Operation Hercules, Part V


claire_icon.gif colette_icon.gif kravid_icon.gif taylor_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

adel_icon.gif adrienne2_icon.gifavi_icon.gif berlin_icon.gif dearing_icon.gifhuruma_icon.gif kyle_icon.gif maddox_icon.gif matthew_icon.gif pete_icon.gif tamas_icon.gif woods_icon.gif

Scene Title Operation Hercules, Part V
Synopsis Wolfhound's operation to capture the remaining Institute remnant concludes.
Date January 10, 2019

Darkness is abruptly lit by the sizzling snap of melting metal and a shower of sparks.

When the light fades, it is replaced by the resounding clang of a booted foot striking the middle of a door. Still-glowing pieces of a lock fall with a clatter to a concrete floor, as a lean silhouette wrapped in matte black armor sweeps into the room.

“It's a real good key. Works on any lock.”

There's a mixture of pride and sarcasm in Colette Demsky’s voice as she breaches the entrance of an unlit underground structure, leaving concrete stairs and a shorter, blonde strike-team partner at her back. The room they've stolen into has metal-encased conduits on the walls, large humming metal boxes marked with faded PG&E stickers, and blown-out overhead lighting. A metal mesh cage partitions off several tall generators, long ago gone silent.

Lifting up one hand and drawing ambient light into the room, Colette turns to look back at Claire Bennet with one black brow kicked up.

“It's gotta be in here, let's spread out.”

One Day Earlier

The Bunker

Rochester, NY

January 9th

06:07 am

“Okay, and lastly…”

Avi Epstein’s been at this for the better part of an hour. Stepping in front of a television showing a satellite image of the Los Angeles hills, he consults a tablet held fast in one hand. “Densely, the Major’s put you in charge of a technical op with Bennet.” As he taps the screen, the image on the display behind him changes to show an area at a higher elevation, ringed with concentric circles of solar panels around a circular, concrete-walled building with a satellite dish on top.

“On the books this is a Pacific Gas and Electricity solar receiver station, it was built in 2010 as part of a green energy initiative.” Epstein paces around the conference room, scanning the members of Wolfhound at the table. “The Major’s uncovered that it was bankrolled by the Renautas Company, a shell of the Institute. We think this might be a remote part of the Sunstone complex.”

Avi taps his tablet again and pulls up floor plans for the solar station. “The Major hasn't picked up any data traffic from the satellite dish and the facility looks like it was pounded by the EMP and is non-functional. There's portions of the schematics for the facility that were never digitally recorded, so we’re suspecting this might be an emergency exit for executive-level Institute asshole's.”

Looking at the screen behind himself, Avi continues. “Bennet, Demsky, I want you to breach this facility and find the basement and look for any possible ways in or out of the main Sunstone compound…”

One Day Later

Solar Power Station

Just outside Los Angeles, CA

January 10th

1:22 pm

The basement of the power switch facility is just as vacant and silent as the upstairs. Electronics here long ago died when the nuclear EMP that created the dead zone rolled across the Pacific Southwest. As Colette walks past rows of workbenches with toolboxes and spare parts, she sweeps a light over an old 2011 calendar set to November with every day leading up to the 8th crossed off.

“I really don't like this…” Colette says quietly, passing by the calendar and sending the beam of light extending from her hand down to a tall set of metal lockers at the end of a short hall. “It's way too quiet…”

“Damn good key,” Claire sounds a little more than mildly amused at the sarcasm. “Take off your share of body parts too I am sure. Like a jedi.” Don’t ask why a cheerleader would even care about Jedi…

Claire’s own flashlight sweeping the opposite direction covering where her partner doesn’t, as she steps in after the other woman.

“You know. Just by saying that you have doomed us right?” Claire comments blandly offering a touch of a smile. “All we are missing is the sudden shift of music.”

Her own flashlight crosses the calendar and freezes there for a moment. Why was it always Nov 8th… Blonde brows furrow, before she pulls her attention back to the mission. “Still, I agree,” Claire grumbles out reluctantly.

Colette moves deeper into the power station’s basement, brows furrowed and jaw set with tension. «Wendigo-3 to Nambiza. We’re in the basement. No sign of an entrance yet.»

Sweeping her photokinetic light over to a series of power conduits, Colette starts following them. “Just the one trick,” she says to the lights, drastically undercutting herself. “I'd trade the lightsaber for the mind tricks any day of the week…” The power conduits end at a circuit breaker, and Colette exhales a soft sigh. “This side’s clear.”

On Claire’s side of the power station basement, she's navigated a tall series of shelves and found another circuit breaker against a fat wall. For a moment, when her flashlight passes over it, she dismisses it and moves on. But then she pivots, seeing what Colette is looking at, and turns to reconsider the box on the wall.

There's no power conduits going to it.

There is an amused chuckle from the blonde, her flashlight flickering over the box on her side. “I’d give up my one trick for your one trick,” Claire points out her light sweeping over to look at Colette. “Cooler any…” she spots the box next to her teammate and then sweeps back to look at “… way.” Her beam traces around the edge of the box before she declares, “Found something.”

Once Colette reaches her, Claire traces out the line of the box, knowing the other will see what she saw, without her having to vocalize the obvious. That done, she moves to check the edge of the door for possible traps before attempting to open the door and seeing what’s inside.

Clear of any sort of danger, Claire is able to force the industrial circuit breaker box open, revealing a seemingly innocuous series of black switches like any breaker. Colette plucks a portable digital camera from a pocket at her hip and clips it to the front of her AEGIS vest. “Nambiza,” Colette falls to the comms, “what do you make of this?”

«Unconnected to the main power grid. It appears to be an electronic switch. One moment.»

Colette gets closer, shining her light on the box interior, then looks over to Claire in momentary uncertainty. Not long after, Tenzin chimes back in over the comms.

«Got it. Flip the third and fifth switches.»

Colette reaches in, doing as requested, and there's a pop inside the circuit breaker, followed by a hush of hissing hydraulics as a section of the concrete wall beside the panel slides down into the floor on a steel rail. Stepping back and training her firearm into the opening, Colette reveals a concrete ramp going down into darkness. “We've got a back entrance here or… something. Are Amarok-3 and Keelut-3 available?”


“Confirmed,” Colette says with a nod to Claire to lead the way. “We’re going to investigate. Depth and structural shape will likely cause transmission interruptions.”

There is a small nod of satisfaction as the way opens. Claire had stepped aside for Colette as soon as the panel was uncovered. She wasn’t the techie, she was the soldier. Though anytime they use the banshee’s she feels less of one. Maybe this is why her favorite shotgun is strapped to her back and machete attached to her hip and other little things that go boom. She’s ready for anything.

The xlrad hums softly as Claire holds it at ready, stepping into the doorway as she is instructed to take the lead. “Thank you as always, Nambiza,” the regenerator offers politely before moving forward and before they lose coms. Her flashlight clicks back on to light her way down, watching and listening past the crunch of their own boots on the flooring.

The concrete ramp leads down on a very gradual slope. Checking her wristwatch, Colette confirms a suspicion. “We’re headed east,” she says back over her shoulder to Claire. “This is probably headed to whatever’s under sunstone. With the size of the doors back there,” she motions to where they came from, “this is probably a supply entrance. You could easily fit a forklift down here.”

The walls of this passage are lined with metal power conduits, the ceilings interspersed with caged lights that emit a flickering and irregular illumination. The descent takes roughly ten minutes, covering close to a mile of distance. At the end of the passage are a pair of heavy steel blast doors that aren’t entirely shut, their toothed edges parted and orange emergency lightning flashing inside. There’s an anxious thread of worry moving through Claire as she sees those lights. Too much of this reminds her of the arcology.

“Hold,” Colette says, taking a knee by the door and closing her eyes. There’s a fine series of shimmering filaments that move out from Colette, like threads of a heat mirage. They snake through the doorway, bending her field of vision around the corner. “It’s a warehouse…” she says, followed by a hitch of her breath. “I’ve got a body. Looks like security. Blood. Gunshot wound to the head. Doesn’t have a firearm on him.”

Colette’s eyes snap open and she looks up to Claire. “Did someone get here before us?” In that worry, the need to move with haste intensifies as she motions to the doorway, indicating the regenerator should take point.

The regenerator, keeps an eyes on where they have been, while listening to Colette’s report. That was odd. Blonde brows lower with concern. “Who would even be interested in this place, besides us?” Chances are there are many, but in that moment, it was a little disturbing to think there was anyone there before them.

Given the all clear to move on, Claire takes a slow and cautious step around the corner, The hum of the XLRAD seems too loud in her ears, even though it is a low soft sound. They wanted people alive, so it was a necessary evil. Still didn’t help shake the irrational fear of it giving them away.

Moving forward, Claire doesn’t have any trouble finding the body that had been found. The blue eyed gaze doesn’t linger long, in favor of watching out for whoever it was that kill the man. “
How long you think?” The difference could be significant. EIther way, “I don’t like this,” she repeats Colette’s earlier words.

Colette shakes her head. The blood’s still wet, too recent for her tastes. “This doesn’t make any sense…” she says quietly, stepping around the corpse. “He was shot in the back of the head, while standing…” she follows the line of spray across the floor, recalling pieces of information she learned from Judah a lifetime ago. “He never saw his attacker, round exited… somewhere over there.” She motions to the far wall.

Creeping in that direction, Colette stops as she finds another security member’s corpse. “Found another. Three gunshot wounds,” she takes a knee, kicking away his gun and checking for a pulse, “dead. He’s not totally cold. This was recent. What the fuck is going on?” Blind eyes move to the opposite end of the warehouse they’d come in from, there a forklift is parked near a freight elevator and a door marked exit with a flickering red sign.

“Nambiza we’ve got hostiles on premises.” Colette calls into the comms. No response. “Nambiza do you copy?” Blind eyes flick to Claire, brows raised. “We’re too far underground.” Nervously, she looks back to the way they came, then over to the elevator and stairwell access. “Let’s take the stairs, see if we can figure out what the fuck happened here. Take it slow, we don’t have any idea how many other people might be down here with us…”

There is a short nod of acknowledgement to Colette’s orders. “Got it,” Claire murmurs quietly. Despite the tough exterior she tries to show, the regenerator casts a concerned glance to the body on the ground in front of her. This was not something they had expected. With a deep breath, she turns towards the stairs. Blue eyes sweep the area, while her mind is clearly turning over what they had just seen.

Coming to a brief stop near the entrance of the stairs, Claire looks back at her teammate with a concerned look. “Did anyone else know we were coming here?” It could be coincidence, but she wasn’t completely convinced.

Colette offers a slow shake of her head in response. “Not to my knowledge,” she says, following behind Claire as the regenerator leads the way down the stairs. “Something feels wrong about all of this…” The stairs wind down two stories, and at each landing there’s pockmarks of bullet holes in the walls, spent shell casings on the steps. Colette fires a wary look to Claire, and as they reach the bottom of the stairs there’s a smear of blood leading to a metal security door propped open by another dead Institute security officer, missing his gun. This one, unlike the others, was shot front-on and appears to have fired back at his attacker up the stairs.

Colette takes a knee next to the body, searching pockets and pouches, retrieving an identification card with a chip ID inserted into it. “No name, just a serial number,” she says with a furrow of her brows, “looks pre-war. These guys were probably on the Institute payroll from the beginning, but…” She slides the card into a pocket in her armored vest, “who the hell has been bankrolling everything since the war?”

As she stands up, Colette places a hand to the comm piece around her ear. “This is Wendigo-3,” she says as she moves, “We found a hidden freight access at the power station off-site. Looks like this is how the Institute got material hardware down to the labs. There’s something in the superstructure of the concrete, it’s blocking our comms from reaching the surface. We’ve found dead security guards, no sign of hostiles. Someone else might be here. Team 3, Team 1, you down here with us?”

Through the door past the body is a concrete hallway lit only by intermittently flickering fluorescent lights. There’s something about the hall, about the dead security officers, about the flickering fluorescent lights that reminds Claire of the escape from the arcology all those years ago. It isn’t pleasant memories.

Standing watch while the other goes through pockets, Claire can’t help but glance down at the body now and then. “All they need is to be wearing white and black armor.” It bothered her that these men only had a number to identify themselves by. “Why only a number?” she asks to no one in particular.

The discomfort of the situation continues to grow and the anxiety starts to gnaw at her stomach. “I am getting a serious feeling of deja vu,” Claire gripes softly under her breath, looking at her teammate. “And not the good kind.” Memories she’s tried to suppress start to tickle at the back of her mind, making her shift in place uncomfortably. “Sometimes it takes effort to remember a version of Richard created all of that.” Disturbing to think about.

Dashing away the memories which cling to her mind like old cobwebs, Claire steps through the door and her breath catches. It takes her a moment to gather herself together, before determining that it is clear and motions for Colette to follow.

«This is Team-3, negative on the dead security guards. No hostiles encountered. We are escorting eight surrendered non-combatants and going after Varlane, who might be liquidating assets. Freight entrance you’ve found is supposed to be the only safe exit, near a power plant. Keep eyes open. So will we.» Adel’s voice over the comms elicits a sigh of relief from Colette.

“Copy. No word from Team 1 yet. What’s your ETA?” Colette steps over the dead guard and into the hall with Claire, waiting for a response that doesn’t come. “Team 3?” Silence again. “Team 3 do you copy?” Nothing.

“It’s gotta be this place,” Colette says with a hiss. Beyond the door to the stairs is a concrete-walled lobby with a freight elevator access. Power is flickering off and on erratically, intermittently lighting the subterranean space. There’s no sign of violence down here, no blood or shell casings, just multiple closed doors and adjoining halls. Signage on the walls indicates this might be a central location, with directions for Research Labs, Cargo, Sample Containment, Admin, and Medical clearly displayed. “I think— ” A shout cuts Colette off.

What the fuck have you done!?” A woman’s voice, echoing from the direction of Cargo, a sharp right out of the foyer. “You’re supposed to be gone already!” The voice causes Colette to hitch in her steps, face draining of color, something about it is hauntingly familiar, like something once heard in a nightmare.

Claire, too, recognizes the voice. But her recollection is clearer.

“Is she sedated?” A severe-looking brunette woman asks, standing beside an examination table. The doctors in the room are dark silhouettes, but Elijah Carpenter’s weathered countenance is a familiar shadow among them.

“Yes, but… Jonas told me that she’s on the Director’s no interference list. She isn’t a test subject, she’s a guest.” Doctor Carpenter furrows his brows, stepping between the dark-haired woman and the bed. “She has an extremely rare form of mutated malaria that’s adapted to her regeneration. We’ve been working on a cure for months. She’s prepped for surgery to— ”

The brunette woman steps closer to Doctor Carpenter, staring him in the eyes. “The Director isn’t here, neither is Simon. I’m operating under direct orders from Pete Varlane. We’re moving her to project Hydra.”

Doc shakes his head, pushing a hand against her shoulder. “Oh no the fuck you aren’t. I don’t care who you are this is my patient.” The woman narrows her eyes, then motions to the shadows as two armed guards step around and grab Doctor Carpenter. “What— the fuck are you doing? Are you an idiot?” They begin dragging him away by the arms. “When the Director returns he’ll— ”

“That’s where you’re confused, Elijah.” She turns, staring him down. Claire can now clearly see the badge hanging from her blazer. “The Director won’t be coming back.”


“So the place is shielded.” It is the obvious guess. “I’m guessing to keep people from stumbling onto it,” Claire murmurs as she starts forward, blue eyes intent on the hall in front of her; taking note of each sign as she passes. At least they knew if they needed to get word out the stairwell seemed to not be a part of whatever was used to shield the facility. Mind turning that over, Claire is startled out of her thoughts by a shout.

Something about it….

Without any warning to the woman behind her, as the sounds of a familiar voice brings the regenerator to a sudden and abrupt stop. Claire knows that voice too well, remembers the moment too clearly. Even though the details were fuzzy, it voice drags her back under. Involuntarily her breath catches in her throat. “I know her,” she whispers out that breath after a moment.

Fingers tighten around the weapon in her hand and Claire turns to glance over her shoulder at Colette. A brow lifts in a silent question, leaning back a little to ask softly. “Closer?” The other woman had the means to let them do it.

Colette nods in confirmation of Claire’s suggestion and creeps down the corridor a little closer. The voices become more clear, two women, arguing with one-another. One sounds younger than the other. “I’m not leaving these people to be test subjects or killed!” The younger woman shouts. Colette looks back at Claire, worried, and creeps up closer to the source of the voice through an open pair of doors into a warehouse space.

Colette creeps to the edge of the doorway, then shimmers as the color drains out of her and she turns into a faintly distorted ripple of invisibility. Claire is left uncloaked so she can see her surroundings. Inside the warehouse there’s forklifts and pallet jacks around tall shelves containing plastic-wrapped containers of indeterminate design.

As Claire gets a better look at them, some of the plastic wrapping is torn and hanging like a shroud. They’re old ACTS units, the hibernation coffins once used by the Institute. There’s dozens of them in here, stacked up on top of each other like appliances on the shelf at an old Home Depot.

In the middle of the warehouse is a shipping container and two figures. One is very clearly Erica Kravid, though she has shed her business attire for sensible pants and boots and a white blouse that is stained with sweat and blood. Her hair is frazzled and she is standing dangerously close to a woman roughly Claire’s age holding an assault rifle at Kravid. Her hair is long, dark, and tangled with curls.

Pete will kill you,” Kravid hisses at the young woman. “Taylor, I can’t lose you.” Taylor gnashes her teeth together, threatening her mother with a jab of the assault rifle forward.

I’ll circle around behind them,” Colette whispers to Claire, “distract them.” The tried and true Diversionary Bennet strategy. Claire can only partly see Colette’s blurred outline slinking away, becoming further and further indistinct as she makes her way into the warehouse.

Left to her own devices, Claire watches the retreat of Colette for a long moment until the shimmering is too faint to see without effort. Only then she takes a deep breath and looks around the stack of ACT units, watching mother and daughter for a moment. Anxiety twists at her stomach as she thinks..

What would Daddy do?

Then she has an idea.

“You don’t have to lose her,” Claire’s voice is calm and neutral as she steps out from behind her cover. The banshee pointed in their direction. A small smile on her lips like a cat who’s trapped a pair of mice. “Hello, Kravid. Been awhile.” she offers pleasantly enough, trying to channel Noah Bennet in the moment, allowing Colette time. “My people can keep her safe.” The patches on her uniform are clear enough as she takes a step towards them.

“Taylor, right?” The regenerator then addresses the younger woman. “Taylor, let me help you get out of here. Away from this place. Safe from the lunatics that run this place.”

The look of betrayal, rather than surprise, in Kravid’s eyes is confusing at first until it’s leveled on her daughter. “Did you— ”

Taylor slowly raises her hands, looking nervously at Claire. “I didn’t. I swear,” Taylor says with a look of guilt nonetheless. Kravid turns to regard Claire, the corners of her mouth downturned into a disapproving mother’s frown. When Kravid’s attention squares on Claire, Taylor takes a few slow steps back with her hands still raised, making her way toward the shipping container.

“You ungrateful shit,” is Kravid’s greeting to Claire. “Do you have any idea the amount of resources that went into keeping you alive? All of the special exceptions the Director placed on you back before he got himself killed?” Kravid’s anger is palpable, her frustration clear. “Millions of dollars to cure you of a unique strain of malaria, and this is how you show that appreciation?” It isn’t Claire she’s mad at, this isn’t her argument. Claire is a convenient proxy for her daughter.

Behind Taylor, Claire can see the tell-tale shimmer of Colette’s invisible form moving out of the shadows. She doesn’t move to intercept, but instead moves along the side of the shipping container and out of Claire’s line of sight. Taylor, quietly, withdraws a key from her pocket and moves to unlock the container. That’s when Colette becomes visible, banshee trained on Taylor.

What’s in there?


amadeus_icon.gif shaw_icon.gif

It’s cold. It’s been cold for hours. Dragged from their cells too early to be routine experimentation, hauled into an industrial space neither had ever seen before, and thrown into a shipping container without even being restrained. It all felt haphazard, panicked. In many ways, it was. The guards who escorted two prisoners from their cells into this corrugated metal container died to an unknown assailant not long ago, two quick shots. But then, an argument. Two women shouting at each other, and now a third. It’s been hard to make out their voices, right up until one of them was standing at the entrance of the container.

What’s in there?” Her voice isn’t familiar. But in the cold, dark confines of this grim space, Shahid Khan and Amadeus Deckard have little else to hope for, other than perhaps the kindness of strangers.

"Fuckin' Hell…" Amadeus says as he shields his eyes from the light a bit. This has all been months of pain, fear and some measure of trauma. He's done his best to work out in his tiny cell, to keep his body ready, but no amount of martial arts was going to get him through a bunch of people with guns and locked doors.

He immediately starts to walk to that door through, when it opens, suspecting that this might be the moment they finally kill them. So he slams his foot right into it, because if he's going down, he's not going down without a fight. He tries to slam the door right into whoever is behind it. "Bring it the fuck on you limp dick motherfuckers!"

Sleep was supposed to be an escape, but not for Shahid. His form has been semi-limp, propped against the far end of the container ever since they'd been hustled in and shut away. He's been aware of Amadeus, but unsociable, near silent as he listens to the unseen world. The earlier shots first stirred him, enough to get his head to raise from its bowed position. He'd been fighting the urge to empty the contents of his stomach - naught but bile and spit at the moment - within the shipping container.

But now with Amadeus kicking at the metal container and shouting obscenities at some unknown women, Shahid makes an effort to move again. But it's to lightly knock a fist against the side of the metal container. Three short taps. Three longer spaced out taps. Three short taps. And pause for response to the emergency distress signal.

The door to the shipping container slams partway open, the chain holding it shut rattling loudly. Taylor leaps back with a startle at the noise and the shout. Colette jerks back too, turning her banshee to the shipping container, vividly recalling what happened on the assignment to track down Caspar Abraham. But this wasn’t the mournful cry of some misshapen abomination, this is a cry of anger and frustration. Then, a more rhythmic and purpose knock. SOS.

Jesus Christ,” Colette whispers, looking back to Claire. “There’s people in here!”

“While I am grateful, I really am…. there are times I think it would have been better off if he had let me eventually die.” Claire states calmly, brows lifting up a little. Her tone is a bit too conversational. The regenerator spent so much time repressing things like this. Keeping it all from her teammates. Here in front of one of her torturers, it starts to spill out again. A fine tremble, unnoticable around the closed fist at her side, climbs up her back and into her gun hand.

She keeps her attention on her peripheries, but Claire’s cold blue eyes are on Kravid. She doesn't even hide the hatred. “I know he did it because of who I was to him, but… that was a different time and a different me. It also doesn’t change the fact he was a fucking madman and let you all experiment.” It is probably a good thing that what she had in her hand is a Banshee and not an actual gun. Kravid might be laying in a puddle of blood.

Colette’s announcement pulls Claire's attention for a moment. Those words fueling the fire so to speak.

The emotions and memories associated with her own time in the Institute slowly boil to the surface, fingers tightening on the grip, but somehow she manages not to fire it, yet. A part of her wants too. That part of her scowls in disgust at the older woman. “A madman and not the man I knew and loved like family. That one is happy to help us destroy what is left of this grotesque abomination of an idea.” Eyes narrows as she growls out, “And let me tell you, I have taken great pleasure in hunting down each and everyone of you.” It was the whole reason she took the job after all. Closure.

Amadeus stops when he realizes something more is going on out there. He certainly doesn't know morse code. He knows three things: Kung-fu, cats, and marijuana. Four things if you ask certain women, according to him. "Who the fuck is that? Is that my deadbeat dad's girlfriend? Abby or whatever? Lucille? He's too fucking old to be creeping on all these young girls!"

He kicks the door again.

"They took my fucking ability, shoot those motherfuckers!" he encourages, figuring they must have guns if they broke in here. "They replaced all my fucking blood, do you know how much that shit hurts? Fuck every single one of them, they can die in a fucking fire!!!"

Another hard door kick. "Old bitch I can hear you! I'm gonna kick your ass down the fucking stairs!"

The pounding sound of Amadeus’ foot echoes the pounding in Shahid’s head. He winces again, narrowing his eyes as he looks towards the partly kicked opened portal and the light seeping through. “Hey Mozart,” the man snaps at Amadeus after a pause, “do a guy a solid and shut the fuck up a moment would you? My head’s killing me without your whinging and I’m sure they heard you.” Rebuke uttered, he pushes up against the container wall, using it as a support to lean on. A hand lifts, knuckle rubbing the side of his eye.

Despite his chastisement of Amadeus, Shahid works his way over towards the opened end of the container closer to the other prisoner. “And if they do have guns out there, you don’t want them to put you out of your misery here, do you?” he mutters under his breath more to himself than for Amadeus’ sake. Still, Shahid gets to a point he deems close enough that if needed, he could potentially duck behind the more energetic of the prisoner pairing.

A deep sense of dread creeps over Kravid as she listens to Claire, jaw set and fingers curling against her palms. She looks over to Colette, watching as the Wolfhound operative walks to the shipping container and holds a hand up to the chain. A second later Kravid is wincing as she looks away from a brilliant flare of blue-white light. The periphery of the room grows dark as light is drawn in and concentrated into a welding-torch of laser light, slicing through the chain with a sizzle-hiss of molten steel that drops in globules to the floor. Taylor watches on with wide eyes, taking a slow step back as the chain comes unbound.

We’re all dead,” Kravid says with a sharp tongue, her ire directed at Claire. “You can’t save them any more than you can save yourself. They’re already here. You’re too late.” As Kravid delivers that ominous warning, Colette pulls the doors to the shipping container open, her black-armored silhouette the first thing Shahid and Amadeus had seen in hours.

Out,” Colette barks, “over there with her, stay low. We’ll get you out of— ”

Automatic gunfire interrupts Colette, blasting from across the warehouse floor. Bullets impact the shipping container, ricochet with a shower of sparks. Kravid is clipped in the shoulder, spun around to crash down onto the floor with a howl. Taylor lunges forward, “Mom!” But Colette hooks an arm around her waist and draws her out of the open.

Another volley of gunfire strikes Claire, the first two rounds impacting her armor and causing her to stagger backwards from the force of the hit, but she barely feels the pain. As much as her ability is dying, the pain reduction isn’t, for better or worse. She can see where the gunfire is coming from, a pair of dark silhouettes approaching from the far end of the warehouse, a single red dot visible at head level.

Kravid drags herself across the floor, leaving a dark trail of blood as she tries to get to the dead security guards with their unattended guns. “I won’t let you do this to me you bitch,” she whispers to herself, not loud enough to be directed at Claire.

There’s a sound accompanying the two armed attackers approaching from the far side of the warehouse, a whirr-click of servo motors. This isn’t Institute security, this isn’t a rival mercenary unit, they’re—


“Who’s— ” Claire starts, but the first round of gunfire hits the container interrupting her thoughts. They knew they were not alone, but Before she can even turn to look at the robots, she gets staggered by another round.

The regenerator pales at the sight of the the robots as they come out of the shadows. “Why is it always robots?” she gripes, starting to turn and join Colette. The Banshee would probably be useless against those things, so it is shoved into it’s holster. Mid-turn, Claire notices what Kravid is doing. There is only the briefest second of debate…

She sighs.

Be the better person, Claire.

This was probably not something her father would do as, Claire suddenly turns back and hurries for the older woman. Between her and Colette, the regenerator has a better chance of surviving a rescue. Throwing herself between the robots and Kravid, Claire reaches down for the woman, intent on either dragging or helping her to whatever safety they can find. “Don’t be stupid,” Claire growls. Not that she is being any smarter.

"They're gonna fucking kill us anyway, that's how this shit works!" Amadeus immediately crouches to the floor when the gunshots hit the container. "Fucking see?"

When he hears a moment of gunfire not hitting the container itself, he kicks the now unlocked door open and looks back. "Come on!" he shouts at Shaw, looking out in the distance. "Fuck, motherfucking robots again!" He doesn't have anyway to fight those things. No cocaine, he's clean now, and no baseball bat, so he instead starts running behind the first bit of cover he can find; behind the container with Taylor and Colette.

He doesn't look back again, if Shaw isn't keeping up that's his own damned fault. That's the Deckard Way. When he's back there, he looks between Colette and Taylor, then settles on Colette. "These motherfuckers have to run out of ammo eventually. If you wanna beat a robot, you've gotta get on their back and beat the shit out of them with somethin' hard!"

"All I know is Jeet Kune Do, I don't know shit about military tactics and big ass guns. Give me a motherfucker and I'll beat a motherfucker, can't do shit about robots unless you've got a baseball bat." he informs, not even trying to peek around the container to see what's going on. "I bet all this bullshit is my dumbass dad's fault. He's always getting caught up in this dumb shit."

With a hand lifted to shield his eyes from the white-hot bit of light coming into the darkness of the shipping container, Shahid squints around the cracks between his fingers. Watching. For the first time in a long time he feels his heart actually flutter with hope.

Short lived though it may be.

When the bullets start flying, the man ducks into crouch to present a smaller target. And at first, it appears Shahid is following Amadeus’ lead in the escape, running as quickly as he can while hunched. Until, he breaks away from the other prisoner.

Instead, Shahid turns towards Claire and Kravid, dashes for one of the weapons on the pair of the dead armed guards, and slides the last few feet to come alongside Kravid on the ground. With a rifle in his hands, Shahid swings the gun up, aimed for one of the robots coming in and fires for the red dotted “face”.

Amadeus peeks around the container when he hears more gunshots, then shouts "Dumbass!"

Who the fuck are you?” Colette hisses as she grabs Amadeus by the collar and pulls him down into a crouch. The question, ultimately, is rhetorical. Automatic gunfire rings off of the walls and Colette can’t get a line of sight on Claire.

On the other side of the shipping container, Claire intercepts Kravid just as one of the robots opens fire. A volley of automatic gunfire clips against her AEGIS, causing the armor plates in her torso and right leg to harden, flattening the rounds against the ferrofluid plating. The impact of the shots drops Claire to one knee and knocks the wind out of her, and she feels a two-beat vibration in the armor’s battery pack: halfway drained.

Kravid looks up at Claire, then swiftly reaches for the gun only to find it’s not there anymore. The report of Shahid’s firing is deafening at close range. Kravid winces, curling up as shell casings rain down around her. Shaw’s return fire sends showers of sparks from the machines on impact, sends one staggering back from the blast as fragments of ablative armor rain down onto the concrete underfoot.

“Nevermind, I need you to cover me,” Colette says sharply, forcing her sidearm into Amadeus’ hand. It’s not a baseball bat. “Two shot bursts, then go back into cover,” she’s very emphatic about it. Colette then sweeps her attention to Taylor, pointing two gloved fingers at her. “The power plant, do you know the route?”

Yeah,” Taylor says breathlessly, eyes wide. “But I can— ”

Not now,” Colette interjects, there’s no time. “When I step out, get to the door we came in from and take cover behind the concrete.”

I can help!” Taylor insists, but Colette grabs her by the collar.

“You’re a civilian,” Colette stresses, then shoves Taylor back. “Follow the plan.

Another volley of gunfire erupts in the warehouse as the two machines track a straight path down an aisle of tall shelving toward Shaw, Claire, and Kravid. Their pace is methodical and steady, their gait fluid and without bob or pitch. The machines move like water, no recoil, no diversion. Their single red-lit lens trains down the aisle on Claire and Shaw, the upright and easiest of targets, and—

The world is blinding light.

A flash without the bang erupts in the warehouse, shining radiant and colorless for a few solid seconds before flickering away. The machines are staggered in their approach, the irising lenses of their cyclopean eyes stuttering to adjust to the overload. The source of the light was far enough away from those around Kravid not to be blinded, but they’re still seeing spots in their vision spots and lines.

Snaking lines of blue-green light whip through the air, slicing through the aluminum supports of one warehouse shelf, leaving a white-hot line of cauterized metal in their wake. The twin lashes of light whip-snap up against one of the robots, leaving glowing scars on the metal, but not penetrating. But they don’t need to.

Fall back!” Colette’s voice rings out through the warehouse as one of the shelves collapses under the weight of its severed supports. Several hundred pounds of industrial equipment comes tumbling down from the shelf, colliding with one of the machines and sending it collapsing to the ground. The second one is struck by the same avalanche of metal and plastic, knocked away and onto its back.

It won’t hold them for long.

The sudden arrival of Shahid is an unexpected one, making Claire tense for a moment, uncertain of his intentions. The blonde woman can’t help but stare when he snaps up the weapon and starts to fire without hesitation. A second later, she pulls her hand from her own weapon, having full expected him to turn it on her.

Who the hell…?

The thought is interrupted as the robots throw out another burst and she finds herself on her knee, with vision swimming a little as she gasps to catch her breath. “Son of a…” Claire growls out between clenched teeth. The comment more for the inconvenience then pain, pushing to her feet as the fluid in the suit relaxes again. She couldn’t take too many more shots like that.

Taking a moment to grab the other assault rifle and loop it across her body, Claire looks over at Colette and calls, “Right behind you.” They might need heavier fire power and Claire wasn’t above looting the corpses to keep them alive. A few clips get tucked into black bdu pockets.

“Cover us,” Claire barks at Shahid, reaching down to grab Kravid’s good arm and loop it over her shoulder. “And you get up, especially, if you want to get out of here alive,” she grunts out as she works to haul the other woman up. However, the regenerator was tiny, despite the amount of time she focuses on working out, Kravid was heavy. “You better work through the pain, Kravid… because you slow us down too much, I might consider leaving your ass behind.” Safety of the team comes first before the money… Even if it was a LOT of money.

"Just shoot her old evil ass!" Amadeus shouts as he tries to cover Colette, before they finally have an opening to get the hell out.

"Fuck, I can't feel any cats anywhere, this is some bullshit, my ability is really gone." He stays close to Colette, occasionally eyeing the downed robots. He's not a good shot, like, at all, but he at least knows how to use the gun. "Hey! Whoever you are, is my dumbass dad here? Flint Deckard." this is asked of Colette while trying to look back to make sure they aren't being pursued.

The blast of gunfire from Shahid’s stolen gun came by trained reflex. But, once the spotting lines and chaotic crash of industrial equipment have settled long enough that he can get a proper look around, he stills at the sight of Claire in the AEGIS armor, and… Kravid.

The grip on his rifle tightens. Dark eyes pin his gaze filled with an icy cold rage on the scientist. The face of his torturer, now present and vulnerable. Shahid’s mouth corner twists up into a sneer as he brings up the barrel of the rifle to bear on the woman. “It’s too bad. If you hadn't taken my ability, you wouldn't have to feel any of this,” he utters quietly. And then, again, pulls the trigger to fire upon Kravid at center mass.

Blood explodes from Kravid’s mouth as she’s shot three times in the chest from a controlled burst. Two of the rounds tumble out of her and into Claire’s armor, causing her AEGIS to stiffen at the impact and then release a two-pulse beat letting her know the battery is low. Kravid immediately becomes dead weight, crumpling to the floor on her knees, then onto her side. The sight of her mother being gunned down elicits a scream from Taylor that is both her mother’s name and some unintelligible howl of anguish. As she rushes forward, Colette intercepts and slams into Taylor with a shoulder, then hooks an arm around her waist. “No, no! We have to go!

Flicking a blind-eyed stare over to Amadeus, Colette mouths the name Deckard with a look of abject confusion but also recognition in her eyes. “I’m a friend of your dad!” That’s a very liberal interpretation of their relationship, but it serves its purpose. “I can explain later, just follow!”

There’s no time for Colette to reprimand Shaw, but internally she’s taken his side. There’s no heat in Colette’s expression, just sympathy for this particular Devil. She’d been here, in Shaw’s shoes, and were she conscious at Mount Natazhat she’d have done the same thing to everyone there. As she fights with Taylor, dragging her out of line of fire of the approaching machines, Colette desperately calls over her comm, “Is anyone out there? Repeat, this is Wendigo-3, we’re under fire from hostile machines in a warehouse. We have civilians, requesting support!

As Colette’s team falls back, one of the machines manages to pull itself from beneath the collapsed shelving, dragging a mangled leg behind as it does. It raises its rifle, opening fire on Shaw with a thundering burst.

There is no real way to explain the mixture of emotions that slam into Claire at the same rate as the bullets impact her armor. The anger and anxiety of being inadvertently shot at and the relief that another bad person was gone from the word… they war with each other as she stares down at the crumpled body. Eventually, a furious blonde turns her attention on Shahid. Blue eyes practically snap with her anger.

“You stupid son of a bitch,” Claire starts to growl out, ready to berate him for shooting her in the process of taking out Kravid; but, is promptly interrupted by the machine lobbing bullets at the target for her anger. Even if she’d like to leave the guy to his fate, Claire is still going to try to save his unworthy ass.

Luck for her, they are not shooting at her. Which allows her to swing the rifle off her shoulders and bring it up to fire at the robot, aiming for the head mostly. Any place that looks like a weakness. “Run!” She snaps at anyone that will listen. As she fires at the things, it brings back flashes of past battles when she used to be able to pop right back up after being killed for metallic foes.

Amadeus continues to fire whenever he has a clear shot, trying his best to cover Colette as they try to get the hell out of here. "Your hot ass friend is in trouble!" he shouts, not entirely sure about what the hell the weak spot on a robot is. This is way easier with a baseball bat and cocaine, two things he's lacking right now.

He might be clean, but he at least wants the baseball bat.

A strange mixture of elation and adrenaline twists Shahid's expression into an odd, humorless smile as he sees Kravid perish before him, by his hand. The smile disappears at the sound of the keening howl that breaks through his laser-focused attention.

It's barely in time for him to realize the area is still in the middle of a fight, and he's without cover. He's still being told to run. So he dives away from Claire, practically slamming to the ground and avoiding a pained cry out when the bullets cut through thin cloth and bite burning, deep grazes on his side and limbs.

Still, he rises back up with a push up from the ground, his pilfered rifle in a deathgrip. Shahid scrambles for the shipping container to follow Colette and the others in their escape route. "Fall back, Hot Ass!" he calls back behind him, expecting Claire to retreat like the rest of them.

«Wendigo-3, this is Keelut-1.» Rue’s voice comes over the comms, «We are en route to your position. We’ve picked up civilians as well. Keelut-2 has been tagged. What’re we coming into?»

Heavy fire!” Colette calls into the comms, flexing one hand open and closed and releasing another snaking line of laser-light that slices through the scars the exterior of one of the machines’ armored bodies. “We’ve got heavy hostile resistance, making a fighting retreat! Three civilians with us, Kravid is dead. Rendezvous by the stairs up at the freight elevator!

The fighting retreat changes focus as the limping machine shifts its focus from Shaw to the hail of gunfire coming from Claire. A blast of automatic gunfire reverberates through the concrete hall and Claire feels the impact of the burst at her abdomen. Her armor fails after the first bullet, battery pack depleted, the second and third rounds tear through her body and exit out the other side. She can’t feel the pain, but just the pressure from the impact as her legs give out. There’s blood everywhere, and Amadeus can hear Colette shouting over at him. “Take her! Take her!

The curly-haired brunette, Taylor, is thrust at Amadeus. Colette trains her focus on the machine, launching a snaking whip of light out that scars across the front of its camera-shaped head. “Go back toward the stairs!” Colette shouts, then advances toward Claire’s position at their rear. The robot sees her approach, trains its rifle up and prepares to fire, but Colette vanishes in a wink of invisibility. Gunshots whip past her as she slides on one leg along the ground, becoming visible beside Claire and throwing one hand up at the machine, creating a conical burst of light that overloads its visual sensors. The robot blind fires into the ceiling as Colette grabs Claire by the strap at the back collar of her armor.

“C’mon Hot Ass,” Colette says with a grimace that’s partly a smile, hauling Claire back up to her feet as she stands, “nobody left behind.” The robot continues to struggle with its damaged visual sensors and the second machine in the warehouse finally tears free of the pile of containers it was pinned under.

Toward the front of the group, Amadeus and Taylor can see the lobby and the freight elevator Colette mentioned as well as an open set of concrete stairs winding up into the ceiling. The bodies of dead security officers litter the lobby, slumped over where they were executed. Gunfire echoes down the halls, and a huge group is approaching from one of the adjoining halls.

Taylor skids to a stop, eyes wide, and then expresses disbelief as another woman in Wolfhound armor comes charging through the door with one of the Institute’s doctors, Adrienne Allen. Robyn Quinn comes to a near stop, sidearm raised at Amadeus and Taylor in the moment it takes to parse that they’re not violent robots. Behind Robyn, a blonde-haired british man comes skidding through the door, firing back with a handgun over his shoulder.

“Bloody bullshit!” Woods screams, “bloody Terminator bullshit!” Three more rounds blast down the hall, followed by a return fire of an automatic weapon as another Institute scientist, Bruce Maddox, comes scrambling in with a wide-eyed and ashen expression. A moment later Rue comes staggering in carrying a much larger man in matching armor, clutching his gut and bleeding profusely.

“Shit…” Claire growls out as she allows Colette to help her up, but it isn’t a complaint at pain. She feels none. Instead, she says, “Never going to live that name down am I?” Her body feels a bit heavier and the first hints of exhaustion tug at her edge of her mind. The grin from her teammate is returned as the regenerator has to comment, “I couldn’t exactly let the civilian get hurt could I? He’s an asshole… but he’s pretty ho — Whoa..” The world swims as she gets to her feet, forcing her to take a moment.

The sensation of sticky warmth filling the space between her armor and body is worrisome. Always was when her ability was being sluggish. However, despite that, she feels fine. Good enough that any offer of help would be waved off and she starts to rush after Colette.

The effort causes Claire to suddenly cough, as if something seems to get caught in her chest. Almost immediately she tastes copper and a gloved hand brushes at her lips; it coming away with darks spots on the dark grey fabric. Not good. The same hand drops to press to one of her wounds and she continues to follow after her op leader, if a bit slower this time.

Even injured, Claire clutches tight to the rifle in her other hand. She might be badly injured, but she is still in the fight.

"Fucking-" 3 civilians clicks in the back of Robyn's mind as she looks at Amadeus and Taylor. "Christ, we don't have time for this," she hisses, looking back at Adrienne and Maddox as she lowers her sidearm. "Stay close. Stay nice." This is directed between Amadeus and Shaw and the two institute scientists, before she looks to Rue.

The smile she intends to give is meant to be kind and reassuring; the smile she actually gives is cocky and smarmy. "If anyone can help Keelut-2, it'd be appreciated," she remarks, before looking to Claire and Colette, and she steps off from the group of them towards them. Her sidearm is holstered in favour of the rifle she plucked from one of the dead security guard.

"Hey lovely," is a weirdly nonchalant and out of place comment, given as she steps up in line with Colette, rifle raised. "These things see like normal, right? 'Cause I got a plan that either ends in me getting shot a lot, or these tin cans falling over." And that's kind of important to know, or at least that's what her quirked eyebrow attempts to communicate as she squeezes off a round of fire. It helps that she's maybe the only one who's suit is still fully active.

If she didn't have Dearing's arm slung across her shoulder, and if she wasn't reaching across to press her free hand hard against his hands already clutched over his exit wound, Rue might smack Robyn to try and bring some sense back to her. The gravity of this situation sometimes seems lost on her friend, and she's suddenly glad that this will be her last mission.

This will be a tough report to write.

"We—" Rue's voice catches in her throat. "Cole." It isn't like her to break protocol and slip from designations to familiar names, but the situation is urgent, and she needs the photokinetic to understand exactly how badly she needs her help. "Can you— I don't know, laser the wound shut?" If it's a through-and-through, then there's no bullet trapped inside. But there may be greater internal damage. Rue has no idea what the best solution is.

"Hang on," she begs the man as she debates whether to keep heading for the elevator or stand her ground and fight.

Armed with a pilfered rifle of his own, Shahid hasn’t bothered to give up his grip on the firearm in exchange of aid in carrying any of the wounded. Truth is he’s not in any shape to be carrying anybody anyway, as he takes a moment in their fighting retreat to examine a bleeding graze on his arm.

It’s once they find their way to the execution scene in the lobby, once they’ve joined up with the other Wolfhounds and their “catch”, that Shahid finds himself fixed on Dr. Allen and Maddox. The latter, he starts to swing his rifle towards… but it’s only to emphatically point at the power toggler in his demand. “Where the fuck are we and how do we get out of here?” He’s got other questions too but those stay on the backburner until the more pressing info is obtained.

Up!” Maddox shouts, while also raising his hands in a jolt of fright, “we have to go up!” Doctor Allen grabs Maddox by the wrist and yanks his arms down, then looks across at Shaw with furrowed brows. The French doctor is markedly silent, but the apology in her eyes says more than words can in a short amount of time. Expectantly, she looks to Maddox for directions on the rear exit, but instead finds them barked from one of the Wolfhound members.

Hallway!” Colette shouts as she hurries past Robyn, rushing to Rue and Dearing. Her boots skid through his blood on the concrete and she takes a knee, sending a streaking line of light snaking back down the hallway and toward an elevator-filled lobby. “Stairwell! Up!” Colette doesn’t bother to explain to Dearing what she’s about to do, Rue already raised the topic, and this is neither going to be pretty nor painless.

Dearing’s scream rings down the hall at the backs of the retreating civilians as Colette concentrates a staccato series of low-intensity laser blasts into cauterizing staples that burn body armor and sear flesh. Dearing doubles over in pain and Colette boosts up to get under the arm Rue isn’t managing.

“No time,” Colette finally says back to Robyn, watching as Amadeus, Shaw, and Taylor make for the stairs with newcomers Maddox and Allen. “Look, we’ve got to— ”

A hail of gunfire comes blasting out of the hallway, tears through the door and square into the blonde brit who’d barely said a word since skidding onto the scene. Woods is assaulted with a barrage of high-caliber gunfire, launched off of his feet and thrown into the opposite wall. Colette lets out of yelp of fright and Dearing pivots, trying to duck away from the sound of gunfire. Through the doorway into the warehouse, a limping and blinded machine fires wildly through the hall.

When it sweeps its gun down toward where Rue, Dearing, and Colette are—

—it shoots Woods again.

Having hurled himself back into the line of fire, James Woods holds his arms out to his side, bullets ricocheting off of his arms and chest, tearing through his clothes but leaving him unscathed. “Un-fucking-believable!” Woods shouts, looking just as surprised as the others at this turn of events. “Go! Bloody go! Apparently they fucking gave me Superman powers or something!”

Dearing, being the least likely man to look another’s potential self-sacrifice in the mouth, urges Rue and Colette onward toward the stairs as Woods marches toward the machine, shielding his face with one hand as gunfire ricochets off of his palm. “Fuckin’— fuck— stupid— ”

Suddenly, a cannon-like gunshot reverberates through the halls and the machine’s chest explodes outward in a shower of fragmented steel. As the robot drops to the ground, Woods sees the tall and lithe frame of Huruma Dunsimi standing behind the machine, holding an anti tank sidearm in one hand, smoke issuing from the barrel. Behind her, an enormous group of former Institute staff and Wolfhound members are gathered in their own escape.

“Oh well— sure. Sure. Ok.” Woods stammers, “I s’pose y’could do that, but— ” Whatever Woods was going to say is stifled by Huruma pivoting and firing into the warehouse again with Wilby, sending another explosive round into the machine that had only just freed itself from the heap of shelving debris.

Woods gets the point, turns, and chases after the others escaping to the surface.

It was now or never.

Los Angeles Outskirts

Twenty Minutes Later

Smoke and flames rises up through the trees.

In the distance, the whine of the Tlanuwa’s engines signals the closure of an operation. Radio chatter is frantic, all teams reporting in varying degrees of casualties. Dearing lays on the ground outside of the remote power transfer station where they had exited, Colette and Rue at his side checking his injuries. A team of scientists are corralled together, watched over by Huruma and Adel, among whom kneels Pete Varlane, staring up and over at Shahid and Amadeus, both of whom recognize his blood-streaked face from their tormented nightmares. Both of whom have been relieved of their weapons.

Doctor Allen sits among the apprehended scientists, looking down at a partly burned photograph of a dark-haired woman she’d kept in her lab coat pocket. Beside her, Maddox sits in shell-shock, looking down at the ground, then up to the plume of smoke coming from what was once Sunstone Manor. He turns his attention to Pete, then over to Taylor Kravid, who paces around with her arms crossed over her chest apart from the prisoners.

Matthew Parkman sits not far away from Berlin, head in his hands, small shoulders trembling as he sobs into his palms. Robyn, not far away, watches the two and maintains a distant expression that hides the more complicated internal battle being waged in her heart. The same could be said of Kyle Renautas, sitting among the arrested scientists, brows furrowed and eyes distant, hoping beyond hope to feel his sister’s presence in his mind… and finding not but static.

Apart from the others, ex-Company agent and ex-prisoner James Woods looks down at his hands in marked disbelief. He had endured the same grueling experiments that Amadeus and Shaw had, and whatever it was the Institute was seeking to do had been successful in him. He had been changed, beyond any shadow of a doubt, and the shredded clothes he wears that show each bullet impact are a constant reminder of this. That even now as he stands under an open sky a free man, his life will never be what it was. However long that might be.

Not far from Dearing’s triage, Claire Bennet watches as her body slowly pushes metal slugs out from entry wounds. The regeneration process is happening slower than ever, and though she doesn’t feel the pain of the injuries, she understands that this isn’t sustainable. None of this is: not the way she fights, not the way she lives, not even Wolfhound. The blood on her hands is still wet when she turns to the sound of the Tlanuwa’s approach, solemn in the knowledge that one of the teams suffered not only a casualty, but that it was Devon.

Claire is reminded of the fragility of life, reminded of how little time anyone truly has left.

Each and every person surviving the Institute’s purge has something to consider with regards to life and its finite limits. For the imprisoned, this is freedom. For the guilty, this is punishment.

For those who walked the line…

…this is the end of another day.

And the start of another.



Flames and smoke fill the air, a choking blackness of broken timbers, shattered brick, and blown out glass. Standing as close to the heat as she can muster, one rainbow-sleeved hand clasped over her mouth, Val stares wide-eyed into the flames, trying not to cough, trying not to give away their position. Beads of sweat cling to her sooty brow, smoke winds in tendrils through her hair, and she can feel the heat of the roaring fire prickling her skin.

Through the fire and the flames a single shadow emerges, a tall man in a charred black business suit still wreathed in flames. His flesh boils off of his body, exposed muscle visible beneath blackened skin. His face is an anatomy lesson of tendons and teeth, his smile a rictus of death come alive. In his arms, a blasted corpse missing one arm and half a leg, face equally charred by fire. Except this corpse is not regenerating.


As Adam Monroe’s face begins to grow back around fire-blackened bone, he turns his attention to Val. “We can go now,” he says with the utmost of finality.

I have what I need.

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