Scorched Earth, Part IV


aviators_icon.gif candy_icon.gif caocao_icon.gif claire3_icon.gif dajan_icon.gif etana_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif sanderson_icon.gif tau_icon.gif usutu_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

cat_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Scorched Earth, Part IV
Synopsis As the war for Madagascar reaches its climax, the surviving members of Bravo Team each find more than just escape awaiting them, and for one a difficult decision must be made.
Date December 30, 2009


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams

Blood explodes from her mouth, an eruption of crimson trickling down from dark jaws. Crimson runs in this lines where sanity is divided away by the coppery taste of vengeance. Overhead, smoke and flames join in fingers of great wrath that rise up to grasp at the heavens. Between her teeth, his flesh is rent and squeezed of life, life stolen from another. She is surrounded by smoldering flames, a dark silhouette stared down at from above by a horrified son.

In death's dream kingdom

Blood explodes from her mouth, a choking cough as a hand is removed from her forehead. Dark fingers pull from pale skin slicked with red and sweat. Warm and compassionate eyes stare back at ones rimmed with bloody tears. She recalls not the doorway of death, but a vision of the future extended to her like a skeletal hand. Behind the healer's massive frame, the old prophet rests silent on stairs that ascend towards the glow of rocket engines at her back.

These do not appear

Blood explodes from her mouth, a wheezing exhalation of breath as she feels someone cradling her, hands trembling, eyes glassy and body cold. The marine brushes her hand across the blonde's forehead, settling skull and bone and brain matter back together, watchng in disbelief as pieces fuse in place, as hair seals seams, but fails to repair the most grievous injury of all. The marine's tear-filled eyes hide her pain and show it all in one. Nearby, a dark-skinned man's bloodied body has been ripped clean of flesh, like a wild dog had attacked.

There, the eyes are

"Stop! Stop!" He throws himself from the window, feet spread a shoulder's width apart as he sails down into the dispersing yellow gas, swirling tendrils of mist coiling around his body as he lands soundly on the blood-wetted grass. He chokes, coughs and retches from the smoke that clings oily to him, but moves without hesitation towards her dark silhouette, eyes settled no so much on the flesh-rent body of the General nearby, but the foot of steel run thorugh her body.

Sunlight on a broken column

The hydrokinetic's eyes open weakly, tears rolling down her cheeks. When she sees the sun rising through the shattered windows of the ballroom, it is as if for the first time. Spared from death's door, she has also been spared from the vision of the future that Etana has imparted to her. Fiction, every last syllable of it, but fiction that could become fact were she to continue walking down a self-indulgent path. The oracle, the liar, offers out a hand to help her up, eyes not judging, but hoping.

There, is a tree swinging

"We have to go…" The marine hisses in pained breathing, the blonde's arm slung over her shoulder, escorting her down the concrete hall where orange security lights bloom and die in steady rythm; the heartbeat of the fortress, slowly dying. They both trail blood, drizzling lines of it, and soon their roles are reversed, and it is the blonde that carries the weight of the brunette on her shoulders, dragging her heels up concrete steps and towards the light of a new day.

Fear fills the son's eyes as he gazes on the mother, watches the way the blood rolls in lines down her lips, the way it must have on that day so long ago. All his scars tingle with phantom pain, as if the flesh remembers. But family is about acceptance, family is about love, and it is those things that Dajan Dunsimi has lacked for so long towards Huruma. It is not a fearful, or a loathing hand that is offered out to her, it is a helping one. A hand that offers, "Let me help you up." A burden to share.

And voices are

Yellow gas parts, the thrumming noise of distant explosions only now end, even as contrails of smoke and fire rise up to the heavens. Once glass-faced doors open, emptying out into the burned garden of roses, flames from rocket thrusters charred the flowers black. Tau exits first, a hand at Candace Allard's back, guiding her carefully out the doors towards the sound of Dajan's voice. Etana is not far behind, her eyes upturned to the missiles launching into the heavens; she expresses no fear.

In the wind's singing

Up through one of the open silo doors, clanging metal rings soundly. Stumbling footfalls, confused noises of pain, and Claire Bennet's impossible progression upwards from the silo doors and the stair access. Slouched limp over her shoulder and held by one arm, Lieutenant Sanderson struggles to remain conscious, blood pooling down the front of her camouflage uniform from bullet holes in her abdomen. Claire's expression is one of marked confusion, she is covered in blood from head to toe, slicking back her hair like gel, her eyes show fleeting recognition.

More distant and more solemn…

The missiles roaring overhead sputter, flames cutting off as their ascent arrests and the pull of the world tugs back at them like the leash of a dog. Their smoking trails begin to diffuse, and like arrows cast to the sky, they turn nose first, pitching backwards and descending from the heavens as if javelins of lightning thrown by Zeus himself. The missiles rain down, one hundred foot tall lance of steel after another, slamming into the ground hundreds of feet away from the palace, creating only concussive crashes and plumes of dust that great heavy things in free-fall would. No sparks, no flames, no explosions brighter than the sun. They, like birds shot in mid flight, simply die.

than a fading star

Clouds of dust and debris rise up to the sky where these steel lances have pierced the heart of Madagascar, amid a city set ablaze by the flames of war. The healer's body moves, hastily, from Candace to movement, sprinting across the ground to pass towards the regenerator's emergence, large hands helping to lift up the Lieutenant's weight, dark and warm eyes now full of fear, for he sees the blade embedded in his closest friend's mother, and knows they both suffer so.

No nearer

The metal creaks, protesting screams of tired weapons of war that break apart under their own size and weight, much as everything around them has in macrocosm. The missiles harmless and inert shells tear apart from the stress, sloughing steel and wires, collapsing to roofs of burning buildings. The scream of a jet flying overhead is a final death rattle, as Edmond Rasoul's blood sinks back into the land he bled dry.

Not that final meeting

"So it was…" Etana states quietly, her chin lifting in regard to the dead missiles, spread like five fingers around the palm of the palace. Her dark eyes then settle on the blade embedded in her granddaughter, and the way her grandson approaches. "So it will be…"

In the twilight kingdom.

Relieved of the woman's weight, Claire is left her to her own for a moment. A hand finally lifts slowly to press to her hair feeling the thickness, index finger and thumb pull a blood drenched lock into her view, watching it stick to her blood caked hand. Brows drops in confusion as she drops the lock and she looks over the other people. Her head drops forward as she tries to search her memories for some clue… something. Everything is a jumble of images and moments, nothing seems to have any sense.

She finally moves closer to the others, she knows these people.. even the names of one or two, but one stands out from the rest. Shuffling rather slowly, Claire passes everyone to come to sink before Etana. She'd almost seem tired, if not for the fact she is a regenerator. Hands lay on blood soaked pants.

This one she remembers in her dreams… a ghost walking in front of her in the tunnels… Tunnels.. Fire.. The memory of trying to pull someone from flames. Then it's gone and she's opens eyes she didn't know she closed. "What.. what happened?" Claire asks the old woman, her voice breaking some, fear and confusion flicker across her blood streaked face.

Candy is holding her own hand to her head, though she is markedly without the droopy face that she had after she had stroked. As her eyes look over to Sanderson, they knit together in worry as the hydrokinetic takes a couple of shakey steps towards her. "Sanderson," she says in a voice that has definitely seen better days, shuffling behind Tau and barely a glimpse towards Claire, she figures that the younger woman will be back to her usual perky self soon enough.

Without her ability, Huruma is at the beck and call of something higher- or perhaps, in many ways, something lower, and more primal. There has to be something going on inside of her, once the gas fills her lungs and deprives her of the one constant she has had most of her life. All that is before her, and all that is behind her- none of it matters. Huruma's mind is filled past the brim with intent; the intent to make good her promise to tear Edmond Rasoul apart while he dies watching. The flares of fire illuminate her figure along the wall in sputters of light, orange is the outline of several arcing shadows of limbs, of spine, of neck and teeth bearing down.

She had another blade stashed somewhere- the balisong was simply the next to last. Whatever it was disappears into the grass nearby, yellow gas curling around Huruma's movements even as her son descends from the window where she had leapt.

Ignorance of her surroundings allows Huruma to fulfill that promise to the man who is lying nearly completely inside out underneath of her; his evisceration ends with her fingers slipping like snakes around his heart, ribcage making poor, yet valiant efforts to close again, amidst the gas that has decided to turn against him.

Huruma hears Dajan land, through the nearby din. By the time that he makes his way half-blind through the hovering gas, it is parting, and whatever she had torn free from Rasoul is now gone. The woman arches across the glassy-eyed, hackneyed corpse, like a great cat preparing to defend its kill; her back is still stooped against him, teeth yet digging for something. There is little leeway in describing it- it is what it is. From the back, the others only see her, the machete flagging out of her side, and Dajan approaching. Only when Huruma lets out a startlingly human yell does what she have come to true light for the others that gather upwind.

The gas finally dissipates, showing the stain of red and black over the garden; the general, in the most literal sense of the word, is everywhere. And as she yells, it is after having pulled part of him with her. Huruma has herself on one knee, a string of flesh connecting the inside of her mouth to Rasoul's body.

Huruma makes only another indescribable noise when Dajan keeps coming, leaning back and with a *snap*, a rib splits, and the string falls limp, hanging from her teeth. Only her son hears the sickening squish when she actually bites down. It does, however, free her mouth to open, letting the rest drop into the grass.

"Boy." Etana calls out to Tau, not answering the blonde's question, instead motioning to where Claire has collapsed with Sanderson. "Please see to this, I have tsomething I must do." The old woman turns, reaching out to take Tau's assault rifle and use it like a makeshift crutch, muzzle pressing awkwardly into the ground as she hobbles over. Like an old lady with a misbehaving housecat, Etana's stride across the grass with her limp brings her towards where Huruma has hunched over Rasoul's mangled corpse. Reaching one hand up into the air, the old woman lightly slaps Huruma on the back of the head, "Stop that!" Tau and Dajan both watch Etana in the way someone might watch a zoo visitor who fell into the tiger pen. Marked horror and confusion as the old woman reprimands Huruma the way you would a bad pet. "You are injured."

Dajan's expression alternates from horrified to disgusted at the sight, eventually leveling out as he reaches up with his one hand to cover his mouth and nose. His opposite arm is but a stump now, that rocky appendage he used to battle Rasoul having fallen away. Steps are taken back, away from Huruma, breathing drawn in shuddering quality before he turns his back to the woman, staring down at the blood-soaked roses of the garden that he trods into the soil.

Sanderson's form is fragile and motionless where she lays beside Claire. It is Tau who takes a knee at their side, a hand pressed to Claire's cheek, brows furrowed and eyes falling shut. He feels the sensation of her biology, her physical being, and pulls away with a puzzled expression that sharpens his features. "War 'appened…" he murmurs to Claire, stroking a large thumb over her cheek before reaching down to place his hand atop Sanderson's head.

"This one, she is…" Tau's head quirks to the side, "she is fading." His dark eyes open, settle on Claire, and his free hand reaches up to withdraw his dented and chipped metal cross from within his shirt. "Will you pray with me?" He asks of Claire, letting the cross dangle around his neck like Don Dixon's dogtags hang around Claire's. His hand then is held out to her, "Pray with me, f'her."

Ascending the hill, trodding bootfalls of boy-aged soldiers become a perimeter around the launch site of the missiles. Most of them are dressed as civilians, most no older than seventeen or eighteen; ragdoll thin and fragile soldier children, faces smudged with some inscrutable mixture of dirt and blood, rifles held close to their bodies. They are the MLF, Antananarivo's sleeper-cell waiting for the call to arms.

Dajan witnesses them coming up the hill, even as he watches the city burn orange behind them. Dryly he swallows at their arrival, dropping to his knees in his homeland's soil, head hanging. One of the boys calls out to Dajan, hustling to his side with a haste, taking the scarred man's good hand in his own. "«Dajan, Dajan the missiles— the missiles did not explode. Did you stop them, Dajan? Did you stop them with your strength?»" Childish fantasies, and Dajan can only smile with his haunting half-grin more sardonic than intended. These boys believe Dajan could wrestle the missiles from heaven if he wanted to; he does not crush their dreams.

Watching the old woman walk away, the world feels odd and out of place to Claire. Slowly the cells in her head continues to make connections and things continues to become clear, but there are bad gaps. Things missing.

The hand on her cheek draws those confused blue eyes to Tau's face, the look on her face shows she recognizes him, but that is all. Eyes slowly drop to the Marine on the ground when Tau reaches to touch the others head. "I… know her." She murmurs in wonder, "Not.. her name." Brows dropping into a frown, memories of talking to his woman on a boat, in a cage…. but nothing more. Her own hand lowers to touch the woman's cheek, fingers slide down to touch the shining metal of dog tags seeing the name there, "Sanderson." She whispers the name stamped there, her eyes suddenly fill with tears, but she doesn't exactly understand why.

Her small hand searches for Tau's larger one, gripping it fiercely. Her bloodied head of hair, lowers a little to show that she would join him in it. Blood clotted locks hang around her face is a morbid display. Blood tinted tears slide down her cheeks in silent mourning, over a woman she barely remembers.

Candy was raised a Catholic by her parents, not that she has really clung to any of the mannerisms that came with it. She was a rebellious youth, and she did her best to support herself from that stuffy religion. Her own tears fall down her cheeks, this time not at the end of her life or the failure of one of her plans, but at the potential to lose another life. The potential to lose a friend that she likes to think she may have gathered, at least someone who was willing to open up to her, to possibly reach out a hand to try and help the hydrokinetic. Whatever Etana has shown her, it has finally broken past that mental barrier that the hydrokinetic had put up around herself, the willingness to disconnect from her humanity and to put what she thinks should be done in motion.

At Tau's offer to pray, the Asian softly begins to recite the Lord's Prayer:

"Thy Father, who are in heaven;
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy Kingdom come;
They will be done;
On Earth as it is in Heaven;
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses;
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil;
For thine is the Kingdom;
the Power;
And the Glory;
Forever and ever;

As she finishes her reciting with Tau, having stumbled a couple of times on remembering the delivery of the prayer, a tear drips down her cheek as she reaches out for Sanderson's hand and says softly, "I'm sorry."

With her guarding Rasoul's body so, Huruma does not seem to realize Etana's approach until the old woman is already hitting her upside the head. She lets out a strangled noise, turning and apparently ready to hit back- but once she sees the old woman standing there, the predator's bravado clatters away and Huruma all but falls backwards onto the ground, metaphorical tail between her legs. For a few seconds, Huruma is leaning sidelong and away, one arm folded up as if she thinks Etana may just smack her again. The motion is painfully childlike, and at the same time reflexive.

When her granddaughter does sit up, it is with her eyes hastily alternating a search for something that isn't there, with Etana's face. Right before she takes a breath that catches in her chest. Huruma winces visibly, slippery red hands wiping numbly at where the machete is still hanging out of her side. Oh, look at this—


Never a bad way to start a conversation, even if shouting it gives different undertones to an extended hand, a smile, and a waft of cologne. This man is wearing none. He appears under the crook of the palace roof with a stiffness to his tall, broad-shouldered frame that would probably belong better with a sulkily contrite child clutching a shard of a cookie jar than a soldier, and the sooty camo suited up around his legs, flak vest riveted around his muscled torso assures he is most definitely one of those. Yet, all of Rasoul's retinue of glorified butchers had had their basic ethnic details in common, and this man is distinctly Asian of both descent and accent, despite that his height and build has more in common with Dajan or Huruma's than most of his countrymen could ever hope their genetic legacy would bequeath.

The combination of the sun's progress and the building's flames backlight behind his sturdy frame have cast his jungle tan in orangey bronze. The Chinese man is not visibly armed. In fact, his open hands make deliberate emphasize on being anything but. Hardly overmuch caution, he is sure. Though there's nothing left for Sanderson but the prayers clasped between Bosede and Claire's mingled hands, certain parties in the rest of the group look like violence would require little encouragement. He used to take orders from the mad little General who's turned into Huruma's lunchmeat, you know. Sort of, and the fact that the giant cannibal defers to a crone with a stick does not invite audacity upon either of them.

"People's Liberation Army— allies," he introduces himself, coarsely, quick and forceful as the brusque liquid pop of a hernia. He unsettles, shifts on his boots, his reflection against ragged ballroom glass divulging only a rifle broken down into two components across his back. A brown-callused finger curls in one heavy, squared fist; he angles a point down at Rasoul's corpse. "Rasoul— Rasoul betray China," is the last line he thinks to get out before the barrage of questions comes, insofar as that he hopes it'll only be questions.

The voice causes Dajan to tense up like tightly corded cables. He rises to his feet, pushing the young soldier away before the boy can begin to say something very important. Dajan grabs the young man by the shirt, slings him around behind himself and looks towards the new arrival with cautious uncertainty. His mouth opens, breathing heavy and haggard as the soft earth at his feet begins to buckle and waver, lifting up in strips beneath the grass.

Clucking her tongue and seeming as frazzled as a chef in a kitchen full of chefs just out of culinary school, Etana offers a chiding look to Huruma in that maternal way, and makes her way to stand at Dajan's side. The old woman rests a hand on her grandson's scarred shoulder, squeezing ever so gently. "Enough bloodshed…" she insists, eliciting a confused look from him. Dajan takes a moment at the urging sweep of her hand to witness the people sprawled about the grassy hill. The terrakinetic relaxes, and the strips of earth settle back down to clumps of soil, and that tension in his shoulders begins to lax. "You have so much of your mother's fire in you." Etana adds in quieter tones to Dajan, afterward.

The prayer is not merely one of hope, or faith, it is one of resolution in Tau's waning ability. He is burning himself up from the inside, all this repeated healing of so many greivously injured people is putting a taxing overload on his body, shown in bruising that is difficult to see against his complexion. Internal bleeding, intense pain and throbbing migraines make his focus difficult, but make this more sacrifice than gift.

Gasping breaths, Tau's hand moves away from Sanderson's when the brunette marine lets out a whimpered squeak of life. He tries to hide the look of fatigue, of pain that rattles his bones and causes his stomach to churn. All while this stranger is making his entrance, Tau continues to heal. He too has lost the will to fight, and when his hand slacks from Claire's, and eyes divert to Candace's, he seems hardly able to focus. That is, until he finally sees the machete sticking out of Huruma.

"Betrayed you?" Dajan asks, it's mostly rhetoric. A scarred brow tenses and screaming muscles pray that Etana's advising was correct — he couldn't survive another fight. Not in his condition, not after everything they've gone through. But China, how does China make any sense to this.

"Delta— " Sanderson croaks out, her voice wet and rattling. When she tries to move, Tau is steadying her, but blue eyes open to stare up at the mottled clouds and purple sunrise skies overhead. "He— " she chokes on blood, turns her head to the side and spits. She can't muster the energy to talk.

Tau is rising, against the protesting of popping joints and aching muscles. He pulls himself to his feet, plodding steps carrying him a few fumbling footfalls from Claire and Candy, then with more grace than he thought he still had to Huruma's side. When Tau drops to his knees, it is in a pile of gore that was once Edmond Rasoul. An arm lays across Huruma's shoulder, eyes shut, breathing wheezing; he has to save her.

Huruma only has one matter at hand- the Chinaman, her son, her grandmother- they all become quite muffled as she concentrates wrapping her hands around the blade's hilt. Tau wanders into her vision, and as he kneels down to touch her- her other arm reaches up to smack his grip away. There's no real clue as to whether she strikes Tau off of her. It could be because she realizes he's killing himself, or simply because she does not want to be touched. With a sway, Huruma lifts herself onto her feet in front of him, bare soles squashing in red. Tau's kneel is now met with one hand unfolding in a splay, giving him a stop-sign right in his face.

Huruma says nothing, but her backing away says the rest, one hand still gingerly on the hilt of the machete. If it has cut into anything- the steel is binding it closed. Of the blood on Huruma, very little is leaking from the entrance wound.

"Wait… how?" Obviously, the blonde doesn't remember. Hands free, Claire moves to help the Marine, moving to help the woman sit, so that she can cough up and breath easier. "He said you were fading." She glances at the Asian girls next to them, eyes narrowing a bit. "C…. candy?" She asks softly trying to confirm the name that seems to flit across her mind at the sight of her face. Hearing Sanderson's choked words, she eyes the other Asian, "Delta? They.. never mentioned a Delta team."

At least Claire remembers somethings!

Candy looks at Sanderson as she says softly, "Shhh… quiet and heal." She looks at the woman, and smiles lightly, happy to see her at least somewhat there, even if she's more than a little grievously hurt. Her hand holding tightly to Sanderson's, as she leans forward to gently run a hand through her hair, much the same way that Sanderson had done for her. Her eyes go over to the man that has come to join her and she merely says, "Explain yourself and what you mean now." Her eyes flash, but not with the cold certainty of pain or death, but rather with anger over what her government sent them in to. Completely unprepared for, at that. As Claire says her name, she merely nods her head. She didn't need to see Claire's head blown apart to know that the young woman had been severly injuried in the head. She just trusts that Claire will eventually regain things.

Delta. Vague recognition registers on the Chinese man's features, too, a restless shifting between the heavy boots planted on the smoke-stained dirt. Not exactly the most— socially apt and xenophilic of his own unit, he winds up looking more furtive than anything, sullenly wavering around his new assignment. Broken and bleeding, all of them. He flits dark eyes across the fat, frilly heads of roses sitting in their rows. Finds it absurd, that these reproductively insensible luxury plants characterize the site of this ignoble conversation.

"Communist Party had deal with Rasoul. Classified," he adds, stiffly, the pale of his eyes standing out under the crease of his brows. First at Candace, then at the blonde marine collapsed on the ground. Last, a brief, palpitated return to Huruma, whose animalistic behavior is disconcerting. Even to him. One might expect him to understand instinct-level compulsions and conditioning a little better, but he's sparing only the most minimal of efforts toward basic ingratiation, here. "He not know where Munin is. Or codes.

"Rasoul do not know anything." Unmistakable bitterness. His heavy fingers curl slightly in the air, taloning from distaste. "Said American government want use Munin. P-L-A want destroy Munin now. Your helicopter coming. You tell Kershner? Autumn? Checking with..?" If there's any more conspiracy than that, it's easily concealed in the thick clumsiness of his accent and belligerent shortage of English fluency, but so too are the details of this offer that might otherwise have made his sincerity easier to parse. Aware of this, Caocao stiffens in visible annoyance, frustration with this whole situation, turned inward, perhaps not giving Sanderson's slow death and Tau's flagging stagger and reaching hands the proper recognition.

Minute motion triggers through Caocao's forefinger and thumb, then, gentler than the herky-jerky pointing motion from before. Optimistically, he says: "Stop bleeding— I help."

A slender tendril raises itself in Huruma's skin, then, a faint squirm of kinesthesia working in the muscle just beyond the machete hideous protuberance.

Dajan's scrutriny of the soldier comes with a creasing of his scowl. He can't seem to raise an ire to the situation though, not when Etana is watching carefully how the Chinese man handles her granddaughter's care. Brows crease, and the old woman limps over to where the teo are, giving Huruma a subtle nod, as if approval or reluctant acceptance. "So you do…" the oracle admits to the Communist soldier. "That is a very convenient change of allegiances." Dark eyes narrow, as if calling him out on that, but her distaste is very short lived.

"Whoever you are," Dajan says in a tired voice, "if you hurt my mother, I will bury you here." It's meant as a threat, delivered a little soft on the edges to not seem too accusing, or perhaps Dajan's just tired. "But these ones, they may need your— "

"«Dajan.»" The young soldier from before takes a step over to Dajan, resting a hand up on his shoulder. "«Dajan, we found him.»" There is an urgency in the young soldier's voice, and Dajan turns with a look of impatiance, not realizing exactly what might be said.

"«Not now, I don't have time f— »" Him? Dajan's eyes open more, as if looking at the young soldier in another light. There is a tension at his neck, ribbing with pain, and then as he looks back to all those young soldiers who had ascended the hill, he finally sees what one is leading behind him— a young boy, covered with dust and scrapes, barely six years old. Dajan is struck silent.

"«He was safe, a family here found him. Ashaki must have hid him before the soldiers came. We recognized him as soon as we found him. The family— they said they were protecting him for you.»"

Dajan isn't listening to anything any longer, not the reassurances of the PLA soldier, not the young MLF militiaman, nothing but the sound of his heart racing as he moves to meet the advancing soldier and then the running boy. "Badrani!" Dajan proclaims as he drops to a knee, using his one arm to wrap the boy up and sweep him to his chest, trying best to look strong in front of his mother and not break down in sobbing fits. "Badrani…"

Across from this meeting, near where Candy and Claire hold a vigil over Sanderson's broken and weary form, the sounds of movement come from the missile silo where Claire had emerged. It's clanking, footsteps, rattling stairs and sputtered curses. "Rrr— Rasoul" comes a shaky, rattling voice from the missile silo, "knows two things."

Staggering up the stairwell, the man that emerges from below ground looks like someone dragged him behind a truck for three miles of rough country. Aviators is spattered from head to toe in blood, missing an eye, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his shoulder and hobbling on what is clearly a broken or sprained ankle. "Jack and Shit." Spitting out a tooth that was knocked loose, likely in whatever bruised the side of his jaw, the CIA operative looks out and the topples missiles, exhaling a wheezing laugh as he rubs his hand across his forehead.

"Fuck me," Aviators burbles out to the PLA operative, "who the hell…" he just doesn't give a shit anymore. Reaching down to the holster at his hip, Aviators removes not a gun, but a SatCom, pressing down on the touch screen and waving the thing in the air as if it were a flare. It's not really brought at all, so it has to serve another purpose. The one-eyed soldier takes a knee, exhaling a ragged cough.

"Lost— track of Ruskin and Gray and that fucking doctor." There's a spit of another tooth to the grass, "Hey look a molar." Then he passes out face first on the ground.

Huruma has been steadily drawing away from Tau, casting her eyes back to the others after a short time. She appears to be listening to them, and then to Caocao; well, until he twitches his hand and there is suddenly something moving about near where the machete is planted. The rawness of her nerves there betray even the twinges, and the woman lets out a short hiss of air before she suddenly tears the blade from her side, flinging it off into the garden. Though due to a million things she is ready to let whatever it is do what it wants- it's Dajan's movements that make her pause entirely to let the Chinese man's influences go unbothered. Her own ability is hopefully not going to be on the fritz much longer- she needs it- she hasn't said a word.

The arm that had flung the blade away comes back to draw over her face, clearing off her mouth and smearing Rasoul's blood from her inner elbow to the backs of her fingers. Huruma's eyes are on Dajan, who even without half an arm, dwarfs that little boy that meets him with such fervor. She looks …completely befuddled, palms moving to dumbly cover up the gash in her side, as if it might make her look bad.

What's going on?

The calling out from Dajan, catches her attention and Claire can't help but watch the meeting of Dajan and the little boy, brow lows and her eyes unfocus a bit, something about it seems to tickle at the back of her memory. Something… important. It's like the thought flits away like a hummingbird hovering just beyond her grasp.

The sounds of footsteps from the silo pulls her attention and the arrival from a…. yes.. this one is a stranger, but she recognizes what he's holding. A gentle touch to Sanderson's arm, Claire climbs to her feet and quickly moves to the downed man's side. Reaching over the top of him, Claire with a bit of a grunt rolls Aviators onto his back, to get his face out of the dirt at least. Once she knows he's a bit more comfortable, she grabs the SatCom to bring back to Sanderson, who she's pretty sure will know how to use it. "Here.. He doesn't need it." She murmurs, offering it to her leaving smudges of dirt and blood. "You know how to use it." She prompts softly, before turning to drop on her butt on the ground, knees drawn up some to rest her arms on, head drooping forward. What she doesn't say.. doesn't need to be said… Get us out of here.

In the context of these domestic dramas, the man with psychic control over worms feels relatively sane and manageable. He eyes the Africans, tries to note physical dissimilarities between those, Rasoul's ilk, and the proper locals whose village settlements he has watched over and hounded through over the past few weeks.

He tenses momentarily at the cat-like twitch of temper through Huruma's burly frame, but when the machete's flung off in a direction completely irrelevant to him, he's left to relax, squint, and patch the hole in her arm with a thickening weave of legless nematode-like bodies. The slurp and subdermal susurrus that might have otherwise betrayed their movement is fortunately lost to the distant crackle and groan of flames and felled architecture. He steps tentatively toward Sanderson, aiming at the one-eyed wreck of Aviators a skeptical glance.

A quick glance is enough to tell him that there isn't much to be done for the blonde marine bar application of pressure and prayer; already being done. Instead, he offers practical reassurance— either for the teammates or the spasming woman herself, his sun-blackened arms still hung ragdoll limp at his sides. "Your helicopter coming. My people see." He twitches a dark-eyed glance through the virulent garishness of the sky above, stays his gaze only briefly on Etana and her family. Caocao can only guess and who is going to be boarding.

"You go home soon."

Sanderson's struggle to stay conscious is aided by Claire's retrieval of the SatCom. There's practically tears in her eyes when she sees the battered and dirty communication device, brushing her thumb across the touch screen as she tries to assess what the hell is goin gon, even as the distant pop of small arms fire still rattles off, but the major sounds of war seem to have ended. While she's focusing on the device, Tau is watching the Chinese soldier with concern and uncertainty, but tiredness and fatigue, and weariness that Huruma can start to feel in the periphery of her senses as relief is weighing the gigantic healer down.

Sitting amidst the burned garden, Tau looks up to the sky as the sound of thundering helicopter blades fills the air. Roaring thunder of a convoy of four helicopters begins circling the hillside, the front and rear choppers being little more than attack vehicles with US marines manning mounted guns at the sides. Out one of the open doors of a circling helicopter, a blonde woman hanging out the side is familiar in only passing quality, but the way Elisabeth Harrison watches from the chopper indicates relief as she picks out Claire's likeness from the crowd.

One helicopter begins to land, even as Sanderson starts picking up chatter from the other SatComs and rescue teams. With the strong down-force winds from the rotors of the choppers landing, charred rose-petals from the garden are cast up into the wind, swirling like snow in the warm morning breeze as the sun rises up to the east, bathing all of Antananarivo in light finally. Dawn is a majestic thing, but so is what Dajan Dumsini is holding in his arms. He uses that one arm of his, tucks it under the child's legs, and lifts him up with tiny arms around Dajan's neck. The scarred leader of the MLF is stalking forward, tiredly, watching as Marines swarm out of the helicopters, crouching at Aviators' side, medics with stretchers and emergency bags running out from the middle helicopter to try and get the wounded out of the way.

Etana moves, quietly, to follow Tau as the beast of a man tiredly pushes himself up again and walks to stand by Dajan. A smile, weary, is leveled to the boy as he reaches up and rubs a huge hand over his head, then looks to Etana who has forsaken her view of the child to look at Huruma.

Aviators' unmoving form is loaded onto a stretcher, and Sanderson is helped to her feet by the medics, even as Candy and Claire are assaulted by questions of their well being, locations of other team members, and a variety of questions that Claire Bennet — personally — is unable to answer properly. Out of one of the medic chopper, a brunette in camouflage and body armor stands silently, her rifle held to her chest, knowing eyes leveled out across the ruins of Anatnanarivo. Catherine Chesterfield will record this moment, engrave it into her mind, but she's quick to move back into the medic chopper after a nod to Claire, and a wary look to Huruma.

Sunlight crests the palace, flooding the garden in warm, golden radiance, and soldiers begin to surround the Chinese soldier in the garden, guns raised. Their precaution is expected, their hostility as well, but humility is a small price to pay for progress, if somehow peace is at the end of it.

Everyone fits into this, somehow, and with Gabriel and Eileen missing, and Emile Danko nowhere to be found, Huruma has somehow fallen into an uncomfortable middle ground. No soldiers are running to secure her rescue yet, and it is Etana's eyes that meets the empath's first. She steps to one side, so that Huruma can clearly see the boy, and she knows from that feeling of pride welling up in Etana, just who he is. She stands in the middle of a crossroads, with the battle against the Vanguard at her back, and something equally important at her fore.

Her grandson.

The fringes of her sense are returning, thanks in part to occurrences and Huruma's own steady breathing while she can feel those wounds being bandaged. There's no better way to put it. But even more lacking a real description is everything else. Team Bravo is being picked up piece by piece, and perhaps by chance none of them have chosen to beckon or drag Huruma back to a helicopter. Her family- because that is the truth- can see her taking a deeper breath as she hastily tries to wipe the blood from her hands.

Partially metaphorical, at that.

Before any of the soldiers can come to fetch her, Huruma is moving purposefully forward towards her son- and his son- eyes bloodshot from both tiredness and from the fact that what hydration she still has …seems to be trying to falter out of her eyes, though somehow dust or force keeps it back.

As the helicopter descends and the world becomes a blur of motion and choas, Claire watches faces and people trying to see who she recognizes. Though some show her recognition, Claire struggles to find their faces in her memory. Harrison gets a looks that says.. something is familiar about her…. But Cat…. she gets a small smile, Claire remembers her. Seeing a familiar and friendly face makes her feel better.

Then Claire's descended upon on by others and even as she tries to answer questions, there is a feeling that overwhelms the blonde ex-cheerleader. Relief. The hellish nightmare is over for a time. That thought brings fresh tears to her eyes, she just wants to get out of there. While so much is missing, a lot of memories remain even if they are flawed. So much had happened… so much pain and death. All the memories she can remember, every one of them is horrible in it's own way.

But she knows it's not done, blue eyes drift over to the old woman with her family, the memory of a vision… faint as it maybe tells her that. She still needs to save Peter.

On the plus side, Caocao realizes that none of the arrayed soldiers who suddenly have him outflanked, surrounded, and held at rifle-point are the ones who have suffered the various ministrations of his ability thus far. Facing off against them is, arguably, better than doing so against a less distracted Huruma, risking closer proximity to Candy, or startling Claire's memory back into anything remotely useful. There's no visible increase in anxiety flushing his neck behind the stiff, khaki-patterned collar. He was anxious enough as it is, with the mumbling suspicion of a simple soldier who is pretty sure he is going to say or do the wrong thing.

But orders are orders. Caocao merely rolls his shoulder back, acquiescing when one officer steps forward to pull the disassembled weapon off his shoulder, and check his legs and vest for other weapons. He compels the worms in Huruma's arm into hibernation, resting them limply in the soupy serous and blood of her arm, waiting for clot and death before the paramedics come and get their hands on her. He compels the others in her comrades' bodies to stillness. It takes no real effort, betrays little tangible sensation in their hosts, but it grates Caocao considerably.

He didn't join the People's Liberation Army to make himself a prisoner. "Kershner," he repeats, squaring his shoulders.

This is the dead land

All around the royal palace of Antananarivo, Madagascar burns. She burns from fires of rebellion and uprising, from the blades of war that have cleaved her heart open and set it ablaze. Plumes of choking black smoke still rise from the crumbling infrastructure, from bombed residential buildings and areas that used to be parks or sports arenas, now rent to little more than smoldering ruins that blaze with rising fire under the brilliant glow of the sun's ascent. Sinking low on the horizon beyond the sun, the moon tucks away with the last vestiges of night, stars fading out and hiding from the dawn.

This is cactus land

The downdraft from the spinning helicopter blades continues to kick of a swirl of mixed charred and fresh rose petals from the garden. Fighter jets streak overhead with a roar of their mighty engines, and the members of Bravo Team are finally rewarded with the completion of their long and painful mission. The marines encircling the PLA operative named Cao-cao lower their weapons as Sarisa's name is spoken, and one of them calls up on his comm to their forward command, that a member of the People's Liberation Army of China wishes to speak to Special Agent Kersner. The chatter that comes back is met with an afforded nod, reluctant lowering of arms, and a look of confusion on the lead soldier's face.

Here the stone images

Watching Huruma's approach, Dajan's expression is wary at first. He carefully guards his son at his side the way a poor man may covet his only prized possession from greedy eyes. But the look on Huruma's face, the expression in her eyes, and the way her approach seems so hesitant and awkward causes his defenses to lower. The scarred and bloodied man carries his son towards Huruma, with Etana and Tau watching on from behind. Their eyes level on the meeting, even as Dajan lifts his son up on one arm, the boy balancing himself with a tiny hand on a muscled shoulder. No words need be exchanged, no explanations given, this is the passage of life from one to another. Anatananarivo may have died, Madagascar may be dying, but from its ashes new life and hope is born.

Are raised, here they receive

From the doorway of the helicopter, Sanderson hesitates as she's helped inside, looking back over her shoulder to Dajan and Huruma, and the child being held up to the dawn's rays between them. "What's going to happen to the MLF?" Sanderson shouts to the soldiers helping her in. One of the marines looks back to who she's talking about, a shake of their head coming as a simple answer that's not their problem. Sanderson's lips press into a tired, thin expression of frustration, and she allows herself to be helped up into the helicopter. "I need to talk to Kershner immediately! It's about Emile Danko!"

The supplication of a dead man's hand

Soldiers standing around Edmond Rasoul's body watch in silent confusion at the gore pile that remains of his body. One radios back to headquarters, confirmation of Vanguard cell leader's death, no chance of recussetation. Another of the marines watches Huruma, looking down to a list of people he's to extract, and seeing her likeness there. He brings a hand up to the side of his head, fingers pressing to his comm. "Actual, this is Arrow One, what's SOP for squad members who refuse to return to the carrier?" It's better to know in advance, and whatever the Marine hears over his earpiece has him backing off from Huruma and her family, looking to the medic helicopter, and fanning out elsewhere.

Under the twinkle of a fading star.

One by one, the helicopters begin to pull up from the hillside, lifting off to leave the swirling motes of rose petals behind. From the medic chopper, Claire Bennet is able to see Huruma standing with Dajan, Tau and Etana, along with a boy that the scarred man cradles in his arms and holds out to the child's grandmother. As the helicopters pull back, that their overall smallness in the scale of the devastation present in Madagascar is framed for Claire is eye opening. Amidst all of this destruction, death, and loss of life, something good may have come from it.

Is it like this in death's other kingdom

Another helicopter is rising from a lower portion of the hillside as Claire looks up from the palace. There, in handcuffs, seated on a chair in a blood-soaked labcoat, the blonde spies a familiar doctor with one shattered lens of spectacles being guarded by a contingent of marines. With him, as the helicopters dance around one another on their ascent, is revealed to her in the shadows dark brows and regal nose giving sculpted shape to a bruised face; tired and weary looking Sylar survived. But Eileen is laying on a stretcher in the chopper, neck in a brace and a respirator over her mouth, tended to by several medics.

Waking alone at the hour when we are

From the ground, as the helicopters from the extraction squad pull out of sight, Huruma is allowed the opportunity to see her grandson for the first time. "He was taken… when this all started," Dajan explains in a hushed, reverent tone of voice, "my wife, she was in the capital when the coup started. She was a beautiful woman, and a brave mother. She saved my son, when I had lost all hope that he had been alive…" Dajan's eyes downcast to the boy he holds, watching the way the sun reflects in his eyes. "His name is Badrani — full moon." Dajan's focus goes to that very namesake disappearing behind the western horizon with pride.

Trembling with tenderness

Etana fades back, moving to stand beside Tau, only turning after a moment to look to the man that joined them there on mountaintop where the palace resides. Seated on a stone bench in the garden, rose petals clinging to his checkered scarf and t-shirt, the prophet Usutu taps a hand on the wooden staff at his side, lips curled up into a smile, one that does not entirely reach his eyes as he considers the older oracle. Her expression asks him what is wrong, even as she moves to stand beside him.

Lips that would kiss

"It did not come to pass yet…" Usutu says in a hushed tone of voice, his dark eyes watching Etana quietly. As he turns to look up to the helicopters disappearing into the eastern horizon, Usutu traces the end of his stick into the soft earth at his feet, shoulders slacking from the weight of burden placed upon them. "The bird girl… she is still going to hold him in her arms," Usutu murmurs, looking to Etana at that, "she is going to watch the brain man die."

Form prayers to broken stone.

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