Operation: Apollo's Arrow


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Operation: Apollo's Arrow
Synopsis The United States Military launches their attack on Antananarivo while Team Bravo makes their ascent up to the capitol to deal with Edmond Rasoul.
Date December 30, 2009

It's moments like this where it truly feels like the world may be coming to an end.

The eastern horizon has yet to spill forth with daylight, but the blue glow on the horizon threatens the coming dawn. Even now, the sound of jet engines whining fill the flight deck of the USS George Washington with the unrelenting din of approaching war. F-18 Super Hornets taxi across the runway, helmeted pilots in their cockpits checking instrument panels, flight deck crew waving the glowing orange batons that mark their progress and signal them for movement.

To the west, where the sun has not risen, shrouded by thick clouds and falling rain, the island of Madagascar looks like an inky smudge. From her vantage point on an upper balcony at the command tower, Catherine Chesterfield can see the four F-18's down below preparing for launch. Yellow-orange hazard lights flash on the flight-deck elevators where the fourth F-18 is being raised up, and the sound of their engines drowns out any chatter she could hear.

The warm breeze picks up, a full and strong wind that parts portions of the gray-black clouds, revealing the light of a nearly full moon shining down over the turbulent ocean. Erratic sprays of drizzling rain sweep down on the flight deck, and the first of the jets lets loose with the full power of its engines as the man signaling the jet drops to a sideways crouch side, points one baton out and swings the other one in a circle.

The sound is unimaginably loud, the roar of the engines as the firts jet takes off, screaming across the air-strip and dipping down a foot once off the front of the carrier before rising up into the air and shooting off to the west, away from the rising sun, into the dark of dawn.

Where she stands on the balcony overlooking all this, with the roar of jet engines and the spectacle of aircraft taking to the skies below, Cat should be happy. This operation is intended to lay Edmund Rasoul low and lead to extraction of the team from Madagascar. It's a very good thing.

But she isn't happy. Worry settles into her thoughts, that soon if not already a similar thing could be happening in Argentina which could destroy any chance of success in this mission. She can only hope Peter took her advice and contacted Command to explain himself well enough that his plan is endorsed; it's all in his hands. Even if she warned of the pending air assault, she still couldn't arrange extraction from Argentina for anyone. The only way she sees is by him making a solid case for not being Kazimir and gaining Kershner's confidence.

At the same time, she's still Cat. As the first aircraft gains altitude and the second is moving into position, about to be flung away by combination of full-throttle jet engines and catapult, the worry is forced from her mind. She refuses to allow herself dwelling on what she can't affect, and right in front of her is a positive thing. Her jaw sets.

"Rest in pieces, Edmond Rasoul."

Coming up to stand beside where Cat is at the balcony, Sarisa Kershner has the fire of jet engines reflected in her blue eyes. She does not spare a single look towards Cat, only watches in marked silence as gloved hands wind around the railing of the balcony, watching the jets take off one by one, each armed with a heavy payload to be dropped down on the capital of Madgaascar, Antananarivo. The wet breeze plays at her blonde hair, and for once she isn't sheltered by her umbrella, just letting the drizzle fall down on her, chin up and eyes narrowed.

I see, the bad moon arising.

As the last of the four F-18s takes off from the USS George Washington, the contrails they leave in the air behind their wings serves as a guide by which Sarisa's vision follows, watching their gray bodies streak out towards Madagascar, in those pre-dawn hours, seeing the end of one entire nation beginning in front of her eyes.

I see, trouble on the way

Miles away, in the path of the coming storm, a beat up pickup truck drive at full speed up from a grassy field on to a paved roar The carraige bounces around, sending the men in the back bumping into one another. Drenched by the monsoon rain falling down, Tau-Bah Nwabueze and Dajan Dunsimi sit at the ready, perched on either side of the truck's bed with their assault rifles. Behind them, Huruma stands within the framework of the mounted 50 caliber machine gun that is mounted on the assault truck. Inside the cab, Eileen Ruskin is pinned between Gabriel Gray, situated in the passenger's seat and the battered, one-eyed form of Aviators as he drives the truck up onto the road, SatCom in one hand.

I see,earthquakes and lightnin'

Ahead of them, the winding highway leads up towards the demolished ghetto of outer Antananarivo, hwere 20 foot high concrete barricades and checkpoints seal off the war-torn fringes of the city from Rasoul's controlled city heart. "Hammerdown is coming…" Aviators says in a rough grumble, looking at flashing dots on his satellite display.

I see, bad times today

In the skies above Madagascar, four F-18 Super Hornets streak across the landscape, clipping the treeline to stay below radar contact. In the cockpit of Apollo-1, the pilot reaches down to flip toggles on his command console, chatter beginning to brew over the headsets. «Payload armed, going hot.» The mountainside city of Antananarivo comes into sharper focus, rain streaking in blurry lines across the cockpit. As the F-18s reach their mark, the chatter from all four jets is the same, «Fox One, Fox Two, Fox Three, Fox Four» followed by the roar of missiles being launched, streaking smoke and flames towards th still dark western horizon.

Don't go around tonight

On the flight-deck on the USS George Washington, the F-18s can no longer be seen in the rainy distance, and the spotty cloud cover is beginning to break up, revealing more clearly that heavy full-moon hanging low in the sky. Daybreak is approaching, and with the blue glow of dawn beginning to shine at Sarisa's back, the CIA agent finally turns towards Catherine, nodding her head once. In this moment, there is no time for disagreements, no time for grudges or distrust. In this operation, they are of a united front. "Come on," Sarisa states over the howl of the wind, "let's go join the extraction team below decks."

Well, it's bound to take your life

The nod is returned, with her features still stern. "I hope Edmond Rasoul appreciates the Navy's late Christmas delivery," Cat remarks. "But I'll shed no tears if it leaves him all broken up." She abandons her position at the rail, water also dripping from hair pinned up off her neck and away from the face in much the fashion of Navy women wearing uniforms.

There's a bad moon on the rise

Feet carry her along the agent's path. Hopefully there'll be a weapon for her and things to shoot at. She's in that kind of mood.

I hear, hurricanes a blowing

"Hold on to your asses!" Aviators shouts as he throws the truck into park, looking up over the dashboard towards the eastern horizon where four black specks grow in size rapidly. Low-flying fighter jets streak towards the mountainous capital city up ahead. The sudden eruption of tremendous explosions demolishes the checkpoints and a six-hundred foot section of concrete barricade. The ground throbs with the reverberations of the explosions and the windshield of the truck rattles from the shockwave.

I know the end is coming soon

Tires screech loudly as Aviators kicks the truck into drive, flooring it to full speed as it ascends the highway towards the city, past the burned out wrecks of cars and homes demolished in Edmund's bloody coup. "Shoot anythign that moves!" Aviators calls out, sewrving around a piece of concrete debris that smashes down in the middle of the road, flames rippling off of it.

I fear rivers overflowing

The jets bank and turn, a hairpin one-hundred and eighty degree turn before strafing the city again. This time the explosions are more distant, sending three hundred foot fall fireballs rising up from the inner portion of the city, four massive plumes of flame for each of the four jets, a constant bombardment of seismic waves that shake the truck as it drives. Glass, stone and wood rains down in tiny flinders from above, and those in the back of the truck can see the devastation wrought by the air-strikes.

I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Another explosion goes off, this one closer, sending a brilliant orange-white ball of fire and choking black smoke up into the air. Antananarivo is awash with the sounds of air-raid sirens. As the assault truck moves in to the city, Aviators turns on his ear-piece headset. «We've got to move into the city, Rasoul's hunkered down on that big stone building up on the hill. Used to be a museum or some shit, he's ocnverted it to his palace. No intel on where the bunker entrance is, but I'm willing to bet it's up there!»

Don't go around tonight

In the back of the truck, Dajan turns to look at his mother, the injuries from the day before so many more scars over his form, but weighing more heavily on him were what he thought might have been his last words. He says nothing, now, as he watches her where she stands at the turret, turning to look back towards the city ablaze. Another explosions rocks the city's industrial heart nearly a mile away, sending a ball of fire rising up in the black darkness of the pre-dawn city.

Cause it's bound to take your life

Resting a hand on Eileen's forehead, Tau watches the young woman slip into her trance as she begins scouting the streets of the city with the birds at her command. The truck jostles, shakes and trembles, an explosion just a block away nearly lifts the pickup truck on two wheels from the shockwave, and Aviators lets out a howling «Wooo!» over his headset as the truck crashes back down on two wheels.

There's a bad moon on the rise

«American military forces are moving in to the city, boys and girls! We've got thirty minutes before this place is a fucking warzone to cover as much ground as we can. I ain't stoppin' for nothing! Gray, keep the street ahead of us clear! Any debris, do whatever it is you do!» The truck thunders over a pile of concrete debris, scraping the undercarraige, and as the jets make their last pass, screaming overhead with a roar of their engines, one of the many hilltop buildings in the city simply disappears in a ball of fire.

Hope you got your things together

As the city of Antananarivo burns in a haze of flames, smoke and ash, Team Bravo makes their path into the ubran center past the checkpoints, into the eventual oncoming path of Rasoul's panicked army.

Hope you are quite prepared to die

Smoke rises up above the city, coiling plumes of ashes and embers larger than any the team has seen since the destruction of Midtown. It is a glorious display of war technology, but to Dajan and Tau, it is the ultimate price that their city, their country must pay for freedom. Higher up into the skies, the smoke meets with the clouds that are breaking up, and the rain that was falling is slowly beginning to stop. Strong winds blow pyroclasmic clouds of ash, smoke and cinders across the streets, and as the cloud parts, that full moon hanging low in the sky sits like a halo behind Rasoul's palace.

Looks like we're in for nasty weather

Flames lap up to meet the clouds, and where fire meets sky, this is where all their troubles have led them.

One eye is taken for an eye

Huruma's world has been consciously limited to the area around the truck, though her sensory field is up as it always is. The only immediacy that she is taking is the truck itself- until they reached the capital, amid the careening sounds of the air strike, she had been staring quietly and intently towards Dajan; her perch behind the gun makes it somewhat easier, and not even now does she turn her face away when he looks back to her. All they have to do at the beginning is hold onto the truck and shoot anything that gets in the way- not hard, relatively- a couple sharp ratta-tats disappear at intervals into forms and shadows wielding weapons of their own. One gets laid out dead on the road, though the truck keeps on rolling. The grave bump he makes under the tires isn't quite as satisfying as it could have been, once upon a Madagascar.

Don't go round tonight, cause it's bound to take your life

"May all I do and all I think, be in harmony with Thee, God within me, God beyond me." Huruma's voice filters past the sounds on the truck, though her face is upturned towards the full moon cresting behind the palace. She leans on the gun, but not out of needing support- it is a half-crouch of prayer. For a moment her eyes close tight, face illuminated with orange and white-blue. Huruma murmurs further, inaudible, seemingly finished as soon as she started. A prayer- to be frank- never hurts. Never. Though the moon above seems to have done something to calm her as it is, Huruma having full capacity of her thoughts is something that she must have a handle on.

There's a bad moon on the rise

Over the soft undercurrent of sound that Huruma's prayer makes, there's the cracka-boom of the air being shaped by concussive forces.

Gabriel falls back into his seat after reaching over the windshield, bringing the back of his hand up to his nose where crimson smears over his knuckles, glistening opaque. He's never had to learn the limits of his various powers, not the ones he took by force, and he knows he's already pushing this one to its brink. Debris scatters, splits apart, makes the road that much easier to trundle over, but he's not standing to it again, Aviators forced to swerve around what he can't simply barrel through.

Next to him, Eileen's ragdoll form jostles against his shoulder, taking small, sneaking telepathic peeks inside her mind, reading what little is available to him as opposed to seeing with his eyes. He glances back to Tau when the man rests his hand on her shoulder, but as the museum comes into view, it's that Gabriel lifts his eyes too. Leaning forward in his seat, he studies it.

And not for the first time, really wishes he had telekinesis.

It's not just debris on the road that Aviators has to swerve around, but when the first piece of a building comes crashing down in fiery explosion from the skies, the truck is forced to weave around the crashing piece of masonry and wood, pieces of stone pulverizing the side of the truck, shattering the passenger's side window, smaller piece of broken granite peppering the people in the back seat harmlessly. With a lap full of broken safety glass, Gabriel can feel the heat of the flames as the truck passes around the debris. "Fuck look at this place…" Aviators mutters, ducking his head down close to the steering wheel to look up as high as he can through the windshield at the taller buildings crusting the forested hills. "It's like a fucking ghost town, where the hell is everybody?"

In the back of the truck, Dajan and Tau notice the desolation as well. The silence after the explosions is haunting, just the distant crumbling of structures that were in the blast of the air strike, and then the approaching roar of the jet fighters as they pass overhead on their way east and likely back ot the carrier.

"Oh fuck," Aviators spits out, spotting a flash of orange light and a trail of smoke rising up from one of the buildings. "Fuck!" It isn't inbound towards the truck, but rather ascending towards the formation of jets. The surface-to-air missile strikes the wing of one of the F-18's, sending it into a spin and the other three jets break away from formation. The fast-moving aerial vehicle corkscrews and twists in the air, then makes a bank back towards the city and begins losing altitude as it drills towards the streets. "Fuck! Fuck!"

Moments like this seem to go in slow motion, individual embers of flame look to hang in the air as the members of Team Bravo in the truck watch the jet's cockpit flash open, firing the ejector seat out when the plane is right-side up, launching an air-force pilot high above the city where a chute opens. Beyond that, track of him is lost in the smoke, and the horrible weight of an entire jet barreling down towards the truck. Aviators slams on the breaks, pulls the truck into a swerve, and the sound of the jet's nose crashing down onto the street is unlike quite any other sound the members of Bravo have heard; a screehing of metal, snapping of steel, shattering of glass and rupturing of stone all at once. Gabriel heard something similar once, that sound was much louder.

As the truck jack-knifes and swerves, the jet bounces across the pavement, flipping up end over end over the roof of the truck, and the underside of the broken plane is close enough that Huruma could reach up and touch it as it oars over them, raining tiny pieces of broken glass down.

Slamming the truck into drive, Aviators struggles to keep control of the vehicle as enormous metal shards from the wing come lancing down onto the street. The cartwheeling plane continues bouncing end over end down the street, slinging shards of metal and spraying jet fuel as it goes before impacting with a building and exploding.

The force of the blast lifts the back of the pickup truck up as a piece of the wing punches thorugh the hood, spraying steam and smoke up across the windshield as it shatters. The truck spins in three full circles before crashing through the front window of a boarded up storefront and coming ot a stop, tangled up in racks of clothing.

There are some times when you seriously just have to get down and stay down- when the rocket fires up from the ground, Huruma is already tensing up like a coil of wire. One explosion- a second- the noise of the eject- is nothing compared to the plummeting plane hitting the ground of the capital, and the grinding squeals of the truck as Aviators- with one eye, no less- somehow manages to navigate their dodging the initial cartwheeling of the F-18. Huruma has buckled her knees to remain shielded now behind the root of the turret gun, face turning overhead to boggle silently at the closeness of the jet's metal hide careening past.

All she can do as the truck swerves is latch onto the turret; when the plane finally impacts with its own debris and a large building, Huruma is essentially using the gun as a shield rather than a firearm. She's let go of the triggers in favor of ducking and grabbing on for the ride. She hears the crack of the hood and the hiss of steam next, truck spinning like a top and meeting a rack of floral print nosefirst through that window. Of course, it is a mess if anyone runs into a store- things fly everywhere. This is no different, and so at least a couple starkly colored dresses alight blissfully unaware over the truck.

"Ffffffgggh." Huruma is the first to make a sound, and a sound it is. She could find words, but why bother?

If there was a point at which that Gabriel shifted from man to amorphous shadow, no one in the wide world will be able to pinpoint when. One moment, he has his hands braced against the interior the truck, head bowing as explosions seem to rock the whole of the earth and spin it in a new axis. The city pinwheels around beneath tires, and then sudden crack of glass, metal, wood. Coat hangers everywhere.

But at some stage, he did change, malleable shadow taking blunt impact better than flesh ever could. Rather miserably, it ripples over Eileen, curling tendrils wisping over beneath her jaw, flowing over her lap, curling past Aviators, before melting down to seep through the door and puddle out onto the store's floor. By the time he's changing back, the split high at his forehead indicates he didn't get away entirely unscathed, eyes clear and unfocused where he crouches, a hand up, then down to brace against the floor as dizziness overtakes him.

The smell of exhaust fumes, smoke and fire doesn't help, but eventually, he gets to his feet, gaze dancing over the truck to see if it's still serviceable. "One-eyed men shouldn't be driving," he notes, after Huruma's groan rumbles through the renewed silence, and he goes to jerk the driver's seat open.

The short time that has elapsed between Team Bravo's assault on the airfield and the air strike on Antananarivo has not been sufficient for Eileen to fully recover. Her breathing is shallow, complexion ashen and pale, making the dark circles under her eyes appear more prominent, cheekbones sharp and overall appearance haggard — she's functioning, but only barely, and only when the air around her is still again does she stir, one small hand clutching feeble fingers around the clasp of the seatbelt strapped across her lap.

On the bright side, there isn't anything in her stomach except water to vomit out onto the dashboard this time. Glass shards twinkle like beads of rain in her hair, made dark, wet and matted by the blood oozing from a cut on her scalp. Her other hand reaches up to wipe the saliva from the corner of her mouth, using the gauze that holds her splint together like a makeshift rag.

Ears ringing, Aviators hardly hears anything over that tinnitus alarm pounding in his head, which is fortunate given that Gabriel just sassed him about his one-eyed driving. When he goes to open the driver's side door, it just crashes out of the door frame and falls with a crash to the store floor, dragging a rack full of skirts with it. One hand goes up to his head, blood flowing from a split on his brow, and as Aviators brings one foot down to the ground, he steps out and turns, shoulders hunched and eye narrowed, trying to see what condition the truck is in as he finds his balance and hearing again. "Oh…" he says with all the verbal eloquence of a deaf woman, staring at the six foot lone piece of blackened metal sticking through the hood of the truck into the engine.

In the back of the truck, Dajan and Tau aren't doing much better. While they both remain mostly intact, save for scrapes and bumps, they both seem dizzied from the high-speed crash into the store front. Tua is the first to move, sitting up and offering a hand to Dajan to help him to his feet. "Mother…" Is the first word out of Dajan's mouth, hastily sputtered as he moves across the back of the truck towards her, resting a hand on her shoulder and furrowing his brows. The scars that pockmark his face and neck — the new ones from the battle yesterday — seem to give him just a touch more character when he furrows his brows, like a roadmap of the battles he has been in. He doesn't ask if she is well — no one here should answer that question positively.

Tau climbs out of the back of the truck, giving Dajan and Huruma space, and as he comes to the exploded front of the store, his eyes settle on the burning city streets. "We mus' keep movin'. Fin' a new vehicle, s'too quiet out 'dere…." Squinting against the contrast of fire and pre-dawn darkness, Tau turns to look back into the store.

In the distance, a rumbling sound is drawing louder. Not thunder, or an earthquake, but something heavy moving, accompanied by the sound of squeaking metal.

At least when Huruma looks at Dajan she does not see the fresh scars first- they might make her mood worse. Not that his appearance doesn't in general. She's pretty disoriented as well, and so for some reason the only thoughts that come up seem to be ones debating on how much more handsome he'd be if she hadn't torn him up. Her shoulder jerks a bit when he reaches out, the tension in her spine releasing in a twitch; Huruma's eyes stay on Dajan for a moment, before she gathers what she can from the truck to follow them out of the back.

The repose from being ragdoll'd doesn't last very long. Huruma goes rigid at the rumble in the distance, the first of them to react to the new sound. Well- not new, per se. They all should know what it is. There you go, Tau. Speak of the devil and all that.

"Company's approaching," Gabriel reports, quietly, rounding around their own ruined truck, stepping over racks of clothing. As much as everyone can hear that already, he illuminates a little further; "Something like forty odd people, split between vehicles. Almost fifteen together in one of them." There's a creak of metal as he levers open another door, a rifle jerked out of its resting place within the cab, and slung over his shoulder by the strap to come rest at his back. "We can probably avoid them entirely or— " He shrugs, once. "Take what we need, if we act now."

He ducks, then, to peer properly into the truck, mostly roaming his gaze over Eileen to see if she's mostly. You know. Alright. A hesitation, like he knows he should probably be helping her out, but instead just makes his mouth into a line and pushes away from his lean.

Although Eileen could probably use the helping hand, she manages to climb out of the wreck under her own power. Her movements are short, stilted, almost tentative, desperately uncertain of her own equilibrium as she maneuvers around the stick, across the driver's seat where Aviators had been seated just a few moments ago. Using the steering wheel for support rather than Gabriel, suddenly gone from her peripheral vision, she swings one foot to the floor and then the other.

There's an instant where it looks like her legs are about to buckle under her own weight when she releases her grip on the steering wheel, but she steadies herself against the truck's battered exterior before gravity can completely claim her. Shoulders slam against the slab of punctured aluminum with enough force to dislodge a muffled grunt of pain from her lungs. If she has an opinion on this latest development, she presently lacks the breath to voice it.

Seeing Eileen up and moving, Tau takes his break from the blown out store-front, moving to the small girl's side, and side-by-side they seem to have an almost comical disparity in both height and girth. Tau rests a hand on her shoulder, thick fingers squeezing, brows knit together. "Be strong," he reassures her, and the sensation of pin-prickling heat coursing thorugh where he touches seems in a way like the same sensation of a cold body laying down in hot bathwater, awkward and uncomfortable at first, then remarkable soothing. The release of endorphins triggered by Tau's touch also comes with that cautious numbing, not too much to take away her senses, but enough to shave the edge off her pain.

"Tha' soun's like…" Tanks. Visible from the storefront window, a column of old Russian-model tanks begins roaring down the four-lane highway that Bravo had arrived on. Two tanks in front, turrets angled towards the western side of the city move at a slow pace, then a less armored vehicle in the middle, a large truck with a canvas-topped back, a troop-transport looking thirty years out of date. Another tanks follows up at the rear, slowing down and turning onto the street that the clothing store is, right up until gunfire peppers the top of the tank and it comes to a halt down the road. The roaring chop of helicopter blades come out of nowhere, followed by the detonation of an air-to-ground missile at the street by the tank. The explosion sends the clothing store trembling from the proximity of the blase, a small dust cloud blowing out from one wall. Not enough to knock anyone down, but enough to get attention.

Tugging at one of his ears, Aviators looks down at his SatCom, hitting it twice with the heel of his palm before spluttering out a curse under his breath. "Fuck me, US infantry is on its way in behind these helicopters. This is the occupation force, we don't want to be anywhere fucking near here!"

The last tank in the column stops, the whirr of its turret turns, followed by a massive explosion from its barrel. Something blows up in the air above the store, and the whorring whoop-whoop-whoop of a helicopter without its tail stabalizer flagging in the skies is a harrowing sound, especially as it draws closer to the roof of the building.

"Move!" Dajan shouts, pushing Huruma out of the storefront and onto the street by the tank before he drops to both knees and touches the concrete floor. Aviators knows when it's safer to confront a tank face to face, and as he bolts out with Dajan's warning onto the road, he comes to a skidding stop when the rest of the tank comes into view. It's top hatch is open, and Aviators offers a confused look as he stares up at the familiar man standing up in the top of the hatch. For a long moment, MLF turncoat Kwasi Abrafo and Aviators share a stare, until the beret-wearing traitor drops down into the tank and slams the hatch shut.

Tau is trying to hurry Eileen out of the store, one hand at her back, the other holding an assault rifle in the event that he needs to spray something with uncontrolled automatic fire. "On t'th street!" Tau bellows, as the careening helicopter sounds to be drawing closer and closer.

When push comes to shove- and Dajan does just that- Huruma would rather book it out of the way than be rolled over or shot off the ground by a tank. She stalks quickly out onto the street ahead of Aviators, jerking to a halt when the field around her simmers with something left over. Huruma lifts her eyes to the top of the tank; her recognizing the man dipping back into the machine comes with a snarl. Huruma moves again, starting off across the road with her rifle under one arm. She knows that the helicopter is going down, and somehow that they've got to put down the tanks- an idea does not occur to her until she is a fair pace away from the wrecked storefront. It might not work-

-but it could. It has been a while since Dajan looked at her and shook his head when she asked him to just try and upend something- he said 'it doesn't work that way'. For a while Huruma didn't really think too much on it- but now they are using abilities as often as they are bullets. And let's face it- terrakinesis is something that is useful in any forms, destructive in its bigger ones. A uniform idea is forming out of several pieces of information- and when Huruma turns to check the progress of the helicopter's descent and the placement of team Bravo- her eyes focus onto Dajan's crouched form last.

It will not make things any better between them, most likely- but all sons hate teir moms for something. Dajan's newest reason to frown is that Huruma's influence seeps into him without much warning; something new bubbles up under his skin, crawling in a hot flush over him. Adrenaline is one thing- but Huruma has spread a liberal layer of Wrath into the mix.

He only moves when he's on the heels of Tau and Eileen, tracking their progress before glancing back to Dajan. He doesn't linger long. Following the convenient portal their truck made through the window of the shop, Gabriel staggers out into the street, pivoting only to lift his head and stare towards the spinning helicopter making its spiraling way down from the sky, belching thick smoke and licking flames. Crossing the road, his own rifle under his arm, Gabriel focuses only on takin cover for now, a darting figure, solid for the meanwhile, moving across the wartorn street and disappearing around another corner.

Like a far flung fishing line, his psychic radar snags on Kwasi as he ducks down, a hand out to brace himself against brick as Gabriel takes a quick look through the turncoat's eyes before snagging back into himself, like breaking elastic.

There are very few birds out on the street. Vibrantly-coloured fodies endemic to the capital flit between buildings, providing Eileen with a mental map of the immediate area, their garish red plumage like splashes of sunlight where they slice across drab brick and stone. She doesn't lean against Tau any longer than the time it takes for her to get her bearings — as soon as she's confident in her ability to move in a straight line, she's popping her sidearm from its leather holster at her hip and sliding her thumb over the safety.

Bullets aren't particularly effective against tanks. Neither are songbirds, for that matter. Eileen has no intention of using either unless it becomes absolutely necessary. For now, she focuses on covering the others while taking herself out of the falling helicopter's path.

The rage boiling behind Dajan's eyes seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. Everything is upsetting him— it's too cold, the wind is too strong, Gabriel's footsteps are ahrrythmic, Aviators smells terrible, Eileen is too white, this shop has terrible dresses— it is an assault of his patience that eventually is honed down to a surge of frustration kindled for the singular act that could ever push him over the edge, the way his mother nearly killed him in their reunion at the MLF bunker. Dajan's patience breaks the moment the roof of the shop does, when roaring helicopter blades are shattering against crumbling roof tiles and the ceiling is splitting open to give birth to the burning chassis of the chopper, Dajan is causing the concrete of the store's floor to buckle and rocket upwards. A square column of stone with irregularly twisted edges corkscrews up from the ground, pushed on a pillar of soil, sewage pipes and rocks all caught in the motion.

It is like an earthen fist slamming into the helicopter pushing it out of the air and sending it careenng behind the shop with a crash, a crunch, and then an explosion of its fuel tank and ordinance that blows out the back wall. The explosion demolishes the already damaged truck and sends Dajan flying through the air and off of his feet. He lands on the street in front of one of the one functioning tank, dazed and unmoving.

Gabriel's psychic sonar can sense the personnel carrier coming to a stop on the main street beyond where they are, Kwasi must have radioed back for help. The truck turns around across the four lane highway, coming back at full speed with a cabin full of armed Vanguard soldiers waiting for a fight. Aviators, seeing the tank's turret pivoting around to try and hone in on a target being too stationary. Wanting less to be pulverized by a tank gun than anything else, he scrambles around the side of the vehicle, running out to the intersection just in time to see the troop transport roll up and come to a stop. "Fuck my life." Aviators splutters as he raises his pistol, popping six rounds through the driver's side window into the unfortunate man in control of the truck as he backs up. Losing an eye seems to have somehow improved his aim.

As Dajan struggles to get up from the ground, his head spins, and Tau tries to rush towards his friend's aid, but instead finds ihs feet sinking into the concrete like tar. Daan's control of the softness of the pavement keeps Tau away, as Dajan turns towards the approaching tank, rolling on to his side and then springing up at the vehicle. His palm impacts with the wedge-shaped front of the tank, a roar of anger building up inside of him as he punches the front of the tank again. There is no response, but his wrist does not break.

Dajan pulls himself to his feet, grabs ahold of the front of the tank and begins climbing up, and when the barrel pivots towards him, his arms come to wrap around it, as if trying to wrestle the tank down to the ground. But in truth, he's doing something else. Gabriel can see it already, the idea comes in like a lightbulb in a dark room, and he can see the way Dajan's hands touch the metal barrel.

He may not be able to affect steel, may not be able to bend and break it, but he can weaken the minerals reinforcing the metal, affect the carbon imperfections and agitate them, vibrating the barrel of the tank and causing the steel to become brittle.

What Dajan didn't expect is for the top hatch to open, and one of the five soldiers inside to climb up and man the 30 caliber machine gun mounted on the top.

The sound of the gunfire is deafening, a sawing of bullets, blood and bone that ricochets off of the tanks armor but effectively severs Dajan's left arm at the elbow, blasting bone, muscle and tendon apart and dropping Huruma son down onto the street as a scream rises up from within him unlike any he's let loose before.

The gunner turns around, barrel trainingo n the next moving target he can find, which unfortunately happens to be Eileen. The first few shots just pepper the street, a trail of bullets pop-pop-poping in her direction, blowing out the window of a parked car on the side of the street, then demolishing windows and doors to residences as he tries to follow her movement.

Dajan's arm finally lands about six feet away, fingers twitching.

It all happens so quickly that Huruma's readiness with her rifle is all but forgotten- the earth is exploding around them, which means that it worked. It also means that it worked- and blinded him with rage even if he hadn't really expected to be shot at from such a close range. These men operate on different fuels- but thankfully Huruma can fuel most of it even if on accident. Such as Gabriel's force and feats of strength.

Huruma lets out a shrieking snarl; Dajan's rage leaves him like a leaky cup, slow but noticeable. Huruma's influence reasserts itself with a snap into the mind of the man behind the gun on the tank. A firebomb of fear into him, and if she happens to catch any in her sight, grenades of terror pop and bang in other soldiers. Her rifle lifts, yet it doesn't fire yet, as Huruma takes off in a sidelong sprint to intercept Dajan's location- and the general vicinity of his arm. It really grinds her gears, but in the end she did it. And in that her sudden and pure sense of regret has taken her aback- and as she gets closer it trickles into Dajan just long enough for it to be recognized as coming off of her. Testing his anger was a mistake- however effective it was.

An arc of automatic fire heralds Gabriel's approach, aiming towards the hatches at sign of movement, but by the time he's come any closer, the rifle in his hands quite abruptly shatters under the pressure of his grip as if it were made of brittle ice, gaining a starting moment of shock from the serial killer, as much as this has become familiar to him. Fear is on the wind, sudden floods of it when Huruma augments that nervous-panic, a removed kind of adrenaline feeling that suggests indestructibility comes with strength — it doesn't, and likely that's his own influence right there.

As if he wore blinkers, Gabriel takes off at a run towards the tank, easy bullets passing through him like air, disappearing into his throat, his chest, and out the other side without the mess of blood and gore.

By the time the cannon is swinging towards him with a creak of metal from the damage Dajan had inflicted on it, Gabriel's hands are coming to latch onto it with a shuddering slam that makes the entire vehicle shudder. With a growl, Gabriel wrenches the weapon, twists it against its weakened foundation until it comes free, sending him staggering back a step. He swings it up over his head, and brings it crashing down onto the tank's solid body of steel — and it dents under the blow, the slam of metal against metal reverberating not only through the street, but the interior of the vehicle as well.

He pitches it, then, towards the mounted machine gun in a spinning trajectory that shears it off its fastenings — and the man with it, before Gabriel is quick to follow. Hands make gouges in the metal as he climbs up towards the hatch, coming to grip onto the lip of it, and tearing. It's similar to Dajan's rage, only it's all his — and not anger. Not by a long shot.

Bullets chip off chunks of brick from behind the wall in front of which Eileen is positioned. One zips past her ear and punches a hole through a nearby window, showering the street in glass that tinkles under her boots as she runs parallel to the curb and conserves ammunition. Dajan's severed arm aside, Gabriel and Huruma seem to have the situation well under control — the sound of the machine-gun being torn from the tank when the cannon collides with it is the last sound she hears before she ducks behind an abandoned vendor's stand, hair, skin and clothes covered in a fine film of dust and debris spat out from the wall when the tank was firing on her.

Huruma's son is too far away for her to help, and even if he wasn't, Tau is much better equipped than Team Bravo's medic to treat his injuries as they stand. If they survive this — and that's a fairly big if— she can attend to him then. Right now, she's more of a hindrance than a help as long as she's out in the open, and utterly useless when it comes to combating heavily-armed vehicles.

As Gabriel rips the tank apart and climbs atop it, frantic gunfire shooting up through the open hole where the turret was. One soldier climbs up out of the opening, firing wildly at Gabriel with his standard-action revolver, but the bullet pass harmlessly through the phasing killing machine, sending the man scrambling down over the side of the tank, screaming in horrified fear of the unstoppable man taking apart the tank with his bare hands. By the time Gabriel has climbed to the top of the vehicle and stares down inside, he can see the tear-streaked face of Kwasi huddles up beneath the gunner seat, his whole body trembling from the waves of panic that come washing over him, sent cascading from Huruma's mind against his, with the thick armor of the tank unable to block it.

A sungle gunshot from Kwasi's revolver does nothing to Gabriel's looming silhouette over the opening.

Not when it's aimed into Kwasi's mouth.

"Dajan! Dajan!" Frantically holding one arm around Dajan's back, Tau looks at the bleeding stomp where the scarred Terrakinetic's arm was, and brings a large hand up to rest at the center of his chest. For all Tau would want Dajan to grow a new arm back, no amount of praying will bring that to him. As he — unintentionally — invokes the image of Abigail Beauchamp by murmuring a prayer while hastening the clotting of blood vessels on the severed limb, Tau leaves himself open for the panicked and frightful soldiers escaping the back of the personnel carrier.

It's Aviators wild carelessness that prevents them from really amounting to much of an offensive. Having emptied the last of his clip into the retreating soldiers' backs, Aviators finds the fleeing gunner from the tank, grabs him by the back of his jacket, spins him around and clasps a hand down over his mouth, slamming him up against the side of the tank. A knife is pulled from a strap at Aviators' thigh, and driven up under the soldier's rib-cage, wrenched to one side, and then turned before pulled out, where the hand over the dead soldier's mouth helps push his heaped carcass aside.

Eye contact is made with Eileen there for a moment, and Aviators offers a wave with his fingers and bloody hands, right before he's hunching his shoulders and recoiling from the roar of a rocket streaking from an American gunship overhead, demolishing a convoy on an overpass four streets over. «Alright! Before those other two tanks get any bright ideas,» Aviators calls over his headset, «We need to get the fuck off the street. What we need is up at the General's estate, and if we're going to stay out of sight from the soldiers, we can't be in this gagglefuck of a cluster, or on the street.»

Spotting a soldier fleeing from behind a parked car, Aviators pauses to watch him run, considering reaching for a gun, but just lets him scramble away amidst the sound of gunfire and explosions further awya in the city. «Gray and Ruskin you're with me.» He looks over to Dajan and Tau, watching Dajan get up slowly, pain numbed from Tau's touch, blood at least no longer flowing from his wounds. A look is afforded to Huruma from her son, and it is an unsteady one. «Dunsimi, Nwabueze and Huruma, take a different route and keep radio silent until we find Rasoul.»


Huruma's various reactions such as firing off shots or backing someone up come to her subconsciously. When it seems that there is a spare moment, and Aviators barks out routes, she has but a few seconds to meet Dajan's gaze. It darts away as soon as it connects, Huruma's shoulders quaking with a mix of rage at herself for trying it- and that dull, weighty feeling one gets when you know something is entriely your fault. Rather than wait, Huruma breathes in sharply and picks up her feet, lunging off into a trot for the nearest alleyway.

If they catch up they catch up- if they don't- she may just end up going off alone.

The name Nwabueze snaps Eileen's head to the side, gaze shifting from Aviators, Gabriel and the unmanned tank to where Tau is gripping Dajan, Huruma's silhouette towering high above them both. It occurs to her that she never asked Tau for his surname — neither has it come up over the radio chatter until now, or if it has then it hasn't been in her presence.

Now isn't the time for her to ask him if he has any relatives named Abdul-Aziz. Neither is she so ignorant as to believe that King's isn't a common family name in the part of the world from which he hailed. Instead, she lifts her splint-hand to the left side of her face, touches muddied fingertips to her earpiece and gives Aviators a curt nod of implicit affirmation. Copy that.

A cursory look is all Gabriel needs to give to the interior of the tank to see that there is nothing left to kill. His hand moves away from his knife sheathed in his belt, fingers twtiching in anticipation. He watches the brain matter from Kwasi dribble down the inside of the tank, then turns his head hawkishly to regard Aviators, then Eileen, and then finally Tau. One thick brow raises as he considers the same implications Eileen is, but is equally non-vocal about it.

Erupting into a whorling mass of ephemeral shadows, Gabriel discorporates and reforms down off of the tank and near some of the dead soldiers at the back of the personnel carrier. He crouches, strips a rifle and some ammunition from the corpses, then another rifle that he slings over his shoulder by the strap. Another burst of smoky shadows takes him to Eileen's side, just behind her and enough to breathe in the scent of her hair. Rainwater, blood and soil make for an interesting perfume. "Here," he says firmly, offering out the surplus AK-47 by the barrel. "You might need that."

Aviators watches the pair with furrowed brows, then looks to Dajan as he limps up onto one foot, still supported by Tau. «You two going to make it?» Dajan nods his head, looking down at his stump arm, and then up to where Huruma ran into the alley between buildings. He says something to Tau, shared in confidence only by their proximity, and he does his damndest tow alk on his own and out of Tau's grasp.

The healer looks to Dajan intently, seeing him struggle with the pain and shock that Tau's own ability has deadened, but never quite removed. «We will see y'on th' hill.» Tau confirms, and follows after Dajan, who is tracking where his mother left. Aviators offers a nod to that, looking down at the severed arm, then out to the eastern horizon where the sun is finally cresting the hills. A dry swallow comes with watching the sun rise, and the one-eyed man casts his half-stare on Eileen, then Gabriel again.

"Come on," he says in that parched tone of voice, "we're burning daylight."

And Antananarivo is burning in it.

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