Quietus IV


gabriel_icon.gif grace_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif julie_icon.gif

lucille3_icon.gif lynette4_icon.gif nick_icon.gif nicole4_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Also featuring:


Scene Title Quietus IV
Synopsis A convoy of Ferrymen flees across the Hudson River.
Date December 19, 2011

The Hudson River, off Pollepel Island

The Hudson River is so wide and vast that it might as well be an ocean. Although Pollepel Island sits only three hundred meters from the bank, the military blockade that stands to the east has driven the Ferry’s boats out into the open water to the west. A cumulus of birds blocks out the moon and stars like a smoldering black cloud interspersed with tens of thousands of winking eyes and flashing claws. Only slivers of light from the flood lamps on the river’s eastern back penetrate the flock, illuminating shapes on the water with the abrupt precision and brevity of far-off lighting strikes.

Of the twelve vessels moored at Pollepel Island’s docks, the Ferrymen’s Special Activities division was only able to free seven from the ice. They range from a rusty old tugboat with a slow-chugging engine and peeling aquamarine paint all the way down to the simplest of aluminum dinghies, powered only by a hefty set of wood oars. Aforementioned oars presently rattle on the floors of the boats; lengths of rope as thick as Huruma’s arm connects the dinghies to the larger watercrafts slowly churning their way away from the carnage behind them as they head west across the river toward the opposite bank in the vain hope that Heller hasn’t already set up an encampment there.

Gunfire spits and pops on the shores of the island, now more than six hundred meters away. Muzzle flashes light up the night like sparklers on the Fourth of July, even if no one on either side of this conflict has anything to celebrate. In spite of their best efforts to evacuate everyone in a timely fashion, Grace’s last headcount tallies less than one hundred — half the Island’s population — survivors split between the seven boat convoy. Jensen Raith, covered by Eileen’s birds, led the rest into the woods; using the lead tugboat’s Motorola Triton 40S SSB radio, Nick has been unable to reach him.

Sleet pelts against the tugboat’s roof and deck, which are awash with blood. Somewhere out in the dark, bodies are floating. Inside the boats, children nestle in close in the protective circles of their parents’ arms. Those exposed to the elements hold up lighter pieces of luggage over their heads like unwieldy umbrellas to provide some relief. Lucille, Huruma, and Lynette are among those trailing behind in one of the dinghies, but by choice; someone has to keep the survivors calm as the boats rock and shudder in the storm, and check their charges for injuries that might not yet be felt through the rush of adrenaline. Ryans and the others can only watch from the deck and cabin of the larger tugboat, and hope that the waters don’t swell and surge enough to capsize them.

On the dinghy, Lynette is crouched beside a woman and her child, checking the woman's arm. There's a cut there and she's trying to see how deep it is… in the dark, in choppy water. She doesn't look worried, although Huruma can tell that it's hidden away under a mask. These people need to see her holding it together, after all. It's the least she can do for them.

She's tucked into a raincoat with a red scarf wrapped around her neck and over her hair. It used to mean something, that scarf, but now it's just there for warmth. Repurposed, like most things on the island. Like all of them. She puts a hand on the woman's shoulder as she looks up from the wound. "It's going to be okay. It'll hurt. We'll get it bandaged as soon as we're on dry ground." Giving her a reassuring smile, she reaches out to ruffle the child's hair as she stands, looking for the next person to check over.

Though Lucille has the capability to take the child’s pain away, it isn't until the notion that she should maybe be keeping a watch out for people with her ability crosses her mind that she decides to lend the child some support. That goes for everyone on the dinghy, the lowering of blood pressure mixed with the sedation effects she can activate in a person’s brain would give a calming effect to the people around her, eyes flare that amber gold as she flexes her field of influence on the passenger of the tiny boat.

Her hair knitted and pulled back tight, Lucille carries her uzi in her hands and a pistol is holstered at her waist. Dressed in her navy blue pea coat the rest of her clad in black.The young woman is silent as she keeps her eyes open and wide taking in the waters around them, using her ability to detect any pulses lying in wait out there. Any that aren't near enough, meaning they wouldn't be in their party. Her hands grip the uzi as she stares ahead, flicking a gaze to Huruma with a raised eyebrow. They’ve never done this before, but maybe with their abilities combined they can for sure keep the passengers of the boat calm and collected as they make their escape.

Her mind goes to Delia and Tahir, who she's not standing next to now, and that worries Luce. She always seems to be worried lately.

Wishing he was whole right now, though there were ways around the missing hand, Ryans found it rather annoying. With a rifle slung from a shoulder, a few more items such as a handgun and a knife or two tucked on his person, he looked somewhat like a drowned rat. The sleet plasters his hair against his head, his father’s fedora lost in the rush to the boats, tipped off and left while he struggled to get a furious Nicole to safety. Somethings were more important than an old hat, Nicole and that child she carried counted as such. Whether she liked it or not. So, no time to go back for it. At least, he had the collar of his long coat is flipped up against his neck, while a dark red scarf kept the rest of his neck warm.

Quietly, warily he paces the tugboat, talking softly, to some of the scared passengers. His voice rumbles softly, offering encouragement. One young boy, gets a ruffle of his hair and a small smile from the older man, before he moves on.

Though he does this, his eyes are often moving to the world outside of their little tug boat. He watches for the first signs of danger, ready for what would come. In his mind, it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’…. It was a matter of ‘when.’

At the tugboat’s helm stands Nick, stony-faced as he steers the boat, eyes sweeping the waters for signs of motion. There’s room for a co-pilot in the sheltered wheelhouse — the downside being that whoever stands in there will have the uncomfortable silence of Nick Ruskin to contend with. The upside is relative protection from the frigid air outside.

He wears a rifle strapped across his chest so that he’s got firepower if he needs to step outside the wheelhouse and shoot, though his priority at the moment is to get the group to the west bank — a forty minute journey at the slow pace they’re traveling at. If all goes well. Now and then his eyes dart up to the blotted-out moon — the birds helping the boats journey in darkness only seeming to emphasizing the loss he’s suffered. A muscle in his jaw twitches now and then, but he doesn’t speak unless he needs to.

The dinghies trail behind like as many ducklings, pelted with wind and sleet and cold, the huddled frames of those left crowded in where they can fit. Huruma is at the back of the first, her outline dark and broad at shoulder as it sits alert, drenched in that mix of rainwater. It’s chill against her head, bare against elements but seemingly unflinching. There is a lingering cloud of calm that hangs around their boats, flitting over and around as Huruma takes time to cast her attention over all of what she can reach with her ability. She has been elusive the last few days, and even now she is far more quiet than usual— somehow a feat in itself, all hard stares and pursed lips over her teeth.

Huruma is well versed in having supplies if she needs to run. There is a bag on her back and she holds the cradled matte shape of an automatic rifle in her arm, belt and short coat loaded with whatever she could snatch on the way out of Bannerman, a pair of long, talon-like knives included. Armaments seem to comfort her, in a way.

After the initial push-off and the quieting huddle of bodies, the dark woman’s features are slow to lift to the blotted night sky, a writhing shape of ink against the sleet.

It had been a struggle to get Nicole to leave the castle. Not out of some misguided notion that it would represent safety from the incoming fight, but because her sister is unaccounted for. She had screamed Colette’s name and every nickname her sister has ever given her and fought the hand clutching hers, dragging her toward the docks. Until Ryans had roughly grabbed her by one arm and gave her a shake.

She wasn’t going to be any damned good to Colette if she sat around waiting to die. The voice inside of her head echoed the sentiment, slightly more unkind than the way Ryans delivered it, a sensation of power lines snapping across her synapses jolting her just as much out of her stubborn refusal as Ben’s jostling had done.

For a brief time, Nicole was standing on deck, troubled gaze cast out across the water and watching for signs of Colette’s figure fleeing from the castle to join them. In short order, however, she retreated to the wheelhouse to huddle on the floor of the tugboat, her back to the wall. A thin black jacket, its warmth unneeded due to her enhanced power, is tucked behind her head like a pillow. One hand rests over her swollen stomach; she’s in the second week of her third trimester now, and the run to their escape was a difficult one. Her other hand clutches the rim of an empty bucket in a white knuckled grip. It’s just as well that Nick isn’t looking for conversation, because Nicole isn’t feeling up to chatter either.

She’ll be fine, crackles at the back of Nicole's mind. I know it sounds stupid, but— she's a survivor. Smart, too, even if it doesn't seem like it now. Trust me. That the disembodied phantom of Howard’s consciousness is willing to soothe Nicole's concerns is unusual. Normally so abrasive, he smooths out when matters of family are in question. He understands.

Across the divide of icy water, nestled fearlessly up to the dark silhouette of Huruma — of all people — is a nearly invisible slip of a child, made to seem larger than she is by a puffy down-feather coat and thick, woolen scarf wound around her neck. Julie Fournier lost nearly everything in the arcology; a sister, a mother, a surrogate father, and the only life she's ever known. Now, only days weaned off of Claire Bennet’s blood, she's set to lose the rest.

Red-rimmed eyes watch Bannerman’s Castle disappearing into the night, and the swirling storm of birds howling like a blizzard around it are backlit by the few remaining flood lamps from Heller’s battalion. One by one, those lights are blown out, and the birds — as well as Julie’s hope of finding a glimpse of her father — disappear into the night.

Grace has a backpack; she knows the value of a go bag too well. A handgun she hopes not to have to use, hope she expects will be in vain. A somber blue coat, but not gloves; she gave those away to one of the passengers, someone who needed them more. With everyone settled on the tugboat — as settled as they can be, that is — Grace herself has taken a place on the starboard rear of the deck, leaning against the rail, one hand loosely braced against it. Facing at an angle, she keeps the passengers at the forefront of her view, the water in the periphery; head bare despite the sleet, she projects an alert, studied confidence entirely for the benefit of others, determinedly controlling the tension roiling at her core. Ryans is given a subtle smile as he passes by, and an appreciative nod.

She'd say something, but everything that comes to mind is sardonic, dry and dark; the exact opposite of reassuring to any of the passengers who might hear, especially given her voice. So Grace says nothing at all.

The hiss and pop of white noise floating over the radio in the tugboat’s cabin transitions sharply into a different sound. «Nguyen— Nguyen, come in—? Eyes on Childs? Over.» The voice strains to be heard, fighting against the roar of wind, rain, and wings that sound like a building hurricane on the radio’s speaker but are too far away to be heard by the convoy.

«Ne- Negative,» comes the shaky, half-stuttered response, too fast, and Nick gets the impression that the speaker was anticipating the question.


«They’ve turned, sir.»


«The birds— they’ve turned on the Ferry, sir, they’re> Another wave of static washes over the second half of the subordinate’s transition. «picked clean. Nothing left. No one. Please. Please send—»

«We’re losing you, Nguyen. Repeat. Repeat!»

Nguyen does not repeat. On the same channel, a new voice chimes in, steadier than the two that preceded it. «Eyes on the river convoy,» it states. «Long range artillery moving into position.»

Outside on the deck of the tugboat, and from the bumpy aluminum dinghies, two silver crescents flash on the horizon.

«Interceptor crafts are away. Will triangulate the convoy’s position. Over.»

«Are they in range?>


The sound of the radio has Lynette standing up from a crouch and turning her attention to the sky. Her expression turns stony, to try to keep fear at bay. Because, well…

“I’ve seen this,” she says in a quiet whisper. Not this exactly, of course, and she didn’t quite understand it at the time. But with the birds in the sky and losing sight of who is friend and who is foe — she understands now. “This is gonna be bad.” She turns over to Huruma, looking to her first before she includes Lucille in as well. “We need to cover the boat. Jackets, blankets, whatever we’ve got,” she says at a more normal volume. And true to her word, she starts peeling her jacket off, likely to cover the younger ones first.

The flash in the distance draws her attention, and then she looks back to her comrades in arms. “If I light them up, they’ll know exactly where we are.” It’s a downside of her power sometimes, that flashiness. But she is willing to, if they need her.

The Ryans girl’s head snaps up at the sound of the radio as well. Her grip tightening on her gun before she flicks a amber eyed gaze towards Lynette, the councilwoman gets a curt nod and she pulls her own jacket off to start the process. Her simple loose black clothing not enough to protect her fully from the cold but she can manage for now. She looks under the people on the boat as she tries for blankets anything she can find that can be used in Lynette’s plan to conceal them.

“If they get close enough..” Lucille’s tone is even and she closes her eyes and tries to push her field of influence farther to see if she can catch any of them in it. “I could do something…” Breathing slowly she tilts her head feeling out there with her ability. “I..” the notion of a fight on the water is a scary one. She's not sure if they are really prepared for that. …how could they be?

A nod returned to the councilwoman, though his face is unreadable, Benjamin honestly glad to see her there. If he can at least protect some of the council, it will be worth it.

The sound of the radio cuts his rounds short, as Ben moves closer to the cabin to hear what is said. From his spot, he can watch the convoy behind him, especially the dinghy trailing behind them. While he listens to the crackling word, he watched what the women behind them are doing. It helps him register what is going on. Damn. Eileen had warned them, but he had hoped they would be well away. His eyes going to the blackening sky. “Nick…” The older man rumbles in warning, directing the youngers attention to the sky, “…tell Nicole where the tarps are. Let’s get these people under cover. Quick!

The mention of the artillery is worrisome, having spent part of a war on a boat, he still feels unprepared for what is about to happen. “And see how much power you can get to the boat, without dumping anyone. We have to get off this river.”

That said he moves away from the cabin, only to notice the flash of light in the distance. “Shit. Incoming!” His voice raises a little at the last to get the attention of those in his area of the convoy. They were all sitting ducks at this point. He tries to get the attention of one of the other boats and motions in the direction of the potential hostiles, hopefully, word will spread through the convoy. All Ryans can do is begin to prepare for the worse, moving back to the bow of the tug boat, getting his assault rifle ready.
What he wouldn’t give for an M2HB right now. He’s spend plenty of time behind one on the rivers.

Nick’s scowl deepens, if possible, at the incoming chatter coming through the radio. The phrase ‘They’ve turned’ draws his eyes to the sky, and a nervous hand moves to rake through his hair, but glove and ski cap are in the way. His gaze flits to Nicole when Ryans’ directive comes through the door, and he shakes his head, though Ryans has already slipped away again.

“Nicole, come steer this piece of shit. I’m gonna get as many people in here as possible, cover the rest, yeah?” he says, moving to help her up, though he gives that bucket a wide berth. “Just plow straight ahead, as fast as you can. I’ll be back before you run into anything.” He hopes.

That said, he heads out of the wheelhouse, holding the door. “Room for maybe eight inside, get the littlest ones in there, and as many as can fit in the cabin,” he calls out, before heading out to the deck where bolted down storage bins hold ropes, tarps, bungees and other such equipment. “We got anyone who can make sure these get to the other boats and not in the bloody water?” he asks Grace — meaning if anyone’s got an ability that might help distribute the tarps without fail.

Huruma’s ears are tuned to the scene around her, a passive acceptance of the young girl at her side lending her a stalwart aura. The flickers she can spy on the horizon are another problem coming to them, as if the birds weren’t bad enough? She cants her head to Lynette as the other woman spouts an order for cover, and of course she complies. The layers under her own coat are enough to guard against some of the chill, and wordlessly she drops the flap of her jacket overtop of Julie and the person next to her. Pale eyes move down to eye level with the girl, and Huruma’s hand is a brief weight on the cover of the coat atop her head.

“There is a gun in the left hand pocket, if you need it.” Just in case. Huruma would rather she have it. She turns away then, moving to tug up more coats where people remove them; the boats behind them can take the cues well enough, and they surely do the same. It may not keep them from some things, but beaks and leather are at odds.

Still cradling the rifle in one arm, Huruma moves back towards the rear of the boat and lifts it to brace against her shoulder, one eye narrowing to peer through the slim scope on top, attempting to follow the actions on the tugboat and the crescents on the horizon.

Howard’s assurances go a long way to keeping Nicole calm. It doesn’t do her any good to panic, of course, and panic is not her style anyway. But worry for her sister is the one thing that’s been known to absolutely cripple her. I know. I know… Sometimes I think you know her better than I do. Thank you.

“Tarps?” Nicole looks confused at Ben’s words, wondering at first if he means to shelter people from the elements. Once Nick is helping her to her feet, she looks outside and starts to process what she overheard on the radio, but failed to focus on. “Oh—” The determination she summons up helps push back the queasiness that plagued her (but that she had not yet succumbed to) earlier.

One nod signals her understanding. It’s better that he be out there helping people, slow moving as she is. “Go. I’ll take care of this.” While she’s never captained a tugboat before, Nicole is a socialite. One who gets her hands dirty. She’s been in a wheelhouse before. Keeping the boat on course? She can absolutely handle that. And if she can give them a little speed without risking the precious cargo they pull behind them, even better.

You think I know her well? You should talk to Adel sometime. Your sister did a lot for us when we were younger. The buzzing reassurance from Howard comes with a momentary thrum through Nicole’s body. That's — not what you're nervous about. What's happening? In— the meat world?

Julie nearly disappears under the coat, but the call of a gun’s presence has her looking doe-eyed at the considerably taller woman. That Julie doesn't know how to fire a gun is painted on her face, she knows she needn't confirm that to Huruma. But the small young woman turns around regardless, keeping a line of sight to Huruma for a moment, then toward the noises that came from the riverbanks.

Her eyes widen, panic rolls down her spine. They don't understand. “Miss!” Julie slips out from under the larger jacket, leaving it with the bewildered teen at her side. She hurries behind Huruma, “Miss! They're— they use magnetometer tracking! Electro— electromagnetic resonance, uh— uh —” Julie fumbles with the technological end.

Static electricity!” Julie tries to explain, gesturing wildly. “The drones detect us because of electromagnetic signatures we— we can't hide we have to scramble our biological signals!” She’s frantic, and there's barely enough time to even convey the ideas.

The first Grace knows of the change in circumstance — specifically, the impending opposition — is when Ryans heads for the cabin. Her gaze follows his progress, lingers on the wheelhouse as Nick emerges. She doesn't look up, doesn't look out; there's not likely anything she can see that they haven't, and it's clear enough from Nick's words what's going on. She follows him to the storage bins, but more slowly, pausing to point at specific passengers and direct them into the wheelhouse.

When she catches up with Nick a few moments later, Grace shakes her head — though that may not mean much in the gloom. "The others will have their own," she says, hoarse voice quiet but not deliberately so. "We just need to cover our people," Grace continues, reaching for two of the folded tarps. "Every little bit might help." She walks them back up to the front of the deck, getting the people around her to help shake them out and then cluster underneath.

The first mortar round launched from the riverbank punches a hole in the storm and whistles through the air in a long, low arc. Although the Ferrymen on the boat can’t see the bomb, they can track its flight just by listening. It hits the water twenty meters away from the helm of the lead tugboat and explodes under the surface, kicking up a ten foot high wave that washes over the convoy.

The lead tugboat is large enough that it only pitches sideways. Excess water spills onto the deck, knocking Nicole and Grace momentarily off their feet.

Nick’s radio sparks. «Missed. Let’s try that again, shall we?»

The smaller boats do not fare as well as the lead tugboat or even the medium-sized fishing boats that shudder and bump without tipping. The dinghies, on the other hand, are swept under the wave and roll over, hurling Huruma, Lynette, Lucille, Julie, and all their passengers into the icy river water.

Lighter suitcases float back to the surface. Waterlogged clothes that can’t decide whether to sink or rise flutter aimlessly like rags of inky seaweed swirling in the river’s current.

The ropes tethering the flipped dinghies to the larger, sturdier boats do not snap.


"We're hiding from the birds," Lynette explains, maybe with a little snap in it, but she's stressed just now, dear Julie. She knows what those birds are going to do to them. Lived it, in a way. But her attention doesn't leave the other, more deadly threat on the horizon. "I need them to get closer before I can do anything," she says, sounding a little frantic, but she takes a couple deep breaths to ease off that spike of emotion. For Huruma's sake.

And it's there that the sound cuts through the night. She turns toward it, eyes scanning even though there's no chance of seeing it. Perhaps she wants her eyes to contradict her ears.

When it hits the water, Lynette leans over and holds onto the edge of their little boat. She takes in a deep breath and closes her eyes. It's not a vision that helps her there, it's growing up on the coast. But no amount of preparedness helps with the shock of the water, the freezing water. The breath is knocked out of her, and it's all she can do to try to keep her hold on the boat so she can try to pull herself above the water, and hopefully to the rope to serve as an anchor for the others to cling onto.

An eyebrow raised in Julie’s direction and Lucille looks to Lynette as they continue to cover the passengers on their tiny boat. That sound like a missile.. oh god it's a fucking bomb sound as it lands near them and overturns the boat they are on. “Ahh fuck!” Is yelled with a splash following after. The lack of a coat makes the water even worse, but she's lighter and the shock of it all makes her gasp for breath, her eyes sputtering out back to their blue color as she loses her focus.

This is most likely why the future me left all these fuckers. Except dad and Auntie Huruma of course. The woman growls as she tries to cling onto the boat as well. Trying to pull herself up. She closes her eyes for a moment as she readies herself for the next explosion. It's times like these she wishes she could affect materials and not the human body. Alas, for the moment her ability is useless. Well… not really. Teeth beginning to chatter, she closes her eyes as her ability unfurls from within in. Everyone in her immediate area would feel a flood of adrenaline run through their bodies. It's fight or flight and Lucille is hoping the added boost will help the people in the water power through and get back on the boat.

Golden eyes flash as she tries to tow a kid by the jacket closer to her and the boat. “Extra boost for y-” her voice cuts out as she almost falls under the water due to the boy she has nabbed flailing about. “Hey hey! Quiet!” She's trying to save your life here kid.

Knowing it would happen does not prepare you for when it happens. A sound, Ryans hasn’t heard in more time then his eldest child has been alive, reaches him. It is distinctive and something you never forget. He crouches as he hears that familiar whistle, hand going out to push the kids nearest to him lower.

When the mortar hits the water, he ducks his head, shuddering as he is drenched from the wave of water. “Keep down.” He warns those refugees nearest to him, before he is on his feet again. Swinging the rifle strap up to rest on his shoulder, Benjamin moves toward the back of the boat. It isn’t the drenching of cold water that chills the man, it is the sight of his daughter in the frigid water. He know what cold water does to the body if left in there too long. “Lu!” The panic is clear in her father’s voice. Seeing people he cared about in the water, it takes all of his will power not to jump in right away.

With other things closing in ahead of them, he would end up risking being able to defend the boats.

They were all just sitting ducks, even more so if they stop. He crouched down, hand gripping the line to the boat “Nick! Get back to the wheel.” He does take eyes off the women behind him as he speaks. They needed a more experienced driver at the helm. “We need to get to the damn shore, as soon as they get ahold of the boat.” Time was ticking for those in the water, even more so than those on the boats.

Nick swiftly loops the hooks of the bungee cords through the grommets in the tarp’s corners, moving to the various points on the deck to attach them, making the tarps more taut, giving the people beneath them more room between the plasticized sheet and anything that might hit it.

“Shit,” he murmurs, when he hears and then feels that first mortar round hit much too close to comfort, the water rocking the boat beneath them. It sends him stumbling, too, but he manages not to go over the railing. The other boats are not so fortunate. His eyes scan the dark waters as the dinghies capsize, losing some of their passengers.

Try again echoes in his ears. “Get cover,” he hisses to anyone on the tugboat who’s not sheltered — such as that shelter is. “Another’s coming!”

He glances at Ryans, but does not head toward the wheelhouse, but toward the stern. “Nicole’s got it. I can do more out here,” he says in passing, grabbing a lifesaver from where it’s stowed, and leaning over the water to make sure everyone in the dinghies gets back into a boat — any boat. He’ll help them onto the tugboat if they’re swept close enough to it.

Huruma has no time to quantify Julie with more answers than what Lynette gives; turns out that they aren’t only worried about the feathered birds, but the screaming ones as well. Huruma knows a warzone when she hears one, and the shrill noise of incoming fire has her throwing herself over Julie and the girl still under the offered protection of a coat. Though the shot doesn’t come for them, she can hear it hit the river up ahead, and she swears she can feel the vibration of the impact in her teeth.

It rattles the tugboat ahead, and before she knows it the majority of them are overtaken by the wash of cold freshwater and the bump and toss of hitting the river themselves. The cold stings at her side through multiple layers, pulling at the muscles of her ribcage even as she feels Lucille’s doing in the pump of her chest.

“Lucille, don’t—” Huruma sputters as she comes back up, a flash of teeth and dark skin that camouflages her against the water. Her arms reach out to snatch at the nearest bodies to her and, the ones connected to the minds she senses in her field. A mighty shove pushes them after Lucille’s wake towards the boat. The night has no bearing on her sense of direction there, thankfully, though it does have the rest of her scanning the riverbank with eyes and reaching ahead with her ability. The rifle around her chest hangs like a weight, but her legs work even if her muscles are still shocked by the shift of temperature. She just needs to keep them moving.

Nicole’s never heard that sound before except in movies. “Oh, shit!” Howard, they’re bombing us. Her fingers tighten their grip on the wheel, preparing for the impact. The boat isn’t hit, but the tumultuous waters send her toppling backward. She has enough good sense to let go of the wheel, rather than try to ride it down to the floor, letting it careen to one side or the other. She knows they need to stay on course.

The impact with the deck causes her to cry out in spite of herself. It’s the shock of the moment more than any pain endured by the fall. She presses a hand to her stomach and hisses between her teeth. “Sorry, baby. Hold strong, okay?”

Fuck me. This is bad. Between Heller and the birds…

Grabbing the wheel again, Nicole anchors a hand on either side of it to keep it steady as she pulls herself back to her feet. If she knew Ryans was doubting her ability to drive this thing, she’d actually be offended. She can’t walk in the social and political circles she has done for as long as she has without having more than a couple men offer to teach her to drive their boat. It at least generally starts out as something other than a euphemism.

Do we have enough power to… I don’t know, do something? He’s been keeping her at a full charge ever since their (mostly) unintentional bond was forged, but she’s afraid to expend her power willingly, lest she lose him in the process. Her panic is tangible to the rider in her mind. He can’t see what’s happening, but he can feel the effect it’s having on her. I’m so sorry. Because if that next bombardment hits, she needs him to know that.

I could try and buy you some time. If you let me out If you kill me. I might be able to I don’t know. I’m not sure what state I’m in. I might not last long. But I don’t know what will happen if— if we land in the water. You’re holding a big charge right now. It could kill both of— it could kill all of us. Howard’s concern is real, a second knot of anxiety pushing at the back of Nicole’s mind, followed by, Is Benji ok? Neither the time, nor the place to ask that.

Beyond the tugboat, in the dark recesses of the icy water of the Hudson river, Julie is lost. She is neither buoyant nor too heavy to float. She is, instead, suspended in the lightless current like a fly in ointment. Her matchstick limbs twist and writhe, bubbles of air escape her mouth as she tries to scream underwater. Blonde hair swims around her head. She can feel some people — Evolved people — like she used to when she was whole, but she can’t get to them.

She doesn’t know how to swim.

An all too familiar whistling precedes even more ominous sound, and Grace barely has time to snatch at the railing before water comes sloshing over the deck and the tugboat pitches sideways. She herself topples over, hitting the deck hip-first; that will probably be a bruise tomorrow. Scrambling back upright, she takes a quick scan of their boat, the others behind — sees Ryans at the rear of the boat, heads bobbing in the water.

The instructions he snaps raise Grace's hackles though they aren't even addressed to her. It's a boat, and an ungainly specimen of the breed at that. How much driving does he think there is to do?

"Ryans," Grace calls, forcing her hoarse voice to carry. Fortunately it doesn't have to carry all that far. "Worry about the people in the water, not the ones working."

She suits her own actions to those words, as she grabs a coil of rope and takes up station on the rail, looking for anyone she might throw the end towards. That's about all there is to be done — she can stare at mortars, jostle Nicole's elbow at the wheel, hide under a tarp, or try to pull people in. The choice is obvious.

The two interceptors — speedboats, by the look of them — come into view. Lighter, more aerodynamic, and equipped with more powerful engines than any of the vehicles belonging to the convoy, they slice through the water like a falcon cleaves the air with its wings.

And if there are falcons on their side today, they’re too preoccupied with the battle being waged on land to assist with the battle about to be waged in the middle of the open river.

«Hold your fire,» one of the interceptors radios back to command. <Let us make a pass first.»

Grace’s rope sails through the air and lands a few feet away from Huruma, within reach — if she’s willing to take it. The interceptors swing wide around the left side of the convoy, kicking up a secondary wake of water that rolls over heads and abandoned pieces of luggage, clothes, and other scattered debris spinning and churning.

Julie has disappeared.

Gunfire erupts from the passing interceptors. Armor-piercing rounds spark, pop, and punch holes through the overturned dinghies. Someone lets out a strangled, choking shout. Blood spatters against Lynette’s face; she knows because it’s warm, and maybe it’s hers. The numbing temperature of the water makes it impossible to tell whether she’s been hit, but the corners of her vision are still bright with the reflection of gunfire off the river’s roiling surface.

Lucille’s, on the other hand—

One moment she’s sending a burst of adrenaline through the bodies thrashing around her. The next, the strength is inexplicably draining from her legs and arms. She tastes copper in her mouth, and on the next inhale feels something stick and flutter in her windpipe when she tries to breathe in. It might be her pulse.

Huruma will see it before anyone else: blood hemorrhages from a gaping wound in Lucille’s throat where a bullet grazed her neck. Not a direct hit, but it’s enough to be fatal if they can’t get her proper medical attention on the deck of the tugboat in the next two minutes.

Lynette does her best to duck behind the swell of the overturned boat, but it is a difficult position to be in. The splatter of blood helps keep her alert, the boosted adrenaline helps keep her moving. Ahead of the others, she doesn’t see how they fare in the volley. She isn’t even sure how she fares, and she doesn’t seem keen to find out.

Blinking through the afterimage of gunfire, she mostly uses her hands to find the rope connecting their dinghy to the tugboat. She uses it to move closer to the bigger boat, inching along and trying not to notice if the debris she bumps into it luggage or bodies.

“We need some help down here,” she calls up to the boat, although they definitely know that already, “people’ve been hit!” She knows that much from the blood. And the screams. “And I need a goddamn gun!” And to get out of the water. And a blanket. But she has priorities.

There are a few things that happen. Lucille’s pride at helping everyone get closer to the boat soars, her wince at being yelled at by Auntie Huruma and the feeling of losing her life from the wound in her neck.

The sound of choking and coughing escapes the young woman as she clutches at her throat her eyes bulging. Those amber eyes flicker back and forth from their natural blue to that gold as her ability is on the fritz now. Concentration broken completely. The adrenaline vanishes and slams back into people with a force enough to knock heads. The woman blinks as she tries to orient herself but she can't see much at the moment her head falling beneath the waters surface and bopping up a few moments later.

The water around her darken with her blood. “He-!” Her words cut off by the water and blood filling her mouth. Her eyes flicker more as her ability goes more haywire, effects from it snapping on and off..

She can't turn it off.

There is a bristling in return at Grace’s words, but Ryans is smart enough to recognizes that this was not the time for butting heads. Instead, he turns back to the overturned boats…. And he notices something in the water. “Shit…”

Even as the interceptor boats approach, Ryans is handing of his rifle to whoever will take it, and shedding his long coat. The weight of it thumps on the wood deck, he feels naked without it as he watches the boats circle around and take aim. He is preparing himself for what he does next, drawing in deep breaths, filling his lungs as he was once trained.

Before anyone can say anything to him, not that he would listen, Ryans dives off the back of the boat, near where he saw the small body of Julie last as it thrashed in the water. Coming to the surface, he gasps against the cold, hair plastered to his skull. He manages to come up in time to see the damage to the boats…. And his daughter.

His gut reaction was to swim to Lucille, to his baby girl; but, luckily reason prevails. There were others there…. Huruma was there. The little girl….

Taking the deep gulping breathes he was taught during the training in the SEALs, Ryans plunges himself under the water, in desperate search for a little girl, hoping he isn’t too late.

Nick throws his lifesaver, which is tied to the boat, down toward those dropped into the drink, but that’s when the speedboats come racing by. As they open fire on the convoy, he pulls his rifle around from where its strapped to his back, to fire back, sending several rounds after first one speedboat, and then the other, aiming for heads, throats, chests — whatever’s not under armor. Whatever’s flesh and whatever bleeds.

He’ll shoot for as long as those boats are in range, then turns back to help Grace with hauling people up into their boat from the water, his blue eyes scanning for wherever Ryans has dropped into the icy depths. “The fuck did he go?” He missed Julie slipping into the water.

Huruma’s shoulders move over the poor person she’s grabbed from the current as the boats pass by, peppering the overturned dinghies and the water’s surface. The pain in her own senses is scattered with the blooms of others, paperwhites popping into existence as things find marks. The scent of water mixes with smoke, gunpowder, and blood, and Huruma snorts the former from her nose as she pushes the body near her towards the boat again, opening up the way for her to see more visibly the source of Lucille’s mental anguish. Ben is there, briefly, a mind in her peripheral that soon moves off after the escaping slip of a girl that Huruma can sense skirting further away. He’ll find her.


Huruma’s hand finds the curve of the Ryans girl’s neck, a heavy weight that feels as if it could decide to cut things off as much as it is now stifling the flow of blood into the river. Another hand comes up underneath of Lucille’s arm, hoisting her along the curve of a shoulder. Huruma kicks her way towards the rope that floats within reach, and only when she is on top of it does she drop the hand from under Lucille’s arm to grab on. She pins the younger woman between her and the rope, one leg under the water wrapping around the braided nylon.

Jesus Christ, I am not letting you go. They didn’t make it this far for her to let him die on her now. Water’s never been my problem. Not Nicole’s problem, no, but anybody else who might be in the water? Yes, that would be a problem for them. And since their people are now fighting the currents to return to the capsized dinghy, avoiding the water seems like the best thing she can be doing right now. The wheelhouse at least provides her with quite a bit of buffer between herself and that catastrophe.

Then, she’s apologetic, pushing back against the anxiety with her own regret. She doesn’t know where Benji Ryans even is. I don’t know about Be— Oh God. Nicole stares out in horror as the speedboats cut through the dark waters. She should stay put, where the walls will give her extra protection, but their guns are aimed at the smaller overturned boats, not up at them.

The wheel isn’t going to careen out of control in the time it takes Nicole to pull out her pistol and join Nick on deck to fire on their attackers. She may not have the firepower he does, but all she needs to do is get in one good shot, or rattle them enough to ward them off, discourage a second pass. She pulls the trigger over and over again until all she hears is the click! click! click! of the empty magazine. She’ll reload when she resumes her post as makeshift captain of their vessel.

She still has one bullet in her pocket.

Don't be stupid! Howard’s electric voice crackles in the back of her mind. I'm already dead! I'm a fucking ghost haunting you— haunting you both! I can do this. I— I can — He isn't sure he can actually do anything, but he's stubborn enough to try. Unfortunately, Nicole Nichols is a prison no electricity can easily escape.

Far away and deep below, the water is black like oil. Night has taken away any visibility beneath the freezing river’s surface, taken away the the sensation from Benjamin Ryans’ fingers and face, taken away Julie’s breath. She might as well be in another river for all that he tries to find her.

Julie is so heavy, so small and tired. It isn't hopelessness that emanates from her in these moments, but a deep sense of loss. If she just goes to sleep, here in the deep below, she'll be with her mother and Liette again. The warmth surrounding her numb body could be their embrace, could be her mother’s kiss, her sister’s unconditional love.

But it's not. Because one of them is still alive. Julie can't leave her father alone. She can't abandon him to the warm, comforting embrace of the past. They'd have to go together, or not at all.

But Benjamin Ryans has no hope of finding her. As he comes up for air, the cold wind is stinging his face. Sleet clings to his cold skin, pain aches in his chest. But in the deep Julie can sense something other than darkness, other than death.

She can sense an ability.

It's not useful, it's just a sensation at the fore of her mind. As she struggles to swim upward, fights against the undertow, it is Huruma who feels a young woman’s emotions surging from the deep. Trying so hard to get to the surface.

Trying so hard not to die.

Another wave of water shoves Grace against the rail, but thankfully doesn't knock her over. She crouches down as gunfire rings out, smothers the impulse to look wildly at its source. It's not like she can't hear the speedboat zoom past. Nothing hits her; that's a mercy.

Others are hit; that isn't. Grace turns towards the sound of Lynette's voice, carrying above the shrieks and screams and sobs as it does, but she only makes it halfway: her eyes catch on someone whose movement has changed. Lucille, and Huruma moving towards her. Grace can't say how the others fare, but it's obvious the person right in front of her is in trouble.

Ryans is — gone over the side. "Nick!" she calls, despite the sound of his gunfire ringing in her ears. He arrives shortly after with a question; Grace answers succinctly: "After people in the water." She nods out towards Huruma, who's taken hold of the rope. "I can't haul them both up." Simple fact, implicit request.

Leaving room for Nick at the rail, Grace grabs hold of the line and starts to pull their wayward associates through the water.

The second speed boat comes skipping across the dark lake like a bullet, churning black water into white against its hull as it claims a wider arc around the convoy. The figures within are armored, faces covered, two gunners at the ready as they smoothly steer mounted machine guns towards what movement is visible on the deck of the tugboat. Under Nick's aim, bullets ricochet off the silver lip of the boat, and an answering spray of machine gun fire pierces metal along the stern.

Then something weird happens.

The speed boat seems to rear in the water, its pilot clinging on for dear life while both gunners disappear from view. From here, it's hard to see, but some may catch the sight of sudden shadow rising up out of the cold river, resolving into a man, one white hand grabbing a soldier and hauling him off to vanish beneath the surface of the water. The second is getting to his knees as the speed boat rights itself just as Gabriel Gray lunges on him with all the gentle treatment of a starving tiger, delivering a two-handed push downwards which has the gunner sinking into the bottom of the boat, phased through.

Some of him remains in the form of pieces, scraps of fabric, welling blood. The rest churns out into the dark river behind them like shark chum. The pilot turns only to see neither of his allies present, save for the remaining gore on the deck, and the Midtown Man, dripping wet and wild eyed. Before the pilot can react, his mind is taken.

Under Gabriel's domain, he changes course with a puppety jerk of his hands, Gabriel climbing to his feet to grab onto the mounted machine gun. He twists it around, and opens fire on the second speed boat.

The second speed boat veers sharply away from the arc of gunfire coming from what was — until moments ago — its partner. It steers through the convoy of escaping vessels, hoping to shake Gabriel, mindful not to clip the tugboat or any of the larger crafts making their way en masse across the river, but cares little about the bodies bobbing helplessly in the water.

Its propeller cleaves cleanly through flesh and bone. Blood and foam sputter in the speedboat’s wake. It passes the tugboat and makes a beeline for the survivors converged around the overturned dinghy where Lucille’s life is still bleeding into the inky black.

As Grace pulls the rope, she hauls Huruma and her charge closer to the tugboat’s bow, out of the interceptor’s path. She’ll need Nick’s callused hands and the sinewy muscles in his arms to dredge them all the way out of the Hudson.

If the pilot of the fleeing interceptor recognizes Lynette and Ryans in its path, its pilot considers this a bonus.

Back on the shore, the mortar chugs back to life as Heller’s ground troops load another explosive shell into the barrel. Nicole isn’t able to make out the specifics over the scattered screams and barrage of gunfire, but she picks up something about someone receiving authorization to fire again at will.

The fact that Ryans doesn’t pop right back up with the young girl attached is troubling. At least to Lynette. She watches the water, waiting for someone to come back up. Someone who is not a dead body, if the universe is on their side tonight. The only thing that takes her attention away from the surface at all is the speedboat rising unnaturally from the water and a man coming to their rescue. The who of it will occur to her later, for the moment, she’s just glad someone was around to step in.

While he handles the first boat, Lynette turns back to see Ryans break through the water. It’s a good thing she’s been living on an island this past year; it’s really given her a chance to hone her swimming skills. So she lets go of the lifeline, the dinghy, the lot, and swims over to slip an arm around Ryans’ chest and pull him back toward the overturned boat. It’s the only cover they have from the gunfire. And hopefully from the speedboat, too.

If he had any plans for diving back down again, she’s not letting that happen. Unless he plans on dragging her with him.

This is a new sensation for Lucille, slowly bleeding out. She can't seem to get a grip on the notion. Sure she's run headlong into battle, been stabbed, cut.. bullet have went over her head but not almost through her neck. As she is towed by her Aunt back to the boat she barely registers a commotion around them.

A head sails past her face as she watches with bulging eyes. And is starting to be pulled up, not completely though. They’re waiting on Nick apparently. Lu doesn't know if he's reliable or not but here's to hoping he hauls her up soon.

A choking sound escapes the young woman and her eyes fade back to their natural blue. Huruma only getting hit by random small bursts effects of mild euphoria and adrenaline before her ability shuts off.

Son of a bitch. Ryans clenches his teeth against the desire to let them chatter, while arms and legs work furiously at the water. Even with one hand missing, he is a strong swimmer himself. Son of a bitch. There were times that being just a regular human being was a handicap, doubly so when you are handicapped. Of course, this is the first time he’s truly felt helpless.

He didn’t like that feeling.

Blues-eyes cut across the inky black surface of the water, this way and that… hoping…. Until the sensation of Lynette’s arm jerks him back to himself. There is a touch of irritation and wings through him when she starts to pull him; his first reaction being to duck out from under the arm. Which he does, but only so that he can start swimming back.

The boats start to come back into his awareness, especially as one zooms by close a little too close for comfort, which has him taking a glance around him. He sees the one coming at him and Lynette and doubles his efforts, but then another one comes to a stop next to him, the back end of it sliding around. Gabriel is noted, as he leans over looking over the carnage… and is recognized by Ben. Shit. While this sight of the man, should anger him… He still remembers the last time the man helped them. The old man changes directions for the boat…. Ryans has seen an opportunity and seizes on it.

Gritting his teeth, Ryans gives a kick of his legs to bring him out of the water enough hook the bad arm over the side… his gives a small hiss at the pain, but quickly follows by the good arm… With a grunt of effort, he hauling himself up, over and into the boat….
Standing there with arms out in an ‘I’m unarmed’ manner, dripping wet and really.. really cold. “Gray…” He greets flatly, a little chattery, but somehow still manages to sound cordial. “I figured you could use a hand.” No pun intended, of course. “You can lose the deadweight…” His head jerks toward the man being puppeted. “I’ll drive.”

The journey up the side of the boat is one that seems as if it takes forever; Grace is at the top and once she is joined by Nick, the two of them manage to haul Huruma and Lucille over the edge. Huruma helps as much as she can, given she is trying to hold onto her quarry. The last few feet come with a braced foot against the hull and a scrape of boots as she pushes her way over. Her hand is still stifling the flow of blood, and the first thing she does is look to Grace for some manner of assist.

There are more bodies on the boat’s deck to help with Lucille, and in the rear of Huruma’s senses there is a mind still reeling against the river. Another one in the water cuts off as the person fails to defend against something, like a snapping rubber band that sends a sting through Huruma’s head. Every loss is felt— no thanks to how much time she has spent with them. It’s never been quite like this before.

“Take her. There’s more.” The fading thorn she feels tugs her attention back to the water; for now she has no choice but to leave Lucille in Grace’s care and turn back towards the edge. She grabs the rope still danging against the boat’s belly before she descends again, the icy water less of a shock to her skin but still a darting pain up her side. Huruma has the rope around her arm when she takes a breath and dives, dark water blinding.

Fortunately for Julie, Huruma is a shark— honing biology and all.

Oh God. That's— Nicole stares out at the water. If she thought she was feeling panicked before, it's nothing compared to the way her heart hammers in her chest now. She shuts her eyes tightly, remembering. And Howard sees it, too.

Nicole bites her lower lip and nods, leaving the man to do his work as she moves back to the closet to pick out her dress for the day's event. She holds up first a cream coloured dress, glancing at her reflection in the mirror, and then a black dress. "Definitely black," she murmurs.

"You really think so?"

Before Nicole can even turn and acknowledge unwanted input, a wrench of all things spins through the air with kinetic urgency, hurtling towards her and glancing off her skull, landing with a dull thunk! against the wall opposite. Sylar lowers his hand from where it had been paused in the air, and begins to approach. A roll of electrical tape is held in the other hand.

He appears, however, to be on their side. And there's no time to worry about what he's going to do next. Nicole is good in a crisis and knows how important it is not to be frozen by fear and indecision.

"Nick! They're about to fire on us again!" Nicole shouts over the sound of the absolute chaos going on around them.

Nicole watches the second boat's approach – sees what's in its path – and reacts.

Sorry, Howard. Sorry, Annie. We have to try, or they're dead.

Before her passenger can object or ask what she might be about to try, Nicole climbs the railing, calculates trajectory, and leaps from the tugboat down to the speedboat below. Bones thrum in her legs and feet from the force of her landing on the deck. It was an incredibly stupid move, but she didn't hit the water and she didn't fall. And now, she's grabbing the boat's pilot and pumping enough electricity into him to leave him smoking, all the while attempting to be mindful of the line between her own energy, and that within her that is wholly Howard, praying she can retain him.

Unceremoniously, the dead man is thrown over the side so she can grab the controls and jerk the boat to the side, away from Lynette. Water comes up in a spray, the waves washing over the other electrokinetic, then the boat pulls to a stop, just a few feet away.

Nicole hurries to the side and holds out her hand to the blonde. "Come on! They're about to fire again and I need someone on this gun!"

Gabriel. Nick catches sight of the man as he takes over the other boat — it’s both a welcome and a terrifying sight, but one he doesn’t have time to mull over, as his attention turns back to the women in the water that he helps to pull out. When Huruma says to take Lucille, Nick nods, knowing that arguing with the woman won’t do; telling her to climb onto the boat instead of diving back into icy depths is futile.

As soon as Huruma’s hand leaves Lucille’s neck, Nick’s replaces it firmly, the other pulling the woman by the waist farther from the rail. He slowly eases both Lucille and himself down onto the deck as Grace opens her pack to access the medical supplies within.

“I’ve got you, shhh,” Nick tells Lucille, keeping her head against his chest as he sinks into a sitting position, his back against the outer wall of the cabin. Her wound is so close to her heart that keeping it higher makes a negligible difference, but it’s better than lying her flat — at least until Grace returns.

“Shhh. Breathe slow. With me, now.” He focuses on his own breathing, out and in, so she can feel his chest rise and fall beneath her, in an effort to calm her down, to slow down her racing pulse and the blood coursing through her. “Stay with me, yeah? You’n’me, we gotta look after each other.” Unspoken is the fact he’s already lost his sister today — he can’t let Delia lose hers too.

Gabriel. Howard’s electric voice crackles through Nicole’s mind. We’re fucking saved! I knew Astor’s dad wouldn't let us hang out to dry. The renewed confidence in Howard’s voice is reassuring, if dubiously placed on a mass murderer. But when you need a hammer, nothing else will suffice.

Deep below the water, Julie struggles to find the surface. Her thin arms and wounded side are little help against the weight of her coat. But the beacon in those depths, the ping of an ability has her struggling upwards. She never sees Huruma, only feels the adamant grasp of the older woman’s hand on her wrist, the arm around her waist, and the upwards ascent of her powerful legs kicking against the water.

As they approach the surface, lit by the shimmering of boat searchlights and silhouetted with blood and bodies, she feels more pings and pulls, more abilities, and—


Bubbles of air escape from Julie’s mouth as she reflexively tries to scream while underwater. She struggles, is thrashing when Huruma gets her to the surface. Pale and numb hands slap at the water’s surface as she and Huruma breach the cold night air. Blue eyes frantically survey the horizon in the dark. She can feel her sister’s pull. She can feel Liette out there. She can feel her—


There is a web of abilities, spread out not through her sister but through someone who has inexplicably gained her ability. She feels their connection, feels the same state of being and yet also the presence of other nodes, other people tied to this one hub. It's a familiar network of empathic consciousness, the same she once shared with her sister. She understands how to utilize it.

Julie’s eyes widen with shock as she understand the why and how of what she's feeling. In the middle of his rampage, Gabriel feels the threads of consciousness tug and pluck at the back of his mind. Liette, but not Liette. Familiar and unfamiliar. It is a gentle hand, borrowing the unused, stealing away a temporary gift with the reassurances of a child’s simplicity.

One hand comes up to Huruma’s shoulder, and Julie looks as though she is terrified, but the emotion Huruma feels from her is more overwhelmed excitement. “Help the others,” Julie says with a shaky smile before she slips out of Huruma’s grasp and no longer feels the cold. Not because she is numb, not because of shock, but because she is the cold.

With awkward, slip-splashing cadence Julie steps upwards onto rapidly forming pieces of ice that drift in the river around her; ice flows large enough to climb onto for dear life. She steps across the surface of frozen islets to the side of the tugboat, affixes her hands with frost to the side and hauls herself up onto the deck.

There's so many abilities.

She's overwhelmed.

There's a sudden change in the sound of the speedboats behind her, screams speaking to a new development in their situation. Grace throttles the impulse to look, focusing intently on hauling the rope; when the remaining boat zooms through her field of view, she gives it only a brief glance. It's beyond her scope right now.

They get Huruma up clear of the rail and Grace promptly surrenders the rope, shrugging off her pack and kneeling with it. She hauls a soft-cased medkit out of the front pocket; glances up and nods as Huruma speaks. "We've got her," she promises, words Nick echoes a breath later. Glancing at Lucille, at the blood welling free, she has to force herself to take the few seconds needed to sanitize her hands — it feels irrelevant given the situation, given whatever she's already been exposed to in the water. Then Grace opens a sterile dressing, pressing it tightly to the wound.

"Gotta hold for fifteen minutes," she says. "You got her, or trade?"

Backing up the racing moments flooding by uncontrollably: Gabriel, giving chase to the second speedboat, but stopping short of ripping through the straggling, drowning survivors. Gabriel, heart stopping, letting go of the machine gun to stare intently over the scene, trying to make out the one familiar face he cares about. He feels that strange prickle that is familiar, in a way, but for a moment his wires cross, mistaking it for a different kind of empathetic brush — until he sees, then, the forming of ice, the lifting up of cold vapour.

As Ryans emerges, he retreats back to his position at the guns, waiting too long in an even stare across at him, as if debating his next move, sifting through his priorities. Then, with an indicative tip to Gabriel's head, the pilot stands up, unceremoniously throws himself over the edge, and takes a big breath in of cold, black water. He disappears below the surface with a few bubbling ripples.

Gabriel Gray has questions. But by the time he gets answers, more mortars will be fired.

"Stay low," he suggests, instead, taking position and pulling his aim around. As Ryans steers their speedboat towards the shore, the jettison of water coming up from under the hull seems to thicken, developing a finer spray that lingers in the air. A bank of fog trails off behind them, creating a barrier of misty, low visibility between convoy and shore in their wake.

As soon as they come within range, Gabriel braces himself, and fires.

On the deck of the tugboat, Lucille’s blood saturates Nick’s clothes in a heavier, more permanent way that the rainwater does not, which seems supremely unfair; if they do not move to stymie the flow, the stains will outlast the woman responsible for them.

The darkness encroaching on the edges of Lucille’s vision has reduced her sight to a thin sliver of light by the time Grace has dropped to her side, and the last thing she sees before losing consciousness is a vague reflection in the councilwoman’s eyes that she does not recognize as her own.

Nick feels her relax in his arms, all the tension and pain leaving her limbs at once. He knows what death looks like.

This isn’t it.

As the two interceptors streak back toward the shore, the roar of their engines is reduced to a far-off sputter and pop, almost inaudible over the howl of wind and wings and screaming birds. Ryan will understand why Eileen told them to run when they come within two hundred feet of the island; the dark shapes scissoring through the air turn as one and converge on the interceptors with the speed, finality, and one-mindedness of a sandstorm plowing a thick wall of dust across a desert.

Birds descend. It’s impossible for Lynette or Nicole to guess what sort of birds they are, only that they come in every shape and size imaginable, and are acting on the same command — which is kill.

Claws catch in the blonde electrokinetic’s hair. Powerful wings buffet against the side of her face and a beak shaped like a fishhook finds purchase in her lower lip. Nicole must contend with smaller adversaries from her perch at the pilot’s seat as she’s set upon by an isolated flock of songbirds that whirl through the air and attach themselves to her skin and clothes with tiny feet made of a thousand pins.

For a moment, it looks like the interceptor carrying Ryans and Gabriel might suffer the same fate, but the dark funnel reaching down for their boat stops just short of attack and explodes in every other direction at the last possible moment.

Bullets spray the shore and bodies clad in military fatigues sink into the shallow water lapping against the island’s bank, then bob back up to the surface where they’re converged upon by smaller handfuls of birds that rend them apart piece by piece with the ferocity of wolves struggling over a kill.

The path is clear, but the mortar itself still stands after Gabriel and Ryans have made their pass.

Nicole’s boat careens wildly toward the shore.

The extra spray of water gets a shudder from Lynette, as if she wasn’t already freezing, but when Nicole pulls to a stop, she swims over to pull herself up. No one has to tell her to get on a giant gun twice. Before she properly gets up to her feet, though, the birds come at them. She remembers how this goes and a hand comes to cover her eyes. It doesn’t save her lip, though, and there’s a cry from her before a spark starts to jump through her wet hair and down her face before it zaps the birds unfortunate enough to be touching her.

Pushing to her feet, she rushes to Nicole, putting a hand on the other woman’s shoulder. “Get ready for this,” she mentions just a moment before the electricity starts to pour out of her and into Nicole. “I need you to get rid of these birds before they kill us, too.” She doesn’t shout, but her tone is firm, like she’s used to being listened to. Of course, the fact that she’s sparking like a broken electrical panel might keep some of the birds away, but they are under orders. And Lynette is pretty sure they might be strong enough orders to overwrite the animals’ natural self preservation instincts.

Even so, her attention turns toward the shore, toward the mortar and the army there. Her hand stays on Nicole’s shoulder, feeding the other woman as much as grounding herself. And when they come up on the shore, she holds a hand out toward it, muscles tensing as she gathers what she’s got and lets loose a bolt from herself toward the mortar. It streaks across the night sky in a white-hot flash, only unlike natural lightning, it isn’t here and gone again. It’s here. And it’ll stay here, pulsing energy, until she’s sure they’re safe.

It is a good thing that Gabriel is not asking questions, he might not like the answers. Ryans is already going against some of his own instincts working with this man, then again – much has happened to both and he recognizes that – maybe Ben’s relationship with Huruma allows him to share the same boat as Gabriel.

As soon as the driver had been disposed of — Ryans was not even bothered by the method – he had dived into the driver’s seat and got them going. Training never really gone, is quickly remembered. Memories of jungle lined rivers surge to the front. Muscle memory takes over, though adjusting for his new handicap.

After their first pass, Benjamin seems satisfied as Gabriel knows what needs doing and can do it. The wheel turning, acceleration made, to bring them around again. It’s then that he catches sight of the girl’s boat. Worry lancing through him at the cloud of birds hanging over them and their trajectory. “Come on, Nicole… turn it.” He growls under his breath as he moves to follow the boat, ready to swing around if they need to. No matter what happens, they need to get that mortar.

Nick only moves his hands covering Lucille’s wound when Grace’s are ready with the bandage. At the first question, he nods. He has her. He replaces his hand over the bandage, freeing her to help the others. “Got her,” he says, for clarification, when an ‘or’ follows the first question. Trading might be awkward, do more damage than good.

“Someone needs to steer this boat, too,” he says, aware if only vaguely that Nicole has left their little vessel. “Take my rifle if you need it, too.”

He juts his chin in the direction of the discarded weapon, lying near his booted foot. “She needs a blanket, too,” he adds, and it’s only then that he realizes he’s freezing, too, that his teeth are chattering, now that he’s cradling the water-soaked Lucille against him, fresh from the frigid icy waters. No one was dressed for a water expedition when they had to evacuate — he might have rethought the wool peacoat and found something more weather resistant, if so.

The river is the last place Huruma wants to be, and she is well aware of the irony of finding her there, dragging a rope to where she can feel Julie bubbling for the surface. Sounds of boat engines rumble in her eardrums, muffled by the lapping of water and the cries of noise coming from the shoreline. Light and sound blur in the rest of her senses as Huruma tries to push it out and concentrate on her breath, and then the dive. She meets Julie as the girl comes up, wrapping her grip onto the small frame and hauling her back to fresh air.

There is something about the teenager that brings Huruma’s ability to bear on her, and when the hand comes to her shoulder, pale eyes meet Julie’s, the woman’s stark features glistening harshly, razor cheekbones and the gasp of lips. The girl’s features do not quite match the inside, and Huruma can recognize the feeling. It is familiar, and it is brave. Huruma flashes her teeth in a smile of confirmation to Julie’s words. The ice that forms as the slim form slides away serves to spur her back into movement.

The rope still around her arm, she coils it around her waist before closing her eyes against the spray of cold wake and the sounds, lights that swamp the river. Huruma’s senses open up wide, pinging silently and quickly off of any of the Ferry’s wards still left struggling in the water. Once she has them roped in— so to speak— she can reconvene in earnest. They did not last this long for nothing. She didn’t.

With Lynette safely aboard her boat, Nicole wastes no time getting them moving again. The tugboat and the capsized dinghies are given a wide berth to avoid adding to the death in the icy waters, but she’s soon swinging around and heading for the shore and the mortar.

And the birds.

At first, she only fends them off with batting arms, but then (Get ready for this,) Lynette is there, filling Nicole with even more energy than she previously possessed thanks to Howard’s presence. Her shouts fill the air as she courses that electricity through both of them - harmlessly - and creates a forcefield around them to ward off, repel, and bring down their avian attackers. Feathered bodies hit the water and the deck, some smoking and crisp.

Their target in reach, Lynette stretches out her hand and Nicole follows suit, repurposing her excess energy to strengthen the blonde’s attack. One hand on the controls, they careen toward the shoreline. Closer, closer…

Hang on!” At the last possible moment, Nicole ceases her own attack and uses both hands to crank hard on the steering mechanism, veering them sharply away from a crash and back toward the boat and the other survivors.

Wh— what— what are — are— are you— y— you d— doing!?. Howard's voice stutters like an out of tune radio signal in the back of Nicole’s mind. Nic-nic-nic-ole. She hadn't absorbed other electricity since taking in Howard, hadn't unleashed any since taking him in.

Now, she's mixing Lynette’s lightning with the very electric essence of Howard as a person, the same electricity that makes up his consciousness, thoughts, as memories. Then Nicole is pumping that energy out, and it never occurs to her that she can't tell where Lynette’s electrical impulses begin and Howard ends.

//N-ico— l— // Then Howard is a silent buzz at the back of her mind.

Unaware of what is happening inside of Nicole, Julie is focused on the people in the water. She reaches into Gabriel’s mind again, where the lines between their identities blur and a shared psychic space overflows with his anger and grief and her panic and fear. They feed off of one-another — her instinctual compassion and sibling-bonded love blanketing Gabriel’s pricklier emotions, while his rage and indignation puts fire in her cold veins.

Julie explodes into a cloud of oily, inky darkness and bounds across the gap between boat and water. As attenuated energy, she disappears back into the water and then bursts forth as a roiling cloud of darkness another moment later, depositing a waterlogged drowning victim on the deck of the tugboat. She has never felt this alive.

Again, Julie takes hold of Wu-Long Zhang’s legacy and explodes into darkness, disappearing into the water to retrieve more thrashing people from the surface. She can try and save as many as she can. She has to.

Grace nods to Nick at his answer, fishing in the outer pocket of her backpack for a mylar blanket — the only one she has, because it's just a go bag — and quickly shaking it out over them. Then she slides the pack back on, takes up the longer gun, and heads for the boat's abandoned wheelhouse. Well. Not abandoned — there's still a handful of kids in there, huddled together to one side of the cabin. But the driver's seat is empty, until Grace slides into it.

Glancing out the windows, she takes quick stock of the situation. One interceptor down, the other heading for shore. The mortar still to be passed by, but no maneuverability to be had from this ungainly tug, not even were it free of trailing tagalongs. And even then — Lynette and Nicole seem to have that under control. All Grace has to do is ensure the tug keeps going.

Setting herself to the controls, she does just that.

Julie's influence at the back of Gabriel's mind feels like a fog, obscuring not his senses or his memories or his focus, but blanketing over the way his brain starts to catch on fire in sheer anger when he turns to see lightning zither and slaughter birds left and right. His hands grasp the machine gun, his legs steady, rooted in place even as the speedboat skips along the smooth glass of the icy lake. He shakes his head, watching the light show as Ryans drives them nearer, a sudden lurch on some skipped wave finally knocking Gabriel's balance.

It doesn't matter. The mortar won't survive the onslaught of storm-lightning being funneled in its direction.

If Ryans glances behind, he'll see Gabriel folded down onto his knees in the speedboat, water still streaming from his sopping wet clothes. Whatever he's been doing before this moment, and up to this moment, it's taken a toll. Exhaustion has whittled him down to the bone and the lean lines of his musculature. His dark eyes are shark-like and empty when he stares across the other man.

"Where is she?" he asks, raising his voice like it takes effort, but being certain that he is clear — even if he doesn't think it necessary to affix a name to that question. The battle isn't done, but it may be done in moments, and for Gabriel, he's spent.

Electricity pours into the mortar and it goes up in a fireball peppered with shrapnel that goes skipping across the water. Most of it glances harmlessly off the sides of the interceptors, or sticks in the walls of the boats like sharp, angry-looking barnacles bleeding motor oil into the Hudson.

One piece wedges itself in the softer, vulnerable skin of Nicole’s collarbone, but she won’t discover it until later, when the last of her adrenaline has ebbed away and she attempts to raise her arms above her head.

Residual sparks snap and pop in the nighttime air. Back on the tugboat, the radio is nothing but static. Neither Nick nor Grace can hear voices straining to be heard over the fuzzy white noise. Then it abruptly snaps off and they’re left with nothing but dead, empty air, and the sound of water sloshing against the tugboat’s bow. Also: the motor, puttering dependably away.

Julie and Huruma dredge the last of the survivors out of the river and onto the deck of the boat. Other Ferrymen are gathering blankets, shrugging their coats from their shoulders, and moving to assist in the same, selfless way that Nick and Grace are attending to Lucille’s unconscious body.

There is no good answer to Gabriel’s question. Ryans might drop him off on the shore of the island and let the younger man discover that for himself. The birds, still wheeling aimlessly in the air above them, seem to regard him differently than they do the corpses littered and bobbing in the shallow water. They flock to the bodies like flies, separating skin from muscle and muscle from bone. Pieces of tattered clothes and hair hang from beaks and dangle off bent, broken claws. Many have lost the ability to fly, but not to eat.

There may not be much of Eileen or Gillian left when he gets there.

Unfortunately, Lynette doesn’t notice the shrapnel hit Nicole, either, as her focus is outward. Her lightning cuts off at the explosion, but the woman still sparks as she watches the shoreline. Like a twitch. She stands guard, all but daring them to try again. If she could pick out Heller, she might even go so far as singling him out, but everyone is spared that display. “Let’s get back to the tugboat,” she says to Nicole, her hand peeling reluctantly off the other woman’s shoulder. “They’ll need help.”

And she probably needs a blanket, herself. She shivers, although she hasn’t quite come down enough to notice how cold she really is. It comes to her when her hand comes up to her hair, feeling icy, damp strands with shaky fingers. But there’s no ready cure for that, so she settles for wringing out her shirt until they can get back to the boat and back on their way. But until then, she keeps her gaze alert, her muscles tense and her anger simmering. Somehow this is all a little easier when she’s mad.

The question is heard, there is even an acknowledgment that he heard it, when Ryans glances over his shoulder at Gabriel. It’s uncomfortable having him behind him, but… for the moment…. “I’ll take you to the island,” he calls back. No further, since he had people to attend, too. Plus, by the reaction of the birds, the Midtown Man might be safe.

The wheel is turned with quick jerking movement and the throttle thrown to full, leaving a spray of water behind them. Fingers stiff from the cold, he can feel the ice in his hair; while he fights not to visibly shiver.

Ryans knows the man only by his actions and the files he has read in the past. Telling him, outright might not go to well…. So, he decides the young man should go himself.

It takes far less time to get back to the island in the interceptor, the engine cuts, and the former Company man brings the back end around to bump into one of the piers. He’ll wait till Grey is off the boat, throttling it up to back the boat up. “Courtyard,” he offers gruffly, head nodding in that direction. The thickness of his voice, might give a hint to what he might find. “Last I saw her…. She was with Gillian.” The gas winds up as the boat backs, slowly. He is anxious to get back to those under his charge.

Ryans knows he should leave it at that, but he has been where Gabriel has been… maybe he plays with his own life… But, he feels it’s the right thing… “Gray…” he barks out to get his attention again. He shakes his head, it is meant to be a slow motion, but cold as he is, it is a bit jerky.

“It’s not good, son.”

He gives a somber salute to his temporary ally, and turns the interceptor back toward the caravan of boats. Benjamin has he own to worry about, he can only hope that his trust was not misplaced. He knows it was not, but as a parent, you always worry about your kids, no matter their ages.

There isn’t much Nick can do now that he’s chosen his lot — put pressure on Lucille’s wound and keep her still. Neither are difficult tasks, especially as she is a dead weight upon his chest. He nods his thanks to Grace for the blanket, using his free hand to pull it around Lucille’s still form.

That done, there’s nothing he can do but watch the others get pulled to safety and watch the birds devour the dead. He closes his eyes to block the latter out, and for the first time in the minutes since leaving Eileen’s side, there’s no action for him to take, nothing to stave off the grief, the hollowness that’s been hovering at the fringes of his psyche.

Nick brings a shaking, gloved hand up to his face, covering it from view. The flurry of activity on the deck means no one is likely looking at him per se — perhaps at Lucille, her wan face resting against his shoulder. Those looking their way may see his shoulders rise and fall in stilted hitches as Nick Ruskin weeps for his sister.

With Julie’s help, the rope Huruma carries fills with a towline of hapless survivors; they cling to the lifeline and to Huruma, the smoky shadow that pulls them to her moving ahead and helping them back onto the boat. By the time that she sloshes her way onto the deck, Huruma’s frame is waterlogged almost to the bone, a cold setting in on the air as she slaps down onto her back, lungs heaving under her ribcage.

She didn’t feel any more down there, and she can only hope that she is correct.

The cries of birds turned carrion eaters fill her ears when the wash of the river ebbs away, and her hearing clears. The growl of boat engines underscore the confusion and the flapping of distant wings. The sky is still dark and the air still wet, splattering more cold against Huruma’s skin as she drags herself back onto her feet, exhaustion setting in on her ragged stance. Something tore in her still-healing wound, and it dribbles a touch of red against heather gray as she heads to the fore of the boat to help where she can.

It’s time to get out of here.

The last dregs of Lynette’s electrical energy are siphoned away, those sparks leaping into Nicole and staying put. In an ordinary situation, this would be when she’d start whooping with joy and offer up a high five to her partner for how fucking awesome that display of raw power was just then. But when Lynette pulls her hand away, Nicole falls to her knees on the deck. They’re still headed toward their allies in the tugboat, but she’s lowered their speed considerably before breaking down. They’re headed at a more leisurely than breakneck pace now, giving her ally plenty of time to take over steering while she clutches her head and sobs. “Howard! Oh, God.”

Please, please… Please still be here.

He had tried to warn her, hadn’t he? And she didn’t listen. Should she have? Would they have been able to stop it if she hadn’t thrown the weight of her own ability into the assault? The wound at her collar is nothing compared to the pain of icy fear that grips inside of her chest and churns her gut. She may notice later, when she realizes she’s colder than she felt a while ago, and discovers her coat damp with her blood.

There’s a backscatter of static in the rear of Nicole’s mind, a tinny hum of some residual electrical impulses like white noise on a radio. It feels like Howard is there, still, but scrambled like so many eggs in an omelette. Maybe it’s temporary, maybe it’s not. Right now, Nicole has no way to know for certain. But she can at least derive comfort from one thing — if it is permanent — this is how he would have wanted to go, at least in part. Helping change the future.

Elsewhere, Julie has collapsed onto trembling knees on the deck of the tugboat, dropping a heavily waterlogged young man down. He isn’t breathing, and Julie is quick with trembling hands to administer two swift rescue breaths, then a few chest compressions. The noises she makes, terrified and keening sounds, accompany the noises of effort from her small and exhausted arms trying to produce the necessary pressure. When the young man begins choking, Julie sputters out a series of exasperated noises and rolls him onto his side. She brings one hand up to her face, unsure whether she’s wiping away river water or tears.

It doesn’t matter.

The radio is ominously silent. The children in the wheelhouse are less so, their muted sobs and whispers an unnecessarily vivid reminder of why Grace took up this line of work. Not for the children per se, but because there are principles that should not be bent — principles that the contingent on the shore have broken entirely. As she directs the tugboat on through a river now become quiescent — the mortar disabled, the interceptors co-opted, their own people retrieved from cold water — Grace finds herself with an abundance of time in which to reflect on those principles, that commitment, the life path that brought her here.

She doesn't regret a moment of it.

Gabriel almost protests when Ryans steers the boat back towards the island. Almost demands a straight answer. Instead, he moves with heavy bones to sit, and breathe, and account for himself, sinking into a moment of stillness as the speedboat glides over water. His breath is steam in the air, and the cold is drawing compulsive shivers from his muscles. (As the roar of the speedboat's engine dwindles to those gathered around the convoy, Julie will feel a soft psychic tug as he reclaims his cryokinesis, as if pulling a blanket over himself stolen from the other side of the bed.) And stops shivering.

By the time they reach the shore, he seems much diminished from the force of nature that came surging out from the black river mere minutes ago. Just a guy with a good sense of timing. Maybe.

But he's moving. Dragging himself to his feet, climbing out onto solid ground.

His eyebrows hood skeptically as he surveys the all but abandoned island he's been taken to, and he turns to look back at Ryans when Gillian's name is thrown in the mix. It makes sense, eyes shuttering as he puts two and two together: the extent of her control would need someone like Gillian to make it so. This information gives him some happier narratives to sketch out, no matter what Ryans says on his final word, Gabriel turning away from him with all the grace and gratitude of a wolf set free into the wild by handlers. He wants to run, but fatigue makes every step forward feel as though he's wading.

So he walks instead, arms bundled around him, in the direction from which all others fled.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License