astor_icon.gif edgar_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif nick_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Matka
Synopsis If you can't find what you're looking for, wait long enough and it will find you.
Date April 24, 2011

The Garden

Rain slants down against the roof of the Garden and gleams in the leaves of the creeping ivy that covers the cottage's dilapidated exterior. Moss grows in a soft green blanket on shingles — in a few more years, without someone to actively tend to the property, nature will fully reclaim it. It's in the Ferry's best interest to bring the safehouse back into rotation unless the network is prepared to sacrifice the three-story farm home and the several acres of field surrounded by dense forest that makes it an ideal place to hide.

At one time, there were horses on the other side of the fence that grazed on tall grass in the spring and summer months and subsisted on hay provided by the cottage's caretakers in winter. Now, in the dark, the field sits empty, barn doors bolted shut shortly after the last set of evacuations. The only animals living here now are the ones capable of providing for themselves, including a lean cat with dark, glossy fur, a kinked tail and eyes like lamps that terrorizes the rabbits living under the cover of the trees. Gabriel might recognize it in the light, though he left it here as a kitten.

The road that leads to the Garden is steeped in mud and difficult, but not impossible, to traverse — the old pickup truck and motorcycle flanking it have to take the stretch at low speeds to avoid skidding off it, and as the vehicles roll up to the homestead's locked gate, the first thing that the search party discovers is the absence of light leaking out from the cottage's windows.

Eileen is in the general vicinity, but if Gabriel's experiences are anything to go by, then she's just as likely to be outdoors as she is indoors regardless of the sopping weather.

The rider of the motorcycle pulls the bike to a careful stop, a booted foot stepping down to keep balance. The unrelenting rain and the cold it brings with it make for a miserable ride. Nick's jeans are sodden through and the healing gunshot wound beneath is getting uncomfortably itchy now that the bandaging wrapped around it beneath the jeans is wet as well. A leather jacket and the helmet he wears keep the rest of him dry, though he shoves up the visor to see better.

"Got a key?" he shouts to the driver of the truck with a nod toward the gate.

Gabriel could be asleep in the cab of the truck for all that he is slumped quiet and eyes barely open, head rested back against the top of the seat and hands loose on his thighs. He has his mind in pieces, currently, split between however many birds it's taken to see and feel his way to this location. Although upon discovering it, he possibly could have guessed. He's bundled into pragmatic black woolen coat, with the pinned attachment of a medal protectively encased and hidden in the folds inside, his clothing just as dull beneath that, feet strapped into military boots. Grey scatters through the beginnings of the beard starting to grow on his jaw and throat, streaked in his hair, making him appear older than he truly is.

At the sound of Nick's voice, he rouses, retracting his attention from the birds as his head lifts and his mouth grimaces at the crick in his neck. Blearily, he cranes said neck to see through the rain-streaked windshield, hand hooking to the handle above the door.

"She's not in the house," he tells the driver, with more certainty than even dull windows would have provided.

The truck's cabin wasn't terribly spacious to begin with. And with three people crammed into it, it hasn't exactly gotten any bigger. But hey, it's dry inside. When Nick shouts, Raith lowers the window of the driver's side door just enough so that he can reply, "Come get one of the shotguns." Some would consider a shotgun a key. A master key, even. It only addresses the problem of getting past the gate.

"Your sure?" the ex-spy asks Gabriel. If Eileen's not in the house, it simplifies their search. And since Raith is still paranoid enough to wear an armored jacket, simplifying the search is preferable to searching everywhere. Especially in the rain. "Any idea where in the area? The lot's big."

Edgar lost the draw. Since Raith knows how to drive and Gabriel is busy with tracking the lost woman, the carnie is relegated to being squished into the middle. Looking rather uncomfortable, he glances out the open window to the man on the motorcycle, a whistful expression on his bearded face. "I'll give up my place on the way back, eh?" He could run faster than they're crawling along the road. It's annoying.

Shifting a little in his seat, he turns his head toward Gabriel and nods to his door. "I migh' be able teh break i'… Throwin' a rock'r sumthen like tha'?" If he can find one big enough.

Kicking the kickstand and cutting the engine for now, Nick moves to the truck, limping a bit worse than he had been back at the Dispensary, thanks to the rough ride on the bike. Grabbing one of the shotguns, he then moves to the gate to peer at the lock.

His gloved hand moves up to his visor to flip it back down — it might be some help in case of a bad ricochet, but also it keeps the rain off his face. Angling the shotgun carefully, he pulls the trigger to obliterate the lock. Of course, that means Eileen is probably aware of their presence, but then, every bird between the Dispensary and Staten may have told her they were coming.

He slings the shot gun over his shoulder rather than bringing it back to the truck, then creaks the gate open wide enough for the truck to pass through before heading back to his bike and gingerly getting back on.

"She's out of my range," Gabriel confirms. Or doesn't confirm. Either way, the house is presumably in his range, and thus the powers of deduction imply she is no longer there. He twitches a look towards the gate, blasted open and creaked aside for the truck to nose on in, and he settles a little rather than immediately hop out. "We should take this as far as we can around, but if I can't pick up on her by then— I'm getting out so I can move better."

Because never mind how fast the truck is going, it's certainly not as agile or flexible either as the other forms he can take on. A shore lark, too well tamed by Gabriel's own influence to lift off at the echoing blast of gunfire, belatedly sets to fly off the fence and dart its way past the cottage, speeding ahead and into the trees.

"Sure, sounds good." 'Flat' is a good way to describe Raith's reply. 'To the point' is also good. Either way, it largely describes his mood as the truck coasts through the gate. If Eileen's not in the house, then Raith is not feeling terribly hopeful. There is a lot of space for her to roam around in. But the house? That's as good a place to start as any: The woman might not be there, but moving towards it will give Gabriel that much better sense of their surroundings. At least the rain won't impair that sense the way it does impair vision.

A huff of frustration is let out through Edgar's nose, like the steam from a bull in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. As the truck creep forward, he fidgets to look out either window, his eyeballs burring in their sockets as he scans the woods around them. Not that he expects to see anything but it's better than sitting and doing nothing, the other two are at least being useful and productive. "'Ow long does she leave for when she goes off like this?" The question is asked as though it's happened more than once. "An' 'ow're we goin'teh find 'er if she's usin' the birds teh watch ou' fer us?"

The cat streaks out in front of the truck as it pulls up the drive and, with a flick of its bent tail, disappears into the underbrush on the far side of the cottage. Overcast skies blot out what little light the moon would have otherwise provided the men to see by. The truck's beams cut across the front steps and flash through the lowest branches in the trees, illuminating slivers of wood and shapes that snap and blur between them.

Gabriel alone is aware of the sheer number of birds in the area — not only starlings but sparrows, grackles and blackbirds as well. The occasional owl or nightjar. Undoubtedly, there is something in the shadows with talons large and strong enough to pluck the shore lark out of the air, but it flits through the forest without falling under the heavy, crushing weight of a larger feathered predator.

Rain begins falling harder against Nick's visor and the truck's windows, filling the cabin with the sound of drumming water. There is no thunder, not yet, but the voice in Gabriel's head is like the far-off roar of waves slamming into a distant shore.

Leave, it demands, and it's Eileen but also isn't because Eileen does not have the ability to communicate with him this way as long as she's in her body, which the shore lark glimpses moving deeper into the trees behind the cottage. Blood streaks down her legs where brambles and thorns have punctured her skin and left superficial cuts. She's still wearing the camel-coloured coat that Edgar and Raith last saw her in, but it has since slipped off one shoulder, exposing the cardigan and blouse she wears beneath it, fabric plastered to her skin by rainwater and stained dark. There's more blood on her clothes than there is on her legs, though neither the shore lark nor Gabriel can be sure whether or not it belongs to her. There's a military-grade rifle slung over her shoulder that she did not leave the Dispensary with, and she smells like death. Mud cakes under her fingernails and in her hair.

If Gabriel has any desire to snap at Edgar about the regularity implied in his words, or whether or not Gabriel knows what he's doing in the usual bitchy arrogance of not actually being too sure, it's cut off when telepathic voice startles through his head, scattering his attention as easily as a flock of birds under the shock of gunfire. His hands lock tight where they grip the handle, gaze snapping out the windshield even if there is nothing readily to see.

He can't communicate back to her with such articulacy, not even with his telepathy, not at this range. But he can send a shimmering impression of rejection through empathic link. No, in other words. Anything more complex will have to wait until later.

"Up ahead. I see her. Keep driving."

York, is a quiet growl of telepathic voice. Birds everywhere. Be ready to leave.

"Good. Maybe we can get out of here in a minute." The tone of Raith's voice implies either irritation or simple disregard for the seriousness of the situation. Either one might be the case. "Wish we had just one syringe full of negation. Edgar, there's another SPAS in the back of the cab. Grab it, and make sure it's loaded with the birdshot." How far, exactly, Raith needs to drive isn't made clear by Gabriel, but the ex-spy doesn't complain about it, opting to simply drive until he's told to do something else. Or until he needs to make an executive decision. "Please tell me she's in a caring, negotiating mood."

Spas, spaz, SPAS… Edgar doesn't really know the difference between any of those words except that a spaz is something that happens when he gets a glimpse of something he shouldn't. Like that woman through her bedroom window the other night. "Spaz, birdsho', got et." Twisting in his seat, he digs around in the small space behind them and comes up with a variety of different bullets, and a BDG (or big damn gun).

Problem is, the carnie's never actually had to load a gun before so what happens is that he stares at one of the bigger bullets for a while. Grabbing a handfull of the smaller ones, he places the weapon butt end between his legs and begins dropping the bullets down the barrel.

On the motorcycle, Nick's black-helmeted head turns toward the window of the truck and gives a nod of understanding to the telepathic voice he hears in his head. Roger, he thinks as well just to be clear, unsure exactly how the telepathic thing works — the few he's known and worked with all had their individual way of reading minds.

Behind the visor of his helmet, his eyes sweep the landscape, looking for a sign of Eileen. Any idea how close? he asks, not privy to the conversation in the trunk, flanking a bit to the rear of the truck to let Raith lead the way.

A flick of long, scissor-shaped wings and one of the birds at the edge of the trees dives down at the oncoming truck, but rather than swing away at the last possible moment and steer itself back into the sky so it can come around for another bombing pass, it crashes into the windshield with enough force to break its neck upon impact, which booms through the truck's cabin like a gunshot.

The rainwater does not have the opportunity to wash the blood and broken feathers from the glass before another body collides a few inches from the original point of impact, followed by another, and another. Cracks spiderweb across the wildshield, spreading outward from the point of impact, and perhaps sensing that the equivalent of hailstones aren't providing her with the results she wants, the last weight Eileen drops on the glass finally crashes through it, showering the front seat in jagged shards and dead bird bodies that spill out onto the dash and into Edgar's lap.

Outside the truck, Nick can hear what sounds like the wind building in strength, but a glance toward the trees tells him this isn't so. Hundreds of shadows are rising into the air as one — there are only seconds until the swarm fills the truck's cabin through the gaping hole where the windshield used to be.

A large hand reaches through flying glass, shredded bird flesh and bone and feathers, blood splatter, to grip onto the front of Edgar's shirt. In the next second, the speedster undergoes something he's experienced before — a loss of movement and sensory input that comes distorted from all directions, seeing and hearing the sensation of fluidly rolling out through shattered windscreen, the gun and the useless bullets scattering on truck cab floor. By the time Edgar has full use of his limbs and solid body back beneath his control, he's out in the open, the ground mucked with rain and mud and soaking into the knees of his pants, oozing between his fingers.

Gabriel rolled several paces away, shooting a glance back for the ruined truck and lifting a hand. The concussive blast goes off like a gunshot, a rippling cone of force ejecting up for the sky and crippling, shredding, exploding the birds in its path as he aims for the stream that attacks the truck.

Sixty, seventy feet — behind the house, is for Nick, but projects to everyone.

A last-minute correction for Edgar is aborted by the sudden impact of birds against the windscreen, the sudden shattering of the windscreen, and the sudden flow of black ink out through the front of the truck. But fortunately, none of it is so jarring that Raith doesn't step on the brakes and drop the truck into neutral. An instant later, he whirls around to look in the back of the truck cab, grabs a box of #10 birdshot, whips around again and grabs the shotgun from the floor, and finally clambers out of the vehicle into the dubious safety of the open field. This is not going the way he'd planned or hoped. "Smythe!" the ex-spy shouts as he racks open the weapon's action and starts knocking the incorrectly-loaded, incorrect ammunition out onto the ground. "Pair with York and circle around the house, filet anything with feathers that gets within arm's reach. Gray, are there any more flocks?" The first of eight shells is popped into the magazine.

Flipping to his feet, Edgar glances around him and then wipes his muddy hands off on his wet trousers. A nod is directed toward Raith and suddenly two rather dangerous looking knives appear in his hands, possibly pulled from somewhere on the speedster's body. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he psychs himself up and lets the air out in a shaky manner as he bounces a few times on the balls of his booted feet. "Fuck I 'ate birds…" he mutters only to Gabriel's hearing. Then he's off in a streak, spinning the knives in from of him like the blades of a blender.

Pairing with the other Englishman may or may not work since York's motorcycle is a little slower than the speedster himself. He appears at Nick's side, sopping with rainwater and bird blood and guts, a small glance afforded the helmeted man. "I'll cut a path a'ead'v you, jus' tell me where you want me teh go."

Nick skids to a stop to grab the shotgun from his back aiming and blasting at the cloud of birds in the sky and wincing as he does, wondering what his sister feels with each bird's death, wondering if it pains her every time one of the creatures bursts into nothing but feathers and blood. At Gabriel's voice in his head, with a direction and a distance to go by, Nick flings the shotgun back in order to ride. Raith's words may or may not be heard — he instead replies in his head to Gabriel:

Maybe I can distract her. Let her focus on me, and you and Smythe can take her down without hurting her… He's equipped for it well enough in a helmet, leather gloves and leather jacket. The death wish he carries perpetually with him doesn't hurt the cause much, either.

When Edgar shows at his side, Nick shoves the visor up quickly enough to respond, "Gabriel says she's some 70 feet behind the house or so. Going around that way. I'll go left, you go right. Be subtle; I can't be. Don't hurt her." The visor is shoved back down and without waiting for a reply, Nick pushes off, engine roaring.

Gabriel's concussive blast punches a hole through Eileen's flock. A starling tangles in the barbed wire fence, neck caught on the barbs, and blackbirds scatter across the mud, leaving craters in the sodden earth where they drop. The sparrows, the smallest projectiles of the bunch, are so mangled when they hit the ground that the few that are still whole are entirely unrecognizable. Rain patters hard against the steering column and the truck's front seats exposed to the elements, though the vehicle itself is still intact, having only suffered minimal damage.

Eileen's birds are much more interested in the men who have just evacuated it. The edges of the flock spread out over the field, then come back together again in a tight turn, swinging back toward Gabriel and Raith, but instead of attacking it pulls around them, forming a circle of crackling wings that makes it difficult to hear anything except the roar of the maelstrom.

Once under the cover of the trees, Eileen cannot use the same tactic to hold off Edgar or Nick, but the forest is as much an obstacle for them as it is for her. Her nostrils flare on the next inhale, haggard and a little bit pained as she slides the heel of one hand down the barrel of her stolen rifle and settles a slick palm at its stock.

Come with me, she says to Gabriel, and we'll find him together. She brings the rifle up to bear, aiming through the trees, and wedges the weapon's butt against her shoulder to steady it. It moves at a slow creep as if pulled sideways by some supernatural force, following the path Nick takes on his motorcycle. Her finger tightens around the trigger but does yet fully engage it until her birds inform her that she has a clean shot at the front tire.

She doesn't. Yet. Stand against me and I'll finish what I started once at Eagle Electric.

Yes. That is all Gabriel has to say to Raith. Yes, there are more flocks.

One of which is becoming a storm around them, and his own empathic command feels a little like yelling at a tornado as opposed to acquiring control. Blood rims a nostril as the telltale sign of what can happen with certain abilities used too close together, which is why, perhaps, a different tactic in the form of a strange blue glow lifting off his skin at his hands, crusting the ground with frost at his feet, lacing in the weave of his coat. Hands lift, and flash freezing tendrils of ability brush the wheeling birds — and a brush is all it takes, the ones that take the brunt of it simply dropping like overripe fruit from a branch. There's humidity magic mixed in, chilly plumes of water to carry the cold, in wisping, glittering mists dispersed in the force of the birds.

Five seconds, then run, is direction for Raith, because Gabriel could use more than five seconds, but it's about all they have to spare before he directs a hand towards the general direction he knows Eileen to be, and lets loose a second propulsion of invisible force, breaking a path.

He closes his eyes, then, still radiating iciness, and rather than immediately following, he finds her — it's a psychic hotline of astral sensing, avian telepathy and the more traditional breed that lets his voice slam through her head as forceful as a mack truck: Stand down, Munin. She'll hear it — how much she is forced to obey is dubious, but it springs a fresh spark of migraine, hot and white, behind his eyes.

Five seconds, then run. Surrounded by angry birds and without an ability of his own, what else is Raith going to do? A shotshell clatters into his weapon with each passing second, and on the fifth, when a path is ripped wide for him, the ex-spy doesn't waste any time. He runs just like he ran when pursued by Desmond Harper: Fast, hard, and without looking back.

Sixty or seventy feet beyond the house, plus the rest of the distance to the house. How many yards is that? How many seconds, if Raith can cover one yard every second? Thirty? Sixty? More than he wants to think about. It's a long time to spend running across open ground. Raith runs. He runs like the Devil is after him, sardonically musing just for a split second, that Hell must be covered in molted feathers.

By the time Edgar comes around to the back of the house the first time he's already a mess of blood and feathers. Looking like the serial killer version of Big Bird, he spits out a few that have collected in his mouth during the run. The kukri in his hands are also coated with what covers him, only it washes off much easier in the rain than he does. The pink of flesh streaks the wash of red in fine lines where the rain hits his face and bare arms.

Seventy feet behind the house, behind the house is full of trees. "Wha' issi' wi' women an' wantin' teh be chased 'round?" Maybe the young woman doesn't want to be chased around but she's definitely making it hard for the rest of them to catch her. He flicks his wrists and leaves a spatter of blood and feathers on the ground to either side of him before he blurs out of sight toward the treeline.

From the opposite side, and slower than Edgar, Nick's bike is, as he said, less subtle, shiny and black and loud, though the engine quiets as he slows, cautious and wary of both trees and the woman attacking them.

Seeing Eileen with the gun, he comes to a stop, a Doc Marten coming down in the mud as blue eyes survey his sister through the rain splattered visor.

Gloved hands lift, palms open to her to show they are empty, before one comes to lift the visor, sliding it open just enough that it still covers three quarters of his face but so his yell can be heard.

"We're here to help you," Nick shouts over the drone of engine and the splatter of rain.


In a future far away from now, Astor's mother spent a good many hours with him balanced on one knee and a Polish phrasebook on the other, honing their language skills together, despite her husband's vague and mostly-unarticulated concern that, much like clocks and cyborgs, the paths of language learning curves would cross in Astor's head and produce some type of aneurysmic explosion or hopeless impair the neuron network of his brain and subtle chemistries of his mind to have too many components mixed in there, especially with the nightmares, too. A watchmaker's way of worrying.

He's behind her. Thirty yards or so— just now blurring into the line of sight of a raptor slamming past on an errant gust of wind. A pale slash of face, black hair curling inky on either side of it, plastered to his cheeks, his eyes reduced to inscrutable, slitted recesses on his head like someone had wedged a knife in twice and found nothing underneath but blackness. His coat's heavier than hers but equally insufficient for the weather, leaves his hands bare-knuckled and sodden to the creases of his palm. "It's your fault if they die tonight—

"—and I don't want them to." There's almost a petulant quality to his voice; nearly. Unlike Eileen, however, there isn't a scratch on him. A leaf caught on his pant leg and wind searing a ghost of color into his nose, but the brambles, the stones, the harder aspects of the weather left him profoundly alone.

Gabriel's psychic command stills Eileen's finger in the instant it might have finished contracting around the trigger and blown a hole through Nicholas' chest, but it only buys a moment's hesitation. The word matka is worth much more in this particular currency, however, and has her swinging her rifle around to level it with Astor's chest. If she'd been aware of Edgar's presence in the trees before, it's the furthest thing from her mind now — her world is contained within a space roughly thirty yards long and two yards wide. Everything that exists outside of it, with the notable exception of what's on the other end of a trembling empathic link, becomes inconsequential.

This includes Nick and his hands raised in their placating gesture, and Raith's broad-shouldered shape plowing through the tall grass of the open field, brittle stalks sent whipping about his legs.

Each breath that Eileen drags in produces a thin, reedy sound on the intake and hisses back out again as smoky vapour almost indistinguishable from the rain coming down on their heads and glancing off their already saturated clothes. The air is just cold enough for it to be visible.

She lowers her weapon rather than drop it, though it feels abruptly like a misshapen piece of lead in her hands and just as useless. The leather strap goes taut. "Chlopczyk," she says, and her voice sounds rough like fine grains of sand. "Astor."

Dead birds, frozen as if to be stored in a freezer and fed to pet snakes or otherwise baked and sliced for some bizarre festivity— it was Easter, or is going to be Easter, or maybe it is Easter— do not outstrip the ones still alive, but they're pinwheeling off now, scattering. The glow of cold retracts, leaving Gabriel to shiver beneath where rain drops cling fast to his clothing, lace upon his skin and in his hair, and a canine head shake flings ice and water in equal measures away.

Something's happened. The sense of pursuit had left him when Gabriel assigned himself to allowing others to run instead of him, but even now, he stands in the clearing of dead birds and frosted grass and frozen mud. All three things snap underfoot as he takes off in the direction Raith went, slow at first, disoriented in the throes of sharp headache and supernatural exhaustion.

Shoves it aside to pick up the pace, a human, slightly numb-footed lope through the trees to be the last one on site. Straining mundane senses for the flurry of people ahead of him.

The tread of Edgar's workboots leaves a pair of skids more than a foot long behind him when he stops and stares at Astor, then his head flicks toward Eileen, then back at Astor. "Astor… tha's the name'v the fellow tha' done buried the knife." The knives are released for a split second, caught again before having the chance to fall, as the speedster takes a step or two backwards, uncertain of the new development. A frustrated huff blows through his nose as he glances around for someone to guide him, or give him some sort of order. There's only Nick over there yelling about helping or something. Not very helpful right now.

Left to his own devices, the speedster opts for the safest of all actions. Disarming the lady. The knives are embedded into the soil and a moment later the rifle flies, cracking against a tree, only to fall unceremoniously to the ground. His arms have her grabbed up in a bearhug from behind as his head twists and cranes, searching for the almost inevitable onslaught from a passing flock of birds.

Raith is not as fast as Edgar is. Not nearly as fast. It's several more seconds before he even arrives, after Astor has made his plea, and after Edgar has restrained Eileen. But even devoid of real context, the fact is that Astor is standing right there, and Raith directs the muzzle of his shotgun to point squarely at the younger man's chest. "On the ground now!" And like magic, the ex-spy suddenly has a convenient target to direct his anger at as well.

The motorcycle's rider can't hear the words he might be the only one able to translate over the noise of everything else surrounding him; his eyes narrow at the appearance of the stranger. When Edgar disarms Eileen, Nick kills the engine of the bike and is off it in a moment, limping closer. The shotgun on his back is ignored in favor of the pistol he pulls from the back of his jeans instead; this he holds loosely, not aiming it at anyone since Raith seems to have Astor covered.

It's hard to read his expressions behind the visor of the helmet, but with so many birds to do Eileen's bidding, Nick isn't about to expose his eyes to claws and beaks. "Who are you?" he demands of the younger man, and silently for Gabriel, Do you know this guy?

Astor twists his head to look at the shotgun a handful of seconds before Gabriel's tall figure staggers into view. The rain on his face seems to flatten his features out, give it the consistency of spaded paint. "I don't want to get on the ground," he answers stiffly. "It's cold and pointless.

"And I'm going wherever you're taking them." He makes the debatable mistake of shifting his arm to point at Eileen and then his eyebrows snap down suddenly like a child's crayon drawing of a scowling face; scarcely pausing to breath he adds, somewhat louder, flatter, like someone amped up his normal conversational monotone to 11, a crabby governess' scolding: "And don't call me that or do that with your hand or try to kick me. Just because you're further down on the evolutionary doesn't excuse doing pointless stupid things.

"Oj—" his eyes flit toward Gabriel briefly, and they widen for a moment as if there was suddenly more light to see by or else that something else in the weary, migraine-riddled serial-killer had caught him by surprise. Instead of speaking again, though, he merely snaps his head around on-axis again. "I can make her go away. I can get you 'Eileen' back. If you don't make me lie on the ground, I will."

Eileen is rigid in Edgar's grip up until the point that her back arches, her body attempting to use the curve of her spine to lever herself out of her arms — it's a tactic that might work if she wasn't an inch and a half above five feet and hovering around one hundred pounds. She's in more danger of hurting herself than Edgar is of being hurt, and the majority of her birds are either dead or dying on the ground. The few that linger in the trees settle in high branches, no longer directly under her influence but unable to refuse its magnetic pull.

Hands clutch at the arms looped around her middle, knuckles gone white and fingers hooked talon-like in the fabric of the speedster's coat. She's a little like a bird trapped between a pair of cupped palms herself, wings pinned to its side and heart all aflutter. The closer Gabriel gets, the more aware he becomes of it: anxious tremors pulsing explosively through their link.

A hand rigid and mottled white against the black bark of a tree, Gabriel catches his breath and maybe also a sense of balance as his brain continues to spin inside his skull or whatever it's actually doing to make it feel similar. Edgar has a strong clasp around his girlfriend— or his girlfriend possessed by some crazy mix of memories that seems to know exactly how to get to him through their shared power as effectively as Eileen ever did— and the serial killer trusts the speedster enough not to break her. Or injure her any more than she might injure herself.

"Raith," is a one-worded, raw sounding request. It's meant to translate to, lower the gun, if he hasn't already. Straightening his back, Gabriel uses the palm of his hand to smear away blood gathered on his bristled top lip, trudging steps forward.

A glance to Eileen, and in Edgar's arms, she'll go as limp as a ragdoll, a mild dose of sedation that does not put her under, but does drain her of strength enough to manage a little easier, fling less kicks or deal herself less scratches. It was a forest a lot like this, and the boy in the dreamscape was significantly shorter than the new arrival on the scene, but the similarities put enough pieces together for something to click as comfort for the watchmaker — even if he's still missing the bigger picture.

Astor's the boy she was looking for. That much Gabriel knows. "Then do it."

The squirming little woman in the carnie's grip is more worrisome simply because if he tightens his hold, he might break a bone or something. If he loosens his grip, he might let her get away. Edgar grits his teeth against the pain as those sharp little claws at the ends of Eileen's fingers dig in. He almost can't help the response of a shift which jolts her as he turns in Gabriel's direction.

When he does his little trick, one of the many in his bag, the speedster does loosen the hold and tosses the young woman over his shoulder, making the legs a little less dangerous than they are currently. "Thanks," he murmurs and turns toward Raith, allowing the Eileen over his shoulder a clear view of Astor again. "'E's the bloke tha' done 'id the knife." As though that should mean anything to any of the men gathered around.

Edgar's words hold no meaning for Raith, but are still less confusing than Astor's accusations about things he was planning to do. Some of them may have even been accurate. No matter; the offer has been made. "You heard the man," the ex-spy says, racking the action of his shotgun to drive home the point that he means business, "Undo whatever it was you did, or bad things will happen."

Astor's features relax back into a frost-rimed mask of a scowl. "I didn't do anything," he answers, sullen as a young man in denial would be, starting his hands to the pockets of the coat, though they don't quite go in; he doesn't think to push Jensen Raith, the speedster, or their helmeted friend that far, anyway. "This is just her way of making herself feel better after she chose to go with her Gabriel instead of staying with me.

"Females and their mates." There's a feline sniff, perhaps the coldest noise to cross the air other than the wind singing through the highest parts of the sky; a twig snaps underfoot and he turns away, ignoring the frenetic rattle of rain coming down where the canopy ends ahead of him, or the freezing spatter onto his nose, coat again, when he steps beyond the trees. Three strides, four, indifferent to the foreboding alignment of the shotgun. The gloom threatens to consume him, and then the arrhythmic percussion of rain is joined by a sussurus of softer edges.

A bird drops out of the serene malice of the storm onto Astor's shoulder, whisking water off its pinions as its wings flare for landing. Suddenly, the body held up by Edgar's arms relaxes into them, slacking like her tendons had been cut.

Gabriel's sedation continues its work. Eileen does not stir from Edgar's shoulder. The bird, a sharply-marked little sparrow with eyes that glint fierce, turns its head to regard the Remnant as Astor retreats. If she chose to go with 'her Gabriel' before, then she chooses to go with the boy now.

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