Ouroboros, Part III


aria2_icon.gif colette_icon.gif edgar_icon.gif elle_icon.gif howard_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif lucille3_icon.gif maddox_icon.gif nicole4_icon.gif warren_icon.gif

Scene Title Ouroboros, Part III
Synopsis An extraction team infiltrates the Mount Natazhat Complex to rescue Elle Bishop and Colette Nichols.
Date November 8, 2011

Mount Natazhat Complex

«Security breach! All security personnel to the maintenance bay!»

The same recorded message has been echoing over the loud-speakers for several minutes.

«Security breach! All security personnel to the maintenance bay!»

Peyton Whitney’s recorded warning reverberates through the halls, interspersed by the sounds of gunfire and violence. Team Alpha has been pinned down by gunfire for two minutes now, playing a game of cat and mouse with an ever-escalating team of Evolved security officers. No matter how many times it seems like they’ve taken down one of these balaclava-masked soldiers, another two seem to pop up at the junction at the end of the hall.

Gunfire echoes down the corridor as Lucille pops up from her cover and takes a lucky shot; a loud popping and snapping of automatic fire followed by a gurgled scream. This time, when the guard hits the ground, she can see what is happening. The guard’s body shimmers like a heat mirage and disappears, leaving drifting flakes of what looks like ashes swirling up into the air where the body was and a burn-like silhouette on the ground. Howard sees it too, and quickly ducks back down behind cover.

Pinned down in a narrow hallway, Team Alpha is just a hundred yards from their destination. Ducked behind coolant maintenance access hatches, the sound of ricocheting gunfire echoes all around them. Up ahead there’s a whirring noise of machinery and the low hum of electricity building in the walls. Nicole Nichols and Howard Phillips can feel the electricity in their teeth, sense the waves coming down the hall. There’s a monstrously powerful battery up ahead. Lucille, though she’s right next to them, can’t feel what they can, lacks the ability.

“It’s some kind of fucking replicator!” Howard calls across the hall to where Warren and Jaiden are hunkered down behind the same access hatches. Bullets ricochet and ping off of the steel bulkhead. “He wasn’t here the first time!” Last time? Time-travel is complicated.

But then, something changes up the rhythm of duck and cover. There’s a soft clink, tink, clank that comes rolling down the hall. A grenade comes skidding to a stop in the middle of the hallway between where both groups of Team Alpha are ducking.

Howard’s brows raise, eyes go wide. “Fuck.

There's a breeze that whips by Howard's ear and the grenade disappears.

Edgar shivers as he crouches between Nicole and Howard, and then smiles. "Fire in th'ole," he mutters before the earth shattering kaboom echoes down the hall, whipping the fauxhawk around a wee bit. The speedster reaches up and fixes the strands that have been knocked loose with a bit of saliva. "Sorry 'bout tha', not as quick as I should be… damnable cold and all that," he says to no one in particular, shivering again. His hands move in a blur as he rubs his arms, trying to warm up.

This raid has done a lot of things for Lucille Ryans. Being humbled a bit is one of them. Seeing the death and destruction on such a massive scale outside on the way in has the young woman more determined than ever to prevail in their objective. Objectives because Little Miss Badass has two.

One, follow the directives given to team Alpha. Two, (and just as important in her eyes) is to help protect Nicole the best she can. She has a future sibling in that woman's belly. Her father's words echo in her head as she shoots, a wild look in her eyes and hits one of the soldiers watching as the body turns to ash. Leaving similar marks on the floor as the ash and debris of the explosions outside have left marks on the Ryans’ girl face.

“Uh yea we have a not nice Brian out there.” She says sharply as she huddles to cover near Nicole and Howard. “Oh no no fu-.” As Edgar speeds to the rescue her eyes widen. Her vest tight against her chest she grips her uzi tighter.

“Holy shit.”

A replicator. "What the fuck do we do with that?!" They haven't been able to get a strong enough foothold to push through where they might be able to find the source and snuff it out. Nicole Nichols knows her way around the firearm holstered at her hip, but she's been conserving her ammunition. In the killing field, she relied on her ability to bring down the robotic monstrosities, but the quarters are too close in this hallway for her own comfort, and so she's stayed shrunk up against their cover, letting her companions do what they do best.

She's grateful for Lucille's good aim and resists the urge to hazard a glance around the bulkhead to watch for the next wave. It doesn't come. The clatter of something rolling down the hallway catches her attention and when Howard curses, Nicole's eyes grow wide in horror.

It's gone before the warning cry can leave her lips, and Edgar is crouched between herself and the blond man that she's been sticking to like glue. She shudders, huddling in on herself instinctively at the sound of the blast. She's trembling when she reaches for Howard's arm, to clutch at his sleeve. The electricity is practically thrumming in the air around them, and she finds she doesn't need to hold on to him to recharge.

Jaiden, after his fun times taking down a tower to get everyone inside, isn’t entirely 100% there, but he’s definitely in the 75-80% range. Not at his best but certainly not at his worst. The tell-tale sound of a metallic object rolling towards them catches his attention despite the cacophony of gunfire - it’s things like that you need to be aware of in combat since, y’know, little things can cause big problems to the unprepared.

Finger still on the trigger, Jaiden sends three rounds downrange in a ‘keep your heads down’ sort of pattern, using his other hand to form a paddle from the moisture in the air, trying to smack the grenade back down the hall to hopefully blow up in the middle of the corridor away from the team when it vanishes into nowhere. Thanks, Edgar. Still, what he wouldn’t give to have the Brians here - just send them to choke the corridor, but since he was needed elsewhere, Jaiden’ll need to improvise.

“We need to get to the replicator if it’s mechanical and make it not replicate. If it’s a person… same thing. Everyone reload and get ready to move. We need to bum rush the show. Let me get us some protection.”

Jaiden takes a deep breath and starts gathering water from the air, staying behind cover, from the snow outside, from the broken pipe spraying liquid from the corridor wall, building a wall of water about 3 and a half feet thick and rising slowly from the floor of the corridor they’re pinned down in.

Warren is thinking. He's been in a ridiculous amount of combat situations, but being so mentally and emotionally removed from them, looking at them like someone else's memories, it almost makes the information robotic. It's as if he's downloaded it all from the internet as countless scenarios like this one play out through his head.

His eyes begin to gloss over, a chromium-like liquid filling them until they seem almost devoid of emotion, no iris or pupil to note what he's actually staring at. But he looks around, turning his head to the walls, taking in the structure, making note of the purpose of anything mechanical and the connections that they make. "It's beautiful, a work of art. If I designed a building, it would at the very least be 25% bomb, you can't have a building that isn't 25% bomb, you never know when you'll need to self-destruct."

He begins to pull complicated looking pipe-like structures from the numerous pockets of his long, black winter coat, screwing them together until they appear to be some sort of bizarre makeshift rocket launcher. "Don't worry, it's not a rocket launcher." He stands up while Jaiden creates a wall of water, and starts inserting what look like orange colored shotgun shells with tiny red rocket heads attached to the front. "Don't worry, they're not shotgun shells."

He holds the cannon over his shoulder, crouches slightly, then fires the first of the shells all the way down the corridor. When it hits a wall, it'll explode into a small rain of napalm, a bit too far to splash back onto him or his allies. "I can't quite see where they are. By the way, it's a napalm cannon. I thought it'd be safer than blowing things up."

The wall of water rises slower than Jaiden expects it to. His vision swims, head throbs, veins bulge in the side of his head and knees go momentarily weak. The wall stops about halfway up, sloshing and frothing at the top like an unending tide crashing into the air. As he works to maintain focus, struggling to manage something that is normally simple, he feels a dull and throbbing pain at the base of his neck.

Warren takes the opportunity of the wall’s slow rise when he launches liquid fire in an explosive spray over the barrier. Nearly infinite funds and abundant resources from the Institute have done wonders for Warren’s ability to fabricate mechanical madness on the fly, and a plug and play weapons system is just the kind of insane prototype that he keeps hanging around. The napalm clings to the walls, clings to the replicated guards as they scatter in the hall. Even a touch of the flames causes them to combust, tear apart, and begin disintegrating up into the air.

Then the grenade goes off, and Jaiden’s half-barrier is demolished by the explosive force. But it does what it needed to do, it blocks the worst of the explosion and debris, sending the rest scattering upward into the ceiling. Metal and molded plastic rain down from above in harmless debris along with sparks from ruptured electrical conduits. But Jaiden wobbles again, that ache in the back of his head becoming a small stabbing sensation.

What’s happening in the back of Jaiden’s skull feels like a pulled muscle, an over-extension aggravated by lack of rest. The icy construct he’d encased himself with out in the killing field, the length of time he’d held it for, had done more damage to him than he’d realizes. But reactivating his kinetic gift has strained the injury, and now it’s feeling the pain. But right now it’s manageable, he knows every use of his ability will make it worse, will strain the psychic and physiological strain on his mind. But this is where choices have to be made, where the biggest actions have the biggest consequences. The literal world is on the line, and Jaiden Mortlock isn’t usually one to back down when things get risky.

When the smoke from the explosion clears, the way ahead is open. Over the comms, several bits of chatter about a replicator come from Team Delta. Then, Ryans’ voice comes crystal clear. «Don’t waste bullets! Any injury will take them out! He can’t last forever!»

Beyond where the explosion and napalm rendered a dozen replicants into ashes, where fire crackles along the floor and walls, orange security lights begin to flash. There’s a distant sound of a door opening down the hall, and Brian’s voice comes over the comms.

«We’ve got the security keys in place. Opening the door to the Mallet Device. Team Alpha, the way is open!»

Howard looks to Nicole, nodding in the affirmative. It’s time to move.

The speedster fidgets, as he always does. Aged construction boots taking small, almost dancing steps on the floor to avoid as much of the water as possible. He might be a bit dim but he’s not stupid, he’s played enough Nintendo to know that Pikachu doesn’t like water and he’s standing between two of them right now.

The voice over the comms brings Edgar into full focus, especially those words: any injury. Looking between Howard and Nicole, he points down the hall with a questioning expression on his face. “Want that I should run ahead and punch ‘em in the tally-whackers?”

It is absolute utter chaos in this hallway. The grenade, the napalm, and now all of this water on the floor. That last part should be the least of anyone’s worries, except for the way that it severely limits the chances of the electrokinetics safely using their abilities with the others so close. But that’s why Nicole has a gun.

Knowing that any injury will do (also that Ryans is still alive to inform them of this) bolsters her flagging courage. She’s on her feet again and ready to march. As they move back into the corridor proper and toward their goal, she shoots a glance over to Howard.

“Annie.” She doesn’t wait for him to register confusion, she knows he’s not on that train of thought with her. A hand hovers briefly over the swell of her belly beneath the armored vest. “I am going to call her Annie.”

Jaiden grimaces at the explosion, falling to one knee, a hand going to the back of his head as he takes several deep breaths, trying to will the pain to register, but to not hurt. Forcing himself to his feet, the hydrokinetic reloads and levels his rifle towards the end of the corridor, ready to advance, making sure to cover corners, passages and doorways. “Come on.” he says, a hint of strain in his normally calm, even voice. “Let’s get this done.”

He’s hurting, but he’s there until the end.

There’s an explosion and Lu is ducking down covering her head with her hands. Eyes wide at the display of Jaiden’s ability and the .. liquid fire that Warren produces. It still mystifies her how different each of their abilities are. And how when combined the Evolved can achieve impossible things. Fuck. Deity worthy things.

“Whoa.” And then her head is snapping upwards upon hearing a familiar voice.

Just like with Nicole hearing the voice of her father strokes the fire that's pushing her through this. Hustling near Howard and Nicole she follows along uzi pointed up and watching around any corners. Eyebrows quirk at the mention of a name and a small grin lights up her face. The prospect of another sister adding to the ever growing Ryans clan has Lucille excited more recently.

A hand pats Jaiden’s shoulder as the pass each other noticing the strain from her friend. “Keep holding on, we can tear these assholes to pieces.” She snarls.

Warren suddenly rips his coat off, revealing what looks to be heavily modified riot gear for armor under it. Then he pulls the last bulky thing stuck under his heavy coat out, and slides the helmet over his head. He apparently opted to wear one of his older, crazier armors, instead of the more advanced things he's made for some of the others. The riot armor is a little thinner than normal riot gear, as he's opted for some mobility in some parts of it, and used some lighter and thinner materials where he could manage.

There will be time for that in the future.

He starts to check himself. He's got various guns, sticking out of straps, explosives hanging from belts, a tiny mini chainsaw that slides from his left arm, and of course there's his right arm… which, rather than bronze color, is entirely black, with numerous complex gears. But he's incorporated some robotic muscle into it. "As good a time as any to test a prototype appendage!" he says as he opens and closes his hand, laughing for a moment.

"HEY!!!" he suddenly shouts, pressing a little button on his helmet, which suddenly amplifies his voice. "Whoever is running this facility, I don't know if you know who I am, or who I've been. But you've taken Elle Bishop. I don't know if you know what she means to me, and really, it doesn't matter. What does matter, more than who I've been, or who I am, is who I'll become to get her back." He starts to walk forward, hefting the cannon over his shoulder.

"I will massacre this entire building, burn everyone working in it to the bone, and use those bones to create bombs to blow up anyone left. I just want you to know, that's who you pissed off. That's why I'm here. Fuck this world, fuck the betterment of mankind, I'm here for Elle and to kill anyone and anything that stands in my way!" He balls his fist up, the chainsaw revving up, marching forward.

Won’t Warren be pleased when he has his answer?

As the team comes down the hall, they round a corner past a security booth where the ashen outlines of bodies are burned into the floor. Past these blackened stains, the hallway curves to the right. There’s bullet-holes in the walls, and soon enough they come upon one of Brian’s corpses laying sprawled out on the ground. He’d been here, fighting, too. Howard looks at the corpse with wide-eyed anxiety, stepping as far from it as he walks beside Nicole.

“Annie…” Howard very belatedly begins, “s’a nice name. Never known an Annie.” He’s talking to hide his nervousness, to hide the fear welling up inside. To hide the fact that this is all hauntingly familiar, in ways that Howard can’t quite express.

A noise is getting louder on approach, something like the high-pitched whine of a machine. A constant, ceaseless whine almost like tinnitus but with a deeper tone. It gets louder the further down the hall the team progresses.

At the end of the curving hall, a once-closed trio of security doors and clean room seals are open. White suits rest on hangers on either side of the walls, reserved for medical staff. Some of the suits are missing, indicating that the staff may still be present. As Team Alpha continues through the hallway, they find themselves in a curving lab room filled with computer terminals and panicked medical staff.

Men and women in clean suits raise their hands and back away from terminals. “Please— please don’t kill me!” One of them begs. Most of them are young, College-age. On the computer screens are readouts of air pressure, energy levels, and one screen showing what looks like some kind of photo negative of the sun with an arcing flare coming off one side.

Beyond the lab at the center of the room is a hundred foot wide cylindrical wall of two foot thick reinforced glass. It provides a 360-degree view of a room within, and one that shows unending horrors. Inside that enclosed glass room are two medical tables, each propped up at a 45-degree angle.

On one bed, Elle Bishop is restrained by rubber-padded mechanical restraints. Two foot long metal rods have been inserted into her arms at her wrist, forearm, and bicep. Each rod is connected to a series of cables spooling up into the ceiling of the chamber. Lightning is arcing from Elle’s screaming body to the bolts in her limbs, which then courses up the cables to a flickering storm of lights in the ceiling.

Beside Elle, Colette Nichols is restrained in a similar fashion. While she lacks the bolts through her limbs, there are plugs sticking into her biceps as though she were some sort of USB hub. These cables go down to the floor. One is plugged into the right side of her neck, crackling with an unusual fluorescent light. Between the two stands a man in a red and white lab uniform, short brown hair. He has his eyes closed and hands out, brows furrowed in intense concentration.

«Power output stable, continuing to maximum output.»

The sound crackles over loud-speakers in the lab.

«Power levels at one hundred percent and holding!»

It’s happening.

Computers, ugh, Edgar's eyes narrow as he flits his gaze from one screaming lab monkey to the another. The knives are flipped from behind him and he zips in close enough so that his first victim can feel his breath. For a moment, it seems as though he is about to do the unmentionable when he lifts his knife and places it under the tallest man's chin. Edgar, not being as tall, has to look up but it's still rather intimidating.

"You let us in there, an' you let us in now," he growls between his clenched teeth. "Or I swear by the hairs on my chinny chin chin that I'll gut you one by one until the las' one squeals like a fuckin' pig."

The scene is like a punch in the gut to the speedster. He knows that they're family, the one thing he does anything for.

Passing the dead Brian, Lucile shakes her head. “It must be awful dying so many times..” She says aloud as they make their way through the hall and into the room.

Upon seeing the chamber of horrors she balks and looks to Nicole. It's not hard to tell which woman is her sister. The inky black hair and face says enough. “These sick fucks..” Her gaze hardening as Edgar does the honor of trying to get them inside. If that doesn't work she's pretty sure between the group assembled they could bust their way in.

She steps to a nearby console and looks at the picture of the sun to the room and the cables leading up to the ceiling. “If we shoot or somehow disrupt the point the cables all meet would that do anything?” She’s not the brains in this department. A tense glance is given to the three people inside the center of the lab. If only she could use her ability to reach that man inside..

Nicole grabs tight to Howard's hands, lacing her fingers with his. She gives the body on the ground a wide berth as Warren's bellowing fuels the terror growing in the pit of her stomach, snaking through her core and clutching at her pounding heart. It isn't that she doesn't completely agree with his sentiment – she absolutely does – it's just that he's psychotic. For someone who thrives on having control of a situation, that is enough to make her skin crawl.

But not more than the scene in front of her does.

If the very air in the room didn't already seem to be alive with electric energy, it would be with the way Nicole is instantly on edge. The sight of her sister like that changes her fear into conviction. But they need a plan, and in case Howard is ready to rush forward the way she was just a moment ago, she tightens her grip on him to keep him stuck to her.

Nicole's chin juts toward the man behind the glass between his mother and her sister. "He dies."

Jaiden simply follows along behind, making sure that his very large and imposing gun is trained on all the right people. His headache is really starting to do wonders, giving shimmering halos around bright lights, and really making him wish he had a fistful of ibuprofen to crunch on like a video game character’s magical bottle of painkillers. He covers the way that they came, following the old combat tactic of covering your rear whenever possible. “Break his concentration!” Jaiden calls. “The guy between Elle and Collette. Put a bullet in his leg!” He would, but that would require firing /through/ a lot of people and that’s not safe.

Warren removes his helmet, his chromatic eyes looking over the machinery. The digital aspects, they aren't very intuitive, and he's only just beginning to study things like that on his own time. But he's trying to mentally deconstruct the things he can understand, that his ability can make some sense of. There has to be a way for him to stop this. "You did this to her, you made her suffer even more. Do you know how much Elle's already suffered, for her entire life? And do you understand that this cannon is full of napalm cartridges? The second question is a lot more important than the first."

He arms the cannon at a random youth, squinting his his almost robotic looking reflective eyes, his actually mechanical arm already primed to pull a trigger if he has to. "You don't have to experience the horrors of Vietnam if you tell us how to fix this." He rubs his forehead, laughing in a way that isn't amused, but rather the sort of idle laugh that one doesn't want to hear from a guy whose girlfriend is currently a lab experiment again. "I've come so far from who I used to be, had my brain reconfigured like some sort of Frankenstein patchwork construction. I feel good about things lately, I don't go on the insane rampages that I used to in a past life, when I was a different person, when my brain was swiss cheese. But…"

He walks closer to one of those lab people, bringing his cannon closer. "I am definitely going to stab one of you, you won't die, but I'm going to stab one of you, maybe in the leg, it's going to hurt. Who I stab depends on who talks first. This is progress, I won't undo everything that was done for me, I won't become that guy who haunts my dreams at night. Unless you refuse to help, then I guess I'll just burn you all alive and I'll go see a therapist or something."

But then Jaiden speaks, and Warren listens. He drags the cannon with him, then drops it to the floor next to him when he stops in front of the reinforced glass. "Glass. You torture Elle, one of the only people in the world I, a literal mad engineer, care about, and you put her behind glass? Are you stupid?"

He crouches down, rips open the innards of the small chainsaw, then digs into his helmet to take the speaker out that he was using earlier, starting to rig some crazy shit up. Once he's done, he's actually removed the business end of the chainsaw, and all that's left is the little mechanical part that actually controlled it. He duct tapes this to the glass, then removes his shoulder armor and duct tapes that over what he's already duct taped. "That should be enough sound insulation…" And, finally, he reaches under the bizarre device and starts to turn a knob, which starts to emit a ridiculously high frequency noise.

The bulk of the sound seems to be focused on the glass itself. It sounds like a bizarre mixture of a tiny chainsaw motor and a speaker caught in a feedback loop. He continues to twist the knob, carefully adjusting. "Come on, what frequency do I need to shatter this glass…."

Of course, if nothing else, maybe he'll break the guy's concentration!

Elle screams. It’s the only thing she can do in her current condition, in a state of torment so far beyond what Jonas Zimmerman was willing to inflict on her, what goes so far beyond anything a human should have to endure. On the other side of that glass, there is a symphony of screams, hers and Colette’s in unison. Bruce Maddox looks horrified as he stands between the two women, managing the use of their abilities. When he calls the alert of the power levels, he turns and grabs a respirator mask from an adjacent wheeled cart, placing it over his head, forming a vacuum-tight seal at his neck.

But then, behind the clear visor of the mask, Maddox sees Warren digging deep within himself, dredging up the fringes of Mortimer within. He can’t hear anything happening on the other side of the glass, but he looks up to the top of the cylindrical room he’s in, to high observation windows at the second floor above, then in a panicked state looks back as he sees Mortimer stalking around the lab, terrorizing the technicians. The lab techs scream, hands raised in the air, faces contorted into expressions of dread and confusion.

Then Warren places a device against the glass, and Maddox looks to a computer running an automated sequence. «NO!» Maddox screams, rushing to the glass. But just as he can’t hear Warren, Warren can’t hear him.

On the other side of the glass, screams fill the lab as well. Lab technicians beg for their lives, some hastily and through tears trying to explain how complicated computer systems work. They’re shouting over each other. No one in the room wants to die, everyone wants to make it out of this lab alive.

Howard is vacant-looking through all of this, staring at the device on the other side of the glass. His hands tremble, eyes are wide. Sparks arc from his arms and shoulders, ground out on the floor. “Mom,” Howard whispers under the absolute chaos. The tremor in his voice is real, the panic in his eyes shows him reliving this moment from the other side of the looking glass. Adjusting some dials, Warren tries to find the right frequency to make an immediate entrance. The glass vibrates, loudly, as a high-pitched whine builds from his strange contraption.

Inside the sealed chamber, Maddox pounds on the glass in front of Warren. They make eye contact. Warren looks back to his device. «Stop! Stop!» Maddox steps away from the glass, looking around in trembling anxiety. He rushes to the computer, hits a button to call up to the command room, to call out to the lab. «<//Don’t break the — //»

“Oh, got it.” Mortimer flicks a switch, and a sonic drill shatters a six-inch wide hole straight through two feet of solid glass. Shards explode inward to Maddox’s side of the chamber, and he recoils from the noise. But the computer is continuing its automated process. The electronic voice reports the next stage:

«Laser rings at full oscillation. Evacuating air.»

What should have been an air-tight chamber is forcibly evacuated of all its oxygen to create a vacuum, enhancing the electrical flow and the movement of the laser ring at the ceiling. However, that six inch hole in the glass causes the air not to be evacuated through vents in the floor, but the larger opening. Warren is blown off of his feet by a powerful blast of air, somehow winds up ass-first in a wheeled office chair and continues to roll straight into a desk, mostly unharmed.

Maddox, the only person not anchored to a solid object inside the sealed room, is sucked towards the glass. He slams against the glass with a howling scream, and cracks begin to form around the opening. Vacuum-sealed in place, Maddox’s hands and feet scuff against the glass. Blood vessels begin to rupture on Colette and Elle’s skin as the air is rushed out through the floor grates.

This is how Aric Gibbs died.

Except Aric Gibbs didn’t have a six inch hole in the glass containment wall.

Two loud cracks happen fast, as fast as this madness took to begin. One half of the glass wall explodes outward, sending Maddox and thick, brick-like pieces of reinforced glass tearing into the lab. Computer equipment is demolished by the debris. Howard grabs Nicole and dives to one side, tackling her to safety on the floor. Jaiden too manages to drop prone just in time as the glass explodes, huge chunks and small shards raining down around him on the floor.

Edgar, the fastest man alive, dodges raining shards of glass as though they were stationary objects, grabs Lucille by the shoulders and navigates the room with her as though it were a waltz in spite of the chaos happening at a speed too quick for most people to negotiate. The only thing faster than Edgar, however, is light.

Something hurts, burns Edgar’s leg, and when he looks down he sees a cauterized gash across his knee. Not deep, but just deep enough to get his attention. With the glass closed, without Maddox conscious to regulate their powers, Elle Bishop and Colette Nichols amphodynamine-enhanced powers are going out of control.

Whirling tendrils of laser light lash out through the blown out window, moving as fast to Edgar as anyone else. He’s able to drop to the floor with Lucille and join the others, out of the lasers reach, but the scintillating arcs of rainbow-hued light carve and burn everything in their path. With them, staggering thunderclaps and blasts of electricity arcing off of Elle’s body. With air to breathe now, she can at least see, at least realize where she is and what’s happening. It’s pandemonium.

An alarm sounds, fire suppressing gas sprays down from the ceiling, as laser lights whip and dance above.

Awareness returns to Elle like a slap in the face, blue eyes snapping open as electricity arcs over her body, through those horrible rods surgically entered into her body. She manages to come to her senses enough to stop screaming for a moment, to take in her surroundings — to see the faces of those who have come to her rescue.

She sees Edgar, and Jaiden, and Lucille…and there’s her Warren. And then…then she spots Howard, her eyes widening just a bit. No, this has to be a fever dream, a hallucination that her brain is coming up with to help her deal with the pain. Howard is dead, she watched him get shot. She allows her head to slip back, crying out in pain once more.

It's like slow motion. Slower motion than usual for Edgar.

As he drops to the floor, he stares at his precious knee for a moment. That bastard made Pikachu's sister laser his knee off. It also hurts like a mofo. Sucking in a hissing breath, he rolls onto his back and shields his eyes from any remaining raining glass and scans his surroundings. Getting up isn't an option, not if he wants to keep his head and he does want to keep it, he's got cool hair.

Something to throw, something to throw hard enough to knock laser light show out but not kill her. That is what Edgar needs. Being careful of his knee, he slithers around the floor, looking for something, anything, even Lucille's shoe.

Which isn't available to him right now but as Lucille topples to the floor with the speedster a nearby phone clatters to the floor near her ankle. The explosion of the glass has left Lu with a few cuts on her arms and a few small ones on her cheek. She yells out as she shuts her eyes and covers her face protecting her body from the remaining debris, barely holding onto her uzi. The hair on her arm raising at the energy in the air.

A nervous glance above her head and she sees the lasers and electricity eyes growing wide before she's ducking her head down again. “Fuck!” She tries to see Nicole among the chaos. “I.. I might be able to make them sleep!” She yells out to the room. Just how to do that without getting electrified or laser blasted hasn't revealed itself.

She crawls on the ground up towards Edgar giving him a thumbs up for the super fast rescue.

Jaiden is nearly blown off his feet when the glass shatters, falling down on his ass, twisting, his chin hitting the floor and splitting open, as the vacuum starts to unsuccessfully pump the air from the room, which is connected to the entire outside world. The maelstrom of glass shards causes him to react instinctively, a shell of water starting to bubble up to hopefully block some of the shards, the lasers kind of hissing against it as it starts to boil away. If there’s any increase in headache, he drops it, hoping to just be out of the way, not wanting to cause his head to pop due to overuse. He shoulders his rifle, looking for the source of the lasers and holds, waiting for a clear shot to end the show.

Everything has just gone from bad to worse. Nicole grunts as Howard throws his weight on top of her, sparing her from the debris that goes flying when all hell breaks loose. She clutches tightly to him, absolutely terrified not only for herself and for him, but for her sister. Colette is in pain and she's frightened.

Precious seconds pass as Nicole processes what's happening, and what to do next. She looks up in time to see Jaiden pointing his gun at the lasers' source. "No!" she cries out, one hand stretched out in front of her, sparks dancing off the edges of her fingers and several feet beyond her, but not jumping the rest of the way to where the man stands. "That's my sister! I— " There's a moment of clarity, and it injects confidence into her voice. "I know what I need to do!"

With one hand still clutching Howard's jacket, she uses the other to grab hold of the console they're crouched behind and drag herself upward. That dark head of hair pops up over it long enough to catch a look at the controls, then she shrieks and drops down again before she can get the top of her head sheared off. She needs a way to amplify her voice. "I need her to hear me!"

Warren watches everything go to hell when it slams into the chair. He immediately dives down when at least two forms of deadly energy start flying everywhere. But he doesn't just stay there, he starts to slowly crawl on his elbows, trying to slowly make it to Elle. Maybe he can do something.

But then he hears Nicole.

In truth, he's all out of ideas. There are things he could do to possibly reign in Elle's electricity, if he has time, and he didn't have shit flying at him from every direction. But he has neither of those things, so he's stuck having to trust someone else for once. A random woman he may or may not actually know. It's often difficult to keep track of who he's met or not…

His first move is to start crawling towards his fallen device. It's damaged, it was a bit makeshift, it not only damaged itself but was also damaged by the glass. But he wastes no time, his eyes chroming over as tiny tools slide from his mechanical fingers. He starts tweaking the device as quickly as possible, primarily rerouting things around the part he originally took from his helmet. Thankfully that's mostly undamaged. This sort of rework isn't as difficult as creating a sonic drill, he's just reconfiguring this into something that will power the tiny loudspeaker…

Once he feels done, he begins crawling again, towards Nicole, rolling over when an arc of electricity threatens to take his head off. "Jesus Christ Elle, what did I tell you about using electricity in bed!" he shouts over at her, making a dire joke to temporarily take his mind off of the fact that they're all probably going to die.

Finally making it over to Nicole, he tries to stand, crouched, attempting to not die, and holds it out to her. It's about the shape of an old children's walkie talkie, though it has wires sticking out and some duct tape stuck to it. He flicks a switch and says, "Just talk into it!" and immediately dives away for cover.

Lightning strikes a lab technician trying to escape, blows his clothes clear off his body, sends skin and muscle blasting off of bone as though it were bark from a tree. His smoldering corpse collapses in a ragged heap amid the screams of his co-workers who had been watching. Tiny flakes of ashen clothing and hair drift through the air.

As Warren assembles his device and hands it off to Nicole, there’s something happening to the device. On the floor, everyone can see what is at the top of the cylindrical chamber now. A massive array of lasers on articulated arms, connected to a spinning ring. Warren can understand the mechanical principles at a glance, the ring is powered by Elle’s electricity, spinning at thousands of revolutions per second. The lasers, arranged in a lattice, are amplified to a startling intensity — likely by the photokinetic — and are manipulating space around them as light is wont to do. The circular motion is… is… Warren’s brows furrow.

I’ll take care of my mom,” Howard says to Nicole with a piercing stare. But he then looks to Jaiden, eyes wide with fear. “Hey — hey water guy,” Howard looks to the protective shell, guttering and flickering in oceanic ripples. “Jaiden,” Howard paid attention at the briefing, mostly.

“Jaiden, I’m going to go in there, act as a lightning rod. Once I get her focus, I need you to get up and ground her out.” Howard’s jaw tenses. “Water, get her soaked, soak the machine, soak the wires, cause a short circuit. It’s the only way we’ll be able to shut her off.” There’s a confidence in Howard’s voice, a certainty. He’s been here before. “Jaiden — “ Howard implores, “I’m counting on you.”

At that, Howard looks to Lucille and Edgar. “You two!” He screams over the noise. “When the lightning and lasers stop, I need you to get in there! Unhook them from the machines! Fast!” As Howard presses a hand down on the ground to balance himself, he shifts into a kneeling position. But then, something happens to the machine, there’s a sonorous hum that emanates from somewhere upstairs, rattles and vibrates complex arrangements of mechanical components, something starts rattling inside.

«Mallet Device operational, beginning broadcast.»

No!” Howard screams, and in the center of the swirling ring of lasers space begins to warp and distort. There’s a shimmering appearance, like a heat mirage that funnels into a two foot wide vortex leading into darkness, like a miniature black hole. A single laser begins firing rapid pulses into the vortex, which Warren recognizes as binary.

Howard taps his ear-piece, panicked. “The device is activated!” He calls over the comms, “They sent a message back in time!” But then, everyone is witness to something otherworldly. With the ring knocked out of alignment by that sonic force, lasers wobbling, there’s a momentary vision of something — somewhere else that overlays all sight and sound. A brief flash of crashing ocean waves, crumbling skyscrapers jutting up from the tides. Howard exhales a sharp breath, “Oh my god,” his hands tremble, “what— what is that!? What's —”

The vision collapses, shimmering away like a heat mirage as a laser arm comes flying off of the ring and collides with the wall. Nothing happens. Nothing changes. For a moment, Howard is still, tense, and then he remembers Nicole’s plan, remembers Jaiden, Edgar, and Lucille’s roles.

“Just two pieces of shit,” Howard mutters to himself, standing up into the coming onslaught of lightning. “Saving our families.” An arc of Elle’s lightning hits Howard, burns through his jacket but leaves him unscathed, though he seems wracked with pain. Nicole can see circuitry and metal glowing white-hot under his skin. Smoke issues from his flesh, and his knees buckle. For a moment, it looks as though Howard might just drop to the floor again. But Elle is there, screaming, writhing around strapped to a machine destined for her son.

Fuck it.” Howard exhales, and he explodes.

Howard’s jacket is blown apart into a thousand ashen flakes. His pants likewise shred into burning cinders, flesh dissolves into light and a living entity composed entirely of electricity crackles and snaps where a human being once stood. Glowing white eyes stare intently into the device, and Nicole can see metal rods, wires, a pacemaker, and other internal components simply drop through Howard’s no longer corporeal body. He’s not an electrokinetic, he’s an electricity mimic.

Turning into a bolt of lightning, Howard explodes back into being next to his mother, and all of her electricity arcs into him. He reaches up, crackling hand guttering like a neon light near her face. «Mom,» is an electrical impulse that sounds like Howard’s voice. «Mom, it’s me. I’m ok. You’re safe now.» She can’t control the electricity, though, and even as bolt after bolt arcs off of Howard, it’s clear he’s straining to maintain his electrical body.

«Do it!»

Elle Bishop can see all of the crazy shit that’s happening. It all hurts, and she can see it all, and it all fucking sucks. Seriously, brain, this is a really shitty fever dream. Can’t you take her to the beach or flying or something? No, instead you have to make her think that people who are dead are coming to save her.

See?! There’s no way Howard isn’t dead, he just exploded, and now he’s just electricity, and he’s absorbing all of her electricity. This is the absolute shittiest pain dream ever. Elle screams some more, really hating her brain and its stupid delusions. Can’t even die right. She could be on a roller coaster again, or reliving happy things. But nooooo, she has to have these stupid visions of her son exploding, of her Warren coming close to exploding too, and of other people who she doesn’t give a shit about maybe exploding.

As the lightning person appears next to her, talks to her in something resembling her son’s voice, Elle screams.

Jaiden's attention snaps to Howard as he is yelled at, as the plan - audacious as it is - is given and, honestly, at this point, there's not much more to do but this. Howard's plea somehow was heard through the howling maelstrom, and while the words are garbled, the meaning gets through and Jaiden, being the eloquent bloke, says the first thing that comes to mind.


There's really not much more that Jaiden can say at this point.

Stowing his rifle and covering his face (and eyes mostly) with his arms, the Australian fights his way to the glass and crouches behind the wall that separated the chamber from the lab, his water following along behind, waiting for the signal. And when it comes?

Ho-lee shit.

"This is going to hurt." A pause. "Hopefully I don't die." Jaiden thinks to himself, grimacing as he stands, a few shards of glass slashing through his uniform as he extends his arms towards the opening, fingers splayed, and starts using every ounce of energy he has left.

For arctic temperatures, the ideal amount of humidity present in the air is about 25%. That humidity instantly drops to zero, the moisture coalescing into droplets, condensing around Jaiden's form, building into a roiling column. Coffee, bottled water, the toilet down the hall, the drains for melted snow, spilled blood - there's a rattle of drain covers and cups as the water in the liquid suddenly goes, called by Jaiden.

The pain starts almost instantly behind his right eye - a throbbing sensation that steadily builds, like someone lit a match in his brain, added another, and then another, the fire slowly building and burning as he stretches himself in ways that he rarely does. His jaw clenched, his teeth set, the water builds around him - thousands upon thousands of gallons of water, just waiting for a target.

And when Howard calls? The water goes.

"See you later, kiddo." Jaiden manages to say as he focuses the water, a massive wave bursting forth from the window, rolling over Elle and the machine, getting into the guts of the thing, the wires, the circuit boards….

His nose starts bleeding right about then, too…

Warren rarely feels truly helpless anymore. He can usually do something. He has combat skills from years of insanity, he has the knowledge to build whatever he needs. But Elle's there, and all he can do is… watch this guy hopefully save her. What is Howard saying to her? He's not sure he's understanding that right.

But he's quickly distracted, staring up at the device, mentally deconstructing it. Something makes no sense, but that laser… that's…

He pulls a notepad from his armor, starting to scribble down onto it with a pin, writing in binary. It's all he can do. He writes the binary, then starts trying to translate it just as quickly. "ELLE!" he shouts over at her, so that she knows he's here. He can't get close, he's pretty sure burning him to a crisp would probably upset her.

Warren's device is fumbled in Nicole's hand for a moment, which is trembling like a leaf in a storm, but she catches it against her chest. If there's any kind of God in Heaven, Nicole hopes they're watching her and will make this work.

She's about to speak when the man she's been holding on for dear life starts to move. "Howard, wait! No! Together!" Can he absorb all that by himself? But he's up, her hand left clutching empty air, and he's gone.

No. Not gone. He's become lightning. The rods and the pacemaker clatter to the floor, and the horror etches deep into Nicole's face. Kincaid's told her things, and now… The very universe has torn open and what is that even? Nicole allows herself just two more seconds to panic. One… Two… "Just two pieces of shit," she belatedly echoes her companion, pulling herself together and raising Warren's contraption to her face again.

"Colette! 'Letty!" Nicole's amplified voice cries out over the absolute cacophony of noise in the air. "Sissy! It's— It's time to sleep now." Those glowing blue eyes close and as the older Nichols woman remembers the times when Colette was small and the terror was bigger than both of them. She remembers her sister's favorite song, and she begins to sing.

"La mer qu'on voit danser le long des golfes clairs," She pauses only long enough to take a breath, tears falling down her cheeks. "A des reflets d'argent, la mer…" Desperation causes her voice to crack on the high note. Please let this work.

The plan, it seems complicated, thankfully there's only one part that Edgar needs to wait for and that's for shit to stop happening. Well, shit's still happening. The speedster watches as Pikachu number two actually explodes into Raichu, causing his eyebrows to lift in amazement. Hey, there are just some things you don't see every day. Then Squirtle over there tosses a toilet water funnel at the strapped down Pikachu number three, perhaps drowning her. At least Squirtle said goodbye.

Edgar's eyes dart to Lucille and he mumbles something that could be an apology before he gathers her close. "Better if I bring yeh than t'leave you to run by y'self," is added on as an extra bit of explanation. Then Pikachu number one starts to croon like Jigglypuff… double take. He stares at Nicole for what he considers the longest time ever. "Get ready, as soon as the French stops, I'm runnin' us both over. You take Sparky, I'll take High Beams. Just unhook'em, I'll run 'em out one atta time."

With a quick look towards her partner in anger. She looks on as Howard seems to be doing something.. and then there’s a landscape being shown through.. the lasers? Lucille gasps softly as she sees the scenery before her. “Wicked…”

Everything is happening really fast and Lucille’s expression ranges from one of utter terror to awe and amazement once her bud Howard explodes into lightning. That is so freaking cool. Lucille looks to Nicole as the pregnant woman sings. She really hopes Annie is okay in there. Dad would not be happy if she failed at keeping the both of them safe.

Squinting her eyes while looking into the chamber that holds their prizes she makes note of Jaiden’s exercise of power and she nods her head towards the man. He really needs to take a rest.. She makes a mental note to make sure he does with the help of her ability after this is all over. Lu bites her lip and then snaps her gaze to Edgar. “Okay I can get them sleep if you get me there-” there isn't time for anything else because Lucille is scooped up by the handsome man and being sped ahead.

“Holy shittttt!”

From beneath a desk, someone lays a pale hand on Lucille’s hip. Down, hidden from the chaos, one of the lab technicians stares up at her with wide, frightened eyes. Dark makeup smears down her cheeks, encircles her eyes. The blonde woman creeps out from under the desk, looking back as Howard absorbs the lightning. I can help, is an unspoken whisper to the back of Lucille’s mind. I’m not your enemy, is soothingly convincing.

The doctor’s nametag — Aria Baumgartner — is clipped on to her collar. As she takes a knee beside Lucille, it appears as though she’s willing to lend a hand. You do what you do best, Miss Ryans, the telepathic voice echoes in her head. And I will do what I do. And remember, Aria’s eyes stare up, piercingly. I chose to help.

Inside the Mallett Device chamber, Howard is a silhouette of lightning and pure energy. He stares at Elle, a ghost of a creature taking in all the pain she can unleash. Sympathetic pain, theirs, the physical and the emotional. “It’s going to be ok.” Howard’s voice crackles with an electric hum, and then suddenly, it is very not ok.

The entire blown out window explodes with a wall of water. It crashes through the opening and hits Howard first, and electricity snaps back and through the torrent, flows back to its source and slams into Jaiden. The force of the electric blast knocks him clear off of his feet, sends him spiraling into a wall, shattering drywall, before he drops down onto a desk surface. His head swims, dizziness and pain. Remarkably, somehow, alive. Though the lightning-burn across his chest and arm will be a lasting reminder of both his heroism and brush with death.

Howard is immediately grounded out by the water, painfully forced from his energetic form into that of an unclothed and steaming man covered with scars that suddenly begin weeping blood. Elle, too, is ground out by the pain of the water. Her ability overloads, and before her conscious mind snaps like a blown circuit breaker, she sees the face of her time-spanned son leaning over her with his warm hand on her face.

It’ll be okay, mom.” Howard’s voice is clear, and the last thing she hears before she blacks out. Howard slouches down to his knees, then collapses onto the floor in an ever-growing pool of blood swirling in six inches of standing water.

Colette is not sedated by the water, rainbows of light swirl in the air around her, lasers intensified by fear and the amphodynamine swirling in her veins cut through the walls like they were made of paper. Some of these whips of laser-light carve up through the second floor, even as something — some horrible breaking sound is rumbling from the second floor of the facility.

Over the sounds of screaming technicians, Nicole Nichols’ voice is as loud as it could possibly be. The blaring sound coming from Warren’s amplifier allows her voice to carry, echo, reverberate through the air. Colette, even in all her panic can hear it. But there’s so much noise, so much —

Ignore everything but her.

A stranger’s voice echoes in her mind.

Relax. She is here.

Aria Baumgartner shuts off Colette’s senses one by one, telepathically cutting her off from touch, taste, smell, sight, leaving her only the sound of Nicole’s voice. Even then, the telepath deadens the background noise, brings Nicole’s voice into focus. Tears stream down the sides of Colette’s face, the lasers lashing around, cutting and whipping through the air. She is a writhing, sobbing wreck hooked into a machine by a madman.

But then, Lucille Ryans is narcotic, intoxicating, sedative. Manipulating Colette’s metabolism, Lucille slows her heart-rate, lowers her blood pressure sharply, and that biological sedative combined with the only thing she can hear being her sister’s voice, begins to quell the lashing lasers. The beams, deadly as they were, come to a flickering, and guttering stop. Aria gives Lucille a firm nod, and when the coast is clear lets her move, vaulting through the open window.

Warren is fast behind Lucille, recognizing the inherent danger the machine may cause as well. The pair get into the Mallet Device chamber, and Warren guides Lucille in how to disconnect Elle and Colette from the machine. Edgar, waiting for the handoff, feels something in the air. A change in air pressure, something —

Water is free-floating. A coffee mug drifts by Edgar’s face.

Something is —

The entire facility shakes as though hit by a massive earthquake. The laser ring flickers, sputters, and goes dark up above in a shower of sparks. Then, as though God himself had reached his fucking arm down from the sky, the entire ceiling peels backwards like the skin of a massive orange. Steel beams bend like wilting flowers, concrete splits apart like crumbling cookies, unattended light furniture floats weightlessly into the air and a sense of disturbed equilibrium comes over everyone.

The Mallett device is set against the open sky now, and floating above the Natazhat complex is a humanoid shape, surrounding by a swirling orbit of debris as though they were moons to his own living planet. The silhouette isn’t some notorious villain, isn’t a time-spanned Richard Cardinal, it is the screaming and terrified form of Magnes Varlane.

A tether of red lightning connects to Magnes, and he appears to be folding the very space around himself. Matter collects in an accretion disk around an unseen event horizon, and Magnes is rapidly turning into an infinitely dark silhouette, a living black hole. In a matter of minutes, the entire facility could be up there with him, and everyone here included.

Nothing escapes a black hole. Not even light.

The floating coffee mug gives Edgar a momentary pause and he grips onto the bed that Colette is laying on. He actually upends when the complex is torn apart and it is only because he grabbed on before that he isn't sucked right into the black hole like another piece of debris. He panics. His life flashes before his eyes. He forgot to tell Lydia where he was going when he left and how long he would be. He now regrets not telling her that he might die. Worst husband. Then he gives his head a shake, Nicole isn't fat and she's the only one singing, so there's still a chance.

"EGGHEAD!!" He shouts over the noise to Warren, "EY!! BRAINIAC!! YEH THINK IF I THREW SUM'THIN' AT 'IM HARD ENOUGH— " He stops, fuck it. The speedster fumbles through his pockets with one hand and comes up with a paperclip, a Halloween size chocolate bar, and his wallet. It's filled with ID's and the zippy pocket is loaded with coins. Heavy enough. Closing his eyes, he says a momentary prayer to Samuel and then opens then, setting a look of fierce determination on his face. Then he winds up and let's the wallet go, curving it to what he hopes will hit Magnes right between the eyes.

The appearance of Aria and the words in her head shock Miss Ryans, she’s never encountered a telepath really. Her eyes lock onto Aria’s and she nods waiting for her moment. Breath held tight she closes her eyes. Concentrating on that knot in her chest, the one she talked about with Hana. She lets the held breath out as Aria does her thing. As her eyes flutter open, the gray-blue irises flare to that golden hue burning bright, the lotus flower inside her opening and with it her ability spreading out into the chamber to surround Colette. she's doing it.

Her feelings of victory are cut short as she is signaled to move forward with Warren. A brief look and nod to Aria before she vaults into the window. She will remember that Aria helped them. Working as fast as she can, sweat falling down her forehead into her heads she follows Warren’s instructions making sure to keep her ability steady as well. Eyes burning hot, her nose bleeds just a little from the effort she takes a moment to look around the room. Noting the floating water and then there's a.. what the..

Lucille yelps as everything just starts zooming upwards including her. At the last moment she latches onto Colette who isn't fully undone from the chair. Tries to pull herself closer to the woman just barely able to get a grip on the edge of the table she's on. “FUCK!” Bright eyes flick around the room taking note of just how fucked they are as she spots the floating figure of some man above screaming terrible screams.

The first thing that Jaiden notices is the smell.

After being hit with multiple thousands of volts conducted through his rush of water, there’s now a steaming trail of cooked flesh going up his left arm, across his chest, and down his right leg where the bottom of his boot has been blown off. The second thing he notices is that he’s not standing anymore - in fact, he’s several meters back and laying on his back, peering up at the ceiling, blinking, confused, as he tries to sit up. Oh, he must not be hurt very bad…he’s getting up easily but then he notices that other things that most certainly should not be floating are moving gently upwards, including him. The big man flails, trying to grab on to anything to keep from floating away, his left arm mostly useless, his right hand catching on the edge of a bolted-down table, giving him purchase to pull himself down, wrapping his legs around one of the legs to keep from hopefully floating away.

And shooting right-handed? That’s difficult. Training with Ygraine got him ready for just this occasion. It’s paying off! He gets his gun around, though, following the lightning from Magnes to wherever it is. Preferably he doesn’t want to kill Magnes. Bracing it on the table, Jaiden aims about fifteen feet away from the source - hopefully enough to counteract the gravity - ready to send several .308 rounds downrange. “Firing at the source of the red light!” He calls loudly, using the radio, waiting to hear clarification - either for or against - before making the decision himself.

The hammering in her chest brings blood roaring in her ears. The flutter in her stomach is far more than butterflies. How is any of this possible? Why does she even ask herself that anymore? "Edgar!" Nicole cries as just about everything not bolted down begins to lift from the sheer force of gravity over their heads. "Protect my sister!" Colette is bolted down. Safer than she would be in her sister's arms; Nicole never could protect her from the worst of anything. There isn't anything else she can do for her little sister, but there is someone she may still be able to help.

As much as she was paralyzed by her fear before, now she feels only a need to act. Howard is losing blood, losing life. She doesn't know if she can do anything for him, but she has to try. If it weren't for him… "No, no, no!" Why did he do it? He didn't need the water to ground them out. He didn't need to risk both their lives, and Jaiden's. She could have handled it! And she knows why he wouldn't let her.

Nicole goes scrabbling forward like a desperate animal, her focus narrowed on reaching out for the man as soon as she's close enough and grabbing onto him, pulling him toward her. "Howard. Hold on to me! Hold on!" She can't be grounded the way he can. She is the conduit, and he can be the power. "Come on! Please!" She could feel the energy in his body before, maybe she can pull him toward her, absorb him like any other current. She doesn't even know what it could do to them, but he's going to die. Every last one of them might be about to die, so what does she really have to lose? "God damn you! You said we'd do this together! You can't leave!"

Warren slides the notepad securely into his armor before he immediately rushes over to start instructing Lucille. But when things start going to hell, his immediate response is to go to Elle. He starts to meticulously unstrap her without a second thought, his ability on overdrive before he just moves to wrap his arms around her.

If they're being pulled up, he can at least try to find some way to save them before they all die. He can at least try to find a way to save her.

He's looking around desperately while trying to keep Elle secure against him. There has to be something. He's covered in weapons, he has tools built into his arm, they have state of the art science and engineering surrounding them.

There has to be something.


He knows she can't hear him, he knows she's suffered unbelievable pain. Just like all the times in the past he's heard about, all the things he promised he'd never let happen again. "I'll get you out of here, I won't let things end like this… I'll get you that stupid house like in Little Shop of Horrors, with a little robot plant that eats anything that messes with your flowers…"

For all his tools, for all his science, Warren Ray tries something different. He tries hope. In the face of cataclysm, hope is all they have. Disconnecting Elle from the machine, Warren feels a sense of haunting familiarity about the design. It’s nothing he’s made himself, or even considered, but there is a style to the design that feels like his signature. This horrific, torturous machine is exactly the way he would have built it.

The unsettling familiarity of the Mallet Device’s power source lingers with Warren as he unscrews bolts on the rods surgically implanted in Elle’s arms. Hoisting her small, blonde body up into his arms, he carries her across the floor, past where Nicole is crouched beside the son he doesn’t even know he has.

On the watery floor of the Mallet Device chamber, Nicole kneels in the pink-swirled depths, hands fumbling around at Howard’s shoulders. She barely knows him, barely understands him, and yet Nicole feels an unusual sense of kinship to the broken man laying on the floor. As it is strangers disconnecting her sister from the horrific machine she was attached to, Nicole tends to the flagging life of a stranger.

The pacemaker is the last thing she thinks of, lifting up one hand and pressing it to Howard’s chest. She doesn’t consider the water, doesn’t consider the situation, all of the conductive surfaces around them. He’s still warm, he’s still alive, and perhaps in that there’s hope.

Nicole unleashes an electrical discharge from her hand, not an arc of lightning but a pulse of electricity over Howard’s heart — the last bit of collected electricity she’d absorbed. His back arches, eyes throw open, and there’s a rasping gasp of breath that escapes him as blue eyes push wide. The electricity snaps through the water, arcs through Howard’s body, through Nicole’s, reabsorbed like a circuit before it can ground out to the others standing in the water.

Arcs of electricity leap from Howard’s body, spark and snap and crackle up Nicole’s arm. She feels an intense charge, a burning sensation that tingles under her skin and crackles behind her eyes. Howard’s legs kick, twist, bend and writhe on the floor and for a moment it looks as though she is killing him. But science had already done that to Howard, a different —- darker Warren had already done that. Life-sustaining cybernetics in Howard’s body lay on the floor twenty feet away. Organs are failing, gaping holes in his flesh weep with blood. Pink water turns crimson, and Howard breathes out a death rattle and falls lifeless to the floor.

But like Warren, Nicole tried something. She tried hope.

What, is a whisper of a man’s voice in the back of Nicole’s mind. Her skin is flush with heat that is not her own, steam rises up from her arms. Electricity snaps and pops from her fingertips, eyes glow blue in the way Refrain does. She can feel an electrical impulse inside of her stronger than any she has ever absorbed. And it is alive.
It is Howard.

As Nicole deals with her revelation, there’s a crack of gunfire as Jaiden shoots in the direction of the red light on the floor above them. The round buzzes and wobbles in an unseen parabolic arc, moving too fast for the human eye to perceive. Jaiden isn’t sure whether he hit or missed, but too many heartbeats for it to have been from his round, the red lightning dissipates on its own. Though, Edgar catches sight of the bullet, trundling along so slowly, it’s almost like a little bumblebee, so cute!, curving upward, following the arc of the wallet he threw. Wallet and bullet spin around one-another in a helix, joining the spiraling ring of debris encircling the silhouette of Magnes’ body.

Lucille unbuckles Colette’s restraints, using her grip on the straps to keep from floating off of the ground. At Lucille’s side, Aria does her best to aid, loosening the straps and holding the unconscious young woman down so as to not let her float away once she’s free. When that work is done, Lucille scoops Colette up into her arms, and Aria grabs Lucille’s free hand and helps guide her across the floor, even as Nicole is rising to her feet, watching Warren carry Elle, watching Lucille carry Colette, and Nicole carries one — no — two passengers to safety.

As the group exits the Mallet Device chamber, the feel of gravity’s pull on them into the sky has lessened. Magnes is now more than a hundred feet above the facility, and they appear to be outside of the reach of the vortex he is unwittingly creating. With solid ground under their feet, Jaiden and Edgar are there to receive the victims of the Mallet Device, when everyone hears a tremendous crash.

The second floor sags, the walls split, and straining metal torn apart by Magnes’ ability collapses back down onto its own weight. The entire Natazhat facility is collapsing, and in that moment Elisabeth Harrison’s voice crackles with static pops and disruption over their comms.

«Thi— is Red Queen! B— it— hell! T— n —et out if you can. Go now.»

And then, they bear witness to an impossible sight. From the second floor’s collapsing, ruined hulk, they see Elisabeth Harrison leap thirty feet straight into the air. Her black Horizon armor, battered and broken, rattles around her body. Blonde hair whips in the wind as she leaps into Magnes’ gravity well, mouth open and screaming a banshee’s wail.

Shockwaves of sound reverberate through the building, shatter glass and send rippling waves across the water flooding the floor. She is no longer leaping, pulled by gravity as she is. Elisabeth Harrison is flying through the air, straight toward Magnes’ black-silhouetted form, cascading shockwaves of sound lancing forward from her as she does.

The Natazhat facility continues to crumble, sag, and break around them. Over the radios, Brian responds to Elisabeth’s call.

«I’ve got the chinook ready to go! Meet me there!»

This was it.

This was the end.

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