Illusion Proof


cat_icon.gif felix_icon.gif sasha_icon.gif

Scene Title Illusion Proof
Synopsis After Teodoro, Francois and Elisabeth fail to return, the two remaining members of Team Charlie attempt to formulate a plan — only to find themselves interrupted and under attack in their rented apartment.
Date December 17, 2009

Ryazan, Russia

It's been several hours since the others left to have a look at that monastery, and there's been no word. Her iPhone says it's approaching 01:00 on the morning of the 17th, Russia time. Cat's demeanor is calm, she looks focused as ever while going over all that's become known in her head. She doesn't, at this point, have a plan for storming into the monastery or the ironworks to retrieve people from it.

But with Abby having been taken first, and now the likelihood the others would also be deprived of freedom, she is armed. In her hands is an Ak-47 assault rifle, near her are extra clips of ammo for the weapon. The firearm has just been disassembled and put back together just so she could see it matches the reading material committed to memory earlier.

"Not to insult the country of your birth, but I still greatly prefer the M16."

Fel has an AK, too, which is he is calmly reassembling himself. "Pff. Capitalist decadent crap, it jams if you look at it funny. In Vietnam, they buried some Viet Cong with their AKs. When the graves were dug up four months later, an American officer pulled one from the arms of its dead owner, and it fired flawlessly. There are a hundred million in the world today, and Papa Kalashnikov has killed more people than the atomic bomb," He flicks his horrible, horrible cardboard cigarette to the other side of his mouth - all this is delivered with the toneless, teeth-gritted inflection of an early Clint Eastwood movie.

"Mine never jammed," Cat rejoins. "Flawless functioning, each time out." She avoids commenting on how many times out it's had, and just what those outings were, but it's been admitted there were such occasions. The final piece of the weapon is secured in place, and fingers slide the clip into place. Weapon is now loaded and ready.

"The first step," she opines, "is to get electronic camera gear and conduct some surveillance of the monastery. Infrared detecting equipment and the like to get an idea of how many people are there and what their locations are inside."

"The most important thing being illusion proof."

Felix eyes her, rather skeptically. "And where are we going to get that?" he wonders. His tone isn't sarcastic, but genuinely curious. "Did you pack some?" Hey, maybe she did.

"There are ways," Cat replies, "I'm not poor. And our in-country contacts are likely to have such resources." Her eyes close for a moment, as they reopen she's commenting "Time is short and getting shorter. I have to hope the Verano can be found, and fast. If it isn't, none of this matters at all."

Felix doesn't argue the point. He merely nods at her, grimly, and stubs out the cigarette in he already quite crowded ashtray on the table. "Good," he says, simply. "And you're right."

Time is short and getting shorter.

It's the sort of thing you really shouldn't say unless you have plenty of wood to knock on, and although the kitchen table where Felix is putting his gun together is made of solid oak, the overhead lights are flickering before the two remaining members of Team Charlie have an opportunity to. They blink out a moment later following a power surge that courses through the apartment's electrical system with enough energy to melt wires, shatter light bulbs and fill the air with the smell of burning plastic as fine shards of broken glass shower the dining room table and the laminate floor beneath their feet.

It could be a coincidence. It probably isn't. The moments that elapse next are filled not with silence but the shrill hiss of wind whistling in between the cracks in the kitchen window, and through the glass both Felix and Cat can make out wisps of snow curling wraithlike against the pane.

"That's not good," she remarks in getting to her feet and reaching for a nearby flashlight. Her thumb rests on the switch but doesn't activate the device, it's merely held ready to use quickly. Cat watches the curling wisps of snow, as the weapon in her hands is shifted into readiness for use. "I don't know so much about the state of the Russian electrical grid, but a surge like that has to be something done on purpose."

She is alert and ready to commence dealing with anything which might make entry.

"In other news, water is wet, and France surrenders." Felix's tone is resigned, rather than sarcastic. He's got his own AK inhand, like he is quite prepared to just light up the next fool silly enough to walk in. He's poised, listening for any sound of movement, and he motions silently to the hallway that leads back to the bedrooms and the little balcony.

The kitchen window explodes inward, blown to pieces by a metal canister that tumbles end over end through the air, crashes against the wall that separates it from the hallway Felix is motioning to, and begins spewing smoke from its top. Sarin, Novichok agents, hydrogen cyanide — the gas could be any number of nasty things, but rather than sting at the eyes or induce asphyxiation, it produces a giddy feeling that rises in their chests, accompanied by tingling and warmth that tickles the nerve endings in their arms and legs.

A sliver of moonlight reflected off one of the jagged shards of glass sticking up from the window's bottom lip illuminates the canister's side and makes the label momentarily visible.

Nitrous Oxide.

Her head quickly lowers to avoid being struck by shards of glass from the window as it shatters, and she drops to the floor next, using the table as shelter. Eyes shift toward the canister as it lands, the smoke being watched, and Cat sucks in a deep breath to hopefully fill her lungs before the contents spread out and begin to have whatever effect was intended. Having done so, she moves toward the thing with the intent of retrieving and tossing back whence it came.

Apparently Ivanov has the same thought. Great minds, etc, etc. There's the pitter-patter of little Fed feet, and Fel snatches it up and tosses it right back where it came from. He's got a good snort of it though, despite his attempts to hold his breath.

The canister is cold to the touch and covered in a layer of ice and frost that melts under Felix's fingers, leaving prints where they close around it. Another bounces off the laminate mere inches from where Cat is crouched under the table and is sent skittering while a third rolls under the fridge and wedges itself in the small space between the appliance and the wall behind it, causing the gas to leak out from the sides in a roiling wave. As far as chemicals go, it isn't unpleasant — a slightly sweet odor and taste supplements the other effects that Cat and Felix have begun to experience, including a sensation of euphoria that can be likened to floating.

Although "laughing gas" is harmless in small doses, the kitchen is rapidly becoming inundated with it, making Felix's tongue thick in his mouth as the drug pours into his system and begins to suppress it. Whatever the nitrous oxide has been mixed with, it makes the air thick with silver mist in addition to dumbing down the senses, but on the bright side — if there is a bright side — the Vanguard must want them alive. If it didn't, it would have bombarded them with something faster acting and a lot more lethal than this.

As the first canister sails back out the window and clatters against the pavement below, the apartment's front door blasts off its hinges and three men armed with assault rifles pour inside, gas masks pulled down over their faces, one with a pair of night vision goggles attached that light up his eyes red and illuminates the fog.

She can't keep holding her breath; her lungs burn and ache for the air to be let out and exchanged for some with oxygen in it, what was in the last draw is used up soon. Cat's mind tells her to hold on, to not breathe, but she knows that's a futile idea. If she doesn't breathe she'll pass out, the result will be the same as if she had.

But, she reasons, if she breathes she can maybe fight off the effects long enough to escape to clean air. The AK-47 is shifted to use as a club; these men who came with gas are likely also prepared with body armor and she can't see well enough to take a head shot.

So as she resumes breathing Cat is up and on the move, sending herself at the man with the night-vision gear with intent of using Krav Maga moves to force her way past him. She can only hope Felix thinks to try the same.

He can't dodge bullets. Nor can he get that third canister out fast enough. "Down," Fel barks at Cat, before simply firing hipshot at the men coming in. "Let me carry you." Even laden with another human body, he can move at absurd speeds.

The man in the goggles is caught off-guard as off-guard as a soldier can be. Cat's initial blow connects somewhere between his ribs, knocking the breath from his lungs with a low sound amplified by the gear he wears over his face. A sharp breath drawn in through his nose replenishes what he's lost in the next instant, however, and he swings the butt of his rifle down against the top of the woman's skull in an excessive show of force as she attempts to finagle her way past him.

Felix is telling her to get down. It looks like she might, though not by any choice of her own. Still reeling from the hit even as Cat is staggering back, their leader reaches out with a gloved hand and seizes the front of her shirt before she can fall, then swings her roughly into the nearest wall and forces his body up against hers to pin her there, both their weapons rendered useless in such close proximity.

The fed's gunfire peppers the doorway, blowing chunks off the wooden frame and spraying the group with bits of chewed up plaster. One bullet strikes one of the soldiers in the leg, and he crumples to the floor, screaming epithets in Russian. The other returns fire and manages to wing Felix's shoulder, but it's only a superficial wound — even as the blood leaks through his shirt and runs rivulets down his gun arm, a combination of adrenaline and nitrous oxide blesses him with a temporary immunity to pain.

Unfortunately, it doesn't make him impervious to bullets. Cat is on her own, at least temporarily — if he wants to survive this encounter, he needs to find cover. Fast.

The gas is starting to take effect, and mixing with the sensations from twin impacts. A bit groggy now, Cat is laughing. It's called laughing gas for a reason, it seems. She'd like to reach out and rip the mask off his face, to even the fighting field that way, but can't. Despite her fitness and work to build upper body strength, he has more.

But she isn't without options. She seeks to draw one leg up sharply between his and impact a sensitive area.

She is on her own, much as it galls him. Fel's darting down the hallway, into the bedrooms, seeking a way onto the balcony. There's spatters of blood as a trail - he can't stop to tend the wound, trying to draw at least one of them after him.

Cat can feel the muscles in the man's abdomen's contract when she drives her knee into the vulnerable space between his legs. He slouches against her, another rush of air escaping him — that's twice she's managed to get a hit in, and twice he recovers from it, though this time it's more a prolonged process that involves hips resting against hers as he reaches up with his free hand, rifle dangling from the leather strap at his shoulder, and peels off his gas mask to reveal a head of light brown hair and a pair of flinty blue eyes set in sunken sockets exaggerated by pronounced cheekbones and a long nose with blood dribbling from one of its nostrils.

Sasha Kozlow is laughing, too, albeit in between sharp, haggard gasps of air. A wolfish smile parts his lips and exposes teeth tainted pink where they nicked the inside of his cheek at some point during the struggle. "«You're stronger than you look,»" he snarls under his breath. The hand that had been clutching at the front of her shirt moves to her neck and wraps gloved fingers around it. "«Munin— Where is it?»"

Felix's strategy, meanwhile, seems to be working. The remaining soldier abandons his comrade grasping feeble hands at his bleeding leg and follows the trail down the hall, rifle at the ready.

She's struggling, even as he recovers from her blow, seeking to bring more Krav Maga to bear against him without success. The gas is taking a deeper hold, and now just staying awake is a struggle. Cat's eyelids are starting to droop, her resistance weakening.

But the face still shows laughing defiance. "Fuck you, Grigori. Munin is up your ass."

There's the sound of Felix flinging the window open, as if he'd flee by sneaking out and leaping off the meagre balcony. Good luck. No following thud, though, as he flattens himself against the wall beside the frame of the door he just ducked through. And he's reversed the butt of his rifle, ready to pounce on the one fool enough to follow him….all the while trying to keep the rasp of his breathing from giving him away, and keep from succumbing entirely to lightheadedness.

Grigori?>" Sasha leans in further, angling his face so his breath spreads warmth across the hollow of Cat's bared throat. The gas has begun to affect him as well, filling his eyes with a lazy kind of hunger, dark and predatory, and as he traces his thumb along the shape of her jaw he brushes his nose against her opposite cheek, leaving a wet smear of blood in his wake. "«Do you think I'm an illusion, kitten?»" he asks with a faint lift of his brow. "«Another trick of Zhukovsky's?»"

In the bedroom, the soldier appears in the doorway and clomps booted feet caked with snow across the carpet, headed toward the open window and the curtains rippling in the breeze. Snow blows in from outside and pushes the gas back out into the hall where the two meet and creates swirling eddies that spiral around Felix's form, concealing it further should he catch the thin sound of the fed's shallow breathing and chance a look over his shoulder.

He doesn't.

She wants to squirm away from his touch, somewhere in her fading consciousness, but she doesn't try. Resistance is abandoned, and she doesn't have the energy for it anyway now. N2O is ruling things for her now. Cat laughs groggily, replying in a slurred voice "Probably." Why she believes so is unexplained, following another burst of giggles she loses the battle to stay awake. Quite possibly she even surrendered to the gas, just to deny the man any satisfaction of trying to torture for answers just now.

Fel lives up to his cartoon namesake, and pounces in one swift motion, trying to bring the butt of his rifle to the soldier's temple before he can cry out or turn. He swings with all his strength, breath hissing out between his teeth.

Sasha tightens his grip around Cat's neck, not enough to restrict her airways, but enough to alter the pitch of her voice and change it to something that's presumably more agreeable to his ears. "«You know where Wagner and the Verano are headed,»" he murmurs, tone hard and husky. "«I know that you've been in contact with the Americans. What have your superiors told you, Catherine? Coordinates. A shipping route. The name of a port. Whatever it is, it can't be worth more than your life.»"

Her giggling draws him closer still. As he speaks, his mouth is moving against hers as if readying for a kiss, only no kiss ever comes. Just the smell of his breath, unpleasant in comparison to the gas, and the vibrations of his voice buzzing in her lips. "«I looked after Faina for years,»" Sasha says. "«I can protect you too, if you'll let me.»"

Felix's rifle lands its mark and the soldier's knees give out beneath him, sending him plummeting with a wet sound punctuated by the crunch of his body hitting the floor. His rifle drops but fortunately does not discharge. Unfortunately, he isn't quite out yet either. Bloodied hands grope around blindly in the soupy haze and come dangerously close to the rifle's grip, carpet fibers clenched between slick fingers, but it's Felix's foot he finds instead.

Her eyes are closed, and she's slack under his grip. Consciousness seems to have departed, Cat neither moves nor acknowledges his question. Breathing is regular, falling into a pattern common enough for those sedated with this particular gas.

Good. Oh, good. Maybe luck'll be with him, for once. Fel kicks the fallen man's rifle out of the way, and then tries for a vicious kick in the head. He's silent, lips pulled back in an angry grimace.

Sasha's grip instinctively loosens around Cat's throat when she doesn't respond. Maybe it has something to do with his body weight or mass, or maybe his tolerance for the drug is naturally higher. It probably helps that he hasn't been exposed to the gas as long as Felix and Cat have, but whatever the reason, he shows no sign of fading as thoroughly as the woman he has pinned to the wall. Wordlessly, he relieves her of her rifle and lets her slump to the floor rather than let her down gently, then steps over her body on his way into the hall, perhaps to investigate the current situation in the bedroom.

The soldier on the floor is still, his gas mask askew, one arm stretched above his head and the other bent at an awkward angle by his side.

Fel leaves the rifle as too awkward in such confined spaces, pulls his pistol and reverses the grip, quite prepared to try another version of the same trick on Kozlow. He's crouched behind the doorway like a cartoon thief, ready to bludgeon Sasha as soon as he shows a whisker.

The trick doesn't work as well on Sasha as it did on the other soldier, which is probably why he's in charge and the unconscious man on the floor isn't. He casts a shadow across the body, giving Felix a rough as idea as to his location, though his shape does not yet appear in the doorframe. "«Felix Ivanov,»" he says, "«Son of Nikolai and Irina. You're in over your head, Agent. I know all about you and the trouble you caused for Fenrir and Tyr over in New York. The little Munin, too. If Volken had brought any of us with him to America, his legacy would have ended very differently. Come out and let's talk.»"

Let's discuss this using monosyllables of lead. Even Russians can understand that language. It's a guess, and a rough one, from where he's standing and what he can gauge of Sasha's position from his shadow. He flips the gun back again, and just fires through the wall. These aren't safety rounds, and they are .45 caliber - they should pierce it.

The bullets punch gaping holes in the plaster and asbestos insulation that keeps the heat from escaping the bedroom in winter. Felix is rewarded with a strangled noise that originates from the other side — the yelp of a wounded animal with its paw caught in a steel trap. Sasha has been hit. It's likely a solid hit too, because Felix can hear the sound of his footsteps are dragging away when the pistol's clip is spent and he has to pause to eject the empty one.

In yet another room, a door is flung open, a window smashed. He's fleeing.

Yeah. And congratulations, Kozlow, you have a speedster on your tail. Felix wears that fixed, glassy-eyed, almost blissful expression he has when it's all about the adrenaline. Weirdly reminiscent of the wolfhounds they breed around here. Gun in hand, he's after Sasha, heedless of the blood trail he's leaving.

Felix catches up with Sasha with one leg out the window, the other planted on the floor, one hand clutching the frame for support, the other cradling the grip of Cat's rifle. Dark fluid has created a patch of red that's barely visible against the woolen material of his coat somewhere below his chest but above his lower stomach — a gut shot. This doesn't stop him from squeezing one gloved finger around the trigger the moment that the fed shows his face, however, cutting a horizontal swath across the door.

It's Felix's speed that spares his life, and he manages to escape with only three bullet wounds, two in his shoulder and one wedged under his collarbone. The effects of the gas have begun to wear off in this section of the apartment, diluted by the cold air flooding in from the outside and the fact that the canisters dispersed in the kitchen. This time, pain shoots through his body and sets fire to his nerve endings as the wall behind him is sprayed with blood.

Sasha disappears out the window, dragging the curtains with him.

If he tries to follow, he'll bleed out. This isn't exactly a victory for Felix. And he just drove off the one healer they know. Maybe he should've talked. Fel's somewhat drugged, and bleeding badly from multiple wounds. God, it'll be another stint in the hospital, if he survives at all. Which may be in doubt - he staggers back towards the kitchen, gets to the doorway, before he collapses.

Some minutes later, Cat stirs where she fell. It's a slow waking, with her need to shake off the last of the gas, but wake she does. Her body is sore from the beating taken, and she moves a bit slowly in getting to her feet. From there the place is explored. One attacker found dead, the other still unconscious, and Felix shot.

The agent is moved to, she checks him for signs of life and consciousness.

He's groggy, blood-sodden, but there. Mumbling questions. "I really fucked that up, didn't I?" is his one coherent question.

"Not unless you told them anything other than get fucked, eat shit, and die," Cat answers simply. "I don't think he knows where the weapon is, to have come here like that. Don't want them to know we don't exactly either." Having established life continues, she moves on to checking locations and severity of wounds on the man. It's a very good thing she read through Grey's Anatomy and books on emt procedures years before.

But all the same, her iPhone is coming out. Spektor's number is dialed, she prepares to give word of events and call for assistance, hoping the Company arrives before police as they did when Anya struck.

"Hopefully they can take the surviving attacker with us. Where's your rifle?"

"Bedroom," he mumbles, rolling his eyes at her.

As she makes the call and shares the situation, Cat goes and retrieves the weapon. On the way back to Felix, she checks his wounds again. "They might come back," she states, "not going to have that happen while unarmed." In speaking this, the phone is covered with a hand. And she's listening for sounds which would indicate police vehicles.

He's doing what he can to hold himself together. In this case, somewhat literally….and he's still watching Cat rather guiltily.

Soon enough assistance comes to make a quick extraction, taking the attacker who bled out and the survivor with them. Cat works to stop Felix from bleeding, remaining there with the AK-47 at hand until they're evacuated.

Time for plotting to rescue the others will come later. Medical attention first.

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