Operation Goliath, Part II


claude_icon.gif gael2_icon.gif linus_icon.gif melissa3_icon.gif ryans2_icon.gif

Scene Title Operation Goliath, Part II
Synopsis Half of the China team makes their way to the shuttle, only to meet with several interesting problems.
Date October 13, 2010

The noise is unbelievable.

Those who have never heard the roar of a shuttle launch in person cannot accurately describe the feeling of size that the sound conveys. It is a rumble, a roar, a deafening scream of combustion that creates a white hot rooster-tail of fire and a billowing cloud of smoke and steam. The noise of rockets designed to thrust thousands of tons of steel beyond the pull of Earth's gravity is a deafning sound, it vibrates the body through to the core and can be heard for miles in every direction.

Hanging by his fingertips from the circular crew access hatch, Gael Cruz can feel the vibrations in his body, feel his lungs shaking and the intense heat rising up from the plume of smoke, gas and cracking ice calling away from the supercooled rocket fuel contained below him. The screaming voice of Benjamin Ryans cannot be heard over the sound, even as the former Assistant Director of the Company leans forward out of the round hatch, one large hand reaching down for Gael, trying to get a hold of his hand.

Inside the shuttle, the countdown has not stopped, gunfire rattles, pops and pings in unheard ricochet around the entrance of the shuttle, sparks from bullet impact and the scars left behind on white paint the only indication that the soldiers down below are still firing. Gael's blood-slicked fingers drag towards the edge of the hatch door, eyes wide as he stares up at Ryans, watching the agents' hair whipping around in the thermal wind rushing up the side of the shuttle.

Nails bite on a corner of metal, and then gravity claims him, and as Gael Cruz finally loses his grip on the edge of the hatch…

…he feels momentarily weightless.

Twenty Minutes Earlier

The Xichang Space Center

Xichang, China

The noise of the truck's engine reverberates through the metal walls of the back of the lightless box truck. Tires squeal and gunfire is already pop-pop-popping, punching holes thorugh the sheet metal walls, tracking lances of sunlight in their wake. As the box-truck skids to a stop the back end fishtails out, and with one booted foot Noah Bennet kicks the back doors open, AR-15 assault rifle braced against his shoulder, immediately firing a burst out into the open air.

"Go, go, go!" Muzzle flash lights up the back of the truck as a brown-uniform clad soldier flies backwards from the burst of gunfire, arms windmilling before he hits the ground. Brows furrowed and rifle leveled to one shoulder, Bennet steps out of the back of the truck, sweeping his sights around the concrete lot of the space center, then turns to look up at the looming shadow of massive scaffolding containing an impossible large rocket, upon which a white shuttle craft is attached.

"Take the others, go!" Piling out behind Bennet, Catherine Chesterfield, Alia Chavez and Huruma rush towards the concrete silhouette of a building looming nearby, even as security operatives burst out of the front doors of the glass-walled bottom floor, startled as gunfire tears through them. The back bay doors of the box truck remain open as the vehicle breaks into motion again, view out the back swerving away as blurry shapes of Bennet and his team disappear from sight amidst the rattling of gunfire.

The man driving the truck must be a lunatic, heading towards the sounds of gunfire, but if anyone Noah Bennet can pul together for a mission like this had any sense, they wouldn't have signed on. As the truck rattles and bumps, a thick inscrutably English accent calls back through the narrow window between the rear of the box truck and the cab, "Oi! We're almos' there! You ladies best b'ready t'go once I put this thing in park!"

Benjamin Ryans and Gael Cruz recognize the voice. Maybe that's why Claude Rains never bothered to make an appearance before everyone piled in the truck.

A little late for reintroductions now, anyway.

Vests are never comfortable, but they're a hell of a lot more comfortable than being dead, so luckily there's been no complaint from Melissa just yet. In fact she's in full on battle mode, and antsy as she waits for the truck to arrive at her stop. She's got a backpack secured on her back, tight enough it won't bounce around, and her hair, temporarily dyed black (thank you Labyrinth ball), is pulled up in a bun. And of course she has a ski mask on, hiding her face. With that, and the restriction of the vest, she looks more like a small man than a woman. Helps if there are any cameras around!

Head ducking down, eyes hidden under the brim of the fedora and his, Benjamin Ryan's look of surprise. The AK-47 he took for himself is clutched close, he glances at the front of the truck. "Rains! You son of a bitch." It's said like a man meeting a comrade again. "I think this is the first time I'll say, I'm damn glad to see you."

Benjamin then glances at Linus knowing how green this kid is to this sort of situation. The rough voice of the ex-assistant director has to live above the noise. "Linus!" He calls over the ping of bullets. "Focus kid! You take the Batteries. Stay with us and keep your head down and jsut do your best. Gael…" He looks to his fellow company man. "You take the weapon." A hand then points to Melissa. "You… bring the pain and prove you know how to use that thing." The finger dips down to point at the weapon.

A glance goes to everyone with him, Benjamin falling into his old roll of leader. It fits like a glove and it feels so damn good. He misses it. The old man shifts to the back of the vehicle, head ducking at each plink of bullets. The rifle raised he kneels there watching, waiting for the chance to get moving.

Speaking of looking like things you aren't, Linus is currently looking like a ball. Legs tucked up securely to his chest with arms wrapped around his knees, head firmly lodged against his knees, he wouldn't even be recognizable if it weren't for the fact that only he out of this group would be the one assuming this posture. Yeah, it's definitely Linus.

He looks up when Ryans basically bellows at him, out of necessity over the roar of weapons fire ping-ping-pinging against the truck and the screeching of tires across the tarmac. "Huh?" Hopefully Ryans can read lips, because Linus doesn't speak very loudly. But he does give the man a nod, if a shakey one, before slowly unfolding himself from his fetal position to get ready.

One thing Gael isn't is green. Out of practice, yes - uncomfortable, no question - but he was a field agent for the Company before he was an administrator. It was something that newer agents had an annoying habit of not believing, even after they'd been told.

Standing ready to hit the ground running as soon as the truck so much as noticeably slows down, he nods to Ryans - "On it" - and walks over toward the microwave emitter, resting one hand on it and the other on his revolver. "Been a while, Claude," he adds, glancing toward the unseen driver. "How's retirement been treating you?"

"Oh, y'know, jus' bloody lovely!" is shouted out the back of the truck as it swerves around an obstacle, a hail of gunfore exploding along the concrete near the truck, pappering the side with chunks of shattered stone. As the box truck's tires screech and it passes by what Claude swerved around, the shadow of a massive iron girder planted in the concrete comes into view out the back, criss-crossed with smaller supports. "It was pretty nice 'till I heard from any've you again! Don' think this is— " the truck jerks to the side again, followed by a crash and a rough series of thumps under the vehicle, followed by the darkly stained and rolling body of a Chinese soldier tumbling away from under the back wheels. "Don' think this means we're friends! A'just owed Bennet a favor. After this is done, me'n you two boys go back t'not bein' on each other's Christmas lists!"

Gunfire pops noisily from the front of the truck, shouting in Mandarin fills the air, followed by the rattle of automatic weapons fire. "Get ready t'go!" Claude howls, followed by slamming on the breaks and jerking the wheel to the side. The entire truck pitches to one side, tipping up onto two wheels and sending the wheeled dollies containing the body of the microwave emitter and its batteries sliding to the side with a noisy clang against the metal walls; hundreds of pounds of metal and plastic shifting loudly.

But while the truck has stopped, the gunfire has not, and even from the open back, the space launch team can see five Chinese soldiers running up the concrete tarmac ahead, one dropping to a knee, taking pot-shots at the distant truck, bullets bouncing around the inside of the back.

Just barely in view a hundred yards from where the truck stopped, there is a large gate-sided freight elevator on ground level, a large illuminated control box positioned on one corner and two members of the Chinese military crouched down behind the horizontal slats of the gate, trying to train a shot on the back of the truck while the sound of handgun fire from the front has them ducking.

"Go for the elevator! Ah've gotta' head back t'Bennet once yer out!" Claude screams, five more handgun shots fired, glass shattering and screaming heard all around outside.

The orders from Ryans earn him a sharp, unpleasant look from Melissa. She'll take orders from Bennet, because he's earned it, but this stranger? Nope. She doesn't know him, doesn't trust him, thus, his orders mean precisely squat. And she can't risk giving herself another migraine anyway. Not right now. She just got rid of the one DHS gave her. "I know my job. You focus on yours," she tells him dryly

She shifts her gaze, looking to Linus. "Stay close to me. I'll keep you covered. Just focus on making sure the batteries get up there with us."

"Get me there alive and I'll send you a card every year," she calls to Claude before she scrambles out of the truck, on the side not occupied by Chinese guards. But then she just leans around the truck to fire at the guards, trying to incapacitate instead of kill. Despite having killed before, it's still not happy fun times for the pain manipulator.

A smirk tugs up a corner of Ryans' lips at Claude's shouted words. He actually, realizes he did miss having that mouthy man around. Though Melissa's obvious refusal bring him back to the time of dealing with Rain and his constant dislike to follow orders, so her's gets a scowl… but Ryans doesn't say out loud his thoughts, for now he'll wait and see how she does on her own.

As people are scrambling out, Ryans is laying down a line of fire from the back of the van so that they can duck out the otherside. He won't slip out of other side of the van til he knows the others are out, only then will he duck out the side, only pausing long enough to bark out a, "Thanks Claude. Go protect Bennet's ass, else I'll send you to tell Sandra." Not that Ryans would be able to find him again, but that isn't the point.

It'll be up to Ryans and Melissa to lay cover for Gael and Linus. The old many starts praying as he motions for people to start that way, cause Melissa might not be listening, but at least others seem to be.

Gunfire whizzing by his head as Linus makes his way out of the back of the truckbed, he tries to occupy his mind with thoughts that aren't 'holy shit, I'm getting shot at' or 'I'm going to die' or 'what the hell am I doing here'. Instead, he thinks about if a technopath created these things, couldn't he have made them more portable?

He struggles for a moment to get the batteries out of the truck, but soon enough is wheeling them around in a rush towards Melissa. Not that he really thinks she would be better suited to protect him than say, Ryans or Gael, but she has the right idea of putting the truck between the fast, small moving projectiles and fleshy bodies.

Gael is not minding how heavy the equipment is. First, they've got the wheeled cart, so they don't have to dead-lift the stuff over. Second, it might just catch a stray bullet or two along the way, in case neither the truck nor his body armor manages to do so. Of course, that carries a risk that it won't work once they reach their destination— but really, if the builder didn't armor it enough to account for it getting shot at along the way, then what the hell was he thinking?

Wool cap jammed down far enough to conceal most of his hair - beard visible, eyebrows not - he nods to Linus as the team continues to make headway, taking an occasional potshot as opportunities arise. Like Melissa, he's aiming to just take the soldiers down, not out; he's got nothing personal against them, they're just in the way.

Waves of pain emanate outward from Melissa, a targeted selection of aches and agonies radiated like some sort of psychic poison from Melissa's darkly clad figure. The Chinese soldiers on the elevator crumple from the pain, one dropping his assault rifle and the other rolling onto his side and firing blankly up into the air, bullets rattling off of high scaffolding above.

The heavy, wheeled dollies both land with clunk and clank on the concrete, wobbling awkwardly fromt he distrobution of weight. Linus' is more manageable, given that the six car batteries are stacked thre by three in a pair of columns and bungee corded together. Gael's mess looks like some sort of chromed vibrator with a long cylindrical shaft ending with a bowl dish and some sort of antenna array, followed by power converters on the back end brustling with rows of toggle switches, the entire thing is wrapped in its own power cabling and barely held in place by a half dozen bungee cords of its own.

Gunfire towards the sensitive machinery is harrowing from Linus' perspective, every near miss of the microwave emitter shaving a moment off of his perceptual life. From around the front of the truck, Gael is able to knecap a pair of soldiers running to get into a firing position, both of them dropping and rolling across the ground leaving dark, wet tracks in their wake, guns skidding away from their prone forms. Worse yet, they fall within range of Melissa's amplified pain, augmenting the sheer agony from their leg wounds.

The path to the elevator is — nominally — clear, save for the two soldiers rolling around and screaming in pain on the floor. When the four team-members make their way from the back of the white truck, it kicks itself into reverse, backing up over a dead soldier with a clunk-thump before peeling out. The front windshield is riddled with bullet holes, and— there— doesn't appear to be anyone in the driver's seat.

Oh, Claude.

When Linus does as she asked, staying close, Melissa focuses on ensuring that anyone who might be targetting him gets shot first. She sticks close to him, occasionally urging him to move faster. Eventually more guards will be called, and she doesn't want to be anywhere near here when they arrive. A few miles in the air would be preferable!

"Move move!" Ryans shouts, turning to fire at the Chinese soldiers following them, taking up the rear of the group, trusting Melissa to protect the front. He keeps his aim low for anything below the waist, while rest of them race towards the elevator. As one magazine is emptied it's pulled out another slapped in just as quickly, with the practiced ease of a man who's been doing this sort of thing all his life.

It's a wonder he's still alive.

Speaking of elevators… Ben's not exactly thrilled about going into a small enclosed space with hostile fire. With hope they will be spared elevator music. His position will have him last in and one of the first out. Time to test those kevlars.

At this point, Linus is just along for the ride. He's no good with a gun, and he's certainly not a strategic mastermind - but what he lacks, he makes up for in ingenuity and a surprising reserve of courage. It also to his benefit that his power happens to keep him quite fit, as he chugs along the tarmac pushing the batteries.

That ingenuity comes into play as the elevator gets closer, and Linus picks up his speed. Physics - learn it. As he tops out at his speed, he leaps forward onto the cart carrying the batteries, letting the momentum coast him onto the elevator just as the cart comes to a halt. He rolls forward, coming up behind the cart for protection, though his landing is a bit awkward.

He's a nerd, not an athlete, no matter how fit he may be. Out of the corner of his eye he spots a Chinese guard leveling a rifle at Ryans, and he raises one hand that glows white hot for a moment before a lance of bright yellow light shoots from his palm and hits the gun of the guard, intending to make it too hot to handle.

A couple of bullets spang off of one broad smooth side of the space dildo beam weapon, boring harmlessly into the ground. Another one passes clean through the corner of the cart, sending it spinning off center for a second. And one slams right into Gael's armor - which buckles and absorbs the impact, but only well enough to leave him with nagging blunt-force pain rather than torn muscle tissue and fragmented bone. Still, the adrenaline rush is enough to carry him onward and into the elevator, only a couple steps behind Linus and his impromptu rollerderby act. Now quick, which button makes it go up? If they're going to continue to be targets, they can at least continue to be moving ones.

Across the divide of the concrete lot, Rains' truck has almost reached the command building, though the launch platform team's primary concern. The elevator is clear save for the men laying in agony on the floor, quickly able to be dragged out of the freight elevator and onto the concrete, their agony subsiding as Melissa's focus on her ability fades— one quick burst to ensure a clean access to the elevator shouldn't have caused any undue harm.

When everyone has piled into the elevator and the wheeled carts are brought over, Gael is able to hit the box-switch that gets the elevator moving. The jostle of the mechanisms starting sends the metal mesh cage door slamming down before the slow ascent begins. Relatively protected inside of the elevator, there is a view slowly coming in to panoramic display as it begins its ascent, showing the mountainous valley that the Xichang Space Center is set in the middle of, the distant urban sprawl of the city a gray blur on the hazy horizon.

What isnt' so hard to see, as diagonal support beams pass by and no longer obstruct view, are plumes of dust kicked up by camouflage painted, canvas-topped trucks driving down a dirt road towards the facility, likely the reinforcements to the light security that has already — on the outside — been disabled. It's going to be a few minutes for the elevator to crawl all the way to the top, however, and the crew inside of the slow-moving ascent can already hear the rumbling hum of engines testing ignition in brief bursts of whining fire.

Spotting the trucks, Melissa mutters, "Shit. Ground team's about to have more company. A lot more. Can't this thing go any faster?" Then she glances around at the other three. "Everyone okay? Anyone shot? Say somethin' now if you are, because I've got basic first aid stuff in my pack." She should've been a boyscout. Except for the whole lack of a penis and rebellious kid things. Always prepared is her motto anyway.

There is silence from the tall fedora topped figure of Ryans, from where he's standing he watches those trucks, jaw clenched. Blue eyes narrow as he tries to see the ground crew as best he can from his position. It's hard in a way to be there while all the others are fighting for their lives down there. He can only hope they will be okay.

The AK-47 is carefully slung over Benjamin's shoulder, so at not to knock the weapon into anyone. That weapon is replaced with a pair of handgun, for the more close quarters environment he's expecting. He checks them over carefully, in the slow ride up. At least there is no music just the clattering of the elevator and the ignitions checks.

And the wind blowing by, except that it mostly gets drowned out by the engine tests. And Gael sitting down, presenting the cavalry with as small a target as possible as he reloads. Now that the heat of immediate battle is off, he has time to feel the pain in his leg, wincing; he'll have to compensate for it when they reach the top.

Ducked down behind his cart full of batteries, Linus runs one hand over their exterior, checking for dents or holes or who the fuck knows with a fretful look. As the elevator clatters and rattles, that distant truck is drawing closer, coming off of the dirt road and onto pavement, rumbling past the edge of the jungle border and down into the plaza, slowly rolling to a stop before soldiers in olive-drab camouflage begin piling out of the back, helmets and vests and assault rifles looking tobe more than the light military security that was on this station at the beginning.

On the way up, there's a vibration in a pocket inside of Ryans' jacket, abrupt enough to give him a slight startle, but the presence of his phone receiving a call in China means he's either upgraded to a better coverage plan, or Rebel is knocking on the door to say hello. When the phone is retrieved and checked, the latter is most assuredly true.

radio chatter indicates that inbound vehicle is a unit from the special operations division of the people's liberation army. they will have evolved officers. i am trying to warn the other team. you should proceed with extra caution.

Rebel, always with the good news.

Through the grated ceiling of the elevator, the ascent is clearly only halfway to the top, which means if the PLA finds out they're headed upward, this entire group is going to be sitting ducks if they decide to fire towards the rocket and shuttle.

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon…Move you metal piece of shit." Melissa glances to the others, looking irritated. "Why did we decide on something that's made in China again? I mean, really? Couldn't we have gotten a Japanese shuttle instead? They're all technofied, right?"

There is a press of Ryans' lips, forcing them into a thin line as he reads Rebels message, fingers tightening a little around it. Just wonderful. "Thank you Rebel," he says softly at the phone before looking out over the scenery below, as if he could catch a glance of something.

"We have trouble." Ignoring Melissa's rambling, Ryans announces to the group sharply, hand tucking the phone away again, so that he can retrieve the second handgun. "China is sending their version of Frontline. Keep alert and be prepared for this to get a whole lot worse."

It certainly got a whole lot worse the last time FRONTLINE showed up - and they don't have the same numbers and organization that they did back then, either. "I think the Japanese would have just as little problem trying to put more lead in our diet," quips Gael, double-checking the controls to make damn sure there isn't a Go Faster button or switch or something that he's overlooked up to this point.

Eventually the rattling and slow elevator reaches the top of the launch platform, clanging noisily into place. The lack of gunfire has Linus peeking up from behind the wall of batteries, creeping up to yank the metal cage doors open. It's a narrow railing-sided metal catwalk bridge beyond here, leading towards the enormous side of the space shuttle round — and sealed — hatch door.

Through the front windshield of the shuttle, no figures or shapes can be made out, the glass too darkened and glare from the sun too bright. "Okay so… so what do we do now? I mean, that— the door doesn't exactly have a handle on it or anything." Down hundreds of feet below the launch platform, the green-clad soldiers are rushing out of the back of the truck, headed in a single-file line towards the launch command building.

Ryans and Gael can both already see the tactic being employed, if the launch is prevented the intruders trapped at the top of the platform have nowhere to go. They're being corralled up here.

"If we're not totally screwed, I'm guessing the ground team will open it," Melissa says as she heads out of the elevator and towards the door, looking around for any buttons or bits of slidey metal that might reveal buttons. Anything short of muttering "open sesame" basically. "We get nabbed in China, I'm gonna short circuit Rebel," she mutters.

Well, this is a hitch, since the ex-Company man has never been technologically inclined. Carefully, Ryans steps out of the elevator risking a quick glance down, to see what's going on. Reaching the door, the old man glances and then backs up looking for any panels along the catwalk that might be an override for the door, letting Melissa look over the shuttle door itself.

Honestly, Ben figured Rebel would have it open for them. Hmm. He even checks his cellphone to see if he missed a message.

Leaving the others to figure out the door situation, Gael returns his attention to the cart with the emitter still perched atop it, shoving the front wheels out onto the catwalk proper. And gives Linus's engines a long, hard look, too. Is there any chance of assembling the thing here and holding off the next wave of soldiers with it, or threatening to turn it on the shuttle itself?

Melissa's hands smooth over the exterior of the shuttle, the painted metal warm to the touch where hot sunlight has bathed it. There's seams, around the edges, then her fingers catch an exterior latch, pulling two pins out that extend into handles, presumably to twist the door open and then pop it out on the visible hinges. Unfortunately, no matter how hard Melissa leans on those levers, nothing turns. The hatch feels quite physically locked.

When Ryans looks down to his phone, he did indeed miss a message, probably not feeling the vibration that time against his body armor.

shuttle access is sealed by mechanical interior lock, no electronic systems. we can patch you through to the crew inside, find a way to persuade them to open the door

Persuade them? Gael may have an idea on that.

A brow arches ever so slightly at the message… huh. This isn't his area of expertise. He glances at the shuttle's darkened windows and looks thoughtful, finger moves to —

Tap tap This thing on?

"Hey…" Ryans says out loud, once the pad of this thumb covers the mic, no reason for the Chinese inside to listen to what he says next. Holding the phone up a little, he looks between the others. "Rebel patched us through. We can speak to the astronauts. See if they will listen to reason?" Both brows lift upwards. "Anyone want to give it a whirl?"

"I don't speak Chinese," replies Gael— and if the crew inside the shuttle speak English, then any of them can do the speaking. Maybe they'll have to have Rebel translate, after all.

His eyes narrow as he turns his attention back toward the catwalk, and the hull surface at the other end. "But I do have an idea for a reason they can't help but listen to. Linus, I think the time has come to get those batteries unpacked…"

"Goddammit. I found a handle, but it's not moving." And Melissa punctuates her words with a sharp kick to the door. Thank god for steel toed boots. Then she's turning to the others, moving forward and making a gimme motion with her hand. "Give it here. I speak some Mandarin. Tell me your idea Gael and I'll translate. If they won't listen to reason, I'll blast 'em until they come out." Because no way in hell is she getting thrown in jail. Again.

"W— what!?" Linus' eyes go wide when Gael mentions unpacking the bateries, "Yeah sure I can— " gunfire erupts down below, not aimed in this direction, but the roar of fully automatic fire is still distracting. Hundreds of feet below where they are, Ryans' team discovers the Chinese SpecOps team pinned down out front of the Mission Control building. One member of their unit is crouched in front of the building, holding up one hand and creating a sparking shield of electrified light that seems similar to the ability possessed by the former Company agent Rain O'Niel.

Other soldiers are fanning out, shooting towards the front of the building and gunfire is following back, muzzle flash and the pop of gunfire the backdrop for this debate. "Y— Yeah I… I can hook this up, that— the girl— Alia— she showed me how to connect the bateries, hold on." Beginning to unstrap the bungee cords, Linus takes one battery down at a time, reaching out for the clamp cabling on Gael's dolly, clipping the positive and negative cables into place on each end like he's about to jumpstart a doomsday weapon.

Once he sees how the first one is wired up, Gael walks over to get the next one started, glancing over once toward Linus - is this one supposed to be reversed? no? - then repeating the same steps. "Just tell them the truth," he says to Melissa. "We've got a weapon out here, and if that hatch isn't open in twenty seconds? Then they've got a front-row seat for the field test."

Professional tip: especially do not be in Gael's way when he's cornered.

"If they call the bluff, I'll blast 'em. They can think that's the weapon," Melissa mutters, taking the phone and uncovering it. There's a deep breath as her mind struggles to recall her Mandarin lessons, but she must have missed the Terrorism Conversations section, because they didn't precisely prepare her for this.

"«We have weapon. Open door, twenty seconds, or we use it." It's crude child's language, and her accent is atrocious, but she gets the gist of the threat across. She hopes. And just in case they're looking out at them, she points to said weapon, driving the point home. Lookee what we got!

There's silence, initially, from the crew inside. A few moments later there's crackling pops coming over Ryans' phone, followed by a litany of Mandarin far, far faster than Melissa can keep up with, whoever is speaking at her on the other end is male and irate as he lays into a screaming tangent that can be heard as muffled yelling through the wall of the shuttle even without the phone's aid.

Linus lifts dark brows, opening his mouth to speak before the explosion of a grenade down at the Mission Control building sends a shockwave through the air, a cloud of dust and debris cast skyward, though still seeming small and distant from this height. Gunfire is still impending, and the roar of a helicopter approaching from an unseen direction adds additional imperative to the need to get inside the shuttle.

"That doesn't sound good," Linus murmurs with wide eyes, "that's— that's not good is it?"

The heavy whumping sound of helicopter blades catches Ryans attention, making him glance around for it. This was getting worse by the moment. Grabbing a hold of Melissa's hand that's hold the phone Ben leans down towards the phone and snaps out, his voice snarling over the line… this American means business.

"Listen here, you son of a bitch." Yup, Benjamin is pissed. "You might not be able to understand me, but I know you know what the tone of my voice means. You better damn well open that door, or we're gonna make this a bad day for everyone. If you step out we will let you live and you can go safely back to your loved one." He's taking a gamble, making his tone sound more reasonable. "Translate if you want… or just do your thing Pierce."

He lets go of Melissa's hand and steps away, a glance goes to Gael and Linus and he gestures at them to point that — thing — at the door, with a glance to Melissa, trusting her to do her thing. The sound of the approaching helicopter distracts him again, afterwards, worry only touching his features briefly.

Without hesitation, Gael walks forward, both hands firmly on the cart with the now active device mounted on it, heading straight for the troublesome hatch. If the crew stonewalls them once, they'll get a taste of Melissa's ability. If they do it twice, then he's equally willing to make good on his word— with the attendant risk of also frying vital equipment that they'd need for the trip up, but hopefully they had enough sense to keep such things away from the spot intended to be exposed to open air.

"I'm so glad I brought my meds," Melissa mutters after Ryans says his thing, not even bothering to try to sort out the rapid-fire Chinese. Instead she moves so there's no one between her and the shuttle, taking a deep breath before mentally turning her ability on full, focusing it in front of her, at those people in the shuttle. Hopefully it won't spill over to the rest of her team. Finger's crossed!

Screams echo over the phone, screams sound dully inside of the shuttle cockpit.

This is why Melissa Pierce was in the Moab Federal Penitentiary, this is why people fear the Evolved. Even behind the locked door of a space shuttle there is nowhere safe to be, and as Melissa applies psychic pressure to the pain receptors of every mind she can feel inside of the ship, the cries of agony of the people within are a warning siren to the young woman. A reminder that with one wrong slip to either side of the moral knife she balances on, and she could become a reason for the government to fear her kind.

It is a terrible display of power, one that has Linus, eyes wide and then averted from the sounds of pain inside, right up until Melissa hears the cries of stop echoing over the phone and thorugh the hatch door. When she relent, there is a different noise — clearer — they need to worry about. It rises up over the forested hill nearly silent, sounding much further away than it truly was, but the dark silhouette of a military attack helicopter is the last thing that anyone needed to see.

"Oooohh— oh crap!" Linus shouts as he grabs Ryans' sleeve, then launches himself forward at the microwave gun. "Okay— okay— ah, ah, it's like— " flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, give toggle switches in a row, and the machine begins emitting a whining, sonorous hum from the dish in the front along with a crackle of static electricity.

The gunship pivots in midair, turning to circle around in a slow arc towards the shuttle launch platform, mounted guns under its dorsal wings pivoting with mechanical whirring, each belt-fed artillery post implying the death to come.


The shuttle hatch door flings open, followed by a panicked member of the Chinese research team in his space suit, sans helmet, staring wide-eyed at a helicopter in field of view. They wouldn't shoot the shuttle would they?

At first there is the smallest trickle of fear at the sight of the the helicopter. In his mind they were screwed and then some. But as he moves with the helicopter pivoting with it, an idea suddenly occurs to Ryan. "Gael… " He says, that neutral mask he has suddenly melting away into something more devilish. "Gael!" He says louder, backing up til he can grab the man's shoulder and turn him. Forcing the other man to look, Ryans points at the helicopter. "Take out the helicopter, or else we'll never get off the ground."

Then his hollow blue eyed gaze falls on the research team. "Tell them to go, Melissa." His handgun is eased out again, "No funny business, they get on the elevator and go down. They live if they hurry." He even motions them to go with a jerk of the muzzle of his gun.

Well. Shooting the shuttle was fraught with all sorts of mission-ruining risks, to be honest. But shooting the helicopter? Let's see. The gun could fail, the gun could blow up in their faces, the gun could fry the shuttle anyway, the helicopter pilot could get caught in the blast rather than parachuting to safety.

Much better.

Hopefully it's the only time they'll need to use the emitter, up until they actually sight the satellite they're after. "And tell them to watch this!" Gael shouts back at Melissa, swiveling the cart around and punching the Big Red Button as soon as the barrel is lined up.

It's not just the Chinese that are relieved when Melissa stops. Melissa herself is relieved as well, though she hides it. Can't let the torturees know that she hates doing that, now can she? "«Go. Leave now. Safe.»It's not just the Chinese that are relieved when Melissa stops. Melissa herself is relieved as well, though she hides it. Can't let the torturees know that she hates doing that, now can she? "«Go. Leave now. Safe.»"

Clearly she doesn't expect it to be that easy though, because she grabs for an arm, trying to tug the astronaut out and pointing him towards the helicopter. Then she yells into the shuttle itself. "«Leave now! Leaving is safe, staying hurts!»" Hopefully it gets her point across to the rest of the shuttle crew.

Melissa's warning comes with an uncertainty from the astronauts huddled inside of the shuttle. It's the presence of Gael Cruz holding a cannon of some kind, braced against his hip, fingers wound around the overhand grip and thumb flicking a bright red toggle switch on that reaffirms their fuck that mindset. What happens next is a bright display of electrical discharge from the front dish like a crackling static-electricity burst, just about two feet long and noisy.

Microwaves are invisible things though, and what happens may not be the flashiest weapon in the world, but it is horrifyingly effective. Sparks immediately crackle over the helicopter, dance through the windshield followed by the combustion of both the pilot now flailing around inside the cockpit and the upholstry of the seats. The dashboard melts, the exterior blackens and it all in all looks like someone but forks and cotton swabs in a microwave and turned it on.

The noise the cannon makes is a thrumming roar coupled with electrical cracking, juxtaposed against the continued noise of gunfire and explosions beyond. The helicopter wavers in the air, blades spinning rapidly as the pilot slouches forward onto the console and the vehicle pitches to one side, then another.

Ignition tests ended, there's a roar below the shuttle, followed by a deafening blast of the engines beginning to fire up as hydraulics whine on the loading arm as it begins to pull away from the shuttle. The Chinese crew panicks, one man scrambling out of the hatch, followed by another who turns around to help others out of the sideways-tilted vehicle. They see the helicopter wobbling around in mid-air, and as they're running towards the elevator, the launch platform continues to decouple from the shuttle, beginning to draw down as the helicopter begins to plummet towards the platform while rocket boosters start ignition phase.

Head ducking, eyes squinting against the noise, Benjamin watches the device do it's work. But then he notices a change in the vibrations at his feet and he glances down at the world beyond the grating. And for once, that man's eyes widen at the what he sees. "Shit." There is actual panic there as he looks up at the others. "Time up!" He roars over the sound, that deep voice of his probably being drowned out even now.

Frantically, Ryans starts motioning to the hatch instead, moving to help with the equipment in an attempt to get it onto the shuttle.

Well, at least now they know the weapon works, but the sight of the helicopter blazing and spiraling down is an ugly one. Gael accepts the need for all this - he knows first-hand what sorts of bigger things are at risk - but he doesn't have to like it.

Between his position at the firing control and the ache in his leg, exacerbated by the emitter bumping into it during its earlier swing, he's a couple of heartbeats slower to react to the imminent launch. Gritting his teeth, he throws his body weight into an all-out effort to get the cart turned back around - easier than trying to grab the other end and push it that way - and get it through the hatch while they still can. If they can't get the gun and at least one person on board, then the whole thing's been a colossal waste of time.

Uh oh. Engine's firing? Melissa wastes zero time in darting into the shuttle and starting to look for where the weapon — and the people — can be settled without major breakage occurring. "Come on!" she yells to the others, moving back to the hatch, to yank people inside if necessary. Now is not the time to be a delicate flower, after all.

Melissa is the first inside the shuttle, discovering immediately that directly below the entrance is a fifteen foot drop down to hard instrumentation panels. Thankfully nimble enough to catch herself when she realizes her feet are touching air, she's able to swing herself around then reach out with a leg for one of the astronaut chairs within ready reach of the door. There's more seats than there are passengers, Rebel was wrong about the size of the crew, but even disembodied technopaths can be wrong sometimes.

Swinging into one of the seats, Melissa can hear a crackling voice coming over the radios, Alia's.


It's on repeat.


Throwing himself into the shuttle through the hatch, Linus freefalls for a moment before grabbing the back of one of the chairs, legs kicking and a yelp jolting out of his throat as he tries to pull himself up onto the chair. "This— this is ridiculous!" Linus screams as he feels the shuttle rumbling. "We have to buckle up! We have to buckle up!!" Because he's seen it in movies!

Outside, hauling the microwave emitter inside, Gael and Ryans manage to heft the heavy battery packs inside, but the sudden crash of the helicopter scraping past the receeding bridge shakes the entire shuttle, rocket and loading arm. Ryans is thrown off balance, back into the shuttle to fall in and land down in one of the chairs. The batteries fall inside the hatch, dangling by their power cords and dragging Gael with them. One power cable wound around his leg, he's yanked off of the moving platform as the gun draws him to the hatch, only to have the gun hit wide on the round door, cables snap and break off, and Geal loses his grip with nothing beneath him for footing.

The rotor of the helicopter shatters on the bridge as they collide, sending shards of metal flying in every direction, and Gael can hear them bouncing off the hull of the shuttlecraft. Gael manages to catch himself as he falls, windmilling arms grabbing a hold of the hatch door. Blood from torn flesh cut open by the microwave emitter being yanked out of his hands lubricates his grip, causes him to slid and begin to slide away. The shuttle is rumbling, smoke is billowing up from below and the microwave emitter is falling down the side of the shuttle, bouncing off the metal sides of one rocket before disappearing into thruster fire below.

It takes a moment for Ryans to catch his breath after having been thrown into the hatch, only then does he glance around at the others there. His immediate assessment… No Gael. That has the old man scrambling to his feet using the chair to support him, normally it would be easy, but with the force of the climb, it's making him feel a little heavier.

Still, he makes a jump for the hatch, grabbing it and pulling himself. "Someone hold my legs!" It's a good thing the impact of Ben against the chair dislodged his fedora, cause he'd have surely lost it when his head clear the hatch. The roar of the wind and the way it buffets against him is deafening.

That isn't important, however, to Benjamin Ryans, it's the man hanging on the outside. Leaning out the door shouts, "Gael," only to have the words ripped completely out of his mouth. He leans out slowly, making sure to hook a foot on the chair below him, if no one helps him. Hand stretching, he reaches for his former co-worker. "Gael! Reach for my hand!"

If Ben could only reach a little further.

His fingers brush at Gael's bloodied ones, attempting to get a grip and praying that he doesn't get ripped out of the Shuttle himself.

Oh, hell. Well, the emitter did work. And they actually got some use out of it! And they might have even managed to patch it back together if they'd gotten all the parts inside, but that looks to be out of the question now. Still - as Gael closes his eyes, shutting out the pain and concentrating for a fraction of a second - they've still got the shuttle itself, and whatever happens to be in it already. With Rebel's assistance, there's a decent chance they'll be able to jury-rig something.

Now there's just the relatively simple task of making it into the shuttle himself. With the catwalk gone, back is not an option— and down is not an option. Except, wait a minute, yes it is, because there's a set of handholds not five feet away. He thinks, not about whether he'll make it, but how many obscenities Benjamin will hurl at him for scaring him like this afterward—

—and lets go.

"Then buckle up!" Melissa snaps at Linus, glancing towards the hatch, and only seeing Ryans there. Oops. She rushes over to help Ryans, grabbing his feet and trying to brace her own on whatever's handy, so the man can lean out without all three of them tumbling to their deaths. Because really, that would have to classified as a failure. Although if she could see Gael's little stunt, she'd probably go ahead and consider it one anyone.

But hey, she is in the shuttle. That's what counts…Right?

It's just about the time that Ryans thinks he's gonna get fingers around Gael's wrist, starts feeling some hope the bastard lets go! It's a good thing that Ryans isn't physically the old man he use to be, cause that single act, has the old man's heart seizing up with fear. Had he been his actual, fifty seven years old, well… he's be dead. As it is it feels like a heart attack.


Melissa can feel the moment it happens, jostling them both as he make a futile lunge. Benjamin can only sit there and watch it happen.

Right up until Gael Cruz' hands snatch a handhold on the outside of the shuttle, his body slamming against the hull as the engines roar beneath him. The space shuttle is designed to have dozens of small aerodynamically designed handholds facing away from the nose of the ship, to make it it easier for astronauts working the exterior of the vessel to keep their footing or handhold. Just a few feet lower than Ryans, Gael holds himself there, a better grip, a stronger grip.

Reaching up with one hand, his sleeve snaps around in the strong thermal wind, in his periphery the partly burning loading arm is almost fully retracted away from the shuttle, the launch procedure must be close to finished. Straining to reach and with Melissa grabbing his ankles, Ryans is able to snag Gael's bloody hand in his, then leans back with a strain of tired joints and old muscles, yanking the former administrator up, dragging him inside the crew hatch.

There's a sharp exhalation of effort as Ryans falls back onto the seats beyond the doorway, Gael dragged in as well, leaving Melissa to swing the hatch shut and twist it locked. She climbs up over the two old men into one of the forward seats, straps herself in and pulls her hair out from within the seatbelt's grip.

"We're gonna die aren't we? We're gonna die." Linus murmurs to himself, fingers wound tightly into the arms of the chair, eyes wrenched shut. Just a moment after Gael is in the shuttle, there's a jerk and a lurching sensation, followed by the tremendous application of gravity and the roar of the engines. Everything is rattling, shaking, thundering. Somewhere in the chaos, Ryans and Gael have the semblance of mind to strap themselves in as the rocket takes flight.

On the front console, everything is in Chinese ahead of Melissa, nothing to gauge what is going on, no way to make heads or tails of the complex labyrinth of the written language she's seeing. But feeling the powerful Gs being pressed against her shoulders, flattening her back into her seat, Melissa knows another reason why she was likely necessary for this flight, and she can already feel it in her joints.

No one is wearing a pressurization suit.

There's going to be a lot of ache and pain for her to take in.

And when her eyes find the severed power cords of the microwave cannon, Melissa recalls what her other responsibility will now be.

Space is dark, cold, and it wants to kill you.

It's just like New York.

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