Skycastle, Part III


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Scene Title Skycastle, Part III
Synopsis Wolfhound moves on Donna Dunlap's safe house in Detroit, but finds themselves cornered by an unexpected adversary.
Date March 30, 2018

By night, the City of Detroit is reminiscent of what New York once was, a glittering urban landscape of city lights and skyscrapers rising up into the starless night. At street level, the city’s urban decay of decades past has been replaced with a fresh coat of luster, from refurbished storefronts to new buildings, with the scaffolding of more rising up from what was once urban blight. The shadows of cranes loom high over the distant horizon, where a faint blue glow of dusk yet lingers in the west.

The city smells of wet concrete, a steady rain falling down across the city lights. Neon blooms in the haze, flashing signs strobing blue and yellow, green and red, purple and orange against the dark. The streets are flooded with pedestrians with umbrellas, cars splash through puddles, and steam rises like a deep breath exhaled on a winter’s morning from the storm drains. Down the street, a heavily armored truck cuts its way through traffic, headlights on and windshield wipers sweeping away the downpour. As it passes by a crosswalk, its tail lights reflect bright and red against the windows, and the matte black of its armored body disappears beyond where street lights shine.

Soon, too, does the rest of the vehicle disappear. Little more than a mirage in the rain, a shimmer, and then nothing.

The Tlanuwa

En Route to Detroit, MI

1937 hours

The dull roar of twin engines is a white noise within the armored passenger hold of the Tlanuwa. With Hana engaged remotely at the helm, Avi Epstein steps away from the pilot’s seat and limps his way back through the cockpit door into the rear of the vessel. “Ok, we’re eight minutes from rendezvous. Ground force is getting into position. Once we’re ready steady, you’ll be going in hot.”

The full complement of Wendigo isn’t in attendance in the passenger hold. Instead it is just Adel and Berlin, each in water-resistant black kevlar and nylon jumpsuits with heavy backpacks on. Assault rifles sit perched in the gun racks between their seats, smoke grenades clipped onto their belts along with flash bangs.

“I’ll pull up once you’re engaged and circle the block, I can’t get close until you’ve given the all-clear though, last thing we wanna’ do is disturb the locals and make this into a shitshow. Plus,” Avi raps knuckles on the inner bulkhead. “Don’t wanna scratch up the Major’s baby.”

Two Days Ago

The Bunker: Wolfhound Command

Rochester, NY

“This is Donna Dunlap, former security executive for the Institute.”

In the Bunker’s conference room, an image of a dark-haired woman in her twenties flashes across one of the displays behind the broad silhouette of Avi Epstein. “She was responsible for security at the Institute’s west-coast branch, of which we know precious little about the inner workings. Dunlap was former Company, worked for their Kill Squad as an assassin. She’s specialized as a sniper with pinpoint accuracy at distances measured in miles.”

The slide behind Epstein changes, to a trio of zig-zagged skyscrapers perched on the coast of a river. “Dunlap is holed up here, in an Institute safe house codenamed Skycastle. After surveillance, we believe that Skycastle — while independently owned by an Institute shell corporation — is not staffed by Institute personnel, which is why it slipped under our radar for so long. The towers are residential buildings, and Dunlap is set up in the center tower penthouse.”

Avi looks around the table to the members of Strike Team Wendigo, settling for a moment on the seat now occupied by before continuing. “We believe Dunlap may be held against her own will, but she has a handler who checks in on her remotely. The building has minimal rent-a-cop security and legitimate civilian occupation. There shouldn’t be any Institute security present on-site.”

Changing the slide again, Avi steps to the side and motions to blueprints of the tower. “We’re going to split Wendigo into two teams. Our observer will be riding right along with Team 1. You’re to stay out of the way,” Avi offers with a pointed look to Agent Quinn, “and, you know… observe.” Then, focusing back on the others, Avi continues. “Team 1 will take the Katsh and approach from the ground, infiltrate the building, and square up at Dunlap’s penthouse. Huruma will sweep the living space for emotional presences, and once we have a head count Noa,” affirming her command position, “will call for action.”

But then Avi turns to Berlin and Adel. “You two… on the other hand…”

Riverfront Towers

Detroit, Michigan

1940 hours

Against the heavily falling rain, four shapes come into shimmering view beside the maintenance entrance of the Riverside Towers. The shadowed rear quarter of the building provides perfect cover as the black-clad Wolfhound operatives press up against the concrete trunk of the tower. Stepping ahead of Noa to the lead of the group, Colette Demsky approaches the steel security door, pressing her hand over the lock and igniting a flash of light and crackling snap. Sizzling pieces of molten metal fall to the steps below.

Assault rifle braced over her opposite arm, Colette pulls the door open and holds it for the others. As they flood in, the winding stairwell is lit by desaturating fluorescent lights that flicker with an erratic tempo. Once Noa, Huruma, and Robyn have entered, Colette steps around the door and braces it gently with a heel to allow it to shut slowly and quietly. Once inside, rainwater beads off of their clothes, falls into puddles around their boots.

Under the red glow of the EXIT sign, Colette checks the basement stairwell, looks up to the winding staircase, and gives two fingers in an upward motion, indicating the way is clear. Noa takes the lead, with Huruma between, and Colette at the rear with Robyn several steps behind as they hustle up the stairs. With the security cameras a non-issue, the stairwells remain clear all the way up.

«This is Wendigo One— Three.» Colette winces, «We’re halfway up.»

«Affirmative.» Avi’s voice crackles over the comms. «We’re in position.»

There’s still ten more floors to go, and already the ascent is proving to be arduous. Colette offers a look up at Noa, brows furrowed and blind eyes squared on her. It’s a momentarily intense one, purposefully so, but it softens into the most hesitant of smiles afterward. It’s a wordless affirmation of the unspoken awkwardness of this situation. It’s okay, it implies, and perhaps that’s all that need be said between the two and their juxtaposed roles, for now.

They’re all in good shape, but the climbing still makes for weary and burning leg muscles; Noa makes an exaggerated sigh of weariness as they make it to the fifth floor landing. Her mouth doesn’t move but still her voice comes through the coms — just for her team, not for command central: «Beckett and Lane have the right idea.» They don’t have to climb stairs.

Colette’s minor slip is ignored — Noa’s not happy to be leading at the expense of her friend’s pride. When the former team lead smiles, Noa nods — perhaps showing just a little nervousness that she won’t voice. Her dark eyes move to Huruma and then Robyn to make sure everyone’s still present and accounted for; there’s still a few floors to go before Huruma is in range to check for a live body count.

Conversely, Robyn Quinn looks surprisingly unfazed by the several flights of stairs - she's made a habit of running up and down the stairwell at Fort Jay when she needs to get exercise in during her office hours, or when she has time to kill. That doesn't mean she's happy about it, though, as much as she may not be showing it.

This is, perhaps, the first time any of them have seen their observer with both her eyes visible, grey eyes moving between each member of Wendigo. She's out of practice watching her blind spot, and has made the tactical (read: smart) decision to take to this mission unimpeded visually - at least as much as possible. With a quick glance over to Colette, she makes note of her slip up, but remains quiet about it.

Really, she has little to say. She's here to observe how they do their work after all, not to jump head first into a firefight. No matter how much energy she teems with at /that possibility. So, in lieu of words, she offers a wordless nod to Noa. I'll just be back here, don't mind me.

Huruma wipes the water from the lines of her cheekbones as they close the broken door quietly behind them, her gaze travelling up the cavern of the stairwell. She has never had an illuminating indicator of her ability, but all the same the gleam of eyes the same shade as the man on the moon seem to do the trick in the dim light. She studies the stairs, brief and pointed, mind reaching out like a dozen hands above her frame, climbing spider-like up the corridor.

The fingers stretch out ahead of their path, guiding them past unsuspecting floors of civilians in apartments. Everyone so far seems to be just going about their lives, and she can feel as much in the spaces there. Noa's quip earns her a small snort of air, Huruma's energy focused more on the ascent.

Huruma has not paid Robyn much mind, in the scheme of things; they both have jobs to do. There is not much more to it than that. She can respect it.

Closing in on the penthouse level, Huruma can feel the myriad sensations of families and solitary residents through the walls of the tower. Each floor up a different texture of emotions brushes over her mind, none with any sense of alarm or alertness so as to raise her suspicions. By the time they reach the twentieth floor, they come upon a locked security door with a key card reader beside the handle. As Noa takes a place beside the door, Colette comes up and unfastens a device from her belt, with a key card attached to a ribbon cable with a heavy black box on it. She slides the card in and clicks on the power to the box, activating a wireless signal that creates a bridge between the fake card and the keycard reader and the technopath listening for that very signal. A moment later, the light turns from red to green and the magnetic lock buzzes noisily as it disengages.

Huruma’s senses feel no presences in the penthouse-level hallway, and with the all-clear the team pushes past the door, moving in a wedge formation down the hallway with Noa in the front and Huruma beside Colette on either edge of the hall. Robyn, several feet behind, picks up the rear. It’s hard for her not to be distracted by Colette’s presence, seeing the photokinetic in vibrantly oversaturated colors rather than the same grayscale as everything else around her.

The hallway outside of the penthouse is an L-shape, with the stairway access at one end, an elevator at the corner, and then all the way around to the other end of the L-curve the white-painted door to Donna Dunlap’s apartment. There’s muffled music playing inside, something with Jazz piano and strings. The emotional spectrum beyond the walls is subtly muddy, with two consciousness’ pinging within the penthouse on opposite ends from one-another. One is tense with anxiety, not a vivid amount, but a simmering undercurrent of nerves. The other is slightly more agitated, impatience stirring into frustration and a simmering amount of resentment.

Colette presses her back up against the wall beside the door and braces her assault rifle at her shoulder, looking back momentarily to Robyn, then over to Huruma with a slow nod to indicate that she’s ready, and then up to Noa to give the signal to Team 2.

There’s a frown of concentration as Noa does her own brand of listening while Huruma does her emotional inventory, each trying to learn from what lies beyond the door beyond their vision. She holds her own assault rifle at the ready, then looks to Huruma; her brows lift over dark eyes in the silent question — except while Noa doesn’t speak aloud, the question comes anyway in their radio coms; Noa’s radio voice sounds identical to her speech except for when she chooses otherwise.

«How many? Can you estimate their locations?» Once Noa has the answer to this and the team has as much information as they can get from this side of the wall to Dunlap’s penthouse, she’ll give them the signal to move.

Someday, Robyn will grow used to the sight of Colette, the way she defies the reality she has otherwise accepted. Today is not that day, and she finds her gaze lingering uncomfortably on the younger woman as they wait to make their ingress into the penthouse. If anyone asks her about it, she play it off as observing, and once she realises how she's staring , she slowly moves her gaze to the others to support that.

It also helps her play off the fact that twenty floors is way more than anyone should ever climb at once.

Silently, she straightens her posture, tense with anticipation. Her days in SESA hadn't ever been like this. Hell, the war hadn't either - those days were pure chaos. This… this is controlled. For now. There's a saying Raith said to her once that sticks out in her mind.

She keeps it to herself. She keeps everything to herself, simply waiting for the operation to begin in earnest.

At the target floor, Huruma is silent while Colette runs the card puppet through the lock, her eyes spaced towards the inner wall in a braced study of the space beyond it. She keeps precise with the rest of the squad, the others kept in her peripherals as she investigates and okays the corridors for travel.

Huruma holds up two fingers for the team and as an answer to Noa, before allowing her pointer finger to act as the hound's nose, pinpointing each from a distance. One, two. "Tension. Impatience." Her voice is just a murmur, summarizing for the non-empaths. What to expect.

Huruma palms the small gun at her hip, the Banshee offering slightly more in these quarters than bullets— at least for her. The dark lines of uniform make up for the intimidation of a gun. Ready.

Raising one hand into a fist, Noa looks to the apartment door and waves Colette over. The photokinetic shoulders her rifle and crouches beside the door and raises one hand, creating a well of light in her palm that she holds with considerable concentration.

Noa look to Huruma, back to Robyn, and then over the radio. «Go.»

The Tlanuwa

Detroit Airspace

Wind rushes wildly through the back of the Tlanuwa as the jet hovers in place high over the towering apartment complex. Rain cascades in through the open rear hatch, driven by howling wind. The back ramp is slick with water, flashing emergency lights reflecting in the glossy sheen. The ship hovers gracefully, occasionally pitching ame tilting in the gusts as its remote pilot keeps the vehicle steady.

Epstein, headphones on and rain poncho slung over his shoulders, stands by that yawning opening with one hand tightly gripping the nylon webbing along the bulkhead. His head jerks, two fingers pointing at Berlin and Adel. «Green light! Green light! Go, go, go!»

With that command, the two women rush one by one to the open back hatch of the Tlanuwa, and jump into the rainy skies.

From the wide smile on her face, Adel definitely isn’t fearing what’s about to happen. With a nod at her compatriot, she leads the way, a running jump out the open hatch into the air. Goggles protect her eyes, her short hair is held back tight by a cap over her head and she positions her body just as she’d been instructed, looking up toward Berlin to make sure she’s doing the same thing. Jumping out of a plane is an art, surely, but it’s the landing that is the most important. Well, once they’ve cleared the plane, at least. The in between, though—

That’s pure joy to her. Part of her wants to scream out into the rainy air, but she focuses her eyes on what she can see— first her partner, then the target— which she knows will be difficult in these conditions.

Berlin looks over at Adel, her goggles in place over a grin of her own. When Adel moves, Berlin moves a step behind her. There's a gasp no one can hear when she jumps from the plane, leaving solid ground behind and having nothing but air under her. Berlin doesn't shout, either, as much as the urge might be there. And she doesn't close her eyes, either. That one's a little harder, as the feeling of freefalling hits her and she— for just a moment— wants to really feel it. But instead, she keeps her attention on Adel, trusting her to find their way to the rooftop and following as best she can. Just like they practiced.

Flying is an intoxicating feeling, even when simulated by freefall. The descent from the Tlanuwa necessitates an extreme height, made worse by the inclement weather. But the storm, the night, and the distance masks the jet’s presence allowing Adel and Berlin to make their meteoric fall. Eventually they emerge through the low-lying cloud cover and can see the lights of the towers coming into view.

Pulling their chutes, each woman is jerked back up into the air, carried aloft on battering wind and stinging rain. The hand cords help direct their descent, circling in an ever-tightening corkscrew toward the central tower’s rooftop patio. Even with the chutes deployed their descent is rapid, and within moments both women are boots down on the flagstone tiles of the patio. A brightly-lit swimming pool sheds a pale glow in the rainy air as Adel and Berlin disconnect their parachutes and let the wind take them.

Through the large windows looking into the north side of the penthouse, they can see not one but three people inside. One is a long-haired blonde woman in a dark suit pacing in the living room, her face unable to be recognized through the rain-streaked glass. The others look like a pair of armed security, none march Dunlap’s description. But here on the roof it's too late to back down. They have their orders.

Breach the windows.

Using hand gestures, Adel makes sure that Berlin uses the correct timing on deploying chute, as well as follows her in maneuvering so they can land on target at almost at the same time— boots on the ground. The sudden feeling of solid roof under feet always sent a jarring up her body, but she’d trained her legs for this kind of impact since she decided she wanted to jump out of planes professionally. Within moments she’s good to move, gives the other girl a thumbs up to show she did good and readies weapon.

Switching the frequency of the Banshee, she aims it at the closest window as she runs toward it, firing the sound waves in hope they will break the glass, or at least weaken it enough that when they charge through it shatters. She doesn’t know if it’s regular glass, and she’s not taking the chance of shoving her side into it and bouncing right off (they’re professionals!).

They are to breach, so they will breach.

Berlin's landing is less graceful and she rolls a little to keep the impact from doing more than bruising, but she's up on her feet quickly to join Adel. She returns the thumbs up, to confirm that she's good to go. Following suit, she pulls her Banshee and adjusts before firing.

While she moves forward, there is a note that none of the faces are the face, but it doesn't slow her down at the moment. Because bouncing off the windows would be super embarrassing, it's true. She fires more than once, just to be sure, before they hit the glass. Shoulder first, Berlin turns her face away from the windows. Goggles will save her eyes, but she's not ready for the badass face scar part of this career just yet.

Richard Ray would say “that's not what the Banshees were designed for!” He would've right, but in this instance he would also be wrong. In this second field test note, the Banshee — when modulated to the highest sound frequency and battery reduction rate — can disrupt the integrity of reinforced glass enough to allow for deep structural damage.

Berlin and Adel explode through the windows in a shower of glass, whipping wind and driving rain following their approach. Both of the security personal dressed in black BDUs and the same AEGIS armor as Wolfhound are stunned by the crash. The don't have time to raise their PSM-90 assault rifles. The other person, closest to the broken glass, recoils away from the approaching attackers.

She's tall, blonde, cuts a dark silhouette in her black on black suit, and is completely unprepared for this turn of events. But it's about to get worse.

There is an electric-light cracklesnap as a sapphire-colored laser slices the hinges and locks off of the penthouse door, followed by the sturdy kick of a boot in that sends the door flying into the apartment. Colette Demsky takes a step back and a knee after breaking down the door, training her assault rifle down the center of the apartment’s door.

«Go, go, go!» Noa calls over the comms, as chaos erupts in the penthouse with Wolfhound on the tactical advantage but one practical disadvantage: they have to take people alive. The Institute Remnant don't.

But as soon as that door goes down, as soon as Huruma can see straight from the entryway to the living room she recognizes the blonde woman in the suit immediately. That is Lauren Gilmore, former Company Agent, member of the Kill Squad, and one of the active agents who had Huruma imprisoned in Level-5.

Even as Berlin and Adel are crashing through the glass, Noa’s mind is at work to distort the radio channels of their enemies, ensuring no communication goes through unless she wants it to.

«Wendigo 2, 3, 5, on these three. Disarm and restrain. Wendigo 4, let’s find Dunlap,» the young Gitelman’s voice quickly directs over their coms, though her mouth makes no movement. She’s unaware of the recognition for Gilmore on Huruma’s part.

Aloud, in as authoritative a voice as she can muster, Noa directs those surprised by their sudden and violent arrival in the apartment: “Hands up and cooperate and no one needs to die.” At least not until they’ve gone to trial, but that goes without saying.

Knowing the others are covering the three in sight, she nods to Huruma to go in the direction her empathy tells her Dunlap is, and will follow for support, sweeping each area with her weapon as trained.

At the back of the group, Robyn's eyes snap to attention, to the door. No distractions now - even if she's not here to actively participate, she can't let her mind wander. So, she puts herself into the same mindset she takes when on an assignment. Her cold, expression impassive, she grips her pistol tight and follows behind the others as they file into the lavish apartment.

She stays towards the back even once they're in, eyes scanning the room for any threats that might have been missed in the breaches, hands steady as she keeps her weapon at the ready. She doesn't recognise anyone here, so she takes this brief moment to study their features as well as she can lacking colours to discern some important details.

A deep breath, a glance towards Noa, and then to the others. She otherwise lingers by the door, watching and waiting. Observing.

Huruma slides into the apartment like a snake, the banshee pistol in a one-handed grip as everything cuts loose from the outside of the building, pushing inward with a crash of glass that folds under subsonic assault.

One, two—


The presence of a third figure is already enough to set the empath on edge, physical senses spiking, pupils pinning and the tautness of muscle stringing along a frame that briefly covers the door as she rushes inside. A void where she sees a ghost, for all that it is worth; the woman’s face is a stark one that snaps its way to the front of her mind from years before. She was never one to forget a captor, and it still rings true.

“« Agent Gilmore. She is a blank— »” Somewhere Hana is likely to pick up that familiar name, or even one of the other quick studies with Wendigo. Institute, though— security— later years. Whatever the case, Huruma is not waiting around for a nice hello. Her chest vibrates against her armor when she lets out a growl, lunging towards Gilmore with the Banshee at length to fire it ahead of her path; because once she gets there, Lauren is set to be getting a fist to the head.

“Put down the weapons— You don’t want to find out what happened to the last guy we used these things on,” Adel responds with a wicked grin as she points the Banshee at the ones that they need to take alive. If they act like they don’t need to take them alive, it might not seem like they will be showing mercy. And really, unless they’re phasing, the Banshee probably won’t do much major damage, even turned up like it still is.

Note to Raytech, Banshee helps get through reinforced glass. It was primal. - Adel :)

But when Huruma disregards orders to go find Dunlap and charges Gilmore, she blinks in surprise, but doesn’t shift or lower her weapon. What the hell. She shifts a one second glance at Colette, as if still expecting her to make the call in this situation, even if she is actually the person of rank in the room.

She’s still not used to having an actual rank.

Busting through the windows worked out a lot better than Berlin was expecting. A lot cooler. There's a sort of giddy laugh from her that echoes over the comms before she hears the orders and lifts her weapon a moment after Adel does.

She doesn't echo the order, just doubles down on the threat.

Huruma goes off script, but Berlin stays focused where she is, just in case they decide to try something. "Wendigo-4, that's not your target," she notes, like she might be a little confused seeing the woman disobey an order. Because she is. Her fingers move to adjust the Banshee, aiming to stun the security personnel in front of her when she fires. And she does, even if they listen to Adel. Even if they don't.

She doesn't want Huruma's charge to jolt them into actually doing their jobs, assuming they are supposed to be protecting the blonde woman. And their target.

With you, Wendigo-1!” Colette barks to Noa, noticing the change in plans when Huruma goes after the blonde. Moving from the doorway, Colette ripples into an invisible mirage and cuts right to search the east wing of the penthouse. Her Heat-haze ripple disappears down the hallway leading toward the bedroom as an all-out battle engulf the north side of the penthouse.

Lauren braces as she sees Huruma’s approach, and the blonde leaps backwards and rolls across the dining room table, then kicks it over with surprising strength sending dishes and flatware scattering to the floor. As Huruma closes the distance, Lauren widens her stance and clenches her hands into fists. The first swing Huruma leads with is blocked with a forearm sweep and countered with an attempted eye rake at the taller woman.

Wordlessly, Huruma leans back and away from the attack and then swings a long leg out, kicking Lauren square in the chest. The former Company agent crashes into the wall, knocking a picture frame to the floor. But Huruma is advancing, and Lauren ducks out of the way just in time for Huruma to bury her fist in the drywall. Lauren sidesteps, goes to drive an elbow into Huruma’s side but the taller woman pulls her fist from the wall with a shower of plaster and dodges the jab.

Hair in her eyes, Lauren exhales a sharp breath and her eyes take on a momentarily golden glow, then cool back down. What the fuck happened to her?

The security team on site does not obey Noa’s request or heed Adel’s warning. Berlin’s Banshee fire elicits a howl of agony from one of the two security officers who drops his weapon and crumples to his knees, hands at his head, eyes wrenched shut. He continues to crumple as the sound ray is leveled on him.

In response, his partner opens fire at Berlin with his PSM. The rapid-fire automatic spits out 15 rounds per second, each of them slamming into Berlin. Most are clustered at her side, shoulder, and right arm. Each impact is deadened of lethality by her AEGIS armor, but the sheer kinetic force is like being struck with multiple hard kicks. It knocks Berlin off of her balance and the three rounds that hit her legs send her tumbling to the floor and smashing through the glass-topped coffee table. None of the rounds penetrated the armor, but the point-blank shots nearly blew out the suit’s batter. A high-pitched beep in her earpiece is synchronized to the armor, warning of impending defensive failure.

When Huruma breaks for Gilmore, Noa’s dark brows draw together, but Colette’s already on it, moving off in her invisibility cloak of sorts, to seek out Dunlap.

“«Sneak her out if you need to. Keep me informed»” comes Noa’s voice through Colette’s com alone. “«I’ll sweep the other side.»”

The guard firing at Beckett finds another Banshee trained on him as Noa sends a round of its fire toward him in response, even as she moves to the western side of the apartment, trusting the three Hounds to manage the three visible opponents. “«Wendigo-4, use your Banshee and keep it professional so you don’t get hurt».” Or worse.

She moves westward, sweeping the blind corners as she rounds them, searching for the target; she lacks Colette’s ability to move invisibly, but her own ability’s turned up, ‘listening’ for anything that might ping her technopath senses.

Huruma knows this isn't her target. It was a conscious decision on her part, and no doubt she'll hear some words— and have some of her own— but that is for later.

The exchange with Lauren is swift and strong, the floor littering with broken pieces of decor as the two come to blows; as Huruma wrenches her fist out of the drywall, her mind reaches out to those belonging to the other hostiles, lancing out at each with slim harpoons of fear. She comes to face Gilmore as her eyes fade from gold to amber.

What was that?

Huruma's breath steadies, one hand opening at her side in a show of sharp talons embedded in her gloves. The Banshee still clutched in her other hand levels at the ex-agent, or whatever she may be— there is a void, unsettling and dark like a leak of negative space. Noa's orders this time are already on deck; the banshee trains on Lauren and fires.

The fact that it seems so odd that Huruma would break with orders had been the main reason Adel had been so shocked by the sight of it. She doesn’t get time to process as the man suddenly opens fire on Berlin. She turns her turned up Banshee on him and fires once, hoping that it doesn’t hurt him too badly. But at the same time too worried about Berlin to turn it back down again.

She casts a look at Berlin in hopes the suit managed to take all of that, including a, “You in one piece?”

Preferably one piece with as few holes as possible.

Berlin hits the table with a crash, glass shattering under her weight. Her hands move up to her face instinctually rather than out of strict necessity, since she still has some protective gear on. The suit blares in her ear, which doesn't help her feeling stunned. But Adel's question gets her moving, rolling onto her side and up to her feet.

"Yeah," she says with a groan as she lifts her Banshee again to keep trained on the guards, "still one piece. It was fun. Let's do it again." She's definitely going to bruise. But it seems the warning of her impending defensive failure isn't enough to get her to retreat. Or even mention it, really. "Just don't ask me to high five you later. Maybe a low five."

Just down the hall, Colette kicks in the door to the bathroom. She sweeps her sights around, in the shower, up at the ceiling. «Clear!» She calls over the comms, moving down the hall to the master bedroom, kicking that door open next. Her sights sweep around the room and she strafes wide over clothes thrown all over the floor. She checks the open closed, concentrates and sends her vision out to sweep under the bed without crouching, then kicks in the master bathroom door. Empty. «Clear!»

In the living room, the screeching wail of Banshees sends the second security officer crumpling to the floor with a scream. The tuned up weapon is so intense he drops his gun, hands clapping to his head and eyes wrenched shut. He drops to his knees, screaming again, though he cannot hear his own voice for the focused ray of sound.

As Huruma readies the same weapon to fire on Lauren, the blonde hopes forward into the agonizing beam and kicks the weapon out of Huruma’s hand, sending it scattering to the floor. She then hops around and switches to her other foot and swings a wild roundhouse kick into the empath’s center mass, knocking her back. The AEGIS armor absorbs the blow without any injury to Huruma, but the ex-agent isn’t out of the fight yet. Her eyes surge with a golden light, like tiny eclipses.

Across the penthouse, Noa pushes open one closet door, then a storage space, all empty. She moves past them and into a private office. There’s a computer in here, still on, though there’s no wireless signals coming from it. Also, no sign of Donna.

In the main room, Lauren balls up one fist and pivots to the side as she focuses on Adel and yanks the brunette off of her feet with an unseen hand. One moment Adel is speaking, the next she’s being bodily thrown at Huruma. This weight and telekinetic force sends the empath sprawling to the ground with a crash of furniture splintering under her. The table upends, dishes crash to the floor.

Lauren turns, throwing out her other hand and sending Berlin smashing backwards into another one of the windows that wasn’t compromised by a Banshee. Huruma still can’t get a read on her emotions, yet she’s exhibiting multiple abilities simultaneously. Pinning Berlin to the glass, Lauren clenches her fist and begins to telekinetically strangle the life out of her.

Colette crashes into the last room, door breaking off its hinges and slamming to the floor. Sweeping through this bedroom she finds bags halfway finished being packed, but no sign of Dunlap. «Fuck! She’s not on this side! Status! What’s going on in there!?»

Noa finishes her sweep as well, moving through a sparse kitchen and then into a small dining room with a single square table at the center. Rain hammers down on the window, wind buffets up against the building.

Dunlap isn’t here.

«Not here either. Shit.» Noa grits her teeth as she pivots from the final room to race back toward the center of the apartment. «Target not found!» is a terse report to those both within and outside of Wendigo, listening for the sitreps.

As Noa nears the corner that leads back into the main fray, she halts and crouches rather than entering into the open space, her dark eyes sweeping the action to account for both friends and foes.

The foe is definitely doing better than her friends. Three of them, anyway.

«Demsky, stay dark, need the element of surprise. See if you can load some adynomine into this blond bitch,» is a direct message into Colette’s com only, as Noa aims the Banshee at Gilmore from where she hides in the hallway. «Say when you’re clear, don’t wanna Banshee you on accident.» Friendly fire probably won’t make their power dynamic lessawkward, after all.

Robyn takes a deep breath, slipping up to one of the corners around the living room. Observing is so hard for her to do, testing her patience and trigger discipline as she watches the others do their jobs. That Dunlap has ghosted before they get there is unfortunate - but Gilmore is a a good second prize, at least to her.

Of course, she can't see Colette, but she tries tracking the photokinetic from where she last saw her, before snapping back to watch the others. She keeps her pistol at the ready, stays put for now. Eyes move from target to target - make sure everyone has all their targets covered.

And ready to pull the trigger should anyone new arrive. Something doesn't feel quite right to her, but she can't place what. "«Tlanuwa-2, do you have eyes in here at all?»" It's a simple request isolated from the rest of the team's coms as to keep them undistracted, but she wants as much information as she can get. «"This blonde. Can you pull a file?»" Or Hana. Whatever.

Huruma's throat issues a growl as Lauren moves in and disarms her of the Banshee; before she can ready a retaliation, the boot catches her in the plexus. The wind doesn't leave her, but the momentum leaves a mark. Her pupils sharpen under those full-moon irises, a contrast to the blaze of amber.

Next thing, Adel is slamming into her and they both toss onto the floor, scattering a halo of debris. One long arm hooks around Adel to pull her up onto her feet as Huruma pushes herself up alongside.

"« I can't lock in, she is a void. »" This is more specific than her rush at the start, and her voice comes over the comms with a snarl. "« It's all wrong— »" Less specific, but she is concentrating on getting Adel up and out of Gilmore's radius first.

The suit helped absorb much of the impact, but Adel still takes a handful of seconds to roll off of the woman she’d been used as a wrecking ball on. It’s been a long time since that happened. It used to be her primary mode of combat, back in the day. Telling someone to throw her at the thing they were trying to take down. It had worked— back then. Now, not so much. “Ber!” she yells in worry at the sight of what seems to be happening to her.

A telekinetic, by appearances. She definitely won’t be going hand to hand with that, it would be asking to get tossed away. She just hopes Cole makes it in time.

Technically… Berlin did ask for that. But she didn't mean it. She hits the glass with a groan— her suit is not in good shape— and her Banshee clatters to the floor. It takes a moment for her to process that she didn't fall to the ground like she really should have. And by the time she has, the force starts to squeeze around her neck.

Her first reaction is fear. Eyes widen, feet kick wildly against the window, and her hands come up as if she might be able to claw away nonexistent hands. Over the comms, there are only gasps and whimpers for a few long, agonizing moments. But after, it gets arguably worse.

Because she's silent.

Berlin closes her eyes and does her best to take in deep breaths. Her face starts to turn colors, but those around her can see that she's still alive. For the moment.

Something moves in the hallway by the entrance, something only Robyn Quinn can see. There is a blur of light, a shimmering silhouette that vaguely resembles a person, but one viewed only in outline. It isn’t a heat mirage of invisibility, it’s the aura of a photokinetic. Ever since losing her ability to see color, Robyn has never witnessed Colette become invisible. But here, in this choked penthouse, she sees it for the first time. It isn’t just color, it’s light and energy, it’s Colette’s ability at work, and she can see her.

Colette rounds the corner, nearly slamming into the wall for as hard as she moves. Her boots leave black rubber tracks across the tile floor, and under cover of photokinetic invisibility, she slides a syringe of adynomine out of a loop at her belt. The plastic cap comes off, clicks to the floor, but something weird is already happening.

Lauren releases Berlin, sends her crumpling to her knees in the same instant that Lauren is recoiling away from her and grabbing at her head. Screaming, there is a sizzling smoke coming off of Lauren’s face and hair. Black veins begin to spread under her skin and she staggers to the side, trying to get away from whatever is causing the pain. It brings Lauren straight into an open line for Noa, and the squad leader’s Banshee fires a concentrated beam of sound that hits Agent Gilmore square on.

She howls in agony, drops to her knees and flails at the air. A moment later her head jerks back and blood sprays from her nose. Spinning on one foot, Colette Demsky comes into view, halfway through the backspin from a resounding blow to Agent Gilmore’s face with the side of her boot. After the kick she steps in and drives the adynomine syringe into the dazed agent’s neck, depressing the plunger with her thumb. Lauren reaches up, tries to swing at Colette, but the dark-haired young woman grabs Lauren by the wrist and throws her to the ground.

“Ah, ah! Fuck!” Colette backs away from Lauren a second later, shaking the hand she’d grabbed her with. “What the fuck is— fucking— burning pins and needles!” Lauren writhes on the floor, the gold light in her eyes begins to flicker, and then goes out entirely. She’s still, now, breathing heavy and incapacitated. The other guards are either dead or likewise disabled. Colette takes a tentative step toward Lauren. “Nevermind it… it’s gone. Whatever it was.”

It’s only then she notices Berlin. “Lin!

Noa’s brows knit with confusion and concentration as she surveys the chaos unfolding around her; she keeps the Banshee trained on Gilmore. “You sure?” she says to Colette, looking worried. “Because none of that looked normal. Huruma, what’s the 411 on her?” She doesn’t have every dossier memorized, and Gilmore was a surprise for all of them. “You can’t get a read on Dunlap at all?”

She nods to Colette to help Berlin as she moves slowly closer to Gilmore, ensuring she too doesn’t suddenly get grabbed. “Lane, cover me while I cuff her.” Just in case.

«Nambiza. Commander. Dunlap not in Penthouse. Sweeping again. Advise?» She moves to the guards to check pulses, restraining if they’re not dead, before she rises to her feet again, with a sigh. “Checking again.” If she missed a hidden nook or hiding place… generally Wolfhound doesn’t miss.

To say that Colette - the form resembling Colette, at least - is a distraction is an understatement, taken out of the moment of action as Robyn's gaze follows and then lingers on where disappeared from her sight. It makes her heart race, that sight - that energy. Reflexively, the fingers of her free hand flex out, then in. Robyn doesn't even notice it, still fixated on the thought of what she just saw. Didn't see? Shouldn't have seen? She blinks, brow knitting together as her gaze snaps back ahead. "What the actual-"

The sound of screaming draws her back to the action, watching the challenging but well coordinated take down of Lauren Gilmore with a slowly spreading smile. A mental note - talk to Colette, soon. Somehow, someway.

But with that filed away she emerges from her… "observation point" she'd rather call it instead of a hiding place. "That was quite the sight," she offers to the other Hounds as she steps into the open living room, eyes reflexively glancing to other ingress points to make sure no one is waiting in the wings to try and surprise them. A sympathetic glance is offered in Berlin's direction - Colette has that covered, though, so instead she turns her attention to Gilmore.

A look is offered to Noa, then to Huruma. "Yes," she says, staying out of their way but focused on the fallen woman. "Who the hell is this? Never seen… a reaction like that." A look over to Noa, and a nod. "Nothing normal, to my knowledge." Her head tilts slightly to the side, and then she takes a step back. She seems tense, though. Maybe it's just been a bit since she's been in a situation like this, is all.

“It was not. Normal.” Huruma has watched the collapse of the agent with a mixture of intensity and enjoyment, though the half smile in her voice fades in a few moments. “Company agent from Level Five, went to Homeland and Institute later on…” The tall woman strides over to Gilmore’s prone form, using one boot to turn her properly face-up. Roughly.

Her eyes move up to take in the state of Berlin, nostrils flaring.

“I did not sense any other minds save for the two guards. She was nothing.” Crouching next to Lauren, Huruma observes the blood and black from a near space, refraining from touch. She heard Colette shouting. “Apologies for the reaction. It was not intention.” There was no helping herself. “I wanted to hurt her.”

It has taken a long time for Huruma to admit these kinds of things— much less give concession as she does now. My bad, guys.

“Last I knew, she was not Evolved. Nor did her eyes…” Do that.

“Well that one definitely had an ability!” Adel exclaims after a moment, as she gets back on her feet and moves over to her jumping buddy to check on her, letting the others finish talking, finish checking the room. But she doubted they missed anything. Perhaps their intel was bad. Perhaps she left before they breached. It could be many reasons.

“You still breathing, Berlin?” she asks, as she kneels down beside the other girl. Their special suits didn’t exactly protect against everything, including a telekinetic neck squeeze. She had seen how the girl’s skin had turned, but she’s more concerned about how she is now that the person who had been doing the squeezing is down.

Berlin falls to the ground and gasps in a ragged, desperate breath. She manages to push up to her hands and knees, like she might be trying to stand but can't get that far. She tries to answer Colette and Adel, but ends up coughing first. Which makes her have to catch her breath all over again. In the end, she drops to sit, a hand coming to her throat as she looks over at Lauren, eyes wide.

"Yeah," she says reaching a hand over to steady herself with Adel's shoulder, "still breathing."

Pulling her gaze away from their prisoner, she turns to look at Adel. "You okay? That all came out of nowhere, yeah?"

«This is Tlanuwa-2» Epstein calls over the comms. «The storm is picking up out here, I won't be able to land on the roof. Take survivors captive and put them in holding in the Katsch. We have a schedule rendezvous for turnover to DHS pending.»

Colette takes Berlin’s hand and helps her to her feet, clapping one hand on the younger woman’s shoulder as she does. “Make sure Francois checks you out when we get back,” she whispers, not wanting to make Berlin feel too overwhelmed by public concern.

«Copy that, Tlanuwa-2,» Colette responds into her earpiece. “Let's get those guards and this one,” she motions to Gilmore as she unfastens a wreath of zip ties from her belt, “restrained. The Lieutenant’s right, we should do another sweep of the apartment. Standard procedure, link up all electronics with a wireless dongle and let Nambiza into their systems…”

Blind eyes level on Robyn, and Colette gives her a steady nod, then an understanding look to Huruma. “The… boss is gonna want an explanation for what the hell this is,” she says with a gesture to the unconscious form of Lauren Gilmore.

“You should, too,” Noa quietly comments to Colette when she returns from her second sweep. For the other Hound to react so loudly, whatever Gilmore did must have left some damage.

“Let’s get moving. Everyone got all their fingers and toes?” she asks, glancing at those in the room, and giving Huruma a nod for her apologies. She doesn’t seem angry at all, though a little perplexed and perhaps a bit solemn — after all, it’s her first mission as Wendigo-1 and it isn’t exactly a success.

“You wanna do the honors of throwing that one in holding?” she asks Huruma, with a nod to Gilmore — there’s always something satisfactory about serving justice to those who’ve done you wrong. “If you’re feeling up for it, Beckett, go ahead and grab the electronics while we haul out the trash.” It’s a lighter job for the injured Hound.

"Well," Robyn remarks, looking down Lauren Gilmore's retrained form. She huffs out a breath through her nose, looking up to Colette, and then to Noa. "She is sure as shit Evolved now, or something resembling it." Which is probably why whatever tenseness is pent up in her hasn't quite released yet.

"I would appreciate," she starts, tilting her gaze up to Huruma, "a run down as well. Someone at HQ is going to have something to say about this." While she's sure that everyone present is less than thrilled with the idea that they're being reported on - even if they weren't, this is unusual enough to require it, at least in the eyes of this particular Agent.

She has nothing to say about the apparent failure of the mission. There's nothing to say about it. She's had things go sideways before, and her mind is focused on a much different place right now. A look is give up to Noa, and she nods. "Noa. Do you mind if I shadow you." Despite the wording, it's not quite a question - but there is an opening for Noa to refuse.

“Whatever was keeping her mind from me is no longer there.” Huruma notes as she leans forward to tug Gilmore into a sit, inspecting the blood on her face. To Noa she simply nods in confirmation. She's got this one.

“Certainly, agent Quinn.” Huruma has no problem settling into the title, so at least she gets that. Overseer or not, there remains a more visible respect. The tall woman hooks her arms around Lauren and hauls her over one shoulder, holding her by legs and one arm with minimal effort. “I have a few questions of my own, though I hazard a guess nor you or the Major can answer them.”

“Where can I meet the bird outside?”

“I’m good. I’m used to getting thrown at people,” Adel jokes with a grin, as she helps steady Berlin and makes sure she can walk fully before she goes to finish the sweep of the room, checking every nook and cranny. Looking for trap doors and the like, while Berlin sets up the tech.

She doesn’t expect to find the woman hunkered down anywhere, though— if Huruma hadn’t sensed them, she doubts they were there—

Unless that blank thing is a new technology that the Institute has come up with to defend themselves against them.

Accepting the help up, Berlin gives Colette a grateful nod, and Adel, too, for the assist. The note about seeing Francois gets a dry chuckle. "I'm okay. Now that I can breathe again." Which is to say, she will probably skip it, if she can.

But she moves to let the Major into their systems, sweeping to find whatever tech they might have lying around. She seems a little unsteady, and a wary look is cast toward Lauren. Something about all that obviously disturbs her. Or… all of it disturbs her.

«There’s a parking garage due opposite of the towers, roof’s clear. I’m going to touch down there. I just radioed to DHS and they’re en-route, say 20-30 minutes.» Epstein’s voice crackles noisily over the comms, confirming rendezvous points.

As Wolfhound’s Strike Team Wendigo pulls the last few pieces of their operation together, they are left with more questions than answers. Donna Dunlap is missing, presumably not even in Detroit any longer. Lauren Gilmore possesses some form of superhuman abilities, but was never SLC-Expressive prior. As the storm hammers down on Detroit, as rain streaks in forking paths down the tall windows, Woflhound finds themselves at a crossroads.

They just don’t realize it yet.

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