Mutiny, Part I


alister_icon.gif barney_icon.gif des_icon.gif etienne_icon.gif kaylee_icon.gif

Scene Title Mutiny, Part I
Synopsis Raytech Industries ventures offshore to inspect an incoming shipment of medical supplies.
Date April 30, 2018

Somewhere Off Staten Island

It’s not uncommon for a shipment to be held offshore. This old mindset carried over from the war, when ambushes were so frequent that the sight of wreckage smoldering on rocky beaches or in the ports attached to abandoned towns along the continent’s east coast were just something people came to anticipate, like a thunderstorm on an otherwise sunny day. To mitigate losses, captains began making trades or inspecting cargo out on the open water, and even now, years later, there are still some who refuse to come anywhere near land without some sort of insurance or gesture of goodwill.

Raytech has dealt with such men like Jens Mehler before. Or, to be more accurate, Kaylee Ray-Sumter has. Her unique talents are like a balm; any suspicions their shipping partners might have are easily soothed by her presence, whether or not they realize what’s happening to their mental defenses at the time.

With her are Desdemona Desjardins and Barney Sorenson — one because the contents of the shipment are relevant to her line of work, the other because he looks tougher than he actually is, and the sight of the ginger giant is enough to make most people think twice about reneging on their arrangement with the company.

The shipment in question is in the cargo hold of an old, rusted freighter parked a mile off Staten Island. It’s misting outside as one of Mehler’s men gently lifts Kaylee off the top of the access ladder attached to the side of the freighter, then deposits her on the deck with the same amount of care he might show a baby bird that’s tumbled out of its nest. Des is next.

Barney receives no assistance from the crew, only sour looks, but that’s to be expected.

The deck’s metal surface squeaks under their shoes. Moisture clings to everything out here — the freighter, skin, hair, clothes, the smaller fishing boat they arrived here on, tethered far below them and bobbing in the waves.

Seagulls call out to one another somewhere out in the fog, unseen.

Mehler is a squat, gruff man about to enter his sixties, with hands like baseball mitts left out to bake in the sun. Like his boat and the shipment Raytech is here to collect, he’s German, although his accent it’s the sort that fills his mouth when he speaks. “Berlin to Toulon,” he’s saying, “Toulon to New York. Our companies, our doctors, they are the best. You will get fine quality, I promise you this. Can we get you anything? Hot water or a drinking chocolate?”

There were few days, when dealing with business matters, that Kaylee does not dress in proper attire for her position. One of those was when she is required to deal with the boat shipments. On those days she allows herself to wear a nice pair of jeans and proper shoes for dealing with the ladder climbs and salt spray.

To be honest she learned that after the first time she did this.

The man that assists her gets a soft thank you before she turns to Mehler himself, with a pleasant smile. Strands of blonde hair are already unwinding their way out of the bun in the brisk onshore breeze. She was really wishing Richard was here, but… alas.

“Mr. Mehler,” Kaylee greets as if seeing an old acquaintance, offering a well manicured hand to the man. “I have heard about the quality of what you are offering us, in fact, your reputation precedes you.” It is hard to tell by her tone, if what they have heard was good or bad. “However,” she continues sounding a bit regretful, “as you know, my brother is a cautious man and would like Miss Desjardins to have a look at what you are bringing us. If anything to make sure that we ordered correctly.”

Des offers a murmured thank you for the help up and offers an apologetic smile when it’s revealed she’ll be inspecting the shipment before they agree to receive it. “Boss’ orders. But I have no concerns.” That’s not entirely true, but Odessa is paranoid by necessity, and it’s nothing personal in this case.

A glance is sent in Barney’s direction, casual and more like she’s checking to make sure he made the climb up all right, rather than looking for any particular back-up. As confident as Des is in her own skills, her ability isn’t something she wants to fall back on. She’d much rather watch Barney square his shoulders and watch lesser men shrink away, having no idea what a teddy bear the man actually is. It’s fun.

“If it’s all right, I think something warm to drink would be lovely.” She never has acclimated to the chill.

Mehler claps his hands and barks something at his crew in German. Soon, someone is pressing a cup of steaming hot cocoa into Des’ palms. Two pitiful-looking marshmallows float on its foamy surface, shriveled and rock-hard. Not very many people accept the offer, apparently.

“Standard procedure, no hard feelings,” Mehler tells Kaylee, switching back to English as he takes her offered hand and clasps it in a firm shake. Without immediately releasing her, he brings the group across the deck and through an open door that leads down a narrow flight of stairs. It smells more pungent inside, like corroded metal and unwashed netting, crude oil and salt. Dried fish swing from hooks; Mehler shoulders them aside and holds out an arm so the women can pass without having to touch them.

Only now does he let go of Kaylee’s hand, but a cursory brush of her ability against his consciousness informs her that the prolonged physical contact has no nefarious purpose — he just imagines himself a gentleman.

“American women, you are so beautiful,” he adds with a sincere, toothy smile. “How can I say no?”

Below, shipping containers fill the cargo hold, allowing only a few feet of room between them for maneuvering. It’s a labyrinth down here. Fortunately, the container in question happens to be situated within view of the stairwell and is already in the process of being unlocked when they arrive.

It’s dark, too. Mehler produces a flashlight from his coat pocket and snaps it on, shining the beam in the direction where his men are working to open the container. To Des, he asks: “What will you use all this for, I wonder?”

There is no tensing or even trying to break the grip on her hand, Kaylee just simply allows him to lead her into the bowls of the ship. If she had felt in any sort of danger, the telepath could have easily compelled him to let go or have his men turn their gun on him. However, as far as most know she could only read minds and communicate… so it was easier to go along.

“Mr. Mehler…” This time his name is spoken with a coyness of a woman flattered. “Be careful, a woman could get used to being treated so well by a gentleman such as yourself.” Eyes narrow a little, even if she still gives him that friendly smile, as she adds with a wiggle of a finger, “ But don't think this will soften me up.” A mild accusation that he might be thinking of trying to flatter a few more dollars out of her and her company.

A look is cast Des’ way, one that would normally advise caution, but Kaylee trusts the woman to choose her words carefully.

“I am a researcher, non? I need supplies to facilitate my work.” It’s the most basic of answers, but it does make the distinction between what sort of medical operations she’s engaging in. Research - to some - has fewer teeth than medical practice. Which kind of man Mehler is will make itself apparent if there’s an issue, she suspects. Des smiles, regardless, and does not elaborate on the specifics of that research. “I hope that one day the things I will discover will make the world a better place for everybody.”

As opposed to, say, wiping out the majority of the population. Some projects she carries more pride for than others. With open curiosity, she watches the men opening the container. She slides one fingerless gloved hand into the pocket of her long wool skirt and brings the mug in the other to her lips. She’ll let the marshmallows bounce off her lip.

“Three crates,” says Mehler, “I give to you the checklist later, but here we have your masks, breathing circuits, epidural kits, suction catheters, specimen containers, etcetera, etcetera.” One crewman passes him a clipboard and a set of reading glasses, which he perches on the bridge of his nose.

“Yes, yes, all accounted for, I think.” He skims the edge of a fat, meaty finger along the paper affixed to the clipboard. Kaylee glimpses some of the words on the page and recognizes none of them, not because she isn’t a doctor — but because they’re in German. “As we agreed, fifty percent deposit, fifty percent upon delivery.”

His men wheel out three unremarkable wooden crates on a dolley, which they steer back toward the stairs. One wields a crowbar that cracks open the topmost crate, allowing Desdemona to inspect what materials are packaged inside, closest to the lid. It would be too time consuming for her to pick through each crate individually, but she easily identifies one of the IV sets she requested, sterile and wrapped in blue-tinted plastic.

Mehler came highly recommended. It seems unlikely that he’d swindle an organization as large or well-funded as Raytech Industries, even if he and everyone on board the freighter look like the swindling type. “You will radio your people, yes?” he asks. “Wire the second half to the specified account before you leave.”

Hands folding behind her back, there is a show of glancing at the sheet, even if Kaylee does not understand a word of it, chances are she can get a vague idea from his head if she wanted to. “Well, if anything is missing, we will certainly let you know, though I doubt we will find that the case.” If their reputation is as everyone says, she needs to keep up an air of goodwill, even if she always feels suspicious. Then again, she is like that with most new people. “Everyone that my brother spoke to about you, had good things to say.”

In regards to the money? “Absolutely,” Kaylee assures the man, with a small tip of her head. She motions to Des to start her inspection as soon as the lid of the crate is opened, “As soon as my colleague is satisfied with her inspection, I will have Mr. Sorenson send word for the transfer.” It was that simple.

We should make sure we’re topside, ready to disembark, before we send the money. Des directs her thoughts toward Kaylee as best as she knows how. Though I’m sure you already thought of that.

The crates appear on the surface to have the items Des is expecting. She’s also not expecting trouble, despite her caution. When there’s nothing amiss at first look, she lifts her head and turns to Kaylee, nodding. “This looks like what I need.” She smiles and takes another sip of her chocolate.

Barney had a call about stuff. Important serious stuff. A report on something or another. Really it was a report on the hydroponics project. Well an update really to set a meeting, so he's been tailing the two women, talking on the phone and making notes in a calendar on said phone. Then he's getting caught up, and climbing up the ladder and onto the ship, stepping over where the conversation is ongoing. He looks first to Kaylee then to Des, then finally to Mehler, the big ginger giant crossing his arms as he studies the man. Look intimidating. That's what he was told. He does do gruff very well, when he keeps his mouth closed. When it opens it becomes obvious that he's just a giant beardy teddy bear.

So he follows the two women into the bowels of the ship, towering over the group and just generally doing his best not to grin and look around him. He's on a ship. He's never been on a ship. He really wants to go exploring and ooo and ahhh at everything around him. Like a little kid with a new toy. But he doesn't, he continues to walk with them, and stand sentinel while Des inspects the goods. He inspects too, but from his vantage above, not getting down in the crates and stuff to look. There's a light rumble from him when Des says that it's what is needed, though whether that's a good rumble or a bad one isn't really clear. Well, not to the man on the boat. The two women know Barney is not a growler or anything of the sort.

Frag sie nach ihrem Bruder,” says one of Mehler’s men, “Richard Ray.” It isn’t directed at Kaylee, Desdemona, or even Barney. He points the question — and it is a question, judging by the rough but tentative lilt — squarely at his captain.

Nicht jetzt,” Mehler shoots back. “Geschäft zuerst.”

To Kaylee, he spreads his hands and offers both women a wide, toothy smile. “There,” he says, “you see. What she needs.” A snap of his fingers, and the crewman who pried the lid off the crate begins wedging it back into place. It would be a disaster if it came loose again during transport. “We will load these onto the fishing boat,” he says, “as a courtesy.”

He glances at Barney as if noticing him for the first time and looks the man up and down, gaze lingering a little too long on his biceps as he assesses their girth. “This one,” he adds, “is responsible for the offloading. We do not dock with our clients, not since your war.”

Your war, not the war.

“Excellent,” Kaylee offers in pleased tones, even if she is leveling a look at the man who spoke to the Captain. The mention of her brother’s name brings with it a certain suspicion, though she shows none of that, only gives the man smile. “I will, of course, let my brother know that his sources were correct,” this is said as she turns her attention back to Mehler, motioning him towards the stairs to head topside again. Despite her pleasant demeanor, the telepath did not like being down there like that.

“We have workers waiting for us back at the dock, to do the unloading,” Kaylee supplies with a glance to Barney, rather pleased with the image he is creating. “He is here to protect our… virtues.” A sly and appraising glance goes to not only the captain, but his men as well, before she turns and starts up the stairs.

Speak for yourself. Des slants a glance at Kaylee, a glint of mischief in her own eye. Not that she’s suggesting anything, because yeah, no. The nearly empty mug is set aside. “Danke for indulging my vices.” And so goes roughly the extent of Odessa’s knowledge of Deutsch. Which is slightly unfortunate, given the conversation being passed around.

Business first would set her on edge if she realized.

Following Kaylee’s lead, she heads for the stairs as well. The sooner they get topside, the better. She gestures for Barney to go ahead of her, however. She’d rather have him at Kaylee’s back if she needs him. Des can, she believes, take care of herself if it comes to it. And she hopes it doesn’t come to it.

Barney doesn't understand the language, but the scowl on his face says it's clear he doesn't like the men using another language that they don't speak like that. And he doesn't even have to fake this scowl. It's a for real scowl. There's a light growl from him, that's faked, to warn the men to keep it to something they can all understand. He flashes the men a feral smile when Kaylee says he's there to protect them. It's definitely a 'try something' sort of smile. Barney is not a fighter, but he's big and intimidating and he doesn't mind using that to help Miss Kaylee and Miss Des.

When Des motions him ahead he frowns a little bit, but does as he's told. The big tough muscle would do that right? Do as they're told? So he does, stepping in behind Kaylee, though he looks over his shoulder at Des to make sure that she's okay and no one's trying to grab her from behind or anything. Barney is not a fighter, in fact he's a borderline pacifist. But he would do his best to protect the two he's come down into the boat with. He's also going to make a note that next time they need a security detail, even if it's only a couple of people.

Kaylee crests the top of the stairs first with Desdemona close on her heels. Mehler comes up behind them, and although he’s a fraction shorter than both women, he still has a comprehensive view of the sight that awaits them.

The crewmen who had remained behind above deck, still dressed in their wool and leathers, have their rifles and pistols pointed at the doorway that leads below deck. Their weapons range from small, agile little firearms that fit in the seats of their hands to larger pieces that require a shoulder strap draped over necks and across muscular, weather-worn backs.

Some have apology in their eyes. Most are simply focused.

Was ist das?” Mehler demands, because he’s as taken aback by the display of force as Kaylee and Desdemona probably are. “Leg deine Waffen nieder. Motherfuckers.”

Barney, directly behind Mehler, even though he stands more than two heads above him, gets only a glimpse of the scene above deck. He’s a third of the way up the stairs when he feels a pistol digging into the small of his back.

Frag sie nach ihrem Bruder,” the man holding it says. Again. Mehler glances over his shoulder at him, then back at the assembly standing between them and the access ladder. It’s a safe assumption that, even if they were able to make it to the fishing boat they arrived on, they wouldn’t make it very far before one of the anti-tank weapons mounted to the side of the freighter blows them out of the choppy water.

“Don’t I pay you well enough?” Mehler asks his crew, in English.

There is a part of her brain that knows she should be in shock, should be showing it. Somehow, she doesn’t feel surprised by this. «Be ready. Just in case.» Her mental voice echos hollow in Des’ head, though there is almost the sound of two voices, set on top each other. It might explain the calm and searching look that is swept over the armed men. That part of her mind that controls the worst part of her ability, hisses happily in the back of her mind. However, her hands still tremble a little, the only real evidence of the thread of nervousness that screams at her.

“Mehler?” Kaylee asks, turning her head slightly as she addresses the ship’s Captain behind her. Her movements are calm and slow so that she doesn’t set off any itchy trigger fingers. “What do they want?” She sounds more curious then scared. “Bruder.. That’s brother right?”

There’s only a glance in Kaylee’s direction to serve as confirmation that her warning was heard. Des, for her part, goes wide-eyed, her mouth pulled into a soft rounded shape of surprise. A frightened woman. A comforting lie.

She heard it on the lower level, his name. “Are we hostages?” Des’ voice trembles as she glances around, looking at all the guns. Counting. Calculating. Waiting.

Barney takes a quick assessment of the situation, or at least what he can see of it. "Back below decks." He rumbles as quietly as he can while making sure the others can hear it. But then there's a pistol in his back, digging in and he sighs softly. "A man behind us. Miss Sumter Ray can you get him to drop his weapon?" He asks, because if he does they could try to escape back down belowdecks and shut a bulkhead door. At least give them time to figure out what is going on. "I don't know what that means." He grumbles over his shoulder to the man holding the gun. He's big, he could probably wrestle him down but… he's got a gun, and while Barney isn't a coward, he's also not stupid. "Miss Kaylee?" Looking to the Ray sibling for an indication as to what they should do right now.

“No,” says Mehler succinctly, in response to Desdemona’s question. They’re not hostages, yet. “They want me to ask Ms. Thatcher about her brother.”


If Kaylee listens, she can hear the captain’s thoughts chugging away beneath his exterior, which isn’t quite as composed as either hers or Odessa’s. His face has flushed tomato-red with fury, and even Barney can see the sweat that’s begun to bead and darken the collar of the dense wool sweater beneath his seaman’s coat.

He’s thinking about the radio attached to his hip, and the hand he’s resting on it.

He’s thinking about pressing his thumb down on the button that will broadcast this conversation to every other ship inside a two mile radius, which could be as many as several dozen or as few as zero. The fog that’s settled in on top of the water this morning is too thick for Mehler or anyone else to know for sure.

“I don’t give two shits about Richard Ray,” he tells the crewman who appears to be the leader of the mutiny, who wears a flat felt hat in a muted green pulled over the tops of his ears to keep them from freezing, “and even if I did, I would not be rubbing them together for you. Das ist mein Schiff, Pohl. Ich werde dich erschießen lassen.

Kaylee, Desdemona and Barney might not speak German to understand that last part, but they don’t have to. The man in the felt hat’s response — Pohl — answers in thinly accented in English. “No Jens,” he says. “This ship is mine now, and you won’t.”

He pulls his pistol’s trigger and the left side of Mehler’s head explodes, spattering Kaylee and Desdemona with hot, fleshy pulp and fragments of what used to be the captain’s skull. Mehler’s corpse pitches backwards, down the stairs, and collides with Barney’s larger, broader frame with enough force to set him off balance, but not to make him fall.

Pohl points the pistol at Kaylee next. “So. Your brother, Richard Ray. Where is he?”

When the gun goes off, when she feels the splatter of warm splatter of blood and brains… any composure she had is lost to memories of a man clinging to her and his head blowing apart only inches from her face. There is a sound in the back of her throat and finds herself on her knees on the ground, huddled with hands above her head, palms out towards the man who fired the gun. The trembling in her hands is visible to even him. She can’t breath through the panic she is feeling, that strangles her making her gasp for breath.

He isn’t going to get that answer right away. Cause it takes everything in the telepath to keep her reaction to just that. There is a struggle to not give into the rage that hisses darkly in the back of her mind. It is almost like the snake is whispering in her ear, Kill him… Kill them alllll.

“No!” She tells that voice, when she manages to find her voice again. However, it could sound like she is refusing to answer the question presented by the man that she wants to kill. It would be ssssso easssy. Make him put the gun to hissss head. That’ssss all. It sounds so nonchalant, that voice. It's no big deal to kill him. Both hands slam on the deck as she gasps out louder through clenched teeth. “No!

The gun goes off and Des only remembers a half-second too late that she was meant to scream in horror. It’s forgotten, because Kaylee drops, and in an instant (unassisted by her ability), Des is crouched over her like some predatory beast prepared to protect its kin. “She can’t answer you when she’s having a breakdown because you just killed someone in front of her!”

With her arms wrapped around her friend, she whispers into her blonde hair, “I’ve got you. You’re safe. Don’t listen to the sounds it makes. It’s just us.”

Lifting her head again she stares down Pohl without reservation. “He’s incommunicado. We don’t know where he is. He’s just gone. Like, left instructions in case he never makes it back gone.”

Barney straightens up a little bit as the captain's actions and words make it clear that the situation is not entirely stable. "Do you really think taking captive people that work for Richard Ray is a good idea?" He asks, his voice booming as he raises his voice from inside the ship. "Do you know what he does to people that threaten those under his protection? Let alone his own sister? I would… HATE to be you guys when he gets a hold of you."

He thought it was a good idea. Try to intimidate them a little bit. But then the captain's face explodes. Barney catches the man, staggering a step or two. Barney looks down and sees that the captain is gone. He lays him down on the deck underfoot slowly, not just dropping him, paying the poor man a little respect. When that's done he steps forwards, and ahead of Kaylee and Des, blocking them from view, if he doesn't get shot first. He doesn't tremble or shake, though he's certainly shaking inside. Violence isn't completely alien to him, but it's not an everyday occurrence. And he's never seen a man killed in cold blood like that before.

Pohl adjusts his aim, leveling the pistol with Barney’s center of mass. He does not fire. Neither does the crewman who’d had his own gun buried in the giant’s back; either the question he’s posed to them has Pohl and the mutineers hesitating, or something else is also at play.

“Don’t move,” Pohl instructs, detattaching his own radio from his belt with his free hand. He hefts it against his cheek. Static crackles in his ear, audible to everyone on the deck regardless of the wind whipping through Desdemona’s hair or Kaylee’s stuttering sobs. “Er ist nicht hier,” he tells the person on the other end of the receiver. “Was sollen wir tun?

His question is met with another question. A woman’s voice answers: «Wer ist bei dir?»

Pohl takes another look at his would-be hostages. “Seine Schwester. Ein Arzt. Also a bodyguard, I think.”

There’s a short silence, filled by another fuzzy wobble of static and waves lapping up against the side of the freighter. It might be a source of peace under an entirely different set of circumstances. Then: «Wie sieht der Arzt aus?»

Pohl’s eyes narrow on Desdemona. “Small. Mousy. Glasses.” That’s almost definitely a physical description. He takes several steps closer, edging around what he imagines are the limits of Barney’s reach. Craning his neck, he looks around the giant at her as she tends to Kaylee in her stooping crouch. “Maybe not a mouse.”

«Gelbes Haar?»

Nein. Braun.

«Töte sie alle.»

Though she is still trembling, Des can hear the telepath softly say, “I’m good.. I’m good.” However, her control is not absolute. Her ability is already stretching out. First, wrapping itself around Barney’s mind and makes an attempt to force him into silence. He’ll think he hears a soft «Shhhhhh…» There is power backing that word. Her presence in his mind is short lived as she shifts focus.

She doesn’t move from her huddled position, only redden eyes lifting; but, only enough to look at the man’s feet. What he doesn’t see or feel is her settling into listen. She can’t understand the words, but she has an idea. “Be ready,” she whispers to Des, since her ability is tied up in the man’s mind. “Ordered us killed. If they suddenly move, you know what to do.” Her words convey with it the idea that she might be up to something.

WIthin, the man’s mind, Kaylee feels the man’s hesitation on the orders and knows whoever is on the other end scares him. A small smile tugs at the corner of her mouth. She can work with this, though the snake in her head still insists on blood shed. A last resort only. Drawing out his doubt and hesitation, she works to calm his fear of person on the other side of that radio. Though she wonders who that is, she needed information and at the moment his mind is her playground and she is enjoying it.

For the man in charge of the mutiny, he is hearing his conscious tell him that while shooting Mehler wasn’t a big deal, to shoot the three people before him, was wrong no matter what he was told.

No. Not a mouse at all. She’s curious like a cat at the moment. Cool and confident in her ability to control the situation if she has to. She doesn’t want to have to.

But she will.

The sound in her head is a scream, a roar. Kill them all, it says to her just as sure as the voice on the radio guides Pohl. Des twists her fingers around an invisible thread, curls them in to Kaylee’s side as she continues to shield her. “Close your eyes,” she whispers.

This is like a bad memory. On the deck of a ship, surrounded by people who want her dead. Only she has better company at her side this time. Des stands, as though she might like to be on her feet if she’s going to die, small as she may be. “Barney, please look after her.”

Then, she simply disappears.

They don’t hear the shots ring out. That, too, is like a memory. This one stirs mixed feelings in Odessa’s chest. She should have negative associations, but… Well, she’s a complicated woman.

They see one man fall, then another. Another. And another.

Odessa saw the stillness, gently pried the gun from the hand of a younger man, and picked her targets. Like fish in a bucket. The memory makes her grin.

“And what if I didn’t have brown hair?” Des purrs at Pohl’s back, barrel of a gun pressed against his back and the soft organs there. “Don’t make me finish what I started,” she warns.

Barney shuts right up when Kaylee shushes him in his brain like that. He somehow keeps his face from showing his surprise, but it's only because doing so might mean the end of his life. So he keeps the surprise from his face, and he shuts right up. And once her presence is gone, he remains shut up. Following her lead. She's the boss lady after all.

He looks slightly confused when Des tells him to look after Miss Kaylee, but his head starts to tip in an acknowledging nod when she… disappears. This time he can't hide the surprise as she bamfs into thin air, or appears to anyway.

People start dropping, but no gun shots and it's all a little bit confusing, so Barney just does what he cans, and he crouches protectively over Kaylee, shielding her with his own body as people drop and something is going on. Is that Des? The seemingly shy and vulnerable scientist? It… stands to reason. But it is completely at odds with the image he's gotten of her in the times he's seen and interacted with her.

Kaylee and Barney count five dead men on the freighter’s deck. Blood pools beneath their bodies and gathers in the grooves in the metal under their feet with the stagnant saltwater and fresh wash of still misting rain. There’s more of it in Desdemona’s hair which, as she’s just pointed out, is brown.

Pohl holds up both his hands, one with the radio, the other with his pistol. They are remarkably steady. “Nicht schießen!” He barks at Mehler’s— his men. Don’t shoot.

It’s a lot to ask when five of their friends were just slain right in front of them. Eyes are wild and frightened. Kaylee feels the surge of emotion slam into her like a wave, and maybe the serpentine voice in her head will like that, even if it decreases the chances of everyone from Raytech ever reaching the shore alive. She knows from experience that panic is a silent killer, regardless of which side you’re on.

Wenn sie Sie alle töten könnte,” Pohl emphasizes, and that’s a little harder for Desdemona to understand, “würde sie es schon tun.” Whatever he’s saying keeps ready fingers on their triggers. He turns his head enough to monitor Desdemona in the corner of his eye. “You won’t kill me,” he tells her. “I’m the only thing that’s between you and the bottom of the water.”

At this, the voice on the other end of the receiver finally loses its patience. «Enough,» it snaps. «Give her the radio.»

Silently, something is thrown from beyond the drama playing out on the freighter's stern, whispering noiselessly through the air, a spiralling loop of rope trailing after it.

But it's the ensuing metal clang that draws focus. Not from everyone, mind, with pointed guns and crackling radios and blood already spilling, but anyone with curiousity to spare might glance to see what looks like a set of metal claws hooked in on the taffrail, black rope leading down out of sight, pulled taut. And then a thump, something connecting against the hull.

Two men start to move towards it, before a louder drone of an engine roars to life as the dark shape of a fishing boat nearby is fired up after its stealthy slide through the blanketing fog all around. It seems to swallow up a voice that shouts out, a highly instructional, equally threatening, "get down!" before a volley of automatic rifle fire sweeps across the deck from the shadow of this second boat. A man standing tall on the wheelhouse is just visible behind the muzzle flare of his weapon, and quick to jump down. The Salve Regina is not small, but by the standards of the freighter sitting like a city off the coast of Staten Island, it's practically agile as it circles around.

At almost the same time, a guttural cry draws a third point of focus, one that silences almost as soon as it begins. One of the crewmen drops his gun with a clatter, and is thrown aside to reveal the man directly behind him, knife in his hand now dripping crimson. Etienne Saint James is soaking wet from apparently having swam some distance to reach the access ladder, long hair and leathers dripping salt water. He isn't standing there still, either, but in motion, driving himself full-bodied into the next mutinous crewmember whose spray of gunfire goes wild.

From the Salve Regina, men with guns continue to lay down suppressed fire, time enough for a second invader to climb the grappling hook's rope and draw around his gun.

Alister climbs the grappling hook, wearing a white suit he prefers to wear when he's conducting business that might require blood splatters.

You see, when blood splatters onto your suit, and is nice and bright for everyone to see, it gives off a nice, intimidating feel.

He immediately shoots a man, he's pretty sure he was supposed to shoot that man, but either way, he follows behind Etienne. "Etienne, my burly cohort, I've decided to name my new gun Sarah McGlocklan." He shoots at another man. "What do you think?" he asks from behind Etienne, straightening his tie with his free hand.

She had planned to close her eyes as instructed, but when they first body falls, Kaylee’s eyes fly open and she gets to watch the others fall. There is a fascination that flits across her features, before an approving smile tucks at the corner of her mouth.

The panic of all the gun wielding men around them, has the telepath straightening, gently pushing Barney away, “I’m fine,” there is a certain quality to her words… distracted. Because, she’s already releasing any hold she has on the leader and is looking to one of the nervous gunmen. Finally, unable to resist, her ability is already finding the cracks in his defenses and messing with him mind… planting thoughts of his own demise, helping him choose the —

What was that?

The clank of metal on metal first grabs her attention, but is the yell that has Kaylee looking over just in time to see the arrival of Etienne. Oh hello! Who is this? Her brain says. It’s been awhile since she’d seen someone that made that darker part of her mind take notice, not since before Adam. When she use to manipulate men. He would do nicely, whispers that part of her mind.

Wait… What was she doing?

Oh… that’s right. Without taking eyes off the arriving stranger, Kaylee gives a little flick of her hand and the last piece of her manipulation snaps into place to the distracted satisfaction of the whispers in her head. The gunman who by now is weeping openly over whatever she wove into his memories, turns the gun on himself… sending a fresh spray of blood across the deck of the ship.

Lips curl into a grin that fades when the grappling hook hits the deck and two interlopers arrive. She had this damn i- Oh. Oh, hello. All right. Etienne can stay. Des supposes. And while she wonders at the wisdom of wearing white to a slaughter, it rather reminds her of wearing a white coat in her labs. They so often wound up pink in the wash.

Right. Back to the moment.

There’s a look of surprise when one man takes his own life, but immediately Des turns those wide eyes on to Kaylee. Seeing the look on her face, she smiles knowingly. Nicely done.

“The radio,” Des nudges her pistol a little harder against her hostage’s back, “s’il vous plaît.”

"Miss Desjardins?" Barney asks hesitantly when she reappears, concern evident in his voice since she's got blood on her from the men that died and then chaos itself is invading the freighter. As grappling hooks, automatic gunfire and then… "Is that a pirate? I'm… pretty sure that's a pirate." Is rumbled out as Barney is also told to leave Kaylee be. The big man's eyes cross a little as he tries to puzzle out what in the actual fuck is going on around him.

His lower jaw works slowly and soundlessly as he stares around in amazement and then he just huffs loudly. "Never leaving Raytech tower again. Nope. Nope. Nope." He just kind of… finds a spot of boat to scoot aside to. Since Kaylee can apparently make guys shoot themselves and Des is an assassin extraordinaire. And there are freaking pirates. So what does Barney the middle manager do? He just stands to the side and watches the chaos unfold.

All it takes is the first actual crack of an unplanned gunshot for everything to change.

Bullets sear through the air. It isn’t clear who’s shooting at what, or in which direction. Pohl’s men empty their weapons on the Salve Regina and onto the deck. Two more crewmen drop, one clutching at his neck, the other dead before he hits the ground. Others take cover behind netting and steel pipes to reload their weapons before they risk returning fire.

Those left below deck emerge to join the fray at a lope. Barney is the only person in a position to count, and the odds are — at least from a middle manager’s position — fairly even. Pohl takes advantage of the confusion, seeming to turn over his radio to Desdemona, but rather than surrender it to her hand he seizes her by the wrist and swings her much lighter body up and over his shoulder, using his momentum to slam her down to the boat’s deck with enough force to send the breath careening out of her lungs.

He loses the radio in the process. It goes skittering across the deck, spinning out in Barney’s general direction. «Pohl!» the voice is shouting, interrupted by bursts of static and the roar of the Salve Regina’s engine. «Was ist los!»

Etienne goes down in a tangle of limbs with one of the larger crewmen on Pohl’s side. They go end over end, and the crewman is able to find a grip on the smuggler’s wrists, twisting the knife away from his throat and above Etienne’s head. The crewman jerks forward and rams his skull into Etienne’s nose with a sickening crack that issues forth a deluge of fresh blood.

Etienne tastes it in his mouth and feels its warmth coat the inside of his throat. It pours down onto his attacker’s face, forcing him to squint and blink it furiously from his eyes even as it gathers sticky on his lashes.

His nose is broken.

Pohl, meanwhile, straddles Desdemona on the deck, her arms pinned beneath the weight of his legs, and closes his hands around her throat. Kaylee can sense that his willpower isn’t a force her ability can penetrate, but she doesn’t need an ability to come to her friend’s aid. She has hands, too. “What are you?” Pohl asks the not-a-mouse. “Teleporter, eh? Can’t flash away so fast now, Blöde Fotze.”

With Etienne wrestling with his opponent, the crewmen sheltering behind the nets and piping turn their attention on their next closest adversary: Alister, whose white suit is looking less white by the moment. Spatters of red appear on his trouser leg as if out of nowhere.

Emphasis on as if. Even in all the chaos that Barney is so wisely avoiding, it has to have come from somewhere. He’ll feel the pain later, after the adrenaline has ebbed away, and see the angry quarter-sized lump in his leg where a bullet has embedded itself.

But not right now.

As fresh blood spatters wet from his face, Etienne rears back in the same confused, pained way of a lion having bitten down on something sharp, quills in his whiskers. For his trouble, the man beneath him gets punched hard enough to snap his head to the left, a muffled, pained sound around broken teeth. His hand only comes loose off Etienne's blade in mid-motion of it being wrenched back down between them, sharp steel disappearing up into the crewmate's jaw.

Etienne turns his head and spits, a bright red spurt that spatters dark on the wet deck. Nods once, to Alister. Good pun or play on words, boss, is what it seems to say, probably.

And then Etienne rolls aside as a fresh spray of gunfire send sparks up from the metal deck, disappearing behind cover. Around them, Alister's men on the Salve Regina continue to harrass from a distance, bullets sinking into flesh and ricocheting off metal. Currently, the thunder seems to be coming from a cluster of men with guns, weapons trained on Alister Black's appearance in white suit and lightning-strike pistol shots.

Extracting a small metal cylinder from his pocket, Etienne waits until he hears the popping of suppressing gunfire from his boat before he ducks enough out of cover to sight the landscape, and throw. The grenade sails overhead, spinning, a plume of white smoke streaking before it strikes the deck, noxious tear gas quick to engulf the five enemy gunmen — the sounds of their weapons swiftly replaced by choking and coughing.

Knife raised, Etienne ducks out of hiding, stolen pistol peppering the back of another enemy with bullets. He looks, finally, to the hostages, expression inscrutable — but at least he isn't attacking them.

Alister looks down at his leg after a moment, adrenaline indeed pumping, but he soon realizes what happened, and reaches into his blazer. "I've considered your offer, and while it was impressive, I'll have to instead give you a counter offer. Sorry, I am a businessman."

He pulls out an uzi, then just starts spraying bullets, first across the men in the cloud of tear gas, then the men hiding behind the net, firing Sarah McGlocklan as well, because why the fuck not. "As you can see, I have significantly more business experience than common boatmen. Perhaps if you were actual pirates, you'd stand some sort of chance, but no, there are few men in this world who can truly defeat me in a business meeting."

"Oh, sorry, I talked so long a bunch of you ended up dead and didn't even hear it." he shakes his head, sounding a bit disappointed. "Well, I have a very expensive voice, so it's a nice thing to hear right before you die. Do you have any idea the kinds of things I've eaten? Meals literally worth more than your lives, literally. I have eaten your net worth and your value on the black market, though I don't approve of the slave trade."

He calls back, aware that there are hostages. "Hostages! My name is Alister Black, I apologize for being rude, I forgot to introduce myself because I was caught up in the excitement of trying out Sarah McGlocklan. Would either of you like to name my uzi? She's new as well."

There is a hiss of irritation from the telepath as she finds all her attempts to get through Pohl’s defenses impossible, the sound almost mimics the one in her head. So there would be no easy attempt at helping her friend. Fine. They would go a different route.

In Des’ struggles, Kaylee spots a knife tucked in the woman’s boot. Perfect. Barney will probably be surprised to see his boss… that really nice woman who signs his paychecks, throw herself into the fight with Pohl. Long fingers find the knife handle as she lunges forward. The knife finds a target in the man’s side, the sensation of warm of blood is her reward. It isn’t a killing blow, but she isn’t trying for one, she wants his attention as she weight lands across his back and a sender arm latches around his neck and pulls back.

“Never turn your back on the enemy,” She hisses softly in the man’s ear. A lesson from Ethan Holden, so long ago. The knife is yanked out of his side with a jerk and the bloodied edge presses uncomfortably against his neck. “Now tell me. Who wants us dead?” The blade presses just a little harder.

That’s right. She understood that order.

This is where she is when Alister calls out. It takes a moment to register they are being addressed, before Kaylee looks up at the two men. Cold blue eyes, full of cautious distrust, study them from where she is at; with Pohl situated between her and them. Of course, Alister is quickly recognized, a brow ticks up curiously. “Hostages?” she asks with an equally cold flat voice, eyes narrowing, “I know who you are, Mr. Black.”

Were she a teleporter, this might have gone better. Instead, Des freezes time, but can’t get herself free to pry at the hands around her throat. She’ll be strangled to death trying to escape. It takes only four seconds to make that determination, but it feels like an eternity.

There’s stars in her vision by the time Kaylee’s got her knife out of her boot and is attacking the man atop her. When those hands loosen enough to allow her to breathe, she chokes and sputters, coughing and gagging more than gasping for air. But the fact that she’s able to make sound is a sign that she’s able to breathe again.

Barney is left bewildered as everything starts happening all at once. People shooting at other people. People fist fighting. Is that a knife? Why is the pirate's nose broken? Why is there some guy in a white suit… wait why is he in a white suit? And why is he asking people to name his weapon. But amidst all the chaos he does spot one thing that's happening. That asshole is beating up Miss Desjardins. And Miss Kaylee is trying to get him off of her and why does she have a knife? Barney is in motion before he even thinks about it, fight or flight response finally kicking in, and he apparently /can/ be spurred to action.

Mostly he does not appreciate the sight of that pirate trying to kill the snarky but sweet scientist. He goes charging across the deck, all six feet and three inches of pissed off ginger viking. That has no idea how to actually fight. So he goes for the best option he can think of, and charges at the man with the intent of scooping him up. But then there's… well there's a Kaylee. Not just stabbing the man but holding a blade to his throat. Barney doesn't have time to stall his momentum, so he just kind of dodges around the Kaylee with a knife situation and disappears as he crashes into some crates and goes tumbling over them with a surprised yelp. Barney down!

When the gas clears, Etienne sees what he probably expects: the men who took shelter behind the pipes are slumped against the adjacent wall, some still upright, although only one of them moving. The survivor slumps against the bullet-riddled body of one of his companions, using the corpse to steady himself as he raises his arm and fires off three last shots in quick succession while Alister is distracted. They strike him in his center of mass, hurling him backwards against the freighter’s edge. He manages to catch himself, but only just, in the instant before his legs go out from under him.

Two of the bullets float somewhere in the cavity of his chest, having ricocheted off bone. A third has punched through and compressed itself into a little pancake in the freighter’s siding, and will need to be recovered with a set of pliers — if it’s ever recovered at all.

It’s a miracle Alister is still alive. A miracle, too, that he’s conscious.

This is pain he does feel, regardless of the chemical cocktail surging through his body. One of his men takes a knee beside him, steadying Alister with a hand pressed hard against his injured shoulder, hoping to stymie the bleeding.

It’s a very good thing they have a doctor on board.

Desdemona, that is. If Pohl had his own medic, he’s either among the dead or has pitched himself overboard, as some of the survivors have done, believing their chances to be better in the water than at Alister’s mercy.

Because he is clearly a crazy person.

“Go fuck yourself,” Pohl snarls at Kaylee, his grip on Desdemona growing slack. His hands shift to the gash in his side, and his body bends at the middle. The German curls into himself. “Verdammt.

Blood still warm on his face, gathered in his upper lip and the rough grain growing coarse around his mouth and chin, Etienne steers a sharp look towards where Alister's collapsed. Anger, is how he feels about that, a snort funneled through his nose still thick with blood, the proud bridge of it crooked and split from the blow it took. He greases his tongue against his teeth, collecting the blood that's gathered in his mouth.

Spits it out, again. "Stupid fucker," he says, not loud enough to be heard, but probably will be when he passes him by, grousing, "Money don't stop fucking bullets."

More men are joining them on the deck, now. Two up the access ladder, guns pointing, firing, finishing off the last struggle survivors of the mutinous crew as the tear gas disperse into the window, stinging and nettling. Etienne lifts a hand to them, both greeting and bidding them to stand down as they converge. One keeps his eyes trained on the group, the other moves at a rush to help with Alister.

Etienne roams towards the tangle of the two women and the mutineer, eyes ice blue and curious, ticking then towards where he saw the big ginger guy disappear into the midst of some crates. Then, his attention goes to the radio that had tumbled from Pohl's hand, now lying on the deck, when it gives off a chirp and a whine. Sheathing his knife at his belt, Etienne picks it up, its plastic looking delicate in his work rough hands as he turns it over, this way and that.

He peers at Pohl, then, coming nearer, the receiver held in mock-offer.

Alister, laying there, bleeding, has a lot of things to consider.

His philosophical rework of Manifest Destiny did not protect him from bullets, he could literally die here, what the hell, how is that even possible? It's his destiny to form a monarchy on Staten Island and become richer than he was even in his previous life, leading a modern utopia.

How is he laying here, bleeding, with bullet holes in him?



"This is impossible…" he says to no one in particular, staring down at the holes in him, taking note of his horrible pain. He's really gotten shot. "The amount of money I acquired… the power I had… there was destiny, how could I have gotten shot? It's impossible!"

And then he remembers Chess.

He considers that she would never believe it was his destiny to not be shot.

She would never believe it was his destiny to start a monarchy.

Chess would say something sensible.

God, she was so beautiful, he might never see her again, he's going to die, he's definitely going to die.

"This is my solemn vow, God, ugh. I know we've had a rocky relationship, what with all those people I killed for money and power, but we can work something out, surely. Let's make a business deal, God." he says, staring up at the sky, looking physically weak. "I promise that if you save me from this, if you put me on the right track to building my monarchy, if I don't die, I will read Kant, and I will raise Sibyl to be a benevolent ruler, someone who truly uses her power for the good of herself and mankind."

"I mean, God, let's be reasonable here…" he coughs, trying to make sure he's breathing right. "We can't just do things purely for others. I mean Jewish people don't even believe in Jesus, so let's just pretend Jesus doesn't exist, let's go old testament. There needs to be some level of selfishness if we're going to help others. So, God, now that we're on the same page, help me out here! When I'm richer and more powerful, I'll even make sure to have a nice church fixed up, a Jewish church. This is not me converting, by the way, I'm not trying to get myself snipped. This is a business deal, between you and me, God."

The snarled insult is rewarded with a soft chuckle near his ear, where her chin rests against the side of his head, “Resist all you want, handsome, either I or her —” clearly meaning the pinned Des “— will get you to tell me.” From where she is at, she is able to watch Etienne warily, while being mentally aware to all those minds within her range. “For now,” Kaylee’s arm unwinds from his neck, leaving the knife pressed painfully against the tender skin of his neck, and snags his other hand; she giving it a twist to his back and up, forcing him to arch his back to relieve the pressure. “Get off of my employee,” growls out the telepath, as she pulls him to his feet with her.

“Des? Barney?” Is the inquiry she sends their way.

Noticing the radio in Etienne’s hand and the condition of Alister, Kaylee arches a brow at the pirate. “Sounds like your friend needs help…” Who knows in what way she means… “I might have a solution that could save his life. However, I need a guarantee of our safety?” Her head motions to the downed Barney. “And my men get to go back to our boat” She’ll compel Barney to go if she has to, so that a message can be sent back to Luther.

"Etienne!" Alister shouts. "Give her my business card, in case I survive! That's Richard Ray's sister!"

With her attacker beginning to go slack, Des is able to wriggle her way out from under his weight and get to a kneeling position on the deck. She coughs a few more times before she finally finds her voice again, rough from the hands on her throat. The bruises will complement the scarring nicely for the time that they last.

A glance is spared toward Alister, who is clearly in need of her help, but his ravings only earn him a quirk of her brow for now. She holds her hand out toward Etienne. Not for a hand up, but for the radio. “May I?”

Barney hears his name being called from somewhere and he raises a hand up in the air to try and let them know that he's okay. There's a clatter of broken crates as he picks himself up off of the deck of the ship and brushes himself off, red cheeked at his own bumbling. He huffs and starts walking towards Kaylee, pausing as he realizes… there's still pirates. But the pirates don't seem to be an immediate threat so… he waves at them and offers them a friendly smile. A smile and a wave will make everything better right? He walks on to Des and Kaylee, taking a knee next to them. "Are both of you okay?" His deep rumbling voice holding a lot of concern when he asks the question.

There are as okay as they can be.

When Etienne surrenders the radio to Desdemona and she cradles it against her cheek, she discovers that she might as well be tucking her chin against a conch. There’s a dull roar, an entire world of white noise contained inside her ear, and then—


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