Endgame - To Die At Sea


brian_icon.gif deckard_icon.gif hana_icon.gif monica_icon.gif rico_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Endgame — To Die At Sea
Synopsis Phoenix's operatives, along with Hana Gitelman and Flint Deckard infiltrate the Invierno to put a stop to the Vanguard's release of the virus.
Date January 28, 2009

1 Mile off the shore of New York, the Invierno

Lives are precious things, and we are all too often eager to assume ourselves invincible things — permanent fixtures of the world, despite the transient nature of our very being.

The salty sea air is bitterly cold, and the wet mix of freezing rain and ocean spray makes the hastened journey out of the harbor all the more numbing. The roar of a speedboat's engine nearly drowns out the howl of wind on water, of choppy surf and the pulsing throb of adrenaline.

When presented with our own mortality, often we see the opportunities that passed us by, or that which we allowed to go without a further word. Death and regret, it would seem, are partners that go hand in hand.

Moving at full speed once past the sight of coast-guard ships, Teodoro's boat skims across the surface of the choppy waters, bouncing with the rise and fall of the ocean's swell, moving towards a dark stain on the horizon amidst the haze of the storm. A rusting steel hulk set upon cobalt waves, black and faded red, painted white stained with brown above its hull. At this distance, the spin of its radar is the only motion, as if it were the snapping flag on some phantasmal ghost ship.

But there are the rare few, who are afforded the chance to pass from this world without regrets — those who have put aside all of their worldly affairs, and have come to realize just how ephemeral our all too short lives are.

Something bright strikes the water's surface at the side of the speedboat, lancing into the waves like some gleaming thunderbolt cast down by the gods. The sea erupts with a line of white plumes, every so often interspersed with a gleaming white-hot flash of light — a tracer round. The automatic gunfire from the deck of the ship tears through the ocean, and it is only with a seasoned jerk of the ship's wheel that the boat is able to veer away from the gunfire, beginning to snake and slither across the ocean like a sidewinder, amidst a whizzing hail of bullets from the approaching ship.

It is these brave few, those who have stared death in th eyes and know it by its first name, that will have peace in the end when their time comes.

The boat shudders and quakes as a piece of plastic from the hull is blown clear, followed by a lateral incision along the ship's side, met with splintering of wood from the deck and the low resonating thump of artillery fire. Peppered with fifty-calibur rounds, the speedboat lurches in its approach, and another jerk of the wheel sends the boat near sideways, avoiding a blossoming of water spray from a line of bullets ripping across the ocean waves.

We should all be so lucky, when that time comes.

It's hard to tell whether or not she's already taking water. The rising storm-winds throws off Teo's expanded sense of sway and proprioception over the small vessel he'd acquainted himself with over the course of the past week. His windshield is blanked out by bolted sheet metal except for a broad strip that gives him a rather rough sense of where the target freighter lays on the horizon. There aren't any holes in the sheet metal yet. Or in anybody aboard, as far as he can tell.

«We're coming up close and fast.» A little too much so. «Going to share our fireworks soon. Get your heads covered.» Translated through comm frequency, his voice sounds neither normal nor especially hysterical. He might merely be concentrating, trying to determine the center of that fuzzy line between enough evasion and wasting everybody's fucking time as they rip closer and closer through black-and-white water to the Invierno's hulking shape.

Monica was already in place, it was easier that way. It was good for her to get a feel for the adjustments in wind and speed. It was freakin' freezing, which she didn't like at all, but it helped keep her steady. Her hair was pulled back and held in place with a cap, she was already looking through the scope and gaging her targets as she's learned. She was comparing the actual heights of the targets to those of nearby objects. She'd studied boat schematics as well for convenience sake.

Learning to be a sniper was hard freaking work. So as she sighted on one of the armed persons on top, she decided he looked particularly dangerous and if she was going to use the element of surprise, she'd gladly take him first. She squeezed the trigger and it was the space of a heartbeat while the bullet covered the distance and she was rewarded to see the man go down gripping his knee in a bloody mess. Excellent. And next. She turned two degrees and targeted another, squeezing off a second shot quickly while the others started to catch one, this one taking it in the knee as well.

And while Monica's fire is precise and accurate, taking out a target each shot. Brian's is wild and showy, and ineffective. Though the bullets pellet against critical walls and installments of the boat, the men on the Invierno are taking a little more cover. Giving Teo's crew a little breathing room. And that's all he needs to be doing right now.

Kevlar, gloves, and assault rifles. A pair of Brian's are towards the bow of the speed boat. Heads kept low, they let off spurts of fire for the cover of the approaching speedboat. Meanwhile, the third Brian is towards the back. Eyeing the back of the boat warily. He doesn't get scared of much, he's usually a brave person, relatively. But boats always freaked him the fuck out, especially speed boats. Regardless, the young man takes a gulp as he redoubles his efforts, preparing the grappling hooks. "Ready." The young man calls out loudly, over the gunfire. He gives an instinctive duck when a stray bullet plates against the boat beside him. How the fuck did he wind up here?

"Open the cargo bay doors, Velasquez." Heated words exchanged on the frigid deck of the Invierno amidst the deafening sound of 50-Caliber anti-aircraft guns on full-auto. Heated words also exchanged at gunpoint. "Open, the bay doors. That's an order." Standing with his hands tucked into his jacket pockets, this isn't the first time that Rico Velasquez has been held at gunpoint. With the barrel of a Desert Eagle pressed to his forehead, the surly Cuban stares up cross-eyed at the chromed barrel, tongue flicking across his lips to switch his rolled cigatette from one side to the other.

No more than thirty minutes ago they had arrived, soldiers from Drake Leeds' branch of the Vanguard, soldiers that have arrived with a specific and deadly mission. Captain Dalton, according to his nametag, presses the barrel of a Desert Eagle to the brow of a very confrontational and very drunk Rico Velasquez. In Dalton's other hand, he holds a black plastic case with a briefcase handle, marked with a red and black biohazard symbol. These soldiers, having arrived to deploy the virus, have found nothing but resistance from Velasquez.

"Okay," Rico murmurs after a moment of consideration, dark eyes moving from the gun to stare at the blonde-haired soldier holding the pistol, "Wait — I have a better idea." Dark brows come together, furrowing against the press of metal. "You could go fuck yourself." They raise, and his lips purse around his cigarette, as if to express his own feigned shock at his words. "How's that as a counter offer?"

The swift strike of a rifle butt to his back sends Rico sprawling to his knees as another soldier in urban camouflage on the ship's deck lays him out. The masked soldier looks up to the blonde officer, "Just shoot him." He urges, motioning with a gloved hand to Rico, before he grabs the Cuban by the back of his jacket to pull him to a straighter kneeling position. The officer who holds the gun scans the deck of the ship, assessing his surroundings.

Twelve soldiers in urban camo wearing black tactical vests stand in a circle around the owner of this very vessel, the rugged and scraggly Rico Velasquez. But around them are a handful of members of the Invierno crew, a rag-tag motley lot of South American drug runners and arms dealers, a scruffy and unwashed lot. Nearby, the worst of them stands in a yellow rain slicker, a tangled mane of dark hair hanging down, clung with snowflakes.

"Mattias." The gun-wielding officer looks to the man in the rain slicker, "Where's Rico's key?" The man shakes his head and shrugs, even as the sound of fifty-calibur gunfire rattles off on the deck of the ship.

"Don't know," He eyes Rico's kneeling form, then shifts his weary and sagging gaze up to the soldier, "We have a fucking lot going on, if you don't notice. Half of my crew is missing, security cameras are offline, and the radios aren't working right." His head slowly tilts to the side, "And if you haven't noticed…" All composure fades as Mattias waves one hand franticly to the port side of the ship, "We're under fucking attack!"

With a snort, the officer draws back the pistol with a click, holstering it at his side. "Stevens, Randall, Weiss," He motions towards that side of the ship, "Go unload the rockets and clean up this mess." The indicated soldiers nod and rush off together towards the tripod guns that are no longer firing, due to the operators being shot dead by Monica's crack sniper fire. "Simmons, Rauff, Valka," the officer nods down to Rico, "Drag his ass down to the brig and — "

"Captain Dalton," Mattias says in as calm and diplomatic a manner as possible, rough voice growling out the title as he steeples gloved fingers and slinks across the deck of the ship, head bowed, "That is our other problem." His eyes rise from Rico to the soldier, "The prisoner we had held in the brig, escaped. We believe he had help, a woman…" One hand gestures to the bruises on the side of Rico's face.

"Mother fucker." Closing his eyes and turning away from Mattias, Dalton runs one hand over his short hair, exhaling an exasperated sigh. "Everyone on deck make sure that boat does not make it any closer! I'll take Velsaquez down to — "

The side of Captain Dalton's head erupts in an explosion of bright red, sending his body jerking in the direction of the spray of blood, legs giving out and body crumpling to the deck with the echoing pop of a gunshot. From his hand, the black case falls noisily, skidding across the icy ship deck. Rico immediately bolts to his feet, yanking Dalton's gun from his holster, turning on the nearest soldier with a cracking pop of pistol fire. Three rounds to the chest sends Weiss tumbling back, alive but stunned from the impact against his body armor. By the time Rico's presence of mind aims for Mattias, the yellow-jacketed man is already running through the crowd of approaching crew, "Mierda!>"

Nearly twelve hours spent within the bounds of the freighter have given Hana a great deal of time in which to refine her plans. Even playing a deadly game of hide-and-seek with the Invierno's crew during those hours didn't exactly hamper her designs. It was almost an hour ago that she retired from that pastime, retreating to the observation tower above the freighter's main deck.

No one ever looks up. Especially not when there's the handy distraction of a boat approaching at high speed and gunfire flying in most directions. Up is a good place for a sniper to be.

Stretched out on the metal sheets that are the observation deck's flooring, Hana spares no worry for the progress of the boarding team, no concern for her own presence in this firefight — or the possibility that they may all die. The Israeli woman's world has narrowed down to her rifle and the simplest of binary solution sets: target and not target.

At the moment, almost everyone is a target. Almost. She picks them out half by way of the rifle scope, and half by her sense of the radios they carry, their position relative to her own. She takes her time selecting targets — ones being fired upon already, in the main; rarely singling out one who is in position to pose trouble to her side. But 'time' is relative, and the analytical, emotionless focus couched behind dark eyes hesitates at not a single shot.

Approximately as scruffy and unwashed as the vast majority of the salty souls on this ship, Deckard is lumpier than usual in the thick bind of a heavy black coat. A sheep among wolves, he stands on the fringes of the ruffian group gathered around the arrival of Dantes' men, hood pulled up over the tousle of his dirt and grease-smudged head, where it's already begun to accumulate an impressive coat of ice and snow.

Gloved hands tucked deep into his pockets to suppress the remnants of this morning's more intense rattling, the right is wrapped stiff around the gun they confiscated from Rico earlier. He watches the exchange, the slam of gun to back of head, and the explosion of Dalton's head in silence — with kind of a flinch for that last one, and a stark glance upward after the source. Then everything kind of goes to hell. As far as it can go with fifty caliber rounds already beating at his eardrums.

When Rico and Mattias bolts, so does he, and so do a few of the others. First he starts for the mounted guns, only to hesitate when he takes note of the dropped box. Always with the fucking decisions. With another hard glance up after wherever Hana might be, he opts to scramble for the former, boots scraping for purchase against the icy deck.

Braced on the railing of the Invierno, a series of four tripod-mounted fifty-calibur anti-aircraft guns rumble with gunfire, sending the flickering flash of tracer rounds screaming through the air. The deep and repetitious thundering of the guns creates a loud background noise over the sound of shells clattering to the ship deck. With three of the soldiers from Dalton's unit arriving at the guns, the full-auto fire rips back across the open sea towards Teo's ship.

There's a loud clang of metal and a flare of sparks as one round punches thorugh the metal covering the boat's windshield, whizzing past Teo's shoulder before vanishing onto the horizon. As the speedboat draws closer to the port side of the ship, facing towards New York, the gunfire does not let up, a constant hail of tracer-rounds pulsing through the skies that shift from freezing rain to snow as the temperature rises and falls in pockets.

"Fucking plan, crazy gringo in a wetsuit. Scuba assassin…" Rico mumbles incoherently, moving across the deck of the ship, shouldering in to one of his own deck crew as they run past while loading an assault rifle. "I cannot fucking believe this," He spits out the words and the tiny remnant of his cigarette, reaching into his jacket to retrieve a metal case about the size of a remote control from within. He snorts, loudly, and flips open a plastic safety cover over a toggle switch, "I fucking hate this job," he adds, flicking the switch as his other hand moves to withdraw a cigar from his right front pocket where a knife should be sheathed.

A moment later, the sky is filled with red, orange and black and the thundering sound of a tremendous explosion.

From out at sea, it appears as though an enormous portion of the port-side hull of the Invierno simply explodes, blasting outwards in a massive fireball and shockwave, sending a cloud of flames, smoke and debris high into the air. The ship bucks away from the black, then pitches back down with a slosh, revealing a smoking and gaping hole in the ship's side, almost at sea level. An entrance.

Aboard the ship, the blast is powerful enough to knock the gunners off of their feet, sending them sprawling back to the rain-slicked deck. The choking smoke and flames rise up from the side of the vessel, and Rico just walks casually, unlit cigarette in his mouth, spitting out a bitten off tip. "Fucking put a gun to my head…" he continues to rant, throwing the detonator over his shoulder, reaching inside of his jacket to retrieve a grenade, plucking the pin to drop at his feet as he walks, letting it bounce off of the toe of his boot. "Who the hell do they think I am?"

Too close to dodge, now. And hole the size of an intemperate baby's fatty face punches through the metal plate to the right of Teo's head, showing the white of the snowy sky beyond it. The window ruptures, shatters, frozen inside the confines of its lamination, rerendering his seesawing view of the Invierno in craquelure, white lines zigging and zagging fragments of minute refractions and distortions. It is also fucking loud.

If Teo could drive with his arms sticking out from underneath the dash, he would. «Take out the turret on the left. I'll pull up there,» out of line of fire of the other turrets, with a little architectural logic, «and we'll light up. Cover up, count to five, and then you three get your asses up th — » He is interrupted, rather rudely, by the sudden disappearance of the Invierno's left side. His eyebrows go up, unequivocal astonishment; he wasn't expecting that to happen, but— but. Fuck it. What they say about mice and men, right?

A little extra C-4 never hurt anybody. They're at sea. The situation is fluid. Punny. Teo almost wants to die. «Fuck it: we're not wasting that door. Get your fucking goggles on and hold your breath.»

«Once you're in, scatter, same groups, same destinations.» The battered speedboat jumps like a horse over the massive, belching sine curve of sea that comes in the shockwave of the Invierno's side, skimming water with her splinter-ragged belly.

He is good at parallel parking on land, too. In an instant, the Phoenix operatives' little white ride vanishes neatly into the column of smoke.

«Targeting.» Monica said calmly, though in her head she was seriously bothered. Over the last couple of years, she'd come to accept her role in the grand order of things. But deep down inside, she still felt like the teenager she once was from New Orleans making her way into the big bad city. She targeted on a pair near the guns again, firing once, taking this one in the shoulder, striking the joint, and then another who seemed to be looking around for where the fire was coming from. «I'll clear your way to where you need to go.» She moved her scope and thanks to the practice she'd had before, she didn't even get vertigo. And the equipment she was given was excellent. Good. Because this all-weather shooting was draining enough as it was.

At Teo's command, she adjusts her sites, and with military precision, she targets on the left turret, though she is careful to keep her shots disabling, but non-lethal. At least in theory. Hopefully they wouldn't bleed out from them. She cursed beneath her breath, a rare enough occurance for the young woman, but warranted considering things are getting chaotic enough to be a little confusing for her. «Let me know what you need.» She'll keep targeting and hopefully clear the path, but she knew they needed to be ready to change at a moment's notice. «Is our tri-guy good?»

Bullets still are unleashed from the speedboat on their way to assault the Invierno though three sets of eyebrows furrow as a sudden change overcomes the ship. Frowning, a glance is sent over his shoulder. "I wanted to be a ninja…" Brian says, more to himself rather than to Teo or Monica. Though he doesn't seem to be overly bothered. He would ask a 'are you sure' but, bullets piercing the speedboat cause young men to refrain from questioning authority. "«You got it.»" Comes only one voice.

At Teo's sudden remarkable parallel parking job, the two Brians at the front of the boat are rushing towards the edge of the boat, leaping upwards the young men fly for a briefest moments of time into the cargo hold. Immediately two hands fly up to the mouths of each Brian. The crew down here had a rather unfortunate end.

The Brian who was preparing the grappling hooks, grabs his own rifle, easing it down over his shoulders. Lifting his eyes to Monica and Teo, he prepares to follow after the two of them hastily.

The explosion has changed everything on the deck of the ship, the soldiers who struggled to get back to their feet after the blast find the silent thwip of a rifle round passing through the unprotected portions of their bodies. The soldiers drop to the deck, screaming and very much alive — at least for the time being. Only one soldier still rises to work the tripod mounted guns, struggling to catch a glimpse of Teodoro's crew through the plume of smoke, unaware of the threats around him aboard the ship itself. Anotheer soldier, having been shot in the leg, is crawling across the deck of the ship, towards a rocket launcher that was knocked away during the explosion.

Rico moves across the ship, grenade clutched in hand, and as he passes by the ground floor of the ships' cabin entrance, he wrenches open the front door, lobbing the grenade inside to the panicked shouts of the crew that had ducked away for cover in there, before slamming the steel door shut again, "All I wanted was money… retire someplace warm…" He scowls, withdrawing another grenade from inside of his jacket, the pin torn out to bounce across the deck, "A man of simple needs… a drink with an umbrella in it." Rico pauses, looking towards the flames rising up from the hole in the ship, leaping up over the railing he stands by. His unlit cigar wavers up and down between his teeth, and casually — despite the gunfire all around him — the Cuban leans in, lightning his cigar from the rolling flames as they begin to die down, looking over towards the man in the yellow rain slicker moving through the smoke, and then to the glowing blue eyes of a familiar face. "Fuck."

Below decks, Brian can see the devastation wrought by an untold number of explosives being detonated within the belly of the Invierno. The ship is filled with choking smoke and flames in this cargo hold, and every time the ship pitches around in the crashing waves, it takes on water. The ship groans and yawns with the strain of its split hull, old and rusting metal breaking apart at the point of damage.

Amidst the black smoke above decks, Hana's point of observation loses sight of Deckard and the biohazard case, but in the smoke, Deckard can make out a set of bones with his vatic gaze, watching the familiar and thin outline of a rain slicker wavering from side to side at the bottom hem. Mattias is making a move for the virus.

Of all the people on the boat other than Rico, Hana had the most forewarning for the explosion — and that, slight. But the fact that she's prone on the observation deck makes a big difference; she isn't much perturbed by it. She holds her fire while the ship is busy pitching, however — or at least through the worst of it. The fact that all of her targets are on the same unsteady ground simplifies matters a great deal, however. Then it's back to the role of scythe against Vanguard's wheat. The 'turret on the left', designated as a target by Teo, is therefore of interest to Hana as well — despite the change in situation Rico's explosives produced. The smoke roils and eddies and obscures her vision.

She still knows the location of each and every radio, mentally tagged with ally and enemy; some of them move.

Aim. Fire. Swivel. Aim. Fire. Repeat until either there aren't any more targets or something else changes. The effective difference is that now, Hana's at least as likely to wound as kill.

Deckard has been drinking. There's no denying it. He's had enough that the fact that he's running towards the gunners one second and skidding backwards on his shoulders the next does not come as a significant surprise to him. There's no sky overhead — just lots of black with the spidery extension of some kind of communications array breaking white across the field of his vision. Cold water and hot smoke stings at his eyes, though he can't actually see either, forcing him to blink hard, and the tinny ringing in his ears has hiked into something more insistant and shrill. Earplugs, they're saying. You found a jacket. You found whiskey. Why couldn't you take the time to find some goddamn earplugs?

There's pressure in his head and in his chest, like both should hurt, though neither actually does anymore. Adrenaline. The thought dwells dimly in the back of his mind. Good thng he has a litle bit left.

There's a man next to him. One who's been shot in the leg, dragging himself to a rocket launcher. Deckard becomes aware of this once he's finally managed to match the arrhythmic roll of the deck underfoot with the push of long legs enough to get back up onto them. Rico's pistol is drawn long out of his pocket, applied directly to the back of the guy's head, and fired. Even with his hands shaking the way they are, it's hard to miss at a distance of 0 inches.

The light of his eyes warped and smothered by the ash and smoke warm on his face, he staggers with the next pitch, backwards at first, then after the sketch of bones and slicker making after the case that stands out bright in the ongoing chaos. A shot aimed one-handed at the other man goes wild while he tries to run and stay on his feet and not get shot himself, long face drawn pale and skeletal with tension when the hood falls back. Got to get there first.

The ship schematics had looked reasonably straightforward, delineated by inkjet on plain white paper. It is different with a canverous maw of severed metal gaping hot enough to scorch and belching noxious gray into his face, the cross-section of the accessible floor and the one directly above it staring out like a great brutal bite out of some enormous layer cake through the translucent veil of smoke.

Killing the engine, Teo leaves the shattered windshield, crosses the fiercely rocking floor somehow without falling on his ass and throws the door open. The bag of the thermite payload is snagged at the intermediate distance.

The box of flares and flashbangs that had initially been set to distract the Vanguard crew from grapple-hookers is hauled over, launcher disengaged, and flares tossed overhand at Brians and Monica over the water until there aren't any left. Last, hauled out from the hiccupping door, the duffel of plastique goes to one of the clones. «Get topside,» he tells them blankly, waving a gloved hand. He is mere seconds doing so himself, running across the nose of the speedboat and leaping out the gap in the railing, more monkey than man. It still stinks like shit despite the protective gear.

The AR-15 clicks down, and his boots drub the way along corridor toward stairs with a glance over his shoulder to assure himself Brian is still there. He turns around in time to see the first dead man, the spots the second corpse haphazardly jammed in just underneath the round shadow of the stairwell; reaches back to grab Brian's arm, partly to reassure himself. «I think we have friends here.»

This is the part she doesn't like. She's used to being in the thick of things, yes. But right now, she's needed in a slightly different combat capacity. She continues to lay as low within her perch as she possibly can, targeting in her sights and feeling very comfortable beneath her tarp, but at the same time, her muscle taunt as if ready to spring as needed, though her concentration is turned to the video that is running through her mind and consequently translated to her body as if she were the person in her mind's eye.

She locks and loads more rounds, the gun is pretty much an extension of her arm, moving as she wills it, targeting as she sees fit. Just as Hana seems to be on wash, rinse, and repeat, Monica is doing much the same as she spots the soldiers and gun runners, wounding them as they come across her sights. Now that the bulk of the plan is set in motion, she's targeting more indiscriminately now. Though she is trying to prevent the use of counter fire. It's much easier on everyone that way. «ETA?»

Throwing the plastiques over his shoulder, the pair of Brian's give Teo a firm nod while the third Brian lines up behind Teo and follows silently. The yound man unshoulders his own assault rifle, watching the darkened hallways carefully as he stalks behind his Italian commander. He goes completely still as Teo pulls his hand back, catching his breath as if not to make any more noise. His eyes flick around somewhat nervously.

Giving a silent nod the pair of Brian's make their hasty ways up towards the decks, assault rifles held up at eye level as they stalk through the corridors towards the top deck.

Thankfully for Deckard, a bullet sounds the same in every language to the German soldier he executes on the deck of the ship. A clearly spoken no to his question of whether or not he could have the rocket launcher. Bullets whiz past Deckard through the smoke, Hana's near mechanical targeting of Vanguard soldiers and ship crew through the smoke by means of pinpointing their radios is a frighteningly efficient method of killing. He stumbles over bodies lining the floor, screams, shouts and confused gunfire echoing in the billowing clouds of choking black.

Deckard arrives at the case first, one hand reaching down to yank it free from the floor, only to be rewarded with a wet boot to his knee, sending him slamming to the deck, "You." Thorugh the smoke and snow, the voice of the man who had intended on filling him full of drugs is quite clear. "I shoulda' executed you the moment you got aboard m'ship."

Mattias winds up, punching Deckard in the jaw, sending him reeling back against the ship, eyes scanning towards the case, "Y' have no chance'a livin' through this," he intones, reaching into his yellow rain slicker, withdrawing a revolver and cocking back the hammer. "Sad to say."

Unable to make out Deckard's situation due to the fog, Hana's execution of the soldiers continues one her descend, bodies dropping after precision shots targeted towards the sensation of their radio's output. As she descends, just one level on the cabin below her, a hatch door swings open as Brian Fulk swaggers through from a room filled with grenade-damaged crew members. Arriving out on the deck of the ship, Teo is not far behind him, along with the other Brians. Here the scene is absolute chaos.

Smoke winds up from one side of the ship, blown across the deck from the driving wind, concealing the icy floor beneath. Through the smoke and snow, soldiers are blindly firing towards the sounds of gunshots, while bodies hit the ground. At the far end of the ship, towards the front, a dual-prop helicopter — an ancient looking Korean-war era transport helicopter has been parked, skidding around on the icy deck as the groaning ship belches out smoke and takes on water. A staggering man in a green army jacket walks in the direction of the helicopter, wind playing at his tangled black hair and matching beret that barely keeps in under control; grenade in hand.

But worst of all, the group emerging from the belly of the ship spot Flint Deckard, knocked onto his backside, with a gun pointed to his head by a man in a yellow rain slicker, "S'all for the best, consider this a reprieve, from watchin' the world burn 'round you."

Sniper rifles are not close-range weapons; hers has been left behind, now that the smoke and snow combine to render long-range as something far shorter than it should rightfully be. At the base of the tower, Hana automatically drops in to a crouch, looking for the next important thing — the virus. Which is…. over there. Along with… Deckard. And…

There's no pause for thought — just the automatic raise of a gun in Matthias' direction, its muzzle an extension of her arm, pointed directly at him.

Somewhere deep below, something gives way, unheard by those in the chaose above-decks. A torrent cascades through the core of the ship, the force of accumulating water wrenching the boat into a sudden, steep list.

Hana misses; forced to compensate for the abrupt change in balance, she can't correct with an immediate second shot.

Deckard almost laughs with relief, a quick blast of incredulous breath rasped out instead as the best he can offer in the face of this fortuitous advancement of the plot. It's his bony hand that snares through the case's grip, pulls it close to his chest and — pop. Not a sound you want to hear from either of your knees. Especially not when you're forty.

Mattias's voice doesn't register until the pain does. He stumbles half a step forward, trying to catch himself instinctively against his assailant, only to be greated with a fist in his face. The deck: he's on it again, flat on his back with the hazy filter of his eyes glowing with unreliable intensity through the smog. They provide an unfortunately blatant marker for anyone who might have designs on the brain trying to restart itself behind them.

"Hindsight," greeted without inflection, he lets his own gun fall slack from his grip. No threat, here. The case is fine. Please don't shoot me in the face, crazy man.

Then everything is moving. The thhhp of a bullet plinking off steel dangerously close registers at the same time he goes sliding sideways with the lurch of the ship. Hell.

«Brian-squared's going after the chopper,» Teo tells his comrades. Reminds, really, his voice an oddly droll overlay from the uneven bang of feet and shoulders in hallways like tube bells and the inreasingly alarming groaning and shrieking of the ship as she falters, bellying in the bubbling dichromatic surf. «Blow the shit out of it. Can't drive it anyway. We're coming topside, Monica. It looks like Hell—» has broken loose.

Utterly. You don't notice how bad she's tipping until you can see the sea's horizon is poking out of the side, diverging from the level of the deck at a sharp angle, the wrong angle, and there is a vicious yellow rainstlicker standing above Deckard with the viral canister rolling like a marble beside. Teo's eyes go wide.

The bulky thermite box swings forward on an arc of Teo's arm, almost reckless: hurled ahead to slide along the deck, portside, toward the biohazard unit that is its intended target… even as the human assistance that is strictly required to implement comes running behind. Following, in the haphazard gait of a drunken sailor, sliding, slithering, bouncing across the steepening angle of the floor toward the railing.

The AR-15 swings down, fires, a hail of bullets aimed just a little too high to take Deckard's head off.

Monica is keeping her post on the boat. It's their way out and she's not leaving it up to chance as the others work. She keeps sight of everything close by from her perch. As long as they keep their distance, no one gets hurt. Unfortunately, if they keep their distance, there's a bullet in it for them. The smoke and snow are horrible, forcing her to pick and choose because she's not going to chance an off shot or stray firing accidently killing someone or worse, hurting one of her friends. As patches allow, she'll continue the job, muttering to herself as she does so.

In the wake of Teo's direction and/or reminder, an uninvited voice cuts across their radio channel; crisp, emotionless, but decidedly familiar nonetheless. Perhaps because of its no-nonsense, automatic assumption of authority. «Let him go,» Wireless instructs. Commands. They owe Velasquez that much. «Take out anyone else who tries to reach the chopper.»

Letting out a muffled cough after passing through the gallery of death, the pair of Brian's emerge onto the deck into the scene of chaos. Squatting and keeping low the pair presses back to back, Brian can make a pretty decent team with himself. Being aware of your partners every percetption and action has its advantages. Bullets fly nearby, and the pair raise up their rifles, putting out a pretty decent amount of bullet flurries themselves. But it doesn't last long before more fire is concentrated on the two out in the open.
The pair quite awkwardly slide behind a crate for cover. A crate that just happens to be moving. Cover blown, Brian squared is hastily on their feet and making a bee line for the helicopter. One trades out an ammo cartridge while the other finds his bullets new homes in two different men near the helicopter. "«Monica?! Can you pilot a chopper?»" That is, if it doesn't fall off the fucking ship.

Behind Teo, Brian slides down beside the slightly older man. His rifle raises in mimicry of Teo's and lets off a hail of fire in mirror of his leader.

When the ship tilts towards the port side violently, the sound of bodies sliding off of the deck into the icy waters joins the roaring choir of billowing black smoke and the sound of the ship's innards groaning and straining from the cracking collapse of its structural supports from the damage the explosion in the munitions bay caused. The case Deckard and Mattias had fought over moves with the pitch of the ship, sliding towards the edge of the Invierno, smashing into a railing with a plastic clatter. The ship lets out a belching gurgle and an eruption of water, along with the sharp cry of cracking steel as its listing change of direction causes the case to roll back, tumbling end over end like a loose football before breaking open and spilling out a cylindrical metal canister that bounces and clinks across the deck of the ship — about the size of a soda can.

Mattias' eyes go wide as he spots the canister bouncing free of its protective case, and then lets out a howling shriek as a spray of automatic gunfire from two seperate shooters peppers his body, sending him staggering back and away from Deckard and into the smoke as he collapses, leaving a drooling trail of blood as he crashes down in the choking cloud of acrid blackness.

At the chopper, Rico climbs up inside, grenade still clutched tightly in hand, "Fucking thing, come on…" Flipping a toggle switch back and forth, Rico growls out loudly as the chopper skids along the deck, smashing into the railing of the Invierno before sliding back away as the bot rocks from side to side. A moment later, there is a high-pitched whine as an engine spins up, followed by the dual-rotors of the olive-green helicopter beginning to spin up, "Ha! Ha! I'm not fucking dying at sea, Mamma Velasquez did not raise a fool!"

Then, catching something out of the corner of his eyes, Rico's jaw slacks open, "Shit." The virus canister bounces end over end and stops in the middle of the ship, wedged in a large iron hoop coming up from the deck that cargo would be anchored to.

The ship groans again, and from down at water's level, Monica can see the exterior of the Invierno splitting apart at the seams from where the explosion had divided the hull. It's taken on enough water to have halfway submerged the level it opened up to, and won't last much longer in the water.

Mattias dies; that's good enough for Hana, when the virus canister comes clattering across the way. She hops the railing around the balcony and drops down to the main deck, landing with poor grace — well, for Hana. There's this whole 'at sea and practically sideways' factor which complicates normally simple things like landing. After which she goes for the canister, that being the only item of importance left to address in this mission.

«With you people? I learned helicopter and Boeing. But…well…I haven't ever actually put it into practice.» Monica said, flipping off her tarp and abandoning her gun and perch. It was getting too dicey in there to be at all effective. But she's on the move, knowing that it's time to get out there and making sure they all make it back in one piece.

The only discernable difference between blood spatter and the rain is that the former is warm. Deckard lifts a gloved hand to brush dumbly after the sensation of it across his face and neck. The thermite's within arm's reach and he has no idea. The hand on that side gropes after his dropped gun, touches on the offending substance, and sets to searching elsewhere. He's not making much of an effort to pick himself up, scruffy head lolled sluggishly sideways enough for him to get a bleary look at whatever dead and dying haven't managed to slide into the sea. It just…you know. Seems like he should have something to shoot with if any other bad guys decide to stand over him in a convenient fashion while the ship is sinking.

A lot.

He hits the railing like a knot of pasta crashes into the strainer. Ordinary gravity, running velocity, and coordination gone to shit from snowy and seesawing terrain have the young man keep him pinned, slapped bodily across the tube metal, rifle bouncing off his arm on the loop of its strap, jarring to a temporary halt off the tip of his hand before plummeting free into void, and down, into the sea. Forty feet below, the gunmetal plunks a little white blossom of foam in. Words like 'helicopter' and one unfamiliar voice ring in his ear. He opens and closes his right eye, squeedgeeing precipitation.

Blurrier, then less. Blurrier, then less. In the end, she's still there. Here, that is. Hana's still here. «Holy shit,» their noble leader mumbles, helpfully, across radio frequency. «Somebody give her a fucking fuse.» The magnesium. Kept separate from the incendiary and torch, in the interest of not blowing themselves up.

Letting off another flurry of bullets, one of the Brian's gives an incredulous look at Rico. The pair of young men take whatever they can, you know, while clambering on a sideways boat. "«Are we taking the helicopter or—» Another volley of bullets is let out. "«Do I just let him leave?!"» The pair look confused, no orders, not knowing what to do. The speedboat is most likely trashed, and their only hope out of this wreck is either the bird Rico is currently piloting or a hell of a swim.

"«Fuck, Teo, are you okay?!>" Comes Brian's voice again. The young man's rifle was abandoned in favor of sprawling out on hands and feet. Keeping himself for what passes as 'balanced'. He's confused, he's lost. But he's still brave. Stupidly brave, but still brave.

One hand in front of the other. He squints hard, as his step falters for a moment, his chest flattening against the ship deck before he quickly pushes himself up. Pain is written on his features as he struggles forward to Deckard. Something's pumping hard in his ears, making it difficult to hear anything. His hand reaches out and closes…


With the detonator and the thermite, it falls to the one woman with presumed explosives training to detonate the device. Skilled hands, and a level heead allow Hana to apply the detonator beneath the canister, activate it, and back away as quickly as possible.

The thermite ignites in a brilliant flare of light, bright enough to be seen through the haze of smoke and swirling sleet. The chemical composition burns at a terrifying temperature, liquifying the aluminum canister in seconds as it burns white hot, sinking down into the deck of the ship as it begins to melt a hole straight through the deck of the freighter. In the moments following the thermite's detonation, Monica makes her way up onto the top deck of the ship, following the same route Teo and the Brian's had taken up.

When she gets out onto the deck, spotting the carnage all around, the brilliant and near blinding glow of burning thermite, like the light of a welding torch, it mixes with the whirring hum of a helicopter that is skidding on an ever-skewing deck. Amidst all of this chaos, the virus container bubbles and burns away, the superheated flame destroying the Vanguard's hopes for a bleak future — at least one potential chance for it, even before the thermite finishes burning a hole into the deck of the invierno, and vanishes into the dark recesses of the ship's bowels, but then there's a flicker of movement, just for a moment.

Staggering out of the smoke, blood running down in a thick trails of red smears against bright yellow, Mattias emerges on to the deck of the ship with a staggering and lurching gait. He raises his revolver, hissing out something in Portugese under his breath. The severely wounded Vanguard soldier, still alive, aims towards his closest target. "H-Hail — Lord Volken," his grumbling and rough voice proclaims with choking, wet breaths. Mattias squeezes the trigger with a flash of the muzzle and a single brass shell whirling through the air amidst the choking clouds of smoke and the brilliant glow of the thermite.

Time seems to slow, each snowflake falling in flurries from the gray clouds overhead able to be measured and counted before it dissolves against the wet ship's deck. The bullet departs from the gun, moving through the air, parting snowflakes in its path. The round buzzes past Flint Deckard's shoulder, spinning past his neck to travel beyond him before streaking towards its target unerringly.

When the time comes, and it will for all of us eventually…

In an instant, time catches up as Teodoro Laudani's head jerks back a second after the gunshot, his legs going limp and arms flailing out to the side. His eyes roll back in his head, vision blurring and darkening. For the first time in his life, he feels weightless, free.

…will we be able to face our lives, and the decisions we made in them?

That heartbeat never felt so prolonged.

Will we be able to look at our mistakes, the and things that we were unable to accomplish?

And Teo leans away, the small of his back striking the railing overlooking water, and the momentum and his center of gravity sends Teo flipping head over heels past the railing, tumbling like a marionette with its strings cut down along the side of the Invierno, and down into the water with a splash and spray of white. "F— For Kazimir…" Mattias hisses, clutching the bleeding wound in his abdomen before dropping to his knees, gun falling out of his hand and cheek slapping against the deck of the ship as pools out from beneath him, snowflakes clinging to his face and beard.

Will we be stronger for it, and will we face death without fear?

"Shit." Rico hisses with eyes wide as he watches Teodoro topple over the railng and sail down towards the water below, "Shit." The sea rages, waves swirling and churning in a froth of light and dark. Snow whips across the water, freezing across the deck of the Invierno, and the darkness of the great mother ocean's waves swallow all secrets she sees. He looks to the grenade left in his hand, cursing at the lack of time to use it for what he intended, whipping it out of the passenger's side of the helicopter and overboard from the ship, where it detonates with a muffled thump underwater.

Or will we be left with doubt, about what we could have said, about what we could have done differently?

"Fuck, fuck." The Invierno groans and strains under the drag of the water filling its interior holds, deck pitching more to the side as it threatens to be swallowed by the waves. From this toss of the ship, the helicopter skids across the docking pad, scraping metal all the way as its rotors tilt against the wind. "Fuck!" Rico waves out from the helicopter, "We have to get the fuck off of this ship, we have to fucking go!"

It is the worry of all those who look death in the face, to know their bravery in the face of it.

There is a sudden, horrible cracking sound as the middle of the Invierno splits open, breaking down its midline between the cabin and the aft deck, both ends immediately beginning to drift apart from one another, rveealing a crumbling and burning layer-cake of twisted steel and rusting metal, before the broken ends begin to dip down towards one another, sinking.

When we face our final moments, will it be with bravery, with courage…

The helicopter begins to lift up off of the crooked deck, enough for it to straighten out and hover above the sinking ship, just a few feet above the surface. Rico grips the controls with both hands, eyes wide in disbelief as he looks down over the edge of the vessel towards where Teo had disappeared over the side, "Get in!"

…will we die with regrets, for the things we could have done…

…or will there be a second chance, to make amends for it all.

January 28th: Endgame - Tripwire
January 28th: Endgame - Conflagration
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