Post Preemptive Strike


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Also featuring:

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Scene Title Post Preemptive Strike
Synopsis Elisabeth and Monica are sent back to protect Jaiden, but find tracks in the dirt ahead of them.
Date November 28, 1994

The sheep ranch home is deathly quiet. There's an iron scent to the air, vaguely stormy for all that the late spring sky is clean and blue, endless save for inexplicable paintbrush stroke clouds that make cat claw patterns against otherwise unblemished cyan. The air is warm and dry, but not still, restlessly ruffling the dry-stick brush that scraggles out from dusty dirt, where grass grows in both green and yellow. Bird shrieks come clattering from the thick of white-barked trees westwards of them, scarred through with dirt road and iron gate, and beneath the ozone scent in the air, there's the smell of sheep cattle.

The flyscreen door of the house bangs against its hinges when a backdraft beats it out from its frame to swing, gravity pulling it back again. No one comes running to fasten the door.

The three have appeared in the rural landscape, and with the house being the only identifiable landmark in sight, they've begun moving for the squat building. The outdoors is a mix of arid and fertile, somehow, with determined desert bush and bare limbed trees with leaves like armor growing in through the powdery quality of Australian soil, sand and dust and dirt of clinging brown, rather than rich, damp blackness that promotes growth.

There are tracks in the dirt ground, headed for the house. The door clacks open and shut again. Someone's been here before them.

Australia, New South Wales

November 1994

"Wow…. Jaiden was not kidding that this place could be deadly," Elisabeth murmurs, looking around. She had enough warning to grab the backpack that she'd already packed for this trip, anticipating that once Hiro Nakamura arrived she might not have time to actually pack. So there are some things in her backpack geared toward survival in the desert — Jaiden didn't know when we'd be showing up in his life, but he'd said the Outback and a large portion of his adulthood were in dry, arid places. So she took a chance. There are some survival rations and assorted sunscreen and clothing that she can carry with her easily.

There's a glance at her two companions. "Nakamura…. what year is it?" she asks him as they walk toward the homestead. It'd be good to at least know that much. She hasn't questioned him overmuch since he arrived to take them back in time.

Monica's packing really had more to due with guns. But this is mostly because she's had a hectic week and didn't think ahead like Liz. But her weapons, those are pretty much always ready, regardless. So she's a bit less ready for the challenges the Outback or desert or… sheep might bring them. But if bad guys show up, boy howdy is she ready.

"And is Jaiden here?" she adds to Liz's question. "It looks deserted." But then… maybe that's normal? She's not entirely sure what to expect.

"1994. November." It sure doesn't feel like November, on this end of the world. "And I am not sure."

These answers, a mix of concrete fact and uncertainty, from the samurai moving alongside the women. "I only know that we are in the correct time and place in order to correct the flow of history, and I believe that this is his home," Hiro explains. The collar of his shirt is open against the heat of the day, but he doesn't seem inclined to stay for the duration of the event — he rarely does. His walk is slowing down once a scant glance over the house confirms to him that this is the place, before he turns towards the women.

"For now, I must leave you. I will come back when…" And he trails off, as if only just registering what Monica had just said, perhaps pause punctuated by that continual swing of he door. A beat as he regards that shadowed gap of a front entryway, and then, "I think you are correct." His hand goes up to grip the hilt of his sword, and he withdraws the blade.

Ugh… great. Coming up on midsummer in this part of the world. Yay. Elisabeth pauses in her forward motion and glances at Nakamura. There's a brief nod. "We'll see you when it's over," she murmurs quietly. She doesn't mention that has zero idea of the world situation in this timeframe because frankly, it doesn't seem relevant. What does seem relevant is that the homestead itself appears deserted and there is supposed to be a teenaged boy somewhere in the vicinity. Liz did quiz Jaiden some about his past to try and get a feel for what to expect at various points of his life, though. She murmurs to Monica, "Hand me a weapon, please? But both of you keep them out of sight, just in case. This is not a war zone." Not yet, anyway. She tips her head slightly and starts enhancing the soundwaves that are incoming so as to listen for movement, heartbeats, scrabbling…. anything to pinpoint a living being.

It's not the pause that gets Monica's attention, but the fact that the man draws his sword. It's things like that that make her day, really. She does pull out a pair of pistols, though, passing one to Liz, hidden behind the way she pivots. Her own is slid into the back of her waistband, covered by her shirt. Just in case it isn't deserted. "I take it we might be expecting company, though, huh?" It's sort of a general question, likely meant for Hiro, but without the expectation that it'll really be answered.

Hiro twitches a glance Elisabeth's way, pausing, before he nods back to her in some semblance of gratitude, and trust that the two heroes he's brought along can handle it. Whatever 'it' happens to be, this round.

Perhaps he would have stayed, had Rhys been able to mention that part.

As Elisabeth expands her range of hearing, she'll be able to detect the sound of something before they're forced to enter the unknown. A heart beat, one that's a little sped up but not too unnaturally so. Emotion over speedster, angry or upset or panicked. Tight breathing, too, a scrabbling of limbs on the ground as someone tries to get to their feet. They seemed to be the only one within the house, too.

Elisabeth slips the weapon into the back of her jeans, keeping it safetied. In a tone that remains casual and easy, laced with a calming subsonic as much as she can, the blonde calls just loud enough to carry, "Hello the house? Anyone home?" Her accent clearly marks her as not from around here. There's a slant of a glance toward Monica, a gesture indicating that she's hearing something and it's only one source.

"Man. I was sort of hoping to see him use that thing," Monica says to Liz with a crooked grin as Hiro poofs back into time somewhere. But she falls silent as the blonde calls toward the house, looking ready to go, whatever pops out of there. Particularly when she notes there's something in there. Monica's gaze slides over to the house… watching. Ready.

Elisabeth gestures Monica to take a flanking position and murmurs very low, "Do not pull a weapon unless shots are actually fired at us." Then she starts walking forward. "Hello?!" she calls again, making a point of walking up the steps in a casual way. "Hey, I don't want to just walk into someone's home, but we could really use some water. And maybe a phone?" She approaches the door cautiously, but not creeping up on it — as any visitor might — and peeks inside, still listening carefully for anything that might indicate an attack coming her way. "Hey, anyone home?"

"You got it," Monica says as far as the weapon thing goes, but it's perhaps worrying how she looks about ready to grab all the same. when they get to the door, she lets Liz call out, waits for a few moments, then she reaches to slip the screen open enough for her to slip in. Quietly. To have a look around. She still isn't pulling a weapon, but she's checking the place out.

Charlene Mortlock is not difficult to find. There's a slight thud from where Jaiden would have remembered the kitchen to be, a knee connected with the floor as someone staggers. A woman in high-waisted jeans and a simple blouse is trying to get back up off the floor, her hair in loose tangles and streaky red draining from a mild head wound that is not as deep and serious as the amount of bleeding would suggest, ruby red clotting in the corner of her eyebrow. Hands gripping the edge of kitchen counter, she doesn't seem to hear nor care, particularly, that there are more people in her home.

More telling, though, is something dark and shadowed around her throat. It might be bruises, until one notices that it's moving. A living tattoo that winds around her throat, and in its sinuous pattern and the flashing of scales, it appears to be the image of a snake. And it also seems to be slowly dispersing, fragmenting into fading tendrils of colour as if to release its choking hold.

And if the mottled red of her face is to be of any indication, the reedy gasps of air, then it is also probable that it really had been choking.

What. The. Fuck? Elisabeth moves quickly into the kitchen. "Ma'am? Ohmygod. Ma'am, are you all right?" For the moment, the blonde is going to not give away that she's seen the whole snake-thing go on. Is it a power of the woman's own, or a power of someone attacking her? Liz has zero way to know. She moves to help the bleeding woman to her feet. She'll trust Monica to cover them both if it turns really bad ugly.

And that's just what Monica does, moving deeper into the house and checking through doorways and windows, just in case, before she comes back to hover nearby. She's doing that silent body guard thing she's picked up since going to work for Redbird. She's just missing the sunglasses.

They seem to be alone, at least for now, as Charlene takes Liz's help gratefully and for now, without question. The snake-thing is fading faster and faster, and with it comes the woman's ability to breathe, though her eyes hold a saline quality to them, on the verge of tears. Angry ones, if Elisabeth is able to tell between the different kinds. There's a puncture wound just visible on her forearm. "S-some— s— " She sends a glance towards Monica, alarmed, then to Elisabeth.

She tenses, as if expecting them to attack her — but the fact that she isn't making a preemptive strike of her own probably means that Liz's soothing voice probably helped. "Are you looking for him too?" is roughed out, eventually.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit. "Actually, we're looking for them," Elisabeth says softly. "To keep them away from him. Did they get to him?" she asks urgently, her expression both sincere and fearful for Jaiden's safety.

"We're here to help," Monica says as she looks back over to the woman and Liz. "I know it's the worst time to be answering questions, but whatever you can tell us about what's happened can help."

Charlene is slowly getting her breath back, shaking her head at the question of did they get him. "No, no. Jaiden was out, I was j-just tidying. Then this man attacked me, askin— he was asking me where Jaiden was. I said that I didn't know, and then he started— he strangled me." She can't really articulate the idea of being throttled without hands involved, but doesn't try, her own drifting up to touch her unbruised throat.

"Then he and this other man appeared and they— they left." If the cautious dart of her stare can be readily analysed, that's probably code for disappeared. "What do they want with Jaiden? Are they— I have to go. What if they find him?" She makes a move to grab keys off a hook on a cork board, and almost swoons at her own sudden movement.

Elisabeth's hands are quick to steady Charlene Mortlock. "They believe that he …. knows something, and they want him out of the picture. I don't think he does, but we were sent here to help." She urges the mother gently, lacing her voice with reassurance. "Mrs. Mortlock, let us come with you to get him. We'll get him under cover and then we'll deal with the men, all right?"

"We can make sure he's safe, I promise you that." Because… they already have. So they're going to now? Or something. Time travel. Monica doesn't jump in to crowd the woman, but she stands sort of beside and behind Liz, "And it'll be better for you not to drive alone, just in case they try to come after you again, too."

There is some decision made, behind Charlene's eyes — helped along by necessity, anxiety, and her own pounding head. She takes the car keys down off the hook and clenches them in a fist. It would be nice, if Bill were home. Not that she defers to the man in the house for all critical situations, but at least he'd be another opinion to sway her conflict of trusting two strangers after being attacked by one just prior. But her own lack of choice seems more apparent than other options, and she nods her agreement.

"I'll take you there now."

The ute doesn't provide much room. Elisabeth gets to ride shotgun, with Monica climbing into the open back of the vehicle, Charlene behind the wheel and too focused to let her own shaken demeanor get the best of her. Steely determination is locked in her jaw, and the girls experience a rather rough but very efficient high-speed drive through Australian bush, dust kicking up but the truck moving too swiftly for it to bother Monica very much at all. Despite being out in the open, it's the action mimic that gets the 360 degree view of the terrain, although no threat presents itself yet. They go down a rambling dirt trail that cuts through the tall, rough-leaved trees, and scraggly brush.

"My name's Charlene, by the way," the woman introduces herself after a couple of minutes of driving, not taking her eyes off the road. "You— and your friend?"

Once they're in the vehicle and heading out that way, Elisabeth replies, "Elisabeth and Monica." She could be lying, but she doesn't really appear to be. "Charlene, I need you to describe them for me." Over the wind, her voice carries just fine. "Tell me everythign you can remember about what they said, and most especially about what they did. It's my understanding that they've got … some skills that apparently come straight out of a rotten science fiction movie. Is that correct?"

"It's nice to meet you, Charlene. I'm just sorry it's under these circumstances." Monica's voice, it doesn't carry so well, though. She listens in, but the mimic busies herself with playing lookout, watching to see if these mystery men are going to try to get the drop on them out here.

"Me too!" carries out to Monica's perch, but Charlene falls silent after, squinting pensively before she concedes, with a tip of her head: "Something like that. The first bloke— tallish, probably in'is forties. Had an accent on 'im. I didn't hear him come in, I just stepped into the kitchen and he was there. He grabbed my arm, and he stabbed me with something— " She angles her hand to show the wound. "And that's when I started choking. But he wasn't touching me."

She swallows, working her white-fisted hands around the grip of the steering wheel. "I figured it was poison or something, but it felt like something 'round my neck. Then this other man — older, much older, white hair — just sort've appeared, out of thin air. They argued a bit — I think about killing me." Breathe in, breathe out, shakily. "Then they both disappeared the way they came, and I felt better. Then you girls showed up."

Opening her mouth to probably ask questions in return— but Charlene's jaw is snapping shut hard enough to bite her own tongue when the ground in front of the speeding ute simply collapses beneath the front wheels. The nose of the vehiclesharply dips, as if the road ahead had been constructed of a soft, thin shell of dirt as opposed to solid ground, and with a roar of upended tires, stays stuck. The sudden loss of momentum tips Monica forward, practically throws her over the top of the cab, her power given a split second to kick in.

Charlene is slumped unconscious next to where Elisabeth is only suffering aches from the sharp halt, the mother's head impacting off the steering wheel. Seatbelt holds the audiokinetic up from pitching into the cracked wieldsheld, and earth on either side of the front end of the vehicle traps the front doors, with only the window behind Elisabeth remaining as an exit.

The engine sputters, dies.

Weeeeellllll, shitfuck. Elisabeth is thrown forward in spite of the hand she tries to brace on the dashboard, slamming about the seat. Her breath is knocked out of her by the jolt of the seatbelt on her sternum. That's gonna leave a serious mark. And she's stunned for a long moment. In the seconds it takes her to suck in a breath, Liz is already reaching for the seatbelt's buckle and attempting to pinpoint where the hell there are other people nearby.

And that power does kick in. When Monica is tipped forward, she just uses the momentum to jump to the top of the cab as they fall down this sinkhole, and from the cab, leaps over to the wall of this new hole and flips herself up over the edge to roll and land up on her feet. She'll count that as first shots fired, apparently, because her gun is pulled as she stands upright. Her gaze scans the horizon. Where the heck are they…

They're in rural New South Wales, where the closest piece of civilisation might be the bridge they crossed over the running stream a few minutes ago, and beyond that, the ranch house. A dry breeze is blowing through, teasing at Monica's hair and clothing as she evaluates the terrain, mostly just more dirt road, the sparse, pale trees, and the sound of running water nearby.

For Elisabeth, her vantage point is less fortunate — but the back window will give under some pressure with one of the corners already loose from its hinges, allowing her to emerge into the awkwardly angled truck bed, and into the wider world.

There's a hiss in the air, and by the time Monica is turning towards the sound of it, she'll see it — a preternatural dust cloud that seems strong enough to bring with it pebbles, even small rocks, all in a haze of grey-brown hurtling down the road and in the direction of the stuck ute and the women nearby it. It shreds the leaves off overhanging branches, and ignores the lightly mild wind.

Through the haze, there's a silhouette in the distance, his arms lifted as if in worship.

The sibilant hiss is more than enough for Elisabeth to work with and, enraged by the fact that these bastards are going after Jaiden Mortlock as a child, she cuts loose with her own ability. Honing that sound, lacing it with vibration, she has zero intent for that fucker to remain alive. Anyone want pulped internal organs for lunch?

Monica spots the dust devil coming her way fist, and she lets out a quick, "Liz!" But the other woman is already on it. And the silhouette, too. Of all the time to not have borrowed Jessica's favorite sniper rifle. Even as Liz is letting out her sonics, Monica is firing with what she's got toward that silhouette.

Soundwaves hit dust cloud, and even if the latter is moving swiftly, it can't really match sonic speeds. Though scraping dust is left to fall as it may in runoff momentum, fist-sized rocks are still rocketing towards them with preternatural momentum. One clips Elisabeth's shoulder hard enough to spin her, and hot pain bursts up the side of Monica's face bulleting pebbles only barely miss breaking anything particularly vital.

But there's all the punishment they get, and it's light, in comparison to the receiver.

It staggers back, before a bullet seems to buckle the figure completely, and before they can tell if he's dead or alive, he's simply edited out of existence. But not before there's the sound of something rumbling, nagging at Elisabeth's sense, the phonon shift of sound reverberating up the plates of the earth.

"Move, move, move!" Elisabeth barks, scrambling back to the vehicle to try to free Jaiden's mother before she dies in a sinkhole or something AWFUL like that. "We gotta go!"

Oh Monica moves alright. But she crazy and runs right for where that figure is disappearing over there. Liz can handle Charlene, after all, and Monica's too hopped up on adrenaline to think quite straight. Charge! is really more like it.

The ground is starting to move — enough that even in Monica's box of tricks, the woman is forcibly thrown to her knees mid-run, dirt road scraping tracks up her shins. The haze of the prior dust cloud is still thick in the air, left to settle as it may, but she can see clearly enough that the road is empty ahead of her. And still, the ground rumbles in discontent. Fortunately for Elisabeth, Charlene is rousing by the time she's brought to, helping herself out of the car by the time the audiokinetic is reaching her arms inside.

A rocky, unbearable, earth-deep groan as the car shuddering beneath the two ladies, and they're spilling out of the bed, onto the road, staggering away just as the jeep is dragged down into an impossible crevice that splits through the road like rotten fruit, breaking up cracks beneath Monica's hands and knees.

And then, with a final plume of dust, the vehicle is almost gone completely, near verticle, with its tail end peaking through dirt and sand. Silence reigns alongside chattering birds, and dust, once more, works itself to settle.


An uncertain voice turns heads, as the stick figure sight of a young, freshly teenage boy emerges in the trees. Dressed in dirt-tracked jeans, a shirt that's been stripped off and used to protect his head from the sun, the lightly freckled, dusty face of a young Jaiden Mortlock simply blinks at the commotion, blessedly unharmed, totally oblivious.

This may all take some explaining.

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