Scorched Earth, Part III


dajan_icon.gif etana_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif rasoul_icon.gif tau_icon.gif

Scene Title Scorched Earth, Part III
Synopsis Huruma makes her way to Rasoul's palace to bring him to justice.
Date December 30, 2009


There is no precision in this airstrike, no focus on strictly military targets, just a flattening of the city of Antananarivo without consideration to the people left in it. This isn't a surgical strike, this is a cauterization of a gangrenous wound.

Coming up the rocky hillside where houses once resided, the piles of rubble strewn down the hill were once multi-family residences, now little more than brick and mortar graves where tangles of laundry once strung between the buildings are pulverized beneath smoking debris. Huruma is greeted with the sight of a child's remains, huddled with members of his family, incinerated by the blast of a fuel-air bomb that leveled their neighborhood.

It doesn't matter that a column of Malagasy tanks painted slate gray and marked with Vanguard wolf-head emblems are just two blocks away, gutted by fire and having been destroyed in the same explosion, the civilian casualties here of those living in fear of Rasoul's regime are the flesh and blood of Africa, Huruma's flesh and blood.

With Dajan and Tau far behind her, she is left alone on this crest of a hill, coming atop the pile of ruined homes and the collapsed roof, thing fingers of smoke curling up from beneath where her feet clatter loose stones, clawing up at the heavens like spirits on their journey skyward.

From here, the warzone is more clearly able to be discerned. Helicopters roll in like a carpet of metal, black matte bodies stark against the rising sun at their backs and the heavy moon full behind Huruma. That pale white light silhouettes her leonine form, gives her the shape and color of a hunting cat, even as the first rays of sunlight paint gold and pink across sweat-slicked dark skin spattered with dried blood and dust.

From here, she can see the flashes of gunfire, smoke trails from RPGs fired up from the street towards the helicopters, flashes of missile batteries launching and the roar of jets approaching for a second wave of air suppression to support the United States ground forces. This is not just the death of General Edmond Rasoul's regieme here, this is the death of Madagascar's independance. A US occupation of the country could take generations to stabalize what is left of the nation.

In a way, this is the death of Huruma's homeland.

This is war.

Madagascar has had fifty or so years of its independence from France; sometimes a place just needs a steward, however, and perhaps one of those places is the African island. Loss of freedom because of occupation is nothing new to her; it's happened before, and it will continue until mankind wipes themselves off of the earth. Huruma's first real experience with war was not long after she left home. Uganda around 1979 was a literal hellhole, and she strode right into it; the war with neighboring Tanzania may have uprooted what was left of Amin's regime, but it only made room for a series of new disasters.

As sad as it is, occupation is partly the reason that countries do not fall from the inside out. Then again, sometimes independence works, when the people are united. Madagascar, in its current state, cannot reasonably hope to help itself. She knows this, and though it is war, it is a necessary one.

Huruma's trek away from the others was quick- the flight of a creature spooked- darting here and there, and only eventually ending up on the main route after a succession of wandering turns. It lessens her chance of being bombed on, shot, what have you, but it gives her a peek into the bowels of the capital, where its people are still cowering. She does not linger long, even when she reaches the main street, curved over the breast of the hill.

With everything that is within her head, it feels very crowded- Huruma's features are glassy, though the tendrils of her senses are the fibers that keep her brain connected to the real world. Her usually tall and straight stature is leant forward as she scales the hill, lending the tawny color of her frame a singularly stalking quality one step at a time. Her arms hang loose, one forearm still gripping her rifle that remains tied 'round her chest. White eyes mirror the moon at her rear and reflect a shine from the sun lifting through clouds at her front.

Huruma's course is simple; she must find the one they came here for. She has been run ragged by Madagascar, and there were so few reasons she was here- it has turned into a war against the Remnants, and so priorities change. Rasoul, though he remains faceless in her mind's eye, is the one that she centers her simmering fury onto. Huruma is finished with pussyfooting around trying to solve mysteries, make friends, and save lives. At this point- well- she only wants to take them.

Huruma did not start the fight, but she surely knows how to finish one.

Antananarivo once was a beautiful city, that much Huruma can see in the skeleton of what remains now. It's the same way that a celebrity's fading beauty can give a glimpse back into the person they may have once been. Antananarivo has fallen far from its splendor that once made it the crown of Madagascar. It's along these barren streets, riddled with burned out cars that pre-date the war here that Huruma sees signs of Rasoul's occupation. Ghettos marked with warning signs in Malagasy as "quarantined" neighborhoods where, likely, the Evolved once resided. These fences and barricades are vestigial things, guarding only empty cellar holes and demolished remnants of entire housing complexes that were burned to the ground when Rasoul usurped power here.

In the shadow of what was once a gas station, Huruma watches a row of tanks roll down the street, gray-uniformed soldiers riding atop the old Russian-model mechanized infantry to combat with the United States armed forces. Flashes of fire on the horizon light her way at Huruma's back, and the ascent up towards what was once a national museum — now General Rasoul's seat of power — is a long one.

Thorugh the twisting back yards of wealthy homes, Huruma can't see — but she can feel — the presence of the fearful and the hopeless huddling in their basements, trying to wait out the bombing. They are the ones who blindly followed Rasoul's bloodthirsty edicts on genetic cleansing, the ones who watched herds of Malagasy people marched into slaughterhouses because they possessed a gift. They are perhaps equally guilty for the crimes comitted here, the genocidal war-crimes of a power-hungry madman; guilty of their brutal indifference.

A winding set of garden stairs carries Huruma up towards the palace grounds, past a toppled razorwire fence draped in a sheet of thick plastic, the kind used during building renovations. Warning signs alerting that tresspassers will be shot are discarded on the grass, near to where earth is upheaved from a close proximity explosion in the hillside.

Beyond the fence and past a trampled rose garden, the towering red and green castle looms over the lone woman, shrouded in the silhouette of moonlight, save for the eastern face that glows a brilliant orange-gold from the rising sunlight cutting across Madagascar's shores. With the stacatto rhythm of gunfire and explosions behind her, and warm morning air brushing at her cheeks, she has reached her destination, and from the popping sounds of small arms fire inside, she is not the first.

Immediately at the fore of Huruma's senses, she can feel the presence of conscious minds disappearing, first eight people, then six, then four, then three; Only one of them seemed to move directly out of her line of perception, and she could feel rage in that mind. The others left are mixtures of helplessness, worry and agony.

The sounds and the emotions come from an enormous foyer just beyond the open glass doors Huruma is approaching. Sheets of plastic and metal scaffolding crawl up that side of the palace, where obvious renovations were underway, some windows not yet filled with glass. Inside, larger sheets of plastic are draped along walls, with painters tarps covering portions of the marble floor.

Three emotional presences draw closer as Huruma skirts through the sheets of plastic serving as a partition from the foyer entrance. Dirty footprints trample across the floor from a blown out window, bodies of Vanguard soldiers lay dead on the ground, stripped of their weapons; someone was here before here.

Not far beyond the pillars ahead of her, at the base of a carpeted flight of stairs, Huruma can see someone laying motionless on the marble floor. From the dark cast of her hair and the paleness of her skin, she looks familiar. It's only when Huruma draws closer that she recognizes the face of Candace Allard lying in a pool of her own blood. Trails of blood trickle out of her eyes, nose and mouth, thin lines running from her ears. She's unmoving, but from the presence Huruma senses, still alive.

Not far from here, three civilians lay dead, their AK-47s still laying at their side. Another two are dead some ten feet away, all riddled with bullets. Laying on his side, another civilian that Huruma recognizes from the MLF bunker clutches his stomach, groaning in agony from a not yet fatal bullet wound.

But laying on those stairs, sprawled out on her side in a bloodstained gown, weathered skin slack and hair balding in places, is a ghost of Huruma's past she thought long since gone.

Cradling her side, where blood pulses through her fingers, Huruma sees and feels the pain of someone ripped from her past.


In another place, Huruma may be quite fond of the cinematic motion of her shadow flickering past translucent plastic; right now, however, it only serves as a momentary place to keep out of sight as she silently wanders inside to investigate the physical changes and those emotions she can feel on the wind. The woman passes the edge of one sheet, only to course around the next. Her observations carry her eyes over the dead, and the partially so- the soldiers, first, as she stalks past. Her eyes, still flat, meet those of the MLF soldier for but a moment before she steps over him.

There's someone else- something else- Candy lies there, her figure noted as Huruma's eyes pace across the room. The end of this maze is the staircase- and, as her eyes leave Candace- she is rewarded, in some ways- tortured suddenly in others.

Huruma stops in the middle of the foyer, spine freezing in place and boots glued to the ground; the sounds of outside now warble in her ears as if someone had put her skull underwater, and the thump-thump=thump of her heart still pumping kicks into quickness. There is a knot or two, or three, or perhaps several- the cramping rigidness of the muscles in her torso, the mass of fluttering in her stomach, the grinding heartbeat under her sternum- the drill of her brain as it realizes what exactly is going on.

Huruma does not remember the last time that she struggled so hard to speak; her voice quivers, even so much like an arrow striking a bullseye rather than the common wavering borne of shock.


Etana needn't look to know who is coming for her, she needn't even speak, this has played out in her mind enough times to know the truth of the situation; even if they were all flights of fancy. Somehow she always assumed it would be this way, on opposite ends of the spectrum of life that they would be reunited. "«Do not… be so emotional.»" She needn't speak English, not here, not with Huruma. Turning her head to look up at the younger woman, seeing her face dappled with the blood her her enemies, dried and flaked to her skin in the same way her own blood clings wet to her own skin, Etana can appreciate the dichotomy.

"«You always were— so full of emotion.»" Sqallowing with difficulty, Etana struggles to rests on one elvow upon the stairs, the fingers of her left hand pressed firm into her waist where blood continues to leave her body in thing rivulets between her fingers. "«Do not make this old woman shout,»" she adds with a wry smile, her teeth pinked when they are shown, "«come here.»"

Silence has suffused the foyer. The MLF soldier that was gripping at his stomach now lays motionless, and Huruma can feel the flagging sensation of his last few terrified thoughts before the life wholly drains out of him. That is a truth she has come to know, to accept, that few people ever die at peace — death is a terrifying thing. It makes this all the more difficult.
Huruma's ability manifested long after she left home, in a far off place- but somehow she always knew that Etana knew- or at least would find out that she was the same. Evolved in the eyes of science, yet a Gift of God anywhere else. The old woman's words put a gosling's shiver over dark skin, the prickling of reality coming back to her. Etana hardly needs to ask anything of her granddaughter- it was always that way. Huruma would already be starting something when the old woman told her to. It is no different now, as Huruma steps forward moments before she is beckoned.

The rifle in hand slackens, hanging dully against her thigh. Her voice is soft now, and steadying. "Nyanya-" Candace is as good as a log, for all the more Huruma takes any other notes as she steps over the hydrokinetic. Huruma's approach is everything that could be called reverent; her hands find the stairs first, palms scraping against the carpeted surface. The knees of her dusty and bloody pants bend against the stairs below where Etana is struggling to remain face-up. As a result, when she finally comes to the old woman's level, Etana is looking down to her. One dark hand shifts from the stair, lifting up to touch fingers to the wrist on the hand clutching the bleeding wound. In that brevity, her granddaughter is a spare and spent eight years old again.

Those eyes, meanwhile, have shed the glaze and are now as bright and as alert as they can manage to be, finding Etana's face during the sink and sway of descending onto the stairs.

Pride brings Etana up to sit as straight as she can, without leaning on her arm. That hand not clutching her wound reaches out to palm the side of Huruma's face, thumb brushing over her cheekbone. "«Always with scraped knees,»" she admits in a gentle tone of voice, "«always putting yourself where you shouldn't be, but are needed in.»" That hand moves away, feigned strength failing as Etana's hand comes to rest on the corner of the carpeted stair, fingers winding around the edge. She swallows, then exhales a ragged breath as her dark eyes scan the stairs, then look back up to her granddaughter.

"«Providence brings you back here, doesn't it?»" Etana finds some amusement in that revelation, looking down to the floor and towards a distant doorway where muddy footprints track, then instead up to the top of the stairs. "«I can't bandage your knees right now, my dear. You'll— have to do it yourself this time.»" There's a squint to her eyes, the expression she bears an inscrutable mix of smile and grimace. "«The General is not far from here, he's killed… many of your friends. I've tried to protect them, but the world is a cruel place, even for old lions like us.»"

Leaning back on the stairs, Etana closes her eyes partway. "«Don't blame Dajan for not telling you… he blames himself for what happened to me.»"

There is something electric in Etana's touch, for Huruma. Subconscious effort leans the edge of her face into the old woman's palm, like her being reunited with a long lost pet. A loyal one will always come back, and the smart ones remember what its like to be touched. Huruma leans in as Etana leans back, hawking overhead; its not unfamiliar- she did it all the time. Stooping over her grandmother's bed in the middle of the night, waiting for something. Neither of them ever figured out what, as the girl would scamper away as soon as she was seen.

"«He knew- he knew you were here? Does he know you're his …family?»" It feels foreign to speak of family, just a bit- Dajan knew virtually none growing up. In the end, that's what it is. There is a generation missing, but regardless, the ties that bind now are ones of blood. The General may be not far- but as he is not here, the words are second in priority, by far. Huruma's hand finds the smaller, wiry one, the one that rests over the stair. A weight presses onto frail shoulder; Huruma's head finds Etana's arm, and while the large woman hangs overhead, it is almost saddening that she deigns to contort herself downward so much to just do what she used to do.

He is such a good boy, mama. I hurt him before, and with my being here, and even when I do not mean to- I do not deserve his calling me mother.»" It was bound to happen- she has been keeping it down for weeks, and the words keen softly out of her throat. "«I find him here, and now you…»"

Even monsters cry, sometimes.

Always skinned knees…»" Etana chides, reaching up again to brush that hand beneath one of Huruma's eyes, fingernail catching a tear as she had decades ago, keeping it in the long curve of those pale nails, then flicked down to the floor, cast away back to where tears fall, she'd say. "«He knows what he needs to. He knows I care, and he knows that you did what you had to. But he still refused to understand.»" Offering a hesitant smile, she shakes her head. "«I was never able to cradle him in my arms, I could only watch him from afar. The Devil had kept me here, deader than I am now.»"

A hard swallow comes, and Etana exhales a ragged cough. "«But that is all over now, that age is ending here today one way or another…»" Etana tilts her head back, looking at Huruma — no past her.

"Mother!" Dajan's voice sounds like a peal of thunder thorugh the hall, and his erratic bootfalls carry him through the lavish and plastic-shrouded atrium and into the hall, skidding to a stop on the marble floor as he sees the dead MLF soldiers and Candy laying bleeding on her side. "G— God above." His eyes flick up, spotting Etana — physical — and bleeding. "Tau!"

The other footfalls are not far behind, and Tau-Bah Nwabueze's gigantic frame follows in behind Dajan, coming to a skidding halt as he sees Candy laying in a pool of her own blood. "It is th' Asian woman…" He quickly takes a knee, bringing a hand to lay across her forehead, then looks up and spots Etana. "Oracle," he splutters out with wide eyes, then dips his head down to look away from her, as if she shouldn't set eyes on her. He's using the time to assess Candy's situation.

"Mother," Dajan comes walking past Candy to Huruma, one hand clutching his missing arm. "Where— What happened here?"
The Dawn of a new Age. Poetic, yet completely to the point.

The thunder of Dajan's voice is not lost on Huruma's momentarily vulnerable senses. Her muscles tense, and her ears watch the scene for her. Dajan's presence, and Tau not far behind. Candy still lying below the staircase. There is no ducking away from this- her son gets closer still, unintentionally approaching a potentially ticking bomb. Huruma wouldn't lash out at him- or Etana- perhaps herself- but somehow she gathers enough of her wits together to lift her torso back up and turn it to face him. Her hand still clutches onto the old woman's, solidly gripped, though not forceful.

The light layer of dust and blood on Huruma's face offers some contrast to her skin. That tawny savanna brown, and the tinge of her dark skin underneath- and the strings where the dust has been shunt off by tears down her face. Her lips are half open, a wrinkle around her nose forming when teeth come together, grinding themselves shut. Huruma's eyes fix for a moment onto Dajan.

That look on her is like the feral look she gave him when they first came to blows- when Gabriel trapped her thrashing on a table, and Tau cowered from her attack. It is not for him. Dajan and Tau see the former's mother laid emotionally bare for what feels an hour, but in fact it is only a few seconds.

Huruma's hackles raise on a psychic and ethereal level, sinewy neck jerking to look back down to Etana. "«Nyanya- he is up there?»"

Etana's nod is a slow one, her eyes shutting briefly as she does. Before Etana can spea the same warning she was trying to give before, Tau is speaking over her. "She is alive," he says of Candy, moving his hand from her brow. She's 'ad a stroke, a'don' know if a'can help 'er." Moving from Candy's side, Tau starts to walk towards where Etana rests on the stairs, looking between Dajan and Huruma, then down to the old oracle with an expression of guilt, or perhaps remorse.

"General Rasoul is at the silo…" Etana nods her head up the stairs, then looks back to Huruma. "He knows everything has come to ruin, and if he cannot have this country, no one will. He has a nuclear weapon, and he is going to detonate it here in the city…" there's a squint of her eyes. "He has already released his gas by now into the city, the gas that weakens our kind." Her dark brows rise up slowly. "He thinks that will stop anyone from preventing the— " her words hitch in her throat, a wince of pain, but she tries to hide it — she can't hide it from Huruma. "S— Stop anyone from preventing the detonation."

Swallowing a mouthfull of blood, Etana chokes back the disgust of the sensation and looks back to Huruma and Dajan again. "You have to stop him. It is why you were brought here, back home… close this circle."

"We mus' go an' protect this country." Tau states firmly, even as Dajan is simply walking wordlessly up the stairs past Etana. "I will'no allow th' Gen'ral to do this— to take th' coward's way out." Rankling his nostrils, Tau looks to Huruma intently. "You w'searchin' f'you bomb, Huruma. It seems we 'ave found it."

"You are not going anywhere." Etana says sharply to Tau. "Did you think I was just going to lay here and heroically die for the greater good?" The old woman swats a hand at Tau's leg soundly. "You're going to sit yourself down on these stairs and heal me. My granddaughter and grandson can handle the likes of the General." Tau practically shrinks back from Etana's chastising, his eyes wide and then head bowing sharply.

"Y— yes… ma'am." Tau murmurs with a semblance of humility, looking up to Dajan on the stairs, then Huruma nearby. "Go…" Tau states flatly, brows furrowed, "Go end this."

So it is here. Huruma's already thumping heart fills her ears again. At least this time she waits for those addressing each other to finish before making a move. She meets Tau's eyes, Dajan's shoulders, Etana's face one last time.

Next thing anyone knows, Huruma is on her feet and vaulting up the staircase- her long legs, despite muscles being tired and burning, take her two and at one point- three at a time. She somehow makes that happen by landing her hands on the stair ahead; she is not only running up the stairs, but near the top it is the clambering of an angry beast taking a running pinwheel over a manmade floor, and soon she is cresting the top, a ricochet of movement bounding off from the wall.

Better keep up.

Dajan is up the stairs with Huruma, following behind her with thumping footfalls against the red carpet. Without a gun to aid him, Dajan is left with but his ablity and one arm, but if asked on the subject, he would admit he only needs one hand to choke the life out of General Edmond Rasoul. Leading the pack, Huruma winds past the foyer, where a tall painting of Edmond Rasoul stands proudly in his full dress uniform, like any proud dictator would have in their home. Up a second flight of stairs and to the balcony overlooking the foyer, she can see Tau taking a knee to tend to Etana, even as she follows the emotional scent she had picked up earlier — rage — that had to have been Rasoul.

Dajan does his best to keep up with his mouth, even though his body is still suffering from the greivous wound and the shock he has undergone at the hands of Tau's ability pumping him so ful of adrenaline and endorphins to keep him functional for combat. He follows Huruma into a lavish study filled with books floor to ceiling in darkly stained shelves, past long tables lined with high-backed chairs, past an antique globe of the earth, and then down a masoned corridor of marble blocke with recessed lanterns lighthning the way.

The second floor hallway heads to the north wind of the palace, across a long, window-lined hallway that views to the receeding darkness of night to one side, and the burning light of dawn rising triumphantly on the other, pushing back that chill of darkness. In many ways, this battle could not have fallen on a more symbolic hour.

Bursting through a pair of double-hinged doors, Huruma explodes into a massive hemispherical balcony overlooking a grand glass walled ballroom. Beyond the curving glass wall, she can see portions of the manicured lawn of the palace sliding open atop metallic hinges where the artificial turf is unhinging and opening to reveal an active missile silo. Flashing orange and yellow lights shine bright inside, warning klaxons that a missile launch is about to take place.

More horrifyingly, is Dajan's revelation as he comes to a stop at the balcony, slamming his midsection into it and bracing himself with his good hand. "Sweet mother of God…" he breathes out the words, watching four other missile silos within view of the ballroom opening. There, below, standing on the black and white checkerboard ballroom floor, Edmond Rasoul turns slowly, his brows furrowed and arms outspread as he watches the silos opening, a remove control device clutched firmly in one hand, a trigger held against his palm.

A dead-man's switch.

Huruma's vision blinks through the doors, her field extended like whiskers once again, bristling sharp and spiny in her head. Her eyes first take in the distance, the windows showing the lawn peeling apart to expose needle-nosed harbingers of destruction. Her gaze sweeps slowly down, icy and lit by an inner light; pinprick black pupils find the man in the center of the ballroom floor, shining and brilliant in the hues of natural light coming into the glass windows. Huruma's archvillains must always have such good taste.

She stands at the top of the single ramp of stairs leading down, looking severely out of place in the sterile environment, with her dusty and bloody clothes. The woman assimilates quickly to the room- her posture straightens, shoulders set back and chin lifting so that she is staring down her face to Edmond Rasoul. Her hips have tilted in a languid shift, one long arm to her side, the other finding delicate perch over the rifle at her side, aiming from her thigh.

Huruma, all of a sudden, is at the top of her game. Though she has literally crawled out of a warzone, her manner now is as refined as the golden filigree set into the expanse of the ballroom. One foot lifts, setting down toe-first on the next stair. Her body follows, and Huruma saunters down only a few of the finely carpeted stairs before taking a repose there, waiting for the first mistake to take advantage over. A predator's patience can be very short- or very long.

"How many of you do I have to kill today?" Rasoul's first words come loudly proclaimed over the klaxons blaring outside. As he turns, he holds out the dead-man's switch, brows raised and a pearly-white smile flashed across tanned skin. When he takes in the sight of Huruma, then Dajan behind her following in silent procession down the stairs, Rasoul's smile falters some. "Ah, you." There's almost disappointment in the man's voice, his eyes narrowed into slits.

"You're a little late, everyone is a little late. As you can see behind me, the fruit of a military complex's labor is being plucked from still green vines. If the United States wishes to claim victory from me, they will not have this nation's carcass to strip the meat from. They will have nothing."

Polished dress shoes spattered with blood carry Rasoul across the checkered floor towards Huruma, dead-man's switch raised. "All I need do, is drop this, and the missiles launch. Four nuclear warheads I planned on using to ensure dominance of a new Madagascar, that will now cauterize this country of foreign influence and you disgusting aberrations."

"Why!?" Dajan's rage rises in him, wells up like an overfull cup. "Look at all of the suffering you have caused! Look at what you did to this country!" Spitting with anger, the tile floor rattles under Dajan's footfalls. "Look at what you did to our people!"

"This world is beyond saving." Rasoul retorts, a fire in his eyes that Huruma has seen in Adam before. "You don't understand the lengths at which Kazimir Volken was willing to go to purge your kind from the face of this earth. This place— " he waves a hand around at Antananarivo, "was supposed to be one of the Gardens of Eden, one of the birthplaces of a new mankind, a pure mankind. One born without genetic corruption. It was my job to breed a new humanity here!" Huruma can feel frustration, disappointment, sadness. Somehow, this sickening genocidal plot was all that Rasoul had. "The flood is coming. The people of Madagascar— of the world— will die. Nothing you do here, nothing can stop that now."

"No one man can destroy what God made." Dajan's indignation takes on a very righteous shade. "You are not God, you do not have the right!" Dajan's one remaining hand winds into a tight fist, and the marble floor tiles begin rattling, vibrating up from their masoned foundings.

"No, I am not God. But Volken… he was a man of foresight that defied even God's will." Rasoul's black eyes are practically dead, the fire of his quest dying in them as bombs continue to fall on Antananarivo. "He will flood the world and wash away everything. Even in his death he persists. Now, it seems… I am fated to join him." He swallows, tensely, "This could have been paradise. Now…" Rasoul lets go of the dead man's switch, "…I will join lord Volken."

"NO!" Dajan charges forward, and the world seems to move in a parody of motion, still and slow as the switch's lever flings out and green light turns red. The switch drops, bouncing off of the tile floor, and Dajan's footfalls carry himn past the device, taking a wild one-handed swing at Rasoul. The thinner, faster man brings up his arm, blocking the punch and delivering a snap kick across the side of Dajan's brow, sending the terrakinetic aside and to the ground.

The roar of jet engines fill the air, a thundering tremor shuddering the foundations of the palace, and like something out of a nightmare, the four nuclear ICBMs begin to rise out of their silos.

There is nothing that Huruma can do, within the sense of normalcy, to stop the missiles from lifting out of their sheaths. She stays alighted on the stairs for the length of Dajan and Rasoul's verbal and physical blows; whatever clockwork is going inside of her head does not register on her features, nor her body. Even as the angel of her subconscious is kicked to the ground, and the devil boils on her shoulder, Huruma is as still as a statue. A regal picture, even with the grime of war. When she moves, it is not to lift her rifle higher in its aim, nor step further down. The muzzle stays fixed, as do her eyes. Instead, her free arm dips, and one leg bends upward so that she can pop off her boot, letting it roll down the steps.

Somehow, she makes it look so meaningful. "I would feel pity f'you…" She stands straight again, using her bard foot to pry the other boot off, and it rolls down to meet the other with a dull bump of leather. "But- it woul'be a waste o'm'precious time. At least I'ave discovered things important t'me, here, in this country." Huruma steps forward down the stairs now, rifle trained. A tiny smile twitches on her lips. The carpet is soft under her feet, and for once in weeks, she stands completely comfortable with the world around her. She is back in her element, blocking out the world outside the ballroom. Huruma's voice purrs, echoing not only her naturally cooing calculation, but the velvet gravel of Etana.

"Thank you, Edmond Rasoul. You brought me home, t'my family- m'son." Huruma's hand wraps around the hilt at her belt, silver machete drawing out to glint in the flashing and ever-changing light. "I shall see you again in Hell when I die." She has no doubt, no illusions. "And I will die feeling your heart splitting between m'teeth."

As that bloodied machete is drawn out in Huruma's hand, Dajan takes heavy steps to move at her side, his one good arm held out in front of his narrowed profile, fingers curling slowly into the air, one digit at a time locking into a fist, booted feet spreading out to widen his stance. Face to face with mother and son, Rasoul's upper lip twitches, like a fish with a hook in his mouth, fingers flexing closed as he arches his back and then spreads his stance out as well, one hald held flat and towards her, as if offering something, the other in a fist at waist height.

"You misunderstand." Rasoul says with a bloodthirsty certainty as the roar of rockets scream behind him, billowing plumes of smoke and flame trailing the ICBMs as they make their slow ascent up on plumes of flame that shatter the windows behind the General, raining down in glittering shards. That noise, that eruption, is like the starter-gun firing at a race, for the son of Madagascar's soil and the General that drenched it in blood snap into immediate action.

Dajan's body moves in low and sweeping motions, ducking beneath a jack-knife of a kick snapping out from Rasoul, his thick and muscled form sweeping low to the ground and then rising up, striking out with his one scarred hand to slam in the middle of the General's chest. The dapper-dressed man launches back, retaining his footing after the impact, dress shoes skidding slick across the tiled floor.

"I will bury you here!" Dajan howls, hopping up on one foot, bounding forward and then scooping his hand along the ground, ripping up chunks of concrete and floor tiles into the air in an earthen wave of stone shards. Rasoul's reflexes seem heightened somehow, cat-quick and just as nimble, springing away from the rocketing pieces of stone in a sideways flip, legs vaulting in an arc overhead before landing him in a crouch, one hand touching the floor, fingers splayed.

"I will be the only one to survive this scorched earth," Rasoul intones with a furrow of his brows, "I have no intention— no capacity to die here." Dajan breathes in a sharp breath, shoulders rising and falling and sweat slicked on his forehead. His broad body forms a perfect silhouette, hiding Huruma behind him, until like dance partners at a ballet, Dajan drops into a split and lunges his upper body forward, allowing Huruma to spring out from behind him like a lion in tall grass.

A shower of metal bits falls across the floor during this first exchange between Rasoul and Dajan; it is due to Huruma having dislodged the rifle's magazine and flicked its contents over the disturbed floor. They bounce and clink past, the rifle itself slipping from her shoulder to loop over the rail of the stairs as she descends the rest ahead of her. The woman falls in line behind Dajan as if given a cue, looming behind him like Pan's shadow stretching across the wall.

When he drops and lunges, Huruma's stare is on the general ahead of them; while she does not make an assault on his mind, there is a natural electricity coursing through the whiteness of her eyes and the silver of the bloody machete as it flutters to a better grip within her palm. She is crouched to spring- the muscles in her legs bunch together seconds before she is given a path forward. This path forward may be somewhat unorthodox, but there is no rulebook being slung here. Huruma leaps, one foot connecting with the broadside of Dajan's back- he is tall enough, and sturdy enough- that even her weight as it pounces onto him is fleeting at best; her foot plants, leg bending and stretching to bounce her into the air.

Huruma's breath makes only one sound- the grunt and puff that comes before that tall grass parts into teeth and claws. The machete, in this instance, has the role of the latter, and it moves so quickly it appears to be an extension of her limb. As her other leg stretches out to catch her landing, her shoulders are narrowing back; her free arm tucks to guard, the machete whirling diagonally earthward and arcing towards the sky in a lightning-quick underhand swipe aimed to slice Rasoul from thigh to opposite shoulder.

The blade comes up, slicing through Rasoul's thigh and up across his stomach, a spray of hot blood wetting Huruma's lips as the General unleashes a pained howl, his body stumbling backwards as her upwards cut ends on his jugular, letting arterial red shoot in a throb across the black and white tiles of the ballroom. He clutches at his throat, horror painting in his face before he collapses back against one of the draped crimson and gold curtains set against the stone columns between the sections of blown out windows.

He tears the curtains from their rails, metal rings snap-snap-snapping as the red cloth comes down to fall over him like a shroud where he collapses against the wall. Dajan rises behind his mother, shoulders squared and a misting of sweat glistening on his brow. "You a' just a man, General…" Dajan states with contempt, his scarred hand flexing open and closed as he comes to his mother's side, watching the red-wrapped body slouch to the ground, darker colors of blood staining the fabric. "You are not God."

Turning to regard his mother, Dajan's brows furrow, jaw set and eyes focused to the white plumes of missile contrails headed up to the sky. He has accepted this, accepted the end that is coming. But Huruma cannot, will not accept what she sees with Rasoul buried beneath that red cloth. Something is wrong, terrible wrong.

Death is a terror, no one dies at peace.

Rasoul should not be calm.

"Am I not?" Comes the gurgling response from beneath the cloth. One knuckled finger reaches out to part the curtain, and slowly, that red fabric trimmed with gold begins sliding down from Rasoul's rising body. Black veins course up through the side of his face where his throat was slashed, a scar now where laceration should have severed his artery and killed him. Shedding his shredded suit jacket and shirt that Huruma's slash cleaved open, Rasoul shows the scars lining his torso, deep surgical scars that vivisected him from sternum to groin. Thinner scars of replaced tissue cover one side of his body, where paler skin contrasts against his olive complexion.

"I have become so much more than you." Rasoul says with wide, black eyes, his mouth open to a knife-like smile of pearly white. Everywhere Huruma's blade cut him, his skin has turned deep purple like a bruise, with blackness in his veins slithering spider-web style under his skin, scar-tissue where open flesh should be.

Horror dawns on Dajan as he stares wide-eyed at what Rasoul has become, chiseled muscles of a man who has honed his body into a living weapon, turned into some monstrous abomination by some God-perverted science. "What have you done?" The breathy horror in his tone fails to express just how revolted he is in words. Rasoul can only hold open his palms, spread his arms wide, revealing the glory of his changed form.

"Doctor Gregor has given me immortality." Rasoul growls out, a deep breath drawn in through his powerful lungs. "Your regenerator was the key to his research, the key to my rebirth. A human that can live forever, the purity of our species preserved for all time. I have succeeded where Volken had failed." His arms drop to his side, feet spread again, and Rasoul adopts his fighting stance once more. "I have transcended death."

Huruma watches Rasoul tumble, bleed- she knows that his literal fall was perhaps too poetic, and as he rises again, revealing himself- she can both feel and see why. Her stance is squared, torso still bent slightly from when she had recoiled again from her strike. Her arms are held in a guarded position in front of her, hand and blade poised. The fresh blood sprayed on her tingles in her nostrils, the familiar metallic taste on her lips. Dajan's sensibilities are affected by Rasoul's reveal, while her own boil up from below- somewhere, in her head, she is jealous of this- but in the end, she knows what it is. Faux immortality. He is a fake, no matter how much he wishes otherwise.

"You have done no such thing…" Huruma's words float from her lips with a laughing undercurrent. "Evolution is human, y'still'ave no'realized- if evolution were not th'way of our birth, w'woul'still b'the lemurs and monkeys, leaping from tree t'tree. If you must worship something- science? Then at least do it justice b'knowing its tale. Nor are those your parts- it is only a matter of time b'fore your brain rejects them." She is laughing throatily now, her lips pulled back in a mirthlessly wide smile, voice drawling. "I know what immortality looks like. And you, you are no Monroe, Rasoul."

"We are more human than you shall ever be, in spirit and flesh." The general may have his new tricks, but the human body- ironically- can only lose so much blood.

Huruma takes no time now, fixing her eyes on the man ahead of her; an echo of fear plays in his brain. A prelude of static, like a long-legged ungulate pausing to look over its shoulder, knowing that something is there, and ready to try and kill it. The woman that is the cause rushes forward, steel machete flying from one side to the other through the air, aiming to slice across Rasoul's stomach.

With a primal scream, Rasoul's shirtless form lunges forward, palms slapping on either side of the Machete's blade, grasping the edge as it comes down. The razor-shaep edge cuts into his palms, blood flowing down his bare forearms and mixing with sweat, but he does not mind the pain now — he knows it means nothing to him. The sword he jerked aside, and Rasoul hops and twists his waist, a roundhouse kick separating Huruma from Machete as he knocks her staggering to the side from the contact of foot to temple. The machete is spun around, wielded now by the regenerating madman.

"Die!" Dajan's voice thunders like an earthquake through the balcony as he moves to fill his mother's space, one foot lifting up in the air before he hop-stomps down ont he ground, kicking of a stalactite-shaped puiece of the floor, concrete pushing up between the tiles in jagged, rocky thrusting. Rasoul sidesteps the blade of earth, brings a hand up to the side of it and vaults over it, his machete edge slashing across Dajan's chest, sending a line of blood spraying across the floor.

"These missiles with lay Antananarivo to ruin…" Rasoul growls, a thin line of saliva dribbling down from the corner of his mouth, "…and I will rise from the ashes to find a new Eden before the great flood comes. I will start over, again and again if I have to." the blade is flourished, leaving a trail of crimson on the ground before a second slash is delivered across Dajan's face, a deep cut over his brow sending him crumpling to the floor.

Something outside catches Huruma's eye as she finally catches her senses from the blow to her head. The contrails the missiles left on their ascension from the capital should have diffuses by now. But trailing low to the ground, a chalky yellow-white vapor is slowly climbing up the mountain. It hasn't reached the peak, it clings to the slops of the hill, to the rose garden outside like a cloying sun-colored fog. She knows that mist, knows that gas.

She knows what it did to Claire.

Huruma has only felt a kick like that once before- and that was the one and only time she got kneed in the face by a camel. It reminds her however, that so far Rasoul has been favoring his kicks, and the grappling blocks of his arms. It will let her form a strategy when the time comes- but right now her crouch gives her a rat's eye view of the floor, the windows- the garden outside, and finally that rolling fog now straggling up the confines of the capital.

A noise akin to a hyena's chuckle escapes her as she lifts herself up, eyes casting over Dajan before going to Rasoul. Huruma still smiles, teeth parted. Any good soldier makes sure to carry more than one weapon- it is the paranoid and experienced that carry even more. Huruma's fingers dip down the side of her pocket, slipping back out with a clicking glint of more silver. A full-size, razor-bladed balisong, while nowhere near a machete, can still cut. And cut deep, potentially.

Huruma does not lunge first this time, instead pacing to her side with the knife at the ready and her other finger crooking at the general, beckoning. Talk is cheap, asshole.

Hubris is the fall of any great leader, and like Kazimir Volken before him, General Edmond Rasoul is full of himself and his achievements. Wtih Dajan clutching the bleeding wound on his face, Rasoul rushes across the tiled floor towards Huruma, sliding purposefully in Dajan's blood as he ducks beneath the sweep of her glinting blade through the air. His sweeps up, broad and chipped along the edge, and finds nothing but the rush of wind as Huruma moves with a dancer's grace around the machete edge.

Her blade flickers out with stiletto speed, and Rasoul's quick hand movements use his single-edged blade to flick the knife edge away. In that motion she's starting to get an idea on his style, so at home with a single edged sword and his kicks, something east-asian, maybe originating in Thailand or Korea.

Their dance is a silent one now, as Rasoul pushes himself towards Huruma with a clash of their weapons, his size shorter than hers, his blade larger, somehow the two meet in the middle in an equilibrium of speed and strength. Fluid and circular sword motions lash out towards the onyx-skinned warrior, meeting home once as a deep gast is cut across her right bicep, bleeding bright red against dark skin, and her knife plunges deep in Rasoul's chest from the blow. He winces, teeth red, and his forehead comes into direct contact with hers, knocking Huruma back with her blade embedded in his chest still.

Rasoul presses his advance, blade raised high over his head, blood pulsing around where the knife is stuck in his torso, blue-black veins and bruising trying ot regenerate around it but his ability not strong enough to force it out. As his edge comes down, there is a baleful cry — Dajan's voice — and then a shower of sparks.

Interposed between Huruma and Rasoul, Dajan stands with an arm having stopped the macehete entirely. It is not flesh, not bone, but an entire arm of concrete that he has formed with his ability to replace his missing limb. Commanded by his terrakinesis, his gigantic concrete arm, riddled with pieces of jagged rebar and serrated edges of shattered floor tiles presses against the machete edge.

"You…" Dajan growls as he leans in close to Rasoul, "are no God." The terrakinetic swings his flesh hand forward, grabbing the knife and wrenching it in the wound, eliciting a painful howl from Rasoul as he rips it out, and then drives it in to the General's right eye socket.

Stone cracks and breaks, Dajan's concrete arm begins to crumble from his lack of concentration, and Rasoul stumbles back with a gurgling scream as his fingers fumble where the knife is buried hilt-deep in his eye socket. He falters back towards the blown out windows of the second-floor ballroom, roiling clouds of yellow-white gas below.

Ripping the knife out of the socket, Rasoul lets out a pained cry, his breathing taking a sharp inhale as blood and eye gore spray the ground. The balisong drops to the ground with a clatter, and his destroyed eye begins to bloom back to life in the socket. Rasoul's laughter is deep, throaty and choking with disbelief. "I— I told you!" He screams into the room, amazed to have survived. "I am immortal!"

The blood on her arm is regarded only when she is able- when Dajan has thrown himself back into the fray. But even Huruma cannot pay attention to her own wound when Dajan is wielding an earthen limb like something of a superhero. Her eyes stir wider as she slinks back to allow him another few inches of space, slipping back again when they engage and Dajan begins to wrench the balisong in its place, and then finally sinks it into the general's eye.

What is the deal with people getting their eyes gouged on this island?

Huruma's muscles tense, an excited shiver running up her spine and under her skin, up into her head as Rasoul tears the balisong out of his eye, illuminated from behind by the light of day mixed with the fires of the city. A flash comes from somewhere beyond, white sputtering light flickering across the horizon. It brings the clouds surrounding the palace into sharp focus for her. No matter how much she despises being without her ability, even Huruma knows that sometimes she has to grin and bear the possibility.

The tall woman begins stalking forward, eyes wild and teeth bared- spittle and blood is already frothing out when she opens her mouth, letting out that hellish scream into the air- the riling anger of a monster being shaken in its shackles manifesting as close to a roar as a human can make, the shriek underneath of it ringing in the General's ears. She lunges now, long legs taking her into a straight and forceful sprint towards him; her arms are outstretched, one hand, fingers like claws going to wrap around the wrist holding her machete. The other simply goes to his throat.

Pure Terror boils through Edmond Rasoul when Huruma rushes him, closing in faster than his heartbeats may be timing her.

Huruma's size and speed on their own are formidable; add them to this raw mindset, and the math can be frightening. Even more so when she has done this with the intention of shoving them both out of the window.

"Mother!" Dajan's scream is drowned by the sound of Huruma's charge, by the roar of ICBMs streaking into the heavens with plumes of white smoke and flames behind them. Rasoul's scream is what prevents her from hearing Dajan's voice, the scream of pain from her teeth sinking into his regenerative flesh, from the feeling of warm blood running over her lips.

The pair twist and spin in tangled unison out the destroyed windowm hurtling from twos tories up towards the rose garden below. Huruma feel the bite of metal on flesh, the raised edge of his Machete flailing in absolute horror at her, sliding up into her side like a flesh sheath as her teeth suck flesh and tendon from his neck, tongue parting muscle from cartilidge and feeling the living squirm of his tissue trying to regenerate around her teeth.

Rasoul's fingers press at Huruma's face, push her head back, try to get her teeth from his neck, and the sudden spine-shattering impact of Rasoul's body hitting the thorned rose garden below breaks his focus, breaks his back and his body softens Huruma's fall some, but drives that wide machete blade further up into her side.

Blood erupts from Rasoul's mouth as he feels that oily sensation of the neuro-toxin gas that he released into the city coursing through his veins. A calculated plan, depower the entire city save for his palace, bathe it in nuclear fire, and rise from the ashes a god reborn. The perfect failsafe, the perfect escape plan. He can see the wilding in Huruma's eyes as her ability is robbed from her, feel the howling scream insanity wrack what should otherwise be a sane mind.

His organs fail, one by one, new kidneys and heart, new intestines and liver, all of the harvested organs retrieved from Claire Bennet that could have granted him immortality, that turned him into a Frankenstein's Monster breaking down. The pain is unimaginable, the feeling of his body tearing itself apart along the seams, scar tissue splitting open where regenerative flesh dies at contact with the gas. His throat bleeds, and a gurgling murmur escapes from the dying General's lips; "Clever girl."

The rose garden around them is on fire, burning roses lit ablaze by the booster rockets of the ICBMs that have disappeared into the heavens on white pillars of smoke. The flames cast such bright light in the gas, sending Rasoul and Huruma's shadows painted across the outside walls of the palace.

Rasoul could die a slow and painful death, but the scream Huruma releases, the animal howl that cries against the full moon, all of that and more says he will not be so blessed.

Her silhouette cast by the fire bears down on Rasoul, and the horrified sounds of her promise coming true echoes across Antananarivo.

He gets to watch her eat his heart before he dies.

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