Familiar Fear


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Scene Title Familiar Fear
Synopsis Claire and Huruma bring Epstein terrible news on the eve of a major mission.
Date March 29, 2018

“Get your fucking shit together! Come on we’re wheels up in thirty minutes!”

The hours before an operation are always hectic at the Bunker. No matter the teams deployed, no matter the duration of the assignment, there is an electricity in the air that can’t be denied. Today is an especially auspicious day, the first live operation against an Institute target since High Road, and movement against one of their upper-echelon security executives. It also has the dubious honor of being Wendigo’s first deployment since their lieutenant’s demotion.

Avi Epstein is handling mission logistics on the ground, already buttoned down in his black BDUs and carrying his AEGIS armor under one arm. He walks with his usual limp, clearing out the mess hall of Wendigo operatives getting their last meal of the morning. He pauses, watching Noa and Adel with bags over their shoulders headed toward the front door. It’s the third figure, a few paces behind them that catches his eye. Demsky’s presence stiffens Avi’s shoulders, furrows his brows and makes him momentarily reticent. The other Hounds, not deployed, are still helping move munitions and gear into the Tlanuwa.

“Anybody seen Huruma?” Avi calls out to the void of the mess hall, one hand scrubbing at the back of his head. He’s nervous, more so than usual, and a current of distraction runs beneath his thoughts and plays on his expression. He’s been this way for weeks now, like he’s constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The Bunker


March 29th, 6:03 am

“Epstein!” Claire’s voice ring clear across the mess hall. “Avi!” There is a tone to it… A strange one for the regenerator. Like bad memories that have suddenly appeared and to be honest… they had. What memories, might be vaguely obvious, when she has Huruma in tow. A looming presence over the top of the tiniest Wolfhound. She holds up a newspaper, folded, which Claire snatches from her and holds it up.

Since she had the idea to start looking for Tyler Case, Claire had been scouring the papers just about every morning, hoping something interesting would popup. A clue. Before all of that, she would not have bothered with even glancing at the paper. It was a good thing too, because, she found something alright; but not what she was looking for. Something potentially worse.

Everything had been abandoned — it was a good coffee, too! — and after a stop to collect Huruma and showing her the paper to look at on the move, Claire had gone searching. “You need to see this… now.” To her it was bad, enough so that she rated it above his mission prep.

By now Huruma is ultimately used to the rush that comes with prep— but once in a while something comes her way that makes things all the more of a rush. She can hear Avi calling her name, and for a moment she debates whether or not to slip out of Claire's shadow and find a way to scare him out of his skin. No, perhaps it is better this way. The young woman came to fetch her with a rather fascinating photo in a newspaper, tucked away like all of nothing.

The paper in question is still in her hands, one holding it at arms length and the other balancing her phone at an angle to snap a scan of it en route to the unsuspecting officer.

Huruma allows Claire her storminess, looking up after taking her scan with a rather gripped expression in her eyes. Her gaze finds Avi, and for a moment it seems for all the world like she might swoop down on him.

Thankfully, that doesn't happen.

“I swear t’Christ if this is a Garfield comic I'm gonna beat you senseless with this newsp— ” Avi stops dead in his tracks as he looks at the photograph on page 6. He doesn't say anything, just stands there as the hustle of deployment moves around him. He crinkles the paper with one hand, so it stays rigid when he takes his other hand away to remove his sunglasses.

They can both hear Avi’s dry swallow, but only Huruma can feel the wellspring of anxiety and fear climbing up his esophagus and out his mouth in a stuttered exhalation of breath.

Feeling the clunk to the sole of his boot, Aviators looks up at Gabriel, ruefully, and even now the serial killer can feel the presence of something squirming behind the CIA agent's left eye. Crawling up to his knees, Aviators looks up to Gabriel with a scowl, brows lowered and glasses crooked on his face. In a way, he half expected this was coming. Like he knew all along.

Down in the bunker, things look equally as bleak. Fluorescent lights flicker and sputter overhead, cracked concrete walls as riddled with bullet holes, and blood lies against the walls in equal measure with their spread. One of the lights flickers, sputters and darkens entirely. Down here, water mingles with crimson in swirling pools, where bodies draped in olive-drab lay angled one atop the other. A rifle is twisted, broken in twain from some unknown force, bullets strewn out from its shattered magazine like candy from a pinata.

Up that long flight of concrete stairs, the bodies lay left and right, some piled atop others, all dark skin and green uniforms, though the higher the stairs go the more hazy it becomes. A trickling line of crimson dribbles down one of the steps from where a man lays face down in the dirt, one arm missing where but a ragged, bloody stump remains, the other twisted in an impossible angle and met with bone protruding from flesh, gun wound tightly in his fingers, not a single bullet mattered.

White smoke twists and turns through the ruins of brick and plaster walls, where once buildings of the village of Mandritsara lay, where fresh bullet holes and fresh blood have mixed as if this whole city had become some war-mongering artist's canvas. Soldiers lay dead, tire tracks are fresh imprints in red clay earth below and only ten feet away from that an exploded hole in the ground, and the smoking remains of a blown up truck that had the misfortune of passing over an active landmine. The remains inside can't even be called human anymore.

"Go ahead." Blood runs down the side of battered skin, knees are dirtied by mud and the blood mingling into it. The dark-haired man on his knees stares up through the shattered lenses of broken aviator sunglasses, his cold stare locked with one that belongs to little more than a monster. The gun lies between them, but the man looming over Aviators does not need a gun, does not need a tool. He is a weapon all in himself. Sylar's lips draw back, a smile that gives away nothing save the color of his teeth — pink with blood.

White smoke blows through the ruins of Mandritsara, bringing with it the prickling sting of defeat, mixed with the echo of gunfire that has long since drawn silent. Aviators narrows his eyes, looking up at Sylar, and when their eyes finally meet, his clenched teeth spill forth with a simple command. "Do it."

No,” Epstein splutters, slapping the paper against Claire’s chest in an anary way of handing it back to her. “No, fucking— that's— a fucking shapeshifter. Gray gutted him like a fish.” But then there's the other less personal face in the crowd, the face other than the Butcher of Mandritsara. Iago was just as dead, perhaps deader than dead if the stories from Argentina could be believed — and boy he believed.

Avi closes his eyes and pinches his fingers at the bridge of his nose. “That's— that's im-fucking-possible.” Sliding his sunglasses on he looks from Claire to Huruma. “They're dead.” It's a desperate plea, now, more so than anything.

There is a brief moment where Claire looks almost insulted that he’d think she’d waste his time, but then he sees it. There is a bit of relief and satisfaction that he sees it, too. When the paper is thrust back at her, the regenerator grabs it quick before it can fall.

“I know, but both of them as shifters?” Claire challenges the old man, turning the paper around so the he sees it again. “Both!?” She says giving the paper a little shake. There is a touch of anxiety to the way she says that, eyes not leaving the Avi. Between him and Huruma, she is forced to crane her head to look between them; but that difference does not intimidate her in any way.

Claire huffs out a sigh, as she concedes a little… Okay fine… “Say that by some miracle that is shapeshifters.” She looks at the paper, back of her hand slapping at it , “Why these men? Wasn't all of that Top Secret? Are we going to have to worry about Vanguard coming back again?” There are so any questions swirling around in her head and she doesn't even voice them all. To her this was too fucked up to ignore.

Huruma stands at Claire’s side as the newspaper gets ogled, and Avi’s mood moves from impatient stress to anxious paranoia. She appears otherwise fully prepared for the mission she had been set to go on; her uniform is on, impeccable as per usual, clean and precise in its lines down the curves of her frame. When he looks back up to them, she matches his desperate disbelief with a severe frown, made more drastic by her stature and stance— appearance matters.

Her gaze flicks to Claire at the look, frown lingering for all that she speaks for both of them— both of them fakes? Avi? Really?

“Exactly. Why, on god’s green earth, would someone go through the trouble of copies of them— ?” Huruma’s teeth give a snip when she closes her jaw, and it clenches over more bitter words for him. “They were not martyrs. They were not famed except as infamous— and even then in so few places. It almost feels trite, making copies of black operatives.”

“I hesitate to throw around the word necromancy, Avi. But I have seen equally astounding things in this life.”

So has he, for that matter. Claire, too— she’s something of one of them.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Avi exhales the words into his palm as he scrubs it across his mouth. In the doorway, Harkness raises one hand and pulls the noise-cancelling headphones up from around his neck. He fires a thumbs up to Avi indicating the Tlanuwa is fueled-up, and Epstein’s nodded response to him seems shallow and dead.

After an awkward moment of silence, Epstein looks at Huruma and then Claire. The two women who understand this the best. “Have either of you shown this to Hana yet?” There's an urgency in his voice, but also a fear. Everything Claire and Huruma said makes perfect sense, everything they've suggested is sound, it makes for all the more of a nightmare scenario.

“Because if you haven't, Bennet,” Avi levels her with a serious look. “As soon as we’re wheels up, do it.”

The regenerator looks extremely thankful for the back up from the taller woman. Claire even points at Huruma as she speaks, with a ’See… she gets it.’ look leveled at Avi. “Not to mention how much that asshole, Gregor, farmed off me…” It has been long enough that the woman doesn’t cringe as the words pass her lips. It had been one of her worst repeating nightmares for a very long time. “Who knows what was missed when the place was cleaned up.” The Institute made use of her regeneration. Why not the Vanguard, too?

Harkness is acknowledged, before shifting her gaze back to Avi. Eyes narrow a little in suspicion as to why he wants her to wait. However, she doesn’t question it. Instead, she offers a bit of a smirk. “Well, then, better get those wheels up fast.” Claire doesn’t plan to wait too long before bringing it to Hana. “Cause I’d rather not sit on this too long.”

Glancing between them both, maybe with a touch of jealousy, Claire takes a step back. “Try not to get killed.” In other words, good luck.

Huruma’s eyes flick from Avi to Scott and back again, a passing familiarity with the moods swimming there. She shakes her head in reply to the question of Hana, and Claire’s suspicion earns a simple snort of air.

“What a mess. Tch. We need to leave, and besides— Avi hates it when the headmaster calls him to the office.” The dark woman’s eyes seem to dance when they narrow just so, dealing a decisive note of levity where some was needed. Claire’s topic is just as heavy, and the country there is dear to Huruma. She will wait to tip off anyone else until Hana knows— if only out of courtesy. Dajan needs to hear it from her, preferably.

“Do or do not, there is no try.” Huruma shamelessly pulls the quote out as she steps past Epstein, giving Claire a sharp little laugh over her shoulder and crooking a hand to Aviators. Come on, then, there’s another matter to attend.

Avi looks livid, but also visibly shaken, by what Huruma and Claire have brought to his attention. He lingers when he should move, hesitates when he should act, and everything that’s flashed through his mind since has thrown him so far off balance Huruma can feel it tumbling around in the back of his mind. But she can also feel him taking some measure of control over himself, straightening and leveling off, and then finally pushing it all deep down.

“This is yours,” Avi indicates to Claire, “get it to the Major, find out anything else you can unless she says otherwise. We’ll be back in a couple of days!” The last part is thrown over his shoulder as he moves to belatedly follow Harkness’ departure out toward the lobby and the landing area. “Have something for me when I get back!”

Amarok may not be on the Skycastle operation, but it looks like they might have homework regardless.

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