to pursue the Entity had vanished between skyscrapers. There was no guidance, no hope, just decimating loss after decimating loss.

Jac is left with a profound emptiness.

Inside the cathedral, calls go unanswered. There is no response from Niki, from Adam, from anyone. Soldiers that had followed Joy look equally confused, trying multiple broadcast frequencies trying to get an answer from anyone in authority. But there is no one.

“Gillian,” Peter whispers, reaching over for her but finding himself coming short. He swallows dryly, and all Gillian can hear is the keening sound of her daughter crying over her dying father, having only just been reunited, and having him taken away again.

Joy is tense, helplessness in her eyes as she looks around. “Adam?” She asks into her earpiece. “Adam?” The desperation in her voice each time is palpable. “Kensei?” Comes as a whisper, and when the line is silent it is all Joy can do to keep herself together.

«Is this on?» A voice calls out over the comms. «Hello?»


“Alix! Where’s Adam?” Joy barks before anyone else replies.

«I… I can’t find him, because of the— plurality? But I found it.»

It? Joy’s chest tightens.

«I found Uluru.»


Northwest Tower Roof
The Raytech Renaissance Building
Detroit, Michigan

The entity wearing Eve’s face tilts her head to the side. “No,” she says softly. “You’re done.”

Niki feels herself become light, sees Eve moving away from her. No, she is moving away from Eve. It takes a moment for her mind to register that she’s been hit by telekinesis, that she’s been lifted off of her feet and thrown through the air. As she watches the edge of the roof soar beneath her, there are so many things that go through her mind.

Her husband.

Her mother.

Her sisters.

Her son.

“You can go now,” the entity says flatly as Niki Zimmerman disappears over the edge of the roof.


Hart Plaza
Detroit, Michigan

Blue-green auroral light burns in a point in space. A bare foot touches the ground in a pool of blood. The raven-haired host of the Entity is made manifest from a shimmering plane of otherworldly energy, gold eyes burning in the morning light.

Baruti Naidu meets the host’s eyes, bends and takes a knee, lowering his head. She looks down to the body laid in cloth of crimson, eyes halfway lidded. Alive, Claire Bennet was nothing, a woman whose ability was burning out like a candle thrown into a furnace. Alive, she was beneath the Entity’s notice for her disconnection from the spider’s web. She had been kept there, for so many years, out of the peripheral vision of a being that for a time held sight beyond sight.

But Kaito Nakamura is long dead, and even his long-laid plans must one day come to an end.

Níggenada aba indadi namti ìùtu.2 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.

Gold eyes narrow, search, and seek for a pattern among the seemingly random threads.

Then, widening, she sees the web for what it is and her place in it.

What has been offered to her on this stone slab in a foreign city.

An ember of green light dances in the dark of her pupils.

I found you.

Fourteen Years Earlier

Sanders Residence
Las Vegas, Nevada
September 30th


"Do you wanna go on a road trip, baby?" There's money hidden in this house. A lot of it. And there's a classic Cadillac in her name. She can do it right this time.

"What?" It comes with a flutter of laughter and a slow shake of Micah's head. "Mom you know we can't afford that." Ever the pragmatist, Micah offers his mother a patronizing smile and roll of his eyes before he sets the dried plate down on the corner of the counter, hopping down from the milk crate afterward with a clap of sneakers on linoleum.

"I know we're having money trouble, you don't— You don't have to keep hiding it from me. I know you're… I know you've got a lot of other work you do," is a delicate way to put internet porn into perspective, "and I know things have been hard since dad— " Micah closes his eyes, shaking his head slowly as he walks up to his mother, hands tucking into the pockets of his jeans.

"I don't need a road trip," he explains with a raise of his brows. "All I need is you, and I've got that."

Niki shakes her head and pushes up from the table, only to duck down to balance out the difference in height. "I just came into some money. Enough for us to go do something fun. Together. Enough for you and I to just… Get away from this place, and never look back." Micah always knew better what was going on than Niki ever gave him credit for. It was easier for her to think that she was hiding the reality from her son. Made her feel like a better mother.

Does it make her a better mother if she steals her child away from herself, because she knows all the mistakes she's about to make?

"We could go to New Orleans. See Nana Dawson and cousin Monica? Or we could go to California, visit Canada…" Niki wraps her arms around Micah tightly. "We can go anywhere you want."

Uncomfortable in the embrace, Micah makes a noise in the back of his throat, then slips his arms from around her to lay a hand on her shoulder, easing himself out of her hug. "I want to see dad," is Micah's childish protest, brows furrowed and lips sagged down into a frown. "But— but I know I can't. I just… " Dark eyes wander to the floor, searching left and right before the boy looks back up to his mother. "I miss him, and…"

Present Day

Outside the Raytech Renaissance Center
Detroit, Michigan

And nothing.

Darkness tunnels around Niki Zimmerman’s vision, staring up at the length of the Raytech Renaissance building. She can’t feel anything. Not her hands, not her arms, not her legs. She feels as weightless as she did in the moment she was thrown off the roof.

There are people gathered around, blurry faces she does not recognize. Someone is kneeling over her, cradling her broken body in cold, metallic arms.



A single mechanical iris of a Praxis Qing drone stares down at Niki’s body. The pilot of the drone died in a fiery crash, leaving the vessel open for other, stranger beings. S.Attva may not remember the part of his life that was Micah Sanders, but the machine does recognize her.

But to Niki, this cold, lifeless automaton piloted by the ghost of three technopaths is nothing but.

It is her boy.

“Hey, baby…” Niki’s voice is weaker than it even sounds to her own ears. She can barely see a thing now. The world is light and dark, indistinct shapes. Nothing feels real. Nothing but that voice she hears as her son’s. “I’ve missed you…”

Niki struggles to concentrate. To make him come into focus so she can see him properly. But she can’t. Only in her mind’s eye when she gives up the effort and lets things start to fade. Somehow, it makes him come into sharp relief. His eyes. The dark curls of his hair. His smile.

Blue-grey eyes close and her head tilts back. One rasping breath:


«It’s me.» S.Attva says in his synthetic voice, filtered through an external speaker. One cold, mechanical hand comes up to her head, brushing a lock of hair from her face.

She doesn’t hear him anymore.

«I am so sorry.» S.Attva says in a tiny, mechanical voice.

Niki Zimmerman is gone.

«I’m so sorry.»

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