The Eight-Pointed Star, Part VI


asi3_icon.gif avi_icon.gif cyrus_icon.gif dearing_icon.gif devon_icon.gif hull_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif lucille3_icon.gif rue2_icon.gif scott_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title The Eight-Pointed Star, Part VI
Synopsis Following the raid on Shedda Dinu's headquarters, Wolfhound is assembled with friends old and new to discuss an assault on the heart of Adam Monroe's operation.
Date February 27, 2020

It’s been a harrowing four hours for Wolfhound.

Three team members assigned to a joint SESA/FBI operation in Rochester faced down members of the terrorist organization Shedda-Dinu. Not less than an hour after that operation concluded, Avi Epstein received an unnerving phone call, prompting him to call all members of Wolfhound for an emergency all-hands meeting at the Bunker. Except this was unlike any conference meeting Wolfhound has had since the middle of the Civil War.

The Bunker’s comms room is a long concrete-and-brick-walled chamber with a glass table that runs down the middle, flanked on both sides by black, leather chairs. A mirror at the far end of the room is actually a haptic-touch flat screen display installed by the departed Hana Gitelman. Currently the display shows an aerial satellite photograph of what was once the island of Alameda in California, just off the coast of Oakland.

Avi is pacing back and forth in front of the screen, forefingers and thumb pinched at the bridge of his nose. A tablet computer sits on the table in front of his chair, screen dimmed. As members of Wolfhound file in, they are also not alone. The Bunker has become host to a multitude of guests, all evidently connected to this emergency meeting. Scott Harkness is the first of the Hounds into the room, motioning back behind himself as he does.

“Bird’s parked in the hangar, guests have arrived.” Scott says. Behind him through the door is not a member of Wolfhound at all, but the scruffy and bearded silhouette of a member of the Guardians, their former leader Cyrus Karr.

“Karr,” Epstein says with a motion to the chair. “Sorry about the mixup on Staten Island, no hard feelings.” Cyrus flashes a put off smile, but pulls out his chair nonetheless and takes a seat. He scratches at the side of his face, offering a look to the young woman following him in.

Clover Hull seems nervous to be in this place, but at the same time intrigued. She pauses by the brick wall, touching a seemingly featureless metal plate embedded in the wall and then jerks her hand away, eyes wide.

“A witch designed the building,” Avi says to Hull, “I don’t know half the shit Hana installed in this place. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could get the fuck up and walk away if you looked at it funny.” Hull looks at her fingers, then back over her shoulder to the others coming in. Realizing she’s in the way, she takes a seat beside Cyrus.

Huruma and Lucille come in together, bandages visible from recent injuries, both coming to their seats promptly. Dearing is right behind them, flexing his wrist in discomfort from a pulled muscle during his parkour stair ascent a few hours prior and takes a seat next to Lucille. Cyrus fixes Lucille with a steady look, but then slides his tongue across the inside of his cheek and looks away and over to Avi.

Rue and Devon are the last Hounds into the room and Harkness slips past them on his way out. He pauses, taking Rue by the wrist and retrieving a black light from his pocket. Today’s symbol is the letter Q. It shows up on her hand when he shines the light over it, in his handwriting. He nods to Rue, apologetically, and then slips out of the conference room.

It is the last two guests that are the most unexpected. The Guardians are old allies of Wolfhound, bumps and bruises aside, but the presence of Asi Tetsuyama and Yi-Min Yeh are wholly unexpected. They take the seats once reserved for Hana Gitelman and Francois Allegre at the table. It’s only now, with so many seats still left unfilled, that it becomes clear just how thin Wolfhounds ranks are these days.

The Bunker, Conference Room
Rochester, NY

February 27th
6:11 pm

“Alright,” Avi says, looking at the empty seats with a sigh. “I figure you’re all just puckered up with questions right now, so let’s— ” Avi’s attention fixes on the door in disbelief.

“Y’got room for one more at the table, old man?”


Leaning with her shoulder against the door frame, Colette Demsky looks like she just rode up here. Her leather motorcycle jacket is partly unzipped, helmet still under one arm. She rakes one gloved hand back through her dark hair and fixes a blind-eyed stare on Avi. “Tam sends her regards.”

Avi’s throat tightens, jaw sets, and for the barest moment he looks like he might keel over. He swallows down the surprise, Tam sends her regards is all the explanation he needs. “Take your fuckin’ seat,” he says, adding a somewhat emotional, “you’re late” at the end while indicating one of the still empty seats. Colette dips her head in a nod, walking down the length of the table to take a seat between Asi and Lucille, setting her helmet down on the floor behind her chair.

“Alright. If there’s nobody else out in the fucking hall,” Avi says, clearing his throat. “Let’s fucking get this started.”

Rue has spent the last several hours pacing the Bunker from one end to the other, waiting for news of the operation in Rochester. Something. Anything. When it finally comes, it takes effort and restraint not to be the first one in the briefing room. Not to just be seated in her chair and waiting for the rest of them to file in, as though it’s her to whom they owe a report.

Instead, she sequestered herself in her room, the door left open so she could hear everyone’s return to the building. The new arrivals. Even if she couldn’t see who they were, each chime of the door tells her someone’s come through the entrance. She busies herself with tapping rapidly on the on-screen keyboard of her tablet. A curious thing with no internet connectivity or wireless capabilities. Go figure.

When she finally arrives, it’s after having indulged in the vanity of eyeliner and her signature mauve lipstick. Everyone has their armor, and Rue’s is a painted face. A face that doesn’t flinch when she’s stopped at the door and checked over to make sure she is who she’s supposed to be. Harkness receives a nod in return. He’s just doing his diligence. She’d do the same.

And while she may be fashionably late, she’s not so fashionable as Demsky. Taking the seat across from Dearing, Rue waits for him to lock eyes with her. When he does, she asks him a simple question: “Do you still have it?”

Dearing angles a look over to Rue, then down to the table and back to the screen. “Yeah,” he says in a way that doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. But that’s also just the kind of person he is.

Whatever the significance of that exchange, Rue simply nods her head, satisfied in some grim fashion. “Good.”

Cyrus' reaction earns a nod although it's staggered in nature, Lucille feels the guilt of that operation. Getting him in put into custody and losing Pines, the one man who could unravel this whole mystery. Hull earns a light grin from the older woman and she dips her head, all of these faces brought back days of the war, she had grew with these people.

Seeing Yi-Min doesn't surprise Lucille as much, the tall woman gives her friend a small smile before leaning back with a gritting of her teeth in her chair, a passing glance to Asi who is a new face for Lucille. Her movements were stiff but her eyes open wide as Colette enters the room and a genuine open smile graces her lips, "About fucking time," she whispers to her best friend and allows her focus to be directed to the display. This also isn't much of a surprise, she had known it would eventually come to this.

Who's gonna shoot first? Avi's words echo in her mind and Lucille's mouth flattens into a tight line.

"Praxia then," she comments and mostly everyone in the room knows why this is particularly personal for her. Lucille doesn't make mention of her father, "When?" Gruff tone and expression grim she settles into her chair with a wince, typing and flipping through intel on her tablet.

This, Asi reflects to herself as she listens to the room, was a vastly different environment than the operational briefings the Mugai-Ryu had. She leans back in the conference chair she's picked for herself, elbows on the armrests while her hands fold together in her lap. It manages to put off an air of being both more businesslike and family-like at the same time, between the air the room itself put off, and the air of the people within it.

"Scylla," the technopathic terrorist inputs with a glance to her younger counterpart. "Try not to put yourself out of commission before we even begin."

Who knew what kinds of protective measures lived in these walls, ready to lash out at any technopath touching things without permission.

Her eyes shift between each member that comes in back from assignment, including the unexpected one who invites herself in on her own. She holds her tongue— the extra hand when members of this team were already wearied would be worth any additional cost.

Asi slides the tablet before her into her lap, leaning back in the chair and tapping the device against her thigh. When Avi declares it's time to start, she inclines her head in his direction.

For Devon Clendaniel, those hours were spent in distraction. He found reasons to be busy, whether it was by going through the motions of one training drill or another, or checking for updates on the status of the operation in Rochester. And checking his phone in between. Nothing held his attention for very long.

Nothing ever does on days like this.

The call to the meeting was a bandaid to the antsy feeling. It's something to do, but it didn't really solve the issue. Devon takes his accustomed seat at the table, lacking the fineries of combat armor but suited up with the expectation that something turned up while half the team was out in Rochester. The Guardians are regarded with a passing familiarity, the unfamiliar faces of Asi and Yi-Min are studied much more closely. Their inclusion is silently questioned, weighed.

His attention eventually begins to turn to Avi, interrupted by Colette’s voice. Devon casts a smirking grin at the former Hound. Whatever is happening, it's always good to have more of the team back together. “Getting bored with the police,” he asks in jest, as his gaze slides back to Avi.

“Hardly,” Colette says to Devon, “just can’t let the old man get you all killed s’all.” The corner of her mouth creeps up in a smirk.

With all of the new guests filing in, Huruma has taken a moment to herself before meeting up with Lucille; all to study each one she can find before they head out. The empath fixates first on Cyrus and Hull, given their presence as she drifts in. Only when she coils down into her seat and hooks one leg over the other does she turn her eye to the rest. Asi. Yi-Min. Colette.

"No, there's nobody else." Huruma purses her lips, one hand in her lap, the other holding a small coldpack against the back of her head; her chair leans back, an attempt at casual. "Yet." Her amendment comes with a second glance up the table at Epstein. It's fine, she'll keep an ear out.

Beyond returning Lucille's smile with one of her own, Yi-Min does little beyond lounging in her conference chair with hands very neatly clasped in her lap. She seems serenely unconcerned about the appraising looks she is receiving from those who are not already as familiar with her as Lucy is.

They are not what she is here for. Not directly, anyway. If she is doing some silent appraising of her own, she conceals it well in favor of simply listening and waiting for what comes next.

Avi clears his throat, running a hand through his hair. “Lucille hit the nail on the head,” he says with a gesture back to the reflective screen. “This is the island of Praxia, the US headquarters of Chinese conglomerate Praxis Heavy Industries. The region around it is the California Safe Zone. Praxia, like Yamagato Park, is an independent nation-state bounded on all sides by water and recognized by the United Nations as an independent country.”

Epstein walks over to his tablet and picks it up, scrolling through his notes. “A few hours ago I received a call from the highest office in this country. You may’ve seen the news, about Praxis and human rights violations. Well, it goes a thumb deeper into the ol’ eye socket of humanity than that.” Avi glances at the tablet and sets it down again. “Round about a decade ago, the last surviving Company founder and international fucking terrorist, Adam Monroe, bought out a controlling interest in the corporation. He’s turned it into his own private army for whatever shit-fucking plans he’s cocked up.”

“When I received that call the US military had been alerted to a flight of aircraft departing Praxia en-route to an unknown destination before they dropped off radar. The President believes that Monroe may be attempting to use robotic, conventional, or chemical weapons against non-Expressive citizens somewhere in the US.” Avi walks back to the screen and taps on it, changing it to display imagery of bipedal weapon-carrying robots. “We tangled with these fucking war machines on an operation to take out the Institute remnants last year. We now have confirmation that Monroe’s built a veritable fucking Skynet army of them.”

Tapping the screen again, Avi brings up images of spider-legged tanks with vehicle-mounted coil railguns. “These monstrosities are produced in Praxia, bypassing the United States’ ban on robotic weaponry thanks to the island’s sovereign status. Intelligence from DHS, SESA, and the CIA confirms Monroe attempted to retrieve a biological weapon from the CDC called Gorgon, the one we destroyed during the Civil War.”

Avi scratches at the side of his jaw with one hand. “Basically,” he skips the rest of the list, “it’s a fucking horror show. Monroe was the one pulling the Institute Remnant’s strings, the Director we’d heard so much about. He’s been behind this whole shit-stack of crap-pancakes we’ve been handed, and Uncle Sam has asked us to do him a solid.” Avi steps back to the table, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Invading Praxia, even with all of this intelligence, would require an act of Congress,” Avi explains. “The President could authorize a military operation without Congressional approval, but with America’s current standing thanks to the Mitchell Administration, the whole fucking world’s just waiting for us to fall back into fascism again as an excuse to “bring peace” to our fucking country.” He squints and rankles his nose at the notion.

“So, we’ve been asked to do what I used to do when I worked for the Stars and Bars.” Avi leans forward and rests his hands on the edge of the table. “We’ve been asked to invade Praxia, find evidence of Monroe’s activities, prevent him from providing any clear and present danger to the United States, and…” he angles his head to the side, “if things go tits up, the government disavows we were ever there.”

Sliding his tongue across the inside of his cheek, Avi looks around at the faces gathered across the table. “Before I get down to brass tacks, anyone who wants to walk now… can.”

"His original plan was to set Gorgon loose on the Non Expressives." Original because who could really tell now at this point. That conversation with Kellar, the journey to Texas with Nathalie rings in her mind. That was enough for Lucille to be against him and for what he did to her family, to Nathalie. "There are, multiple people within his organization that seem to be working against him." Besides Yi-Min.

All of this is becoming way too real way too fast. The likelihood of running across her father is more and more certain and it leaves a bad taste in the back of Luce's mouth. "There isn't just one of him either, he has clones." Another memory and piece of intel associated with Nathalie and her gaze lifts to stare at a point in the wall opposite of her, unwavering. "One was killed." She doesn't name drop but that's all she says about that.

Looking at the different photos of Praxia and the area surrounding she thinks back to her time on the west coast during the war, "I assume our friends have a quiet way for us to enter." Gaze lowers to Yi-Min before slowly sliding over the Guardians. "I remember that area, before and during the war. There was a harbor in Oakland, fly in and boat down the coast?" Dark hair is threaded behind her ear as Lucille takes notes. It would be a straight shot from the harbor itself.

She chews on the inside of her cheek as she waits for the others to speak or as Avi said: walk.

Huruma already knows the song and dance behind this. She stares past Avi to the projection on the screen, expression unreadable as he goes through the motions of explaining the operation- - and what's on the line. Knowing what's coming doesn't save her from the roiling in her stomach.

"Knowing him, there are plenty more." Bodies. Huruma's interjection aside to Lucille is dark, her eyes still on the screen as she leans her jaw against the plane of her knuckles. Pale irises shadow under her eyelids, a look moving to Asi and Hull, the pair clearly having been pointed out before now. "If we get the technopaths inside, the Skynet shouldn't be an issue, yes?" Huruma's eyes shift briefly to Avi, mouth tight. "And the only place I'm walking is right up to Adam. "

For a lot of things, to say the least. There's a lift of brows and an addition with a touch of levity. "Nothing personal."

Anyone who wants to walk now… can.

Rue’s chair slides back, the woman’s hands braced on the table in front of her to push out until she has enough space to stand. “I bet you twenty this shit goes tits up,” she parrots back at Avi, jabbing a finger through the air in his direction.

As she’d been watching the screen, Rue’s face was grim. Each piece of information — none of it exactly new to the intelligence officer — adds up to bad news of epic fucking proportions. Huruma can feel the anxiety and the distrust rolling off her. It’s so very distinctly Rue. If the invisible Q on her hand hadn’t been enough to satisfy, this should do it.

But it isn’t the door she makes her way toward. Instead, it’s the alcove in the wall where she retrieves a glass and a pitcher of water. She needs to think about this. As she pours, she casts a disdainful look toward the exit, counting the number of steps between her and it in her mind’s eye.

Rue sets the pitcher back down with a thud and turns to face the rest of the room again, leaning her back against the wall as she takes a sip of the water she wishes was instead scotch. This is almost guaran-fucking-teed to go sideways. Every shred of good sense she has left is telling her to walk away. But… Huffing a sigh, she fixes her flat look back on Avi.

For better or worse, Rumor is Aviators’ ride or die.

Asi offers up deadpan, "This Skynet thing is an issue. I purchased one of their ZhiZhu-7 tank models shortly after it was released for the purposes of dismantling it and examining it for weaknesses… ulterior programming. A self-learning tank that can climb walls and melt conventional armored vehicles was not bad enough— there were also anti-technopathic measures installed into it. Advanced enough it stung."

Her gaze shifts to Huruma next. "Inside though, from the network that those devices sync to, we'll bypass the measures installed on the end devices. We can expect resistance from Praxis-employed technopaths, ultimately, but there's plans for that. If they show their face again, it'll make it that much easier to handle them." No smile or hint of levity follows that. Her gaze tracks to Hull at her side for only a moment before she looks ahead to the presentation again.

"The issue we will run into as far as gathering information is the time it will take to strip as we go. I doubt they'll burn their own systems on their home base, but if they're determined to hide what they've been doing, they just might." Her brow lifting, Asi fixes her eyes at a distant point. "Coincidentally, on a different project, I wrote a program last month that should help us more quickly get data out wholesale, so I will have my hands free, so to speak, while we work. But the program won't break any encryption placed on the data, so learning from what we've stolen might have to come later if we don't find the tools to immediately crack the case."

Mouth thinning to a line after that, Asi glances back to Avi at the head of the table. "What is the priority on stopping the Praxis attack in its tracks versus getting away with as much data as possible? I am not advocating the suffering of any people, but sometimes people need to see what is going on with their own eyes before they commit to bringing those involved to justice."

Puzzled interest sets in from the beginning, with Devon slanting looks to gauge everyone else’s reactions. No one seems even slightly surprised by the news, except for him. That realization, coupled with the understanding that he's the only one learning most of this for the first time, manifests a thin layer of anxiety. It shouldn't be the shock that it is, he can rationalize the need for secrecy given his unplanned connections to the experimentations happening within Praxia.

His thoughts jump to his other self, the mental connection that he's worked hard at not thinking about. A second later he recoils almost visibly, as if suffering a paper cut. Stupid, don't draw your self’s attention there to your self here.

His eyes track from Avi to Huruma then over to Rue. Brows knit further. Going to Praxia, the one place in the world he probably shouldn't go. The anxious feelings in his gut swell like a tidal bore, fast and unexpected. Not only is he a potential leak to the plans but Emily will kick his ass when he gets back. Devon keeps to his seat.

“I… might be of some strategic use once we’re inside,” he offers hesitantly. He swallows against the ache of uneasiness that's climbed into his throat. The guests are given guarded regard before Dev turns to Avi. He trusts the other Hounds — Colette included — to have his back regardless. “I can also… probably? navigate the laboratory levels. If…” If the mission takes that turn.

There’s a lot of cross-talk and chatter. But Avi doesn’t seem inclined to stop it, instead he seems more than willing to listen as ideas float up from those gathered around the table. Hull immediately chimes in after Asi. “Whatever we do electronically, I can help so long as I’m able to get a network connection to them. Air gaps stop me entirely, but I can hold a door open and Transceiver can get inside and cause havoc. The kid’s a literal ghost in the machine, it’s amazing. My specialization is encryption dismantling and security bypass.”

Cyrus huffs softly, “I can send emails.”

Hull angles a look at him.

“Most of the time,” Cyrus adds with a cough. “Also uh, quiet isn’t the Guardians’ style. April and the others have been on a long-term recon of Praxia since civilians started moving in, and I don’t know if you newbies have ever met her, but that lady can cut a fucking house in half with a wave of her hand. You need a door? We can make you a fucking door, but it’s gonna be noisy.”

“I could probably help get us in unseen,” Colette says, sitting forward. “I’ve cloaked the Tlanuwa before. They’d hear us and still pick us up on radar, but as long as we remain cloaked it should keep any automated anti-aircraft systems from targeting us, just like when we went into Fort Irwin.”

Avi nods, pacing back and forth in front of the display. “Our priority is neutralization. Data recovery is entirely secondary. Because it’d be great, but we don’t know if Monroe is going to try and do something stupid, pull a Moritz and try and hijack whatever’s left of the nation’s nuclear arsenal and blow us all to kingdom come. If we have to turn that ziggurat into a fucking pile of debris, we do that first.”

“Which brings me to our other two problems,” Avi says, bringing up the map of the surrounding area, shaded in hues of blue and red.


“This,” Avi points to the large red square on the map, “is the footprint of the Praxis Ziggurat. The red-bounded area is the island of Praxia. That’s all international territory.” Avi then points northeast of Praxia, to the adjacent landmass. “All this shit up here is Oakland, which is the Phase 1 rollout for civilian occupation of the California Safe Zone. There’s hundreds of thousands of innocent people living there right now, and if this turns into a warzone we’re looking at massive casualties. The President told me in no uncertain terms that’s not gonna fly.”

Avi steps to the left side of the map, motioning to the red-shaded areas. “These spots here, they’re where Satcomm has confirmed Praxis has placed dozens of ZZ7 automated tanks to serve as anti-aircraft artillery. Their effective range with their railguns is twice the distance to Praxia. We become visible even for a moment in the air, we’re gonna be turned to fucking dust. But so is any US air response.”

Avi then motions to the northwestern side of what was once San Francisco, by the Golden Gate Bridge. “All the artillery is currently facing east, toward Praxia. If we flew in from the west, low and unseen, I’m thinking we make it a three-fork attack.” Avi motions over to Cyrus. “Based on what Karr’s told me, the Guardians could infiltrate Praxia from Oakland. They can be the first round of distraction, lighting up the factories and performing hit-and-run to draw defenses while we get into position.”

“My plan is to load the Tlanuwa up with the Katsch, full-on matryoshka operation. We have a full fireteam inside the Katch when we fly in, here.” Avi points to interstate I-80, just behind the artillery lines. “We perform a midair deploy of the katch out the back hatch of the Tlanuwa, and the ground fireteam makes a land route directly to Praxia.”

But then Avi taps one of the blue lines on the map that crosses the water. “This is the main bridge into Oakland, we go that way we’re sitting ducks for aerial drones and artillery and we bring the firefight into civilian territory…” But then he traces a line not visible on the map, from the island of Passport between Praxia and the western mainland, straight to Praxia. “There’s a hidden tunnel that runs under the bay,” Avi looks up to Yi-Min with a nod at that, “we breach that line of defense and we can come up in the basement of the Ziggurat.”

Avi then marks a path from the western mainland north around Passport then southeast into Praxia. “Meanwhile, the Tlanuwa moves under cover of photokinetic invisibility to Praxia. We can deploy onto the rooftop helipad of the Ziggurat and Doctor Yeh says we can get in from the executive elevator there.” Avi holds up three fingers. “Guardians come in from the ground entrance, Katsch team hits them from below, Tlanuwa team comes in from the top.”

“Clendaniel,” Avi motions to Devon, “since you’ve got your uh, inside info, we can use you on the ground team. Obviously Demsky will need to be with the air squad to make sure we go in unseen. Lucille and Huruma, I want you two with her in the air. You’re both the most likely to be useful against Monroe if he’s hiding out in there, and I want you both to have the first crack at his blonde ass.”

Avi looks to Rue, “You and Dearing are going in the Katsch. Lancaster’s the best shot with the turret gun if we need to remove heat from the Katsch and Dearing’s our best driver. Scott’s offered to come along as munitions chaplain for the ground team to make sure you stay stocked, and Francis is going to run support with the air team.” Which Avi says in a god help me sort of way.

“Karr,” Avi motions over to Cyrus, “I want you to rendezvous with April, make sure she’s on board since they’re comms-dark right now. Kid,” he motions to Hull, “you’re on the bench wherever you need to be to get your fucking digital fingers in the mix.”

I,” Avi says, raking his fingers through his hair, “will run logistics on the Tlanuwa.” Which is not the pilot seat.

“Avi, I’ve only flown that thing once,” Colette says with a wild-eyed look, “and it wasn’t at speed.” To which Avi barks out a mean, harsh laugh.

“Yeah no you stay the fuck away from the pilot’s seat,” Avi says, and then turns his attention to, “Tetsuyama.” All eyes pivot toward Asi. “The Tlanuwa was redesigned for a technopath pilot, the whole fucking thing was optimized by Hana to operate off of thought controls. We’re going to be in hot territory…” he breathes in deeply and then exhales a sigh through his nose, “I need you to take the bird.”

Jesus Christ,” is the first thing out of Rue’s mouth once the plan’s been laid out. She looks pale and vaguely ill, which is entirely unlike her in situations like this. But he’d said underground tunnels.

Under the bay.

These are a few of her least favorite things~

But she starts to pull herself together and clicks her tongue against the back of her teeth. “You’re right.” Rue’s head tilts to one side, her in a sort of half nod, brows lifting while her teardrop-shaped mouth pulls into a thoughtful frown. “I’m the best shot you’ve got.” And thanks for recognizing that in front of everyone. “Always hoped I’d get to fly the bird, though.”

Straightening her posture out again, Rue squints faintly at the map. “What are we expecting out of these tunnels? Any security measures? Or are they the kind of tunnels that are long forgotten? Where they’ve walled them off and think they’re safe?”

“From Doctor Yeh’s assessment,” Avi says with a look over to Rue, “probably more fucking robots. There’s a blast door on either end but we have active security codes to bypass them, but it will mean we have to stop on the entrance and exit from the tunnel to key it in. We also need to be careful where we send our technopaths…”

That brings Avi’s attention back around the table. “One of Monroe’s buddies is Mazdak, the group responsible for Shedda-Dinu. They have an anti-technopath technology that’s capable of ripping your mind straight out of your body, nightmare shit. Don’t let what happened to Hana happen to you. It’s going to be a minefield for all of us there.”

With so much to digest and not enough time to do it in, Devon focuses on studying the map. The chatter washes around him, not ignored or absorbed the way white noise is. He picks up on commentary that seems most relevant — in as far as his lack of background on this mission allows. Dev angles a look to Avi when his assignment is given, a nod follows. Even without his insider knowledge he's a better ground combatant anyway.

“What…” Devon clears his throat, frowns at nothing obvious. The twin, the other side of the window, poses a question that's swallowed before it's asked. He sits back in his chair and lets his gaze roam over the guests, Guardians and others alike. It's not that he doesn't trust them, but…

Devon looks across the table to Rue and Avi.

Asi minds the rest of the presentation without interjection, what she's said previously enough to consider while she reviews the plan presented. Between those in this room and the Guardian forces they'd sync up with, this was feeling less and less like a ragtag assault. It's so different than she'd first envisioned this might go, when it was just her, Yi-Min, and Scylla against the entire enterprise.

Now she formed part of a small army. Different isn't bad, in this case.

When Avi calls attention to her, though, her eyes shift to him, expression remaining deadpan. Flying them in? That was a shift in the anticipated dynamic. One she was less enthused about, given the restriction it places on her ability to interface with Praxia's systems. But was getting the rest of them in and out safely not just as paramount? "I've paired with other birds before, ones that weren't optimized for technopathic use. I look forward to an ergonomic experience." she shares in a mild calm.

Then she lifts her head just a touch, indicating that's not the end of her thought. "Once we hit the roof, what's your plan for the airship? Demsky stays on to provide continual cover, or do we all drop and run with the insertion team? I can bring it around the side of the building, use the pyramid as a shield between it and the anti-air, if we do. I can maintain an active link up to… almost a quarter mile, and leave autopilot instructions if for some reason we get further away than that. Food for thought."

Asi sits upright in her chair, head angled to Hull beside her. With a nudge of her toes on the floor, the seat turns to face her properly. "If I'm stuck in the air, though, then it's up to you and Transceiver to find the deepest line possible, find a tunnel straight back to their servers in Shanghai, and destroy everything. I wanted to know what they were working on, what else we should be prepared for in their technology and reach— but I'll settle for knowing no one else, including the Chinese government, is capable of getting their hands on it."

The request might go in contrast to Avi's warning about being careful where they step, but Asi's eyes are only for Hull. Her words are quiet to avoid too much distraction to the rest of the topics at hand. "Prepare a virus, whatever you need to. Nuke it all as soon as you find a line across the sea. Any wins in this country might prove to be hollow otherwise."

It's reassuring that Asi has a plan for when she's able to get inside; it's got risks, but it's something. Huruma simply nods along to the technopath's answer, unhooking her legs and shifting in her seat, discomforted by the bandages at her thigh. The coldpack is dropped aside on the table. "A data dump is a fine idea. Better than sitting pretty in the tech…"

Huruma lifts her face to Devon as he speaks up, and though uncertain, he is earnest; he has another perspective, and her expression appears approving. The feeling of the same lingers on her while she listens, though the expression itself neutralizes into a vacant furrow of brow to no-one.

"We may need very sizeable pressure from the Guardian's angle. He'll likely anticipate prongs." Huruma breathes out, "Once ground and below are in— if Colette can keep us cloaked as long as possible, we can better ambush him on the upper levels. Like setting fire to a warren. Only one path to go when death is in the rest." A blended sort of compromise. Make Praxis fail to push through the first two prongs. The third in waiting. Huruma knows she won't have the last say, but she also knows that there is a collective, large pool of war experience in the Ziggurat. Just some input.

As for the jet, Huruma can only give Asi the same air of approval as she finishes speaking on the topic, though her attentions remain as the technopaths commiserate quietly. Hana was Hana. Asi is Asi. From what Huruma has gathered, Asi is just as capable in her own way. That's the most important part— she trusted Hana with the same, after all. One good turn.

Lucille simply nods at the plan, she's up for it. The mention of Adam makes her eyes narrow and stares down more firmly at the tablet before her. She lifts her arm that's bandaged and makes a note.

The previous day's events way on her mind but luckily Colette is there. Luckily the rest of her family and old comrades and even new faces are here. Dad… She thinks and closes her eyes briefly before shaking her head and shaking her arm a little nudging Colette by accident but not saying anything to her best friend.

Stay. On. Task. Breathe, Ryans.

Colette doesn’t turn to Lucille, but she sees the gesture nonetheless. Instead, she just seems to reach back without seeing and take Lucille’s hand in hers. “I’m used to running a blind Op,” Colette says to Asi’s inquiry. “But anything I mask is blind, no light in or out. We have IR goggles, but if those get fucked you’ll have to rely on me entirely. Hana used to fly the Tlanuwa blind with geopositioning instrumentation, so you should be fine on that.”

“Yeah flying that fucking thing without using your eyes is basically terrifying,” Avi notes from his solitary experience with that.

“Transceiver says he’s ready to burn the establishment to the ground,” Hull indicates as she looks up from her phone. “I think he’s been listening to a lot of talk radio or something. Anyway, uh, he’s down. We’re good. It’s all good. The fires will be controlled.”

Dearing sits forward, hands folded together on the table. “Not to be that guy,” he asks with a squint, “but did Uncle Sam say how much he would be paying us for this little uh,” he twirls a finger in the air, “suicide mission?

“We had words.” Avi says flatly, and that’s all he’ll say on the matter. Dearing sniffs at the air and sits back in his chair, firing a skeptical look to Rue, though it passes.

Clendaniel,” Avi directs to Devon, “gut check: how reliable do you think your man on the inside is? I don’t know what kind of… conversations you’ve had, if any. Because one way or another we’re gonna have to deal with that situation. Gonna need to know how, and I’m not making that call without your input.”

Asi arcs an eyebrow as both Colette and Avi makes the assumption that the two technopaths are remotely alike. It touches a raw nerve only Genki had previously dared to irritate with any frequency, and this was a whole new level. Flying prioritizing instruments over sight was a necessity, sure, but flying entirely blind?

"Yeah, I'm going to need a test run before we do that in the field," she shares flatly. "To be safe."

She glances at Dearing even as he glances at Rue, wondering the same as well. Asi imagines whether or not the government burns them at the end of the mission plays a significant factor into whether they get paid at all, but that's a shining bit of optimism she keeps firmly to herself.

"Drone cameras." Huruma looks across the table to Asi while Avi curtails Dearing's quest for numbers. "Small and imperceptible." Attached preferrable, if Colette has that much minutiae. Flighted otherwise. "You need not fly blind, provided you are able to coordinate your visuals…" Her words serve as a question too, seeking out what angles Tetsuyama is best at. Avi may treat technopaths generally the same, but that can't be said for others here.

As the question is being posed, Devon begins shaking his head. It's very slight, a subtle denial that possibly has more to do with the subject in mixed company than any answer being sought. He slides a look to the less familiar faces around the room, leans forward to rest his arms against the edge of the table.

“As far as I can tell, he’s an unknown.” Dev looks at a point on the table just in front of him once his circuit is complete. For a moment it seems like he's going to say nothing else on the matter of his twin. Words linger without form, but eventually he begins again, choosing his path carefully. “I think he's going to be useful to a point, but he's not vetted.”

The last point hangs like an icicle in spring, intriguing but likely dangerous too. Devon lifts his gaze, looks at Avi levelly. “I don't know what… how he's spent his time there. I say we cross that bridge when we get to it, remember he's not necessarily an enemy combatant, but he's not a civilian either.”

He never does let her forget why he’s in for all of this, does he? Rue catches Dearing’s look and tilts her head to one side with a subtle lift of a shoulder. The way she figures it, this ends one of three ways:

1) They get paid.
2) They get killed.
3) They go to prison.

Now, only one of those outcomes is optimal, and she isn’t sure which of the other two is worse. She expects that if they manage to hit the first one — jackpot — she and Dearing won’t be worrying about funds for at least a little while.

But it’s Devon’s commentary that ultimately pulls her attention away from counting figures in her head. Rue finds herself able to sympathize. That either of them is being allowed on this op illustrates exactly how dire things are. She hadn’t even been allowed to provide sniper cover for her allies at Rochester and it had eaten her up. She could just as easily be benched here, and she’s grateful she isn’t.

Absently, she rubs at the invisible marker on the back of her hand. “Make sure you’re wearing some kind of marker,” Rue suggests. “Armor’s not a given. Praxis has deep pockets and connections. It wouldn’t be hard for them to kit out your inside guy and run some confusion.” She smirks faintly, teasing, “Get yourself a hot pink ribbon or something.”

“You haven’t even heard the best news,” Avi says respective of absolutely nothing. “The President wants us wheels-up tomorrow. Praxis already has pieces in the air, something major is happening, and the longer we take to get mobile the more lives it could cost. Fully loaded, the Tlanuwa will take about two and a half hours to reach San Francisco from our launchpad here. With refuel, prep, and logistics we’re looking at takeoff at 1pm. That’s nineteen hours from now.”

Avi steps over to the head of the table. “Armory’s stocked, need to do a munitions check, see if there’s anything we need to pull from Uncle Sam in Buffalo, that’s the closest resupply we’re going to get. Carrying the Katsch is going to eat fuel like candy, we won’t have enough to make a return trip, so once we hit Praxia — if things go sideways — our fallback is to head as far north as possible, trying to get as close to Snoqualmie as we can, into friendly territory. But I know we won’t make it the whole way.”

“So, don’t fuck up?” Dearing says with a rise of one brow, looking down the table and then over to Avi.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Avi agrees.

Asi sends a hard glance down the table back at Avi over his wonderful bit of advice there before she looks down to the tablet in her lap. It'd be a busy few hours of prep, from the sounds of it.

"We can obtain fuel from the SEA-TAC Safe Zone. For all the shift to electric power they've made, they still are a hub of air traffic for Yamagato." She flicks the screen in a downward scroll to sift for a piece of information in the report they were given. "But if you intend on staying in the Dead Zone to ride out your government's ire should this all go horribly wrong, you're free to do that, too. I'll be getting off there either way."

The technopath shifts a look to Yi-Min at her side, something contained in the silence of it before she looks back down at the datapad again.

Devon looks at Rue, for a second all his worries forgotten by her suggestion. As absurd as it might seem — a hot pink ribbon would possibly mark him as a target by the enemy as much as it classifies him as Wolfhound’s — anything to set him apart in some fashion is sound advice. “You have a pair of earrings I've had my eye on for a while,” he quips back, indulging in the brief measure of relief.

Since a moment later it's crushed by Avi’s statement. Leaving tomorrow. That news puts a cold, heavy weight in the pit of his stomach and much more thoroughly than potentially ending up on the wrong side of the law. At least that isn't a first for him, not that there's any comfort to be found in the fact.

Devon pushes his hands through his hair and lets out a slow breath. He looks across the table to Huruma and Dearing, then to the guests. It's probably too much to hope that they're really going to Antarctica and not Praxia. Finally his attention comes back around to Avi and he nods.

"If we coordinated with Kansas City, we could have a partial refuel on the way. If we hustle here, it wouldn't skim our arrival time." Huruma adds after Asi speaks, running over the aforementioned situations in her head. She would rather they be able to make a quick dart than limp their way to the northwest.

Aside from the input on fueling, Huruma has no immediate thoughts on 'don't fuck up' save 'don't fuck up'. She returns Devon's look with a neutral expression; it's more reassuring than all else. It's all… a lot.

Lucille takes all of that information thrown her way in stride, it wouldn't be the first time she annoyed the government, or hid from them. Though as she squeezes Colette's hand she leans over, absolutely dreading: "Talk to me right after this, okay?" Whispering to her best friend before she nods along over at Dearing and raises an eyebrow.

"Yes, leave the flasks at home." Her heart's barely in the jab though

Her minds on her father, on Adam, on Nat.

The Hounds know when she's thinking deeply, closed off. It would appear the Ryans woman is doing exactly that as she keeps her head down and studies the tablet.

Fuck my life,” Rue sighs out after Avi lays it all out on the table. The table she stood up from. The table she should have completely walked away from instead of hanging out on the outskirts of. But when she’s had every opportunity to walk from every op, she’s never done it yet. Nor does she plan to start now.

Huruma’s suggestion is met with a derisive snort. “KC isn’t going to give us shit. They do that? They create a trail back to them that doesn’t give them that very convenient disavowal they want.” Everything in the government is meticulously inventoried. Especially in times like these, when they know they’ve got spies within, and resources can easily be expropriated by the enemy. “SEA-TAC, though…” She nods to Asi. “You might be onto something with that one.” That’s provided they can count on Yamagato to come through for them. Yamagato Industries’ alliance with the US government is on perhaps firm enough ground to allow them to aid Wolfhound in the event that the worst happens here.

Pinching the bridge of her nose with her chin tipped down toward her chest, Rue looks across to Devon from under the knit of her brows. It provides that relief he intended, and she quirks one corner of her mouth up in a smirk. “What? The gay rainbow shit you give me compliments on?” That may be entirely made up. “Yeah, you can borrow my fuckin’ earrings.

"Refueling doesn't always mean government." is Huruma's only reply before she angles to the head of the table, short and to the point.

There’s a flash of something in Rue’s eyes at Huruma’s rebuttal, and the empath can feel it. Annoyance. Distrust. The implication of who might be willing to lend assistance from Kansas City is one that the redheaded Hound would clearly like to push back at, but this isn’t the time and it isn’t her call.

Rue drains the last of her water with a pronounced ah and thunks the glass back down on the alcove she’d procured it from in the first place. “If we’re done here?” she raises her brows as she addresses Avi, but doesn’t really wait for confirmation. “C’mon, Dearing. We’ve got maps to go over.”

Rue,” Avi over-emphasizes like a teacher calling out a student trying to slip out of class, “is right, KC isn’t going to give us shit.” He crosses his arms over his chest. “SEA-TAC’s a good idea, Yamagato would probably love what we’re doing if they knew about it. We’d cut thirty minutes in if we headed north first, refueled at SEA-TAC, and then headed south to ‘Frisco. Might be worth it if we need to do more than limp away from Praxia.”

Avi has a lot to think about. It shows in the deep sigh he offers, followed by a look over to Colette. “Does your creepy wife—”

“Not married.”

“ — have any other advice?” Avi just barrels past Colette’s correction. She, in turn, flashes a smile at Avi with one brow kicked up.

“She says good luck.” Colette explains as she pushes out her chair and comes to stand, picking up her motorcycle helmet from the floor as she does. “But she didn’t say goodbye.

Sometimes, that’s all you need a seer to say.

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