Learn To Survive, Part I


abby_icon.gif asi5_icon.gif avi_icon.gif faulkner_icon.gif francis_icon.gif kaylee6_icon.gif luther_icon.gif nicole3_icon.gif noa_icon.gif nova_icon.gif sf_violette2_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

jager_icon.gif mayes2_icon.gif nowell_icon.gif

Scene Title Learn To Survive, Part I
Synopsis With lives hanging in the balance, the team bound for Prague must make hard choices before time runs out.
Date July 11, 2021

Avi suddenly jerks the controls to the left, banking sharply. As he does there’s a rattle-pop-pop-pop of air-to-air gunfire. Bullet holes perforate the ceiling of the Tlanuwa, punch daylight holes diagonally through the vessel and out the side. Avi lets out a hiss of shock as three holes punch through the cockpit window and the pressure alarms begin going off. He lurches forward, looking wide-eyed at Asi.

Take the controls.” He hisses through clenched teeth. “Down– low as you can go now–” He grabs an oxygen mask from beside his seat, pulling it on over his own head. «Masks! We’re losing cabin pressure! Fucking masks!»

Asi has had just enough time to get herself strapped in by the time everything goes sideways, hands resting on the controls only moments before alarms begin going off. "Shit," she breathes, reaching up to grab for her own mask. Avi said take the controls, though, and she has enough time to look at him and realize how desperate of a situation that is.

Eyes widening, she shuts down control on his side of the cockpit as he begins to slack after managing to get his own mask on, and she claims control just before the Tlanuwa would have needed considerable righting to get back under control. «Epstein's down,» she manages to communicate, compartmentalizing on the fly as she reads all the gauges in front of her with renewed, intense interest. She nearly pushes the Tlanuwa to the limits of its speed before she mentally comes to the same conclusions Avi did about the state of their passengers, and with a curse merely turns them down toward the earth again, careful to keep below the ten-thousand foot altitude but still give them all enough space to maneuver in case of…

Another gauge catches her attention before any other enemy-induced alarms begin to sound, though. "Fuck," she breathes out, looking at the fuel amount that should be staying relatively steady instead of dipping. With a glance at their altitude, she opts to keep her hands on the controls rather than take the time to apply a mask. The Tlanuwa continues to tear through the sky, ever-forward, ever in escape from their pursuers. Land blurs by with no real intent on evading certain areas, just taking them generally south.

«We're losing fuel,» Asi reports grimly. «We've got to–»

They had to keep going, right? They had to keep going.

If they didn't stop, though, they may not make it anywhere past Prague. She lets out a shout of frustration over the situation. People are arguing in the back of the jet, raised voices, differing opinions. Avi’s down had created a storm among them. But once Asi’s confident the craft chasing them has peeled away, she begins to slow the Tlanuwa, engine thrum changing for those back in the cabin. Her eyes dance over the horizon. The forested area they've entered into would make a terrible landing bet for most craft, but most craft weren't like this one. She banks them toward a valley, spotting a site where the treeline is thinner. It's a good enough clearing for her.

«We have to make this a short landing.»

There was so much riding on them continuing on.

Asi dares raise one hand up from the controls to consult the watch strapped to the underside of her wrist. The real them would be waking up in Prague by now.


London, England

Georgia Mayes paces the marble floor of her suite, no longer drinking. Pausing by a tall window, she looks out over the London skyline with an intense stoicism. Her eyes track from side to side, considering the city and its people, the problems that lay far beyond, and solutions yet to come. Her face is a muted reflection in the glass, a barely visible ghost of her looming like a giant phantom over the skyline.

Nearby, George Nowell paces in circles, cell phone clutched in a white-knuckle grip. Mayes watches him out of the corner of her eye, and that sliver of focus belies the storm of nerves boiling in her gut. Outwardly, though, she remains implacable. When Nowell ends his call and turns to circle back to Mayes, she stops and straightens her implacable mask, one brow raised in silent inquiry. Her smile is meant to reflect Nowell’s nervousness back at him, to keep him off guard, to let the truth spill out of his mouth with no sugar left on it.

“Ma’am,” Nowell says, trying to maintain a measure of decorum as he tucks his phone away. Mayes says nothing, waiting expectantly. Her silence is a knife to his throat. “Asset recovery met resistance at the ARM facility.” He rushes through the explanation and Mayes allows herself to show her displeasure. “There was a, ah, an armed resistance attempting to—we’re not sure what, precisely, they were attempting to do yet.”

Elaborate.” Mayes says like a warning shot that grazes Nowell’s brow. He stifles, adjusts his necktie, can’t look her in the eye.

“An American PMC.” Nowell says, and Mayes hides the desire to curl her upper lip behind a twitch of one corner of her mouth. “Wolfhound.

There it is, adrenaline. Panic. Mayes’ smile hides it all, but she was now wading waist-deep into her worst-case scenario. “And what is Wolfhound’s status?” Her voice is crystal and razorblades, conveying none of the internal screaming behind her eyes.

“Escaped. Our asset recovery team didn’t pursue them deeper into Czech airspace.” Nowell tries to find a way to salvage this. “Colin Verse—the copy of him—is dead. Presumably by Wolfhound’s own hand. Colin had also apparently used the stable materials on-site to print a proxy of his late brother, we don’t know what he was doing. The asset recovery team executed this unauthorized PHARO when he went hostile. The other technician on site, Kevin Visser, was incoherent and possibly injured. There was an explosion that killed Visser and two members of the recovery team. I’m still trying to analyze reports of where his body is? They’re giving me conflicting—”

“George.” Mayes cuts him off with gentle press of that verbal knife against a throbbing artery. “You were on the phone with Atkins.” Her hearing is far better than it should be. “How is liquidation going at the Prague facility?”

Nowell slides his tongue over the back of his teeth and looks out to the city skyline.



Somewhere in Czechia

A cloud of dust kicks up from wildly blowing grass as the Tlanuwa touches down in a pasture between rambling mountains. The downdraft of the VTOL engines causes the nearby trees to blow and sway, leaves plucked off by the force of the exhaust. Beyond the pasture there are cottages that look like they were ripped straight out of the late 1600s with their post and beam construction and white plaster walls. The bleat of goats and sheep are drowned out by the sound of jet engines, by the puzzled attention of tourists and locals at this little village feels like white-hot needles.

As soon as the engines spin down, Avi slumps to the side against the wall of the cockpit. There is a thick pool of blood in his seat and below. It drips down onto the metal floorboards. He’s losing a lot of blood, fast. In the back of the Tlanuwa, Francis rapidly unbuckles himself and hurries to the cockpit, gripping both sides of the door as he stares in shock at the amount of blood on the floor. “Fuck,” he hisses, “fuck, fuck.

Violette is silent, hands still wound in the cargo netting, blue eyes wide as saucers. She’s trying not to panic. But panic is extremely easy.

Asi busies herself with quickly unbuckling herself as soon as they're landed and powering down, the ramp at the back of the Tlanuwa lowering down to the grass. Turning behind herself to grab the more advanced trauma kit from its spot behind her seat, she has it in hand as she shoves her way out of the cramped cockpit space to make room for more skilled hands to do much-needed triage. She shoves the kit in the first abled hands she can find and keeps moving.

"Have to find and plug the hole in the fuel line," she says with an edge of apology to it as she clambers toward the ramp.

As Asi’s coming out, Abby’s heading back. “Someone find a collar and get it on Noa!” This thrown back more to her medical cohort. The kit is taken from the woman and a nod as she heads into the cockpit behind Francis. “Avi, hang tight. We’re going to get you sorted.” Out comes the bedside manner from the emergency room where Elmhurst had employed her. She’s already peeling open the kit to compare it to SCOUT’s, its contents. “I need hands to get him out of here, so we can see what we’re dealing with,” she calls out, already pulling out things as she looks for gauze and starts to tear it open.

Nicole’s mind has been reeling from the moment she heard Avi’s down. As soon as they’re stable enough to move without risk of getting thrown about, she’s tearing off her mask and on her feet. Hesitating, she turns an intense look to Violette. “Breathe. Just breathe. We’ve been through worse,” have they? “and we’re gonna get through this.” Are they?

They have to.

Moving up to the cockpit behind Francis with the intent to help move Avi to where there’s more space, she staggers back a half step with a gasp at the sight of all that blood. All Avi’s blood. A hand clamps over her mouth, horrified. She’s seen wounds like that before. Held people’s hands while they bled out before. Her stomach churns and her mind races back to the war for a few moments before she does what she always does and compartmentalizes it. Sucking in a deep breath, she shoves it in a box to be dealt with later.

“Francis and I can do the heavy lifting,” Nicole tells Abby. What good is this bullshit she’s been crafted into if she can’t use that excessive strength in a crucial moment like this? Her heart is pounding as she calls over her shoulder to Zachery, without tearing her eyes away from Avi’s wounded state. “Baby! We’re gonna need your help!”

It takes a few moments for Nova to move into action, but she does, hurrying to the kits to find the neck brace, especially since Zachery’s been called into active service to help Avi. She finds the neck cuff and hurries over to Noa, whose eyes are straining to try to find Avi without turning her head.

“Stay still,” the (technically) younger woman tells to the injured woman, who grasps her arm tightly.

“I’m O negative if they need it,” Noa hisses through gritted teeth – every jostle sends sharp needles of pain through her body. “«Please don’t let him die,»” her radio voice says into the comms, overlapping with her spoken words, almost like an unintended plea to the others as she lies helplessly on her makeshift stretcher.

Zachery, having at some reluctant point taken a seat with one hand clutched tightly into some netting and one hand on a mask pressed against his face, has been visibly seething. There are a lot of things he hates, and from the look on his face when he tosses the mask aside, he's currently thinking about all of them at once.

"We shouldn't have landed," is the first thing he says, contempt dragging his voice low. A 'who the fuck is she' is mouthed in Violette's direction, but apparently there's no time to mull on that now, so glare in her direction will have to do. Next, he gets to his feet, carrying his look of scorn over to the cockpit in heavy steps that slow ever so slightly as the view of Avi and his condition comes into proper view.

"… All right," he mutters, eye on the cockpit window as he continues forward, then on the chair Avi was previously occupying. "Three holes in the window," he says to himself, before basically climbing into the seat, planting a knee on it and running a hand over the fabric and cushions. Until— his fingers catch something sharp where it shouldn't be.

Still filtered through lingering anger, he calls back, clearly, "Shrapnel! From in here. I— think? Not a direct hit, which may be good news. Bad news, something went through him."

Few parts of the cacophony of shouting and disagreements comes to Luther when comes the report that Avi is down. It could be summed up to a singular "Fuck" that escapes the man first, followed by a lean back of his head against the rest and holding on for dear life as the Tlanuwa angles to land. Only after the bird's steady on the ground does Luther seem to find his breath again, pained though it be against his bruised ribs. He's not happy on the landing either, but it's better than crashing out of the sky with a cut fuel line to make more bodies than one dead Epstein. "Kaylee," Luther says as others leave their seats to render first aid to the worst injured, "Little help?" He pulls off his helmet on his own, but removing the bullet riddled and spent AEGIS armor is now a two-person task.

Ripping her helmet and mask off, Kaylee is out of the seat she had thrown herself when the jet had started its wild ride and at Luther's side in mere moments.

Kaylee is quiet as fingers make deft work of the various straps, but Luther can see her struggling mentally. Glances are occasionally thrown towards the others working on Avi and Noa. She was worried, but the way her lips made a fine line she was trying to keep it at bay. It wasn't a time for those kind of emotions.

Once the strap under the injured arm is released, Kaylee carefully pulls it over his head and drops the chest armor unceremoniously at their feet. Fingers hook the collar of his shirt and tug it aside enough to see some of the forming bruises.

“So when did you become the Hulk,” Kaylee asks casually, studying the darkening patches of skin that she can see. Her tone is almost accusatory, maybe because it was the first she was finding out.

Isaac Faulkner has been quieter than usual since they left the ARM facility; his expression is even, but the paleness of his face gives away how very not calm he is feeling right now. He unbuckles himself and removes his mask, but doesn't move to get up just yet — Abby and Zachery are working on Avi up front, Nova's got Noa, and Asi's working on figuring out what's damaged on the plane; for the moment, he's content with staying out of the way and staying quiet. It gives him time to try to order his thoughts.

Not even Zachery's hissing about how they shouldn't have landed draws a response; they have, arguing won't change that. Faulkner thinks Zachery's wrong, but why have an argument that's already won?

His gaze slips away, and quickly finds itself drawn to the black-haired girl that had been the only successful extraction from the lab. The database, presumably… but in this moment, the thing that he notices about her is that she looks like he feels.

He tilts his head to her just a bit — a gesture of acknowledgement, if not reassurance — and then his gaze slips away. To the others, bustling about, many of them scrambling to save Noa or Avi or…

Suddenly it's all too much. Faulkner comes to his feet in a smooth motion. "I'm… gonna get some air," he says quietly, to everyone and no one, and turns towards the rear of the plane. Maybe he can help Asi on the fuel line or… or something.

It is chaos inside the Tlanuwa—directed chaos. Raised voices and many bodies moving, some out of the Tlanuwa to inspect the vehicle’s damage, others working together to hoist the unconscious Avi out of his seat. Many hands are slicked with blood, the entire cockpit floor of the Tlanuwa is smeared with red. Bloody bootprints look like they belong in a charnel house. But there’s a measure of hope. Two medical professionals, advanced medical supplies, time.

As Abby cracks open the Yamagato Trauma Kit she finds herself holding twenty thousand dollars of military grade first-aid equipment; bleeding edge first-aid gear. There’s vacuum-sealed packets of BioGel second skin used for treating burns and covering up chest wounds, an injection tube of antibacterial wound sealant, two dermal injectors and syringes of adrenaline. Packets and packets of advanced quick-clot. An auto-suture gun that looks like a leaf-cutter ant and a staple gun had a baby. More beyond that, it’s everything she could need to try and stabilize him. It’s more than she’s ever had access to before.

As Avi is laid down, the severity of his wound becomes apparent. A piece of shrapnel entered his torso in his back between ribs and spine on the left side, hard to tell what organs it hit as it bounced around. Another, smaller piece skidded across the front of his body and into his right thigh, leaving a deep and skipping series of cuts that accounts for the most visible blood loss. That entry wound at his back is the most worrying, though. It missed his lungs but it didn’t exit. Zachery supposes the intensity of the bleeding is from a nicked artery, likely the superior mesenteric—the artery that runs the length of the torso and supplies blood to the intestines—given the placement of the injury.

It requires surgery. With the supplies on hand they can stabilize him for ten hours tops, but if he doesn’t make it to a hospital there’s not enough they can do here.

Outside the Tlanuwa, Asi finds that her hands are trembling. Pacing down the length of the aircraft, looking for damage, it’s hard to focus. There’s pock-marks from gunfire all across the left side of the fuselage, a couple of big holes by the turbines. She’s seen Scott work on this enough to know where the panels are to access the fuel lines. It’s not short work. She can smell jet fuel in the air.

Stepping out of the back of the Tlanuwa, Violette exhales a few shuddering breaths and doubles over, hands on her knees, and vomits into the grass.

So much of this stuff Abby wished had been in Elmhurst when there. So much she wished had been available ten years ago when she herself was in Avi's same position. They move him and she's working to cut off what she can to gain access, instructing people to flip him, move him this way and that as gloves hands poke and prod while grateful that he's unconscious. That copper smell is pervasive and familiar.

"Shit. Rip this open." She digs into the bag and passes over the packages of clotting gauze to whomever is nearest and willing to take it. "It'll get warm the more blood it absorbs. That's normal. " She pulls this and that out of the kit and quickly places them to the side, looking back and forth to the wounds as blue eyes flicker from abdomen, thigh, back to abdomen. "Zachery." She looks at him, a shake of her head before she's grabbing for a scalpel. "Cut him open a bit more, find the bleeder, use the sealant, then quick clot and close him back up?" A quick treatment plan, pinging him to see what he thinks or might object to. "’Til we can get him to Wolfhound or to medical care that's not us in the back of a jet. We need to get fluids running too." She looks to whomever took the quick clot. "Press some to his back. Add layers, we need to keep him from bleeding that way." Because he's about to have the same scar that Abby has on her own abdomen.

Faulkner, emerging from the plane just as the girl throws up, looks her way for a moment with sympathy. He understands the sentiment. Especially —


— with that smell of jet fuel in the air. It brings back bad memories.

He hesitates for a moment, then starts to walk towards her, stopping a few feet away. "I'd ask if you're alright, but frankly, I don't think any of us is at the moment, really," he says quietly. "So instead: anything I can do to help?" Faulkner fishes around for a moment, then produces a handkerchief and offers it — something to wipe her mouth with, if needed. The air smells a little bit less like jet fuel here, at least.

“«Epstein, don’t you dare even think of dying or I’ll sic my mother on you.»” Noa’s voice comes through a speaker rather than the comms, given helmets have come off.

It’s easier for her to talk that way than speak; her vocal cords are bruised from the giant hands of the Centurion, and even the slight reverberation sends waves of pain through all of the nerves in and radiating from that dislocation in her neck.

Nova’s hands fumble a little with the clasp of the cuff, and Noa smiles, reaching up to finish the job; her hands are steady. She’s seen days this bad and worse, though this one is in the running, depending on how bad it gets.

Because there’s room for it to get worse.

“«Listening for any incoming traffic,»” her radio voice says more coolly. Have they been spotted by the authorities? Is there chat on the airwaves of unauthorized air traffic?

“I’m okay,” she whispers to Nova. “Go help Asi.”

Nova nods and heads out, giving Isaac and Violette a wide-eyed glance as she passes them, before catching up with Asi. “Let me know how I can help,” she says quietly, one hand reaching out to run fingers across a set of bullet holes. “Shit.”

Luther winces as he's relieved of the spent AEGIS armor, which allows his insides to expand more fully, but also gives room for the bruising to swell. Still, the man snorts a soft laugh. "I, uh," he replies under the pressure of mild interrogation, grey eyes swiveling to the activity of the cockpit to avoid Kaylee's, "I don't really know." There's a ring of truth to it, although he's clearly come around to testing it out before now. "I'm okay," Luther says with a move of his hand over the one hooked on his shirt. "We gotta get to Prague." His face turns back, eyes meeting Kaylee's. There's worry in them, not for himself, but for them.

Seeing Violette, Isaac and Nova leave towards the outside of the jet too, Luther frowns, groaning softly as he tries to rise. "Do we know how far out we are?" It's a question posed out loud, albeit he glances over to Noa on the railing stretcher.

Once Asi's relatively confident which panel needs pried, thanks to the bulletholes kindly identifying where they've pierced through, she's moving back toward the ramp to open a cargo area on the outside of the airship. Her fingers fumble the latch the first time, leading her to swear quietly, and then she looks to Nova after it's open. "We have to unfix one of the panels. If you can help me with this by grabbing any one of them, that's time saved." She pulls out a large toolbox and throws it open, looking down. There's only one power tool inside, the rest are bits and manual tools.

There's also still a good-sized roll of duct tape inside, which she's grateful for. She grabs the dirtied rag on top of it and shoves it in the gap between her vest and torso like it's a pocket. The power tool is offered direct to Nova, and then she points to the panel she'd been lingering by. "See the bolts? We undo them. Keep track of them. They have to go back."

She picks up the toolkit in one hand to move it down the side of the Tlanuwa with them to give her and Nova a space to put what they've taken down, and has a wrench in the other. The exercise will help her work out some of her frustrations for sure.

As she repositions, she can see Isaac and Violette nearby. "The database give a name?" Asi asides to Nova before she lets the toolbox to the ground with a soft clatter of the metal bits inside, kicking the top of it open to create their tray, and then gets to work.

There is a soft sound of acceptance to his answer, so at least she won’t be pushing the subject… at least for now. But Kaylee does meet those eyes and hers are suddenly filled with guilt for her decision. She quickly glances away and lets fingers slide out from under his hand. “I know,” she says quietly about Prague, before turning away to grab her back pack so that she can fish out her own first aid kit and the ice packs waiting for use.

Of course, go figure that when she turns around he’s trying to get to his feet. “Sit your ass back down, Luther Bellamy,” Kaylee tells him firmly, pointing at where he had been sitting. It’s the same tone she uses on Carl when he gets rowdy. “You’re not going anywhere or helping anyone til Abby or Zachery gets that shoulder back into place.”

Giving one of the ice packs a pop and then a shake, Kaylee moves to gently place it on his injured shoulder. “Besides,” she adds softly, once she’s close again. Still not looking at him, she holds the pack in place. “She’d never forgive us if we put her before people she cares about.” She glances at Avi and Noa as she says that, before giving Luther a significant look.

Despite all of his complaining, Zachery is still quick to listen to Abby, and he's hovering angrily over Avi with a scalpel in his hand before he can even come to grips with what's actually happening.

He pauses, staring down. At the body he can't sense the way he wants to, in the way that would keep his thoughts a lot more focused and hands a lot steadier as he cuts through clothing and clears the area for the most impromptu operating he's done in a decade. At least when he was helping the Ferrymen, he had depth perception.

"We shouldn't be here," he says even as he's pressing blade to skin, and then muscle tissue, bloodied fingers starting hurried but precise work. His combat strategies might leave a few somethings to be desired, but this, he knows how to do, shortcomings be damned. "It's any moment now. And we're not there."

“We all might die anyway,” Zachery’s wife replies, voice low, pragmatic. “But he doesn’t have to.” Nicole gives a worried look to Noa, and not just because she can’t watch while Zachery does his bloody, necessary work on a man who’s her friend. Noa is Ingrid’s friend, and…

And if she ever sees her eldest daughter again, she wants to be able to say she did what she could for the young woman also laying supine on the floor of the jet.

“Quit bitching.” It lacks teeth entirely. “Once we can get him stable, we can go rescue those two idiots’ children.” This is the kind of humor they’ve been indulging in to keep themselves sane, although Nicole came to it later than her husband. It keeps them from having counterproductive outbursts. “And if we can rescue the two idiots in the process, that’s ideal. I don’t wanna raise their fucking kids. Do you?”

"Do I look like a dad?" Zachery answers, keeping one bloodied hand knuckle deep in laceration while motioning to his face aggressively with the other before moving on to grab the sealant, a more appropriate tool than sarcasm.

The Millers are a mess in the face of existential crisis. Yet — somehow — it seems to work for them. In their own awful language.

Avi is fully unconscious, but jolts awake as Zachery cuts into him. This isn’t the first time he’s woken up flat on his back in the middle of triage. Blinding pain, disorientation, all of it comes as a familiar old friend he doesn’t like much who has stopped by uninvited. The groan of agony is involuntary, but rather than flinch or squirm, Avi reaches out and grabs the metal strut of one of the jump seats where it meets the floor, then screams as he tries to stay as still as possible.

Outside, Violette hesitantly takes the handkerchief and wipes her mouth. She looks at Isaac, eyes still saucer-wide. “We—” She swallows awkwardly, making a disgusted face at the taste of her own bile. As if it was the first taste of it ever. Some of what she’s puked up is protoplasmic and white, mucus-like fluid. She is only less than an hour old.

“We need to move, Crito won’t let us go.” Violette says as if any of that makes any sense to Isaac. “They’re going to be starting a liquidation routine at the InVerse facility where your donors are,” she says, trying to keep her voice down as she glances in the direction of Avi’s screaming in the jet. “Your—other selves.”

A warm breeze blows across the field, damp with impending rain as a light mist begins to fall from the cloudy sky.

“If we don’t stop this, Crito Corporate is going to burn everything to the ground. Everything, every one, whatever this project touched. You, your families, your friends. They won’t stop until it was like this never happened.” Violette implores, taking a step toward Isaac, lowering her voice again as her proclamations become increasingly dire.

Sarcasm dies a quiet death in the back of Nicole’s throat in favor of dropping to the floor on her knees next to Avi. A hand planted on his shoulder to encourage him to keep still, the other wraps over the top of his clutching at the support bar. Her jaw quivers, she’s scared. “I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” She’s been stuck vacillating wildly between distancing herself from the life she thought was hers, but isn’t, and finding herself unwilling to completely let go of it. The memories of some things still ring as too important. The man whose hand she’s holding onto is one of those.

It’s the arm Abby isn’t working on that flies out, having gone for the non-dominant side to get IV’s going. Get fluids going to help bolster what little is still in his system. Hasty hands, there's a tremor in her left but it's not impacting what they are doing. Lines wide open, she's digging through the bag, bloody marks on everything as she digs for painkillers or anesthetics when Avi screams. “Hold on, relief is coming.” Though she would have told Zachery to stop, she knows time is of the essence currently.

“Who else is hurt?” she calls out above the sustained scream. “Besides Noa.” There's drugs for Noa coming soon.

Isaac listens as the girl speaks, his expression serious. He nods. "Alright. Then let's get the jet fixed so we can get back in the air."

His head turns back towards the jet as the sound of screaming starts from within — great, Hell's Orchestra is getting warmed up, now all they need is the sound of fire and it really will be just like when they'd awoken — but he forces himself to look back to the girl.

"I'm no expert on jet repair, but maybe an extra set of hands — or two, if you're willing — could make the work go more quickly, and the sooner the jet's skyworthy, the sooner we're where we need to be," he says, gesturing to where Asi and Nova are standing. "Maybe you can fill us in on the details while we work; right now you're the only one of us who knows the entirety of what's going on," he says, turning and starting to walk towards Asi, assuming that the girl will follow.

"Also, uh… I don't know your name. I'm Isaac," he says back over his shoulder.

With Asi’s guidance, Nova is quick to get to work. Now and then she sniffles, but otherwise, she seems to work well under pressure.

The question as to the database’s name draws a shake of her head. “I wasn’t sure if that’s who that was but that makes the most sense, yeah,” she murmurs. “Inside, I-”

But that’s when Avi screams and Nova presses her lips together, maybe to keep herself from screaming along with him in the worst of duets.

It’s fine. The screaming will continue internally, on her part.

“The Verse guys, they said my parents put me in this?” She shakes her head. There’s a lot to unpack there, and they have other things to do. “And that Gabby’s the control. That’s why we’re different.”

"Different h–?"

The question dies before it's fully aired, asked by kneejerk instinct rather than an intellectual one. There's a lot going on. Asi practically growls as she throws her energy at undoing the panel. Nova's certainly faster than she is. "Fuck," she breathes out after throwing one of the bolts into the box top. "Gabby's insisted this whole time she's not 進化人1, and control makes…"

She doesn't have the patience to finish that statement. Out of the corner of her eye she sees Isaac on approach, potentially with the new member of their party, and she acknowledges them with a slight lift of her chin.

"Getting us airborne again is pointless if we don't know where we're going. I have an idea of where to fly us after, but I need–" Asi pauses, teeth gritting as she pushes her way through beginning another unbolting. Her hands ache, but she continues through sheer adrenaline. "–to know where the fuck we're going first."

Her eyes dart back to Violette pointedly, lingering on her until she needs to focus on making sure she doesn't lose the bolt. "Be careful, this whole thing is going to want to fall soon," she cautions Nova, preparing to shift to a support position rather than helping with the undoing.

Back inside, Zachery may as well not have heard the scream for how he's still working away at what he's doing. Ideally there would be less writhing, less noise and he'd have put some gloves on, but it is what it is. One wet, red hand shifts to keep Avi steady with the same emotional disconnection one might experience when spatchcocking a chicken.

He's working quick, at least, fumbling to work unfamiliar trauma kit materials but making do with the instructions given. With the blood already everywhere, it's difficult to see when he stems the brunt of it, but then— staring down at the wound-sealing gel already applied… he stops.

He pulls his hands back, suddenly, and just stops, sits back on the floor, and just says as if he's unsure who he's even saying it to, "… Take over?"

Abby looks over when Zachery stops and in a heartbeat she’s sliding down to start stuffing with gauze and take over. “Get drugs onboard, knock him out.” Yelling to Zachery as the only other known medical professional.

Luther is at first inclined to listen to Kaylee's reprimanding, and finds his seat again, a renewed soft groan escaping him for the movement. His breath sucks through clenched teeth at the cold of the ice pack, and he moves his hand to help hold it there. For a moment, he studies Kaylee's profile as she looks towards the cockpit, and is caught staring when she turns back to him. "You should go outside, see if they need hel—"

He doesn't finish the thought as Avi screams. Luther whips his gaze to the sound, again standing up once Abby calls to triage the injured. A low grunt compensates at the pain, and he reaches his good hand to hang on to Kaylee's shoulder for a support. That's really when Luther has a better look from his vantage at the carnage at the cockpit. The bullet holes. The blood. He frowns, pensive, then lets go a short sigh. "Over here, Abby," he answers to the inquiry. There's a beat, but he adds to the medics, "Do you need blood? I'm good for it. O-neg."

When the screaming starts, Kaylee’s eyes close against the heartbreaking sound with a grimace of sympathy. It brought back her own memories of being stabbed and left to die. Or the pain of hundreds of deaths, crushed and drowned.

She could feel bile rising in the back of her throat, forcing her to swallow. If she didn't take her mind off of her own thoughts, Kaylee was going to end up joining Violette outside.

Thankfully that needed distraction comes from Luther getting up again. Kaylee takes a breath to yell at him to sit down, but she ends up just sighing out that breath. She knew him well enough to not fight it.

“He has a dislocated shoulder,” Kaylee supplies after Luther, even as Abby gets distracted by Avi’s injuries again. They could wait.

When Luther offers up his blood, Kaylee looks up at him with worry and pride. To show her support for his decision, Kaylee pulls his arm over to rest across her shoulders, slips an arm around his waist - careful of his ribs - and presses her side to his becoming a human crutch.

Outside, Violette seems to have her inside and outsides sorted. She breathes in one deep, shaky breath and looks over at Isaac. “Violette Iris,” she says after a moment of thoughtful consideration, as if not sure what name to give. “Some folks call me Virus for shits and giggles.”

Standing up straight, Violette spots the work going on outside the jet and nods to Isaac, walking over to where Asi and Nova are. She looks at the damage to the jet, brows furrowed. “We’re going to the old Raben Logistics center on the outskirts of Prague,” Violette says as an informal greeting to the pair. “InVerse’s production operations are located below it. That’s where your donors are waking up right now.”

Inside the jet, as Abby and Zachery vie for stability in treating Avi’s injury, the wounded pilot turns his attention to Francis who is standing around watching. “Harkness,” Avi hisses through clenched teeth. “Blackbox. Find Tetsuyama, get intel. Call your dad.”


Fucking do it!” Avi howls, trembling against the pain as Abby stuffs his wound. “They need to know if we don’t make it!

Francis’ heart races, recognizing the potential of that prospect. He darts around where they’re working on Avi, detaching a satellite phone from the console. Waiting to power it on, he squeezes apologetically past Luther and Kaylee, hurrying out of the jet. Stomping down the ramp, Francis shoots a look left and right for Asi. When he finally figures out where she is, he comes around the side of the plane holding the SatComm phone up.

“Commander wants you to radio what we know back to base, in—in case we don’t make it.” Harkness says, only then noticing Violette. He glances at her, warily, then back to Asi, then the damage done to the jet. “I can help,” he finally realizes. Shock is wearing off, function is coming back. “I—I can take care of some of this.” Up until he joined the full team, Francis was his dad’s understudy as Wolfhound’s chief mechanic.

Nova’s hands pause in her work, as the others approach, but then resume their work. She shakes her head slightly. “We don’t like that word,” she murmurs. “They didn’t volunteer for this.”

Her story’s a little different, maybe.

Even in all the chaos, fear, and worry, she offers a small smile to Violette. “Nice to meet you. Sorry it wasn’t under better circumstances, as they say.”

“Could be worse.” Violette says. She does not seem convinced.

Then Nova’s eyes widen as Francis rushes out, worried it’s the news they’re all hoping not to hear. When it’s a message relayed, she lets out a shaky sigh. Her wide-eyed gaze darts to the ramp leading inside, but she returns to her work rather than ask the obvious – are they going to make it? The injured? Any of them?

Abigail flex's her left hand, as if it's gone slightly numb but grabs the clotting gauze with it regardless and as fast as she can move she uses it to soak, sop, blot up blood so that she can see where it's all coming from. Right hand searches, using fingers and eyes even as she bites down on her lower lip. Zachery made a hole big enough at least. "There's so much blood. You-" She shakes her head side to side. "You forget how much a body holds until you're knee deep in it." Deep breaths, she's trying to focus. There's an inhale then exhale as she closes her eyes for a moment. Just a moment.

"Be merciful to me oh Lord, for I am in distress." The prayer slips from her lips and she lets out another breath before she opens her eyes and back to work talking as she goes. "My eyes grow weak with sorrow as my soul and body does with grief." There's no gentle and warm tingle coming from her hands, no healing from God. She does it as Gabriel Gray told her to while they watched a sunset on a roof. The hard way.

"My life is consumed by anguish. My strength fails me because of my affliction and my bones grow weak." Brows furrow in consternation and she looks up to Francis then to Avi as the two talk, just trying to pack his abdomen with gauze in and around organs in the hope of stemming the bleeding somewhat. Words get spoken just under her breath and one is safe to presume it's the continuation of the prayer before she's audible again once Francis has departed. "-am forgotten as though I were dead and I have become broken like pottery. I hear whispers and terror on every side. They conspire against me and plot to take my life from me oh lord."

She leans in closer, tilting her head to the right as if she studies where a fresh wave of blood has come from and uses that to guide where to go and zero in with the sealant and gauze. "I trust in you oh Lord. You are my god, my life is in your hands. Deliver me from the hands of my enemies and those who pursue me. Let your face shine upon me, your servant. Let me not be put to shame oh Lord for I have cried out to you. Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in the realm of the dead."

She lifts her right hand, looks to the wound, that abdomen that she swears is more quick clot than flesh and organs. "Muffin Man. Grab a seat. When I'm done, we're setting your arm then taking a pint or two. Zachery, can you…" She juts her chin to Noa. "I need you to see to getting her something for pain but doesn't knock her out, check the bag." Give him something that doesn't involve screaming and significant bloodshed. "Avi." She looks to the man as she's reaching for the surgical stapler. "This is revenge for that night in Red Hook with the laser pointer, being a dick." It was ten years ago, maybe a little more. It's likely a joke on her part, a bad attempt at one.

Yes pastor,” is Avi’s sassy back-talk as he’s face down in a sticky pool of his own blood on the floor of his own goddamn jet.

"Pleased," Faulkner says to Violette — Virus? — giving her a small, brief smile. Nova's comment about the use of the word donor draws a nod of agreement.

Francis's emergence sees him sober rapidly, though; when he offers the phone to Asi, his eyes widen. "Oh good. Yes. What we know cannot die with us," he says, nodding. Knowing that the information is going to get out no matter what will be a load off of his shoulders.

He takes a breath, then looks to Francis. "Alright, well. For my part, I've never worked on anything bigger than a truck, let alone an actual jet, but if you know how to work on this thing and can direct an extra pair of hands…" Faulkner grins, raising his own hands, "… then just tell me what I can do to help."

Asi misses Violette's jawdropping introduction, hears only her explanation of where they need to go. She nods at it just in time for Francis to make his approach, and she looks to the satphone he offers out before glancing back up at the panel. Blinking hard, she remembers too that Francis is much better suited to this than she is. "Duct tape is in the box still," she tells him, and then pulls out the rag she planned to use to wipe down the line, trading him it for the phone.

"I'll see if I can raise Harkness Senior and Dunsimi. We need to hurry." She flips out the thick antennae on the phone and turns it on, dialing as soon as the screen lights up. She steps back from the side of the plane, but shoots a sidelong look at Violette. "Don't go far. You're going to need to contribute to this call with any other critical information needing passed to our allies. Clear?"

She doesn't wait for an answer. Asi turns away to better listen to the phone ring and make its eventual connection.

Luther "Muffin Man" Bellamy blinks twice at being called that moniker. It's a name that transports him back several years, and elicits a surprised, nostalgic chuckle that turns into a cough, that turns into more pain from the bullet-bruised ribs. He doesn't have anything to reply with. The junior Harkness squeezing past brings everything back to the present, pressing issues.

"Yeah, sure," Luther accepts for instructions on next actions. He shuffles forward, shifting seat position to somewhere closer before turning to Kaylee. When he's seated again, closer to where Noa is laid down, he looks between her and Kaylee. "That robot," the man utters in cautious speculation, "wasn't from around here, was it?" The adrenaline starting to wear away provides him a moment to reflect just how close they came to death, and what might be awaiting them in Prague.

Nicole watches with concern as Zachery backs off from his task suddenly. Drawing in a breath to steady herself, she assesses him visually and recognizes the tells that come from living with him while they in turn live with their limitations. “You’re okay,” she tells him in a firm voice. “You did good.” She tips her head toward the bag, moving him along from the task of listening to her, and now listening to the direction Abby gave him.

In turn, Nicole’s focus returns to Avi, watching the exchange between he and Francis with a furrowing of her brow. The wince that comes with it has nothing to do with the subject matter and everything to do with the pounding behind her eyes and the growing spot in her left periphery. Maybe also a little to do with Abby’s attempt at levity. “You’re going to have to tell me another of your stupid fucking stories,” she warns Avi. She knows it’s not going to provide enough distraction, but maybe something. “I like the ones that embarrass my sister the best,” she confides.

“Pretty sure those ones are in a sealed file in Vincent’s desk now,” Avi mumbles into the deck of the jet.

Once Luther is settled, Kaylee takes a few steps back to get out of the way. Crossing her arms, she feels a bit helpless over everything going on. Though the question Luther poses throws her off and at first she looks off where Violette has gone. Their new addition has been at the back of her mind for awhile, because she is definitely not from around there and a robot like a lot of them there to boot.

Then it clicks what Luther means and she shifts her attention back to Nova and him. “I.. I am not sure, but it wouldn’t be the first time something like that slipped through from elsewhere. It’s pretty consistent with what we know.” Raytech’s secret archives were full of things like that, but that she doesn’t say out loud, even if she trusted most of them. “And it seems consistent with some of what…” they’ve seen in their elseselves memories, she doesn’t say.

Kaylee sighs and looks at her feet as she goes through her own memories of what the family company had tucked away. Her arms tightened around herself, as it made her miss her brother. “Honestly, we don’t know what has been scavenged from some of these groups that have been dismantled lately, like Praxis. Who knows what Adam had brewing out there.” There was the barest twinge from the emotions she’d had buried away deep.

“Or… someone in our world has finally gotten around to creating it.” Kaylee glances towards the injured Noa with worry. After all, her and her friends had come back to stop things like that from happening. In fact, there was a whole war fought over it. “It’s kinda terrifying to think about.”

Zachery looks at Nicole when she addresses him, and forces out a breath he'd been holding. His trust in her words helps him begin to move again, getting up and looking around him as if it's the first time he's even seeing they've landed.

"Alright. Noa, pain relief," he mutters, recomposing himself with a shake of his head and wiping the palms of bloodied hands onto scraped up body armour in a mostly failed attempt not to leave too much of a mess while rifling through the bag. There is no time for questions, and he suddenly doesn't look like he'd be able to formulate them anyway.

But at least, for the moment, there was time to think. The time to talk would come later.


Avi Epstein lays on his stomach on the floor of the Tlanuwa, arms out to his side, unconscious. Noa lays head-to-toe with him on her back, arms flat at her side and neck in an inflatable brace. She, too, appears unconscious. But while the body is sedated, the mind lingers in the radio waves around the Tlanuwa, an eye out for incoming signals and a voice over the speakers.

The woman rescued from the ARM facility sits on the bloodstained ramp of the Tlanuwa, forearms draped over her knees, picking the bark off of a thin, green branch from one of the nearby trees. No one from the village up the hill has bothered the Tlanuwa crew, but onlookers have stopped to gawk at a half-mile distance nonetheless. But, right now, there’s no other option.

Everyone else is gathered at the foot of the Tlanuwa’s loading ramp. Luther with his formerly dislocated arm in a sling, Abby and Zachery with hands still stained pink with blood, Nova, Isaac, Francis, and Asi smelling faintly of jet fuel and engine grease. Nicole and Kaylee are the only two who managed to stay clean and also stand front-and-center for what will amount to show and tell.

“So, before we get any further on this, I figure introductions are in order for this version of you all. My name is Violette Iris, some folks call me Virus. As in, V dot Iris. Colin Verse’ technopath ID.” Violette says with a glance up to Asi and a nervous smile accompanying a small finger-wave.

“Before you all get telenovela gaspy on me,” Violette says with one palm held out, “I can… explain.” She sighs, flinging her half-peeled stick aside. “Colin,” she makes a distinction, “was forced to work on this project, codenamed Severance. It began as a big-budget comeback collaboration between Georgia Mayes and what was left of the Mitchell Administration’s loyalists and anti-expressive interests in the UK. They used fighting against the Mitchell administration and helping us in the Civil War to cover mobilizing technology and hardware out to Fort Irwin on the west coast before the war ended.”

Violette rubs her palms on the shredded knees of her jeans. “The whole project is a smorgasbord of different technologies. SEER, a mind-machine tech interface, stolen from Raytech by way of Warren Ray back when he worked for the Institute before the war. Structure, a distributed processing network utilizing networked human minds, from a guy named Richard Schwenkman, also former Institute. Re-InVitae, a synthetic organ development program for transplants and limb replacement spearheaded by Maxwell Huber, an employee of InVerse Technologies, all seasoned with some of the Department of Homeland Securities’ catatonic detention systems, like ACTS coffins. Then Colin, as the man in the middle making the technology speak to one-another.”

Sighing, Violette looks down at her hands. “The final piece of the puzzle was OPTICA, a near-life simulation developed by a visionary from Crito Corporate named Marvin Whitlow alongside InVerse Technologies engineers Gerrit and Jacoba Van Dalen; big brains on AI and human consciousness. At the end of the day, it was all the anti-expressive whackjobs could’ve wanted. A place to keep Expressives detained and docile but also have access to their abilities for seizing the means of production and human brains in augmented bodies for themselves that could ’compete’,” she says while making air-quotes with her fingers, “against Expressives. Colin was at Irwin when Wolfhound and the US Military hit it after the Civil War. Got an emergency extraction with Whitlow. Mayes was Severance’s first successful test subject, and she’s been getting upgraded bodies since they first stuck her in a toaster with guns strapped to it. Now she looks like any of you, indistinguishable from an ordinary human. Her donor body, well,” Violette glances over her shoulder at Noa, “she got summary judgment, way I hear it.” Violette claps her hands together.

“Which brings us forward to this,” Violette says with a gesture at herself. “Colin didn’t want any of this to happen. Didn’t want people like Mayes to build immortal synthetic bodies for themselves and become some sort of cybernetic god-kings. But getting word about the project out to the public was straight-up impossible. So, he did what Verses do when backed into a corner: Improvised.

Violette rubs her hands over her face. “Colin was in charge of the host procurement selection process for an investor presentation of second generation PHARO bodies.” She gestures to the crowd in front of her. “They already had some names picked, but wanted him to vet the list and make sure nothing was out of the ordinary. Because everything was so compartmentalized for secrecy’s sake, nobody was checking his work. So, he put the most conspicuous people on God’s green fucking Earth on it that were just plausible enough to not raise alarms, and prayed.”

Violette tilts her head to the side. “Your donors—and I know you don’t like that word but… trust me—your donors were abducted through mercenary contracts. I don’t have a lot of specifics there. Once they were abducted, your PHARO bodies were assembled in pieces at different ARM facilities, then final assembly was done in Japan. Colin re-routed the flight path to take a detour over Canada, and then forced the plane to crash.” Violette looks down at her hands again, frowning.

“That fiasco raised red flags. Nobody could pin anything directly on Colin, but they had suspicions, so they decided to play it safe. Colin was copied into the Severance system and his donor body was euthanized and incinerated. Colin was isolated in a walled garden sub-system and tasked with monitoring the simulation under threat of deletion if he let it run out of control. Unfortunately, none of the chucklefucks in charge of that were as tech savvy. Smart, sure, but…”

Violette runs a hand through her hair. “Colin shaved off a subprocess into the system, a core personality ideation that he then ran through evolutionary development loops until it could operate on its own. Snuck it out a back door while it was still a small data package and… hoped for the best.” Violette spreads her hands. “That’s me.” She says with an awkward smile.

“I was Colin’s gal on the inside. Once I was self-sufficient, my core programming instructed me to destabilize the simulation your donor bodies were trapped in. I reached out to Asi first,” Violette says with a point to her, “on the inside. While she worked on waking you all up, Neo Style, from this bad Matrix ripoff, I was keeping the security system of the simulation from watching what was going on. Long story short, in order to wake them up we had to collapse the simulation and get to Colin’s walled garden, bust through the security core, and… phone home.”

Violette brushes a lock of dark hair from her face. “Meanwhile, InVerse had printed off a copy of Colin in a PHARO body on a short leash to handle a real investor production of second gens. They were desperate and Colin was the only person who knew all aspects of the tech inside and out, and they thought they had him on a short leash. But, you know. You met Kirk, Verse’s improvisation.” She looks down at her hands, folding them in her lap. “Colin’s PHARO copy was working to handle the other side of all this, printing a body for me when everyone made it out, and getting ready to help the people he got into this mess get out of it, and ruin the lives of every single person responsible for this nightmare.” Violette smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

“I feel like I… probably forgot a few parts of this or glossed over something,” Violette says with a scrub of one hand at her forehead. “But, let’s—start there?”

The tale that was being woven in front of them would sound crazy to normal people. Kaylee listens to it all with arms crossed and face unreadable. It wasn't the craziest thing… but it was in the running.

Worst part is Kaylee recognized a lot of things. Of course, Weiss and her had talked about some of it. The rabbit hole her family lived in just seemed to get deeper.

When Violette is done, Kaylee can't help but press fingers against a point between her brows to rub at the beginning of a stress headache, and sighs heavily. “Jesus,” she murmurs under her breath. “Crito had a VR display at the world's fair… so not too surprised there.” Her hand falls away to tuck back into her arms and she glances aside to Nicole there next to her. “We cut off one head and two more… or in this case a ton more grow,” she gripes a hand motioning to Virus as she encompasses all that Intel.

It was all sobering and disturbing to say the least.

Focusing on Violette, lips press tight in thought. There were so many questions. Important ones not just about their donors. “I’m damn impressed. I had wondered why us, but it makes sense. What better way to shine a giant spotlight on what was going on than using high profile people.” In his place she would have possibly done something similar.

Kaylee glances at her feet, but then quickly back up again. “So you say they are coming out of this Optica right now. What can be expected? I mean, I can’t imagine there won't be some negative effects from being in that machine for what? A year.” It was an important question, especially since they were still sitting there.

“We’ve never had anyone under for this long. The people originally assigned to this batch were going to be the trial run. You’d be the ones studied for side effects, so… I don’t know. There’s basics considered, you know muscle atrophy, feeding, all that. But still, you don’t know what you don’t know, especially when it comes to unethically-maintained human trials.” Violette answers, frowning.

Faulkner conspicuously does not seem to fit the high profile people label, but he's not going to call attention to that; there's a whole other can of worms involved that he doesn't particularly want to get into. Besides, the salient part of Kaylee's words is the question at the end; he nods at that, before glancing back to Violette.

"It seems that Mr. Verse fucked them over at every turn. Bravo," Faulkner observes. "As for me… I'm curious about the 'ruining lives' bit. Specifically, those responsible. We know that Verse was coerced into this; what about the others? I'm curious about the Van Dalens in particular," he observes, not looking at Nova. "Also, uh. The whole fixing us bit. Blasting off to wreak vengeance upon the deserving sounds like an excellent idea, but it's not going to do us much good if we all hit our expiration date halfway through," Faulkner says, looking a bit uncomfortable — it's not hard to tell that he's thinking about Kirk's death.

Now that Nova’s hands are idle – the work on the jet helped distract her – she looks more distraught than she had in the chaos of getting out of the facility. Her arms are crossed, and now and then she shivers, but not from cold.

Still, she murmurs, “Thank you – well, Colin, but you’re… yeah. That’s confusing. But thank you for your help, both inside Optica and out here in the real world,” she murmurs softly, a twitch of a smile for the stranger among them, who is also one of them, in her way. She manages not to correct Violette on the use of the word donor this time, though her expression shifts into a scowl at it nonetheless.

“Do we have any chance now?” she dares to ask, in a small voice. “Or are they… is it already over?”

“Colin didn’t drag you all the way out here to watch you die.” Violette says with a shake of her head. “There’s a way out—a few ways out—for all of you. But it’s… more complicated on its face than it might seem.”

Asi's looking in Violette's direction while she explains everything, but it's clear after a certain point that the look is hollow— not entirely present. She's v.iris, she says? The once-technopath's eyes drift off of Violette just slightly in a tell of her drifting attention.

"If you've ever thought of me as a friend— ever trusted me— please have that courtesy now. Because what comes out of that pod… She is my apology for everything. My penance."

She swallows hard, jaw working. She blinks— tries to recall the look on Colin's face as he said it. It's hard. Even though it was such a short time ago, there was so much happening. Her hand tightens into a fist at her side.

The part that Colin says aloud is distressing enough, truthfully. Asi seems torn– they can't be in two places at once– and then after he leans in her gaze goes unfocused briefly while she listens before snapping back up to him in silence. She looks between both his eyes before whispering something fervent in return. "I'm only this angry because I came all this way also to save my friend— and I can't."

He was euthanized and incinerated.

"Don't be so sure." Colin says with a hesitant smile.

But if they got there quickly enough, perhaps he could be salvaged from the walled garden he was trapped inside. Only if…

Asi's eyes regain their focus and sharpen on Violette. "You had access to the system containing them. Yes? You shut down what was keeping them asleep. What about any other medication in them? Are their abilities negated right now? Is mine?"

“Cobalt negation systems, cutting edge.” Violette explains. “If we’re lucky they didn’t install the internal pump and you’re still on the external system. If that’s the case, your abilities should come back within an hour of being detached.” Violette says with a sigh. “I know that’s not superbly comforting. But the cobalt systems InVerse bought from Renautas-Weiss Nanotech are non-cancerous, unlike the old adynomine shit. They’re also extremely tenacious, way harder to brute force bypass because they’re non-chemical.”

Jesus Christ,” Nicole hisses under her breath, reaching out to loop an arm around Kaylee. It’s just as much to keep herself centered as it is her friend. Her free hand drags through her hair, then adjusts the sunglasses she’s wearing in lieu of having her helmet’s visor to mitigate her light sensitivity.

The others are asking good questions. She could probably find one relevant to all of them, too. Instead, she darts a glance in Zachery’s direction before setting her gaze back on Violette. “What did they do with the Millers’ kids? Any idea?” Nicole’s stomach twists. She wants to believe that even these monsters wouldn’t harm infants with no connection to this atrocity other than the bad fortune to be born to one of their captives, but…


Standing in the sun at the back of the group, Luther is quiet as layer upon layer of the global conspiracy peels back. The muddy feeling in his head is part feeling the energy recharge, part painkillers, part exhaustion, part worry, part simmering outrage as Violette explains the situation. The remnants of the past that refuse to die, haunting his and every veteran's memories, now once again rising to threaten them in new, technological, terrifying ways. He shakes his head slowly, but little else comes to mind for questions. It's not his place to ask them, save one.

"Alright, Violette." Luther refuses to shorten the name to match to closely with Alix's deceased sister. "So, how're we going to get 'em all out? This bird ain't going to fly with all that weight and us and whatever is going to be chasing." The mention of the Miller children makes the man frown further and he sends a sidelong look to Zachery.

It finds a Zachery standing still, glaring daggers at Violette as if she's the reason for what's happened, not the result. Maybe that's just his face at this point. At least he's focused again.

"I won't be adding to the weight on the way back," he cuts in, flatly, glancing to Luther in turn. "I'm here to do a job, and tag my donor in. If I live, I live." He shrugs one shoulder upward, something pulling at a corner of his mouth that is too cold and brief for a smile. "If I die, my seat's free either way. I suggest more of you consider this."

He throws a hand out toward the Tlanuwa in an abrupt gesture. "Epstein is out. Leave him here to be cared for. That's enough room for the twins and then some. Whoever else you take is up to you, but you are taking them."

“Epstein needs to be remanded to the care of the locals.” Abigail agrees on that count. “They can get him to proper care sooner than we can and almost guarantee that he’ll live if he does.” Her armor is stiff with blood, she can smell it on her and she works with rubbing alcohol to try and remove what stains she can of his blood where she sits. She’s already raided the medical supplies for something to counter the headache that’s started and now she's dragging her left foot just a little.

She has little to say for the rest, other than the look of disgust that crosses her face when it’s laid out and that Colin put Abigail’s name on the list and that was why the woman’s life had been overturned and apples tumbling everywhere. Had brought uncertainty back into Kasha’s life as well after years of relative stability. She flexes her left hand and shakes her head, murmuring under her breath.

“Before we… start discussing extraction,” Violette says to Luther, “Or all start volunteering to walk into the sea,” she adds with a glance at Zachery, “I think there’s some ground we need to settle on.” Violette says with a slow raise of her hands. “Because I don’t think Kirk had the language to make it as clear to you as it needs to be.”

Rubbing her hands over her face, Violette tries to figure out how to even begin discussing this topic here and now when time is a premium. She goes for quick and blunt. “The people we’re going to rescue? They’re not you.” Bold, provocative, attention getting. She starts there. “The you that you all were before you were abducted? That’s who is here, right now. What’s going to come out of the Optica simulation is… it’s Ship of Theseus territory. They’re going to have entirely new life experiences running parallel to their old ones, intermingled secondary lives. Full life-experiences, memories, feelings, trauma. They will never be you.

Violette looks around, pausing on Luther and Francis, squinting as she points at them. “Present company excluded with you two. And the two people on the floor in there.” She doesn’t even know who they are.

“But the rest of you? You’re the only you left, and you’re no less real than the bags of bones and organs we’re going to Prague to rescue. Just because you have new bodies doesn’t make you any less those people. You just have the more comprehensive prosthetics in the world. But if you lose a leg and get a replacement you’re not one-fifth less you. It’s the same idea.”

Violette frowns, not liking to have to deliver this. She’d hoped Kirk had been able to. It wasn’t the case.

“Like I said, Optica has never been tested with a full integration before. No one knows the long-term consequences of coming out from that. You—at least once we patch up your neurological decay—will have stable and functional bodies, healthy ones.”

"Thank you," Faulkner says, gesturing to Violette with both hands. It's nice to hear someone else not devaluing his existence for once. "Cogito, ergo sum — I think, therefore I am. Was I copied into a prosthetic body? Yes. But we think, we feel, we hurt. That proves the worth of our continued existence as much as any other individuals on the face of this earth… and the fact that we are the only versions of ourselves who remain as we were before is just an added point. I, for one, very much hope to meet my other self, and I have no plans to walk into the sea." Faulkner nods.

"However, now that we have expert testimony on that… the other matter on the table begs attention," Faulkner says, hoping to move the discussion past beating this dead horse of a philosophical debate any further. "Namely, the idea of… leaving our injured behind," he says, grimacing in distaste.

"The position I'm hearing in favor," he says, his glance moving to Abigail with definite disapproval, "is that he'll get better care here. But is that really the case?" Faulkner asks, raising an eyebrow. "We just hit a heavily armed installation, and this is their home turf. They've got enough clout to operate space jets and murder robots here, and they have a frighteningly fast response time. How long do you think it'll be before someone comes to extract him, like they did us?"

"And let me remind you — they can make artificial people. You know what they did to Verse." He shakes his head. "I don't know about you, but leaving him here doesn't seem like a great idea to me."

After a moment, he grimaces. "There's also the more practical concern of how many of us know how to pilot this thing, and will they do it if we just dump Avi in hostile territory," he points out, looking to Francis and Asi — he's not sure how Wolfhound operates, but he hopes that's a no.

“Are you a medical professional?” Abby looks at Faulkner. She’s not touching the topic of them being real live boys and girls. “Avi is in an unstable critical condition. He has maybe, if we’re lucky, five hours as he is now. We have a pretty advanced trauma kit but no access to the myriad of drugs that he will need when we get past eight hours. After that we are going to start having issues. Big serious organ shutting down issues that no amount of medical grade caulk is going to solve and not long after he is a dead man. That is my learned medical opinion. Noa is stable, and will remain stable so long as she’s not moving around. She’s not actively dying on us.” She gestures to Avi. “He is actively dying on us and there is no healer or metabolic manipulator. We can leave him here and call Wolfhound and advise them he is here and to get him stateside or into friendly territory as fast as possible. I don’t advocate dumping him outside and leaving him to the elements.”

Violette's words only further seem to annoy Zachery, who turns and walks away like he's about to give up on this conversation in favour of yelling at far-off tourists — but he stops a few frustrated steps into the act to turn his face up to the sky as if he's willing it to come down while others talk.

"If I get out of this, trust me," he scoffs, tone of voice shifting darker as he looks down at the dried blood on his hands, "I've got more more things I'd like to do. Just not at the cost of what I'm here for."

Then, over his shoulder, he asks with sudden curiosity lifting his tone out of murder, "Can't we call Reeves?"

“That risks alerting the OEI on the whole to what we’re up to,” Nicole responds in a voice that’s quiet, but a tone that suggests she’s not exactly opposed. She’s noted the absence of answer to her question and decides to just keep that tucked inside her chest, another note of disquiet to add to the disharmonious confluence of emotion inside her.

The SESA agent lets out a deep sigh, looking over her shoulder toward where their injured lay. “But they need help we can’t provide, and they need it from the safest source we can manage.” Nicole frowns. “I could try to call my stupidly connected sister. See if she can call in any favors, or reach out on our behalf to people it’d be otherwise unwise of us to contact right now.” Swiveling her attention back, she shrugs her shoulders, not quite helplessly, but she doesn’t have the answers, not yet.

“What a load of horse shit!

Nicole knew that was coming, she felt the tensing of Kaylee’s shoulders as Violette laid out the “truth” as Kirk spewed it. By time she’s heard it all, the blonde is trembling with rage. “I might be real, but I ain't ever been fully human or even me. I am a walkin’, talkin’ hard drive of someone else's experiences. I have only ever lived… what… a year? And all my choices were based on her life experiences.”

Kaylee flings out an arm to encompass the rest of them. “Get it through your thick robot skull. We’re all living stolen lives,” she shouts at the other woman. Nicole tightens her arm around her shoulders while still giving her space to move, clearly of the same mind.

Violette is on the receiving end of everything that has been keeping Kaylee up at night. The rage. The hurt. It is right there in her eyes, which were prickling with tears. “And you’re right… she might not be me, but she is Kaylee. Not me.” The life in her memories would not be hers… not really.

“False memories or not, you said it… these memories.” Kaylee stabs roughly at her head with a finger, not taking eyes off Violette, “Are still possibly in her head. Only thing that is me is the last year and honestly, if you know who Kaylee is… she can have those too. Hell, they can probably be factory reset to what they were before being taken.” Telepathy was a hell of a thing and this Kaylee felt a sharp tinge of pain at its loss.

“So don’t tell me that I will only ever be the only me… I was built in a lab and given someone else's memories and thrown into their life. I ain't ever been given a real chance to be me.” The initial rage has finally run its course and Kaylee’s shoulders slump. “I have no desire to die, but I owe the real Kaylee her life back. Her son. Her mother. They deserve her back too.” Finally, her gaze falls away to the side. “If I die the only thing lost is a bunch of tech and a year of memories.”

A few tears fall, but are quickly wiped away with a furious swipe of her hand. “Text Reeves,” Kaylee says thickly to Nicole who nods her head and presses a kiss to her temple. Both women are in agreement with Zachery. “We have evidence, they will want that… and I’m not willing to play with any real lives.” Leaving Avi and the others for medical treatment was out of the question on foreign soil. A potential death sentence. “Leaving them here will endanger them more than sending them back to the states. What are they going to do to us? Toss us in a black site, that might happen either way.” Kaylee starts to look back over her shoulder at Luther, but stops herself. “And honestly, should send everyone home that isn't Pharo.”

Nova’s eyes are wide as each person speaks, turning her head to look from one person to the next. Tears stream down her face, eroding a patch of grime there in their path. She flinches at Kaylee’s words. After a breath or two, she finally speaks. Her tone is controlled, calm, and more mature than she looks with her tearstained face and runny nose.

“We don’t have time for philosophical discussions. Let’s get in the air now, with our injured, and then we can find a place to set them down someplace that we’re not wanted for whatever the government here would charge them with. I don’t know that they would help them. Or… text Reeves.” She glances over at Zachery and nods her approval of that plan. “But if she doesn’t show up in like two minutes, we need to move.”

Luther straightens, a grimace of dull pain covering the otherwise angry rictus of his face at Violette's description for those kidnapped described first as donors, then as bags of bones and organs. He looks like he's about to raise a voice, but Kaylee's explosive outburst beats him to the punch. He says nothing more but to stare in silence, waiting for the waves to wash over and pull back to reveal the debris of truth. There's been enough dissociating to last two lifetimes for each of them.

The man scrubs a hand over hair and then down his face before he starts moving again, lumbering forward through the group as if on a path towards Violette. Really, he's stepping further into the plane, stopping once he's partway on the path to where Avi and Noa are laid. Luther then turns back to regard the others, storm grey eyes moving from face to face. "We don't need to bring anybody else into this," he states bluntly. "As long as we get what we need to do, done. The girl's right," he indicates of Nova's input. "You don't have time." He sends a slightly harder look in Kaylee's direction. "And I didn't come all this way to go home empty handed, and you didn't all come this way to wind up like Kirk."

He moves to find a seat, planting himself squarely as if it'll take an army to move him out of it again. "Whoever the fuck's next in command of this op, take the lead, get those upgrades and suit up for the next fight," Luther states evenly.

That'd be Asi. She has the satphone in hand still from her conversation with Huruma and Scott, but hasn't dialed anything again yet.

"I'm also in favor of calling Reeves. She has sympathy for our cause, and understands urgency. If she agrees, she's here in a fingersnap." But. Her gaze recenters on Violette, and she lifts one hand to try and get her focus. She's just been yelled at after all after spilling her believes, and has only existed for the better part of a half an hour. "You said there was a way out you already had in mind, though. Say what it is, and we weigh if that's not the better option."

She begins to stride up the ramp from her place at the bottom of it. "We're not leaving Avi or Noa here. Hospitals may be a need for all of our selves, too. The plan is getting us immediately to ground that can help us with that problem, one way or another, as soon as we've got ourselves together." A moment is taken to look back at the others and leave no uncertainty that, "No matter what choice we make regarding our way out, we leave as soon as we make it. No matter which option we take, we're not abandoning the Tlanuwa, either." She begins to turn for the cockpit to start firing up preflight checks. "Make sure Cerberus and DJ are secured."

Asi then clarifies, "I'm still listening, v.iris."

Slouching back against the loading ramp, Violette closes her eyes and huffs out a breath that blows an errant lock of hair from her face. “I’ll be real, I don’t know who Reeves is or what an OEI is, but acronyms have always wound up with Colin dead or behind bars. You trust an acronym agency with your best interests and this technology then sure, do what you need to do. But unless whoever Reeves is can get here in the next thirty minutes it isn’t going to matter fuck-all of anything because everyone we’re trying to save will be dead and in an incinerator.”

Pushing herself up to stand, Violette looks at the collection of broken and disagreeing people. “Here’s the facts. Your other selves are awake right now. I know for a fact that at least one of them was disconnected from the simulation early—Yi-Min Yeh? She didn’t make it out with the rest of them. I don’t know where she is or if she’s even alive.”

Violette tucks her hands into her pockets. “InVerse is under liquidation orders, which is exactly what you all interrupted at the ARM facility. Crito is sending in an auditor to clean house. That includes your other bodies. My plan is to hit the facility and draw the liquidation team’s attention away from your squishy, vulnerable selves.” She opines with a motion of one hand in the air. “Which, the longer we debate this here, becomes increasingly unlikely.”

Turning side-long and glancing into the passenger cabin, Violette draws in a deep breath. “The facility they’re held in is a shipping station on the surface, lots of trucks coming and going. My plan was we load everyone up inside one and steal it. Because no matter what everybody has to get to the surface. Once we get some distance between the facility and Crito’s liquidation team, we can figure out a more long-term plan.”

Violette turns to Nova, chin alighting. “Your dad is currently trapped inside the facility along with all of the other executives of InVerse, and I expect they’re on the chopping block soon too, especially after word of what happened at ARM gets out.” She glances back at the others. “We’re talking an operation that, if it takes more than an hour, we’re—” she motions into the people inside the jet and out, “are all likely dead anyway.”

“There’s also something you need to kick up the chain,” Violette says to Asi, “on the phone. Before we go get shot at. One of the executives behind what happened to you isn’t on site right now. She’s in the Safe Zone, behind the walls of the Yamagato Park boundary. Doctor Cora Wenyi. I recommend you pass along her name, because otherwise as soon as she shit hits the fan she’s going to get away.

Francis holds a hand out to Asi. “I can play secretary,” he offers, “sir.”

“And,” Violette sighs, “one last thing. Because if I get my head blown off there you need to know. The data card Stephen gave you?” She glances around, unsure of who took it but sure someone did, “it has a firmware update for the cyberware connected to your brains. It’ll stop the degradation you’re experiencing, but since you don’t have a secret USB port in your asses and nobody’s going to have the hardware to update it themselves, you’re going to need to follow Colin’s plan for the upload. You need a technopath to access and copy the data from the drive into their mind, then you need to daisy-chain them to a telepath who can imprint the code into the subconscious minds of each of you. But because there’s a security sub-routine preventing that sort of intrusion, you’re going to need to put each recipient in a receptive state through either some kind of telepathic suggestion or the effect of someone with an ability like… fucking persuasion or something.”

Running both hands through her hair, Violette looks at the group, realizing she’s dumped a lot on their laps. “We need to keep our heads in the game and figure out a plan. So, what is it?”

Kaylee's outburst stuns Faulkner, but the instant she starts screaming at Violette about getting things through her thick robot skull, a spark of rage detonates in his mind; his lips tighten into a bloodless line, blotches of red blooming in his cheeks; by the time he trusts himself enough to speak without erupting into a barrage of useless invective, others have chimed in. And…

Nova's right. So is Luther. They don't have time to waffle on this.

By the time Violette's done outlining her plan, Faulkner has a firm grip on his temper; he pops a bottle out of his pocket and dry-swallows one of his migraine pills. "You're right," he says, looking to Luther and Nova, nodding. "We don't have time to wait. Or to debate our worth," he says, gaze straying to Kaylee for the briefest of moments.

"Verse's plan is probably the only hope we've got left, and I'm not sure dragging an officer of the U.S. government into this will bode well for… anyone, really," he says, glancing around to the others.

Then he blinks. "But… what about s.attva?" he asks, looking around. "Maybe s.attva could buy us some time, to make up for what we've lost?" Faulkner asks uncertainly, his gaze moving towards Asi.

"Whether we want or not, the OEI is likely already painfully aware of what we're up to here. It's just a matter of involving them in it or not." Asi lobs the phone at Francis as she makes her way into the cockpit, leaning over the controls to visually confirm on relevant gauges that their patch seems to be working. Her eyes shift toward the patch job done over the holes in the front glass, wondering if that too will hold.

Then she's stepping back from the front and looking back to Faulkner with a nod. "I have a friend who I had looking into InVerse before we got out here. I plan on catching s.attva's attention to help him get there ahead of us. He could work on stealing a truck out while we provide a diversion…" Her gaze wavers for a moment as she looks between the others. "I don't see a way out of this where we're not splitting into two groups after this. One group shepherding our rescued bodies–" And she looks to Luther in particular there, seeing as he's the non-Pharo in the room very much invested in driving an outcome there, "And the other getting the Tlanuwa and our Wolfhound personnel out of Prague… not to mention, being a diversion for your efforts if we have to."

"The goal is to get to Munich," she reiterates firmly. "If we're taking a truck, you drive it straight to the American Consulate, even if you have to drive through the fucking front gate to get in. The Tlanuwa will still head to the site outside Munich to wait for things to cool down; will get our injured to hospitals as fast as possible."

Asi looks between the others, seeming to seek a poll. "Or we call Reeves to give our infiltrators an immediate doorway out, and Sako instead joins Harkness and I on Team Tlanuwa." She lifts her freed hand. "Show of hands if you want to go that route. Majority rules, abstaining or 'I don't know' defaults to 'trucks to Munich'." She looks between the group, even including Violette in the end of that sweep, as well as– "Noa?"

«I’m always going to go with the rebel force and not the government. No offense, Mrs. Miller.» Noa’s radio voice is clear, though her closed lids don’t even flicker. «I can try to mislead and reroute anyone on our tails.»

“None taken. They are probably aware,” Nicole agrees with a frown. “Voss knows I don’t take vacations. That alone is a red flag.” She conveniently leaves off the and they’ve been following me part. “So they’re probably taking the same approach we always do, and turning a blind eye, unless they have to deal with us problem children.”

That doesn’t make her happy or give her comfort. “Avi’s stable enough.” Nicole doesn’t bother looking back over her shoulder to confirm nothing’s changed in the last minute or two. She speaks now with a firm voice, authoritative, ready to make tough calls she — or at least her original — made during the war. Moreover, she’s willing to shoulder the consequences and the guilt that will surely come along with that. “We need to be in and out sooner than the narrow window he’s got. So, the sooner we get there, the sooner we can save everyone, instead of just…”

Nicole pauses as some quirk of irony comes to her unbidden, jaw shifting to one side while her tongue runs along the back of her teeth. With a quiet, throaty chuckle, her eyes cast momentarily skyward. “The needs of the many,” she enunciates very clearly, “outweigh the needs of the few… Or the one.” It’s Star Trek she’s quoting, so she hopes that if there’s some kind of afterlife, Kirk gets a kick out of that. Crossing her arms under her chest, she holds there. “I say forget Reeves. We do this ourselves unless there’s absolutely no other option.”

Nova, aside from a very small gasp at the information about her father, has been quietly trying to follow the various options. Her brows furrow in confusion, and she shakes her head slightly. “Who’s Sako?” she whispers to Faulkner, as names and non-names get pulled into the possible resources the group has to work with.

“That’s not how abstaining works,” she points out a little grumpily to Asi, because a migraine is starting to form and none of them are at the peak of physical health at the moment, aside from Francis and Luther, and Luther’s injured. “You don’t get to just…” she waves a hand, “default it to one or the other. Abstains are abstains unless it’s a tie.”

She sighs, though, and lifts a shoulder. “It sounds like there’s more people to help us with Plan A, though, even if Reeves is fastest. So yeah. I guess. Plan A.” She doesn’t look like she’s very confident about it, though, and chews her lower lip as she glances over to Zach, since she told him to call Reeves.

Remaining seated seems to be the only way Luther can contain himself. But already, there are slight, wavering waves of heat rising from his shoulders through his thin undershirt. Every new pressing matter, every new addition to the list of victims inside the next facility, is sending a stress signal screaming behind a stony face. Violette's breakdown of the crucial process to ensure the pharos from their own breakdowns is the peak of the shit mountain. Asi's 'show of hands' vote is the tipping point to send him rolling down it.

"The OEI knows all this, yes, but they've got bigger shit to deal with right now!" Luther snaps, rising abruptly to his feet again. If he's felt the stab of pain from bruised ribs, it's nothing compared to the sharpness of his temper. "We are here, and we're all they have. All these other names - friends, agents, whatever the fuck Yamagato is doing - we don't have any of that, no guarantees of help, and a barely half hour old Thumbelina as a map on the inside. We have fuck all sitting right here, that's what we got. We don't got time. So fuck the vote, Tetsuyama. Get. Us. Moving." Is he 'abstaining'? Technically, yes. A bullish snort concludes his rant. Unhelpful or not, he doesn't seem to care for either scenario, but recognizes no other path but forward.

Luther crashes back into his seat, head bowing into his uninjured hand. There's a tiredness to the gesture, but it's brief. He straightens up after to reach for the handgun at his waist, busying himself with checking its magazine and overall operation.

Jaw tight and eyes on the ground in front of her, Kaylee listens. She considers all of this. It could all be done in a few moments or the hard road.

Eyes finally lift, seeking out Luther. She seems to be struggling with the choices, but finally a heavy defeated sigh leave her. “Fine,” she growls out. She doesn't say anymore until she steps out of the group, around Violette and up the ramp.

It isn't until Kaylee unceremoniously drops into a seat next to Luther that she says, “Let's go. We’ll leave Reeves as last resort.” She doesn’t sound completely convinced it is the right way, but… there wasn't time.

A stiffness has entered Zachery's posture ever since the hard acknowledgement that their 'donors' are now awake. He turns to face the group again, gaze drifting between speakers.

It's catching Nova's glance that breaks the pattern. He laughs, even if he brings up a hand to both muffle it and scrub at his face directly afterwards. "Right." He takes a breath, and then begins to move back toward the Tlanuwa with purpose. "You're young, you'll learn not to listen to me yet." Given the time.

He probably means to sound casual but the tension is creeping back into his jaw between sentences already. With a look out to Luther and a loose gesture in Kaylee and Nicole's direction, he decides flatly but clearly, "I'm breaking character, and deferring to the people who've done this sort of thing more than half a time." This earns him a sympathetic look from his wife, who reaches over to ruffle his hair briefly as he passes, despite his mood.

Abby's blue eyes bounce back and forth in her head, face turning with each person that talks and gives their opinions, Asi and Violette laying out the options. She looks tired. Emotionally and physically, They all do. They're not running at optimum settings after all. She presses her palms to her face and rubs them up and down before she stands and heads back into the plane proper so she can check vitals and monitor Noa and Avi. "I go where the injured go. The rest of you can't help them medically and at least I can." And Zachery. Maybe. She's unsure after dealing with Avi. "If anyone needs something for headaches and the like, come see me." But she's finding a spot beside Avi and fiddles with IV lines and getting out a notepad so she can start recording what she needs to and start an impromptu medical chart on him and Noa.

That's that, then. They all need to get moving. "Harkness, I need that phone back as soon as you're done," Asi tells him, then looks down the ramp at the others. They're all in… a state after the day they've been through so far, but it isn't over. "Take Abby on her offer, make sure you're walking into this the best self you can be. Gear back up, be ready to hit the ground running."

"We're all we've got," is a reminder none of them need, but maybe it's worth repeating anyway. "Let's not waste another moment."

She turns to clamber back into the cockpit, settling down in the copilot's chair. She flips the switch to begin closing the ramp again and then begins buckling herself in.

When the decision is made, Violette eases back off the ramp and steps into the bay of the Tlanuwa, looking down at Avi and Noa on the floor. Her pale eyes stare unfocused for a moment, then angle back at the bay door as it shuts with a suctioned clunk. The cabin begins pressurizing, and Violette puts one hand on the bar above the jumpseat closest to the back of the cabin.

“Then we’re doing this.” Violette says more to herself than the others as engines begin to spin up. “Remember, we’re a diversion. This aircraft, whatever resources we tap between here and there, we’re drawing fire away from the others inside. I’ve given them a route out before we parted ways and… that’s the best I can hope for.”

Violette braces, then pulls herself down into her seat as she feels the Tlanuwa’s engines fully spin up and the aircraft begin to lurch upward on vector thrust. Her stomach turns, heart pounds in her chest, and she experiences something at once novel and viscerally unsettling.



Versatile Shipping Czechia
Secure Facility Level


Yellow emergency lights flash on high concrete walls as a metal-caged cargo elevator makes its descent from the surface level. As the elevator comes to a grinding halt, several darkly-dressed figures inside the cage move to a wedge formation, and as the elevator doors slide open they spill out like a dark tide. Five soldiers in sleek black body armor and eyeless helmets moving to cover the concrete hallway, at the nucleus of this violent atom, a petite brunette woman in a sleek dark suit.

Viktoria Jäger moves with that same mercurial fluidity as she follows the liquidation squad into the hall. She lifts her chin up, hearing shouting coming from inside the facility over the scream of alarm klaxons.

She raises one arm, touching a bracelet on her right wrist. There is a green light next to a tiny display that reads NEGATED. She taps the button beside the light, and it shifts from green to red. The screen changes to read CANCELLATION AUTHORIZED and then NON-NEGATED.

Jäger’s eyes immediately flood jet black and her hair rises as if a static charge flowed through her body. She points ahead, directing the squad.

“Commence liquidation.”

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