Final Iteration, Part II


cardinal2_icon.gif dahlia_icon.gif gillian3_icon.gif hector_icon.gif iago_icon.gif

kazimir5_icon.gif magnes2_icon.gif nathan2_icon.gif raith2_icon.gif veronica2_icon.gif

Also featuring:

rico_icon.gif ross_icon.gif

Scene Title Final Iteration, Part II
Synopsis In their final strike and mission to conclude their Argentinean adventures, Team Alpha invades Cerro de Hierro Negro and run into unexpected complications, including but not limited to: an airstrike, a self-destructing mountain, and tiny robot raptors.
Date December 31, 2009

Argentina: Cerro de Hierro Negro

It's a chilly late afternoon, up Cerro de Hierro Negro, the sky a clear blue with the sun hanging like a singular unblinking eye, seeming to only provide light and no warmth. Similar in its cycloptic gaze, the blast door stuck into brown and grey rock had been left opened, which just seems entirely neglectful, a gaping tunnel that seems to drill right into the cold mountain's dark depths. Ice lines its rim, crusted like an old wound, and it's a familiar entryway to at least the enigmatic 'Adrian' and Richard Cardinal. As much as it had been politely slid open for them upon their escape, welcome embraces the remnants of Team Alpha in the form of a clear entry way — or perhaps just simple neglect from the last time it had been opened. Who knows how many ways there are into this place?

Soon, rather than a portal of shadow looming in front of them, a circle cut out of the jungle and the sky beams its daylight into the tunnel behind them, Dahlia taking point as she descends down concrete steps, her rifle pointed ahead of her and her movements quiet, though not slow. The others follow her at their own pace, and so far, no one's breathed a word upon this initial breach across enemy lines. Water leaks from somewhere ahead of them, trickles over rock in a steady dripping sound, and chilly dampness clings to their skin. Above them, countless tons of earth and rock presses precarious above their heads and below their feet, and a weak string of fluorescent illumination lines the ceiling.

The mission's barely begun before everything changes.

Ear splitting klaxons suddenly wail out from what seems like the very walls themselves, vibrating through solid rock and cement, a herald of danger. They aren't the now familiar cries of Hector Steel's sentry robots, but something else entirely, an obvious warning that comes from the Vanguard stronghold itself. Dahlia ducks aside and into the wall, a moment of panic, and the last thing Alpha see are her wide eyes blazing up back towards them before the heavy sound of the blast doors slamming back into place seems to make the stairwell vibrate.

They're plunged into oppressive darkness. It's as claustrophobic as hands over their eyes, blast doors sealing off all sunlight as effectively as the lights above them simply switch off, and the constant sound of the klaxons seems to only steal away another sense without respect to the cement stairs they find themselves clustered upon.

There's a litany of Spanish swearing that abruptly grounds them, Dahlia shouting over the noise, then suddenly, English; "Everyone, be careful!"

Darkness. That's Cardinal's element, and as the lights clack off and plunge everything into shadow he melts away into it, a pool of inky blackness that slithers across the floor in defiance of most known laws of physics. "I'll be right back. Wtch yourselves…" The shadowmorph flows around the feet of Team Alpha, spilling down the rocky passageway to scout ahead of the group.

It only makes sense, to him. He's the only one who can see in all this, after all.

Gillian's New Years Resolutions:

Do not die in raid on evil bad guy infested bases in the middle of nowhere.
Kick Peter in the shins.
Don't do anything completely stupid.

It's only the first day, and as everything plunges into darkness around her, she's starting to think she might have to mark off all her resolutions too soon. Too soon indeed. "Fuck, fuck," she says, her swearing not at all Spanish, but she's avoiding too much of a panic. Sure, there's a way she could give them a little bit of purple light, but with Cardinal nearby…

Be careful. That's a lot to ask.

"We'll be right here— in the dark. Waiting. Anyone else got a brillant idea? I can glow, but only if you're wanting Magnes to become a fucking powerhouse."

When the doors slam behind them, Veronica wheels, gun in her hand aiming at … nothing. Darkness. She swears under her breath. She and Gillian and Dahlia could take up new careers as sailors, given the colorfulness of the language in the corridor. "It's okay. Let Cardinal scout. We have flashlights, but maybe best not to give away location. Stay quiet," she whispers, trying to calm the group.

"Please don't make me a powerhouse when we have a mountain above us." Magnes deadpans, shaking his head as he keeps both hands firmly around his handgun. "The most I can do right now is know we're not gonna fall into a pit trap, other than that, not much else." He tries to stay calm, having resolved himself to not making any sudden loud noises behind enemy lines.

As Cardinal flows down the stairs, he sees the familiar corridor running adjacent to the stairwell, emptied, save for one difference, or two - on either side, barred doors have come down, sealing off every exit and entrance possible. Save for one — there's a continual rattle and vibrate from one of the barred doors, which seems to have only descended part way — about a foot and a half of space remains between it and the cement floor. It's not a lot, but it's enough, and the metal creaks and groans its protest as it weighs down on whatever function has jammed it.

Dahlia is opening her mouth to speak, though the sound of her breathing is drowned out by the sirens, when orange light suddenly floods through the space, flashing in and out between that warning colour and the same darkness as before. It shows off the stairwell in these three-second long floods of light, dim enough not to burn retinas but mildly headache inducing all the same. Dahlia glances back at the group, before moving on down a couple of feet, rifle pointed.

Meanwhile, it's Nathan bringing up the rear, having gotten his hands on a shotgun which points its muzzle at the ground before he begins to follow once more.

A few moments after the sodium lights begin to flicker on and off, the brief moments of illumination reveal the return of Richard Cardinal in a ripple of darkness across the floor. "The way's been cleared for us," he reports, his voice a hollow echo across the floor, "One of the doors didn't close all the way. That's the one we want. Move, move, move!"

Well, he hopes so anyway. Volken and Hector could still betray them all.

Check, no powerhouse Magnes. It's probably a good idea to conserve her energy until it's needed. Gillian looks down at her gun once the light comes back into the room. It's the gun that Cardinal gave her days ago. Loaded and ready for use, even if there's nothing yet to use it on. At least now they have light. "All right," she says at the order to move, picking up her feet and moving forward. There's some that can give orders and she doesn't mind it. Toward the door that didn't close all the way.

The flood of light is not all that welcome, despite it being a respite from the darkness. It seems ominous and somehow makes the corridor even more claustrophobic. Veronica's dark eyes narrow, but at Cardinal's urging, she moves forward toward the stairs, glancing behind her to be sure everyone's accounted for. Her weapons is held at the ready, pointed at the ground in front of her, fingers curled lightly around ready to shoot at anyone besides Steel or Peter that shows up.

Magnes stays close to the wall on the way down the steps, and heads for the door as Cardinal orders once he's down. His gun is held down, remembering police academy training as well as repeated Company drills.

As much as the gateway is almost at a precarious kind of stand still, as if it might slam shut at any moment, it holds fast for as long as Alpha need to slide beneath it, Nathan last and moving as swiftly as he dares without nudging the rattling metal, as if any touch would have it come slicing down. "I've never seen this happen before," he says over the noise of the klaxons, looking back over his shoulder where the hallway extends out behind them, barred off twice, then ahead of them, where the way is clear. He rests his shotgun against his shoulder as they move past a corner that's been similarly sealed off, forcing them to bank a left. "It's like the whole place's gone on lockdown."

"Richard, we need to find Hector and a way out, if the two things don't go hand in hand," Dahlia mutters, just loud enough for them to hear, and watches as Cardinal's shadow flows on ahead of them. Taking a breath, she continues down the route that seems to be largely one way, a blast door sealing off the left and yet more space to the right, opening up into a wider room.

A steel table is pushed off to the far left, bits and pieces of unfinished robots scattered on its surface, and to the right is a blazing furnace, pouring waves of heat out into the contained room. Pokers hang up on a metal rack, all ending in the V brand that has become familiar to them every time they look at Gillian's face, and one of them even rests within the blazing fire. There's a door on the far side, an ordinary one of wood as much as it could be locked, but more promising than the blast doors towards the back of them.

Or not. As Alpha progress into the room, behind them, the hissing sound of the steel doors retracting back into the walls sounds out. If the creak of machinery behind it is to be of any indication, it's not an empty hallway on the other side.

"The only way out is through, Dahlia," Cardinal whispers in the dim, flickering light, though as the doors begin to retract he pauses in the midst of the furnace room as if trying to figure out what's going on. Finally deciding that he doesn't have sufficient information, he flows over the floor towards the wooden door opposite, moving to bleed under the bottom to investigate.

Willing to get down on the floor and crawl and slide, Gillian gets on the other side pretty much unscathed, with the exception of a grumble or two when she lands too heavily on her injured arm. Healed for the most part as it may be, it's still sore. Dusting herself off as she gets to her feet, she looks around at the unfinished robots, and then her eyes freeze on the branding iron rack. The gun is tucked back into her pants, safety on, and she reaches out and grabs the end of one. The one with the branding end still in the fire, warming to a red glow.

"Get guy, get out— got it." Simple instructions. But she might have some other thoughts on the matter. "Do you think there's a key to get these things off of us?" she adds on, lifting her leg a bit to show off her anklet. The one she'd rather like to get rid of eventually.

"Maybe Steel can get them off, but really, I don't think they're intended to come off, as Dahlia pointed out — The people who had them on all died. Not meant to be removed." Veronica glances with a frown at the branding iron in Gillian's hand. Vee herself might not have been too accepting toward Evolved people, but she would never have tortured one for fun. She holds her gun down but watches the door, waiting for Cardinal to come back and tell them what's on the other side. She glances back behind her again, to ensure there's nothing behind them that shouldn't be. "Come on, Cardinal, hurry up." Never mind he just disappeared beneath crack at the bottom. Patience may be a virtue, but no one ever said Veronica was a woman of virtue.

Magnes stands off to the side of the door, standing a few feet away, just in case. "If we don't get them off here, I'm sure Gabriel can do it, I mean, if I can talk Claire into letting me go near him again."

Cardinal meets a more abrupt dead end this time, as much as the darkness beyond means little to him, the tight three walls he encounters are or more or less useless. He's shadowed his way into a closet — a plastic bucket with a mop is off to one side, shelves filled with bits and pieces, tools rusted and new. But he's not alone — a woman in a one-piece lime green bathing suit is curled up on the floor, having apparently hidden there possibly at the sudden ring of alarms and flashing lights. Her reedy breathing fills the space, cheeks tear stained, and one of them bears the V brand mark, an old burn scar.

The blast doors from the other side finish sliding all the way open with a hiss of metal, shadows beyond it showing off two gleaming red eyes. When orange floods back into place, the familiar sight of the hunting cat robot is all black steel edges standing almost calmly in the space, before it puts one heavy steel paw in front of the other, and again, lurching forward towards the furnace room with its metal tail whipping to and fro.

It doesn't lunge. Suddenly, the whole space fills with the sound of machine gun fire, muzzles flashing somewhere near where is shoulder blades would be. Dahlia cries out and lunges to the side, moving towards the steel table. "Help!" she orders of Team Alpha as she tries to upend it. The wood of the closet door is suddenly torn to splinters, the woman inside convulsing as bullets bite into her.

"Just keep down, girl, we'll get you out of…" The words of reassurance are cut off as the door's wood shatters beneath the punishing barrage of machine gun fire and blood spatters through the closet. Shock and surprise leave Cardinal silent for a moment, before he slithers back out of the closet, darkness spilling back over the floor as muzzle flashes light the room.

"…damn you, Hector," whispers the shadow in an angry hiss, heading for the blast doors. He's got a job to do here.

"Fuck, I thought the robots were supposed to not be an issue," Gillian curses at first sight, tracking it with her eyes and moving the branding iron up. It may not do much, but maybe she can hit it a few times, or keep that wicked needle from getting stuck in her. It's all changed by the sudden roar of machine guns. She screams a little and gets down, trying to scramble away as she reaches out for someone. No tables to try and upturn. Instead she reaches out for Magnes with her free hand.

She plans to survive the day. Unlike some people who got mowed down by bullets. Some sights are best left unseen, and she's glad she wasn't there to witness that one.

But hopefully Magnes will be prepared for the flood of energy that goes into him when her hand contacts.

"Fuck," Veronica says succinctly — she's points her gun at the robot, aiming carefully for the beast's eyes, to take out its "vision," or whatever serves as vision for the robot. She doesn't want to hit the metal, knowing a ricochet could be deadly in this enclosed space, but she doesn't have that much time to aim. "Head's down, trying for its eyes," she shouts, over the noise. Pulling the trigger, she shoots twice into the left eye, twice into the right — if she makes the shots. If not, well, the ricochets probably won't do any worse than what the beast is already doing.

Magnes crouches in front of Gillian when the robot starts firing, knowing that she's hopefully not just grabbing him for a shield. When he feels that rush of energy, his left hand releases the gun and aims for the robot, purple energy rising from his body and extending from his hand.

He can guide it and generally mold it now, but it's so raw and there's so much of it, he can barely control it. He almost exclusively tries to focus on the robot, just trying to wrap gravity around it and thrust it back as hard as he can into the first thing it manages to reach, likely taking a few things in its path with it that get caught up in the wide tendril of energy.

Hff hff hff hff. This is the sound Hector makes while moving quickly. More specifically it is the sound he makes while he is both moving quickly and hefting along a futuristic-looking gun the size of a say, a small alligator. It's nearly as long as he is tall (not very) anyway, robust through the stock and barrel as it is through the grip. Two hands are definitely required to keep it from scraping the ground, both gloved in black rubber gauntlets well past the wrists to match the obsidian tint of his goggles when he slides to a halt in clear frame of the open blast door and is very nearly taken out by the flying robot he is in pursuit of.

No matter. Rather than hesitate, he makes the purpose behind the protective gear clear when he tabs a switch and pulls the trigger.

Where one might anticipate a hail of lead or even fire, lightning vomits forth from the big gun's alien snout, lashing in violent, crackling bands of brain-bleaching white blue that snarl in to fuse amidst robotic feline limbs and melt robotic feline circuitry. The single eye Veronica didn't manage to shoot out explodes in a mess of sparks, and the beast ceases its struggle at last. The lightning storm in miniature dies with it, as do a few of the lights strung up overhead, with only belated ricochets and the fire lapping up about the hunterbot's remains to light the spectacle of Dr. Steel dropping the massive gun away from his shoulder with a gruff sigh of relief. "Fuckin' 'ell."

Casings roll across the ground from beneath the now crumpled hunter bot's form where it lies in scrap heap, one fine bead of liquid beading its last at the end of the needle from its mouth. Dahlia peeks out from the edge of the steel table, which is lined with bullet hole impacts, before she's stepping over it, dark eyes sweeping over Team Alpha to check the lack of injuries, and her lip pulls into a scowl when she sees that the wooden door isn't their way out. Nathan steps out from his corner, too, shotgun held in tightly clasped hands, looking at Hector and knowing a moment of alarm.

And then he relaxes. Whatver. There's really nothing to be done for it, not his identity nor Hector and his knowledge, just edges around the perimeter of the group with his head down, slicing uncertain glances towards the dead robot as if unconvinced.

"Jesus Christ, Steel!" The hollow rasp of Cardinal's voice is thick with anger as the darkness of his being is cast across the wall near the intuitive with the lightning cannon in his arms, "I thought you had these things under control! There's a girl in the closet, swimsuit, brand - someone see if she's still fucking alive. What the hell is going on here?"

The flash from that lightning bolt hurt like hell when it passed over him but he's not giving anyone the satisfaction of knowing that right now.

"Holy fucking lightning," Gillian curses outloud yet again, squeezing Magnes where she holds him and slowing down the flow enough that he'll only get a small managable amount unless he asks for more. She never flooded him completely, aware they ARE under a mountain, but that doesn't mean she didn't give him quite a bit anyway. "Someone in the closet? Shit," she adds, holding her brand. A branded girl in a swim suit of all things. Letting go of Magnes, and cutting off the flow, she waits til her eyes clear some so she can look. And may wish she hadn't.

"So which way is out, anyway? Are we going to have to fight robots all the way out?" Please say no. But either way, she's holding on to the branding iron, slowly cooling in the air.

"I want his gun," Veronica says, when the smoke clears and the robot has collapsed. Glancing at the newcomer, she gives a curt nod. "This is Steel, then?" She gives him an appraising look, then juts her chin at him. "You know the way out, preferably with no more of those robots? You can't disable them by, like, remote or anything?" She begins to move toward the closet, though she's fairly certain that that is a moot point.

Magnes doesn't walk to the closet, quickly rubbing his eyes before returning his left hand to the gun. "It's like a Lightning Gun from Unreal Tournament." he notes, standing up straight and walking off to the side, out of that thing's line of fire. "How does that thing even exist?" Because, well, he can predict robots, but lightning guns… ridiculous!

"Sorry," says Hector, who lifts one hand in vague(ly blind) apology while the gun clatters to his feet. The other tips the goggles back enough for him to see something other than the choked off glow of fire somewhere off to his right, then waves off the worst of the noxious black smoke billowing up from the broken beast's interior. A choked cough later, he rasps out another, "Very sorry," squints a look at Nathan that sweeps near immediately to baffle after the sourceless cursing of one Richard Cardinal. Did anyone else hear that? He looks briefly unsure, and another smoky cough muffles whatever he might have asked about it.

"Team Alpha, I presume?" He has to raise his voice to be heard over the klaxon's incessant wail, the matte black of his crisp suit mottled with lighter ash, "The entire mountain's gone mad — Iago's set the system to self destruct. Everything still on the network has defaulted to unconditional hostility — nice to meet you by the way — " he leans slightly as if to better see what Gillian is investigating in the closet, then thinks better of it when he sees her face. "If you'll follow me — " The klaxon halts, which is nice, and he glances up more warily than those paying close attention might like midway through stripping a handgun out from under his jacket.

"Self destruct codes confirmed," a pleasant female voice reverberates (salaciously) through every nook and cranny of the compound. She repeats the same polite warning in Spanish and French, then falls quiet a moment, giving all the distinct impression that they are hearing only one half of a two sided conversation. "Final sequence initiated in — Final sequence initiated in — Final sequence initiated in — Covert mode activated. Have a nice day."

"Quickly," finishes Hector without really quite — finishing — and he's off at a breezy clip to the left to the left to the left (everything you own in a box to the left) in clear expectation that they will follow if they know what is good for them.


Some thirty or forty meters further down the same hall, a single velociraptor with narrow amber eyes is click-click-clicking taloned feet down a connecting corridor. It fleets between shadows, pausing to investigate corners but never resting. At its heels, Kazimir and Raith follow at their own risk.

Tiny legs can only move so fast, and while on a microcosm that raptorbot looks like it's barreling at full speed. Behind it, Kazimir is doing a brisk walk with one hand tucked into his pockets and a gloved hand smoothing down over his forehead. The distant sounds of crackling lightning reverberate through the walls nearly as loudly as the warning alarm's voice. The repeated click-clack of his shoes seems to be arrythmic to him when not interspersed with the click of a cane, it's a missing beat to his pace that he hasn't quite managed to get accustomed to yet. The raprotbot's clicking talons do something of a justice.

Looking down at the hand tucked into his pocket, there's a heavy and tired breath that exhales out, trying to move the hand attached to his shoulder, unable to feel the extermity save for the tickling pin-prick of numbed fingers all the way up to his shoulder. At least he has something of a dignified posture, not that numb arm flopping every which-way.

"Remember when I said we had something of a brisk escape needed?" Blue eyes look to the side, not quite able to angle a look at Raith behind him, but the effort is made. "I hadn't counted on a firing squad, cages, and running from a flock of very tiny-legged robots." There's a twitch of disbelief in his brows. "Furthermore, I didn't expect Iago to throw the SatCom on the ground… all in all this is a colossal blunder, I'm actually a bit embarrassed. I figure with our impending destruction at the hands of an air-strike it's safe to admit that fault."

Rolling his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Kazimir narrows his eyes and comes ot a stop behind the raptorbot, one brow quirking slightly. "Either that's going to be Alpha team ahead of us, where the thunderclap came from, or something larger, meaner, and more voracious in appetite." His head tilts back, chin raising. "Or Rico," there's a squint of both blue eyes. "Jensen, take a look ahead, would you?"

He is, after all, slightly less invulnerable when there's not a flesh and blood opponent at hand.

"Glad to hear you finally admit to one of your shortcomings-" which would be, inability to plan for cages?- "Now you just need to do the same about your penis, and you'll feel like a new man." Good ol' Jensen Raith. He doesn't argue any more than that, though. However he managed it, Kazimir is still the boss, for now, and the taller man hurries around in front of him, slowing down before he dares even hazards a glance 'round the bend to see what was making all that racket. It sounded vaguely like a bolt of lightning and a thunderclap. To Raith, Rico seems like the most likely bet. Somehow. "It, uh…" he starts, ducking back from taking a peek to address Kazimir more directly, "It looks like a pile of scrap metal." Again, he ducks his head out, and a substantial portion of his torso as well, looking far more comical than is really necessary and making it very possible for anyone among Alpha to see him before he again retreats out of sight.

"Definitely scrap metal. We should go that way. It's safer."

The dead woman in the closet is indeed dead, freshly so and still leaking blood. Beyond the broken door, her ragdoll body lies crumpled at the floor of the closet, eyes unseeing and dark red spattering the bright lime green of her suit, the V drawn into her face an obviously old scar. Dahlia squints towards her, if only to see if she can possibly recognise her, before only shaking her head and moving off after Hector Steel.

"She's a bartender." Nathan's soft words are somewhat tired, a little hopeless. What can you do? "Steel brought her into the cell to serve— strawberry daiquiris, once. Come on — this mountain'll be the biggest damn burial anyone's ever gonna get." And out into the hallway, avoiding the downed robot with cautious steps, as if expecting it to twitch and take a leg off. It never does. His eyes narrow at the sight of the raptor bot, leveling his shotgun at it like he's been longing too for a long time, before jerking his weapon down at the sight of Jensen Raith rounding the corner.

And meerkatting back in again, the President raising an eyebrow and glancing back at the team.

"Son of a bitch." Cardinal's own words are quiet as he replies to Nathan, the turn away from the closet all that he needs to know that the woman's dead. The shadow spills back across the floor, "Iago doesn't leave here alive. Volken. Volken! Where the fuck is that asshole?" Maybe he'll get lucky, and the answer is 'dead'.

The closet was probably better left uninvestigated. Gillian looks like she wants to throw up, and doesn't try to get a closer look. She has doubts anyone could survive that, unless their Evolved ability involved regenation. "The self— well shit." As she steps away from the closet to let Veronica look closer if she chooses, she tries to wipe the sight from her memory, and focus on the present. And the voice. Self-destruction codes. Everything hostile. Her hand tightens around the branding iron she still holds.

"Well that's just fucking great. Nice to meet you too. We came to rescue you, but now looks like we get to try and run like fuck out of this place so we can find beer and celebrate the New Year." Cause otherwise they'll be smooshed and exploded in the insides of a mountain. Hard to enjoy beer then. And she doesn't even really like beer. "I second the Iago not getting out alive, though." She's only a little bitter about HER FACE.

Volken? That causes her to straighten up, looking concerned, then gritting her teeth and trying to look like she wishes the answer were dead. Only she fails. Miserably.

"Come on, Gillian," Veronica says softly, glancing at the woman in the closet with a shake of her head, then reaching for Gillian's arm. She gently pushes the other woman to follow their new pack leader, Hector, as he leads them presumably away from this self-destructing hell.

"Bartender… Rosco said something about her. Made it sound like she was on payroll like him, but obviously she wasn't here willingly," she mutters. She shakes her head with anger as she follows their former foe, now ally, gun held in front of her to shoot should she need to.

"Since there's not exactly a countdown, can we really afford to look for Iago?" Magnes asks, not really wanting to blow up. He begins following Hector, continuing to keep his gun pointed down, taking deep breathes. "And I think it's about time I said that I have a GPS. It's a bit late for secrets."

"It does look that way, doesn't it?" inquired conversationally of Gillian in a pleasant aside, Hector sounds like a man who hasn't slept in days and might've been a little short on marbles to begin with besides. He's friendly, anyway, if too busy despairing in private to panic as he probably should. …So that's nice.

Kazimir and Raith get a chipper, "Evening, Abaddon and associate golem. Congratulations on surviving so far," but little more than that. He doesn't slow down to ask how they've been or what they've seen, just keeps walking and talking. Not to himself, but to Ted, who is apparently the little robot which has since taken to hopping excitedly just after the tread of Steel's shiny black shoes. "Careful you don't get stepped on. This way, please!" The latter (probably) directed to the group at large, he hangs still another sharp left into a corridor narrow enough that those with broad shoulders may feel themselves compelled to angle sideways.

"Er — I have a gut feeling Iago will have made his escape in the same sort of — similar — direction, actually. You can think of it as killing two birds with one stone, if you like." Or one bird and one giant fuckoff robot. He glances to his watch as he thinks so, which is probably very reassuring under current circumstances.

"Iago's escape route aside, the unfortunate matter of fact is no one may be getting out of here alive…" The voice is unmistakable Peter Petrelli's, but the tone is of the man invading his skin. Hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks and one shoulder sloping at an awkward angle, Kazimir steps over a piece of broken debris, blue eyes seen first as he walks out of the dark in the flashing strobe of lights, carefully striding around a far-flung piece of robot slag. "Due to a…" one side of his mouth quirks up into a lopsided smile as he angles to look behind him towards Raith, "miscalculation on my part, even if we aren't killed by the self-destruct device of this fortress, we'll all be killed by an incoming… air strike."

Clearing his throat, Kazimir dips his head down, brows furrowed and eyes following his little skittering metallic guide that is now at Iago's heels "I had arranged for the US government to believe that this entire team was dead so that they'd level the mountain with an air strike, one of their failsafes should our teams be wiped out." Very thoughtful of them. "Unfortunately we ran into a bit of a snag in the timing of things, thanks to Iago's paranoia going out of control."

Looking for all his worth like someone who just ate a bag of lemons, Kazimir can't quite stop the awkward shifting of his drooping shoulder. "The SatCom's also… gone." He squints frustratedly, "So I've no way to contact SatCom command and get them to call off the air strike. So, we can follow Iago, but unless we can get a vehicle out of here, or… find some way to get down the mountain faster, we might get caught in the explosion. I saw a tank back in the armory," Kazimir arches a brow to Steel, "can we get to it?"

"If we can, I can drive it, for all the good it might do." Leave it to Raith to really ruin the party. "If they're going to level the mountain, that means a bunker buster or two. That'll take a bit to get here, but maybe less time than we have to get out. A helicopter would be better." Despite being unarmed, Raith picks up the pace until he's walking just behind Hector, as if to make sure he won't be accidentally shot and take their best chance at escape with him. "A small plane, anything like that. I'm probably the only qualified pilot here, so if the opportunity presents itself…." Well, if it does, great.

"If it doesn't, I really hope you can all run very, very fast."

Can they get to the tank? "…Well," says Hector, who pauses long enough to consider the question at an indirect slant, "yes." They can. Technically. Goggles aglint on his forehead, black-painted nails poised at an unsure pause at the sliver of his teeth, he…leaves it there at a hint of an awkward pause and then turns to continue forward. Lalalala. Onward!

There's a literal light at the end of the tunnel that gradually becomes apparent. At a distance it's sallow and weak - the opening slanted at an odd angle where a crooked metal strut has been wrested into the space between half-closed blast door and wall, but it is there, and it is large enough for human beings to pass through one at a time.

On the far side, grey rock veined with darker smudges of coal is painted in swaths of dull orange and industrial yellow by dim work lamps strung up end to end along a main passage wide enough to easily accommodate a tank, which is convenient given that the Vanguard installation here is home to one. Some thirty feet wide and twenty tall, it is host to a myriad of smaller winding branches and hollowed out rooms sooted black with oppressive shadow. Blast doors ground down and locked dead into place bar likely-looking exits to the right and left, but there is plenty of open space ahead to keep going and a fresh trail to follow besides: glittering metal and deep-drawn divots are scraped along the ill-lit floor every several meters. Steely streaks of iron and what must be lead dip in and out of unsettling clouds of shadow where shattered lighting has not yet been fully restored, tracing the path of something that is no doubt large and/or terrible. In the darker patches it becomes especially difficult to avoid treading upon sharded glass or the desolated remains of the little raptorbots strewn lifeless (and occasionally, ominously crushed flat) across the smooth cut floor.

The hot smell of gasoline lingers heavy and stale in the air - enough to make heads spin for those breathing heavily from the ordeal they've suffered thus far. Meanwhile, the further they go, the steeper the angle of descent. By the time warmer air begins to flood humidity and the promise of escape in against cold claustrophobia, they're working down a wide cut set of slippery stone steps towards a door more massive than any they've encountered yet.

Conveniently, luckily, politely, it stands open to the rosy flush of dusk over the mountainous horizon. Springy grass and the buzzing of insects lies beyond - decidedly peaceful for all that eight massive legs seem to have rent dirt and undergrowth away from bare mountain rock in a wide track off to the right. Trees once chopped and now in the early stages of growing back blend into wealthier forest all around a valley clearing that is some one hundred yards long and twice as wide. Currently, whatever stumps marked the aforementioned eight-legged track are blackened and burning.

A lone llama grazes placidly to the left, ignorant of fire and the occasional flashes of silver stirring mechanizations represent in the onset of night.

Ducking through the door along with the rest of the team and into the wider space, Dahlia squints off towards the huge gaping doors that show off the light of the outside jungle, and just shakes her head. "Looks like Ramirez had the same idea," she tells Kazimir, glancing back to him. "Looks like we are going to have to run. I can try and get in contact with my people— Jorge has a truck, but…" She doesn't ramble on down that failed train of thought — just gestures with her rifle, and takes off for a run down the deep slide of rock towards the outdoors, snuffing out the smell of fire and gasoline.

A tank. Cardinal knows exactly what they're talking about, at least from the muttering in the shadows as they head in that direction, "…that's not a goddamn tank, that's an acid-trip nightmare made out of metal."

And, worse, it appears to be gone.

A second shadow follows Dahlia as she heads down that slope, flickering over tumbling gravel and rock as they go, and past the llama. Why is there a llama? He doesn't know.

There's relief, followed immediately by furious anger at the sight of Peter Petrelli's asscrack face. It's the voice. The voice makes her mad. But. They're all possibly going to die. And when people are gonna die, they get to think outside the box. As they hurry out of the place as fast as feet can carry, Gillian moves closer to Magnes and speaks to him. "If we find the tank, do you think we could make it fly?" Her voice is dead serious, even as she keeps moving and looks around worriedly. "All of us could pile in and then you could make it weightless and we could… fire the gun in a direction opposite of where we wanna go, or something…" She remembers how he talked about not being able to fly faster. Even when she wanted him to.

"It— ah fuck. Well, the one time I try to think like you… No tank. Do you think we could… go after it?" Cause she has a branding iron and a Magnes like idea.

Veronica is breaking into a run after Dahlia, but turns to look at the rest. "Magnes. How many people can you fly — take Gillian and Hector," she says quickly. She doesn't include herself in the short list. "Get them to hold off the air strike, and then go find the fucking nuke and let Steel do his mojo. The rest of this is for fucking nothing if that goes off. The rest of us will do what we can." Her dark eyes flicker to Kazimir to see if he has any other ideas, giving a nod to Raith as well. Nice to see you all again, let's not die.

"Wait, you've got the right idea, I think. Even if there's no tank, what about that other time you augmented me? When I made the ground go into the air? What if, like, we all stood in the same area, and you augmented me, and I raised the ground under us like a platform… I don't even know if it's possible, but if we're desperate…" Magnes looks up when Veronica mentions calling off the airstrike, nodding and moving to grab Gillian's hand as they run. "I can try one or the other. It's up to you, Kazimir."

Fully aware of burnt forest and gasoline stink, Hector hangs back near the top of the stairs and traces carefully over his goatee. Ted stays with him, occasionally piping down two steps only two come back up again on his opposite side, up and down and up and down and up — until he reaches thoughtlessly into his pocket and thumbs idly over his iPhone. The little raptor hitches, jerks, and tumbles clickety clack down the rest of the stairs alone.

He is being discussed — more than once he hears his name — but he's on his way to becoming preoccupied with a program not likely to be found in the apple store any decade soon.

"We're going to have to go after it," Kazimir admits, squinting against the firelight, one hand raised up towards his face as he looks to the ceiling for a moment, then lowers that hand down to his side. He hasn't used his left hand for anything at all since he's been with them, keeping it at that awkwardly sloped angle, rather limply stuffed into his pocket. Following at a long distance behind Hector, Kazimir's blue eyes follow along the tracks that the tank had made in the surface of the floor, then up to the walls, his one good hand brushing against the walls, gloved fingertips dragging back and rubbing together. He seems to be taking this rather casually.

Offering a brow-furrowed look to Gillian, something comes out of Kazimir's mouth that may well have never been said before. "That's… a marvelous idea, Gillian." It's not a sarcastic tone either. "At the very least we could get up and away from the blast, even if the idea of forced propulsion doesn't work. The piece of land, unless we're seeing the bombers overhead I won't risk the platform collapsing, Varlane."

Rubbing a gloved hand at the back of his neck, Kazimir nods his head once, taking the steps to walk out the enormous bay doors, eyes narrowed. "Iago's headed down to the village…" he says to no one, words somewhat mumbled, as if piecing it all together. "He's completely lost it," shaking his head, Kazimir turns to look back at the others. "We go after the tank, it's our best— " blue eyes squint, and Kazimir makes a quick head count. Someone's missing, and breathing in a deep breath, the blue-eyed man suddenly looks a bit more at ease. "Let's follow the trail of destruction."

"We can go after it all we want, boss," Raith retorts, "But unless you're hiding an RPG down your pant leg, there's no way to stop it." But whether or not they go after the tank- "We can't stay here. We get far enough down and we won't get buried, but no one'll get back inside again. Hector!" Raith is loud to make sure he is heard as he turns to face their science man. "How fast can it move through the jungle? Can we catch it? Better yet, do you have some way to stop it?"

Upon breaking out into the late, late daylight, the view afforded them gives off the many, many options of retreat, countless paths out from the clearing as much as there could only be so much distance between them — and of course, the sky is its own pathway to freedom for those who can take it, and don't think Nathan isn't glancing up towards it as he steps last out into the dusky outdoor air. For now, it's even clear of jets and bombs. At least in this immediate vicinity.

On the ground, there's grass, some burning, some fresh and green, and a chill wind blowing through the trees that circle the clearing. At the very far end, there's a dome of black iron, green and silver, planted solidly on the ground — it could almost be a separate bunker of some kind, massive and heavy, smoothly shaped until some details come into view.

Like the way the burning tracks all lead up to it.

Or the razor sharp edges that ridge along its hull.

Or the way the air lifts off its metal surface in raw heat waves.

And then finally, hatches sliding back, slowly and clunkily, to produce muzzles of weaponry pointed towards them.

There's an immense groan of heavy machinery, and the entire structure suddenly rises up. Giant metal cockroach legs hidden beneath its shell unfold before their eyes as it shifts off the ground one foot, two feet, six feet, and ponderously walks towards them, deep gouging tracks dragging back through the grass. A sudden blast of flame bursts from a muzzle, licking the air as if to test its reach — too far, but Team Alpha can feel the heat from it and smell the fuel in the air. It's the next muzzle that they have to worry about, which spins in rotation as machine gun bullets fly, carving through grass, the trees, and aiming for human flesh.

Apparently, they don't have to catch it. But knowing how to stop it would be fantastic.

Dahlia is diving aside, and Nathan— is fucking gone, a sudden whoosh of air that carries the bearded man zooming away from the group. Maybe he's off to stop the air strike!

… 8(


The name is a sharp hiss from the shadows as they spill up the gravitokinetic's leg, twisting around his side and back and then down his arm like a serpent coiling about its prey; ephemeral, without weight or touch, mere darkness gathering there on the man's forearm and hand. Cardinal's voice is pitched quiet but sharp to cut through the roar of weapons being brought to bear upon them, "Do you remember the helicopter— at the Center?"

"Vee," Gillian starts, a narrowing of her eyes. No, she doesn't want to get flown off while everyone else stays behind. Stomp foot. Not literally. It helps that a certain scarred face speaks up on her idea. He thinks it's a good idea? For a brief moment, the young woman actually smiles. It's been such a rare thing to see from her in this jungle. It doesn't look quite right, with the brand on one cheek messing up her dimples, and with the dirt covering her face. But she's pleased to hear that. Even if he's still pretending to be Kazimir. If only he'd drop the act for a minute. Especially if they're all going to die.

The happiness is short lived, as suddenly… "Why didn't anyone fucking mention the fucking super giant crab robot thing!?" With flame throwers and guns. Suddenly the mountain blowing up sounds like a good way to go. The branding iron won't do shit against it, and she tosses energy towards Magnes in a desparate attempt to do something to keep herself and the others alive while she tries to find a particularly big rock to hide behind. Or at least trying to avoid those bullets.

"Or you, know. The guy who can FLY could maybe grab Hector and go call off air strike," Veronica says with a shake of her head as Adrian takes off into the air. "Fuck."

Staring at the horrible new robot threat facing them, the agent bites her lower lip, thinking for a few seconds, but there's not much time to spare. She fumbles in her pack until she finds one of the fifty-foot nylon ropes. She tosses one end to Gillian. "Tie around that tree," she demands, pointing to a tree about ten feet away. "Knot it tight." With that, in what might be a kamikaze sort of mission, she darts across the path of the incoming robot, pulling the rope taut and finding another tree to tie her end around. There's not much time, but it might buy them some, if it works.

"I remember, and I learned from it." Magnes answers seriously, and suddenly the ground breaks up around him as a large amount of obscuring dirt surrounds his body. He flies into the air, heading high above the robot, then thrusts his hand forward and shifts gravity so that the dirt goes flying at the robot. "Go, use the dirt!" The gravity of the dirt and grass is only altered just enough so the wind won't blow it away, but it's not nearly enough to actually damage the robot.

"We haven't actually clocked it moving through an obstructed environment. I'd put it at five to ten miles an hour depending upon…how much it has…to chop out of its way…" The initial pauses in Hector's dialogue are likely because of his distraction with the iPhone, but the pause that comes after probably has to do with the gargantuan horeshoe crab that has just revealed that it's not quite as gone as he might have thought. Slash hoped. Ah. Well, let's be honest — aaaah is by all accounts a more appropriate response.

Still, Steel stays where he is for a moment at the top of his stairs, finger poised above the touch screen and brow hooded. Oh dear. He's found the machine guns. And they seem to be working quite well! No jams at all! :D

"…Err," is what he says aloud after a short shake of his head as if to clear it, "well there is — a small. Component under the hull, between the fifth and six legs — "

It's just, he's watching it move while he speaks, flamethrowers and all, and somehow even to him the practicality of what he may be suggesting sounds dubious. And various industrious peoples are already making plans and running away from fiery death and — hm. He gives the phone another idle poke. "Mr. Raith, if I get you a rocket launcher with some of the more traditional components stripped down, will you still be able to make use of it?"

Kazimir stares blankly with slack-jawed expression at the mechanized assault vehicle as it begins to move. Dress shoes thudding across the ground, Kazimir bounds over a gnarled root from a burned up tree, ducking behind the trunk. Cardinal seems to have an idea on how to handle this, far be it from Kazimir to let him stop a bright one. Shaking his shoulder, Kazimir's free hand works at his bicep, trying to work feeling and sensation down into his dead arm. "Not now…" he hisses through his teeth, hand hanging limp and a few fingers moving. A frustrated groan comes before another shake of his head, and he's up and moving again, running between a pair of blackened trees before skidding to a stop on wet soil.

If this plan of their— whatever it is doesn't work, then he'll start ordering people around. Right now, he just wishes his arm was working better and that his brother wasn't such a self-serving bastard.

Like most everyone else, Raith spends a moment in shock at what he's looking it. It's like a science fiction movie. And then, the bullets fly, and he realizes as he leaps to relative safety near Hector just what has happened, and he releases his anger towards the sky. "Petrelli!" he shouts, "Get back here, you slack-jawed, cockmongling fuckstick!" That's better.

His attention is returned to Hector. "Steel, I'm ready to start throwing rocks if I have to, so if you've got a launcher, preferably loaded with HEAT, I will be so excited I can't promise I won't start humping your leg."

The robot continues its march forward, blind and unaware to the rope stringing across its path. Low sunlight gleams off its seeming impenetrable hull, both Magnes' flung dirt glancing off it and scratching the paint job as Dahlia's automatic fire bounces off it in a ratatatat of metal on metal, pinging and sparking in all directions. A row of machine gun fire tracks over towards where it last saw Veronica darting off, slicing through the tree and above her knotted ropes, forcing the woman to dive for cover before the gun swings around to aim squaring at Magnes.

But machine gun bullets go wild when a leg catches against the taut rope, trees, rope and robot all groaning in unison when pressure on pressure works to make something give. It's the rope, seems like, suddenly snapping and whipping like a cut wire, but not before the tank is abruptly sinking forward, it's cautious rhythm hindered as one leg buckles. The sharp edged rim of the hull at the— front?— the front goes slamming down into the ground at a nose dive, legs askew but slowly, slowly grinding back into place as one folds to try and push itself back upright, underside exposed in a most indecent manner if it wasn't.

You know. Robotic. Like a bull angrily snorting, two muzzles of flame throwers abruptly go off, mushrooms of flame aimed downwards and scorching the ground, fanning out in contained fireballs before dying again. There's a scream of metal as legs work to become right side up again.

And then, an all too human scream.

In all the noise and confusion, no particular attention was spared towards the mouth of the cave, but Hector will see it from where he stands sheltered — a hoarde of silver raptor bots leaping down from over the mouth of the cavern and landing into the clearing. In but a few short moments, Dahlia is abruptly swarmed with them, rifle firing and sending one splintering into parts, but the others only have to leap to bring her down, a least three needles stabbing into various parts of her anatomy — including her throat.

It wasn't just raw dirt and small rocks that was hurtling through the air, however, but also the shadows between the screen of hurtling earth. As the dirt sloughs off to one side as the rope trips up the crab-legged mechanical horror, the shadow lingers - that illicit passenger slithering over the hull's dented surface to find a crack in its heavy armour in order to infiltrate the robot. Now where the hell was that passenger compartment, Cardinal muses coldly, I know it has a door somewhere…

Hands burn after the rope gets tied, mostly cause Gillian doesn't trust her tying skills and she holds onto it, allowing it to drag against her palms a bit before she pulls away. Ow. She's not one to be screaming in pain at this time, but a flow of energy crosses the distance from her, toward Magnes, in an open invitation. It's not overpowering, but it's there. She needs to keep some of it for the mighty flying escape plan. As long as he stays within the thirty or so feet of her range…

There are injured. One a woman's scream, the other in the corner of her eyes… "Peter!"

Kazimir. Assface. Whatever he wants to be called. She heard Raith yell Petrelli, but for the moment she must have assumed he meant the one she knows is there. Why would she think the president just flew away?

There's robots all over, and… with the branding iron still in hand and acting a bit as a walking stick for a second, she hurries over to the tree where the angel of death happens to have sought shelter. She's bleeding a little herself. But not as much as him. Grazes, richocets, rope burns. Nothing major this time. "Are you okay?" She looks cautiously towards the biggest visible machine. Fuck. They have to survive this before they can even do her crazy plan.

Veronica emerges from cover, turning to aim her rifle at the flock of robotic … chicken things. "What the fuck — shit, Dahlia — is she gone?" She begins to edge closer to the rest of the group, having run across the path of the robot, but she's not sure if it's still capable of shooting, and not about to run back in front of its path. "What's the plan now? Where'd Adrian go? He could have taken someone with him…"

"Stop shooting!" Magnes yells down at Veronica, immediately flying down toward Dahlia once Cardinal's made his way to the bot. Once he makes it to her, he starts trying to smash gravity-enhanced kicks at the raptors, and stomp them with a thousand or so pounds when he can. It's Raptor Stomping Day. "Kazimir! Get over here and save her!" This is said, just as a raptor jumps up and slashes a claw across his left eye, sending blood flying and an intensely pained yell when he reaches up to grab his eye with both hands.

Now raptors are flung away mentally as they leap at Dahlia's body, trying to keep that one eye open with his right hand extended, while the left covers his bloody eye.

"I can't promise not to enjoy it if you do," says Hector. Salaciously. Hard to tell if this admission (which sounds genuine) is made more or less disconcerting by the fact that it occurs while a fiery holocaust is in progress down below and threatening to incinerate all of their new friends. The brow waggle tips things in favor of more disconcerting rather than less — wait. What the hell is he supposed to be doing?

Brows screwed up into serious and blockish jaw set with renewed resolve to not die, he focuses on what he was up to before. Really, all it takes is one last button press for a second unholy mechanical beast comes buzzing out of the jungle at a quadrapedal lurch. Hector Steel said let there be a rocket launcher packing HEAT, and lo…! One has appeared! Unfortunately, it is mounted on the shoulder of a fifteen foot tall razor-backed scythe-legged android llama and looks to be little more than a tube with a rockety nub stick out the end.

Around the same time, there is an explosion in the distance of the sort generally reserved for things like erupting volcanos and collapsing buildings — a visceral, resounding whud of flat air that promises a shockwave the size of God any second now. With the llamabot grinding its way towards the stairs and Hector hurrying down them and foul little velociraptors flooding onto peopleliving people — like locusts and a portion of mountain collapsing somewhere far away, he has finally found a sense of urgency. "The grips and sights were theoretically no longer necessary, but I never actually got around to implimenting a targeting system," he explains as he hustles for mechallama, moving more quickly than one might expect of a man of his stature and fashion sense, "If you would be so kind as to climb aboard and…ah." Hang on. Aim. Etcetera. A moment's hesitation calculates for the average level of insanity between them while Hector rakes blue eyes 'round Raith's larger stature (alternatively he could merely be doing math to do with weights and hydraulic stresses), decides it's all good, and glances to the robot sinking helpfully onto its haunches nearby. "Not to pressure or anything, but your only shot at permanently disabling it is to get it form underneath while it's on its face. So…" he scratches his nose and reaches for his gun again, phone/remote control still held at his side in the left.

Damnit! Reaching down at his side, Kazimir wrenches a deadfall branch from the ground and rushes across the battlefield. Bullets pepper a rising line of dirt at his heels, exploding soil and grass up along rh jungle floor amidst the whirring and mechanical clanking of the robot tank's approach. He feels that rising tide coming from Gillian, loses focus on his steps, stumbles and falters, catches his footing again and keeps running.

His path takes him directly in front of the tank in its flailing gunfire and pulverized struggle up from the ground. But it's not the tank he's after with his stick but the woman brought low by the raptorbots. Dahlia Velasquez is as much as family, and that near biological imperative comes hard in his chest as he finds himself running towards her amidst a hail of bullets and — what did Magnes just say? — it couldn't have been that important.

Sliding to a stop, Kazimir wields that branch like a one-handed golf-club swing, knocking one of the raptorbots off of Dahlia, kicking another and them hopping to grind it eather ineffectually into the soft earth. Another swift kick, and a harmless lash of a black tendril of life-sucking darkness proves that Kazimir may actually need to start carrying a gun. Or maybe if he had something— like a club— or a cane— or a canesword. A scowl crosses his face, this is exactly what he used to carry that goddamned thing for.

A raptorbot leaps from behind him, grabbing onto his back, talons digging into his back and a needle injecting into that same limp shoulder. Kazimir steps back, smashing the thing against the rock wall behind him, then shakes the remnants off.

Okay maybe not exactly for this.

…robollama. "This isn't exactly what I had in mind," Raith admits. But then, none of this was what he had in mind. Without further complaint, he complies with Hector and climbs aboard. Just like riding a horse. A horse rendered in steel and armed with a rocket-propelled anti-tank weapon. This is nothing like riding a horse. "In other words, I have to get behind it and shoot now before it gets back up, and if I miss we're all dead. Right, no pressure at all." Unlike Hector, Raith does allow a little sarcasm into his voice.

"Hi-ho s… stainless?"

By the time Cardinal does find a way in, through cracks and crannies in mechanisms before finally finding a door, of kinds, he finds himself spilling out into the small but almost luxurious cockpit. Everything is tilted on an angle, Iago with a foot braced against what Brooklyn guesses is the equivelant of a dashboard — a foot made of metal, skeletal with claw-like ends, thick steel stalk tracked with wires and shock absorbers disappearing up his pant leg as his hands wrestle with controls that gleam gold and bronze, almost old fashioned in some ways, all levers, wheels, polished wood and spinning things that go Ping!

The floor has zebra stripes and two fuzzy pink dice hang above the flickering oval-shaped monitor that show mostly an angle of grass. Iago isn't cursing, isn't growling, is face mostly blank as he tries to get the robot tank back into gear, straining against the crazy angle of the room.

Dahlia lies upon the ground, an arm flopped over her head in some belated protection, but she's more or less not moving, her ribcage expanding and contracting with shallow breaths, her eyes a little sightless as whatever poison was in those things courses through her veins. She barely blinks as the little silvery robots go flying off her, one spinning at neck-snapping speed as it goes hurtling upwards to the sky under Magnes's command. The one crouching over a thigh it had pierced with its needle goes tumbling off, sparking and twitching when it catches the blunt end of Kazimir's attack, legs wheeling in the air as if it were trying to walk upside down before going still, red eyes dying.

One remaining suddenly hurtles towards Veronica when she nears, attention snapping to the cuffed woman and moving at an agile run once it's ducked out of the way of Kazimir's stick, tail snapped straight, legs bending, and leaping. Maw opened wide, its needle glistens in the dying sunlight.

That living patch of darkness spills down the wall like venom from a serpent's fangs, apparently unnoticed by the pilot of this terrible mechanical beast— possibly due to the aforementioned angle of the vehicle at the moment, thanks to Agent Sawyer's ingenious rope trap. Fortunately for them all, it seems Hector never saw 'The Empire Strikes Back'. Odd shadowing lingers there upon the wall for a few long moments…

…and then Richard Cardinal pulls himself out of it, corporeality returned in a bleed of colour into monochrome, his body falling to slam against the chair in which Iago sits, one hand catching against it as his other lashes out with a right hook for the man's jaw.

Well, Peter's all right, it would seem. Gillian hurries after him, stumbling and falling a bit as she trips over roots and rocks and various other things, using the branding iron to catch herself, and to also act as a self-defense against… well… raptors, it would seem. Not that any of them jump at her. Not yet. It probably would work as well as the cane he's sorry not to have, but he didn't ask to borrow it, so she keeps it close… just in case. Moving closer to Magnes, she tries to avoid getting skewered or stabbed as she gets closer to the giant crab and all the danger. The closer she gets, the more she can offer people. Like Magnes.

And the closer she gets to the guy who branded her face.

And closer to Veronica, to see the raptor leaping at her, "Vee!" she yells in warning, though it's likely the woman's already seen it.

Shooting the roboraptor at such close range might just end up with a bullet richoceting into her own brain, Veronica knows. And that would be counterproductive, to put it mildly. But she also doesn't want that needle anywhere near her. Shit. Think fast. The most protected part of her body is her feet, in their thick soled combat boots. The double black belt launches into a flying kick, powered by her hips, hoping to strike the robot hard and fling it far from her.

Magnes suddenly turns around when the last raptor is going for Veronica, though has no time to worry about that, still holding his eye, then reaches out to grab Peter's arm. "Take what you need from me and save Dahlia right now!"

Fortunately, something that is fifteen feet tall and has long legs also has long strides. Progress is quick for all that is not exceedingly graceful — turf is eaten up under scythe in short enough order that Raith and Robot are brought around into likely range despite occasional wavers in his pilot's focus down below.

He's using one hand to pick off pursuant raptorbots with his sidearm while the other steers…mainly in the right direction. That he has to kick one that someone else already decapitated apart like a toothpick chicken (the llamabot dips right and nearly tips entirely over while Raith is in the process of aiming) doesn't bode well for his progress in the department of self defense, but he's a fair shot and…oh. Actually there are no more on him. And he still has bullets left. Happily for Raith he is capable of looking pleased with himself and driving a giant metal llama remotely at the same time. Fire when ready.

"Idiot" Kazimir reaches up and pushes Magnes back with with a nudge of his stick at the center of the gravitokinetic's chest. "She's fine." There's a wave of one hand down towards her. "She's just been injected with a numbing agent, I was hit by the same thing earlier. She's breathing," he motions with the stick to her, catching sight of Veronica's raptor-roundhouse out of the corner of his eyes. "She's just drugged and there's nothing I can do about that. Stop worrying about everyone else and use that ability of yours!" Kazimir throws his stick to the ground, grabbing at the shoulder of Magnes's shirt. "Go get Gillian, grab a rock and start generating gravity between your palms." He waves down at Magnes' hands, "She should be able to amplify you up enough to change the direction of up for a rock to more than Earth gravity! Shoot the thing's legs— shoot at it's guns— do something useful!"

Swinging a forward punt at a scurrying raptorbot, Kazimir sends it bouncing off of a tree and rattling off of a rock as he sees Raith moving in with the Llama, then up to the rocket launcher, then over to the look on Raith's face at manning a giant mobilized rocket platform. "Duck," Kazimir hisses, letting go of Magnes' shirt, ducking down to the ground, "Duck."

Despite the unsmoothness of the ride, Raith is quite happily in position, although slightly bruised around the face from being bounced into the launcher. He'll heal. But you know what won't heal? The giant hole that he is about to blast in the bottom of Iago's precious tank. Despite having no optics - not even iron sights - Raith is confident in his ability to point an unguided missile at a target the size of a very small house. Working the launcher is no great task, either. Just apply a little ingenuity, and it's ready, aim-


Iago forgot to wear his seatbelt, which might be just as well. At the sudden impact against his seat, the man goes flying forward into the control panel, body jerking after the momentum caused by a punch to the face, head snapping to the side. A hand out to steady himself, various buttons and dials tweak underneath the sudden impact but nothing particular insane happens save for one ill-aimed fire of machine gun at nothing, wrecking a bystander tree. A gun flashes as he pulls it from his holster, bringing it around to shoot, but it goes wild, splitting some lovely mahogany lining instead, but quick to re-aim.

Raith is quicker.

The explosion fills the ears of Alpha, even louder than the distant, thunderous cacophony of the mountain slowly self-destructing. Both Cardinal and Iago are knocked off their feet as the fireball fans up the now scorched underside of the tipped robot tank, pieces flying off in all directions as much as the main thing remains intact, but no loner functioning. Inside, the lights blink out.

And then, a voice. Eject function initiated. Sunset light floods into the cockpit when a hatch above them suddenly opens. Have a nice day. Suddenly, both terrorist and shadow man find themselves tipping out, the entire floor levering up with a groan of machinery. For his part, Iago falls only gracelessly, body bouncing against the burning hot hull just once before he lands on soft grass, a pained groan from his mouth as he rolls onto his back, metal appendage bracing against the ground.

Red blood is smeared down his face from a head impact, dizzying him, and his hands are emptied of the pistol landing in the grass a few feet from him. Overhead, a leather-lined chair has been ejected high into the sky, empty, coming to land a hundred or more feet away in distant jungle with a half-hearted crumpled parachute flagging after it.

As the entire world attempts to dislodge Cardinal from the midst of the lovely little melee he was having, he instinctively reaches out to grab hold of something — unfortunately, the only thing that his fingers close around is a pair of fuzzy dice, the strings of which snap instantly as they attempt to hold his weight.

So he goes a'tumbling right after Iago, rolling down off the hull's searing metal and hitting the grass not far from the other man, his leather jacket smoldering from contact with the metal. The shadowman's skin is also reddened terribly as if he'd just gotten way too close to a sunlamp and sat there for awhile - thanks to his close encounter with the lightning gun earlier, it seems.

He hits the grass, bounces, and rolls up to his feet… at which point all the blood rushes out of his head and he stumbles around a few steps trying to figure out which way is up. At some point during this, he manages to pull his own gun, finally ending up aiming it down at the Vanguardian laying in the earth.

"Don't you fucking move a fucking inch. Check. And. Mate."

He's not sure if rocket-firing robotic llamas are legal in tournament play, but then, who needs rules?

Getting down on the ground for a moment, Gillian stares at everything going on around her, and then time seems to slow down. Cause she sees a face she'll never forget tumble out of the machine. Of all the people who hurt her, she's rarely had a chance to do anything about it afterwards. Not with Ethan. Not with the guy with the sunglasses. And this one left an impression, a brand, that may follow her for the rest of her life. While Cardinal points a gun down at him in threat, she runs forward and slams the branding iron against the burning metal of the machine.

Until it starts glowing again. "You fucking bastard," she growls, before bringing the buisness end down upon his own face. Not caring if he's armed, or might kick at her. It doesn't take long to brand someone. She knows. They did it to her. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to hurt.

And hurt a lot.

Agent Sawyer's kick works, and the roboraptor is flung far away by the direct kick of her boot, to lie lifeless in the brush. Veronica might have a bruise on her foot in the morning, but it's better than a needle going in her throat, eye, or really, just about anywhere. She skims the landscape and sees Cardinal and Gillian seem to have Iago under control. She heads to Dahlia to help get the drugged woman out of the way, pulling out her hatchet to block any incoming robot attacks on the way.

Turning his gun around so that he's holding the barrel, Magnes heads over to an angry Gillian, holding out the handle of his gun to her. "Do what you need to do. I'd be a hypocrite if I told you not to."

Lots of things are on fire, now.

The grass, the trees. The crab, the llama. Cardinal.

Ears ringing shrill protest, Hector finds himself squinting blearily up at the orange and red watercolor of the evening sky when he comes to scarcely three seconds later. Voices are shouting, metal is creaking in labored protest, and somehow in all of this, when he lifts his head he manages to catch sight of multiple firearms being brought to bear upon Iago Ramirez admist the sizzle of a hot brand into bare flesh.

"Don't!" is the first coherent thing he manages to say, one hand sort of scrambling to push him up — oh, there's the other one, still got both, fantastic — into a scramble after his gun and then a staggering run for the grim gathering they represent. Black smoke billows oily and thick, and here he comes with his own firearm and the other hand waving no no no! "Don't fucking shoot him!"

Eyes narrow and Kazimir watches Magnes' departure, and at the gun offered to Gillian, he seems to understand and respect the choice. Taking a knee beside Dahlia, Kazimir looks at her more cautiously, but any hesitation he has is stifled by the remembrance of the air-strike incoming at any moment. He can't carry her, not without risking skin to skin contact that could kill her in this fragile state. His gloved hand comes up, checking her pulse, too hard to tell through the leather of his gloves, and impossible to feel without — that would be a death sentence.

Hector's cry causes no end of confusion to paint itself across Kazimir's face, and the darkly dressed man slowly begins to rise into an upright position, tightening his gloves as he walks from Dahlia's prone form across the soft earth towards the remainder of the group and the wrecked tank. Now able to feel his arm and shoulder more, he works that hand open and closed, finally. Passing by a burning piece of metal that beloned to the underside fo the many-legged tank, the crackling wisps of fuel-born fire burning off of it illuminate Kazimir's body in his approach amidst dying light.

Blue eyes regard Hector silently, dark brows lowered in a manner to crease his scar, wordless questions of the scientist's intentions for sparing Rameirez. When his eyes level down to Iago, he watches the man in silent disapproval, no sign of judgment on how this is to go down.

"Whoa, that was loud…." Despite being a 'safe distance' from the tank when he blasted the rocket off, Raith is nevertheless sprawled out on the ground, throw there by the shockwave, slowly picking himself up and having a stumblingly good time doing it. "Someone please answer the phone," he pleads, staggering around the burning wreckage that was once a mighty steel dragon. Spider. Thing.

"Answer the goddamned phone!"

Dahlia isn't moving, nor is she dead. Still breathing under Kazimir's analysis, an automatic draw in and out of breath. Her left leg curls under her right, which flops like dead weight from her hip, and the same can be said of the corresponding arm, the leak of a needle piercing smearing blood above her elbow. She watches Veronica's stomping foot steps approach her, moving through the remains of raptors variously crushed by gravity, smashed with a stick, and shot to death. No others come to intercept Veronica, the woman afforded a clear path to Rico's baby sister.

Iago's face is pressed to the side as the burning hot iron comes down on it, the sharp sizzle of searing flesh, burning facial hair and shining burns pulling skin taut. He screams, naturally, an animal sound from low in his chest that dies out quickly, thrashing once but by the time the brand is dislodged, it has made its imperfect mark.

There's a sound in the air, now, distant but unmistakeable as something that won't be very distant for long. A sound of jets slicing through the air, specks on the horizon growing bigger, taking shape. They hurtle on towards Cerro de Hierro Negro, even as the sound of an avalanche somewhere close by, if not over their heads, thankfully, makes its thunderous crash.

"Give me my pistol," Iago can only just be heard over the sound of it, turning a look towards where Hector is shouting towards the group. As ever, the Vanguardian is impossible to read as he regards the engineer, then steers a look up towards Gillian. "And I will do it myself." Next to the tracks of burn scars is a bright smile — more of a baring of teeth than anything with mirth, breathing harsh through his nose.

"You don't deserve an honorable death," Cardinal states flatly, "That's a big 'no' there, you piece of shit."

The scent of burning flesh causes his nose to wrinkle in a grimace, but he doesn't look away from Ramirez all through the branding, keeping him covered despite his increasing suspicion that his jacket may be on fire.

It's not, but it's certainly burnt.

The scream of jet fighters brings his head up, though, and a frown purses tight across his lips, voice raising, "We've got to go, people!"

"If I wanted to kill him, I'd bash his skull in with this." Gillian mutters, before she pulls back a few stumbling steps, ignoring the gun, and the screams to keep him alive. She wasn't planning to kill him, anyway. The branding iron gets thrown aside, as now the only thing it does is remind her of what was done to her. And what she did in revenge. She's gotten what she wanted. Killing him won't make him live with it like she might have to.

Even in the growing panic, something about her voice seems tired, raspier than normal, and not filled with emotion like she usually might be. If anything she sounds worn out. She does have to yell to be heard. "Yeah, that's our cue. The flying thing. We're gonna need to do that. I can still augment. Do you think you can handle it, Magnes?" She reaches toward him, to grab his hand. Augmentation has always been strongest with contact.

Unimpeded by any more of the small robots, Veronica crouches. "It's okay, Dahlia." She pulls the woman up, leaning Dahlia against herself, then pulling her over her shoulder in a "Firemany's carry." Magnes can make her lighter, but they need to get closer to the group for that. Her return to where the rest of the group is clustering around Iago is slower than her run to Dahlia, as she is now lugging someone her own size on her back. "If we're not flying, Magnes, you need to make her lighter for us," she grunts as she approaches them. Her dark eyes squint up at the sky. "Why didn't we have a phone with us, again?"

"We're flying, it's the only choice we have. If we can't take the tank, we'll just have to risk me carrying you all when Gillian augments me. I'd rather make a platform out of the grass, but I can't guarantee it'll stay stable, so…" Magnes looks around at everyone, doing a general head count after holstering his gun. "I should be able to carry around four people without being augmented, so maybe if I get a little push, it'll be safe to carry everyone…"

Breathing hard and more belligerently aggressive than any member of team Alpha has seen him thus far, Hector has stopped far enough off that he can waver his gun obstinately between Cardinal with one gun and the pair of Gillian and Magnes with another.

He looks upset when Iago says the thing about capping himself, but truth be told he's so wound up and raccoon-eyed with eyeliner smudge that it's hard to tell precisely what is running through his head. In any case, he doesn't linger once it seems clear nobody else is getting shot. With one last uneasy glance down at Iago, he lets his gun fall and runs for the tank instead, fleet-footed enough to hup-hup-hup dress shoes quickly over the superheated hull and down into the gape of the open top.

Some muffled cursing and a solid bang later, the hiss and fume of a fire extinguisher sends exhaust belching white out the ejection hatch.

"Unexpected. Derailment. Of plans." Kazimir answers through clenched teeth towards Veronica. "It's in there," he waves towards the bunker, "if you'd like to go back for it." His terse answer to Veronica afforded, Kazimir closes his eyes and shakes his head, there's a look offered to Hector, blue eyes searching the man before he disappears into the tank. There's a narrowing of Kazimir's eyes, a heavy breath drawn in through his nostrils and a few heavy footfalls over to Iago's side.

Taking a knee next to Iago, Kazimir takes off one of his leather gloves laying it across his bent knee. A look is offered up to Magnes, nodding towards the tank, indicative of get working, and then his focus is entirely on Iago once more. "Rameirez," Kazimir states in a level tone of voice, both hands resting on his knee over that glove. "You've suffered so much in the time you and I worked together. You lost so much, that you lost sight of yourself…" There's surprisingly no venom in his tone, just regret and disappointment. Blue eyes angle up towards Richard briefly, then angle back down to Iago. "I'm guilty of losing myself too, losing sight of what is most important to me, what matters in the world outside of my own selfish ambitions for the future." When dark brows crease, Kazimir offers out his bare hand towards Iago, in the same way one might offer a hand to someone who has fallen to lift them up again.

The intention here is so decidedly double-edged.

"Family," Kazimir intones over the rattling clanks coming from the tank, "family is what I lost sight of. What you have lost sight of." The hand moves just a touch closer, giving Iago the choice — a choice he denied so many more people — to decide how this ends. "Let me help you up," Kazimir states in a gravely voice, "bring you to them…"

While the drama around Iago plays out, the drama inside Raith's head tries to get sorted. His hearing is impaired with tinitus, and his vision is slightly blurred form the rattle his cage just received. But he's in good enough shape to walk, more or less in a straight line to the rest of Alpha team. "We need to go," he says too loudly, "Grab the cripples and let's go!" His apparent beligerence is the evidence of his stress. He's had it with this crap.

Dahlia remains an attractively curvy accessory draped over Veronica's shoulders, breathing out a word that could be thanks, but wheezed so much that it's impossible to tell, as if the things in her throat designed to form words just weren't taking. There's certainly no struggle as she's brought off towards the group and the destination of the once flaming crab tank, though fingers twitch minorly, a sign of slow recovery. She's going to be alright.

Which is more than can be said for Iago as Kazimir crouches next to him, fury and injury blazing hot in eyes surrounded by that same stoicism that hasn't moved in long years. He knows who is talking to him — very few people in the world could incur such wrath from Iago for their betrayal, as much as it's completely understated. Hector himself is too occupied to see it, and Iago bares his teeth again as he speaks. "I followed you," is growled out. "Closer than any of them.

"You led me here."

And with that, a vocal kind of growl, he brings his hand around to clap against Kazimir's bare palm, back arching as soon as degeneration knifes into his flesh. It's at that moment than twin F-35s hurtle over head, something dropping down from them like missing parts, far enough that no one has to see God quite this moment, but the explosion that the silo in the center of the mountain receives is enough to make the earth shake. They can see it from here, beyond the trees — a sudden mushroom cloud, concussive energy bending trees and searing. And there'll be more where that came from.

As that hand reaches out to clasp Kazimir's own, then does Cardinal look away, the sidearm dropping to his side; not caring to see the horrors that life-eating ability inflicts on flesh, instead raising his eyes to follow the scream of the F-35s through the skies overheard. The sky's light spills over his features, illuminating the unhealthy red sheen of his skin, mottled with paler, scaly patches of dead skin already threatening to peel.

The thunder of bombs in the distance, the mushroom cloud of smoke stirring above the treetops, and he comments dryly, "However we're getting out of here, it's got to be soon."

The exchange between Iago and Kazimir does not go unnoticed. Gillian can't help but look for a moment, a pained expression crossing her face for an instant, before she lets it all wash away. The sight isn't something she really wants to see. She's heard it described, seen the paintings. It's not something she wants to have burned into her memory.

As she's making her way toward the piece of metal that's getting put out, hand in hand with Magnes, she suddenly realizes, "So— wait. You mean the crab thing is the tank? All right. Let's get this thing in the air before we all die," she says, squeezing Magnes' hand and going along with him. After all, it will take her and him together to get it airborn, she's sure. Especially since it's a lot bigger than she'd thought it would be.

It's very likely she'll pass out when this is over. "Let's get the fuck out of here before the whole mountain blows up." And they all look like Iago.

Veronica watches for a moment — she still has that would-be-scientist's curious mind, after all, but then frowns and fumbles in her pack with her free hand, a bit hindered by Dahlia there. She comes up with the flare gun and fires it into the sky. It's not like the planes can't find them anyway — it won't be giving away their location, which is already given away by smoking robots and Cardinal's burning jacket, but it might clue their comrades in the planes in that it's a signal to stop the strike. Hopefully.

"Everyone come on, now!" Magnes exclaims, pulling Gillian along, then climbs into the cockpit and takes the remaining seat, placing his hands on the control panel but not actually touching controls. "Gillian, hold on to me. Before I learned how to use my ability properly, whatever I touched shifted with me. So maybe if I try to fly the way I normally do, but with my gravity extended to the robot, I'll be able to control its flight. Augment me higher and higher until I tell you when to keep the flow at a steady level, alright?"

With carbon dioxide fogged white across great swaths of the crab tank's cabin, zebra striping and all, Hector finally stops spraying. There's an audible whunk under bombing's echo when he drops the extinguisher, and a pneumatic hiss and clank when he trips the latch to open a second hatch. This one in the floor. Where the fuck is everyone? Hurry up!!

Naturally he is compelled to investigate. And naturally, when he drops out the tank's belly (cinematically at precisely the same time Magnes and Gillian drop in) and onto burning grass already midway through a, "Where the fuck is everyone," it's to see — what there is to see.

Shock renders his expression a total blank. He stands in the shadow of the beast in shades of black and flickering orange (and spattered white) with no words or actions or thoughts.

Unfortunately, he regains the first two first and in that order.

"You cunt!!" is the only warning Kazimir gets before he's being tackled from behind most unsexily.

Kazimir's eyes shut the moment that the degeneration becomes to take place, his neck muscles tensing and hand clasping firmly against Iago's. The way the Vanguard general's skin turns black and gray, cracks and flakes and begins to crumble like so much ash on the wind is a true testament to the life-destroying power contained within Peter's shell, to just what force he has become host to.

"I led you here… and I am sorry," Kazimir admits with a noisy swallow as he watches Iago begin to break away like a desert-scalded mummy from his touch. Joints begin to break first under the weight of bones, then skin sloughs off in papery chunks that glow orange hot on the edges. Dry bones become brittle, shatter at stress points showing the same texture and quality of burnt wood. Ashes exhaust up into the air in a swirling minagerie of charred pieces.

"I will see you soon en— " Words are taken away when Hector comes barreling up behind Kazimir and knocks him clear into Iago's crumbling form, shattering brittle bones into a cloud of unearthly black ashen dust. Choking on what is clearly the remains of Iago in the back of his throat, Kazimir struggles beneath Iago's bigger frame, one gloved hand rather ungracefully pushing up against his forehead, a leather-clad thumb somehow hooked into his left nostril during the effort.

"Get off me you idiot!" Comes the hissing retort from the life-stealing man, trying to keep that ungloved hand away from Hector's exposed skin. "I gave him the choice!" Comes growled out next, Kazimir trying to angle his head away from Iago's the whole while, like some strange photo-negative of a fight where one man is doing his best to try and not hit the other. "Get off of me!" Most inglorious.

Goodness crap, this again? Even if it takes him perhaps an instant longer than everyone else to realize what's happening, he still springs into action quickly enough, charging at and barreling into Hector in the exact same way he charged at and barreled into Kazimir, although just slightly sexier. However, there probably isn't much that is terribly sexy about the way in which Raith slightly miscalculated his attack, and rather than simply remove Hector from Kazimir, he's gotten himself partway tangled up into a three-way melee, and while he's got a much better hold on Mascara than he does on Baby Blue, he hasn't succeeded in pulling them apart. What he has succeeded in is getting all them just that much closer to rolling down the hillside into some trees.

Iago is reduced to something the same consistency as a dead fire pit, crumpled clothes, all black and reasonably expensive, now weighing over a ribcage reduced to brittle bone ready to crumble — and crumble it does under the sudden weight of Kazimir and Hector and then finally Raith, ash puffing up in swirling clouds of his remains to dust foppish and/or frosted heads and clothes. Among clothing and his pistol lying some feet away, his metal leg is kicked away in the scuffle by the corner of Raith's boot, a masterpiece of silver and bronze, toes claw tipped and rolling over once.

The flash of Veronica's flare is a bright spark in the quickly encroaching night, and by the time three more jets are roaring over them, pant-wettingly close, they don't immediately drop their payloads.

Which says nothing of the self-destruct sequence they'd been very politely informed of. Fire and a more invisible kind of energy suddenly spill out from the mouth of the cavern with a thunderous explosion that makes their heads ring, with force enough that quite abruptly, the legs beneath the tilted tank suddenly fold up in themselves. With a creak and a sudden slam, the whole thing comes down to rest flat against the ground, knocking Magnes and Gillian off their feet and/or asses. It's still upright— more upright than it was— and probably affords the two more protection from the shockwave than everyone else. Iago's ashes are firmly scattered.

Oh. Right. There was a self-destruct that they were trying to get away from, wasn't there?

The shockwave slams into Cardinal and sends him sprawling across the grass with a rough grunt, rolling over a few times before catching himself; spitting out bits of dirt as he shields his face. "Mother fucker," he mutters under his breath, his form slowly melting like a candle that loses colour as it burns, blackness slithering over the grass to crawl up along one of the tank's legs.

Kazimir and Hector can keep on fighting here for all he cares, at this point.

Ow. In a shock of the explosion and the falling down that follows, Gillian lets go of Magnes's hand and gets knocked down on the ground rather hard. It's nothing that will leave a scar, not like the one running down her arm, or the one on her cheek, but it still hurts a bit.

"God damnit! Get your fucking asses over here before we all die!" she finally raises her voice with emotion again. The tired of having gotten her revenge has passed, now taken by a new panic. "Peter! Get over here cause I'm not leaving without you!" And she doesn't think Magnes can do what he needs to do without her.

Does she still refuse to call him Kazimir? It would seem so. Either she's just plain in denial, or she doesn't think he's just Kazimir.

Easy for Gillian to say — the shockwave sends Veronica, already struggling with Dahlia over her shoulder, sprawling — she forces herself to fall forward rather than back and on top of Dahlia, instead breaking the fall for the other woman. She's in the process of standing again, and once more pulling Dahlia up to drag toward the tank. Why is it the smallest one among them is dragging the injured, dammit? "Cardinal! Help me…" she grunts, out of breath, once she's reached the tank. Veronica tries to hoist Dahlia up so the man can reach down and grab the paralyzed woman and pull her into the tank with them.

Magnes tries to brace his head from banging directly on to the control panel when everything shakes, falling to the floor near Gillian. "Crap…" He slowly pulls himself back up into the seat, then reaches for Gillian's wrist. "You have to do it now. They'll get their crap together later, but but we have to start and hope they get in here! I need a chance to get used to it and we don't have much time." His left eye is a bloody mess, not that anyone would notice with all the chaos going on, even he's drowned out the pain with adrenaline, placing both hands on the control panel again as he waits for Gillian. "Everyone get in here right fucking now or I'll shoot you all in the head myself!" he yells loud enough for anyone outside of the tank to hear.

Two facts become clear immediately upon Raith's entry into the fray. First, Hector weighs more than Peter. And second, he was put through all the same training hoops every other serious Vanguard recruit was ever put through.

An elbow finds its way back around into Raith's temple in a calculated strike that's followed up by another in his gut dangerously near the groin area — but it's hard to get leverage when you're being slung around like an angry cat and the mountain is exploding besides. Ash is everywhere. Iago is dead.

Hector gives up in a matter of seconds, slumped to stillness with one last half-hearted kick at Kazimir. Fuck.

Barely able to brace himself near the edge of the mountainside where it turns to dangerously steep hill, Kazimir stares up at Hector as the machinist is wrenched off of him, blue eyes wide and a bruise quite settled already in bright red and yellow on the side of his face where some unfortunate contact is undoubtedly going to give him a black eye later. Exhaling a choking breath, he searches the ground for his missing glove, yanking it on as the mountain rumbles and shudders beneath him from the force of the explosion.

There's no words, just heavy breathing and furrowed brows, that look of two enraged alley cats that might still circle each other for a second round after being forced apart by an unimpressed old lady. Somehow in this analogy Raith became an old woman.

Swallowing dryly and pulling himself to his feet right before getting kicked the the thigh, Kazimir jerks back and grips at his leg, a wince crossing his features before a slightly less ashen sigh is exhaled. "You can hate me all you want later." The darkly dressed and sufficiently ashen Volken makes his undignified approach to the machine a hustle, brushing dust and bits of broken bone off of his suit to no avail.

He climbs up the side of that nearly upright machination and lingers above the entrance. His eyes scan the smooth top of the machine, then just scoots back and lets his legs dangle inside, gripping firm to the edge. "I'll hang on," he infers with a grim consideration of the cramped quarters. "It's too— " struggling to catch his breath, Kazimir splutters out his words, "too crowded inside for you all to be safe with me in there." His legs pull up, kneeling on the top, hands clutching the edge, trying to keep out of the way for the others who haven't climbed inside from either direction yet.

The sudden burst of violence from Hector would not have been an issue had Raith's own attackle actually worked the way he wanted it to. The crack to the face was bad enough without the gutshot follow-up. As things stand, he is left sprawled out for the second time, sucking down deep breaths of air in an attempt to work the spasms out of his diaphram, one arm weakly snaked around Hector's neck in a totally ineffectual chokehold, the other holding its attached hand over the side of his throbbing head. The fact that he didn't just pass out is a testament to his overall toughness. Or stupidity.

He hasn't even gotten around to thinking about getting onto his feet yet. First, he needs the world to stop violently spinning around him.

While everyone is situated inside or otherwise scrambling to get in, Kazimir is the one most privvy to the sight that comes along with yet another distant boom. This is not the sound of an explosion, whether it be the self-destruction of the mountain or the fall of a bomb from one of the planes rounding around this section of the Andes, but a crash of thousands of tonnes of rock and snow.

It draws attention, turns bright blue eyes upwards, and in the distance, the crumpling of a gigantic avalanche is a truly awe-inspiring sight as grey and black rock breaks and cracks, and massive sheets of ice and snow being to slough off the side and come tumbling down. Trees that had dotted the mountainside above them are crushed and bent like matchsticks under the force, the avalanche gaining speed as it rolls on down the side of Cerro de Hierro Negro.

Right towards them.

Dahlia's good arm weakly clutches around Veronica, her neck gaining back just enough strength to lift her head and stare in the direction of the avalanche. Her alarmed squeak will have to suffice for, get us the fuck out of here, as much as Veronica is trying while boys do silly boy things.

"Sorry," Cardinal informs Veronica as she works to haul herself up onto the tank, "I don't have any hands right now."

Pause. Avalnache.

"I'd hurry if I were you, though."

Once Gillian's sure that Peter won't do something stupid, like stay behind, she reaches out to grab Magnes' hand again, closing her eyes and focusing her energy at him. It would lead to a bad day for all of them if she augmented anyone else right now, considering who they are. Get ready for enough power to move a mountain, Magnes! (Not really, but the idea is fun to imagine.) "Get us out of here as fast as you can." And please let everyone get onboard. Including Veronica.

"I see, I see," Veronica gasps to Dahlia then glares at the talking shadow. Finally making it up, she maneuvers Dahlia over to the hatch. "Incoming," she calls to Gillian, hoping the woman will at least help the paralytic Argentinian down with her one free hand. She slides in after, collapsing on the floor next to Dahlia, panting for breath. "Oh, God, I hope this works. No lift off yet? What can I do to help?"

The sound of incoming avalanche is one Hector has heard before. He's been here for a while, after all. Still. It takes a few seconds to sink in.

Then he's moving. Rolling over, wresting out of the chokehold, apologizing — all of the above — in a face-patty sort of sorry-sorry-are-you-alright-we-should-go-now-raith-isn't-it? shocky kind of way. A glance confirms most everyone else is already aboard, much to his surprise, which leaves it mostly up to him to usher Raith to his larger feet so they can hustle for the giant crab.

There's a flicker of hesitation across his face when they pass the metal leg, but. He thinks better of it.

Still holding on to the roof of the tank at the sound of the avalanches' beginning, Kazimir jerks his head up to look at the building froth of white at the higher peak of the mountain. Blue eyes go wide in horrified realization of what should have been obvious about dropping bombs on a snow capped mountain but had not occured to him until just this very moment. "Run!" Kazimir screams from the top of the vehicle, "Hurry! Get us off the ground! Hurry!" This is the second time in a single day where he has been absolutely horrified by the potential outcome of something chasing him.

First it was a swarm of flesh-rending machines, now it is mother nature's raw power.

To Raith, everything sounds far away or underwater, focusing is difficult. But he still has the sense to know that when someone is trying to help the likely-concussed man onto his feet, he damn well better do it and get moving. The spy - let's call him what he is - gets to his feet in an unsteady, stumbling fashion, but manages to stay upright and even move himself in the direction of Kazimir's voice, likely with no small amount of help from Hector. His vision is clear enough, at least, that he can see when he's in front of the crawler's entrance, and he practically throws himself inside, ending his action with a weakly voiced, "Vamanos…."

Magnes holds the control panel firmly, purple energy extending from himself, across the floors and walls of the tank, and finally outside, as if the tank ignited into a purple flame. The first thing he does is lower the gravity of the tank, which causes the gravity of many people to also be lowered as he adjusts his control, trying to concentrate. "Don't lower or raise the augmenting, keep it right there." he instructs, then looks over at Veronica. "Sit on my left side, I've only got one eye, so my field of view is limited."

"Here goes nothing." Suddenly the tank goes flying into the air, with a tail of purple energy trailing behind it like a comet. The speed of falling might not be impressive compared to a plane, but it's still pretty damned fast. He doesn't have a particular destination, he's just going away from the mountain as quickly as possible. "Agent Sawyer, reach into my jacket pocket and pull the GPS out. Kazimir, tell her the coordinates of where we're going!"

The ride is bumpy, and things may feel a bit strange for some people, like the occasional loss of a sense for up or down. He simply can't control every side effect of things when he's trying to focus on moving the gigantic machine. But at least they're not spiraling out of control, and he seems to be getting the hang of generally maneuvering. "Gillian, you alright? You can pump a little less energy. Now that we're in the air I just have to control the direction we move, not the weight."

The destructive power of the avalanche is the only thing left moving by the time the crab tank begins its ascent and make the pilots vulturing the Andes wonder if something's been slipped into their oxygen tanks. Snow funnels effortlessly down the side of the mountain, a casual roar and trailing what looks to be from a distance powder-fine puffs of glittering snow surrounding the harder waterfall of shining ice and tumbling black rocks that lead the disaster like a charge. By the time its hit the jungle clearing, a boulder of what could seem like impossible size for something that moves as fast as it does crushes the mouth of the mountain-set hangar as if it were made of match sticks, sealing off the entry way in a flood of rock and ice.

In a split second, the entire clearing is flooded in the stuff that makes mountains, slamming through the jungle at breakneck speed and rendering all the available air to clouds of icy debris, trees mowed through, a llama finding a quick death for all that it had took off at a run when things started being set on fire.

The crab tank angles under the forcible rush of air that breezes off the top of the avalanche, making the vessel shudder and Kazimir hold on for dear life. But they're safe. Possibly, for the first time since they arrived.

"Holy shit," Cardinal's voice raises, mostly swept away by the roar of the avalanche and the wind whistling past the improbably flying crab-walker, "He did it! He actually fucking made it fly? Jesus Christ!"

"My head's fucking killing me, and I want a long bath and a night's sleep in a real fucking bed…" Perferably with someone, but that's not going to happen, and she doesn't say that outloud. "But I'm fine," Gillian says, ignoring the tired feeling that tries to overcome her. She does have a chance to lower the amount of energy she's pouring into him, and she certainly takes it, keeping a hand on Dahlia as well as she does.

There's a tired sound to her voice before she asks with a smile, "How's it feel to finally be a robot pilot, Robin Six Six." Her old internet friend and one of his nicknames. The one she knew him best as.

No rest for the wicked. Veronica moves as Magnes indicates, then finds the GPS, turning it on. "Do you know them or should I just put in an estimated locale?" she shouts to Kazimir — unless he has them memorized, it's not like he has a free hand to rummage in his cargo pants for a piece of paper with some notes on it.

Victory is achieved, the mission is accomplished and Hector has found a corner to sulk in. He stands near the cabin's rear, apart from the team he isn't actually on and scuffs idly at a smudge on mahogony trimming in dejected silence.

"We can see El Palenque from here! I don't know whatever the coordinates are!" Kazimir shouts down through the opening at the top of the tank, swinging his legs inside and grabbing on to the rim and the hatch handle for dear life. "Head for the village!" The roar of the avalanche is deafening as he screams, pointing towards the haze spot of darkness on the ground at the base of the mountain, "Aim for the village!" A gloved hand points ahead, screaming as loud as he can, eyes squinted against the wind, "the village!"

The controlled free-falling sensation of the machine up in the air causes Kaizmir to lurch against the awkward feeling of inverted gravity, his stomach tensing and fingers white-knuckles beneath the leather of his gloves. But with the freezing wind in his hair, jets soaring overhead, and riding in the sky ona giant mechanical horse-shoe crab, there is one thing that Kazimir Volken is assured of, this is one of the very many things about this encounter that no one in their right mind will ever believe truly happened to them.

That is why he will never speak of it again.

Raith wants to be unconscious. He needs so badly to be unconscious. But he can't. He is doing everything he can to keep himself awake, including pressing the palm of his hand against one of the sharper bits he's managed to locate inside. He's not bleeding from it, but the battle between his dual-compulsions to protect and to harm himself is enough to keep him awake. Which is necessary because he might have a concussion. Thanks Hector. Next time, maybe you could just offer a cup of coffee.

"I think this is the coolest I'll ever be and no one's gonna believe a word of it. And my eye is suddenly killing me." Magnes leans forward a bit as the crab dips slightly, trying to very carefully turn and head for the village without making people slide all around the floor. "I feel like I'm outside of myself, like, it's so surreal. I'm flying, but, the robot is flying and I'm not moving at all. This is one of those things where it's hard to put your ability in words… But we're finally safe, I hope. When we get home I'm making everyone pizza."

A shadow alights on the market place of El Palenque, turning faces upwards towards where a— a— there is no word in Spanish to describe what the hell is coming on down towards them. There's a cry as people abruptly scatter the growing shadow, the sound of the crab tank whistling through the air as it makes its dubious descent down, down, down. It scores a track through the dirt road, a fan of dirt and dust billowing up from beneath it and further ruining Peter's suit, flooding the entire space in that rusty red.

The air begins to clear around the same time there's the distinct noise of blades slicing through the air, a continual pulse of machinery as the dust lingering in the street suddenly blows as scattered as those in the market place had run for cover, and as Alpha go to investigate what this additional noise is, popping out of the hatch like meerkats from the ground, a second shadow grows as something just as large and metallic descends.

It's a helicopter, touching down, and through the windshield, Rico's one-eyed visage is a match for Magnes' as he grins wryly out towards the fallen crab tank. As the engines are killed, it's Stewart Ross that leans out the open door of the aircraft, pulling headphones down around his neck as he stares across at the team.

"Do you guys need a ride?" he shouts over, then gestures with a hand. "Come on. Let's get the fuck out of Argentina."

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