Just Like Old Times


aviators_icon.gif dajan_icon.gif danko3_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif tau_icon.gif

Scene Title Just Like Old Times
Synopsis It's Angola all over again. Nobody say the Z-Word.
Date December 14, 2009

Somewhere South of Mandritsara


Trodding across a wet patch of swamp, boots squelching in the mud, Aviators makes his way up the line of MLF soldiers. "Ruskin slow the fuck down!" It's been a miserable day, with the rain falling in a torrential downpour and nothing but wide open hills and marshy fields as far as the eye can see. Staying clear of the roads, Team Bravo has made remarkable headway towards their destination, but the only problem is they haven't decided yet what that destination is, and today is the last day they can move without figuring out where they're headed first.

A single-file marching order has a long line of weary MLF soldiers trodding through this sodden ground, with Aviators struggling to catch up to one of the women in the lead. Gabriel has been divided from the group for a while, likely as a result of his argument the other night, but in excuse it's to scout ahead without impediment of physical movement.

"Ruskin," Aviators breathes out, sloshing up in ankle-deep much to the woman's side, one hand swatting a mosquito on his cheek. "Hey, I just got off the Sat Com with Team Charlie." He brandishes the device in one hand before tucking it into his pocket. "They've got some intel, I wanted to pass it on to you, see what you know. You're the only Vanguard here." One blue eye angles towards the line of people marching, then back to Eileen. "She says they found out about some guy named Wagner. We heard his name during the raid on the Germany facility. Word is he's got some ship called the Verano, they think the warhead might be on it." Aviators stumbles, the ground sinking beneath his feet. "What— ah— " he pulls one sucking step out of the mud. "You ever meet him?"

Further down the line, Dajan walks quietly with Tau at his back, tired from all the traveling, from the hiking, from the silence. Most of all, worried. A pill bottle rattles around in Dajan's hand, two little yellow pills popped out into his palm and then slapped into his mouth. They're running out of Malaria medication, and he's starting to suffer mild symptoms, while the others were already sick before they got to Mandritsara. If the medication runs out in this climate, in this situation, it'll be an unfortunate end of the journey for them all.

At least today's about as bad as yesterday.

The irony of someone with legs as long as Aviators' telling Eileen to slow down is not lost on the young woman, but she'd be in a much better mood to appreciate it if she wasn't drenched in sweat and rainwater and covered in insect bites that raise red bumps on her skin and leave her feeling like a mangy cat that clawed its way out of burlap sack after being hurled into the river. She's not much better off emotionally, either, but her mental state is not as readily apparent as her physical one — whatever's lurking behind her eyes, she's careful to keep it hidden and her mouth curved into a shape that betrays curiosity at the question and little else.

She stops, mud gurgling beneath her feet, and shoots a quick glance up the line to make sure that everyone else is still present and accounted for before turning her attention back to Aviators. "Once," she says, voice coming out haggard and tired. "Why? Is he here?"

Huruma is ahead of Dajan and Tau in the line, if only because she can always feel Tau's nervousness whenever she chances to pass behind him where he cannot keep track of her. The potential problems facing them are more than Malaria- but for the time being, perhaps that is what Huruma is able to focus on. The rattle of the bottle calls her attention every time she hears it, and though her son is likely to have had it before, even she started falling worse by the time it progressed. It only feels different when you know it is your blood that is falling under the wheel of sickness. Not that Huruma is going to go into Chicken Soup and Juice mode anytime soon; knowing is half of the mess as it is.

Head turning away once again from the tinkling of pills, Huruma casts a glance over the group, and Aviators as he sloshes and schlumps past. When Eileen stops, the line slows to a halt, mucking about in the mud along the path they are on. Huruma only watches up the line, eyes somewhat reddened and fixating on Aviators as he calls for answers to his questions.

Danko brings up the rear, which is par for the course and appropriate in just about every way. He's smoking, too — perhaps boldly against the backs of several men twice his size who might be in search of the same fix, ash frosted grey white in its steady crawl through humid air towards the filter. It matches the fuzzy buzz of his hair and the coarser stuff dusted over his jawline, even if swaths of it are masked by a pale crust of dried mud. The same stuff coats the back of his hands and wire-strung arms well up under the the rolled sleeves of his jacket. He's dirtier than most of the others, but sure as hell he's got fewer itchy red bites to count for it.

Malaria and mosquitos accounted for, it doesn't look like he feels bad. Doesn't look like he feels much of anything, tramping along with an easy military precision to his pacing that clagging mud and sloppy swamp cannot deter. His rifle is set against his left shoulder, grip in hand to give his right side a rest. Huruma may detect otherwise in some half-hearted resentment that aches out've the quiet coil he's set himself up in at the back, but for the most part, his mind's as quiet as the rest of him. He's walking. He's keeping his eyes open. Neither requires more than the barest default levels of awareness.

"I sure as fuck hope so." Aviators notes with a grumble, starting to walk again, keeping a slow pace at Eileen's side. "Chesterfield says that intel they picked up in Russia indicates that Wagner might be the one with the bomb, and that he's carrying it on a ship called the Verano." His one eye flits over to Eileen, followed by a squelching footstep. "Then again, she also thinks he's going to try and flood the fucking world by blowing up Antarctica or something." One hand waves flippantly at the air — or a mosquito — he obviously thinks she's out of her mind.

"Kershner sent me some intel on this guy Vidar. Apparently that's Wagner's code-name, and he was the son of a bitch in charge of the Germany cell. Guess we came knocking by the time he was already gone to do fuck-if-I-know-what."

A look is offered ahead of the group, towards the foggy horizon that the muted sunlight coming thorugh the dense clouds cannot burn off. It's like something out of that old horror movie the Mist, hardly anything can be seen thorugh the dense fog, not even the squid-ink trails Gabriel is making ahead of them. "How much fucking longer is he going to be diddling himself up there. I want to know what the fuck we're marching into."

Losing an eye has deprived him of all forms of patience.

Eileen falls back into step alongside Aviators. Grateful for the cloudcover and what respite from the sunlight it affords, she's having a hard enough time keeping up with the group while staving off respiratory discomfort as it is — soaring temperatures and blistering heat would only make the trek more difficult. The smell of wet tobacco and cigarette smoke wafting up to her on the breeze isn't helping matters, either. She's spent the last twenty minutes battling the urge to ask Danko if he could spare from his pack, but so far good judgment has prevailed.

"We were in radio contact with an operative name Vidar when Holden's cell was stationed in New York City," she says. "Other places, too. If they're the same person, no one ever bothered to tell me about it. As far as I know, he wasn't anything more than a glorified switchboard operator."

After a certain point of being introduced to various pieces of this Vanguard puzzle, one may begin to try and foretell things by simply remembering the adages of myth. Huruma finds herself relocating memories of casual reading while listening to Aviators talking a few men ahead of her. She can hear him, but only just. Blah blah Wagner blah blah Verano blah blah Antarctica blah blah Vidar(why do the Germans take Norse names and ride Italian ships?). Like everything else she just files it all away to be remembered at a later date. Then again, thinking about Norse Mythology is more entertaining than what is actually surrounding them.

Trudging along, when Huruma finally does skip her thoughts away from other things, the fog on all sides is met with the beginning murmurs of a song; it is not the first time she has done this on the trip, but it is the first time for this particular tune. It sounds to be somewhere between a children's song and her usual folk fare, idly rolling into the fog with the light tones of something in Zulu.

Wolfing ahead of the back is relaxing, the liquid slide of his body coursing through the marsh. Fog heaves aside in imploding curls of white as the inky shadow slices through, and the fact that it's raining is all the more encouragement for Gabriel to remain as he is, a snake of multiple heads and tails as it climbs through muck and stumpy flora. Catches of words from behind him is scarcely heard, nothing familiar to one of the latest additions to Vanguard.

Aviators complaints are similarly ignored. The serial killer pushes on, a swatch of darkness big enough to include himself and his supplies that corkscrews onwards like a wolfhound on a scent.

First time most of the team here's heard it in Madagascar, maybe. Narrow shoulders exaggerated in their swagger to compensate for the slog and track and slog of his boots through sucking mud, Danko lets his eyes sharpen back into focus for the first time in what feels like hours. Irises washed pale as the blend of white sky into treetops sheathed in mist, he looks Huruma over with a flicker of wary interest and adjusts the rest of his rifle up into a steeper angle.

Smoke hangs heavy around his ears and turns slowly over in his wake after an exhaled sigh — the wind is enough to spread tobacco stink around without ever whisking it (or the fog) entirely away. Still better than prison.

Eileen's dismissal of Wager has Aviators' pace slowing, shoulders slacked and brows furrowed. He looks like a child who was just told that Santa Claus isn't real. Confused, then disheartened, he reaches up to scratch at a mosquito bite at the side of his face, then levels a side-long look towards Huruma when she begins singing. There's a slow, tired shake of his head and he doesn't respond to Eileen, just starts walking again with his hands tucked into his pockets. Whatever she and Gray argued about the other night, it's obviously still eating at her.

Dajan has other reactions to Huruma's song. Being near the back of the group, when he stops it's only Tau and one of the MLF operatives that halt behind him. Eyes wide, he stares in the direction of his mother, heart skipping a beat as he hears the familiar tune. At first he can't recall where he heard it, but that doesn't stop it from being something that tug at him, makes him anxious, pulls at his emotions from every angle and floods him with a conflict of past and present.

Up ahead, firelight reflects dull off of the fog Gabriel swims through, and a psychic sonar pings with thinking minds — dozens of them, maybe more. Through the fog, from Gabriel's advanced distance, it looks like they may be coming up on a populated commune. Though in the haze of dense fog and sheets of heavily falling rain, it's harder to tell. Too far away, yet, for Huruma to be able to feel the sense of their emotions on the wind.
ORDER: Eileen has skipped their turn.
Huruma knows she should probably bother for rest, but the singing is largely to distract her from that fact. The motes of interest from Danko are not a surprise; she knows that he knows this one. Not that she ever told him what the lyrics were.

Dajan, on the other hand- Huruma pauses when his wash of surprise, anxiety, and confusion come bubbling up the line. The woman visibly stops, the man behind her moving around while she finds Dajan. Her lips are still forming the words, but stop once she lands her gaze onto his familiar scarred face. A flicker of this goes behind him, towards Tau, towards men, then Danko in the last space. She seems just a bit confused herself; it is something much like wariness that she looks at him with, eyebrows knitted and song abruptly disappearing.

Too trail beat to fuss overmuch at Huruma having some kind of Moment in the middle of the procession, as crazy people are wont to, Danko turns his look over into something equally brow-knit and a little sideways in passing. Was she like this before? Do the evolved get crazier as they get older?

One bony wrist lifts to tip his cigarette away so he can scuff under his nose, loosing chips of dry mud from both as he does so. The look's just a look; he continues on without slowing up.

When Gabriel returns, it's without fanfare. The trudge of feet, already turned back into his solid human form by the time he's spotted coming back through the fog. He sees them when they see him, which also means he stops, boots sinking into mud as he waits for the group to come within range, a hand waving not in greeting, but to redirect a mosquito who had circled around the concept of perching on his generous nose.

"People, up ahead," he reports, voice quiet enough for words to snag upon those who are near the front. "A lot of them." A hand comes up, uselessly wiping rainwater out of his eyes. "Firelight. We expecting a party?"

Dajan was about to say something, mouth open and lips parted as if to speak, but Gabriel Gray's voice comes out instead. It's not so much a fancy trick as it is hesitation and timing making for an odd effect. Dajan's dark eyes drift away from his mother to Gabriel, and Tau is clearing the distance, passing by Dajan with a lightly brush of a hand to his shoulder as he moves, sloshing through the wet field with a MLF operative on his heels.

"People?" Aviators looks up to Gabriel, then out to the fog, "Motherfucker. Are they hostile or did you not think to check?" One brow raises temptingly, as if nothing Gabriel does is ever really good enough. Gabriel had enough of that attitude with his family he certainly doesn't need it from a one-eyed man with a ridiculous name.

"'Dere shoul' be no people this fa'south…" Tau finally says as he comes up closer, bringing the remaining MLF soldiers from within the ranks with him, attracting them like a magnet attracts metal filings. "Tha' village was robbed o'al of its people…" Tau's thick fingers scratch through his beard. "Can y'figure out who they are? M'be the soldiers set up a checkpoint?" He looks back to Dajan, hoping that somehow makes sense, but he can see Dajan's preoccupation with glaring at his mother anxiously and turns away again.

Eileen reaches out using the sensory feelers that belong to the birds up ahead, spoonbills and ibises among other swamp-dwellers including a solitary egret perched in the low branches of a spindly tree with wisps for branches, its cotton white plumage ruffled by the wind. It catches the Briton's hair, too, sending ripples of movement through her dark, greasy curls as she closes her eyes and focuses on attempting to get a better look at what's going on ahead by siphoning some of her consciousness into a marsh harrier that springs from its roost a moment later and abandons an overturned log half-submerged in water in favour of taking to the air.

With any luck, the haze created by floating smoke mixed with fog shouldn't be dense enough to prevent her from taking a closer look.

Huruma gets more sane as time passes- if such a thing is likely. The look to those behind Dajan was out of a short search to see if anyone else has some face they wanted to make. Danko does, yes, but that is only because he thinks she must be losing some screws. Huruma's attention is yanked away when Gabriel returns with news. Her reaction is like Tau's, for the most part. There probably shouldn't be people here- much less ones that think making fires are okay.

"A checkpoint f'an empty countryside?" Huruma may seem hopeful, or she just wants to play devil's advocate; she also knows that Dajan is watching her now- she would be watching her too.

Aviators gets a dead look, Gabriel's flickering attention returning to the gathered soldiers - the ones with two eyes. He doesn't need to look to know birds are already taking flight, the subtle sound of wings in the air and the rustle of bushes only confirming his suspicion. Instead, he tips his chin up towards the African woman making her suggestion. "I can take Huruma closer without us being seen. I can get a better read on how many and she can find out what they might want."

His measured words, quiet so as not to penetrate the fog around them, are a far cry from any kind of serial killer deserving of being locked away with a bucket to piss in, as Eileen had so aptly described it the other night. The incident that was Bennet doesn't need to be forgiven for Gabriel to ignore it ever happened as he addresses the men who'd seen to his imprisonment, as token as it may have been.

Danko watches the way Aviators talks to Gabriel Gray the way one mangy old zoo lion watches a stoned high-school drop out dangle his leg into the neighboring enclosure of another. There's no change in expression to accompany his halt when he winds deliberately down into one — no smirking or elbowing in to interrupt or sudden show of interest — but he doesn't blink, either. If anything, he's conspicuously still back there some ways behind the one-eyed cesspool's shoulder, compact frame and fuzzy skull blended out in soft shades of grey.

When the potential for confrontation culminates in a look and shifted focus onto things like Plans that involve Sneaking Ahead Stealthily and Taking A Closer Look, he flips the rifle safety off with a succinct twitch of his thumb.

Eileen's birds are the first line of perception the team has about the village, and there's a notably strange presence to it. Lights are on inside the shanty buildings that surround a swolen pond surrounded by red clay earth. Assault trucks, the kind the militia drive, are parked everywhere around the village, some of them might have veen been present in Mandritsara. There's three large bonfires burning in the village as well, but notably no one active inside. Gabriel said he sensed people, but at first Eileen doesn't see any; not until her birds swoop down through some of the thicker fog.

There's people, huddled and cold looking despite the humidity and the heat, curled up in fetal positions around the campfires in the street, some laying in the backs of trucks, others visible as dusky silhouettes beyond the open windows of the shanties. No one is moving, not more than to shift uncomfortably where they lay or sit, and with it being just a few hours before mid-day, there should be no such inactivity, especially to those exposed to the rain. Something feels wrong.

Removing the SatCom from his pocket, Aviators looks down at the GPS map with a shake of his head. "I've got— fuck, we've got to figure out what we're doing. If we go any further south we're going to walk right up on the capital. We need to decide if we're hitting the bio-weapons plant on the airfield before we go much further." One eye turns to Eileen, noticing that euphoric look on her face, one of relaxation and freedom that comes with the use of her ability.

"She alright?"

It's not a look he's familiar with, really.

On the outside, the prospect of being taken closer writes a note of hesitance on Huruma's brow, though only borne of her actually trying to hide the fact that the very idea excites her. Gabriel simply gets a nod in return, and Huruma gives a cursory glance back to Dajan before stepping forward to intercept with Gabriel. That must mean that it is fine with her- Fire Away.

Eileen's lips are moving around words that are likely too soft to be heard except by those standing close enough to catch what's being said. Her voice has transformed into a low, throaty murmur out of necessity rather than any side-effect of her ability — she just doesn't want it to carry. "Militia," she reports. "Assault trucks everywhere, three bonfires. There are people laid out on the streets, maybe civilian. I can't tell."

There's a pause as she lets out a long breath through her nostrils that trembles faintly with exhaustion. Curling up in the fire's glow doesn't
sound like that bad of an idea, no matter how wrong the situation feels. Eileen could sleep for days. "Do you want me to get closer?"

"Well, if we are supposed t'be cracking down on th'two sites soon- per'aps we shoul'think about …commandeering one of the trucks." On the outside, the prospect of being taken closer writes a note of hesitance on Huruma's brow, though only borne of her actually trying to hide the fact that the very idea excites her. Gabriel simply gets a nod in return, and Huruma gives a cursory glance back to Dajan before stepping forward to intercept with Gabriel. That must mean that it is fine with her- Fire Away.

Gabriel lingers long enough to hear Eileen's words, before taking a step for Huruma. The only warning she will get is his hand on her arm, which really, should be sufficient enough - he's not generally a touchy kind of guy. They transform as one, solid bodies of flesh becoming something more, a higher energy, their matrixes combining into one. Though only Gabriel can steer— and steer he does, agilely angling away from the group and zigzagging all the closer to the commune— Huruma can certainly sense all he senses.

360 degrees of vision that seems to be made up of the same stuff as sound, information absorbed all in one amorphous idea as much as feeling, in the conventional sense, isn't as much of an option. Dizzying for the first few moments before the mind adapts, and unless periodic imprisonment is panic inducing, it's not a terrible sensation. Just surreal.

He goes as close as he guestimates Huruma's ability to require her to be, and both members of the Alpha Team solidify out of sight of their people, although at this range, Huruma and Gabriel can make out the glow of fire easier, the silhouette of structures. She needs no prompting, so Gabriel gives her none, crouched in marsh.

Saying that Danko is remarkably impassive would be an exaggeration given that, these days and in this setting, it is rarely remarkable that he is impassive. He watches Eileen lower her guard — watches Gabriel and Huruma fall away into smoke and ink while the lighter stuff wavering off the end of his cigarette slows to a trickle.

The look he gives Aviator's turned back once the scariest bitches around are gone is a little different. Kind of like someone who wants steak for dinner but isn't sure they want to pony up with rent due in a weak. For now, nothing more than a restless shift of weight and a longer drag comes of it.

Combinations of intelligence go a ways, but when Gabriel, Huruma and Eileen combine their scouting capabilities together a wealth of unwanted knowledge is gained. Gabriel moves thorugh the dense fog and heavily falling rain thorugh the outskirts of the village, past overgrown farmlands and burned out shells of abandoned vehicles. As he and Huruma's comingled forms come upon signs of life, there is something wrong about them. Men are hunched up against buildings, dressed not in the uniforms of the militia, but rather MLF soldier uniforms. These must have been the reinforcements that Kwasi was talking about. But they look sick, or injured, or—

Huruma's mind is assailed by horrifying truths, pain and fear and a desire to want to die assails her from all angles of the village. These people lay not out of laziness or sloth but out of a lack of a will to continue breathing. Some of them are in incredible pain, and as Gabriel flits like a ghostly black smoke over one, he can see why. Laying on hi sback in one of the assault trucks, the MLF soldier cradling a rifle to his chest is shaking with pain, sweat and rainwater mixing on his skin, which writhes with a corsucation of worms beneath its surface.

"Hhh— hhhaaah…" a croaking groan slips forth from his mouth, one eye milky white and swolen in a manner that suggests that it is full of something. He turns, eyeing the ephemeral smoke, and the plea of death-urge in him grows.

But also something else.

Something aware.

Kill… me…»" The soldier rasps out in Malagasy, whorls and coils of embedded worms twisted on his tongue and inside of his cheeks in plump sacks. But the others are moving now, stirred like bees in a hive, some staggering up with herky-jerky motions, others rolling around on the ground clawing at their own skin.

From high above, Eileen can see what is happening, like a pulse of awareness was shared throughout all the worms from the one infected man who saw the smoke moving against the wind. They stir, twitching and rising, groaning and whimpering, begging for death even as they unsteadily reach for their weapons.

Through the fog, towards the distant yellow glow of firelight, Danko, Tau and Dajan can hear the groaning cries of something— someone— in the fog. The MLF soldiers take steps back, away, fearful looks rising in their eyes.

But perhaps it is Danko who has the most reason to fear.

This is the same sound he heard in Angola.

The marsh harrier swings away, wings slivering swiftly through the fog, but Eileen does not release it from her control. Neither does she complete the jump and trade her human body for the one with eyes as sharp as the clawed toes on its feet. Instead, she leans all her will into it, pushing the raptor to complete a full circle of the village from the safety of the slate gray sky. Although she can see what's happening from her temporary vantage point in the air, she lacks the awareness that Gabriel and Huruma both have — she knows something is desperately wrong based on the wave of movement that ripples through the soldiers, but in no way can she comprehend its scope.

Back on the ground, her breathing has slowed and her murmuring ceased. All her attention is focused on guiding the harrier while maintaining a loose periphery based on what feedback the smaller, more timid birds are giving her. The only sound she can hear is the roar of the wind in her ears.
From the beginning, the fusion that Gabriel suddenly finds himself in is slightly different; though he may be steering, to say Huruma is a backseat driver may be very accurate. There is a certain and new electricity to her in this form, as though he just wrung her through a juicer that happens to only juice the essence of someone; the backseat driving comes from the tsunami of emotions that comes from Huruma, as her senses attempt to draw closer to the other ones without much warning. Her empathy may even be leaking onto Gabriel, examining him at some of his most raw states and somehow- offering glimpses into her own moods. Higher Energy, essence, whatever you'd like to call it- it is no wonder that the excitement on her surface is bubbling, and he has little trouble taking note of it.

Huruma adapts wonderfully to the swirling omnipotence that Gabriel offers her. When they actually go to work, however, it is a different story. Observation and senses mix into a sudden overflow between them, and Huruma's empathy vibrates with a siren-like warning. Somehow, it feels like that wailing scream from some time ago, when Gabriel had her pinned to the table in the conference room. Feral, angry- ready for a fight if it is bound to happen. If wisps could snarl, this one would probably be doing just that.


Huruma's thoughts hit at him like a barncat being picked up by its scruff, paws smacking wildly at his metaphysical face to steer him back away from the commune. Not only is it her warning that strikes at him, but also a flood of vague thoughts and memories- Angola, which presents itself simply as amalgamations of African countryside and villages- marines, Danko amongst them, though he is much younger and actually has color throughout his buzzed over hair- gunfire, flashes of buildings burning, and lastly the same sounds as are now coming out of the mist in Madagascar.

The physical manifestation of Huruma's assault is hesitation, the black cloud tornadoing in place with irritation and confusion. All his own, movement under his command, but it doesn't give Gabriel complete immunity - you can walk in a straight line holding a hissing, clawing cat too. Huruma will feel something like dismissal, his attempt at reassurance. It doesn't matter, her fear doesn't matter, nothing can touch them, hush now.

Besides… isn't this neat? Gabriel takes his lazy time, circling around the twitching soldiers who shamble into being, clumsy moving until he sees one hand go for a gun, fingers twitching along with the wiggling insects that writhe beneath his skin. Oh.

Time to go.

Huruma's siren screams are finally answered, and Gabriel flings them both out of the village and headed back for the team. The massive, roiling shadow looms into being before the team, twists until it turns into two long limbed psychopaths, Gabriel's face as pale as the moon from the fatigue traveling with two brings, staggering to rest his hands against his knees, and Huruma free to regain her balance. And put to words what they found.

"Oh boy," says Danko at a dishearteningly resigned wither, already hoarse voice dried to bone dust and gun brought down to rest across the cradle of both his waiting hands. He is either possessed by Scott Bakula or suddenly has too much offal bobbing slick and fat up through the briny depths of scarce referenced memory to be more creative in his dismay.

In any case, oh boy sums things up pretty well.

Smoke furls out through his flared nostrils in a draconic gruff of disapproval when his eyes ghost aside enough to take in the others already on their way to balking. The chilly shiver of unease that ices up his own spine is property of his and Huruma's awarenesses alone.

It spikes upon their abrupt return, and odds are he's not the only one who nearly just put a few bullets through the pair of them roiling back into tangible existence. He's breathing fast enough for it to show in the whites of his eyes and the puff of his chest. This kind of shit wasn't in the brochure. >:/

"Wha's tha' noise?" Tau's eyes grow wide, the rifle he carries is unshouldered and held out, and before Tau had even gone for his weapon the other MLF operatives had taken their guns out. The rain seems to fall warmer now, the fog thick and swirling with a twinge of movement from where Gabriel and Huruma had emerged from within. "Wha's tha— wha' did you see!?" Tau demands, taking a half step back, a look of fear beginning to dawn on the giant man's face as pained groans begin to fill the air, along with the click-clack of weapons being loaded and bullets being chambered.

Dajan takes a step closer, one hand resting on Tau's shoulder, even if his expression belies his fear to more than just his mother. "Hold," he orders softly to Tau, then looks to Gabriel and Huruma and over to Eileen. Something has disquieted them then it is something worthy of worry.

Suddenly, like a sharp jab of a needle in her arm, Huruma picks up an emotion that rapidly emerges in one her senses, one from a direction where there is nothign but fog and mist — anger, violence, enjoyment. The emotion comes as fast as a scream and the sound of sizzling in the air, as one of the MLF soldiers throws his arms out and drops his gun, skin welting and turning red before flesh boils off as though scalding hot water had been thrown on it.

He stumbles to the side, a wailing cry coming over him before the fog itself seems to envelop him, waves of damp heat radiating off of it like a ruptured steam main, followed by the flash boiling of his skin off of his bones in wet sloughing pieces that hang and dangle from his face. His scream ends, and he collapses to the ground as the steam rises up and blends back in with the fog. Huruma can barely pinpoint it's location it moves so fast, but it is amused by this.

In the fog towards the commune, dark silhouettes slowly move through the gloom. Their motions are jerky and awkward, like puppets without enough strings, pained whimpers and groaning wails come thorugh the mist, some of them lurching on bowed and wobbly legs in awkward procession.

Around the same time that Gabriel and Huruma are returning to the group, the marsh harrier lands on an overhanging branch nearby with enough force to rattle leaves and knock Eileen back into complete consciousness. Gray eyes holding only a faint trace of green blink rapidly to clear the fuzz from the corners of her vision as her breathing picks back up again and the world around her comes into sudden focus.

There's a dead resistance fighter on the ground, his skin sloughing off like meat off a chicken carcass bubbling in a pot of hot water. Her mother used to make soup like that, bones and all, but if Eileen had any appetite before then it's gone now. Her pistol pops from its holster at her hip, safety clicked off, both hands engaged. She only needs one to shoot. The second serves to steady her aim and keep it from wavering when her arms do, muscles cramping up with fatigue, though this isn't something she's incapable of forcing her body to breathe through.

Now would probably be a good time for them to be falling back.
Huruma would be enjoying this experience much more if it was not this particular situation and she was not flipping out. As a result, her expression when she forms into tangibility again is one that is out of breath for apparently several reasons. Also, saying that the whites of her eyes would be showing for similar reasons to Danko would be redundant- but that is the look she passes immediately back to him upon landing there at the fore of the group. The two seem to be the only ones that know what is going on, and that too is unsettling.

"We need t'get out of h-" Huruma changes abruptly out of this warning into a hiss from behind her teeth towards the fog, invisible barncat tail standing fluffed on end. The warning comes a little too late, as one of the men with them literally begins falling apart into a gross pile over the ground below. Though at first Huruma makes an attempt to pinpoint this familiar presence, she knows that this is a losing game and simply keeps her own whiskers extended to check its progress around the group. "Gabriel, find it, watch it. We need t'go, now."


Gabriel's eyes are as wide as saucers, but it's not from fear. More like— everyone else's fear, which is something he breathes in as deeply as he can smell the water on the air, and now the stink of cooked flesh. It? He slices a glance towards Huruma before they shut, halfway, reaching out with his own psychic whiskery sense, feeling around in the relative dark and avoiding the bright lights of the known minds around him, until he can feel it - the insubstantial wraith, and he draws in a quick breath.

That looks like a fun one. "Too bad," is muttered, before he reaches out a hand. The fog immediately whorls around it, twists like a funnel of air in the direction of what he and Huruma both can feel, then suddenly dispersing. Mist dries, banishing away in a sudden push of moisture, air tasting dry to those immediately around them.

It won't keep the nymph back for that long, but it's a start.

Eye contact with Danko is an uneasy, sidewinding thing that holds only for as long as he can force himself to look back at Huruma and not at the dark mass of living dead lurching towards them out of the fog. Most of the mud on his face has washed out to seep into streaks through his jacket and shirt, exposing the circles shadowed in around his eyes and every wary line sketched over his brow. For a split second, he looks more alive in underlying fear than he has in any other capacity in years.

Then he's jerking his rifle up snug against his shoulder and squeezing the trigger. Rat tat tat tat and one zombie head explodes like some kind of noodly casserole dish even as a step back treads his boot heel through the mess something he didn't see just made of one of his comrades. "I'm tired of walking."

The steam is gone, for the moment, pushes away in the fog like some sort of ghost warded away by a priest. But the things shambling through the fogm they aren't going away, and when Danko makes that first pop of gunfire to begin clear-cutting them, there's dozens of muzzle-flashes from deeper in the smoke, bullets shot willy-nilly in every direction by jerking and spasming hands, like giving someone with full-body tourettes a machine gun.

Bullets pop softly into the ground with explosions of mud, dirt and grass. Dajan sees, hears and feels the gunfire as bullets whip all around. The scarred man moves out in a wide arc away from the group, dropping to his knees in the mud and digging his fingers into the soft soil. There's an undulating ripple in the ground, and when he tears one hand out of the earth, there's a whip-like line of soil, rocks and grass that lashes out like a striking viper into the fog. It rips open one of the lumbering men who happens to have the silhouette of a pregnant woman. But there's nob aby in that bloated sack of a stomach, just what looks like a hafty bag full of spaghetti splitting at the bottom when the earth-lash rips the man in two.

Tau lets out a bellow of a war-cry, eyes glossed over and jaws open like some howling beast, opening fire recklessly into the fog, shooting at anything that moves with explosive flashes from his AK-47. The jerkily-moving men stagger back with gunshots, Huruma can feel the pangs of their fear and pain and confusion; they aren't in control of themselves. This is like some perverted version of Doyle's puppetry, and there's absolutely no denying this is what it was like in Angola.

It's unsettling to see the figures break into sprints, running through the fog at rapid speeds on jerky legs. Like once they get running they can't manage to stop. Two of them come out of the fog and are blown apart by the gunfire, blood and squirming parasites spraying into the air and darkening the grass.

A sudden scream wails from Dajan as he leaps back and away from where he was crouched, skin on one of his hands blistering and red, like he had been splashed with boiling hot tea-water. He recoils and staggers back, stamping his feet on the ground to kick up a wall of dirt as if a landmine had gone off, and the fingers of boiling hot steam that lance thorugh the holes are like bullseyes to Gabriel.

Then he hears it, hears Eileen's shriek. Her pistol has fired rapidly three times now, but one of them got thorugh the line of gunfire, he's closing in one her, and he has a machete raised over his head, jaws open and blood spilling from a gunshot wound in his neck pumping arterial spray like a garden sprinkler.

Two more bullets perforate the dying man's chest, spraying the wet leaves behind him with a spatter of sticky red liquid, some of which is still attached to him in thin, sinewy strings that vaguely resemble long threads of saliva. It sticks to branches, sodden brushwood and the hair, skin and clothes of anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in the ejaculatory arc.

He should be dead.

Eileen's boots leave staggered prints in the mud and deep gouges where she comes close to losing her footing several times. Remaining aloft is a struggle on this terrain, and it's only by the virtue of moving purposefully rather than strictly in haste that she manages not to trip or fall.

She ejects the weapon's clip into the muck and inserts a fresh one in two separate motions that blur together into something swift and continuous. It's like Gabriel said. Flesh remembers. Blood remembers. It's no coincidence that her brain is lagging several seconds behind her body.

Point duly noted. But can they take these trucks anyway? Huruma's nostrils flare for a moment at Danko, but at her core she completely agrees with him. Tired of walking- and this is how they fixed the problem the first time. Perhaps it is a renewed sense of preservation that she stumbled into; it isn't hard to rattle her back out of it, as seen. Huruma finally shrugs down her own rifle, swinging it up into a grip against her shoulder. The shrieking of her own bullets mix with the screams and sickly noises permeating the dry air, tearing into bulging headflesh when they connect to targets. Between Tau and the other MLF, Huruma picks out Dajan's yell from nearby and the darting emotions she has been grating on pinning down. Her grip in the rifle tightens and nearly constricts, head whipping around to look.

"Back off!" The wall of earth explodes upward, and though the bullseye for Gabriel makes itself known, Huruma's first instinct is to fill It's direction with a flailing slosh of fear, trying to at least threaten it away from Dajan.

At the sound of gunshots accompanied with the sparks from muzzles in the distance has Gabriel going on the defense. Which mostly amounts to him standing in place, with the rain falling through them as if he were as substanceless as the steam ghost that plagues them. Baring his teeth, fog is flung back repeatedly as if he were feverishly batting at curtains, chasing the thing with a wave of his hand until he blinks when—

A bullet passes through an eyeball. It doesn't hurt, the projectile whizzing unbloodied off to bury in marsh some distance away, but it has Gabriel steering a look towards the shambling creatures.

Boom, goes the blast of concussive energy, slamming ripples through the air, creating a trench through mud for as long as it takes to hit two of the puppets. They crumple like soft flesh, already ruined and rotted where the worms have laid their tracks. Pieces of them are still slapping down into mud with a rain of wiggling critters by the time a third is managing to squirm — har har 8( — its way through rapidfire and assault.

Blood comes funneling out of its porous wounds, ropey tendrils of dark crimson slithering rapid through the air at a startling drain of life fluid that, possibly, the body itself doesn't need as much as blood loss pitches the host into welcome unconsciousness. The blood is directed into Gabriel's palm, whipping suddenly in hand as the tendril of leathery red arcs across with both physical control and ability controlled, slicing through flesh made tender from worm decay where it carves into the monster's neck with a crack of tension, head coming almost entirely off its neck if not for the stalwart attachment of spine.

The blood made clotted and solid is abandoned in favour of pointing with his fingers. The skull of the felled monster explodes like soft fruit, worms spilling into mud as Gabriel— thinks to pull out his gun. Oh hey! Yeah. He fires off a shot or two, and completely neglects to glance to Eileen.

The creature— man attacking her should be dead. She doesn't reload fast enough, the machete comes down, but with no effort. The worm-writhing carcass slithers forward on wobbly legs and then collapses towards her with a gurgle of its blood-filled lungs. Eileen is able to sidestep the collapsing body, eyes wide and blood from Gabriel's attack sprayed across the side of her face.

As fast as things are exploding, as loud as the rattle of gunfire is from the carried arsenal of Bravo Team, the waves of jerky worm-puppeteered bodies are quick to be quelled. A recoiling hiss of fear and pain comes from that steam entity as it slithers away from Dajan, clods of dirt landing heavy ont he ground as he looks down at his hand, hissing and grimacing from the pain.

Blood lies in a smooth circle around Gabriel, almost like the penumbra of an eclipse, trimmed on the inner edges and flayed out alone the sides. Only a single spatter mars his cheek, a curved like with three splatted protrusions jutting out from it. The air is still around him, silent for as long a time as it takes for body parts to begin raining down from the air from where he had fired that shockwave. The ground is still, Dajan is still, and the rain continues to fall, washing blood off of Eileen's face from where it splattered. In the silence and stillness, a rumbling noise fills the air, not so much thunder as it is a steady thrumming noise coming from the edge of the fog, followed by a pair of gleaming round lights.


Tau turns, shouldering his rifle and squinting down the iron sights. Can zombies drive trucks? It's a reasonable question, given what they just encountered. He takes a few cautious steps over to Dajan, dropping to a knee and leveling a hand on the man's shoulder as he casts furtive glances down at his blistered hand. "A'will fix that…" Tau says confidently, "d'no worry." Those words, however, have less confidence. There's plenty to worry about.

But as the truck slowly rolls over corpses, crushing ribs and popping innards, the powder-blue vehicle comes into view with a familiar man behind the steering wheel.

"Nice job with the cover fire…" Aviators says out the window, one arm covered in blood and gore hanging out of it with an equally slick pistol, a blood stain on the inside of the windshield indicating that he liberated the vehicle from its driver.

"You ladies need a ride?"

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