Scene Title Shotgun
Synopsis Monica tracks down Horsemen activity, and gets taken for a ride.
Date July 20, 2018

Somewhere in New Jersey

So much of New Jersey feels like a ghost state, the further into its green heart that Monica Dawson's unmarked car takes her. Whole abandoned towns stand empty, the last life they saw being that of soldiers and civilians alike cowering in their wreckages during the storm of war, since left abandoned to the elements. The map she's following is an electronic one that displays roads that have practically vanished into the greenery with mud and overgrowing brush. Mud and stone rattle up off wheels and chips non-descript paint off the non-descript car, and she has to go careful, in places, or risk getting stuck.

It's high summer. The air is thick with moisture and the cacophonous sound of insects, and when she opens the door, the meagre air conditioning she'd been enjoying seems to be sucked out as if by vacuum. She'll have to go from foot by here, and over the next hour, the coming of night will lend her the cover she needs to take a closer look.

At what is as yet uncertain.

Intelligence comes in like puzzle pieces being discovered, all from different boxes. A low-res image of a man on a Staten Island pier, boarding a boat destined for the shores of New Jersey, just recognisable as Iago Ramirez. Satellite images of topography being developed and cleared. A weak radio signal emission moving between locations. Little of it gives way to actionable intelligence without in some way overstepping jurisdiction or showing their hand. Not without some feet on the ground.

Darkness comes with a little relief from the summer heat, but not much. The light emanating from Monica's device feels like it's the only light on earth, showing up blue against her skin and the trees around her. Following the map she'd plotted out herself, she ought to be coming up to that clearing any moment now — but so far, it's just tall trees and rough terrain.

Monica was happy to be the feet on the ground when she started this, and she is still. But the heat and the bugs and the state of the roads has her regretting a few life choices. Still, she's moving ahead for the clearing that ought to be. It's slow going, as she's trying not to draw attention her way with her device and the noise of her moving through the trees. And, of course, she'd rather not fall on the rocks and loose earth. That would be embarrassing.

She pockets her map as she closes in on her goal, close enough to be able to keep direction and distance in mind and relying on her eyes and ears to bring her the rest of the way. She slips around trees and over broken logs, inching ever forward.

It's almost sudden, the way in which the landscape goes from its untamed wilderness to an expanse of nothing. The night sky opens up above her, the air feels a little cooler as the space around her opens up and wind winnows through the clearing, and moonlight provides a little light to see by even as she keeps to shadows. The ground in front of her looks freshly developed, made empty of trees and brush and coated over with dense packed earth.

The clearing extends on either side of her from some distance, but ahead of her, the tree line comes up much sooner, making for a long rectangular strip of land.

Insects continue to click and creak in the forest she is hedging from, and it's all she can hear.

Once she breaks through the treeline, Monica stops and takes a moment to listen and look. Gaining her bearings and checking to make sure she's not about to stumble into guards and the like. But then she starts moving along the trees, not going too far out of them, but not losing sight of the clearing, either. Mostly, she's taking stock and trying to find out what this odd patch of earth is here for.

She moves faster here, blostered by the moonlight and the fact that she actually found something instead of getting herself lost in the woods of New Jersey of all places.

The ground underfoot is solid, for bare earth, and there is just enough light captured by the dome of the sky and the stars refracted through it to see tracks drawn through the earth. The dry weather conditions have been as such that Monica can't tell if they were made just today or a week ago, but some seem fresher and more defined than others. Wheel tracks. Aeroplane tracks.

Standing in the long corridor of open earth, its purpose becomes immediately apparent.

Without any sign of human life to deter her, Monica's exploration takes her further down the runway until she spies a shape sitting towards the far end of the runway. Its hard to make out specifications in the dark, but its flanks look grey and the snub nose pointing out towards the open runway jogs her memory of military aircraft, if not the combat kind — cargo, rescue operations, transport.

Two small trucks are parked nearby, likewise dark, both with tarpaulin secured over the top of them. Behind all three, the clearing opens up into downhill terrain for rugged driving, and little else.

At least she knows how these horsemen have been hopping from coast to coast, keeping in contact with their people in the city while camping out out of sight. Even if it is via a horse of a different color.

Monica moves toward the plane and the trucks, sliding away from the trees only when she's sure no one will see her move to the vehicles. She gives the trucks a quick glance, but the plane gets most of her attention. Likely, she'll circle back around to the trucks on her way out of here. It's on the mental To-Do list.

When she reaches the plane, she tries to find a way in. A quiet way.

Up close, the plane's size is striking, sitting on comparatively dainty wheels. The dirt immediately around it doesn't show much in the way of human traffic, save for a few sets of boot prints that, much like the tracks in the one way, don't indicate one way or another if they were created this morning or two hours ago — but certainly somewhere in that range, at least. Nothing about this strikes her as neglectful in the same way so much of New Jersey has struck her so far.

The hatch leading nearest cockpit is smooth and locked tightly closed, but the one leading into the bulk of the plane shifts minutely when she turns the handle, a creak of aged metal making her pause. It comes down smoothly after that, giving way to the steep, narrow staircase that invites her into the dark mouth of the plane.

The space inside has a utilitarian cylindrical shape, with seating lined up vertical and facing another another down the sides. The cockpit up front is exposed, the nighttime gloom filtering in through the fair windows, where the walls are otherwise solid. Towards the rear of the plane, netting is secured, bisecting one space from the other, and beyond the netting, cargo is roped in.

The size is enough to make one wonder just what it is they're moving. Perhaps it was the only plane they had access to, but with the cost of fuel being what it is, it's hardly a practical choice if you're not packing it full.

Monica makes her way into the hold, opting first to pull out a small tracking device from her pocket and afix it under one of the seats. Thin fingers help with tucking things into tight crevices and overlooked corners.

And really, she should call that it and leave, but the fact that it's night and quiet gives her enough confidence to linger. She could just let the tracker give her a pin on a map and go from there or she could also poke around a bit. As she's here and all. So she slips toward the cargo, off to see what it is that people from another timeline find interesting enough to cart around.

Pushing past the netting, Monica finds enough floorspace to indicate that much of this has already been removed at some stage, but several cases remain. Feel around in the dark on the topmost structures, she can crack open one of them to reveal, either by feel or by light of her device— more emptiness. But an absence is in itself something of an indicator, because the cases themselves are visually distinct enough for her to know that at some point, this plane was used to carry weapons. Many weapons.

Before she can slip it shut, she hears it. The soft growl of an engine. Only a handful of seconds later, and its followed by the squeak of brakes, going silent again only to reveal a second grumble of a following vehicle. From where she's position, the swallowing darkness doesn't let up, no lights coming through the windows across the other end of the plane — not directly.

"Well, shit," Monica says, at the sight of the distinct lack of weapons. It isn't a comfort that the crates are empty; all it means to her is that they already got where they were going. Which was New Jersey. Which is distressingly close to New York. This would be the moment to warn people. Richard, in particular. But even her very fancy phone can't create service where there is none. And there is none for quite a distance.

She's in the middle of worrying about it when the engine snaps her out of it. She turns off the screen of her phone and crouches down to listen. And to wait for the moment when she can slip back out again.

Outside, the second vehicle squeaks to a stop, and then sound of doors open and then slamming shut sounds altogether far too close for comfort. Muffled come the noise of voices, all male, more conversational and instructional than the issue of military commands, and none of them ring especially familiar to her ear — but then, she's only experienced the male components of the Horsemen through image alone.

The netting is still loose at the corner that she came through, and while she's attempting to calculate the risk of moving through it and making for that loose back end hatch, the shrill sound of creaking metal drives her backwards. The hatch nearest the cockpit opens, and moonlight floods inside, along with the run off of what is probably headlights from the newly arrived vehicles.

Silhouetted against the windows, the man that ducks in is tall, muscular, white skinned, light hair cropped in loose waves, Monica isn't able to make out many other details than that. Save that he's whistling. He's whistling Leaving on a Jet Plane.


And his back is to her as he bends over the controls, hands roving across them, making a series of checks. Between them is the long empty stretch of the seating area, and the netting she'd gotten through to get to the cargo area.

Monica tucks herself between crates, peeking out to watch as the figure enters. The whistling is icing on the cake, really. She would laugh, under other circumstances, but things being what they are she takes it as a sign that she should get the hell out.

When he starts his checks, she moves out from her hiding spot, moving slow and keeping an eye on him as she pick out a path to the opening in the net. She stays low, hoping the seats will do something to keep her hidden if he decides to turn around. The door is right there, but also so far. She doesn't want to dash across open space or otherwise draw his attention, so it is inchworming along for her.

Progress is agonisingly slow, but out of necessity. When before the silence had seemed so pervasive, it feels as though the age of the plane means that every movement produces some kind of creak or shift, even if that might be entirely Monica's imagination. Still, her deliberate movements minimise anything that might draw the man's attention, slipping beneath the net and sticking to the shaodws, and slowly, she closes up the distance between herself and the middling door.

Blazing light so shocking that it registers almost more immediately than the shudder and creak of the entire back end of the plane opening to the elements. The rear hatch slams downwards, and the headlights from the trucks outside shine in with exposing yellow light.

As much as making a break for it is tempting, better instinct drives her into stillness, ducking low and down. Up ahead, the man making his checks doesn't bother turning around, unsurprised.

Thunk. Scff-thunk. Scff-thunk.


An uneven sound of metal and boot sole reverbate through the old plane's frame. Through the netting, Monica can make out a figure, another broad-shouldered silhouette, this one with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Through the gap of netting and floor, one mud-tracked boot is visible, as is the large, skeletal robot extension of the other foot. They near, stop, pausing for long enough that Monica might wonder whether she's been spotted, or left something behind.

Iago Ramirez then shouts down the length of the plane, "Ten minutes, they said."

The man upfront raises a hand to show his thumbs up. "Looking good. I called shotgun, right? You remember."

To this, Iago doesn't dignify with response, turning his back to see more crates loaded by quick-footed figures, wandering further back down the ramp. Up ahead, the other man mutters something like, "He remembers," and takes a seat, the slap of his hands against his thighs adding some restless percussion. For the moment, the threat of attention lifts, even as the possibility of escape is ever narrowing.

Tucking herself between rows of seats, Monica squeezes her eyes closed at the sudden light and tries to blink the afterimage out of her vision. But the odd steps draw her attention and she does her best to watch as Iago Ramirez pokes about.

This time, the cursing is all internal.

She glances between the cockpit and the ramp, the doors and the lights. Hiding herself from both directions and in much better lighting seems like a much less tantalizing prospect. So she keeps an eye on the ramp, waiting for the work to be done. Until then, she doesn't move.

From her position, its hard to see much, especially as cargo cases steadily block out her view of the world beyond — but at least do something to block out the bright yellow light. As they form a barrier, sinking backwards by some feet to diminish the chances of Iago glancing back this way and spying her presents itself as a temporary opportunity, and slowly, the noise of work begins to diminish.

Through the gaps in the crates, she'll spy another figure — different to the two men in proportion and shape. A woman, small, dark hair bound cleanly off her face, an angle of light sharp across her features enough that Monica can make out Eileen Ruskin's expression — which is a pensive kind of concern, tilted up at Iago. He roams down to meet her, still standing on the ramp, and they trade words — nothing Monica can hear.


Half a minute later, the two part without much ceremony, Eileen turning her back and stepping down the ramp in footfalls light enough that they're barely heard. Iago remains standing, watching her go, before he moves back down the ramp as well with the heavy thump of metal. He barks an order, and with a groan of metal, the hatch is pushed closed. Locked.

Darkness, silence.

And the door Monica had been inching towards opens with its rusty creak, and she has perhaps less than two seconds to hide — or find some other solution — as a shadow starts moving into view of the door.

Not being between the seats is ideal, so Monica starts to move back toward the crates again. Iago and Eileen's conversation is a good enough distraction for her to use— or well, she'll take it— to find her way back toward some shadows. And be less exposed.

Of course, that way out closes. And then her other way out turns out to be in use, so she ducks into the maze of cargo. She doesn't fancy her chances in a fight with these numbers. And having a designated airstrip gives her a bit of a hope that wherever they're going, they'll eventually come back again.

Or, at least, she'll be missing long enough for someone to worry.

Hopefully not just her pet bird.

From her vantage point amongst the crates, she can't get a visual on the couple of figures that step up and into the plane, just hear their scuffing footsteps, followed by the more familiar uneven footfalls of Iago coming up as well, and closing the door behind him with a very final thump.

He's talking, but not to anyone within the plane, as he says, "We touch down in six hours, and make the journey from there," and the tinny voice over the other end of the line mumbles something affirmative. "No, we wait. Their fears might be false. Or they are signalling us into a trap. But we will collect, one way or another — no problem."

The plane begins to rumble as the engines warm and spin.

Six hours. That's a broad radius of the United States opening itself to possibility, and Canada beyond. With any luck, they won't be headed west, of all directions.

But as the big cargo plane makes its rickety race down the runway, jarring up Monica's bones, as air glides up beneath the belly of the beast and wheels retract within, and as it angles its nose around to guide along its destination and the night sky gives nothing away from the windows at the other end, a sinking suspicion tells her:

West is exactly where they're headed.

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