Risk vs. Reward


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Scene Title Risk vs. Reward
Synopsis Against recommendations by his superiors, Roger Goodman organises an international Institute operation deep within the hostile environment of the nation of Tajikistan to rescue the kidnapped daughter of Mazdak-manipulated bomb-expert Amid Halebi. A strictly volunteer mission, the Institute holds no jurisdiction in Tajikistan and clashes with not only the entrenched Mazdak operatives in the Fann mountains, but also local military as the region is embroiled in the beginnings of a violent civil war.
Date January 30, 2011


10:05pm Tajikistan local time

12:05pm New-York Time

It's hard to imagine anywhere are empty as Tajikistan.

The landscape of the country is nothing but steep, impossibly breathtaking mountains. Blue skies seem unbelievably clear during the daytime, decked with wisps of white clouds amidst the chill of high-altitude winds. Now, however, it is the impossibly dark Tajikstan nights that are impressing themselves. The stars are so vibrant and clear, with no light-pollution from cities to diminish their vibrant glow. Mountains are seen as dark silhouettes that form a border with the stars, dividing the heavens from a land of consuming dark.

With most of the country nearly ten-thousand feet above sea level, the chill in the air mitigates the warmth of the arid climate's mild winter. On this bumpy, dirt road, tiny white flowers grow along the roadside — snowdrop flowers — ones that usually don't bloom without the indication of winter's imminent departure on the horizon. From up here, with jagged mountains scraping the heavens, it's easy to forget why they've come here.

Were the nation not in the midst of a bloody civil war between Pro-Evolved dissidents loyal to the Mazdak organization and the local government represented by President Emomalii Rahmon, it might even be scenic. But Tajikistan is a Central Asian mirror of the rest of the world, a glass bottle in which the ship of revolution is being assembled for all the world to see. In many ways, the rebellion in Tajikistan mirrors the problems in the United States more so than anywhere else in the world, but simply on a microcosm.

From the windows of a convoy of Hum-Vee trucks, agents of the Institute watch the brown and green canvas of Tajikistan mountains roll past. These agents are here in Tajikistan under the cover of the covert operations special task force, a branch of the CIA's Special Activities division. Today, all of the agents assembled here aren't operating under guise of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Evolved Affairs, but the CIA itself.

They also aren't here with the blessing of the Institute.

The man responsible for this trip sits in the second Hum-Vee of the three-vehicle convoy. Roger Goodman feels decades younger dressed in the desert colors of an Army infantry uniform. Helmet atop his head, camel colored cloth face wrap covering his mouth and nose, and a twenty-five pound vest of heavy body armor covering him up. He'd served in the deserts of Iraq back in the early 1990s, and while Jonathan Carmichael isn't here to watch his back, he feels as though his old soldier friend is with him in spirit, waiting for him.

In that same Hum-Vee, four other Institute agents dress in the disguises of American military officers. While Olivia Roland fits the bill more so than others, Odessa Price, Sterling Boyce, and Veronica Sawyer most certainly do not. Odessa especially looks out of place in that soldier's garb; eyepatch and all.

Their reasons for being here are simple, though there's danger in the simplicity. The Institute lacks the international operations to pull off an infiltration of Tajikistan and Mazdak on their own, which meant piggy-backing with the United States Military on a coordinated operation. Using contacts in the State Department and the Pentagon, Goodman was able to insinuate his team in on a mission being run by the US Army. After having retrieved intelligence from the Mazdak operatives captured at sea, the CIA was able to piece together the location of a central Mazdak operations compound from other intelligence previously gathered. What the Institute had provided was a critical piece of a puzzle in development, but unfortunately it wasn't the last piece.

The US Military is here to apprehend key Mazdak operatives with intelligence to their terror operations. It's going to be a bloody, violent exchange between Mazdak and the US forces that could get the reason for their being here killed. That reason is a single girl's life. For all of the grand movements the Institute has performed since its inception, never has one of its operations been motivated by something both reckless and selfless. The daughter of the coerced Mazdak operative Amid Halebi isn't important to the world, to the future, to the Institute. Yet to Roger Goodman, she represents his failure to Ted Sprague. She represents every casualty his own conscience had taken in his life. Now, with a second chance at life, it may be hope for redemption that had Goodman pulling strings to get this mission off of the ground.

Whether he has a job to go back to once this is all said and done, isn't even a worry of his at the moment. The responsibility of what happens here falls squarely on his shoulders, but the death of a child that he could have prevented, from a man he has gone against his own organization to set free holds precedence. This isn't even about right and wrong for Goodman, it's about settling the debt of conscience on his weighty soul.

«ETA 3 minutes to Kadura.» The voice of the driver in the lead Hum-Vee crackles through the helmet-mounted headsets in everyone's ears. «We're going to drop you spooks off before we cross the ridge line. You're going to have twenty minutes to get in and get out before we roll in. Anything after that you're gonna do with our team comin' down over your heads.»

Looking around at his assembled team, Goodman squares his shoulders and breathes in a steady, tense breath as the convoy begins rolling to a stop. As the three Hummers come to a halt, Goodman leans to the side and pops open the door on his side, swinging his legs out and landing with a crunch of his boots on the rough, gravely sand of the road. The ridge line is exactly as the soldiers said, a high crest of a hill where the road peaks before heading down towards the village of Kadura, where the Mazdak operations center is located.

As Goodman gets out of the Hum-Vee, one gloved hand reaches down to his side to remove a battered touch-screen mobile device from a vinyl holster. Running an ungloved thumb tip over the screen, he sets up an encrypted communications channel. The Sat-COMM device synchronizes with the wireless ear pieces in each of the soldiers helmets before the handheld is put back into the holster.

«Alright, Agents,» Goodman's voice sounds clear through the Sat-COMMs network. «Once we hit the ridge, we'll be able to see the mosque that Mazdak is operating out of. There will likely be no civilians operating within the mosque at dark. Remember, our intelligence claims that Amid Halebi's daughter is being held in a compound beneath the mosque tunneled out of its basement. We'll need to go in, find Halebi's daughter and get out before the Army comes in and complicates everything.»

«Once we find Lucine, we need to extract her to the plaza in the center of the village and fire up a flare.» Goodman paces away from the Hum-Vee, starting a slow march up the hill towards the ridge, passing by the idiling vehicles as he unshoulders his M-16 and carries it relaxed across his chest. «That will indicate to the Army to come in if they haven't already, and to the helicopter team waiting nearby to come in and pick us up. Remember, while the military may want Mazdak operatives for questioning, we //aren't working with them. If you feel threatened by someone, you're under no obligations to hold back.//»

Mountain scenery and army apparel feel uncomfortably familiar to Veronica Sawyer, despite never having been in the armed services — and the high risks of this mission likewise feel as uncomfortably familiar. Halebi himself safe now and out of the Institute's hands, she and Goodman have achieved a part of what they've set out to do; an innocent life hinges on the second part of their mission.

As she exits the vehicle, dark eyes look up into Goodman's face as his words murmur in the radio in her ear, and she nods her understanding, fingers curling around the weapon already in her hands. «Understood.»

«Copy that, Sir,» Sterling Boyce's voice replies authoritatively through the Sat-COMM network. Everything about him has been gruff stoicism since they'd departed New York. His expression, his voice, the very air around him disseminates the stern countenance of Jack White, even though he'd died some years ago. His motions are regimented, each executed with extreme precision, calculating, discerning, weighing.

The heavy boots, large weaponry, and military issue dress have that trace of familiarity, and are regarded with some unspoken level of respect. In a way, he'd changed when he'd dawned them. Not only did his calculating movements reflect his training, but the garments seemed to exude a distinct sense of pride and determination. No eye contact is made with his fellow agents, instead, his eyes remain on the target. Or, the direction of the target. He grasps his M-16. Ready. Resolved.

Odessa Price is the one most out of place in this operation, even if she might argue she's the most valuable when there's an issue of working against time. Having alternated the entire flight to Tajikistan between vomiting and silently begging whatever forces govern the universe to just let her make it back to the ground in one piece, she's likely left the actual soldiers wondering what she's here for at all. Even now, the colour's only beginning to return to her face, but she's not feeling queasy anymore.

On the ground and with a purpose, her strength and enthusiasm is returning. «Ten-four~» she all but sing-songs over the Sat-COMM. While she's equipped with an M-16 like her fellows, she doesn't hold it ready as they do. Either because she feels more comfortable with the knife at her hip, or trusts the use of her ability will allow her that moment to get ready. Bringing a knife to a gun fight isn't all that logical, but it sure cuts down on the likelihood of someone on her side being shot. By her.

She makes a move as she steps out of the vehicle like she might be shaking out her hair, which is just out of habit because those white locks are tucked up in a bun. Her boots are just as heavy as the others' are, but… When she managed to swap them for — How Odessa even managed to acquire combat boots with two inch heels on them is probably best left unasked.

Last out of the Hum-Vee, Roland has a tension about her that hasn't dissipated since the team first touched down in Forward Operating Base Delaram in Afghanistan. The scuffed and battered M4 Carbine she carries is a souvenir of older military exploits, ones that apparently haunt Roland's memories in places such as this.

«We've received confirmation that the road into Kadura is clear of IEDs, no one in the town should be expecting us,» Roland explains over the comms as she moves to catch up pace with Goodman, turning to walk backwards and stare through the night-vision scope on her rifle at the mountains behind them. «I'll keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. When we get into Kadura, we'll head straight for the mosque. Judging from the satellite recon I looked at, it's one of the largest buildings in the village, we'll recognize it by the dome on the roof.»

As the team makes their way forward down the steep incline of the road ahead of the parked Hummers, the soldiers in back are beginning to organize themselves in preparation for their own mission. Boots crunch on the dusty ground, spotters start to make the long trek up into the rough mountainous terrain to get a better look at the village.

Ambient light up ahead crests the top of the ridge, and Goodman's tall, lanky silhouette soon comes to be backlit against that glow. Joined soon by his team-mates, the village of Kadura comes into view down a serpentine stretch of windy road less than a mile away.

It's a small, agrarian community nestled in a forested glade in the mountainside. More green than brown, even at night, there's a clear presence of Westerners hands in this remote village. Sandbag walls have been erected around the roads, old and sagging, collapsed in some places. A half finished building composed of modern iron scaffolding looms skeletal over brick walled and mortar plastered buildings with wooden roofs. Old construction equipment looks like it has sat dormant for at least a year. Backhoes, cranes, cement mixers, all of them branded with a blue and white logo that reads SAAD GROUP CONSTRUCTION in English, and below that a scrawl of Arabic.

Floodlights from the construction have been repurposed to light up the village at night, and the distant sounds of braying animals — probably goats — carries over the windswept mountains. On the near-side of the village, closest to where the road enters past the sandbag walls, a blockish building of flaking masonry and old stone rests weary in the skeletal shadow of that unfinished building. Its dome is cracked and partly collapsed inward, surrounded by an open field of pastoral land, trees, and crumbling old stone walls. It lies outside of the village proper, well out of the glow of the lights on the street.

«That's the mosque,» Roland explains once she reaches the top of the hill, motioning to the domed building. «I don't know what's with the old construction equipment though. I didn't read anything about development happening out here, especially in the last few years…» Turning to offer a look at Goodman, Roland lets that stare linger, then drops into a crouch and pulls up her rifle, staring down the night-vision scope into the village below.

«Doesn't look like it's been used for a while. Maybe whoever was developing gave up, left for greener pastures?» Veronica suggests. No pun intended, despite the braying of goats or sheep or whatever pastoral animals can be heard in the night.

She, too, picks a direction, peering through the scope, fingers lightly on the trigger as she sweeps their perimeter slowly, carefully, watching for anything out of the norm. «See any activity?» she asks her teammates.

Boyce stays low, not far from Veronica with his own eye peeking carefully through the scope. There's a moment, a flicker where the stoicism fades enough to give credence to his next words, although the tone itself remains gruffly abrasive, a momentary lapse in his outward seriousness. «Pun intended?» he actually asks. Though if someone dares peek at him in the dark there's no humour to his expression, determination wins out.

He lowers a little more, while he leans forward, peering through his own spectacle. «Lots of nooks to hide in.»

«I bet tunnelling under a building is difficult without equipment,» Odessa offers, with a tilt of her chin to indicate the machinery. If she were digging a secret tunnel for a terrorist organisation, she'd do what she could to keep it off the books to keep it from showing on gathered intell, too. There's a flicker of a smile at Sawyer's pun being called by Boyce, even if neither of them are snickering about it. «Equipment like that is expensive, isn't it? Even if it's old? Something tells me it wouldn't just be left abandoned…»

«Village is quiet, don't see anything going on down below. It's pretty late, I doubt most people would be up at this hour. We might find some scouts awake down at the moqsue. Keep your eyes sharp.» Roland's assessment of the situation doesn't include speculation about the old construction equipment. Instead, as she rises from her crouch and begins to make a steady descent down the sloping road off of the ridge, it is her job as spotter that she's focusing on.

Goodman, however, is more willing to entertain speculation. «It's highly likely that Mazdak was utilizing whatever equipment was left behind here…» As he talks, he starts scrolling through the Sat-COMM's display, typing in the name of the construction company with one hand as he makes his way down the slope behind Roland.

«Boyce, I want you and Sawyer to make an approach off of the road and through that field,» he motions with his hand still holding his assault rifle off the side of the road, «towards the front of the mosque. Price, get yourself inside the mosque without being seen and report to us what you find, let us know if it's safe to enter. I'm going to get into a position atop that building to cover you all. Roland…» Goodman turns to look back to Olivia. «I want you to stay up on the ridge and watch Sawyer and Boyce's approach.»

Once he's made the orders, and satisfied his curiosity by finding nothing of interest about the construction company's name, Goodman dips his head into a nod, then disassembles himself in a whirling cloud of violet light that furls in on itself before vanishing entirely with a barely audible pop. Careful eyes see the same violet color blossom briefly into existence atop the unfinished building across the village.

Watching as Goodman scrolls, and apparently finds nothing of interest, Veronica then nods to the new set of directions, turning to raise dark brows behind her visor at Boyce before turning to survey the road and the field. She turns back to watch Goodman disappear, then turns to watch the same hue alight upon the building — knowing her back is covered there and by Roland, she nods again, then tips her head toward the road for Boyce to begin their journey.

«Copy that, Sir.» Rather subconsciously— or maybe by some other consciousness altogether— Boyce flicks Veronica a tick of a smile, a faint good-humoured smirk, a quiet evidently //unnecessary reassurance before his eyes turn to the road, convinced of the destination rather than the journey. Even-paced steps carry Boyce through the crunch of gravel beneath his booted feet while his gun remains poised at attention, ready to strike should the need arise.

He stays low, veiled by darkness and protected by the standard military issue camouflage; in many ways the road is less safe than the field. Clearing or not, the path less travelled tends to be the safer of the two. Aside from the scratch of gravel against his boots, Boyce is silent; even his breath errs cautiously, quietly while his adrenaline skyrockets. All the while his gun, his very lifeline, is kept close.

The field warrants a different feel to his heavy-laden boots. A softness of turf and a near silence aside from faint rustling of greenery underneath their feet— easily mistaken for a breeze of wind, rather than the footsteps of arms-bearing pseudo-soldiers.

Their approach completes and they find their position on the other side.

«Roger, Roger,> Odessa quips with a little too much amusement. Her own disappearance is much less impressive than Goodman's. No violet billows, or even whooshing sounds of air displaced. Although perhaps the very act of simply vanishing is impressive in itself.

It's less so for Odessa, who makes her trudging way toward the mosque in silence and lack of ambient noise. It'd be eerie for most others, but it's something she got used to long ago. Her own footsteps carry loudly in the stillness, moreso once she's inside the mosque and the sound of heavy boots on wood flooring bounces off the walls of the open room and back to her.

There's no one here. Not on the main floor, at least.

The young woman positions herself to stand beneath the hole in the dome, moonlight bathing what can be seen of her pale features as she tips her head upward. «We're clear down here.» Odessa lingers only briefly to see if Goodman's going to peer back at her before she turns toward the centre of the room, where the floor's been torn away and a ladder leads downward. «I'm going deeper.» Without waiting for the order, she descends the ladder.

Radio contact made by Odessa crackles staticy over the Sat-COMM, which in itself elicits suspicion from Goodman. «We're getting signal disturbance from something inside the Mosque. Price, stay topside, do you hear me?»

Unfortunately, she doesn't. By the time Goodman is speaking that warning, Odessa has descended down the portable ladder some twenty feet into the concrete tunnel below. Dust cakes the ground, though foot traffic has worn clean spots in the detritus. Electrical cabling spreads like rows of corded spaghetti down the dimly lit corridor, evoking memories of Level-5 and Fort Hero's subterranean levels.

The tunnel extends in both directions, one of them headed towards the unfinished skyscraper, while the other heads towards the interior of the mountains. Above, it's clear to Odessa that the hole she just descended down through was tunneled into by people with digging equipment. Not far from where she's come down, jackhammers, picks, sledgehammers and other assorted digging tools lie disused. The tunnel headed towards the mountains goes out about fifteen feet, then starts to take a gradual slope downward.

«Damnit,» Goodman calls out over the radio. «Sawyer, Boyce. Get in there and keep an eye on Price. Roland, stay up on the ridge and keep an eye out for movement. We're going to lose radio contact with whoever goes inside, so I want eyes on the village. Everything looks clear from up here…» But there's something nagging at the back of Goodman's mind, something haunting his memories. There's something familiar about the name of that construction company, but he can't recall what.

At the back of the mosque, Boyce and Veronica can see through spaces in the boarded up windows what Odessa had been talking about. The single room of the large, square building is vacant. The middle of its wooden floor has been torn open and a tunnel dug down into the ground beneath, where metal ladders descend towards light. It's a short distance for them to circle around the building and get inside, and hopefully get to Odessa before she finds herself in trouble, unaware that she's cut off from the others.

«Shit.» That probably wasn't really meant for all ears, but that's Veronica's eloquent assessment of the situation when Odessa's words get cut off. She glances at Boyce as Goodman tells Roland what to do. «We're going in dark.» Or deaf, but the implications are the same: it's dangerous.

Peering into the tunnels, she casts a glance up toward the building she knows Goodman watches from. «The floor's dug up, looks like an excavation. She must have gone down,» she murmurs into the radio for Goodman's ears as they circle around the building, Veronica training her weapon as they move around corners, expecting someone to attack at any moment. Roland and Goodman's eyes are only good for something visible, after all, and given the abilities that they encountered against Mazdak back home, she expects the bogeyman to jump out at her any moment.

Once they reach the door, she casts one last look back. «Going in.» It's probably an unnecessary statement to make, but it will be the last once their radio loses contact — so for all intents and purposes, it could be goodbye.

There's a skeptical arch of Boyce's eyebrow when Veronica examines the tunnel, but he doesn't comment. Not right away, anyways. He frowns deeply as his grip tightens on his gun. He doesn't address the radio voices, makes no effort to explain more of what they see or where they're headed— that's all left to Veronica, instead he inspects the tunnel carefully.

«Going radio silent.» is all he manages— his own odd goodbye as he crawls into the tunnel.

«The construction site is a cover.» Odessa supplies, not realising she's been cut off from the others just yet. She assumes that the tunnel was started beneath the building, carved toward the mountains, and then a second access was made beneath the mosque. At least, it's the logic that drives her head in the direction that takes her toward the mountains, rather than to inspect the tunnel beneath the construction site. She tugs out her knife, the familiar weight in her hand making her feel safer as she hurries on ahead.

Boyce and Veronica aren't far from the temporal manipulator's accented heels, and their noisy descent down the clanging rungs of that metal ladder serve to mask the sound of Odessa's scuffing bootfalls down the concrete ramp. Illumination is provided by metal caged sconce lamps shedding muted yellow light down the corridor. There's old, fluorescent lights overhead too, but they're dark and unilluminated. Whatever this place is, it's running on emergency backup power only. Odessa's seen enough of these kinds of structures in that state to know it when she sees it.

Coming down the ramp, she passes by a pile of concrete debris, likely moved from the digging that was done back up the ramp. Slabs of stone are laid atop one another some five feet high, all jagged and bristling with twisted rebar. As the tunnel levels out again, perforations of bullet scars crack the right side wall, evidence of a gun battle here in the not so distant past. Shell casings lie in the dust below Odessa's feet as well, pushed to the sides of the corridor by foot traffic.

With the end of the hall visible where lights flicker erratically, Odessa can see a large and metal pair of security doors that look to have been blasted open by explosives. They're pulled apart and inwards towards her position, while in their place a cloth curtain has been hung to provide some measure of cover for the door by whoever is squatting in this facility now.

Noise comes distantly beyond the curtain, though it is drawing closer. Sounds of people speaking in a foreign tongue, maybe Abaric, maybe Tajik, it's hard to tell. But they're headed towards the entrance of the tunnel. Behind Odessa, Boyce and Veronica pass the same pile of discarded concrete that was taken from the tunnel, though Boyce notices something that Odessa missed among the debris. There's a piece of the blast door that was hauled away, some sort of outer sheathing that is twisted and bent by great force.

Emblazoned on what remains of the door is an emblem, a blue and green double helix. Below that, a name:

Pinehearst Company.

Sawyer leads the way as a precaution — given her ability and its reflective nature. Her eyes are trained straight ahead, and she murmurs, trying not to gain attention of anyone deeper in the tunnels, while trying to catch Odessa's before the other Institute agent moves too far from their small team. "Price, hold up," she hisses, moving faster when she can see the hallway is mostly clear, breaking into a light jog to bring herself closer to the "leader" of this spelunking team.

"Fucking lab rats," she mutters in an aside to Boyce.

Boyce is only a few steps behind, watching the rear as he jogs after her, his head turning every few paces to peek at the trail behind. His lips frown, his eyes narrow, and his fingers tighten around the gun. "Reminds me of my days along the wall." The memory draws a distinct sneer, "Fuckin' commies." Forget the scientists, focus on the real targets.

Her surroundings leave Odessa feeling both uneasy, and exceptionally at home. Spent bullet casings have her furrowing her brows and wondering who the hell beat them here. Or who was here before. If she'd only paid attention to the symbol on the ruined doors, she'd have that answer.

Odessa suddenly appears in front of Sawyer and Boyce, pressing a finger to her lips. "Someone's coming," she whispers to the pair. Then she's gone again, as if she was never there at all. Presumably she's sought cover, rather than turned tail to run.

When Odessa disappears, it leaves Veronica jogging straight into the oncoming path of two unexpected men. One pulls the cloth curtain aside for the other, both of them rugged looking locals with thick, coarse beards and sun-battered skin. Their clothing is a ramshackle mess of loose Afghani style clothing fit for agrarian life with boots and body armor that looks to have been salvaged off of dead foreign military. The lead man, rolled cigarette dangling from his lips, freezes like a deer in headlights on seeing Veronica moving down the corridor. His heart leaps into his throat, eyes widened.

His comrade has slightly more time to react, abruptly coming to a halt. Only one of them — the man up front — is armed, with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder and not at the ready. His companion in the back bleats out a terrified cry behind him, "E'laamey Khatar! E'laamey Khatar!" He screams, scrambling backwards and away from the doorway, trying to get close enough to warn everyone inside.

Veronica's eyes widen too when suddenly she's in front and Odessa's gone. The fact that one man has a weapon is enough — that means others will be armed. Shooting would be faster, but she's hoping to keep this welcome committee from getting any bigger than the two men in front of them.

"Cover me," she hisses to Boyce before suddenly swinging her weapon out as fast as she can to smash the man holding the AK-47 across the head, hoping it'll be enough to knock him out and not get herself shot at the same time, and then break into a run to follow the runner, in hopes of doing the same. Her five-mile runs every day will hopefully mean she's faster than he is.

"Price, wherever the fuck you are, I need you to do your time fu shit so that we don't all get shot in the next three minutes," she hisses into the hallway, no idea where the third member of their threesome disappeared to.

"Fuuuuuuuuuuck," Boyce mutters as he poises his gun to cover Veronica. She's well out of earshot as he mutters to himself in that same gruff manner, "All of the weaponry," he keeps the gun poised, his aim and skills fixing on what he needs, "All of the training," his grasp clutches tighter to the gun as he lowers to the ground, his blue eyes scanning through the nightvision spectacle, "And all of the minds in the world. And what I wouldn't give…" He clears his throat, "For a fuckin'— illusionist."

The screaming of the second man, who'd gone back the way he came, falls silent. The first man goes staggering back from the blow to the face. But before he can either fall to the ground unconscious, or regain his senses and shoot someone, the scene abruptly changes. Odessa is withdrawing her knife from the side of his neck and throwing him down with a contemptuous sniff.

She swivels her attention to peer at Boyce and Sawyer in turn, and then shrugs. "I don't know about you, but I was feeling threatened." Then another bit of Time-Fu has Odessa winking out again, but the sounds of her heeled boots ring out and alert her team as she hurries onward to find out what they're about to head into.

What Boyce saw through his scope is perhaps the next best thing to an illusionist. Both of the men lay on the ground, the furthest one slouched down against the concrete wall where a red streak smeared from face contact, a cruel cut across his throat matching the one of the other man that Veronica had slammed with the butt of her rifle. It seems that sometimes when the chips are down, Odessa doesn't run and save herself.

It's only mildly comforting, all things considered.

Ahead of the corpses is another curtain partitioned door, past a short sandbag barricade and a folding table and chair, likely where the two men just killed were previously; watchmen. The cries have not gone unnoticed, though, and Odessa's scouting ahead shows what state the facility is in. As she emerges on the other side of the curtain, she arrives in a hexagonal foyer, everything in sight made of smooth concrete. Another sandbag barricade making a crescent in the middle of the floor, two men halfway to their feet moving for a table where their guns are leaning.

Three hallways branch off from here, one leading down to a collapsed section of tunnel where concrete and dirt fill the corridor, another winds down towards an illuminated sign that reads GENERATORS in sharply contrasting text. The main corridor directly ahead bears the demarcation of RESEARCH LAB, though what repurposing it's gone through is difficult to know in advance, for most people.

With time halted in her range to assess the situation, Odessa notices large plastic crates near the entrance, opened up. They have molded styrofoam padding inside designed to contain some sort of gun-shaped device, other smaller containers contained syringes and vials, only serial numbers indicate what might have been inside. Ultimately, unhelpful.

She winks back into existence just on the other side of the curtain near where the table is, in front of Veronica and Boyce's approach. They can hear the guards shouting on the inside, the clatter of weapons being grabbed.

But Odessa's wide-eyed stare isn't focused on that, or on Veronica and Boyce. Instead her stare is squared on the interior of the backs of the blast doors, the ones peeled open by raw strength and force. These, like the external sheathing piled up that Boyce had seen, are marked with an insignia. The same blue and green double-helix, and the declaration that this is a Pinehearst Company facility.

Or was.

Or is?

Both answers are distinctly horrifying.

That is one advantage a knife has, over a rifle, though Veronica's eyes widen a little at the ruthlessness of the assault. She was never kill squad, and for good reason. There is still something sensitive in her to the sanctity of life, and the belief that not all people may be as the seem — since she herself carries the symbolic badge of the Institute (even if the real badge says DHS, CIA or whoever she's pretending to be on whatever day of whatever mission). These men might have been like Halebi — roped into assisting Mazdak. They might not be the enemy.

As she approaches Odessa once again, she notices the stare that goes behind her, and turns to look back to see what has caught Odessa's interest. Eyes widen and she turns back again, swallowing. "Any sign of the girl? We need to hurry… about ten minutes left. We need to get her, get the hell out of here, and maybe fucking bomb the place on the way out."

The double helix is met with a stoic clearing of Boyce's throat, but he remains focused on that which is in front of him. His steps take on a stilted quality as he lets his finger line the trigger, not pulling it, but ghosting it, keeping himself even in his gait, his rhythm, and in his breath.

"We need control of this facility," Odessa informs the pair in a panic, though her gaze comes to fix squarely on Veronica. "Whatever was here, if it's still here, cannot— We can't let the army get their hands on it." She shoots a look over her shoulder, toward the commotion building. "What the fuck happened to our comms? Where is Goodman?"

The girl. Of course. Odessa shakes her head quickly. "I didn't see her. Not there. I… I can go in deeper." Blood drips onto the floor from the end of the knife clutched tightly in the woman's hands. It catches her attention for a moment, just long enough for the others to worry she might fall into a bit of a fugue. "A bomb wouldn't be a bad idea, but… I think we need to handle this." And she doesn't mean the Institute. A suspicious look is flickered toward Boyce, but only briefly.

"Ten minutes," Odessa repeats. "You guys can handle a few assholes with guns, right?" After all, they're the ones with the training for this sort of thing. "If you wanna shut this place down, check out the generators." She flickers a quick grin to Veronica just before she turns to head back into the hexagonal room, with the intent of finding out what's through the door marked RESEARCH LAB. "Try to avoid electrokinetics, huh?" Oh, she's teasing.


Disappearing from conventional sight, Odessa slips between moments in time, slinking down through the foyer and past the barricade towards the research labs, leaving Veronica and Boyce with the opportunity to shut down the facility in the generator room. Booted heels thunk soundly on the floor as she passes into the corridor, soon moving by long glass windows looking into research labs. Beyond the glass and in the lit labs, Odessa can see that they haven't been converted to anything as base as makeshift living quarters or munitions depots.

Precision and expensive laboratory equipment lines metal tables and shelving, refrigeration units marked with biohazard signs are spaced out across both research lab floors. There's no one working right now, but that it's so late at night likely means they've called it a day, though these facilities look recently used.

Airlock doors indicate a certain level of sterilization in place here, the same that white contamination suits hanging on hooks inside of the airlock rooms help punctuate. Beyond the empty labs, Odessa passes by doors on both sides of the hall, marked as Sample Storage, each locked behind a key card interface. It's only further down the corridor that she starts coming across residential rooms, bunk beds filled with half-waking militants rousing to a cry for help from the entrance.

Past their rooms, she finds an open pair of double doors, propped that way by a loose piece of cement. Here, the concrete corridor widens and rounds off at the top, opening up into a large surgery room. Curtains hang around wheeled tables, metal instrument trays hold clean and sterile equipment. One Mazdak operative with an assault rifle is watching a bearded and gruff looking doctor in a dingy, tattered labcoat checking data in Arabic on a computer terminal. The scientist looks like a prisoner.

Just past where he stands, there is a faint, bioluminescent glow shedding through the privacy curtains.

What is going on here?

Back at the entrance, Boyce and Veronica are faced with the unfortunate truth that Odessa can't be bothered to take care of the two men guarding the front of the corridor. Their shouts and the clack-snap of automatic weapons chambering rounds comes with the chatter of Arabic echoing down the corridors, likely a local Tajik dialect.

Neither of them are explicitly certain as to what is going on, and neither of them seem aware of Veronica and Boyce's exact presence. Surprise, fortunately, is in their favor.

The sound of rounds causes shouting in English as well, "Stay low!" Boyce instructs loudly and slinks back around the corner to take aim at one of the assailants. Cover, it's always about cover. Several rounds loop forward, taking aim at the first of the two guards. "Veronica, cover me!" he slinks forward, to gain some ground between them and the terrorists.

"Get the girl, then we'll deal with the rest of it," Veronica replies to Odessa, not arguing with the fact they need to deal with it. That's why they're here — she can't be sure Goodman didn't know about this, but she's sure he will as soon as she can get back to him. "Too deep for the radio." But she's talking to thin air, once again, and her attention is on the sound of men's voices and the loading of weapons.

Veronica drops into a crouch on one side of the curtain, aiming to fire at the second of the guards as Boyce moves forward.

All of this is painfully familiar to Odessa. Five years ago, this would have felt like home. In many sick ways, it still does. With time in her favour, she searches the soldier keeping watch over the scientist for a key card. When she doesn't find it, she frowns and instead scurries over to the doctor. Grabbing the card off the man, she starts to run back the way she came…

But curiosity to find out what that glow is, is just too much.

Odessa stops in her tracks and slowly makes her way toward the privacy curtains. With her hand wrapped around the fabric, she holds still a moment, shutting her eyes against the memory of a dream. She actually glances to one side to make sure she hasn't acquired a faithful companion before she takes a deep breath and throws back the curtain.

Down on the other side of the facility, outside of Odessa's influence of stopping time, a gunfight is only just beginning. The explosion of gunfire through the curtain has a scream exploding from one of the struck men, and by the time Boyce charges the rest of the way through the heavy curtain, he can't even see the man beyond the barricade of sandbags anymore. Veronica's shot comes just as the second Mazdak guard is readying his AK-47 to fire, and both the muzzle flash from his gun and the report of both rifles seem to fire simultaneously.

The guard is struck in the chest by Veronica's shot, too high for the collar guard of his body armor to do any good. The rounds rip through his throat and send him staggering back, gunfire peppering the wall and ceiling as he falls. Veronica only notices late that Boyce is bleeding and spun around.

It happened so quick it's hard to tell how it happened, but the blood trailing from Boyce's right arm is evident against the desert tan of his uniform. He stumbles back against the wall, the outside of his shoulder sliced open by a tumbling round that strayed just inside of his silhouette. It would have likely struck him in the arm, possibly hitting an artery if Veronica hadn't taken him out.

Pain throbs in Boyce's side, hot and sharp where he'd been shot. His breath reflexively hitches in the back of his throat, sweat beads on his brow beneath his helmet. It's been a long time since he's been shot.

The pain, and the shock, is refreshing.

The same cannot be said for Odessa Price. The pain and shock she is experiencing brings her stomach to trembling and the taste of bile to the back of her throat. Behind the curtain lies a bloated, swollen body inundated with a bioluminescent blue glow. Flesh is supple and leathery, stretched thin in places where veins are illuminated by whatever is flooding them by way of transparent hoses slid into flesh.

A large machine with turning spools feeds a constant supply of what appears to be Refrain into a deformed test subject. Rubbery flesh glistens with sweat or perhaps some other form of excretion. Wide, milky white eyes are rolled back into the figure's head, throat sliced open to allow for a tracheal respirator to supply oxygen.

At the foot of the bed, the patient is listed as PC170.

Jack White has been shot before— this version of Sterling Boyce had been shot before. The pain is searing, intense, burning. All of these things at once as he leans against the wall, sliding down it slowly while his hand presses against it. Almost immediately he begins to fade into shock, his skin pales, his breath catches, and he struggles to breathe through the pain.

As the pain checks in, Boyce's head begins to bob forward, wrought with pain. His eyes begin to roll back into his head, closing for an instant as they do. Moments later he's at attention, leaning forward away from the wall, peeling himself off it only to collapse a single step away. "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuucketty fuck fuck fuck— what kind of tosser ugggggh— " his skin pales further. While Jack may have been able to breathe through the pain, this imprint seems to have a low tolerance for it.

Shooting a few more rounds just to be sure into the men, Veronica finally stops, moving quickly to Boyce's side. "Shit, Boyce," she hisses, reaching to find the wound and then reaching for his other hand, squeezing it with what she hopes is reassurance, then clamping it down on the wound and pressing down.

"Hold tight. You're okay," she murmurs, brown eyes seeking his paler gaze through their visors, as she tries to instill confidence in him, in her words. "You'll be okay, but we need to stay together. I can cover you, if you can walk. I don't want to leave you here alone, but we got to get that girl and we've gotta get out of here… we're down to maybe five minutes. I'll cover you. I promise, I'll get us out of here."

She doesn't believe her own words — it's hard enough to cover them both with two of them, but they need to keep moving. One hand on her weapon, the other on his shoulder, she guides him forward, in the direction of the labs.

Odessa blinks at the test subject in front of her for several stolen moments, swallowing back the acidic reflexive reaction in her throat. Cherry cobbler would have been easier to handle. She pulls the curtain back into place and then takes off at a run back the way she came to open one of the doors marked Sample Storage. Her fingers are trembling as she fumbles with the keycard, dragging it through the scanner.

Something tugs at her and Odessa seizes, gasping in a deep breath. She should have held the antechamber, too. She told the others to go to the generators so she could avoid the stress on her ability. Everything resumes again for a moment, so she can look down the hall and catch sight of Sawyer and Boyce. Is he wounded? "Oh, fuck."

Blue eyes, visible and not, shut tightly. Odessa's face scrunches up small (not unlike a certain master of time and space) as she essentially pulls her teammates into the pocket with her. "This isn't as easy as it looks, damn it!"

Veronica is drawn like a moth to the flame by the bioluminescent glow. "Shit… is that … Lucine?" she whispers, eyes wide as she sees the figure on the bed. "Is she…" Alive goes unsaid. Clearly, something lives there, but is there a mind? Is there a life after whatever has been done to her? Did they come here to save her, and all for what may as well be a corpse?

Veronica's initial assessment of the luminous and temporally locked mass laying on the operation table is thwarted at a second glance. Male genitalia on the naked, luminescent test subject implies that it isn't Lucine, though it doesn't mean that she isn't somewhere else in this house of horrors.

The stilling of time is an unusual and lonely thing. There is no sound, no noise, nothing except what the three bring with them; The sound of Boyce's labored and pained breathing. The scuff of Veronica's shoes. The noise in the back of Odessa's throat from the stain on her mind, trying to focus on all these variables at once.

A doctor stands in field of view of the three, checking a computer screen covered with Arabic writing. A Mazdak soldier stands vigilantly nearby close to the doorway, intent on keeping watch over the scientist, who looks more prisoner than volunteer.

This is it, though. Nowhere beyond this surgery room, save for doors labeled as bathrooms by the English signage. The key-card locked doors back down the hall, and whatever lies in the direction of the generators is all that's here.

That, and five of these unfortunate souls, trapped in a state of chemical infusion for God knows what purposes.

The comfort from Veronica falls on very different ears than the man or, rather, the identity it was intended. "Ron-nie— " he exudes dramatically while a single hand exasperatedly waves into the air while his other, very stupidly, is removed from his side. "Rooooooonnnnnnnnnniiiiiiiiiie— " Charles has always had a flair for the dramatic, even if, at times it's warranted. His hand that was removed quite stupidly is repasted moments later if only from the agony. "I… think.. this.. could.. be.. lights… out.. for… me.." his voice croaks theatrically like someone dying in a bad romantic comedy or how Miracle Max would die in the Princess Bride. "…you.. should.. kiss me before it's lights out…"

Of all of the personalities to emerge, Charles Ethan Merrick Robinson IV would in essence be the worst. Maybe. He groans gruffly as he shifts in spot again pressing his hand tighter to his side, he wasn't designed for this; his was meant to be a life of leisure, not work, let alone getting shot. He closes his eyes and wills himself out of his consciousness; let someone else take the pain.

"Oh, Jesus," Veronica murmurs, though it's hard to tell if it's from the shock of the body in front of her or because of the fact that Charles has to be the personality at the helm of Boyce's body. That and she really hates being called Ronnie. "Not Lucine," she answers her own question, her eyes sweeping the other such subjects.

"You aren't going to die. I've been through worse, trust me, just keep pressure on it, and I'll kiss you when it's through." Maybe if he has something to live for~

Veronica turns toward Odessa. "Can we hold them frozen while we see which one's the girl? We can't… we can't help them all." She swallows back the disgust of that mass, and she takes a step forward toward the next bed in line. "If she's like that, will she even survive?" She glances at Price. "Hurry — help me find her."

"Thought I got away from Niki fucking Sanders when I left the Company," Odessa growls, shifting a glance to Boyce. "I will patch you up just as soon as we're out of this mess." Veronica pulls her out of her mood quickly, however, Odessa lifting her head and nodding. "Of course. That part's a piece of cake." Abandoning her quest to get into one of the sample storage rooms, she scurries back to start pulling open curtains and look for something (these subjects are barely someones anymore) that resembles Lucine.

"I have no idea if we can save her, if she's—" Odessa rolls her eyes and stomps over to the doctor, lifting her gun to aim at his head (from a respectable distance) before she squints and releases him from her time lock. "English," she demands immediately. "Do you speak it?"

It is a jarring experience, being ripped from one moment in time to experience another that involves a gun being pointed at you. But the scientist staring death in the face looks haggard and beaten, dark features showing a distinctly Indian descent, unshaven, unshowered and exhausted. He breathes in, sharp and shuddering breaths, while watching Veronica searching the beds, pulling back privacy curtains one by one.

"P— please don't kill me," is both a plea from the doctor, as well as confirmation that he does in fact speak English. However much the crazy one-eyed woman with a gun wants.

Veronica's search reveals one atrocity after another. No two of the experiments look the same, save for the rubbery quality of their flesh, their swollen and bloated nature and the sickening blue glow in their veins. Most of them have breathing tubes shoved down their throats, other hoses and tubing surgically implanted through shunts into their bodies. The machines they're hooked up to function like a dialysis machine, but instead of purifying blood, they intravenously feed a system with whatever luminous chemical is being force-fed to them.

Each of them are a different age, three men and two women. None of them under the age of twenty, presumably. No one young enough to be Amid Halebi's daughter.

Sucking in a sharp breath, the Doctor stares wide eyed at the Americans in the facility, trying to figure out why the Mazdak insurgent isn't opening fire, why he isn't moving why everything seems so hauntingly quiet. But instead, he has to focus down the barrel of a gun rather than solve that mystery. "Girl?" Is breathlessly exhaled to Odessa and Veronica, dark eyes flicking between the two as if unsure which is more dangerous. He hasn't even realized Boyce is there yet, which may only accelerate his confusion.

"Hal— Halebi?" The name is familiar, and while the doctor's English is stilted with a hindi accent, it's clear he understands everything that is being said, as well as everything being implied. "She— she is— she is downstairs, with Akir. I did not hurt her, I— I swear. I swear." Paralyzed with fear, the doctor tries to breathe, though the effort is shallow and filled with trepidation.

"How- how are you— " Suddenly, the Doctor doesn't care. "Get me out of here," is his request for his services rendered.

The notion of a a kiss received may have momentarily silenced the lips of Sterling Boyce, but Charles' willing (and detest of pain) presses him to the back of Boyce's mind, bringing the braver of the personas out again. Jack's initial shock wears off, just enough to have him amble, however painfully and slowly, back to his feet, clutching his side as he does so, "The kiss will be… unnecessary, Sawyer," he groans. "Rumours of my impending death were.. exaggerated." The gun is retrieved again as he doubles over slightly. He won't be standing tall, but God-willing a little bit of adrenaline will pull him through this circumstance still resourcefully.

"I.. I'm on it— " the stairs. He groans. The gun is clasped and he limps towards the sound of the voice only to stop, catching the voice with a vague nod. Determined, complete with a vague scoff in the back of his throat. He takes slow laboured steps to the stairs.

"Come on," Veronica nods to the scientist, aiming her own gun at him so that Odessa can concentrate on keeping her pause button pushed down. "Price, cover Boyce and doc, here."

That said, she moves toward the guard, pulling her own army-grade blade from the utility belt at her waist to slice the soldier's neck ruthlessly and silently while he stands frozen. A gun would alert those below, and they're out of time. Her jaw sets as she swallows hard before following the others — the ease at which she's able to kill is frightening.

Somehow, Odessa has the presence of mind not to say well done to Veronica when she employs the doctor and agent's preferred method of death-dealing. She nods her head to the orders given and lets her gun rest again so she can retrieve her knife again. It's not the impressive threat of the firearm, but she doesn't need it. Hopefully she's gotten that point across already.

Witnessing a Mazdak operative sliced open while he stands helpless to do anything, the doctor that Odessa has corralled folds his hands behind his head as is befitting of a prisoner of war and bows his head, following the procession of people, led by Boyce, out of the medical wing and back down the hallway, past the door that Odessa had unlocked earlier with his keycard.

With Boyce at the forefront of the team and leading the way, the group makes their way back down the corridor and into the foyer, still under Odessa's protective temporal statis field. Though the dull throb of pain at the back of Odessa's eyes indicates just how much of a strain four individuals is to keep up, let alone three. With no stairs in sight on the way back, it is obvious that the only way down must be by the wing that Veronica and Boyce had avoided earlier, down towards the generator room.

All of the concrete corridors are starting to look the same, and down this hall they pass by a few open rooms filled with cots and bedrolls, makeshift bunks and one wing of showers— not personal showers, but chemical accident showers, repurposed for more mundane means by the Mazdak insurgents. It's clear from the size of the facility that they all can't live here, likely spread out in the village up above. Eventually they find the winding stairwell that hooks downwards into the lower levels of whatever this compound was to Pinehearst back during its active days.

How many more places like this are still nestled away somewhere else in the world? Forgotten.

As Boyce leads the way down the stairs, the generator level turns out to be a larger and more open space than anticipated. The doorway at the bottom of the stairs opens out into a large two-story underground chamber filled with large metal pipes and a pair of enormous turbines that — presumably — would be noisy were time not held fast in place.

Geothermal Power Station is written beside the doorway, where Boyce, Veronica, Odessa and the doctor emerge out on a metal catwalk, stairs that descend down from it to the generators, while the remainder of the catwalk wraps around the room towards an observation station. There, several men are standing in conversation around a table, barely visible through partly drawn vertical blinds shadowing the windows. There's no sign of anyone down where the turbines are.

They must be in the observation room.

In the lead, Boyce motions for quiet from his comrades through a single finger held to his lips. Against the metal catwalk, he fights heavy steps, trying to take small, quiet steps as he moves. His paces are slow enough to keep everyone together should they choose to follow, his gun remains in his hand as he stalls just shy the staircase. Quiet whispered words annunciate, "We take them as quiet as possible…" he leans forward again, lowering some along the stairs either to be covert or out of pure necessity. He edges towards the Observation Room, peeking back at his teammates before stopping just shy the room. He lingers, gun in hand, waiting. Breathing.

This is out of her expertise — for once Veronica's willing to follow and she stays close, dark eyes straining, seeking for their target — the one they are trying to rescue. She pushes the scientist along, her teeth clenched as she whispers, "Not a word of warning to them, or I will kill you here and now. Your only chance for survival is with us," she reminds him.

There's a quiet hiss denoting the sharp inhale as Odessa emerges onto the catwalk. Her free hand reaches out to tightly grasp the railing as she moves along. She forces herself to take in her surroundings, rather than to keep her gaze straight ahead and avoid any fear of the height. When she's warned to hush by Boyce, she shoots him a look that conveys two thoughts: Duh, and what are you, new? And at Sawyer's warning, Odessa just extends the hand with the knife out toward their prisoner and freezes him in place. Problem solved. She gives a quick nod to Boyce, then. She's ready.

The throbbing sensation at the back of Odessa's mind becomes worse when she locks the doctor back up, frozen in time in mid speech. It feels like a pulled muscle, and it's hard to tell exactly what is causing the throbbing pain, save for strain and stress. Her blood pressure is spiking, she can tell that by his hot she feels, how the headache feels vascular. Being a doctor can mean knowing all sorts of things one rather might not.

As Boyce clears the way towards the observation room, he can see the people inside locked fast in place. Eight men dressed in desert colored clothing, loose and breezily fitting. Most of them are in their early to mid twenties, bearded and sun-battered. Among them, one distinguishes himself by the cast of a red beret atop his head, one that bears a faded red white and black flag with green stars.

They look to be in the middle of a conversation, or perhaps some kind of meeting. The folding table they're standing around has a map laid out on it, difficult to discern what of through the blinds, though the concentric bands of odd shapes indicates that it's a topographical map of mountainous terrain, possibly local.

Near the Mazdak soldiers, a young girl in her early teens sits with hands in her lap on a wooden bench, her back to the windows. She looks in ill health, dark circles around her eyes, matchstick thin and weary. Though what she does not look is otherwise mistreated. No bruises, no restraints, fear may be a powerful enough deterrent to keep her from trying to find her own freedom.

Then, she blinks, and looks around the observation room. Her brows furrow, lips turn downward into a frown, and her eyes square on her lap as she shifts awkwardly in her seat while the world around her hangs in stillness and silence.

The men themselves are regarded suspiciously, silently, the mission seems more difficult than anticipated. "We're outmanned," he whispers while he ducks a little lower, avoiding detection while they formulate some measure of a plan. "And we can't very well go in there guns blazing to take him out." His chin drops to his chest as he clutches the gun a little tighter still.

Boyce's neck cranes while he peeks inward again. "Can one of you get in there stealth-like?"

The girl's small motions do not go undetected by Veronica, the stillness of everyone else noted as well. "They're frozen. We're good. Except for her. That must be Lucine," she breathes, glancing toward Odessa to see if the temporal manipulator noticed what Veronica has. "Let's move fast."

She lets Odessa lead the way, to keep their time and space their own — hopefully if the army is entering on their heels, any destruction they bring with them will be paused by Odessa's power as well — because by her count, they're pretty much out of time. Even with Odessa on their team.

Odessa's jaw falls open when the girl inside moves. Chalk it up to the already spiking blood pressure, but she's livid. "She's here willingly," she tells the others in a steady whispered voice, laced with an undercurrent of anger. She's convinced of this. If the girl is able to circumvent the way Odessa halts the flow of time, there should be nothing keeping her here.

"And she's fucking with my ability. We need to get her out of here now." When Boyce directs one of them to sneak in, and Sawyer gives the unspoken directive, Odessa starts forward, pulling open the door to the observation room and pointing the tip of her knife at the girl. "Lucine Halebi? We're here to bring you to your father." Please don't let her fight with me. I will seriously cut her and then I might actually feel bad for once.

A throb of pain spikes in Odessa's head again, causing vision in her right eye to blossom dark. The blonde staggers, her left leg buckles and she starts to collapse onto one knee, bracing herself on the table as time stutters and starts to catch up, before freezing again. The young girl, Lucine, looks shocked to see strangers emerging into the observation room. She rises up from her seat, brows furrowed together and lips parted subtly so she can exhale a breath of fright.

Americans from their uniforms and appearance, and the young girl takes a step back, shoulders rolling forward and teeth pressing down on her bottom lip. Sunset colored eyes alight up to Odessa, wide and fearful. She swallows, dryly, and it is evident now up close that there is a sheen of sweat on her brow. Bare arms show track marks from needles, and her posture is like that of an abandoned kitten facing down a large dog.

Despite that she's as tall as Odessa with her heels on. Willowy, if not unhealthily thin. She's also terrified and visibly confused.

"M— my… father is dead." Lucine whispers in a hushed voice, her English fair, though strongly accented.

There's something unexpected from this incarnation of Sterling Boyce. There's a pang of pain writ across his face while he presses a hand firmer against his side. Lucine's words earn a trace of a frown as the normally tactically minded man trudges heavy-laden steps inside. His lips press together uncomfortably while he knees down to meet the girl's gaze. "You need to come with us," he says nothing about her father. "It'll be okay, honey, you just need to come with us." There's a gentleness in his voice, lacking edges, even as he glances at his gun. "You've a rough time here, and now it's time to go. We'll keep you safe."

"No," Veronica says, shaking her head, and, perhaps stupidly, pulling off her helmet so the girl can see her better. "No. He's back in the United States, and he's safe, and we've risked a lot of lives coming to get you to bring you back to him. He's safe, I promise you. But we have to hurry."

She beckons for the girl to come with them. "Take her ahead, Boyce. We'll take care of these men." She doesn't want Lucine to see her kill them.

Odessa falls heavily against the table, breathing hard. "Get her away from me!" she bellows. "No time for playing nice! I'm losing it!" She means her grip on time. Not her grip on reality or sanity. Depending upon who you ask, she lost those a long time ago. A strangled, squeaking sound comes from the back of the temporal manipulator's throat as she reaches for her throbbing head.

"I— " Lucine's voice cuts off when she hears the sound of Odessa's cry, her hands trembling and breath hitching in the back of her throat. Sunset colored eyes stare up wide at Boyce, not understanding, fretful. "I need my medicine," the fragile young woman stammers, tears welling up in her eyes, dribbling fat down dirty cheeks and tracking clean rivulets where grime is smudged.

She lifts up one small hand to the middle of Boyce's chest, skinny fingers curling against the nylon fabric of his tactical vest. There's pleading, urgency and worry in the girl's eyes, followed by a wet, hacking cough as she slouches against Boyce. That her weight is negligible is likely due to whatever is wrong with her.

Whatever is wrong with Odessa.

Blood runs out of her right nostril, pain throbs at the side of her temple, but it's starting to feel better. She doesn't notice the blood until a drop drips off of her upper lip. The headache is passing, even if the tremor in her right hand hasn't entirely. What Veronica and Boyce both notice, once the shock of the blood's presence wears off, is that the right side of her mouth is drooping subtly.

"Medicine— " Boyce repeats with that same gentle cadence. His eyes trail the room quickly in search of something anything to allay the pain. "Honey," he soothes in a nearly maternal, hushed tone, "What kind of medicine do you need? What does it look like? If we know what we're— " Boyce pauses as bright blue eyes trail to the agents and then back to the girl with her nose bleeding. While she may not know what's going on, the mind of Melody Perrault safely nestled in Boyce's consciousness. He motions for her to get low to the ground while he reaches for one of his canisters of negation gas.

"I think… I think it's their powers clashing or something," Veronica says, turning to look from Lucine to Odessa, and back to Boyce. "We don't have time. Boyce, take Lucine and go — get them separated. Don't drop that, just go. I'll follow with Price in a moment."

Veronica reaches to grab Odessa by the shoulder, to keep her standing, before she casts a glance to the frozen men around the table. "And clean up here," she says grimly, narrowing her eyes meaningfully at Boyce — she doesn't want the girl to see them murdered in front of her, and the quicker that Lucine and Boyce are out of the Odessa's range, the less strain on the system. Or so she hopes. "Go."

"I think I'm—" Odessa spots the blood dropping from her own face and reaches up to press her fingers to the underside of her nose, coming away with blood on her pale fingers. "I am not okay," she murmurs numbly, sagging heavily against Veronica when she offers her support. "He's injured," she tells their de facto leader. "You should go with them. You… don't wanna be here if my power fails us anyway. You need to get topside. Back to Goodman."

Trembling and small adjacent to Boyce's larger frame, Lucine looks doll-like in size and proportions, big eyes, small nose, thin limbs. She swallows noisily, shaking her head in slow fashion from side to side, unable to quietly answer the question. "M— medicine for my— for my sickness?" Dark brows rise, furrow and confusion paints itself across Lucine's face. Had Odessa been able to keep the doctor in the temporally fixed field with them, he might have been able to afford the explanation the young teenager doesn't know the answer to.

Lucine suddenly winces, her arms wrapping around herself and knees buckling. There's a tightness in her chest, a hitching of her breath and a keening noise in the back of her throat. Brows furrow, her lips part and she struggles to catch her breath. "Wh— what's— happening."

The only two people who don't seem to be in pain are Boyce and Veronica. One of them is non-evolved, and the other—


Decidedly, Boyce lowers his gun, strapping it around his body and releasing his grip on it, allowing it to extend behind him. He then hoists the girl up into his arms like a prince rescuing a princess from a castle— much the same way Melody used to carry her five year old to bed when she fell asleep on the couch, the floor, or somewhere else. The pain in his arm is irritated underneath the pressure, but Lucine is featherlight in his arms, and Melody is not unfamiliar with pain— she'd brought two children in the world and hadn't requested an epideral for either.

"Alright lovely," Boyce whispers, "We're gonna get you out of here." The girl is hugged to him, protectively like a mother would a child, and in that same princess-carry, he backtracks out of the observation room, back from whence he came.

"Go," Veronica says to Boyce, who is already in the process of picking up the girl and doing what she told him to. The man (woman at the moment, mentally) gets points for listening to her. She might make good on the kiss afterwards, after all.

"Careful of your arm," she says a little more gently, before turning to look at Odessa. "I'm not leaving you, Price," she says more gruffly — never mind she threw the woman under the bus easily enough when Brian asked for her residence; this is a mission and different. "He can get her out, and get himself out in the process. And I think it'll be better if there's distance between you." Her brows knit together at that conundrum. Once Lucine's and Boyce's backs are to them, she turns to the men at the table and opens fire — their frozen moment might be un-frozen any moment, given Odessa's condition.

Odessa actually manages a small (lopsided) smile for Veronica. But only once Lucine is being carried out by Boyce. She braces herself against the table and straightens up again with a small breath. A glance out the window toward the way they came releases the doctor from his temporal suspension. The sounds of gunfire should hopefully be enough motivation for the man to stick with Boyce and not do anything stupid.

When time unwinds and snaps back to normal movement, there's sounds of screaming and shouting nearby, distant echo of gunfire rattling through the facility. For all that Odessa feels like she's operating in a vacuum with her ability, the world is still passing by outside of her sphere of influence, outside of where she can arrest the progress of history.

Time was up a while ago.

With Lucine Halebi held fast in his arms, Boyce's booted feet slam and clang against the metal of the catwalk, whipping past the doctor who — only a moment ago to him — had seen everyone walking with him towards the observation room. A room that now has blood sprayed across its windows.

Turning towards Boyce as he realizes who is in the soldier's arms, the doctor whips around and hustles on Boyce's heels. "We— what is going on!?" He shouts in a stilted accent, following as fast as he can, tattered labcoat thrashing in his wake as he moves. When Boyce hits the stairwell from the catwalk, he can feel the vibrations in the walls and the shuddering shock of an explosion shake the ceiling.

The military must have rolled into the village.

"We're getting the hell out of here!" there's that unusually bright quality to Boyce's voice even in the crisis while he treads away. The explosion above has Boyce staring up at the ceiling for a second. The vibrations urge him on. "Doctor— doctor!" he calls to the man behind him, "What did they give her— her, her //medicine?!" he doesn't dare stop, not when there's a girl in his arms, but his head twists to catch the other man in his periphery.

"C'mon," Veronica says, watching Boyce and Lucine move away, giving what she thinks is a safe space before nodding to Odessa. "Time's up, we need to bail. Come on. Any better?" she asks — hoping that Lucine and Boyce moving away, the doctor no longer being frozen, the men now being dead will help alleviate the pressure on Price. She wraps an arm around the other woman's shoulder anyway to help her move, wincing at the sounds of warfare above. "God, I hope they don't bomb us all."

Odessa's eyes roll skyward and there's a quiet sound of relief in the way she exhales, letting things resume fully again. "Well, I've survived exploding facilities before. So I should be old hat at this by now, right?" She wraps an arm around Veronica, accepting the help onward. The sounds of combat above have the young woman ducking her head instinctively. Maybe she should have stayed topside to stop the army instead? A glance back at the carnage of the room confirms she is exactly where she needed to be.

"Neupogen, Neulasta— " The doctor isn't speaking in tongues, he's rattling off medical terms. "It— her bone marrow was damaged from severe long-term exposure to a source of radiation. She's extremely sick, I— " Shaking his head slowly, the doctor moves closer to Boyce, reflexively ducking every time the whistle of a rocket or the sound of an explosion mutedly makes it down the stairwell from the surface. "The supplies are up in the medical wing, storage— it— she has a depleted immune system, she is on a strict treatment, it— our healer cannot help her."

Only now does the doctor realize his hands are shaking. He clutches them together, trying to get them to stop, jogging up the concrete stairwell behind Boyce, while the clanking report of Veronica and Odessa's boots seem to be getting further and further away on the catwalk below. Lucine makes no struggle against Boyce, instead resting her feverish head against his shoulder. "If you are here to rescue her— she needs constant medical care at a proper hospital. These— these people wanted her for what she could do. You can't— she needs a hospital!"

When they reach the landing halfway up the stairs, the ground shakes and lights flicker, dust settles down from the ceiling and the doctor leans against one wall, covering his head with both hands in a frightful huddle. When the roof doesn't come down, he looks up to Boyce, several stairs ahead of him again. "Don't leave me!"

As the walls and ground shake, Boyce remains focused on her goal, adrenaline truly is a wonder drug. "We'll get her to a hospital, I— " but then the doctor isn't behind Boyce anymore. The man frowns, holding the girl a little tighter to his body. "Doctor! DOCTOR!" His lips press together tightly and he glances down at the girl in his arms only to track back to the doctor and crouch down at eye level. "You need to get up. You need to move. And you need to follow me. It's time to leave, but you have to decide to do so." Boyce straightens again. His head turns towards the exit as he takes another step. "Come on! I won't take any excuses! Get up! Come on! I need your help to find the medicine!" But there's no time to wait longer, particularly as his comrades should come in this direction.

Boyce turns on his heel and refocuses on the destination and getting the girl out.

It's only a few moments before Veronica and Odessa come across the scientist, left as he is in Boyce's proverbial wake. Veronica gives a jerk of her head for him to get moving, as she doesn't have a free hand to shove him along. One's on her weapon and the other's clinging to Odessa to keep the weakened agent moving.

"We're not leaving you, but you need to get your feet moving, sir," she says. "What's the girl's ability?"

"You didn't just have a stroke. Get up," Odessa mutters contemptuously under her breath, though not actually loud enough to be heard over the commotion above them. Her visible eye tracks to the ground a moment, drooping slightly before she comes back up to fix on Boyce's movement ahead.

Beset at all sides by people shouting, the noise of combat they are headed towards and the sound of Boyce getting further and further away from them, the doctor pushes himself up with help of the wall and shooting motivation. "I— she is a negator— somewhat?" The doctor at least seems familiar with the nomenclature of the SLC-Expressive, and if this was a Pinehearst facility at some point, it only goes to make sense.

"She has a diminishing effect on all Evolved around her, weakening their abilities the closer they are. People in direct physical contact with her are wholly negated. The closer they are, the more difficult it becomes to use their abilities. She herself is wholly immune to the powers of the Evolved, which is why our healer— " The doctor looks back over his shoulder, down the stairs, then shakes his head and starts heading up again. "It doesn't matter— she needs a hospital."

Reaching the top of the stairs, Boyce can hear shouting and gunfire and the sounds of rocket propelled grenades streaking through open air before exploding up above somewhere. Down the corridor that led to the power plant level, all of the rooms that once housed Mazdak operatives are empty, likely having flooded towards the surface when the fighting started.

Veronica, Odessa and the doctor aren't far behind, emerging from the stairwell some thirty feet behind Boyce, who barrels at full speed down the corridor, boots slapping against concrete and lungs burning from the exertion of the flat-out run. Lucine seems so small, so helpless in his embrace, so dependant on his ability to protect her.

As he nears the foyer where the sandbag barricade is, Boyce can hear shouting coming from the entrance tunnel, along with the rattling pop of automatic weapons fire. It sounds like the battle has reached the tunnel heading to the facility.

The sound of firing has Boyce stopping the hall, slipping around a corner, hugging the girl tighter to his body. He frowns slightly while he crouches down, settling Lucine against the wall for a moment. "Sweetie, I promise I'm gonna get you out of here— " Melody's warmth remains even in that moment of necessity. Of course, at this moment it would be useful if Jack wielded his head— he could very well be Boyce's only good shot, aside from… there's a flash, a flicker of something twisted and semi-sadistic within Boyce's features. Sterling's eyes become inappropriately pleased while his lips curl into a smile only to fall away again.. Melody tries to put that thought out of her head, fighting against her presumably lesser self as she continues to control Boyce's mind. He reaches for Lucine again, holding the girl close, but waiting for one of the armed (and better aiming) women to cut ahead.

"We can help her," Veronica murmurs. "We have negation drugs — if she's negated, a healer should be able to help. We'll help her." Even as she speaks the words, she doesn't know how true they are, but she wants to believe them. If her words are false, this entire mission was pointless.

The gunfire ahead has the brunette agent lifting her own. "Try to stay away from Lucine, then," she nods to Odessa, releasing the other woman cautiously. "I'd negate her with the gas, but I don't want to screw you up, and we might need you." This she hopes carries to Boyce ahead — he might be too willing to throw the canister of the yellow gas.

She moves forward cautiously, weapon aiming ahead as she steps closer behind Boyce, crouching along the wall.

Disentangling herself from Veronica, Odessa finds her determination again with a deep breath. "Nothing's gonna get between us, and the exit.

"I've got this."

Odessa breaks off into a dead run. All she has to do is race ahead, get past where Lucine is being protected and coddled by Boyce, and to the mouth of the tunnel. She holds her breath when she passes them, to dash through the curtain and into the hexagonal room. She just has to make it far enough from Lucine and into the thick of it to stop everything between them, and escape.

Once through, Odessa skids to a halt on heeled boots, feeling vaguely ill. Her arms snap out to either side of her as she attempts to bring everything to a halt again, and she stares down the corridor to the labs. She could retrieve the girl's medicine. She might survive long enough to see her father if she does.

A bullet hangs in the air, motionless.

Blood droplets are frozen in time, spraying away from a Mazdak commando falling backwards, a portion of his face torn apart by a hail of gunfire. His gun hangs still in the air. Four more Mazdak men stand the line in the tunnel, ducked behind sandbags, shooting blind over their cover towards a haze of purple lingering in the tunnel. Half-formed out of a swirling violet light, Roger Goodman stands behind the line of firing men, a handgun held out next to where a Mazdak officer's head had been, now just a spray of blood and bone and a body jerking away.

Olivia Roland crouches somewhere down the tunnel, an assault rifle clutched close to her body, muzzle flash frozen in time, blonde hair swept back beneath her helmet and bullets firing through the violet silhouette Goodman left behind on teleporting.

It looks like they came in behind the main force of Mazdak that were coming out of the tunnels. It also looks like they weren't going to abandon the people who had gone in.

Roger Goodman leaves no one behind.

The change in tide has Boyce peeking out from around the wall. He clings to the girl like she were his own daughter as he slides away from it, peering askew around the corner. Again, he won't take the lead here. Out of necessity he'll follow someone else; his primary goal is keeping the girl safe. Walking into crossfire would be stupid, even if the scales have tipped to his favour.

"Get her medicine, if that's what we saw," Veronica nods to Odessa. "Be careful of those bullets when we turn time back on," she adds, shaking her head at the strange frozen tableaux as she swiftly steps up to fire at the remaining Mazdak soldiers. It's a surreal moment; the bullet leaving her weapon and entering the bodies with no visible effect or reaction. It's easier to stomach that way — but time will catch up with the men soon enough in the form of death, and with Veronica Sawyer in the form of pangs of conscience.

"I'm going go cover Boyce, donno what's outside," she tosses to Odessa and breaks into a run, ducking blood and bullets that hang suspended in mid air.

Odessa nods to Sawyer's orders. "You'll have until I reach the end of the hall, then this all starts up again!" She and Veronica head in different directions. Halfway down that corridor, however, she's calling back to her. "Do not wait for me! Get topside and I will join you there! Get them out!"

Once she hits the research lab, Odessa's ability shifts focus again, leaving the scene behind her to resume as she pulls the one around her to a halt and she starts tearing the place apart to find the right supplies to keep Lucine Halebi alive.

When Odessa starts to make her way down the hall and puts distance between herself and the others, the slow and sheepish stride of the doctor into the hall is met with wide-eyed horror at the display of power from someone who can manipulate and bend time to their whim. Stepping aside bloodied bodies, the doctor's face has gone pale and gaunt looking, following the more energetic pace that Veronica and Boyce have managed.

Eventually, it all catches up with a bang. The entire tunnel quakes from an explosion topside, dust and debris settles from the ceiling, and gunfire tears down the tunnel over Boyce's shoulder from where Roland was firing at Mazdak operatives only to have Veronica, Boyce and the liberated doctor appear out of thin air.

"Shit!" Roland howls, lifting her gun up and stepping out from behind a concrete pylon that she had been using for cover. "Where did— " her attention squares on the doctor, then the girl in Boyce's arms. "Oh Jesus, c'mon this way," Roland trots backwards down the tunnel, past the ladders with a jerk of her head in that direction. "There's stairs leading up into that building we saw on the way in. If we get to the roof and pop flares we should be able to get evac'd. What the hell happened down there, we lost radio contact the moment you came into the bunker."

Looking around himself as Mazdak operatives simply fall dead where they stand. Goodman looks down to his handgun and the single bullet he fired, then up and back to Veronica and Boyce ahead of him. "Agent Sawyer," he calls out, moving to break into a hasty walk at their backs. "Where is Doctor Price, and who is this?"

The rescued doctor turns, staring wide-eyed at Roger, only recognizing him when he speaks. "M— Mister Goodman?" Surprise is evident in the doctor's features as she shakily totters over, trembling hands held up as if to reach out and check the man's face. "I— I'm doctor Nishant, we— we met in Norway in— " The tunnel shakes again, this time sending concrete debris raining down from the tunneled opening below the mosque.

"Introductions later," Goodman snarls, grabbing the scientist by the collar and dragging him out of the way of a falling piece of concrete and rebar. "Go for the stairs!" Goodman shouts ahead to Boyce. "They go all the way to the roof of the building once you reach the end of the tunnel!"

Halfway across the facility and too far away to protect her comrades, Odessa Price finds herself back at the medical wing, where the unlocked supply closets are free to be raided, though with little time to spare. The room on the left contains blood samples, hundreds of them in refrigeration units. Some of the blood samples are bioluminscent like the strange blood in those test subjects are. Other tissue samples are contained on lower trays and racks, nothing of use, all serial numbers and coded catalogued entries.

Crossing the hall and unlocking the other room, Odessa finds what she was searching for. Clear plastic bags marked diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid and potassium iodide, bottles in a refrigeration shelf labeled granulocyte, Neupogen, and Neulasta. It will help, as will the IV tubing and syringes on the shelf to her right. The morphine—


Maybe someone might need that, right?

You don't need to tell Boyce twice. Quick paced steps with little regard to the weight or noise now drive him forward through the tunnel to the stairs. Up. Up. Up. He climbs and climbs, hugging Lucine for dear life. He's driven forward to get her out, to get her into a doctor's care, to get her into safety. His serene blue eyes find an even, peaceful place in all of this, but such is Melody's way. His breath becomes ragged as he keeps moving, but eventually, finally he finds his way to the roof. There's something promising about the breath of fresh air he inhales as he reaches it; Lucine is out.

The question remains: will she survive?

"He's helpful, and everyone else is dead, so if they wanna chat at someone, he's about all we have," Veronica says quickly. "Girl's ability is negation. Be careful. And she needs a healer or medical attention, soon." The first tidbit is important to pass on, especially for someone like Goodman. Sawyer's dark eyes follow Boyce and Lucine but she doesn't follow, not until she sees Odessa once again. Then she'll head to the roof.

The first thing Doctor Price does is find something to carry the supplies in. God bless well-organised physicians. She takes care of Lucine's needs first, packing them up in one cooler. Then she packs up a random set of those bioluminsecent blood and tissue samples in another.

Then, Odessa tears apart the computer and tears out its hard drive to along with any other data storage units she spies beyond that. Tossing it all into the top of the second cooler, she leaves them both sit on the floor by the way out to the hall. Her last act before fleeing for her own life is to take out her knife one last time and end the lives of the bloated test subjects.

One last thread of Pinehearst's legacy severed.

Then, she simply appears on the rooftop with the others. The coolers settle on either side of her as Odessa collapses to the ground with a sharp gasp and wide eyes. Her palms press flat against the surface beneath her, as though she could hold onto it.

Out on the roof, Odessa watches as Boyce rounds the top of the stairs, finding her somehow having beat him up the stairs. His concern is only fleetingly with Odessa's presence, and more with the girl wrapped in his arms protectively. The sight of the small medical cooler containing the medication is the most important part of what he finds. Beyond that, the warzone of the village is a nightmare that harkens back to other adopted memories stitched into his Frankenstein mind.

The military force that rolled in to the village is under heavy fire from the buildings. Muzzle flash illuminates spotty in the dark, the glow of fire, of strange phosphorescent green-blue lights, flashes of odd colors and sudden concussive explosions without heat or flame. Mazdak employs primarily Evolved fighters on their front line operations, and that struggle is what awaits the soldiers pinned down under enemy fire.

Stamping up onto the roof, Roland is already on the radio. "…need that bird here yesterday!" Two fingers hold her earpiece in place as she walks, assault rifle held at her side, braced by her shoulder strap. "What? What do you mean it already took off? Under who's authority!?" Roland's shout carries over the rooftop, the popping of gunfire down below and the shriek of a rocket-propelled grenade striking the side of a hummer sending her dropping to a crouch on the open, concrete-block roof.

Doctor Nishant follows on Goodman's heels alongside Veronica, amazed as well to see Odessa up top, but only marginally so. "Roland, where's our evac!?" In response to Goodman's question, Olivia raises one hand in a dismissive gesture, trying to figure out why their helicopter left the base before they even called for it.

"Mis— Mister Goodman!" Doctor Nishant insists, hastily moving to catch up to him. "Mister Goodman it's meHamir." Dark eyes go wide when the name Hamir is spoken, and as Goodman turns to look at the doctor, recognition floods in as he envisions him a few years younger, cleaner shaven. Confusion, too, finds itself on Goodman's features.

"Mister Goodman, it— it is so good to know you are alive. I feared the worst when the facility was overrun, when we stopped receiving orders from the United States." Staring wide-eyed at Doctor Nishant, Goodman breathes in deeply and exhales a sharp sigh, looking to Roland, and then back to Nishant.

"What— were you doing here, Doctor?" The question is asked over the distant noise of an approaching helicopter. Nishant raises his hands and clasps them together, a motion of thankful praise. "Hamir, what were you doing here?"

"The Advent Project," sends chills down Roger's spine when the words leave Doctor Nishant's lips. "The people from Mazdak wanted me to finish the research that the facility was doing, we were close to a breakthrough with a simulation of— "

Olivia jumps when the sound of a gunshot rings out on the rooftop, and Roger Goodman blows a hole clear through Doctor Nishant's head, sending him toppling over and down onto the roof, blood and gray matter pooling beside his head where he lay on the concrete. Lucine begins screaming immediately, crying, hiding her face against Boyce's shoulder.

The sound of a helicopter grows closer, and Goodman lowers his handgun, breathing in deeply and exhaling sharply as he turns to look over his shoulder at the helicopter coming in, guns firing down into the battlefield at the Mazdak operatives engaged with the soldiers.

Downdraft from the helicopter kicks up a dust storm, and as the black chopper descends down towards the roof, it is only thanks to the bright orange flare waved from side to side in Roland's hand. Worry no longer clouds her features, for what was relayed to her on the radio is all the confirmation Agent Roland needed to know that she did her job well.

As the helicopter closes in, side door sliding open and flood light coming on to light up the rooftop, it becomes more clear what her job was. The wheels unfold from the bottom, Boyce shields Lucine's head from the driving wind and blowing dirt, and when the helicopter strikes down on the rooftop, a single figure steps out from the open bay door, dark eyes disdainfully focused on the corpse of Doctor Nishant crumpled and bloodied.

broome_icon.gif 00-04_icon.gif

An old man's silhouette becomes visible against the glow of the floodlights, his expression stern and disapproving. Behind the looming silhouette of Doctor Simon Broome, a figure in matte black armor emerges from the helicopter, carrying an assault rifle, an ochre-tinted visor covering his helmeted face. 00-04 stenciled on one side of his armor at chest and shoulder. Without hesitation, Olivia moves to head towards the bay door of the helicopter, offering a nod of recognition to Simon and Eldridge. She'd done her job admirably.

"Roger," Simon states flatly, staring Goodman's defiant form down.

"You have some explaining to do on the way home."

They all do.

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