Operation Geopoint, Part III


avi_icon.gif curtis_icon.gif claire_icon.gif devon_icon.gif francois_icon.gif hana_icon.gif lucille3_icon.gif robyn_icon.gif

Scene Title Operation Geopoint, Part III
Synopsis Wolfhound moves on the Geopoint facility in Colorado in an effort to capture Donna Dunlap.
Date May 31, 2018

The noise in the dark is unforgettable, a hydraulic hiss and whirr of servo-motors straining to move nearly a thousand pounds of steel. Four red eyes light up in the dark, and in the crackling glow of flickering orange flames, the beast’s body is made visible as it steps through the fire. Wolf and bear, nightmare and machine, its toothy jaws concealing a pair of grinding wheels capable of breaking wood, bone, and even rock down. The hulking monstrosity walks forward, claws digging into the gravel, and its inner jaws begin spinning up in anticipation of a meal.

Worse, though, is when the device on its back pivots to the right. A low whirring noise, liquid fire dripping from the barrel along with a tongue of blue flame. The Hunter braces itself, reflecting armored figures in its gleaming red-lensed eyes, and lets loose with a mechanical scream as a jet of fire explodes from the turret on its back.

Two Hours Earlier

Aboard the X-51 Rook

Over Nebraska

6:17 pm Local Time

«Alright, listen up.» For once, Avi Epstein isn’t running the pilot-side of things on an operation. Tucked away in the cockpit of the X-51 Rook — the Tlanuwa — Hana Gitelman maintains a steady course to Wolfhound’s ultimate destination. This time it is Epstein who is present remotely via radio, his voice echoing through the cabin.

«You’re going into the unknown here. We’ve been over the briefing a dozen times, but I want you all to remember that we don’t know everything.» The subtle hum of the Tlanuwa’s engines create a white noise behind the silence in Epstein’s communication. «This is a fortified Institute research facility. When we went in to Operation High Road, we knew what the lay of the land was, but this is a dark spot. We’ve done all the recon we can, and the more time we burn the more likely it is the Institute rabbits now that we have Gilmore. We have to expect that they’re expecting us.»

Seated among the members of Strike Team Amarok, Robyn Quinn is the odd woman out of this engagement. Strapped in to her seat and listening to Avi’s voice, she can’t help but remember the unexpected turn that her last Wolfhound ride-along took in Detroit. There’s a lingering fear of the unknown, even after all these years since Pollepel, where the approaching edge of night brings back memories of something else. Of fear, of gunpowder, of death.

«You’re our heavy-hitters, so I want you to do exactly what Francois and the Major say. I want you to hit hard, hit fast, and I want everyone to make it back here in one fucking piece. That’s non-negotiable.»

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

20 Miles West of Boulder, CO

8:17 pm Local Time

The blades of massive windmills spin far above where carnage has set upon the western slopes of the Rockies. The Geopoint Scientific Enclosure looks like so many soap bubbles bursting free from the ground, and in the faint light of dusk they are swathed in shadows. External lights are sparse, illuminating only the exterior hexagon cells of the domes and how they are darkened on the inside by streaks of algae on the walls.

The noise of the Tlanuwa’s engines do not register at the altitude it is flying at, and when the first pair of boots touch the ground none in the area are any the wiser that Wolfhound has arrived. Devon touches down first, feeling his weight in his knees and the tug of a strong wind at his parachute. Unclipping it and pulling it in to roll up, he is but one black-clad phantom in the night.

Francois touches down next, a hundred feet from Devon with a practiced grace on his landing. He was not required to perform many paratrooper drops during World War II, but this feels distinctly like landing behind German lines under cover of night. Claire is not far away, her boots digging hard into the rough terrain underfoot. Lucille and Hana land seventy feet apart from one another, though simultaneously. Robyn is the last to land, legs buckling and skidding to her knees as she performs her first field parachute drop. It’s different out on an airfield, it’s different during the day.

To the west, there is a pale blue-purple smudge of light on the horizon over the Rockies. Wolfhound has landed with the last vestiges of day dwindling beyond, and the embrace of darkness covering their approach.

«This is Tlanuwa-2,» Epstein’s voice crackles over their comms, «I’ve got your positions back home. Everything looks nice and clear. Geopoint is exactly 1,000 feet northwest of you past that forest.» In the dark, the sparse stand of pine trees is not much of a forest, but in the rocky and downhill mountainous terrain it is cover enough.

«I’ll be another pair of eyes for you all inside. Your body cameras are all reading loud and clear.» As Avi talks and the team prepares for the approach, the dim lights of the Geopoint facility are clearly visible downhill from their position, a series of five dimly glowing domes interconnected like soap bubbles. Streaks of algae and grime darken their interiors, making whatever light does shine inside the enclosure difficult to see. Scattered around the facility, the looming silhouette of windmills are like a silent dance of spiraling swords against a starry sky.

Not far to go now.

This time the op is different than stand on the top of a dam and shoot everything dead that moves, so Curtis is equipped differently. He doesn't have all the guns and ammo he came primed with last time. He's got Wolfhound's M240 on him, loaded and ready to go and slung on his back. He's brought out his black armored body glove for the mission and left the fatigues behind. He's got the Aegis vest on over that, and strewn about his person are a variety of knives both stabby and throwing, as well as a pair of matched kukri in sheathes on his lower back. Tucked into pouches on the webbing he wears over the vest are several small frag grenades amongst a couple of spare clips for the hand gun and one spare drum for the machine gun. At one hip is the Banshee, and at the other hip is a rather large handgun, the .50 cal desert eagle is nicked and battered but lovingly serviced. None of his gear is new. Given the threat they're going in against he's come loaded for bear. Or killer robots.

His demeanor is markedly different from the last operation he was a part of. Then he was excited, ready for the hunt. THis time around he's solemn, collected. Speaking little and listening a lot. When they drop he waits until they're boots on the ground before he rolls his parachute up quick and precise and gets it out of the way before he pulls down his night vision goggles, watching as the world swims into focus with that telltale green hue to everything. "Autumn on the ground." He murmurs into his coms, hands moving over his gear to check and see that it's all safe and sound. He doesn't draw any weapons to the ready quite yet, hands flexing slowly at the lack of anything in them. He looks around himself a little, scanning the wilderness carefully for movement. He moves towards the others only slowly, most of his attention on their surroundings, waiting to see if anything or anyone noticed their descent.

Straightening out of his landing, Dev’s shoulders rock backward to stretch. That slow-ish glide out of the sky was amazing and really must happen again. He takes a couple of steps then turns to pull his chute into alignment for repacking. Rolling his chute is made short work of, as his eyes pick out each of his teammates while they land on the ground around him.

Once the tangle of fabrics and straps is secured again, he’s checking pockets and belts. That trusty handgun strapped to his upper thigh, the rifle resting across his chest as it hangs from his shoulders, those are good. The four hand grenades clipped to his belt on one side, opposite the unfamiliar weight of the banshee. And of course the armor, complete with helmet! Never leave home without it. Devon is armed and well prepared for what he does best — making things blow up, and generally destroying stuff — though the idea of going after robots was not an exciting one, destroying one or… ten might be. He remembers those ones he got a little too up close and personal with, before the war.

A gloved hand reaches up to pull his night-vision goggles down over his eyes. The other rests on the rifle, ready to draw up and fire at the first sign of hostile activity. Devon’s feet touch lightly on the ground as he moves to gather with everyone else while his gaze rests steadily on the path ahead. Back at the Bunker he may not take things with too much seriousness, but out here in the field it’s all business. “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,” he quips into his comms. So mostly all business.

Pale blue eyes are closed when she makes impact with the ground, crouching and unhooking her chute rolling it up with a look over to The Major before she stands, placing a hand at her belt to readjust before padding forward. Black on black, auburn hair swept into a tight bun, no hairs currently out of place. Luce is quick in her movement with minimum noise, a thought back to the constant shadowing of Huruma over the years. She always so desperately wanted to be her shadow but tonight she is a shadow of her own. There would be more comfort in having her mentor she is most close with present, always a thought in the back of her mind before going on assignment. Still, she is prepared.

An assortment of blades, throwing and not are strapped to her person. Lucille breathes evenly, her RPG slung over her back. A side pouch filled with rockets sits on her back snugly. Her own set of dual blades of black metal criss cross on her back.

Canting her head as she runs a finger along the hilt of a knife that sits near grenades and a few other black felt pouches. On her lower back two mid sized chakrams laid overtop of each other are snug and clipped on her belth. She feels ready and as she looks down at her fingerless gloves hands a surge of emotions moves through her. It was Lucille’s first operation since she recovered from her old injury. Flexing her fingers with a quick look around, “Someone's ready to go home.” It's a tease.

Checking the Banshee on her thigh she smiles faintly to herself. The Raytech toys were fun. The armor was appreciated more each assignment that demanded its use. Lucille quickly grabs at the silver chain hanging on her neck and kisses the locket containing the photo of her and all her siblings as she says a quick prayer to her mother.

Loose rock and dry earth crunching underfoot, Francois moves towards where his team is coming together after their slow, drifting descent through twilight mountain air. None of his equipment is personalised or favoured, all polished and state of the art and new, save that he'd been particular about the combat shotgun visible at his shoulder, two dozen slugs lined up like soldiers in his rig. A select few flash bangs and frag grenades make up the rest of his personal arsenal, all of which he is at least somewhat confident he can haul along with them the clear 1,000 feet that Epstein has promised them.

And whatever happens in between, and after, and on the way out. In his experience, there are generally very quick and favourable means of offloading if you're making a fast exit.

Memories of old wars, he knows, will soon be replaced by memories of recent ones — and in this case, shared memories. In the coming dark, he finds himself seeking out Robyn, a brief pass over of eye contact that wonders as to her recollections of Massachusetts. Not if she does recall it, but how often. Rather than do anything so gauche as to ask, he nods to her in a way he hopes projects an air of confidence and reassurance.

Eyes open»," he says, through team comms. Night goggles on and the queer dome structures in his sights, he readies his shotgun in his hands. "Move swiftly, silently. If the Hunter cares to join us, then strike that last thing, but we get where we are going." These are the missions that are impossible to predict, to strategise, and so he can only remind them of their order of priority and avoid their team scattering to the four winds as soon as chaos breaks out.

And that's for the terrain they have intelligence on. Who knows what waits for them inside.

Amarok-2, take point»." That would be Claire Bennet, for those playing at home. And so on, positions distributed — Curtis near the front and flanking their second lieutenant, Lucille and Devon to hang back as rear support. They've drilled formations a million times — Amarok knows where to stand, how to move as one, with Francois moving in the midst of them like the nucleus of a cell. To Robyn, a tip of his head suggests she stick close.

They move.

Now free of the chute and it shoved haphazardly into the pack again and tossed aside with the rest, Claire looks up in time to see the approach of Francois. Since the trip out west, Claire has been a little more withdrawn, thoughtful. A part of her hadn’t been ready to come back, but here she was.

The tiniest of them, she is armed much like their leader, her shotgun… her Baby… tucked against her side, as she lowers her own night vision goggles into place. Unlike Francois, she has a Glock and a few clips on her left hip and a small amount of explosive should they need it. Especially, if they need to unlock a door that she can’t pick the lock of. And, of course, there is a bone knife tucked into her boot.

“Yes, sir,” Claire says firmly over the comms and in person.

Wrapping the strap of her shotgun around her forearm, she starts forward, boots softly crunching with each step. Listening to the sounds of her teammates behind her and to the world around them, she keeps an eye out for anything unusual.

The ride there had been a silent one for Robyn. Even knowing some of the people in Amarok - Devon, and to lesser degrees Claire and Lucille - she doesn't engage with them. Her gray eyes stare ahead, lost in thought. Considering. Remembering. Francois wonders how often she remembers. In truth, even now she's thinking of the trip of to Massachusetts, alone in a truck with Eve Mas, Ygraine Fitzroy, and others.

It's not her favourite memory. It's one of many reasons SESA was more appealing to her than alternatives like Wolfhound in the aftermath of the civil war. Her mission with Wendigo hadn't felt like this. Nothing had felt like this since the last six months of the war. Despite the inherent uncertainty, a part of her doesn't mind. In fact, she relishes it. She holds on to that memory, keeps it close and fresh in mind, remembers the nuances of that trip. That feeling, that kinetic electricity building up in her. This would be different, she was inherently less equipped this time than she was for that.

Everything feels automatic at first, following behind the others, making the drop. The impact on the ground draws her fully back into herself. There's an anxious energy to Robyn as she pulls herself up to her feet, teeth grit and eyes ahead. This time, she's insisted on being as fully decked out as the rest of Amarok, in full AEGIS armour, eye uncovered. Even in the black and slightly more gray of the world around her, her eyes lock on ahead, Banshee in hand. A Desert Eagle rests her hip, shotgun strapped across her back, and the curved knife gifted to her by Eve strapped at one leg. It's a weight on her she's not used to but that she's been practicing to acclimate herself to ever since she realised that, with Amarok, there's no fucking around.

Knowing what they're potentially up against, and seeing what it's taken to bring them down before helps. That doesn't bring her much solace. This is a total unknown for her, on top of the fact that there was at least one machine here that could effectively smell her - and the rest of them.

She steels herself. She has to be every bit as good as the rest of them. A nod is given to Francois, moving in close as she looks around the path laid out ahead of them. Weapon raised, despite that she knows her orders are avoid engagement except for self defence. This will be as ready as she gets for this.

It's been nearly a year since Hana took to the field in earnest — not since Operation High Road. Not since she fractured her ankle, and not since Epstein unnecessarily complicated her life. That doesn't mean she hasn't kept in practice; indeed, Hana made a point of doing so. It's still a distinct shock to come to earth, impact jarring more unpleasantly up one leg than the other. She sheds the chute before so much as moving her feet, tucks it away, takes stock of her surroundings and the rest of the team. Lucille's glance is given minute acknowledgment in the process.

Like Robyn, the major is a supernumerary on this op. She slots herself into the middle of Amarok's formation as the team moves out, alert, attention sharp. She's opted for infrared rather than light-amplifying goggles, and carries a rifle slung across her back in addition to Banshee and sidearm. Hana has also opted for less-conventional armament: her usual complement of knives, and two steel chain bolas that may (or may not) be useful when dealing with robots. She's used one to good effect before.

The major makes no prayer, no quip, and adds nothing to Francois' instructions as they move through the sparse trees. In complement and counterpoint to Hana's anticipatory silence, the coiled tension of waiting for the first surprise to leap out and make itself known, Tenzin hovers in the figurative back halls of her awareness, one thread of its attention on the Tlanuwa overhead, the rest alert for any hint of digital activity around the complex.

As Amarok and it's support agents fall into formation and begin to move, covering the rolling hills and rocky terrain to the best of their ability, there's a crackle over the comms as Avi’s voice returns.

«Everything seems green. I'm not seeing anything pinged back from Hana indicating we've got a bit nearby, but there's no telling what countermeasures they've developed.»

The first 500 feet of the approach is easy enough, covering a rocky descent from the high mountain slopes that Rue and Strike Team Keelut scouted. In the distance there's a stand of pine trees, dense enough to be considered a forest though only just. The trees are sparse and spread far apart from one another, creating very little cover. This, however, is where Keelut spotted the Hunter last time.

In the distance, visible against the last vestiges of daylight crowning the mountains are the silhouettes of tall windmills, their blades spinning swiftly in the steady and cool breeze. As Amarok approaches the forest, line-of-sight for the enclosure is partly obscured. But the approach is a quiet and steady one. About 600 feet from their landing site, Amarok comes across a large patch of blood on the ground nearby to where Keelut indicates they'd encountered the Hunter eating an animal carcass. There's no carcass left, just the dark stains of a meal now weeks old.

Huge claw marks mar the ground, making triangular divots in the pine-needle strewn rocky soil. Not more than 400 feet away, the faintly luminous cluster of hex-celled domes glow like dirty light bulbs partly buried in the dirt. Closer, just thirty or so feet away, the base of one of the windmills hums noisily with vibrations resonating from higher up.

The first step in Operation: Geopoint is to interface with the wind farm’s power lines and allow Hana access to the Institute systems through their power grid. The windmills themselves appear to be undefended. This is markedly unlike High Road where the installation was a fortress…

…and yet there is an air of something sinister here, something unseen.

Carefully but quickly Curtis moves along near Claire, flanking her position. Each step is carefully placed so as not to step on potentially noisy undergrowth like twigs and branches and the like. He's left his equipment slung or holstered so he's hands free, letting him move at an easier pace while remaining quiet. His head is on a constant swivel though, searching all around them for even the slightest disturbance. If a Hunter gets the drop on them it could very well mean a dead team member.

He pauses at the bloody site of the kill that Keelut observed, hands moving over some of the tracks that the machine has left behind. "Damn." He whispers appreciatively. He knows how big the thing is, but the size and the deepness of the prints really drive home how big, and how heavy the robot is. He's up and moving after a few seconds, moving towards the windmill but not approaching it. Instead he sweeps just a bit to the side, around it, trying to make sure there's no one or thing waiting in ambush around the corner of the construct. As he moves he carefully checks his gear, making sure that knifes and guns are ready to slip free of their sheaths and holsters, making sure nothing is stuck.

After falling into place at the back of the pack with Lucille, Devon has kept watch over his side and their tail end. He trusts his partner-in-crime is doing likewise. He walks with his rifle seated against his shoulder, but resting rather than drawn. It’s easier to carry and fast to draw, leaving him prepared but not overburdened. The march is one he’s definitely accustomed to, and the formation is well rehearsed. He moves with his head and body turning as terrain allows, ever vigilant of the surroundings so that alert can go out quickly should need arise.

His footsteps slow a little when the team comes across the stained and gouged ground. The sight of it brings a hitch to Dev’s shoulders. A memory of a memory and not a very good one putting an uncomfortable itch in his back.

He pulls his eyes from the remainder of the carnage and sets his attention firmly back onto the task at hand. Going down that rabbit hole will lead to nothing but trouble. For this, he has to stay focused. As his team collectively draws closer to the first target, Devon instinctively starts moving outward from the pack to take up more of a perimeter position, without completely breaking formation.

Swift and silent is the name of the game and Lucille enjoys that game. Though that's where the game is done. Her head swerves to take in why Curtis is inspecting with his hands. Lu’s eyes widen a fraction at the blood and it's almost instantaneous the way pale blue eyes flicker to that golden glow. Hunterbots. A feeding ground. Casting her biotic field around her in that ten foot radius, just in case of any human enemy..

Coming upon the windmill, Luce turns to look at Devon for a moment before searching with her gaze at the field around them.

Golden eyed gaze sweeps over the windmill and her fingers tighten into a fist. Concentrating as she scans around her. Hanging back still, on Francois’ orders. The itch to move forward and close to the wall so that she could sense what waited for them inside the windmill was strong but the Ryans woman waits for an opportunity and go ahead to do so.

Upon coming to their first point of contact, Francois looks sidelong to Hana and nods an acknowledgment and reassurance: the floor is yours, Major.

"Form a perimeter," he says, quietly, half anticipating the other Hounds to already be of the instinct to turn their vision outwards, sensing Devon shift accordingly. "Check for surveillance, anything out of place. The ground as well as the trees." Keelut would have alerted them to the presence of such complications — but they are hedging into territory uncharted, and while watching for movement might have you miss more static details, movement is hard to miss regardless of what you're looking for.

He stays near Hana, for his part, shotgun in hand and aimed low at the earth, more guarding her back than taking uninformed interest in the particulars of her activities.

The sound from Curtis gets Claire’s attention and she looks down at the claw marks. The goggles pushed up a little so that she can get a better look at them. There are too many memories related to those things… and there is always bigger and those haunt her dream.

“And to think that is a small one,” Claire comments very softly to the bigger man next to her. She glances up at Curtis and glances at Avi, before she pulls the goggles down again and leaving the claw marks behind.

Francois’ orders do have her turning her eyes outwards from the group, sweeping her gaze along the section of forest before her and she moves a little further out, on alert. Occasionally, her head tipping up to observe the trees, as well.

When Robyn comes upon the remains of the grisly scene she had read about in Keelut's report, she pauses for a moment to register it's presence - a more tangible reminder of what likely awaits them at some point in this excursion. She lingers on it for only a moment before she falls back in near Francois and Hana.

Eyes scan out along the perimeter when the command is initially given, but for the most part Robyn keeps her eyes up and ahead. If she had to guess, the members of Amarok will be better at picking out those details than she will be - the biggest handicap that comes with her vision is how everything starts to bleed together once you get to certain points of light and dark, making it harder to pick out those details. While she's trained herself to have a more critical eye, at a certain point there's only so much vigilance and training can do.

It's why she never goes out on assignments at SESA alone, and why she's glad to have the rest of Amarok with her - to her, this is her one potential liability. But her faith in Hana, Francois, and the people in their command tempers that particular anxiety. While the others scan the perimeter, she keeps her eyes ahead, a single glance and a nod over to Francois before falling in slightly behind him and Hana so they aren't in one convenient cluster.

The high-altitude forest is quiet as they ease their way through it in the gathering dusk, and eerie in the way everything is when one's attention is tuned to high alert. At least the spindly, wind-beaten trees are sparse, the underbrush slight; lack of cover works in both directions.

Hana gives the bloodstained earth and the claw marks only a cursory glance; her gaze lingers on the domes, and finally on the turbine that is her objective. Tucked away in the back of her head, Tenzin extrapolates measurements for the size and spacing of claws that made those marks, compares them with known attributes of Hunters. The calculation occupies just a tiny fraction of the digital entity's attention, a passing amusement.

Glancing to Francois as he slows, Hana returns his nod with a minute dip of her chin. For her part, she does not move immediately, letting Amarok's people settle into their surveillance. In the meantime, she studies the sheer metal height of the turbine, whitewashed and spare of feature: it has a door, and not much else. Finally, Hana moves forward, steps quiet on the duff, drawing a tube of thermite paste from a pocket to apply around the door's lock. "«Watch your eyes,»" she sends to the team's comms, before lighting the magnesium strip that serves as fuse. She herself steps back around the curve of the turbine, gaze averted from the incandescent reaction, ready to move in once it's burned enough — her Banshee at ready in case there just so happens to be someone inside.

If there's something, well, that's what colleagues with shotguns are for.

The glare of the thermite burns bright against the rapidly diminishing light on the horizon. By the time the door is melted enough to be forced open, the last hint of daylight has disappeared entirely. The interior of the windmill is mostly dark but also entirely unoccupied. A single security light above the door shines a dim illumination down on metal-encased consoles, some transformers and others controls for the windmill itself. A narrow ladder rises up into darkness where maintenance could reach the turbine high above.

As Hana sets to examining the windmill she finds that the hardware is remarkably standard. It resembles a 2007 production model she's seen schematics for, likely put in place the year it was manufactured under Pinehearst purview. It also means that is possesses telecommunications vulnerabilities that were not considered back then. To Hana, it might as well be an unlocked and open door to the Geopoint enclosure.

Outside the windmill, the perimeter finds nothing indicative of a security system. No external cameras, no motion sensors, nothing concealed in the trees or…


It's a remarkably loud noise, even Hana can hear it inside the narrow enclosure of the windmill. In the dark of night, something has stirred.


Enhanced visual sensors pick up movement over a rocky ridge to the west, 176 feet out from the perimeter Amarok formed. Coming up over the ridge, a hulking mechanical shape winds and grinds with the sounds of damaged mechanisms. Soon, those with the ability to see in the dark bear witness to a nightmare of another era. A nightmare all too familiar to Devon.

The second it reaches the top of the hill there’s an explosion of fire that burns bright against the dark, a tongue of flame that cuts through the sparse trees and leaves their lower branches engulfed in flames. Droplets of liquid fire roll down the machine’s patchwork armored flank where hasty repairs were done with improper materials.

The noise in the dark is unforgettable, a hydraulic hiss and whirr of servo-motors straining to move nearly a thousand pounds of steel. Four red eyes light up in the dark, and in the crackling glow of flickering orange flames, the beast’s body is made visible as it steps through the fire. Wolf and bear, nightmare and machine, its toothy jaws concealing a pair of grinding wheels capable of breaking wood, bone, and even rock down. The hulking monstrosity walks forward, claws digging into the gravel, and its inner jaws begin spinning up in anticipation of a meal.

Worse, though, is when the device on its back pivots to the right. A low whirring noise, liquid fire dripping from the barrel along with a tongue of blue flame. The Hunter braces itself, reflecting armored figures in its gleaming red-lensed eyes, and lets loose with a mechanical scream as a jet of fire explodes from the turret on its back.

The tongue of flame shoots sixty feet ahead, leaving a trail of burning napalm-covered rock in its wake. The machine isn't fast, it's motions seem labored and heavy, metal grinding on metal as it moves. But it absolutely is aware of something it appears to consider a threat, and it's purposeful and steady approach toward Wolfhound is somehow more intimidating than a full-sprint rush.

Well that's a sobering thought. When Claire comments about the Hunters being small ones it leaves Curtis feeling a little less secure in their ability to handle whatever may come at them. A Hunter? He's pretty sure they can handle. Something bigger and nastier? Well, that's a lot more up for debate. As they settle in to hold position Curtis unslings the big machine gun off his back, and being as quiet as he can, checks the drum mag and the ammo feed, making sure everything is clear and good to go before he shifts it back to his back on it's sling and slinks a little further around the perimeter so he can keep an eye on the approach to the domes, making sure no one is coming to investigate anything. Especially once that flare of light goes off as Hana lights the magnesium strip.

He's watching, carefully. And then there's that sound. Curtis hasn't felt fear in awhile. A long time actually. Nervousness? Sure. But that deep gut wrenching fear? Not in a long time. But he feels it now. "Holy shit." He murmurs as he looks over at the hulking monstrosity of steel and flame and video game level bullshit. He looks down over his weapons and gear, and really there's only one weapon on him that has even a hope of doing any damage to that thing past point blank range. So the machine gun he just slung gets pulled back around and forwards. He lifts the heavy automatic weapon up to his shoulder and holds it there. "Permission to engage?" He asks over the comms. For all he knows Francois has a genius scheme to deal with this thing, so he waits, and he holds. In much greater control of himself this time around. He does rack the slide on the machine gun, and gets it ready, all he has to do now is pull the trigger. But he waits on that for permission to do so. Because there will be absolutely no covering up that noise.

Those things that are happening at the windmill aren’t above his pay grade, they’re just not part of his present assignment. Another time, he might be the one detonating a door open. Tonight, at this moment, he’s responsible for holding the line and warning of incoming hostiles. Devon’s eyes stay turned to the landscape, continually moving as he scans trees and hills for sign of movement. So he hears the Hunter before he sees it.

At the first sound of servos and metal, his head whips in that direction. The second brings his rifle up and ready to shoot, however futile he knows it will be. It’s an act of will not to back away when he finally sees the robot in spite of the gut-wrenching fear that seeing the Hunter brings. Oh yes, Devon remembers those on an intimate level, even if he never actually faced one. It was another time and place, another him. But to him right now the nightmare is all too real.

«Enemy incoming.» Devon’s voice comes over the comms to elaborate on Curtis’ request. His voice is surprisingly steady, if unusually quiet. It’s still clear enough for the comms to pick up. His thumb slowly slides the safety off on his rifle and he stares through the scope to track the robot, preparing for the signal to engage.

The display that is the breaking into the windmill is noted by Lucille from the corner of her eye. Primal, she wishes she could watch it full on but her gaze flicks back out to the perimeter. The sounds of the Hunter approaching from afar cause the woman to stiffen and she lifts her rocket launcher to ready position. Those things. Fuck. They are terrifying and Lucille swallows hard as she waits for orders.

Muscles taut and poised, ready to spring if need be. A gentle breeze plays along the back of her neck the same time a shiver of nerves quakes up her back. Centering herself and her thoughts, going into that place deep within herself, her breathing evens out, chest rising and falling steadily. Taking in every detail of that Hunter, drinking in the sight of it. Learn your enemy. There's a feeling of the more she faces it. The less afraid and more use to them she would get. Because these death dealers were different than the ones during the war.

Genius schemes are hard to come by. Napalm-spewing death robots were not a stock standard machine of war on European battlefields in the 1940s, despite what some creative interpretations of popular media might like to imagine. Francois takes a second or so in silent evaluation, seeing the reach of that fire, its slow, relentless progress forward. It seems strong, but not exactly spry.

If there's a scheme in place, it's the kind that will mutate every moment.

Amarok, on my signal, engage at will»," he says, over comms. "We draw its focus away. Bait it and stay out of range. Amarok-5, 3, concentrate on damaging that flamethrower. Nunnehi-1," that would be their honorary member, "«stay concealed with Nambiza, watch for more hostiles. Everyone else, with me.»"

And he moves, then, not forward but aside, moving along the downwards slope of the terrain with long running lopes, giving only cursory attention to staying in cover behind the sparse woodland trees. They have only seconds to find a position, and while Francois moves in a general direction, it's up to the individual to find their best positioning before he gives the signal.

Back up against a tree, he peers towards the shape of the monster, and brings up his shotgun. "«Engage»."

Fire and brimstone meets thunder as he takes aim and shoots, armor-piercing rounds peppering super-heated metal chassis in a way he imagines is probably more annoying than excessively damaging.

Nambiza, how long?»"

It is a good thing that the warning was given and Claire is able to push up the goggles on top of her head; because, the arrival of the napalm spewing monstrocity might have blinded her. It looks a bit comical her having those goggles perched on top of her head, the hair sticking out around the strap. For a moment, she can only stare at it in awe at the robot. “I don’t ever remember them spitting fire like that.” Of course, her first memory of them is that big hulking bear robot and it gnawing on her arm while trying to protect Epstein.

Orders given by Amarok’s leader pull the regenerator out of her thoughts and memories. Back in the present, she moves with Francois. Taking the lead again as they move into position.

Claire ends up a few trees over from her small team when the order is given. Stepping out enough to bring up her own shotgun, using the tree to brace, she starts firing. Hopefully, it’ll focus on them instead of the others.

It's a good thing that Francois addresses Robyn directly - she had been to focused on the hunterbot stalking towards them, a terrifyingly familiar sight. She swallows down a lump in her throat - the last time she'd seen one of these this close, she hadn't been able to do much in the condition she was in. Or at all, really. She'd had to watch as Jolene, Claire, Lynette, Avi and others took them down.

And now she would be watching as the members of Team Amarok take their shot at one. As much as she would prefer to help, she offers Francois a silent nod and slips back towards Hana. This is better anyway. Still, she slips the shotgun from where she has it slung, taking a breathe to center herself as she watches the hunter for a moment longer, eyes starting to wander as she keeps look out for any other threats. She doesn't clutter the comms with questions to Hana, or encouragements to the others. She just keeps back and low, heart racing as the others leap into action. She shakes, but tries not to show it. This is just the start of the night, after all.

Within the round structure, Hana pauses and quickly takes stock of its interior, sliding the Banshee back into its holster. The familiarity of the layout and instrumentation is gratifying; she lets the door swing back closed behind her, though it cannot latch, and steps up to the console, bringing it awake. The system may be old, unpatched, but it's not this end that she's interested in… and it takes only a moment for her to confirm that no, there is no network link from here into the enclosure.

No surprise there.

The same can't be said for the mechanical noise from outside, which may be expected, after a fashion, but nonetheless startles. Hana glances over her shoulder at the damaged door, spares half a breath to listen to the team's reactions. Then she drops down beside the console, stripping back insulation from its power cord, sliding a featureless, 3D-printed case from a pocket and clipping its lead to the exposed wire. A single LED glows red.

Hana glances to Robyn as she enters, giving her a minute nod. "«#aqua|No obstacles on this end. I'll update in five minutes, outside.##»"

An eternity in cyberspace; equally an eternity to those dodging a Hunter. She's hoping for much less — but none of them know what they'll find in the enclosure, not in person, and not in the computer systems.

Closing her eyes, Hana reaches out to the adapter she's emplaced, and pushes through it to the systems fed by the power this turbine generates — almost certainly all of them.

Hana’s mind is flooded with branching pathways of radiance, like the root system of a great forest of which these windmills are the trees. Where those luminous roots go is a cluster of noise and textures, like hearing beating organs through soft outer layers of flesh. Roots, veins, trunk, organs, the analogies are all the same. The enclosure is alive in so much as anything with a digital signature can be.

The first thing Hana learns is that the power systems aren’t fully intact. The facility appears to be suffering from internal damage, entire wings of the building are offline and dark to her, their presence initially understood by measure of negative space. Everything here is branded with Pinehearst’s data architecture, she was familiar enough with the designs after assisting the Ferrymen in dealing with Arthur Petrelli years ago. It doesn’t look like the Institute updated much, just piggybacked on pre-existing network infrastructure and system architecture. They didn’t even change out the servers.

A floorplan is the first and simplest thing to come up, displaying the four domes as separate biome enclosures. A temperate forest, rainforest, desert, and even a reef. Those four surface-level enclosures encircle a fifth central enclosure which serves as a security hub for the facility. Each biome has a separate external entrance, all currently sealed to the outside via an airlock system. It appears as though the internal atmosphere is entirely synthesized and self-sufficient from the exterior. It looks like Hana could open any exterior airlock and Amarok could come in from one of those four environments to access the security hub.

From here, Hana gains access to the security systems. There’s no one and nothing in her way. She can see cameras, many of which are damaged and non-functional. The few that are operating are all on ground level, showing the different environmental micro-biomes with flickering, stuttering feed. Nothing inside appears to be in good condition.

The security system is in a state of suspended lockdown, numerous alerts have been ignored. The systems appear to have sat idle for several years, only coming back online within the last three weeks. The intel gained from their last operation was as fresh as could be obtained; pending Institute activity. Judging from the security logs, the facility was active up until June 2017 when it suffered some sort of security breach. There’ll be time to search the security logs later.

Many of the facility’s doors are non-operational, and judging from the readouts, the basement level of the facility is in even worse shape than the surface level, but has been systematically brought back online. It is a medical facility, hardware and software indicates genetic experimentation and research as Gilmore’s intel claimed. There’s no indication of how many Institute operatives may be inside, however. But there is one indication in the security system: there’s no Hunter robot on their security network. There’s no indication that there ever was a Hunter on their security network. The only other possibility is that the Institute team currently on premises bringing the systems back online may have brought it with them.

But in the moment, the how of it being here is far less important than the fact of the matter. Shotgun blasts ring out in the darkness, followed by the report of slugs slamming into metal. The Hunter jerks to the side from the force of the blows, but the armor on its flank is only dented from the rounds. It pivots its turret toward Claire, firing a blast of liquid fire that roars past her. The tree she ducks behind for cover is engulfed, and fiery spray sizzles on the arms of her AEGIS armor. The tree is a torch now, flames leaping up into dry pine branches, encouraged by the strong wind.

The mechanical behemoth hunches down and leaps ahead with a tremendous strength, slamming into the tree it had just set ablaze. The force of its weigh slamming into the burning tree splinters it in half, sending the fiery branches cascading into the other adjacent trees, setting them ablaze as well. This sparse forest will soon be an inferno with the way this thing operates.

The machine pivots, turning glowing eyes toward Claire as she scrambles back away from the falling, fiery tree. The burning timber crashes to the ground in a shower of embers, and the machine lets out a wholly affected growl of grinding metal wheels in its mouth and a shower of sparks between its mandible-like jaws.

In the vibrant light of the burning trees, the machine’s obvious damage is made readily apparent. It’s been welded back together in several places, armor replaced haphazardly, there’s even a piece of armor welded over one side of its face where eye-like sensors would be, fused to the side of its head. Whoever has been upkeeping the machine didn’t have the proper facilities to do so.

Curtis tips his head to Francois' order and then he's up and moving, sprinting along, spreading out a little bit from Francois so the big monster can't charge and take them all out at once. He flanks to the right, the big machine gun up and at his shoulder as he skids to a stop and takes a knee behind a tree, using it to block most of his body as he aims out from behind it. And there he waits for the word, his eyes narrowed, breathing slowing down so it doesn't throw his aim off. There he waits for the order. And when it comes? When he hears the order to open fire from Francois, Curtis unleashes absolute hell.

The machine gun is settled against his shoulder and bullets just start to pour from it, the casings spewing from the gun and falling like rain on the ground, leaving a brass trail as he moves. He doesn’t stay still. Be a moving target. When the monster leaps towards the tree Curtis uses that as an opportunity to shift his position, moving around it, trying to get behind it and pour fire into it’s ass end.

As he spots those potential weak points in the armor he focuses his fire there, at the poor welding and patch jobs on the monstrosity. “Bad patch jobs on this thing. Focus fire there, should knock some plates loose.” This into his comms, though whether his team can hear him over the roar of the machine gun is up in the air. He pauses in his shooting for just a moment to make sure the next drum mag is ready as his current one won’t last long at the rate he’s pouring fire into the machine, but then his hand is back in place, stabilizing the gun as he hustles through the woods, stitching that high caliber fire along those armored plates, seeking vulnerable spots in it’s metal hide.

On Francois’ words, Devon begins to move into position where he can see the flamethrower and get a clear shot. He motions for Lucille to mirror him as his path takes him wide, swinging past Claire to her far side. The burst of fire that takes over the tree forces him to duck and hare away from the inferno. However, once he’s clear of the second lieutenant’s position and the flame-engulfed tree, his rifle comes up and he begins firing on the flamethrower.

Devon’s movements do not stop when he begins firing on the Hunter. His feet continue to carry him keeping a constant circular path as to flank the robot, or at least not stay directly in front of it, but also there’s the need to keep his target in sight. «Acknowledged.» His voice is tight over the comms, from the effort of moving and firing at a small target.

When the Hunter turns on Claire, Devon lowers his rifle and pulls a grenade free of his belt. His strafing movements make an abrupt shift to the other direction so he’s heading toward the front of the robot. «Amarok-2, get clear! Gonna make it eat rock.» It’s nearly yelled into the comms, and serves as a warning. He’s about to launch an explosive into the mouth of the beast.

A look is cast onto the small, baseball-sized explosive, which allows his ability to synch with it. It takes time, hopefully there will be enough time. It’s risky, in the way only he takes risks. Devon keeps watch on the robot through his periphery, using shifting shadows and bodily movement to know where the target is. If he can pull it off, he’ll pull the pin and use his ability to throw the grenade at the open mouth full of gears and nastiness.

Following after Devon to mirror him the biokinetic ducks under the brush eyes gauging the monster before she's lifting a hand to unhook the RPG from her back, sliding the end into her hand while digging on her belt for a rocket, she crouches eyes widening when Claire is chosen as the Hunter bot’s target making her hasten sliding the rocket in and taking a knee lining her sights up with the thing.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

She notes Devon’s movements as he races away and pivoting just a bit, she waits. «Stick and move, incoming.> The moment that Devon is out of the way Lucille fires the rocket at the monster aiming for the flamethrower atop it. A FOOM sound can be heard and the woman isn't waiting to hit her mark before she's loading up another one into the launcher. Jogging sideways to keep it in view of her.

Flame, sparks, smoke, dust. Francois takes cover, reloads, then angles from low, peering over the top of his gun at the indications Curtis report — the patchwork armor, where plate metal shows mechanisms in between.

In the wake of Devon's grenade and Lucille's rocket, he doesn't assume the battle is won. He waits only for the smoke to clear before firing in quick successions, aim narrowed right down to precision as opposed to only harassment. Tempting though it is to harass Hana for an update, to check that everyone has all their limbs, still, Francois doesn't busy the comms.

And he trusts that Avi in, indeed, seeing this shit. As the kids would say.

Hands hastily brush at the smoldering bits on her suit while Claire stumbles backward, away from the hulking beast. There are a few spots where she feels a distinct stinging where some of the flaming liquid has found a chink in her gear, this gets a bit of a hiss; but there is no panic. She’ll probably have a few areas of burned skin to deal with for a few days.

Despite how terrifying her situation was at the moment, out of them all she was the perfect target and Claire knows it. Of any of them, she has a better chance to survive.

So her shotgun is brought up and another shot fired to keep it on her while the others are getting into position. At least until the warning comes, Claire turns and runs for cover, there is a glance over her shoulder to see if it still coming after her. Vaulting over the large trunk of a fallen tree, she drops down and waits for the Boom!

It takes a moment of trying to figure where the best place to slot into the room with Hana is, some place that offers a sort of advantage should anyone else arrive. Shotgun held tight, she settles in by the entrance, slinking back into shadows. She may not be able to turn invisible anymore, but that doesn't mean she hasn't learned how to stay out of sight organically - it's funny the lessons you learn to hold on to even without your ability/

Shotgun gripped tight, she otherwise continues in her assigned task, alternating between keeping an eye on Hana, and scanning both outside and inside as best as she can for incoming threats. She looks more for movement than she does for any sort of visible entity; blending grays and blacks and all that make it harder to register a person in the night than it does to register their movements.

It takes Hana a moment to orient herself within the system, to identify hardware and software, to survey organization of the filesystem. The division of labor that follows is unspoken, all but automatic, two minds thinking altogether too much alike. Tenzin scrutinizes the system itself, becoming familiar with layout, security systems and sensors, administrator accounts, network capabilities; Hana looks for current status. Occupancy, activity… or the lack thereof. She flips through the camera feeds, lingers on some of the obviously-damaged views, consults logs for explanation.

Three minutes (and change) have passed by the time the technopath returns to herself, after Tenzin has enabled the system's wireless functionality… and unlocked the nearest airlock. Unclipping the adapter and stowing it, Hana glances to Robyn, but what words she speaks are sent to the entire team.

"«#aqua|I have access,##»" Nambiza informs them all. "«Facility damaged, months abandoned. Probable competition inside. Entry is open, whenever you're done with their pet.»"

Curtis’ hail of gunfire has the predicted results, as showers of sparks fly off of the once heavily-armored hunter, it is the replacement parts the remain its weak point. The creature’s head jerks to the side when one well-placed shot blows the plating welded to its face apart in a shower of metal fragments. Sparks erupt from inside the hunter’s head, and it turns its flame-thrower toward Curtis, only to have the turret blasted apart by Lucille’s rocket-propelled grenade. The pieces rain down across the hunter’s back, followed by a rupture of its internal fuel line, resulting in a fiery explosion from its back right side.

Now partially engulfed in flames, the Hunter staggers to the side, drunkenly, then leaps toward Claire over the fallen tree, only to have a grenade propelled into the opening in its damaged head. The Hunter lands a few feet away from the blonde regenerator, barely able to emit a growl before the grenade goes off. The Hunter’s head explodes in a shower of shrapnel, and Claire is struck by the blast and the debris, shards of metal embedded into her body. The machine wobbles, aflame and headless, neck-mounted servos twitching and sparking, but it it doesn't stop.

The Institute Hunters has their processing units in their head. Decapitation disables them. This machine should—

There's a snap of metal and a pop of grinding and shearing and ports open up on the side of the Hunter’s torso. Two small cameras extend from the machine’s flank, redundant sensors that do not look nearly as sophisticated as its head-mounted ones did. It turns and ignores Claire, letting out a grinding shriek of protesting metal as it turns west and leaps over the fallen tree, at first looking as though it may retreat until it is lined up with Devon.

The Hunter charges, kicking up dirt in its wake and trailing roiling flames and smoke. Faster than something it's size should be, the Hunter leaps at Devon and tackles him to the ground. Claws sink into the AEGIS armor at Devon’s shoulders, hydraulic fluid drips down onto his face from the mangled stump of its neck. It lifts its other paw, pressing it on the center of his chest, intending to rip Devon apart.

Curtis does give a quick woop when the plate on the hunter's face comes tearing off. But that sound of victory dies in his throat as the hunter turns it's flamethrower towards him. "Shit." Curtis doesn't just stand there though, he's leaping to the side with a hard push, launching himself a few feet through the air to tumble. He comes up in time to watch the secondary explosion go off as the fuel line ignites. His machine gun is lifted to his shoulder and he resumes pouring fire into the machine. He's advancing towards it, step by step as it turns for Claire and then… it's head explodes. "Good shot Dev." He's empty on his drum mag, so he disconnects it and is reaching for the other one when… the machine keeps going.

There's a moment of stunned shock from Curtis before the machine gun is dropped on the ground, one hand dipping down for the big fifty caliber hand cannon at his hip. He draws it free and sprints for where the Hunter is barreling towards Devon, aiming for those cameras that have popped out of its sides. It's a small target, but those bullets pack even more punch than the machine gun so he's hoping to at least… nope, it's leaped on Devon. “Permission to do something stupid boss?” Curtis asks of Francois as he’s barreling towards the Hunter at full sprint, mustering every ounce of strength and speed he has in his body to try and race to Devon’s rescue. The soldier is fully intending to leap onto it's back and start putting bullets into every weak point he can find. Because it has his team mate pinned to the ground, ready to kill him, and that is so not okay.

As always, there’s a bit of a thrill when his particularly risky moves actually succeeds. Even though he’ll owe Claire a beer later for getting her almost blown up too, Devon allows himself a moment of victory. Who wouldn’t, after blowing the head off a killer robot and …not disabling it. Confusion dampens his win just a little bit when the Hunter moves like it’s going to retreat — maybe it’s programmed to try to escape after it’s reached a certain point of damage. It makes sense, given all the other things these robots have been seen doing. And if that’s what it’s doing, he takes a couple of steps intending to follow it and finish the job.

Victory and finishing off the first threat are summarily cut off when hundreds of pounds of metal and machine take him to the ground. Thankfully, he’s somewhat protected from the initial impact. Too bad it doesn’t protect against the panic that’s trying to sink its claws into him too. Devon twists his head to get away from the hydraulic fluid dripping down onto it, and his eyes squeeze into narrow slits to keep the greasy liquid out of them.

His hands grab for …something. It’s hard to see with his eyes squinted almost shut. But he searches by feel, abandoning the rifle all together and grenades forgotten. Even his sidearm is neglected, all things that wouldn’t do him much good right now. One eye is allowed to open a little further as his hands find that massive paw tearing at his chest. Hopefully Devon can escape getting fluid in it, with his face turned mostly away. His hands tightening around the wrist joint and he flails inwardly, against the rising terror, for his ability to synchronize. Fifteen seconds is a hella long time. But if he can gain control, he can lift the Hunter off of him.

Eyes widen as Devon is soon about to be eaten by a robot. Swearing to herself she hustles to the side carrying the RPG with her. A cry as she leaps off the ground to cover more ground, landing in a crouch and loading up another rocket. The seconds tick by, Luce knows Devon has the ability to lift the monstrosity off of him but he needs time. Pulling her sidearm out while balancing the RPG on her knee she fires off a few shots at the weak points to distract it from crushing Devon.

When given the opportunity Lucille holsters her sidearm again and lifts the rocket launcher. «Incoming, lift that fucker up.» So she can light it up. Readying herself for when she gets the chance to fire off another rocket.

Slugs flatten against the broadside of the robot's flat, a quick round that shatters clean away one of the little cameras— too late, as it gets its quarry in its sights and leaps. Francois feels the impact of robot upon Clendaniel like a dash of cold water, some lizard part of his mind that hasn't caught up to a world of supercharged armor rather certain than the youngest recruit is already torn asunder.

Curtis's voice clatters through his brain. There's no time nor sense to ask for clarity, but he knows which of the hounds are better up close and which are not, and Curtis falls within the former category. Lucille's voice is next, and he thinks: fifteen seconds.

Very well.

Leaving cover at a run, Francois takes a knee that drags a trench through rocky forest ground, and lines up his shotgun with great care. The series of hits ring like thunder as he fires slug after slug against the mechanisms that empower robot arm to robot body, hoping to disable the limb currently pressed down on Devon, aiming at hire hinges than where the wolfhound has human hands wrapped around metal.

Hydraulic fluid and metal pieces glitter in the air, and as soon as he's empty, Francois reloads, and takes the moment of peace to speak; "«Amarok-4, count ten and get clear for 5.»"

As soon at the robot shows sign of relent, Francois is dashing forward, intent to grab Devon and drag him clear.

As that robot lands in front of her, Claire’s eyes widen in realization — Oh crap! Cover is ineffective when the thing you are avoiding is suddenly right in front of you. There is just enough time to close her eyes, turn her head, and lift her arms in an act to protect her head, when it explodes.

There is searing pain from the impact of metal into her flesh, only briefly before it goes numb from shock, though she Claire be thankful for the armor protecting her from most of it. Still she will probably spend some time in medical getting slivers dug out of her skin so it can heal. It made her miss the days when her ability would just spit stuff like that out.

Though she protected her head, Claire still pucks a small sliver out of her cheek, before trying to leverage herself up on top of the fallen tree. This was going to make the rest of the mission uncomfortable. A sharp twist of pain, pulls her attention to a rather large piece sticking out of her side. “Great,” she practically growls out, under her breath. Fingers curl around it and yank it out; the prickling sensation of her ability already working on repairing the damage. Blood still seeps out sluggish, at least for a short time. “«Amarok-2, injured, but operational.»” Another mangled piece pulled out of her arm. Better there than her head.

Another piece if plucked out of her leg, before Claire gets to her feet in an attempt to get back into the action.

Watching Claire go down, Robyn grits her teeth. She winces when Lucille pulls up the RPG. Cheering silently from the sidelines is a strange place to be in a situation such as this. Hana's last comment furrows her brow, drawing her gaze back towards the technopath, and back to her job of keeping an eye out for any threats.

A telepath would certainly be raises an eyebrow at the various unvoiced questions and concerns filtering through the SESA Agent's mind. Competition? Abandoned? How old had Gilmore's intel been, she now finds herself wondering. What about Dunlap? She would hope she's not the only one who has these questions, but she knows it's also not the time.

Hana turns her head aside as the exterior blossoms with light, wincing from its intensity in her enhanced vision. Once her eyes have readjusted, she looks back to see Devon pinned — but she trusts Amarok has that well in hand. Besides, the major isn't really loaded for Hunter, except to slow it down; that one's already stopped.

She reaches back to the facility's systems in the interim, checking the doors again, attempting to determine anything about the Institute team inside — where they are, whether they're aware of the commotion out here. She doesn't expect much, but it's worth trying.

As Hana rips through the Geopoint enclosure’s systems, looking for signs of the Institute, the firefight nearby continues unabated. Gunfire plonks and plinks off of the Hunter’s hardened armor, sparks showering down on Devon along with crumbling pieces of ablative armor. One of the side-mounted cameras explodes from a direct hit and it dangles by exposed wiring along the headless machine’s side.

As Curtis comes in he impacts the Hunter with his full force. Unlike trying to move something inanimate or wheeled, the Hunter offers significant resistance and seemed to be blindly aware of Curtis’ presence. It's opposite-side legs dig in to the ground, bracing for the impact even as Curtis’ feet press into the dirt and he vaults up onto to back, tying to line up a shot to fire down into the chassis without risking injuring Devon.

At the same time, Francois shotgun fire pulverized one of the hunter’s front legs, demolishing a joint and sending it collapsing down onto that side. The machine lets out a whining sound, small holes opening in its back and serpentine tendrils of metal lashing out to wrap around Curtis’ waist, while there slither down from the underbelly to Devon. There's a powerful electrical current that crackle-snaps through the cables, disabling Curtis just long enough for the powerful soldier to be bucked off of its back. But when Devon is electrocuted…

Francois racks another shell into the shotgun. Muzzle flash explodes from the barrel, a spent shell is sent spiraling end over end with smoke trailing from within.

Claire drops a piece of bloody metal to the ground, droplets dangle from her fingertips.

Lucille’s scream is muffled, RPG raised even as her eyes widen.

Curtis sails back through the air, impacting the ground with his shoulders and rolling head over heels to land in a perfect crouch, fingers dug into the earth.

Robyn watches as Devon screams, back arching, mouth agape, grass blowing out around him as if struck by a tremendous breeze.

Or a shockwave.

Inside the system, Hana finds a sputtering camera showing another Hunter, on it's side and disabled by what must have been a hellacious gunfight. Bullet casings riddle the ground, scorch marks from explosions, dried blood. How many had been in this facility? Who destroyed them? Where are the Institute personnel?

A shockwave hits the windmill, jostling Hana and Robyn from their inspections, causing the structure to vibrate loudly and who with those hollow metal reverberations.

A shockwave hits Claire and knocks her off of her feet.

A shockwave hits Francois and throws him onto his back, gun held firmly in a tight grip and pulled to his chest.

A shockwave hits Curtis, and he hunches down against it in his crouch, dragged back by the force.

A shockwave hits Lucille, but she's already firing.


In an instant of violence, Devon unleashes a sudden shockwave if violent force from his body. It's enough to send him jerking up off of the ground, arms and legs shaking, grass blown flat in a circle around him. The Hunter is thrown into the air by the force, one leg blasted clear off by the concussive eruption.

Trees bend back from the force, smaller branches are snapped off entirely, pine needles scatter in a dusty cloud around Devon. Lucille’s RPG streaks up to the airborne Hunter and strikes it mid-air, detonating the machine and sending burning scrap raining down a hundred feet away from Wolfhound.

Devon’s back hits the ground, his arms and legs numb.

On the damaged cameras in the basement level, Hana sees dust settle from the ceiling of the enclosure. If the Institute is there, they heard that.

A piece of fiery metal lands a few feet from where Francois lays on his back, a gold and red seal of the Department of Evolved Affairs visible on it's burning surface.

The Hunter is no more.

When the shockwave has passed, both of them, the one from Devon's power show, and the one from Lucille's RPG, Curtis straightens up from his crouch. He takes a step forwards but pauses when his leg twitches. "Fucking electricity. Did not know they could do that. Damn but they were built well." He waits a moment then settles his weight on the leg and then hustles over to Devon at close to a Sprint to drop down near him and check the younger man over for obvious injuries, though given the weight that was atop him the injuries probably wouldn't be so obvious. "You okay kid?" Yeah, Curtis is no medic but he's going to try to be there. His big hand cannon is finally holstered and his eyes cast about for his machine gun, which he dropped in his haste to rush to his comrade's aid.

"Well that was fun." Curtis chuckles despite himself, but he doesn't try to get Devon up or hurry him off the ground. "You could have internal injuries after that, be careful, take your time getting up. I'm gonna go get my gun." A quick grin from him as he pushes to his feet and walks towards where he last saw the machine gun. He started the mission out stoic and quiet, but now he's grinning and excited. The hunt, the fight always does that to him. Gets the blood pumping, makes him feel alive.

He rises from his crouch at Devon’s side and moves on over into the woods, rooting around a bit before he comes up with the machine gun. He checks the weapon over as he walks towards Claire next. “You okay?” He calls over as he draws closer. She usually is, but with her ability slowing down he likes to check and be sure. He finishes checking the weapon over for damage and swaps the drum magazines out on it before slinging the machine gun against his back once more.

The first thing Devon does after hitting the ground is… well, nothing. He doesn’t move, except for the subtle rise and fall of his abdomen as he breathes. Every muscle remains taut, from eyes to legs, like he forgot how to relax. Curtis’ voice is a distant thing until he’s actually prodding and looking for injuries. Then his eyes come open enough to squint at the sky until the older man is leaning into his field of vision. “Yeah,” is a grunted response, “I’m fine.” Except for the hydraulic fluid on his face and the electrocution his body endured, anything else is definitely internal and yet unknown.

A breath escapes him when his teammate runs off again, and his eyes slip closed. He needs to get up again. Devon knows this, and yet his body doesn’t seem to be ready to cooperate. His eyes come open and he fumbles for purchase, with arms and legs failing to work as intended. But he does eventually get himself turned over onto his stomach. From there it’s an awkward lurch maneuvering limbs he can’t entirely feel until he’s on his knees. His head settles between his shoulders on forearms braced against the ground, jaw clenched against the awakened pains of being nearly crushed and ripped in half.

«Amarok-3,» he calls into his comms, «checking in.» He sounds a little rattled and disoriented, without the usual excitement — not even the tired giddiness — of having caused some kind of large explosion. He gives himself another beat after letting his team know his status before pushing himself to his feet. Even that’s a somewhat uncoordinated move, not unlike a new foal finding their legs for the first time.

Devon a little wobbly on legs that don’t quite feel like they’re properly his own. His gaze travels slowly from his feet to the ground and his surroundings, to locate the rest of his team. “What…” he breathes out the question as he takes in the flattened grass and teammates picking themselves up. With a furrowed brow he starts walking to regroup with the others, though one of his legs gives up after a few steps and takes him to a knee. He picks himself up after a second and continues with a vaguely unsteady gait.

Bingo. One Hunter down, the biokinetic thinks to herself as the explosion rains down flaming pieces of metal, just missed by a sharp piece of the Hunter she looks coldly down at the thing. Lucille’s attention goes to Devon as he regains himself and Francois is there to help him, sighing relief. He's alive. No losing kid brothers this day. A brief look up to the sky, Thanks Mom.

Running forward to converge with the others, there's a look over her shoulder and the woman stops just short of Robyn and Hana with a curt nod. Robyn gets a dark grin thrown her way with a raised eyebrow in passing. Fun right?

A cracking noise as Lucille pops her neck and rolls her shoulders, RPG pointed down but not reloaded yet. A hand lays idly on another rocket. Time to move forward.

On his feet, dragging his attention off of the flaming piece of robot debris halfway buried in the dirt, Francois sweeps a look around the immediate space. In the time it took for the shockwave to throw him off his feet, he's halfway forgotten what it was he was trying to do the moment before it did, until Devon reports his check in over comms, and he sees him getting to his feet.

Amarok-3»," he starts to say, then stops, and then starts again as Devon half-collapses. Shotgun slung onto a shoulder, Francois pulls him properly onto his feet, his degree of concern slightly out of place for a battlefield, or what was a battlefield — less the steely quest for assurance that everyone is whole and healthy, but confused about what just happened and what that might consequently mean. "Take it easy," he instructs, off comms. (Charming American idioms, for Americans. He has a collection.) "We can get you to an extraction point if we need you to."

Hard to negotiate the pride of young heroes. God knows no one could tell him anything in his mid-twenties.

Hostile is destroyed. Amarok»," Francois says through the comms, "«Nambiza, Nunnehi-1, check in.»"

Blown off her feet, Claire doesn’t exactly get up right away. There might be a slowly growing puddle of blood where it drips lazily from her side, though it slows with every passing moment. She is okay for the moment. Her suit looks like swiss cheese, though and she has lost blood. So she might be a little woozy. But when Curtis approaches and asks if she is okay, the regenerator lifts a blood covered hand and gives him a thumbs up, a droplet of blood falling from her hand to ground.

“Gimme a minute,” she murmurs out, letting her arm drop back to the leafy forest floor. Her body tingles all over with the sluggish healing of her flagging ability. It wants to spit out some of the deeper shards, but it can’t.

There is a debate going on in her head whether to mention them.

Fingers seek out another piece lodged in her other elbow when she tries to bend it. Anyone watching her get to watch her pull the long needle like piece out and toss it aside with a half-assed throw. Finally, Claire does something rare, she holds a hand up to Curtis. “Help me up?” Sometimes, even she isn’t too proud to ask for a little help. “Onto my feet,” She adds just in case he gets any ideas.

Robyn finds herself suddenly off balance from the shockwave, and while she manages to stay upright, it's not without grasping for the wall for aid. A look is offered immediately to Hana to make sure that everything is okay on her front, before she turns her attention out to the hulking wreck of a hunter bot. "God damn," she can't help but say out loud as she stares at it for a moment. Her eyes scan for Devon in an attempt to hide her panic. It's only when he speaks up at she lets out an audible breath of relief

Francois snaps her back to attention, huffing out a breath and shaking her head. "«Nunnehi-1, checking in,»" she offers back, before again turning to check on the Major - not that she has any doubts that Hana can look after herself. She moves to the door of the structure, hand tightening around her Banshee for a moment as she looks over the scene outside, and again she finds herself breathing out a phrase.

"God damn."

The shockwave rattles Hana's attention back to her present, physical surroundings; she, too, braces herself against the wall. Meeting Robyn's look, she nods briefly.

"«Nambiza, check. Expect whoever's inside knows we're here now,»" Hana states, which likely comes as a surprise to no one on the team but needed to be said anyway. Moving herself back out of the structure, she surveys first the people, and then the fire and metal now dotting the landscape. A brief nod is given to the team, quiet recognition of their — rather thorough — success.

The major doesn't linger over it, though; she readies her weapon once again, and herself to move forward on Francois' cue.

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

Habitat Dome D

8:37 pm local time

Metal grinds on metal, pushing hard against old hydraulics that have not budged in years. The inner airlock door of Habitat Dome D is forced open by sheer strength, power having long since been cut from this wing of the enclosure. As Curtis, Lucille, Francois, and Devon wedge the door open, pushing the foot-thick doors apart enough for the team members to slip through, musty air that carries a swampy wetness wafts out from the opening.

There is no light within this, or any enclosure, anymore. Power has been diverted to essential subterranean and central security systems, as the wiring in these wings suffered damage at some point in the past. Flashlights illuminate the darkness, revealing a soaring dome of octagonal tiles blotched green with algae and grime. A sickly pine forest spreads in every direction following the perimeter of the dome, along with granite boulders. A single concrete-paved path winds between the trees in single-file width.

Not far away from the entrance, a body lays slouched up against an outcropping of bare granite. The figure is dressed in the white biohazard suit of an Institute retriever, black dome gas mask shattered and a long decomposed corpse within. There are slashes across the containment suit, dark brown and black stains, weathered flesh. Something tore open the corpse’s stomach and now dried entrails are spilled among the pine needles.

Grunting with the effort of pulling the door open with the others, Lucille slips inside to the enclosure and shifts her gaze from one end to the other, the body in her sights as Lucille makes her way closer eyeing the corpse and the entrails with a stare. Someone didn't finish all their dinner. Luce wondered if whatever it was.. if it was still hungry. Mouth tightens into a line.

Her eyes squint at the black shattered dome mask and sneers, one less Institute affiliate to bring down but Luce had wanted the chance to do so, her expression puzzled as the realization finally dawns on her. No guards, just hunters.. Someone's been here first. Eyes looking to Francois and then Claire with a incline of her head. Eyebrows pinched together, What The Fuck Is This? The possibilities running through her mind, someone else had gotten to their target before them. Dearing. Her mind wandering to consider other private companies but she's drawing a blank.

Her RPG long since strapped to her back, she flicks the Banshee out as her eyes swim to that golden amber glow as she sweeps her biotic field around them pressing to push at her limits, people are here.

What a time to be powerless, or functionally so, at least. That's the first thought that runs through Robyn's head as they enter into the darkened enclosure. As torches flicker to life, Robyn winces as the rapid change in the lighting makes her eyes ache the slightest bit, even with contacts in.

She clicks hers on, sweeping around the area in a slow, deliberate manner. As much as her monochrome vision could be an impairment, here it actually helps her focus a bit, the darkness hanging at the edge of their artificial light blending into her vision and allowing her to relax a bit. Her eyes fall on the biohazard clad figure, long dead.

Well. Maybe some of her SESA training can actually be of value here. Her banshee is exchanged for her pistol, and she slips away from the main cluster just enough to be able to kneel down beside the body. She runs her flashlight up and down it, looking for anything else that may stick out to her.

Really, her main takeaway is that their fun is just beginning. "«Gas masks. This may get uncomfortable,»" she remarks. It could mean anything. It could be part of a standard procedure containment uniform. What it implies, though, is mildly unsettling. It brings back more memories of the Arcology, at the very least.

Curtis advances slowly, moving out and to the side of the group as they enter the building, flanking position just to be safe. The machine gun is stowed for the moment, the big hand cannon out and in hand, a tactical flashlight clipped to the barrel to light things up. His pace is slow, he's scouting and watching the flank, letting others make observations and speculate.

After a few moments of examination, Robyn can tell the cause of death was disembowelment, as if that was up for debate. Catastrophic blood loss is evident on the vinyl of the containment suit. Curiously, the retriever had been shot a few times before being gutted, but not by anything as primal as a Hunter robot. This looks like it was done with a knife. A really big knife.

Notably the dead Retriever's sidearm is missing, radio too. Whoever killed this person — a year or more ago judging from decomposition — they likely took everything of value he had.

Still a little unsteady, Devon falls into position after pushing open the door. He allows his gaze to wander while dragging the shoulder strap to his rifle over his shoulder and drawing his sidearm. It takes a couple of tries, and he looks down at his hand to make sure of his grip. That numbness continues to linger in his limbs, making him a little slower.

With a small shake of his head, he puts all that aside. As frustrating as it is, dwelling on it won’t make it go away and won’t help the mission. Dev flexes the fingers of his free hand, and gives his toes a stretch — at least he believes he does — while turning his attention to watching their perimeter. The decomposing body can be left to those of a higher pay grade, his purpose is to stop hostile forces.

Proper field examination of a body is far more time consuming task than Robyn will be able to accomplish right now, but not for nothing she has managed to piece together some information that may prove useful. Hopefully. "«A hunter didn't do this, at least,»" she reports to the others over coms. It's meant to be some sort of reassurance. "«Someone really didn't like them. Body's marked with ballistic entry wounds and cut open with… some sort of knife.»"

Moving torn flaps of the containment suit and turning over hands, she grimaces. "«I'm no ME, but this person's been dead for- long enough to not smell anymore.»" Has this place been abandoned longer than they thought? Have they been played? "«Gear's missing. Anything useful.»"

She reaches up to the gas mask last, breaking away a piece of the cover to see if she can get a better look at- anything really. But besides confirmation that this man has been dead for some time, there's nothing more that she can see, literally or figuratively. She stares at the body - hesitant to decide if she considers them unfortunate or not - for a moment longer before rising back up to her feet.

Hana focuses her attention on the darkness within the dome, keeping her infrared goggles clear of the flashlights shining around — except when she sets them aside for close inspection, as with the corpse on the ground. Close enough to study the cuts, not so close as to impede Robyn's examination.

"«Machete, maybe,»" is the major's opinion of the damage to the corpse. That would be the classic tool, anyway. "«Not exactly typical Institute gear.»" Though they do have a rainforest here.

Commentary given, Hana refocuses outward, moving off the path, old pine needles crunching quietly underfoot. Meanwhile, Tenzin monitors the data from camera feeds, watchful for anything worth noting — or warning of.

Everything feels empty, from the habitat to the security systems. There's still people here, that much is certain from the computer hardware showing short uptime from recent reboots, but it feels like nothing is nearby. Nothing except the dead, anyway.

As Amarok moves forward, the forest floor continues to rise with granite boulders and towering pines, but the concrete path continues to meander unimpeded at an even level between the more difficult terrain. There's obvious signs of a conflict here, old bullet impacts in the trees, exploded bark, and up ahead on the trail a discarded firearm nearly split in half by gunfire. It looks like the kind of SMG the Retriever’s used in service to the Institute. Probably the dead man’s.

With the infrared goggles, Hana notices deactivated security cameras perched in the trees, damaged by gunfire, nothing of note from them. It isn't long before Amarok is closing in on the sealed doors to the security hub; a valve of circular steel doors divided by a central seam, just like the outside one.

Beyond here, there's no indication that anyone is present in the security hub, but according to schematics the elevator and stair access to the subterranean research level is accessible here. Over the door, a single fluorescent light flickers and sputters in and out, revealing a recent stain of blood on the door and claw marks in the steel. The path forks here, too, likely forming a circuit that connects the other three biomes that radiate out from the security hub.

Trailing behind the rest, keeping an eye out behind them, Claire’s flashlight sweeps this way and that looking at the contained environment around them. Her shot gun is slung over her shoulder so that her other hand can press against the worst of her wounds, helping keep it shut while her ability works. At least she isn’t dripping as much blood anymore.

Claire will still be cleaning a lot of blood off her equipment later.

Night vision goggles are pulled down again the further she travels into the dark dome. It helps her keep her footing so that she doesn’t fall and rip open what’s been healed already or jar the splinters still lodged in her body.

When they reach the fork in the road, she glances over at her leaders, awaiting orders.

The treetops are peered at, the more rough terrain as they walk by. Lucille is impressed by this, be it from the Institute or not. All the good things these group of science minded people can do and.. look at what they do with it. She has a bad taste in her mouth as she keeps pace just a little ahead of Claire, the blonde woman earns her gaze as amber eyes study her wound.

She'd be fine but she still felt for their Second. There wasn't much she could do for her and so Luce hopped that the wound would seal up soon, she didn't feel like they would be sitting still so to speak for very long.

As they come to the fork and the security hub, eyes flash as she walks just forward enough to have it in her field of influence reaching out to feel any people around. Like Claire, Lucille awaits further instruction but she’d rather walk into the security hub already, she doesn't have a good feeling.

Having remained central to the group, Francois quietly steps nearer once they reach the doors, lifting his flashlight to run its beam over the deep trenches clawed into the metal, and the wet blood spattered there. The sheen of it glimmers for all to see, but he observes, quietly, "«This was shed not long ago.»"

A beat, and he lowers the flashlight, holsters the Banshee, a certain amount of bracing himself for another round of conflict behind every blind corner they come across — and the suspense provided by even the clear ones. "«They know we're here,»" he reiterates to the team and guest stars. "«So be on your guard. Remember, we aim to capture.»" He looks back to Claire and nods to her, glancing to Lucille, he says, "«Be ready to advance.»" To Curtis, he tips his head, "«Help me with the doors.»"

With Curtis’ aid, Francois is able to force the doors to the security hub open. These don't feel as though they'd been sealed for as long, and when they come grinding open it reveals a short set of metal stairs that ascends up roughly five feet to a circular room. Two banks of computer consoles and monitors are collecting dust in the room. A laptop, newer and powered on, is left plugged in to one of the terminals and running a system diagnostic. Hana notices it's lack of wireless ports or devices, recognizing that Institute air gap against her ability. But now able to access the physical device, less a defense.

There's old shell casings on the ground here. Some shotgun shells, too. Bullet holes pepper the walls, none looking recent. Though there's a bloody drag mark up the steps, ending where the body of a soldier — middle-eastern, maybe Pakistani, mid 30s — in black fatigues and body armor lays with arms crossed over his chest. It's the same gear the soldiers on the dam were armed with back at the Ross Dam in Washington: Institute Remnant security.

Four other doorways here all lead to separate biomes than the one Wolfhound came through, all closed. Behind all of the computer consoles there is an elevator access and a stairwell, both that lead down to the research level. Curiously, the elevator doesn't look large enough to move heavy equipment, and there's no ramps in here that indicate supplies were moved in this way. The schematics Hana has don't indicate other elevators either. There may be parts of this facility that weren't built when the schematics were made, or intentionally never recorded.

A prompt comes up on the laptop.

Data Decryption Complete
Security Camera Still Frames Accessible

Curtis nods his head and steps forwards next to French, helping haul the doors open. Once they're open he takes the stairs first quickly, one of his kukri in one hand, the banshee in the other. But when there's no threat upstairs he sheathes the knife and holsters the Banshee and starts to wander around the room, leaving the tech to those that know it. Instead he's investigating the signs of battle. "None of this is new, though that laptop definitely is. Looks like this happened a while ago. Some kind of schism in the Institute survivors on how to move forwards? Or something else entirely?" He muses aloud to the group in general as he walks around, fingers moving over bullet marks on the walls, murmuring calibers softly, making sure nothing stands out as being out of place or different from the rest of the scores on the wall.

When the doors are pushed open, Devon moves in after Curtis. He angles to go partly around the perimeter of the room — to clear that side of things of anything or anyone that might be unexpected — then cut across to the stairwell and elevator. His steps are becoming more steady, though his legs and arms remain numb and he’s still more careful about his movements than he might otherwise be.

“My guess is on something else,” he replies as he takes up a position beside the elevator. Dev’s voice sounds a little off still, as whatever happened with that Hunter had left him shaken. His concerns are back-burnered, though. There will be time after the mission to debrief and figure out what just happened. At the elevator is where his focus remains as he stands as cover there, ready to engage if the doors open suddenly or if footfalls come up from the stairs.

Filtering inside with the rest of the team, Hana pauses by the corpse, crouching down to study its features, its positioning. "«I expect his friends are the ones deeper in,»" is her contribution to the current speculation.

Rising, she steps over to the laptop, leaning one hand on the desk it rests on and examining the readout on its screen: a diagnostic of the facility's security systems. Its lack of native wireless capability means little when the computer's linked into the system she's already penetrated, and though the access is roundabout, it takes but moments for her to pull up what, exactly, the program is trying to repair.

That the program is only just now finished is another sign of present occupation.

She lingers only briefly over the still shots that have been restored, checking for any actually relevant information that's worth copying, or mentioning to the others.

When Francois tells them to be ready, Claire swings the shotgun off her shoulder and moves in after the door is opened. The barrel of the shotgun is pointed towards the floor, but at ready. A pair of spent shotgun shells are toed, thoughtfully and the corpse only holds a brief and mild interest. There are no opinions offered only silence and thoughtful observation of what others point out.

Despite those earlier injuries, already the regenerator is already moving a little better. It feels like she has thorns under her skin, but it isn’t enough to stop her, the ability dulling the sensation just enough. This in mind, she stations herself near the top of the stairs, head tilted to listen for anything suspicious.

As Hana picks through the system and the laptop finishes its diagnosis, a terminal screen pops up showing an interface with the facility’s security network.

Security Alert
Automated Security Message:

SECURITY ALERT - Geopoint Scientific Enclosure is under automated lockdown.
SECURITY ALERT - Automated security alert sent to SUNSTONE.
DETAILS - Massive power surge detected. Interior atmosphere compromised.

Security Cameras: ACCESS GRANTED
CAM1 (inoperable, last frame unavailable)
CAM2 (inoperable, last frame unavailable)
CAM3 (inoperable, last frame available)
CAM4 (inoperable, last frame unavailable)
CAM5 (inoperable, last frame available)
CAM6 (inoperable, last frame unavailable)
CAM7 (inoperable, last frame available)
CAM8 (inoperable, last frame unavailable)
CAM9 (inoperable, last frame available)
CAM10 (inoperable, last frame unavailable)
CAM11 (inoperable, last frame available)
System Log: inoperable
Climate Controls: inoperable
Gemini Containment: operational
Power Systems: unknown
Redundant Power Systems: operational
Automated Security: unit 1 (offline), unit 2 (online), unit 3 (offline), unit 4 (offline), unit 5 (online)

With not even as much as a twitch of her brows, Hana deactivates the two remaining automated security systems, a pair of turrets mounted in the downstairs hallway to secure the elevator and stairs. Then, as she cycles through the data contained in the remaining security images, she sees glimpses of the other biomes as they were a year ago when the security system was apparently shut down due to a catastrophic power failure.




Then, Hana finds camera footage from somewhere else in the facility, somewhere they hadn’t been yet. With a thought, it displays on the laptop.


Human experimentation. Claire recognizes the setup, in part. The luminous blue tubing matches the devices that laboratory specimens were hooked up to in the arcology, under the supervision of Doc Jonas Zimmerman. But then, the next frame Hana gets to reveals something even more surprising.


The Horsemen.

Last month a Wolfhound operations team led by Avi Epstein went into the PNW Dead Zone to interface with a group called the Guardians who helped fight against the Mitchell regime during the Civil War. There, they discovered a paramilitary faction called the Horsemen were attacking Yamagato Industries transports, and were armed with a prototype version of Horizon armor the likes of which had never been seen before. Now, on footage from 2017, Wolfhound is brought face to face with them again.

The Horsemen were the security threat that took down Geopoint.

Finished with her assessment of the data, Hana defers to Francois. Whatever there is down here, the Institute lost hold of it and are attempting to reclaim it.

Francois' expression remains neutral even as he recognises that last image shining from the laptop screen. Maybe those that know him a little better can note the subtle twinges of tension at the corners of his mouth, the way his eyes squint, but then, he prefers that people do not know him better in general. He still holds the Banshee, now idle at his side, glancing to Hana and then stepping back from where he'd been crowding the laptop.

"Perhaps they did half the work for us, getting in, compromising their security measures. Met resistance and made a mess getting out." The question of why will have to be gnawed at later, with a half a dozen false conclusions pondered over and discarded, but his attention turns to the elevator and the stairwell.

"Amarok-5, with me," is a trace unusual — not that Francois minds going first, but often prefers to watch the backs of his colleagues than expect them to watch his. But a dogged curiosity compels him forward with Lucille, relying on her better senses.

Horsemen. Lucille had heard about these Horsemen but hadn't gotten to see them in action yet, how they measure up against them. The video gives her a look though and she doesn't like the way those orange eyes glow or their placement it's as if they were made to be off putting and alien like.


When she's called upon by Francois there's a curt nod and she's padding softly at his side making sure not to make a sound, her eyes swirl and glow that amber gold as she sweeps her senses around them and forward as they move. This isn't like any op they’ve done in a while. Of course there are other groups, bounty hunters but in Lucille's eyes none that could really give Wolfhound.. a run for their money.

Memories of the raid on the Alaska facility filter through Lucille's concentration as they pass down further, there were people here. Lu was ready to find them. Her Banshee sits comfortably in her hands and she's sure to push her bio senses past in front of she and Francois and the others. “Nothing yet.” She breathes softly but she continues her scan, not willing to let them be caught unaware. Her curiosity runs as deep as Francois’s.

As Francois and Lucille take point down the stairs, the remaining members of Wolfhound file two-by-two through the door and into the landing, lit only by a red emergency light that flickers and sputters with irregular power. The stairwell descends three levels, down switchback landings, with iron rails painted caution-yellow and striped with black. Over the railing, the stairwell can be seen to descend a dozen more levels, putting the subterranean area significantly below the surface facility.

On the way down the stairs, there’s more sign of past conflict. Bullet holes pepper the walls, old shell casings covered with dust lay at Wolfhound’s feet. Halfway down, they find an Institute security officer, his flesh pulled taut around his cadaverous features, eyes milky and shriveled in their sockets, covered in a layer of dust. He’s been riddled with bullets, dark stains on the wall behind him. Whoever was here, years ago, it appears they fought their way through the facility.

By the time Wolfhound reaches the bottom of the stairs, Lucille can feel the presence of life-signs beyond the steel security door that leads into the basement level. The schematics Hana pulled for the structure don’t clearly indicate what’s on the other side of the door, but it isn’t locked. Several rounds were shot through that some time in the past, and the door hangs partly open. As the other team members reach the bottom of the stairs, they join Francois and Lucille in hearing a conversation not far away.

“…fuck are we going to do?” A man asks, agitated.

“How the fuck should I know? Did she get outside comms working?” A younger man with a Chinese accent inquires.

“No, comms are still down. The broadcast antennae might not even be intact.” Comes a third voice, a woman with a British accent.

Fuck. I’m out of ammo, and if that thing gets in through the dome, we’re all fucked.” The first man spits back to the others, fear in his voice.

“Calm the fuck down, Jeffries. They’ll send a recovery team.” The British woman tries to soothe things.

“Fuck the recovery team,” Jeffries fires back, “where did that fucking thing even come from. It didn’t answer to any of the verbal deactivation commands!”

The man with the Chinese accent interjects, “It’s a new model. Even the ones in the arcology didn’t look like that. It’s a Full Roaming series, biofuel ingestion, independent AI modeling. It’s a Gen 3.

“The Institute made Gen 3 Hunters?” The British woman asks, incredulous.

“No.” The Chinese man retorts. “I knew a guy on the prefab team. The prototype schematics weren’t even finished yet before everything went tits-up.”

“Then, where the fuck— ”

“I have no idea.”

Hey,” Jeffries chimes back in. “Maybe… maybe it killed whoever else is out there. Maybe that’s what all the fucking noise was? Right? Maybe it got inside? Maybe we’re next!

“Jeffries,” the British woman notes, “shut the fuck up and keep an eye out.”

Falling in near the back of the group, Robyn trades her pistol back for the Banshee. Focused ahead, she pushes out lingering thoughts about the Hunterbot, anxiety about what the hell happened here and when?, and any other distracting thoughts as she tries to bring herself back fully to what matters: This mission.

But as they approach the door, as they begin to hear voices, she slows, hesitates. Listens. Chews on her lips, waits for Francois and Lucille to push on ahead, to surprise whatever's waiting on the other side. The mention of a Gen3 Hunter, though - her eyes widen. That alone explains so much about what they encountered outside. She looks over towards Hana, mouthing "Gen3?" silently at her.

In truth, she empathises with the detail on the other side of that door, in their fear of the Hunters. This, at least, they can agree on, as much as she tries not to show it.

Crowding by the door to one side, Francois is still and attentive, listening to the conversation filtering through the partial opening before seeking eye contact with Lucille under the low red glow of emergency lighting. It only takes a subtle indication from Lucille to indicate to him that they're all within her range, a subtle indication in return that she has freedom to engage.

Francois does not wait for alarm to be raised, or for Lucille to indicate any further. He knows that her ability to disable a man's sight and reduce it to blurry, oily shapes is as fast as flicking a switch, and as he grips the door and slams it open wide, he intends to move just as quickly by raising the Banshee for the furthest warm body of the three and pulling the trigger. It emits its silent, disabling cone of gut-churning subsound, a strange sensation for anyone wired to anticipate the thunder of gunshot.

And he keeps moving in the interests of clearing the door, scoping the room for further threat, for cover as needed — and if not, he makes for his target.

Bringing up the rear, Claire waits patiently for everyone to filter through past her and down the stairs. A glance goes back to the room, especially the laptop, brows furrowing a little in thought. The recognition of the blue glow in one of those pictures, brings back memories she tries to keep buried. Dr. Zimmerman’s work was far reaching it seemed.

Once the last body is past her, Claire moves to follow, footsteps light as she can. Body still working to make up for the blood loss, at least color was coming back to her skin.

Even over the sound of multiple pairs of boots coming down the stairs, Claire could hear voices ahead, tilting her head in an attempt to hear. Though she was too far back at the moment, but by the reactions of others… it wasn’t good. Tensing when her lead jumps into action.

Nodding, Lucille feels out for the two nearest to her in her field of influence and in her mind it's like the snap of fingers before two of the enemy are blinded, the world murky and heavily shaded, shapes hard to distinguish from one another. Near complete but not because of it being focused on two people. Following in after Francois, Lucille keeps her focus on keeping two of them blinded as she too points her Banshee towards the next target eyes flashing gold with a glare.

There's a moment where she wants to engage further and she almost goes there but the thought of her orders and just how easy it is to lose control hold her back and Lu stands her ground with amber gold gaze on the target as she fires the banshee.

A kick or two to the head wouldn't hurt but they need new Information right now. People can't do that if they’re knocked out, or ya know. Dead.

Wolfhound’s coordinated attack is smooth and seamless. Lucille severs the guards’ vision and sends a wave of confusion through their ranks that amounts to little more than a panicked cry before that noise turns the one remaining guard with vision into a useless heap of agonized screams at exposure to the high-pitched sonic beam of the Banshee. Lucille’s Banshee drops another into a quivering heap on the ground, clutching his head and howling in pain with eyes wrenched shut. The sole guard left, hearing nothing but screams, turns to try and blindly flee down the corridor, boots clap-slapping on the floor.

Dunlap! Dunlap we have contact!” The guard’s voice carries down the corridor he blindly rushes down, past open doors that read tantalizing things like Examination Room and Cold Storage. There are more corpses here in the hall, all of them desiccated with skin pulled taut over bone and eyes little more than shriveled white raisins in puckered sockets. The blinded guard trips almost immediately over one of the old corpses, crashing to the ground and landing awkward on his wrist.

He rolls onto his side, clutching his visibly broken wrist and letting out a keening sound along with gasps of “Please no!” There is no response from further down that hall, or the other four branching corridors that lead out from the foyer the stairwell empties into.

Some part of her attention held by the images and their ramifications, analyst reflexes seeking to fit them in with the parts and pieces she already has, Hana hangs back as most of Amarok forges ahead, just enough to let the team proceed in their role. Robyn's glance her way is met with a minute incline of her head; they knew these Hunters were different. A new generation label only makes sense.

She emerges from the stairwell only after the three guards have been neutralized, attention sharpened by the shouted name that echoes in her ears. Dunlap, here. With the two sonic-downed guards in Amarok's hands, Hana moves towards the one that tried to flee, her own Banshee at the ready, following the sound of his keen.

The injured man can hear her footsteps stop several feet away, far enough for her to shoot before he acts — not that he seems likely to. "Where is Dunlap?" Hana prompts, low growl nothing at all like the synthetic sounds made by a Hunter.

As the guards are taken down, Devon moves in to cover his teammates. His Banshee still hangs from his hip, having favored keeping his handgun ready in case one of the less lethal shots from another Amarok member doesn’t work as expected. He’d rather stop someone completely, if necessary, than have to deal with a runner, should someone prove immune to the Banshee’s effects.

He pauses just two steps ahead of the front of the lead, then moves on, with handgun sweeping slowly left and right as his eyes move in a similar pattern. Up and down, also — who knows what’s hiding in the trees. Dev prowls, to find a vantage point. «Clear so far,» he murmurs into the comms. Even if he loses direct sight of the rest of the operation, he’s still in communication, however with the lay of the biome, they need eyes out there while questioning happens.

By time Claire is at the bottom of the stairs, the guards are being taken down, so instead lingering awkwardly, she spreads out from the hub. The regenerator cautiously moves down one of the branches, stepping over long dead bodies. She doesn’t go too far, but enough so that she can tilt her head and listen for suspicious sounds or anything to react too, while Hana interrogates the downed guard.

A few minutes and an equal amount of zipties later, Francois is following Hana's footsteps where she looms over the man potentially more amenable to giving answers, giving the edge of pain in his voice already. As he moves, he looks over the withered bodies, the words printed on doors, the warren of corridors that lay ahead.

When he reaches Hana and the injured guard, he doesn't pause, stepping around them and headed further down the hallway, Banshee at the ready, a checking glance after Claire as she moves to inspect one of the corridors. "«Amarok, watch Nambiza's back. Amarok-5,»" and Lucille's order is another beckoning tip of his head, inviting her and her human radar forward.

And pressing forward, quietly, straight ahead.

After the securing of the prisoners Lucille sweeps her gaze forward and moves with the rest, eyes traveling along the corridor and staying on Cold Storage as she passed the door her radar sweeping just beyond that door before she's looking behind Hana’s shoulder to look down at the man on the ground but she's called a second later and her golden eye gaze leaves the man subjected to Hana’s own intense look and moves forward ahead of the rest.

Pushing her biotic field in front of her to sweep for anymore people, Dunlap. Luce doesn't grin, they haven't nabbed their prize yet.

Boots land softly as she edges forward slowly, skin on the back of her neck crawling at the sight of more withered bodies. What really happened here? Lucille pushes forward her Banshee at ready.

Behind the tip of the sword that Lucille represents, the security officer detained by Hana seems quick to surrender in the face of what is clearly Wolfhound, based on all of the stories that have spread through the Institute remnant’s ranks. He stares, wide-eyed, up at her and then indicates in the direction Lucille is headed with a nod of his head.

“L-last door at the end of the hall,” the guard stammers, slowly turning his gaze over to where Lucille leads the way. As he looks back to Hana he adds, “I— I'm just a contractor. Ex-Stillwater solutions. This— this is just a paycheck.

As the guard tries to plead his case to someone who has neither the capacity nor the legal authority to mitigate his circumstances, Lucille reaches a door at the end of the hall marked with a large Gemini symbol on the doors. She can sense three bodies on the other side, two very close and one behind them. As she reaches the door, there's another dead Institute Retriever, clearly having been down here for years, but mummified and crumbling like ashen remains.

Once was suspicious, twice was concerning, but the third body nearly reduced to ash is too many to be a coincidence. This is all too familiar.

But Francois’ thoughts are cut off by the sudden eruption of handgun fire on the other side of the door, followed by shocked and pained screams. Six quick shots, accompanying clatters and heavy thumps, then another clatter and a single female voice announcing an unexpected proclamation:

I surrender.

Confirm that's Dunlap,»" Hana transmits to the coms, silent so far as the man on the ground is concerned. Even that is only to ensure the wider-ranging pair is aware of the downed man's statement; otherwise, she leaves them to their mutual task. With the others in her support, Hana steps forward and sees to securing the former guard's hands. "I don't care," is her brusque reply; she doesn't, especially not while still on the field.

Off the field, it's still a problem for feds and lawyers, of which Hana is neither.

Trailing several steps behind Francois and Lucille, Devon slows at his commander’s order, but doesn't fully stop. He continues a purposefully slow pace, hunting, in their wake. A look lingers back where he'd left the major and the rest of Amarok. Slowly, his eyes scan over their surroundings, intent to pick up any sign of movement and ears listening hard for sounds that aren't part of the operation.

Gunfire from the hallway is not part of the operation, and Dev’s head whips around at the report. «Amarok-3 support coming in,» he murmurs into his comms before adjusting his pace to meet with Francois and Luce. He moves just a little more quickly, but retains the caution of a hunter with each step.

As he draws closer to the door, his handgun is swapped for his rifle. Devon keeps the weapon at a low ready, seated snug against his shoulder, until he comes to a stop not far from the other two and takes a knee. The strange symbol is regarded briefly — it's a strange thing, but not his concern right now — then let's his gaze rest where space will appear when the door opens. That's where he takes a steady, patient aim.

Not really much to see down her side, the call by Francois to watch after Nambiza has Claire backing up and then turning to head back to the hub, where Hana is situated with the prisoner. Standing to the side, out of the Wolfhound’s top dogs way, the man on the ground gets eyed curiously. Only a mild and brief curiosity. before she turns her attention down the hall.

The gunfire down the hallway has she straightening some, but she stays where she is at, the others have it covered.

As Hana goes about restraining the survivors of the security team, Francois, Lucille, and Devon move forward on point and shoulder open the doors into the lab at the end of the hall. As the doors open, they first spot two Institute-remnant security laying on the ground in pools of their own blood, shot in the back. Behind them, a dark-haired woman they had only seen in dossier files kneels with her hands behind her head, gun laid out on the floor well out of arm's reach. Donna Dunlap does not have fear in her eyes, but relief. Decades ago Francois saw this look in the eyes of unwilling German conscript soldiers turning on their superior officers during the end of the war. The guilt-haunted look in Donna's wide eyes and the weariness in her once-youthful face is chillingly familiar.


"Please don't shoot," Donna asserts, looking at the three Wolfhound members in the doorway. "I'm— Donna Dunlap. Institute security command, I've been held against my will. Please— I'm surrendering to you voluntarily. I'm valuable." Behind Donna, however, a horror show from the past spreads out in grisly display. Where Francois saw familiarity in Donna's eyes, he also sees it in the grotesqueries of the laboratory she kneels in.

Enormous mechanical harnesses rest on either side of the room, designed to support the weight of an upright human body, of which four are present in a lab with a capacity for twelve. But the four in this room aren't alive and haven't been for years. They are old, withered corpses laid out wheeled carts, still laden with the clear plastic tubing that infiltrated their bodies. Dried blue fluid cakes the inside of the tubes, mixes with blood at the insertion point and turns purple. Spoiled cryogenically cooled tanks of chemicals line the walls behind the harnesses, and past all of that at the back of the room is inexplicable fire damage in the shape of a ten foot tall triangle blackened into the wall.

"You need me," Donna pleads with fear in her eyes.

Boot prints track scattered ash as they advance, the nature of which gets second and third glances from Francois in spite of his senses mostly keyed forwards. Frequently, Wolfhound excursions recall something of past experiences, and determining ghosts and phantoms from what are merely shadows is, at this point, a matter of course. Not so desensitised against coincidence not to feel that familiar cold prickle of suspicious and dread track down the back of his neck, now, at each withered human face, decayed beyond its time.

Rapid gunfire break from his quasi-trance, and stealth is abandoned for speed, crashing in through the door, Banshee drawn. A swift glance over dynamics — dead bodies, kneeling woman, gun feet away — have him pause, and take a longer look around the laboratory.

Francois lowers his weapon, and then, hesitatingly, holsters it. Via comms; "«We have Dunlap. Alive, in custody.»"

"Check them," he says, likely to Lucille and Devon both, of the downed security guards — and he says it in a tone that suggests that he knows what the answer will be. Approaching Dunlap, he takes handcuffs off his belt — where the guards outside struggle against plastic zipties, the object of their pursuit has cold metal in reserve. "We are here for you, agent. We will discuss your value and your rights to an attorney on the way out."

As the door is opened, the muzzle of Devon’s rifle is raised and sights are leveled on Dunlap. His finger rests lightly against the trigger guard, ready to slip against the trigger and squeeze. He remains, poised to shoot at a word, ignoring everything else in the room. None of that matters, only making sure that their target does not move and that his teammates and he go home at the end of the day.

At Francois’ word, the younger man rises out of his kneeling position and follows into the room. His rifle remains trained upon the woman, unwilling to give her a chance to move. He crosses quickly, moving first to secure the weapon he can see. Once he has possession of that, he covers back to one of the two former Institute security members. He’s sure that Lucille will check the other. With one hand — the other still keeping his rifle aimed at the woman — he searches the guard for weapons first, securing any he finds on his person. Then he checks for a pulse. Any first aid will have to wait until Dunlap is cuffed and in custody.

Those words and this scenario of events.. Luce did not see that playing out like that. The gunshots get a wide eyed stare at Devon before following in with Francois ready to unleash her gift only to find.. a relatively easy capture.

Banshee held at ready with amber golden eyes sweeping over the room before centering on Dunlap. Did she shoot the guards just because she was finally ready to surrender, or was she hiding something? That question isn't answered right at this moment but Lucille’s brow furrows as she moves to follow Francois’ orders and check the other body opposite of Devon.

Crouching down, she doesn't feel for the pulse with physical touch but with the senses of the body granted to her by her ability. Tilting her head as Lucille feels for a pulse as she searches the guard’s pockets and looking for identification.

The guards that Dunlap shot are, without a doubt, dead. She seems to have no love lost over it, watching the blood pool out from beneath their bodies as she submits to Wolfhound’s apprehension. The former Company kill squad member, former Institute security chief, former free person now kneels before Strike Team Amarok amid a gory recollection of the Institute’s horror.

As she is hoisted to her feet and cuffed, Dunlap looks around the room and furrows her brows, jaw squared and gaze heavy. “Whatever you want to know, whatever you need…” there’s a tremor in her arms, a trembling anticipation of the future. “You’ll get it.” Donna Dunlap only meets Hana’s gaze once the technopath has started into the room, and Hana’s first impression of Dunlap is of the young woman silhouette in front of a burned triangle in the wall of the facility.

Whatever the Institute was planning here, whoever killed all of these people, it wasn’t Donna and her team. There would be a time for answers, a time to investigate what the Institute left behind here in their flight from their enemies.
In time, there would finally be answers.

And afterward, an ending.

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