Time To Begin


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Also featuring:

aviators_icon.gif clara_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif julien_icon.gif sabine_icon.gif sarisa_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif

Scene Title Time To Begin
Synopsis When someone unlikely reminds Gabriel of his promises, he undergoes a trip down memory lane about the assembled men and women that have helped him live and to whom he owes.
Date June 19, 2010

Old Dispensary: Bathroom

Pale morning light seeps in through the high window of the bathroom, and Gabriel is not technically alone. If someone were to walk in, they would find him as such, standing tall before the mirror, feet bare on the tile, jeans a dark blue and wife beater a soft grey, doing little to disguise the sprawling tattooed marks that extend out from his spine, visible where branching black shapes spread towards the nape of his neck, his rounded shoulders.

He felt it, just a few moments ago, a nagging sensation that someone wanted to speak to him, coaxing him towards the wide mirror nailed to the wall, studying himself until his vision almost doubles, and he sees a girl, her rusty red hair bound back and her body clad in knits too warm for the summer, her pale skin bright with sweat.

"You're not cold," he tells the reflection, disgust evident in his voice. "That's just what happens when you use that power too much. You make yourself sick."

Jenny smiles, the corners of her eyes gluey with sweat from her brow, and maybe tears, the leaking, instinctive kind. "But it's worth it." She extends a hand to touch the mirror side. Behind her, there are vague shapes suggesting the place she stands, as opposed to his bathroom, but the only detail he receives is her, everything else a blurred periphery. "You've been wanting to talk to me."

"No, you wanted to talk to me."

She shrugs, beneath the bulky layers of bright red wool, a draping scarf. "I guess I did…" Her voice trails off, the tip of her tongue touching the corner of her mouth as she thinks, before bringing up a hand to rub it against her greasy face. "I think it's nearly time."

Impatience defines his set of his shoulders as Gabriel rests his weight against the sink, hands braced on the porcelain rims. He studies the moon-pale face on the other side of the mirror, wary disbelief about the reliability of the copy of something that lurks beneath the mask its made for itself. "What do you think you know?"

Her lip curls in a sneer that's very reminiscent of him. "You remember. We both do."

January 16, 2010


He never got to see his murderer. There was no moment, because the best arms training in the world doesn't include a walk-through on drama and affect. Impartial and removed, the bullets come from somewhere — heaven itself, maybe, for all that the world probably would not mind putting two bullets in Gabriel Gray — and he falls without sight, his vision swimming up to a sky above and the edge of the doorway he'd just kicked free. Air drags into punch-crumpled lungs like it's labour, goes skimming out tainted with blood at the back of his mouth.

He shuts his eyes and shuts down, because there's no springing up from this one again. The world falls away like leaves off an autumn tree, where the bare branches are only himself because he is certainly whole and away of himself. Someone else reports: I think Gray is dying. And that doesn't matter. Eileen's gripping hands on his face don't matter.

"Stay. Stay."

Gabriel isn't going anywhere.

Blood imitates a stagnant pond in his veins, no pulse-flutter beneath the thin skin of his throat, sinking him down somewhere dark where he can only feel certain things — the bullets in him and the damage they've torn after themselves, the flow of own blood, the way his lungs have stopped. Blood flow and oxygen. Vital things. Important. Gabriel notes them on some mental checklist to get back to pretty soon, even after they've decided he's dead, and the world is a few seconds from destruction.

Beneath his skin, blood starts to move again. He stays down here, though. It's warm down here. The steam of his breath is a thin vapour past lips gone blue.

T-Minus 9 Minutes and 30 Seconds Until Detonation.

The sound of shouting beyond this narrow corridor and into where the drill site is sounds muffled to Gabriel's ears, Peter's voice and Wagner's voice all blending together to a blunted cacophony amidst a myriad of other things Gabriel is struggling to maintain focus on. Maybe it was reflexive, the imprinting of false reality layered over the only slightly more favorable truth, maybe it was to protect himself and damn the emotional toll that the subterfuge takes. Maybe there's some equilibirum between the two that makes it more acceptible.

T-Minus 9 Minutes Until Deto

Maybe that was the end of the world right there. It was, after all, the last thing Gabriel Gray heard; but not for lack of wanting.

"Wake up." Comes the hissed words that didn't need to be delivered in the abject silence. The horrible burn of amonium nitrate under Gabriel's nose all but chemically forces his watering eyes open, focusing on the bloom of light too blurry in his field of vision, of the locks of blonde hair hanging down towards his face from a woman who pulled him out of an antarctic snow drift too long ago to have possibly been a recent memory. Why does she always show up to him when the world's on the verge of ending— viruses and nuclear warheads differing.

Clara Francis has seen and suffered many things in the last few years, most of which suffered alone. Her bright red arctic survival jacket is something colorful enough for Gabriel's eyes to latch onto aside from blonde hair and a nice bone structure. Gabriel can feel her hand on his cheek where Eileen's was, but the brunette is nowhere in sight anymore. The closest family nearby is shaved bald and holding an assault rifle four steps down, though Ethan's back is to Gabriel, he doesn't seem to be breathing or moving. In fact, nothing seems to be moving at all.

"You're hurt," Clara states the obvious bluntly, her fingers moving over the bloody wound at Gabriel's chest. She's blurry, like someone moving too fast for a camera to catch up, every motion seeming jittery and exaggerated, the outline of her body indistinct but more clear towards the center.

When exactly did time stop?

Gabriel's eyes blink open and close with a kind of deliberation of something rusted and mechanical, mouth gaping like a fish as if there wasn't enough air to breathe. There is, actually, and it hurts, and his swim-dry vision tries to focus on the blurry woman of blonde hair and doctor-fingers fluttering around his wrecked torso. Broken bones and torn muscle all sing their own symphony of pain, and he doesn't even have the presence of mind to dull it when he can.

"De— ss— " He swallows, a dry kind of movement save for the iron slick of blood. "Odess— "

It would make sense, without making sense. The only possibility he can think of when those frozen-time images register. A numb hand gropes for the red parker, the snag of blonde hair.

"Shh," Clara hisses, pressing a gloved hand gently over Gabriel's mouth. "Shh, you're— God I don't even know how you're alive. I should get you to the sick bay but— " there's a look over her shoulder to the frozen time down in the drill chamber, then back to Gabriel. "You're here with the US Army, I can get you out of here, I— I think."

There's a weary, worried look on Clara's face as she shakes her head slowly, looking around to the chaos around her, back to Ethan, then down to Gabriel. "Just— just lay still, alright? Lie still and I'll see if I can— " Clara's image blurs and distorts again, her voice sounding echoey and resonant for that moment, "— warn your people that you're alright."

Turning to look back at Gabriel, Clara eyes the gunshot wound in his chest even as her hand is moving to Gabriel's to try and gently lift it from her jacket and from where his fingers have wound into blonde hair. "God I hope I can pull you out of this eventually," Clara muses in hushed cadence, offering an askance look back to Ethan as she stands up and flickers for a moment like a television image coming in and out of focus.

This time she flickers, snaps from one location to another, disappears in a blur of speed some twenty feet away and in mid-speech, " — okay, your friend's okay!" She's talking to the back of Ethan's time frozen head, and clutching the side of her own head afterward, Clara makes a noise in the back of her throat that sound like the precursor to vomiting before she flicker-snaps back towards Gabriel, snaps into a kneeling position at his side, cupping his cheek.

"Shh," Clara hisses, pressing a gloved hand gently over Gabriel's mouth. "Shh, you're— God I don't even know how you're alive. I should get you to the sick bay but— " there's a look over her shoulder to the frozen time down in the drill chamber, then back to Gabriel. "You're here with the US Army, I can get you out of here, I— " Snap, and she vanishes again like improperly spliced frames of film, reappearing in a stumbling stagger next to Gabriel before dropping to one knee and retching at his side.

With a low groan from deep in his ruined chest, Gabriel slowly keels over to the side. It's a subtle kind of motion — people do it in their sleep. For him, it seems to take for eternity, and his bleary eyes focus on the woman kneeling beside him, making godawful sick sounds that he's not sure he has time for. You think you have problems? But he doesn't have much time for that either. By rights, he shouldn't have time for anything, but a life-like focus sharpens on the woman— not Knutson— because—

She has time. She has lots of time.

This time when he grips a hand on her, there's a strength to it, if one last show of adrenaline and dying desperation counts as strength. On the plus side, he can't really feel anything anymore."You," he says, teeth flashing pink and deeper red gathering at the corners of his mouth. "You."

His voice drags out of his voice as a growl: "Help me."

January 16, 2010…?


"If you keep squirming like that I'm going bury you in the snow up to your neck." Doctor Francis' bedside manner could use some work, but when your only company for the last four months has been Gabriel Gray, attitudes can shift as dramatically as the weather. Well— as much as the weather normally can— here in the space Doctor Francis shares with Gabriel, there is no such thing as weather, no such thing as time, no such thing as anything other than their own tiny perception of reality.

The shelter of the garage has been comforting as much as home could be for some time now, and while the cracks in the ice leading away from Amundsen Scott have been steadily growing that steady growth has only been two inches in four months. Time may not be completely frozen, but it's still enough.

Shirtless and in front of the glow of a portable kerosine heater that now exists outside of time with them thanks to the charge of Doctor Francis' singularly unique ability, Gabriel Gray finds himself once more under the doctor's careful scrutiny. Rolling gauze bandage over his chest and midsection, Clara furrows her brows and slants a side-long look up towards Gabriel. "You're lucky, you know, that I was there." She says that a lot, and it never loses it's 'charm'. "Admittedly staying in the medical bay was nicer but those cracks are getting worrisome. We might have to leave eventually…"

Through the windows where Gabriel lays on a makeshift cot, he can see a helicopter frozen in the air in mid flight, prepared to depart from Amundsen-Scott. Did they stop the bomb? Or are they just fleeing from the end of the world that's coming. If the cracks forming in the ice were any indication, maybe all this bandaging is for nothing.

Gabriel lies like a dead man— or he would, except he keeps shifting around, never mind that now there is that minor line of irritation that courses down his brow at that helpful reminder of everything he might owe to Clara Francis. "You keep poking at it," is muttered, before he rests his head back against the pillow and glances down enough to observe the spread of bandage back across his chest, where there wll be scars that don't heal in any kind of hurry, before he's turning his attention— not for the first time, not by far— to the frozen helicopter in the sky.

It's like trying to watch the hour hand move, but he could swear it's shifted since the last time he looked. The blades at a different angle, the tilt adjusted. Something. While they make their incredibly slow escape from swallowing Antartica, Gabriel heals.

"I don't think I can go back with them," he states, after a moment. There's a finality in his tone that wasn't there before today. Some decision made, some kind of acceptance. In the last four months, Clara will know the way that Sylar tends to look around you, through you, never truly at you— until those moments where he focuses blazing bright brown eyes on yours and locks that focus in like a sniper rifle, or the sighting of a hawk. "I'm not going to."

"I don't think we could jump that high anyway…" Clara offers with a crooked smile, offering an askance look to Gabriel and pressing one hand on his shoulder, urging him to lay back down on the goddamned cot. "I'm… I'm afraid to unwind things, to let time start moving again. I just— I don't know how it's working the way it is, or if I could get it back." Smiling awkwardly, Clara settles down onto her knees by Gabriel's cot, hands folded in her lap.

"I… I still don't really know how to control this power. I didn't ask for it, I just— if it wasn't for having it, that bomb of theirs would've gone off a long time ago. But still, you're… a complete mystery to me, even after all these months. You just sit here and stare off into space while I talk…" Clara reaches out to lay a hand on Gabriel's arm, thumb stroking across his forearm as she offers a nervous smile.

"You're the only person who's ever been able to see me, and not… not push me out of where I am in time. Maybe it's what happened when that girl touched me, maybe it's…" Clara's lips creep up into a slightly more honest smile. "Maybe it's whatever it is you do, however it is you have all these powers. It's like… being lost and trapped, all by yourself, and then finally finding someone to talk to, someone— " Clara's head shakes slowly, brows creasing together, "someone you can spend time with."

Snorting out a laugh, the blonde doctor looks back up, squeezing Gabriel's arm. "You never talk about yourself."

Whether or not he could magic his way up to the helicopter is not something he tries to argue with her. Few things seem impossible, to him, and Gabriel shuts his mouth and focuses on the ceiling above him, even as her hand takes a hold of his arm. It might seem rude. It's actually a kind of restraint. I still don't really know how to control this power breezes over him like a hand stroking the wrong way over a cat's back, and he lets his eyes slide shut, open slowly as if trying to settle a certain amount of hunger, even if they had breakfast— "breakfast", Christ, when was the last time they'd ever seen the sun rise?

"If I started," he says, dully, but looking at her at least, a skimming kind of glance akin to the skip of a pebble over a lake, "you wouldn't want to spend time with me."

The cot creaks under his weight, and Gabriel shifts to sit up, the twinge of old injuries beneath bandages making him wince as he sets his feet against the ground as if he might stand up. Doesn't, not yet, especially not after Clara's attempts at getting him to lie down.

"You're what, some sort of government super spy?" There's thr threat of a smile on Clara's face, she can't take it entirely seriously. "You just show up in the middle of Antarctica in a long sleeve shirt and a black jacket, nearly dead of hypothermia and exposure and then get whisked away by those friends of yours who flew in a few days later?" There's a slow quirk one of one Clara's brows. "I think you probably have a pretty fascinating story, to be honest."

Cracking a smile, Clara tilts her head to the side, eyes falling shut. "More interesting than some boring girl from Ohio who wanted to grow up to be a geologist." Her laugh's a bitter one, head shaking slowly. "There's nothing glamorous about a PhD in earth sciences, not— I mean— until now. God, I don't even know how I'm going to explain this to my family…"

Clara leans her back up against the cot, slouches down on the floor of the garage and rests the back of her head against the edge of the cot, blonde hair spilling over one of Gabriel's arms. "Do you have family, back home? How'd you explain what you could do to them?" Murder is probably the sub-optimal answer.

"I don't have any family anywhere," is flatly unhelpful, and not even that much of a lie. Misleading. Maybe government super spies don't have family. Maybe— "I showed them," he adds, on an afterthought. When he does get back to New York City, the inevitable destination, the centre of the universe, he might liken the sudden winter that descends upon it as the biggest snow globe the world has ever seen, one that Virginia Gray won't be able to see save for her headstone becoming buried in it.

Right now, even in the snow desert, he can only imagine the flakes of ice he sent whirling around the modest living room. This would be another example of staring into space instead of talking about himself.

Rough fingertips go to toy with the fine strands of her blonde hair. "Interesting doesn't mean good. Or even worthwhile."

Brown eyes shift and Clara focuses on the motion of a hand, then lift slowly from calloused fingertips to Gabriel's subtly darker eyes. "I always thought…" Clara murmurs, shifting her weight and rising up on her knees, then coming to sit down on the side of the cot, offering a look down to the man laid out on the makeshift bed. There's a creak of the metal frame protesting under her subtle weight, added to Gabriel's. "I always though that if I met someone who was like me… it'd explain everything I hadn't been able to figure out on my own." Clara's hands fold in her lap, shoulders hunch forward and her stare moves down to the span of concrete between her feet.

"It's hard to feel like you're a part of this whole… this new world we're in," Clara explains quietly, "when you live almost all the time at the bottom of the world. I go from Amundsen-Scott to other reseach stations, I don't— I haven't been back home since… since what happened." There's a subtle shake of Clara's head, brown eyes closing again, "since what happened in New York."

Running her tongue over her lips, the geologist grows quiet, fingers lacing and unlacing as she thinks. "You look like him," Clara explains after the fact, offering a dark-eyed look to Gabriel over her shoulder. "You— look like the man they were showing pictures of in the spring, when— when they talked about people like us." She doesn't seem scared, all things considered, that she may be nursing Sylar back to health.

Clara doesn't add anything, just breathes out her nose and looks back down to the floor between her feet. The pitting in the concrete doesn't have any answers for her.

There's a long silence, and in this time-frozen world, silence is always absolute — Clara is able to hear her breathing, the soft thud of her own heart having its well-timed convulsions deep in her chest, and finally, the subtle creak of bedsprings as he gets up on an elbow. If his injuries twinge with the motion, it doesn't show on his face — not much does, save for a wary kind of studying. Finally, he speaks, and it sounds loud when it's not. "I didn't destroy New York City. I was just there when it happened. I've done bad things, but— "

He shifts enough to lean back on both elbows, expelling a sigh where vapor hits the air, kind of hangs, steadily disperses in the same slow crawl of time that the helicopter ascends into an unchanging sky. "I got shot while saving the world. I'm in a relationship. I've collected some redeeming features since they found out about people like us." Sniff.

There's silence in the admittance of wrongdoings, and Clara's eyes lift from the floor. No creak when she turns her head, save for the creak of tired joints sore from the cold. The look Clara affords Gabriel is a mild one, but he's seen it before, the way people look at a dangerous new animal that they want to befriend, as if she should be approaching him with a hand held out to sniff, fingers all safely curled in like a fist. It's not so much that he said any one bad thing, but that he finally — after all this time — opened up even a little to her.

Clara's stare breaks when her eyes wander down to Gabriel's shoulder, then over and out towards the floor. There's a half dozen things floating through her mind, but ultimately she decides not to bring up any of them. "I used to collect snow globes when I was a little girl," she admits in a quiet tone of voice, booted feet scuffing from side to side against the floor. "Collecting redeeming features sounds… a lot more helpful," there's a hesitant smile, sarcastic in a way as she looks back over her shoulder to Gabriel, then down to the bandages across his chest.

"How much longer… till you think you can move around?" Brown eyes lift up to her makeshift patient. "There's snow mobiles on the other side of the station, we— could probably take one, head down to the coast, then— then try and…" she hasn't thought the rest of the plan out yet.

The softly sarcastic smirk that gets dealt Gabriel's way is rewarded with his own, the corners of his mouth crooking up in a very minimal version of the same, and when it does melt, it's not necessarily replaced with the scowl he so often wears. Shifting his attention off her, his eyes, as ever, track up towards the frozen helicopter. If he squints, he can imagine he sees familar faces in its windows, for as much as they're so far away, and so high up.

Taking a breath, he swings his long legs around to set bare feet on the chilly floor. "I can try today," he reports, a hand drifting to the healing wounds on his torso, the coarse bandages that cover them. "What's the plan— we find people, we get help? I can— change what I look like." He glances at her as he says it. "If that's what you're worried about."

"It wasn't…" Clara offers with a nervous laugh, rising up from the cot slowly with a creak of the frame, "it is now," she admits afterward with an awkward smile. The blonde turns, arms wrapped around herself and eyes cast down on Gabriel. She looks about to say something, but then just purses her lips and shakes her head, creasing her brows in a worried expression before giving a small shake of her head as the answer instead.

"Tomorrow," Clara insists gently, "taking another day won't kill us any more than taking the last few months has…" Her brown eyes scan up and down Gabriel, then lift to the ceiling as she draws in a deep breath and breathes out out as a hastiyl huffed sigh, visible as a tiny puff of steam.

"Maybe then I can think of a plan."

Gabriel Gray has never seen the Langoliers, but there's something intimately frightening and lonely about Clara Francis' view of the world. Time seems perfectly frozen, but everything here in this frozen time seem blunted and dead. Cold isn't as cold as it should be, there's no wind, smells are weaker, tastes are blander. It's like living in an extremely boring version of the world.

It makes for interesting travel though.

Roaring across the Antarctic ice shelf away from Amundsen Scott, the passage of time has been a confusing thing to try and track, with that it has been daylight for what is perceived as months. It's only when there's an unusual patterning of red in the snow not far ahead of them that Clara slows down and seems to pay attention to her surroundings, looking back at Gabriel leaning against her, "should we— " Clara doesn't finish her sentence as she rolls the snowmobile to a stop.

Up ahead, six snowmobiles sit in a line on the ice, and six bodies lay strewn about in the snow, each of them soaking crimson into the ice. Clara covered her mouth with one hand, jaw trembling as she looks back to Gabriel.

As the last echoes of the engines die away, Gabriel is swinging a leg back over the saddle of the snow vehicle, boots crunching ankle-deep into the insidious cold of the snow, and as he digs small trenches with each sinking step, there's no backslide of icy fragments in his wake. The frozen desert is frozen in at least two different ways, and the pressure of crystalised time can be felt even more than the touch of cold. "I'd tell you to stay where you are," he states, wryly, his voice strange and hollow to listen to in this environment, "but there's probably not much in the way of danger."

It's about as much of an invitation as Clara is going to get, as Gabriel moves by foot in plodding, patient steps, towards the crumpled bodies left out here. His gaze scans the further environment for signs of who dunnit before he tries to identify the faces.

Clara watches Gabriel in silent, stricken pause when he dismounts from the snowmobile and makes his way across the snow over to the bodies. The blonde's back straightens, tenses up before she dismounts from the snowmobile behind him. After today she's not much of a stranger to violence, but the sight of so much inhumane butchering still has her stomach turning in knots. Crunching up behind Gabriel, Clara comes to stand at his side, steeling herself as she looks down at the bodies, crumpled over and fallen in no particular order or whimsy before looking away and covering her mouth.

They haven't been dead long, and given that their bodies haven't even frozen yet, likely recent. There's snowmobile tracks leaving here as well, rutted ones heading in the direction Clara had mentioned. Creeping past Gabriel, she moves over to one of the men laying on his side to roll him over and get a look, to see if he's just as unfamiliar as the other crew-cut wearing young men.

When he rolls over, there's a shaky opening of his eyes, bleary blues staring up at Clara's brown. "Sh— "

She doesn't even get a chance to make the rest of her assessment before the quantum lock is broken and she is observed by a survivor of whatever massacre happened here. The cold, the wind, everything comes biting back like a smack in the face. One horrible moment later, there's a rumble and a groan that sounds something like the world itself is screaming in pain, it shakes the icem vibrates the snow and after it passes over Clara and Gabriel, the horizon blackens.

There is no sound to accompany what comes next, just a sight unlike any other in the world before or since. From the sink hole where once Amundsen-Scott did lay on the horizon, rays of photo-negative light begin shining up through the ice, beams of matte black absense of illumination claw like dark fingers up from below the ground. There is a tremendous sensation of vibration in the air as a sudden eruption of shadow explodes up from the ice like a breath of smoke from the bowels of the earth.

As far as they are away from Amundsen-Scott, the approach of a rolling wall of darkness and seething shadows still consumes them, an umbral explosion of nuclear proportions that tears across Antarctica and bathes everything in eternal night.

Gabriel's hands spade into the snow as his lanky, weakened frame is tipped forward, reminding him with brutal honesty of his still healing injuries and the dwindle to his muscles and stamina after his months of recovery. Shadow snakes up by him, and he instinctively winces, as if forever associating Kazimir's degenerative touch with the snaky manipulations of darkness brought to life, even as it resembles hellfire. Casting a wide-eyed look towards Clara as if to ask what did you do, he's soon climbing back on his feet, turning to confront the shadow that slams its incorporeal wall into them.

What should be the deafening roar of nuclear fire sounds more sibilant and quiet, a fizzling hiss of what it should have been. Gabriel has been here before. It wasn't quite this—

"Painless," he says out loud, lifting a hand as if in an attempt to see it through the choking shadow. It's not only the clawing in of the cold or the photonegative explosion crosses over them — the passing of time is something he can admire, too. The spell breaks a moment later — he turns, feels out with a probing glimmer of astral projection before Clara will feel his hand grip onto her arm.

Clara's trembling when Gabriel takes her arm, and he can hear the wheezing rapidity of her breathing, nearly kicking in an athsma attack from the fear paralyizing her. Rattling breaths go in and out, and it's a full minute of pitch-blackness before light begins to fade though, like a thick cloud of smoke breaking apart to finally lit the dim twilight sun back in again.

The darkness begins to fade, like a gradual coming of dawn's early light, filtering through tattered shreds of ephemeral shadow torn to so much black confetti. Still rising up from the horizon, a pillar of shadow ten miles high blossoms into a mushroom cloud of monochromatic illumination, a pure explosion of nothing tangible, merely shadow and darkness brought into that transsubstantiation by what could only possibly be one man. It's a massive hand of shadow that reaches up at the sky like like an angry fist trying to punch heaven down.

"What…" is the only thing Clara can say to the sight, her brown eyes wide and mouth hanging open, blonde hair windblown by the pillar of darkness ascending into the heavens and pushing back clouds. The fact that one of the men laying bleeding on the ground is alive enough to break her halting of time goes unrecognized, right now it looks like the world may have just ended. Or, more likely, just avoided that by a narrow margin.

What had seemed like such a frantic and panicky mission in reality just a few moments ago— Gabriel only understands with a twinge of surprise now, after so many weeks. He watches the terrible, twisting shadow with an eagle's squint, brow in a tense knot at the realisation that they came very close to dying… and he's not terribly uncomfortable with this notion, for all that he is very good at being a survivor, for all that he doesn't want to die.

It just wouldn't probably be that big of a deal. He swallows, tasting bitter metal. "I think the world just got saved," Gabriel says, letting go her arm to wrap his own around himself against pinching cold. "Go team."

It would be a while yet after they left those dead marines in the snow, liberated of armaments that whoever executed them had let to freeze in the snow. The young soldier that spotted Clara, the only survivor, died several minutes later of his wounds in delerious silence. Though it wasn't hard for Gabriel to understand what happened there, or who had done what had been done. When the name 'Danko' was spilled by that dying soldier, the path that both Gabriel and Clara were following became all the more a heated one.

It takes close to four hours to find the terminus point for the snowmobile's tracks, a crater in the ice caused not by anything as dramatic as a nuclear explosion, but something more mundane that rose up from the water. While the nuclear submarine that served as Emile Danko's method of escape from Antarctica has since passed, the body laying cold and bleeding on the ice shelf has not.

Unconscious, exposed to the cold, and with a balaclava stuffed into his mouth, the prone figure of the man Gabriel has only come to know as Aviators is a familiar near-corpse, but between hemokinesis and astral projection there's plenty of ways to say he's hanging on, as if Antarctica had been given the responsibility of finishing him off.

The lone snowmobile parked near the hole in the ice that matches the other six found earlier is indication enough that Gabriel Gray's most favorite person in the world was here.

And is now not.

It is disappointing, to say the least, when the bloodhound trail to find his would-be murderer ends only with his leftovers a taunting sign of his escape. As opposed to his blithe carelessness when he and Clara had come across the murdered soldiers, Gabriel silently raises a splayed fingered hand at the woman in silent instruction for her to stay back, this time. Crouching in the snow perhaps four feet from Avi Epstein's prone body, Gabriel raises a hand. Lacking any other weapon, he designs his own — blood, sluggish and nearly black, comes crawling in thin rivers from the near-dead man's body, slithering across the snow until it reaches Gabriel's hand.

By the time Gabriel is jerking the balaclava from Avi's mouth, he has in his other hand a darkly rust-coloured knife that certainly looks like it can cut. "You've got a lot of explaining to do," he tells the man's unconscious face, before looking up at Clara. His eyes are almost the same approximate colour as the clotted blade in his hand as he says, "I know him. He's coming with us."

It doesn't sound like charity, the way he says it.

One eye — because that's all Epstein has — rolls open with a blink, brown meeting brown in a cyclopean stare. There's a wet rattle in Avi's mouth, two teeth knocked in somewhere that isn't where they're supposed to be and a world of hurt leveled squarely on his shoulders. The groan he makes is an involuntary one and the welt on his forehead from being pistol whipped is bleeding from a split in the skin crowning it.

Swallowing, painfully, Aviators watches Gabriel for a moment before letting chapped lips pull back into a bloody smile, his one gauze-patched eye offering none of the amusement his remaining one is showing; psychotically so. There's something in Avi's eyes that Gabriel doesn't yet recognize, but will later on. It's that same bewildered sanity that Jensen Raith has deep down inside. Whatever threads there were left to snap in Avi, they've broken here in Antarctica.

"Big-bad," Avi slurs the words, "boy is— shorty gonna' be pissed to see you."

The edge of the blade comes to rest beneath Avi's jaw, as if promising a swift death with the twitch of his wrist, and Gabriel's expression is relatively serene for all that his gaze is intent when it falls to focus on the other man's remaining eye. "You know," he says, speculatively, an eyebrow raising up as his attention drifts to the cut at Avi's forehead — it instantly clots, congeals, scabs over, "I couldn't have put it any better myself. I'm so, so glad we're on the same page again."

When the chilly edge of the makeshift knife lifts, the weapon is readily discarded. Aviators endures a cursory pat down for arms, before large hands are gripping onto the front of his shirt. Without regard to his injuries, the pain that comes with buried deep in numbing cold, Gabriel stands and drags the hefty man with him, subtle manipulations of puppetry making able muscles go along with.

One more involuntary groan comes as Aviators is hoisted to his feet, all while Clara watches on with one gloved hand covering her mouth in shock. It's an expression Gabriel comes to know very well in the following weeks, but right now it's only the second time he'd seen it from the geologist. Dragged to the snowmobile, Clara's getting off of hers and moving across the snow towards Gabriel, her head shaking from side to side slowly. "We— we don't have— he's hurt." Her informative grasp of the obvious retains its steel-trap grasp.

Eying the second snowmobile, Clara grimaces and looks across the featureless white terrain before settling a look to Aviators, then back up to Gabriel. "We've got too long to go, there's— there's nothing out here for hundreds of miles, not until we hit the north coast. By then he'll be— "

"Company." Avi groans with his face against Gabriel's shoulder. Clara's brows furrow, thinking him delerious, but not hearing the capitalization in his word. As she goes to speak again, there's a weary drawl of words that spills forth from his lips. "Company— th— they've— " he huffs out a few breaths, turns his face to rest cheek against shoulder. "Colobanth," is both a name and a mouthful for a man missing teeth, "Colobanth Station. It's— a medical facility, five— five miles east, maybe ten."

Aviators speaks up before Gabriel can fairly snarl at Clara with the words I'll keep him alive — she won't, by now, be completely unaccustomed to his temper, but she's been spared the brunt of it thanks to his dependence on her, his own injuries and the threat of impending doom in the form of a sinkhole. Spared now, thanks to the solution that the older man mumbles out through stained teeth and cold-nipped lips. The angles and shapes of Gabriel's expression harden into an even edgier brand of severity with the kind of malevolence he only reserves for—

"The Company. He's— " He looks towards Clara again, impatience flaring in dark eyes. "He's talking sense. We go that way. Five miles east." He looks towards the snow mobile, wrinkling his nose. "Maybe ten. Got all that?" Something familiar happens — maybe Clara has seen it, and Aviators certainly has, has experienced it, too — pitch black shimmers over both of Gabriel and Epstein's bodies until solid silhouettes become loose and inky, writhing in place before snaking towards Clara.

No ability to ask permission, before the shadow-like creature of two goes to huddle up under her upper arctic jacket for a place to ride during her abruptly lonely journey east — but Gabriel probably wouldn't have anyway.

There's a bundle of shadowy serial killer squirreled away inside of Clara Francis' jacket, and somehow she's less right with that than she is the pillar of black shadow rising up from where Amundsen-Scott once was. Furrowing her brows, she lowers her snow goggles back down over her eyes and walks back to the snow mobile, climbing up aboard and igniting the engine with a whine. There's a look down to the blood on the snow, then the hole in the ice where something clearly had arisen, only to sink back down again.

Clara's lips downturn into a frown before she pulls down the bottom of her balaclava the rest of the way, hunches forward onto the snowmobile and roars off across the ice eastward. She's not sure what the Company is, or why she's never heard of the Colobanth research station before…

…but she's sure she's not going to like the answers to those questions.

"How many times do I have to tell you, if you don't let the samples incubate long enough all you're going to get are false negatives." There's a slam of the freezer door for the second time today in Julien's face. His reflection is scowling, one hand rubbing over his chin as he notices how much his beard has grown in only on seeing this face for the first time in over a week. Or, has it been longer. "I don't tell you how to do your job, you don't tell me how to do mine…" the further grousing continues to come from someone he can't see in the cooler doors.

Turning his back to the lighted case, Julien Durmont walks past a computer running a blood analysis towards the raven haired woman standing by the adjacent terminal, keys clicking away quietly and blue eyes angled up through her dark hair towards the blonde researcher. "Are you going to just sit there and look glum or are you going to say, yes Sabine, you're right Sabine?" Both of her dark brows lift up slowly, and all Julien can do is offer a deflated frown as he settled down into his chair.

"Yes, Sabine…" He grumbles, reaching for his mug of coffee, "you're— " A red light flashes at the ceiling, and both Julien and Sabine's attention shoots up to it. There's confusion in their expressions, and only once Sabine gets up does Julien look worried. "What is that? Is that the perimeter alarm?"

The clatter of Sabine pushing away from her chair accompanies the clunk-thunk of her boots carrying her across the floor towards a bank of three LCD displays showing different exterior views of the research station. "Is it another tremor?" Julien needles her with questions, stalking up behind her to the screens.

"I… don't know, the perimeter sensors were tripped a moment ago by something, but the cameras are showing nothing out on the ice." One of her hands moves over to a small joystick, swiveling one of the cameras by moving it. It's only when she pans left that Sabine catches sight of the column of black rising up miles over the Antarctic ice shelf. "Oh my God what— what."

There's a clunk nearby, a groan and a shriek as a hatch door opens one hallway away. Julien pulls his eyes away from the screen, slapping a hand on Sabine's shoulder before reaching up inside of his gray jacket to withdraw a modified Company-issue pistol from within. Another loud clang out in the hall clearly sounds like someone breaching the exterior, and both Sabine and Julien are silent in their approach of the hatch door leading out into the hall.

When the latch to the lab door turns, when metal groans and clunks and finally swings open, Julien allows himself to be pressed behind the door. When a woman in an orange Arctic survival jacket steps in, lifting snow goggles from her balaclava-covered face, she's greeted by the crack of Sabine's hand at the back of her neck, sending the intruder collapsing to her knees.

Clara lets out a yelp, the world going blurry after the strike, only to have a swift kick delivered to her stomach, flipping her over before the wild-eyed brunette is kneeling down and straddling Clara's waist, forearm pressed to her throat and brows furrowed. "Who sent you!? What is that outside!?"

Stepping out from behind the door, Julien tips the barrel of his gun towards Clara's masked face. "I'd do what she asks, 'Beeny can get very rough." The blonde's lips pull back into a smile, and all Clara can do is offer a rather weak, whimpering apology in return.

"I— I'm— I'm terribly sorry." Because she's not alone.

Are we there yet?

Looks like we are. There.

The kids disembark. That is — surging preternatural shadow goes flooding out from every seam that Clara's orange jacket has to offer, a mess of snaky tendrils that reach for the heavens and stream on passed Sabine, blinding her with itself and offering no noise, no wind effects — just simple, seemingly solid darkness that waterfalls back down to earth, gravity bound. It splits apart — a broken looking man wearing his blood on the outside is sent rolling across the floor.

And the other half finds more grace, Gabriel's lanky form seeming to tumble out of the cloud of darkness that disappears into thin air, melts back into his body. Eyes wide if betraying nothing like fear, he immediately points a hand towards Sabine, and the woman's head jerks to the side as if someone had taken a baseball bat to it — and effectively, someone has, as bruises instantly blossom at her temple.

Slouching back and off of Clara after the kinetic blow to the side of her head, one hand comes up blearily to the side of Sabine's head as she falls down to the floor with a groan. Julien's reaction is far more reserved, if not somewhat suspect, watching Sabine collapse to the side and slowly, carefully tipping the barrel of his gun down, then unwinding his fingers from it, all but the finger looped through the trigger guard. He crouches down, slowly, his other hand held up in the air and places the handgun down on the floor.

"No need to teach me a lesson she just learned…" Julien notes with a twitch of one corner of his mouth up into a nervous smile. His eyes track Clara's motion on the floor, both she and Sabine not getting up any time soon and— there's another man who came here wounded bleeding on the floor nearby. Julien's blonde brows furrow, eyes lift back up to Gabriel.

"I think we got off on the wrong foot. You're no agent…" Gabriel can smell the fear coming off of Sabine, Clara, a little off of Aviators though he's mostly lacking in consciousness. Julien, though… Julien isn't afraid at all.

"You must be Sylar," is the astute observation made by Julien with a raise of one brow, "and I'm hoping that the pillar of impossibility rising up from the ice shelf past here isn't your handiwork? That seems a little too been there, done that for you, right?"

They never just start shooting. Not Flint Deckard, Claire Bennet, or Julien Durmont. Well, Emile Danko did — and almost got what he wanted, bullet holes twinging their reminder beneath his winter clothes. Gabriel's lips pull in a grimace that displays the even set of his white teeth, and for all that Julien presents no threat, the agent will find himself in a scarecrow's position, limbs stiff and locked. "And you're Company," is equal accusation, a step forward taken. "So that sort of presents a problem for us both, doesn't it?"

A peripheral glance is flicked Sabine's way, but his attention is drawn towards Julien as if the other man had some kind of blackhole charisma from which there is no escape. Or he's just— interesting. "What are you?"

Involuntary muscle actions are the least plesant things to be confronted with when in the presence of both women and company. Despite suddenly finding a familiar lack of control coming over his body, Julien finds himself saddled with the difficult task of both protecting his pride and protecting his life.

"Julien," is the answer offered as the blonde man remains in rigid cruciform shape, watching Sabine out of the corner of his eyes slowly pushing up onto one arm and crawling away from Gabriel. Clara's just, you know, she's just laying there on the floor, staring up at Gabriel, over to Julien, and then slides her arms up behind her head. Not in a surrendering kind of manner, no she's laying down, so she might as well relax— on the floor.

Giving Clara a squinted look Julien manages to swallow awkwardly, then looks back up to Gabriel. He's still, decidedly, unafraid. "Ex-Company— mostly," he notes for clarity's sake. Sabine finally lifts herself up to her knees, reaching up to grip the side of the table and steady herself as she rises. "This here is Sabine, she used to be my partner back in the day. We still work together, just— off the books?" Julien's words sound strained, but with the tension of his jaw its unsurprising.

"You're more important in this conversation, Sylar. More important than me, or her…" Julien's eyes flick from side to side, Gabriel to Sabine and back again, "What brings you out here to the puckered asshole of the world, with— " there's a look down to Clara, over to Aviators, then back up to Gabriel, "friends?"

"That's classified."

Gabriel remains as he is, almost as frozen as the state he's put Julien into, arm outstretched and fingers hooked as if physically gripping the strings that invisibly bind the "ex"-agent, for all that they stand some space apart. A crawling look roams up and down the man he has in his grasp, and after a couple of prolonged seconds, the hold is cut with the drop of his hand, and the man is left to right himself as he sees fit. "One of my friends is near dead, and we came here for help. You can either give it to us or I can take it."

Gabriel lists a step back, finally breaking a look from either Sabine or Julien to take in the setting with more concentration, attention finally landing on Aviators. A sweeping glimpse of astral projection throughout Aviators' physical self, an assessment of injury, has his eyes going unfocused as he adds, "I don't really care which," before he withdraws again, brow tensing.

"What makes you — " While Julien didn't backhand Sabine, his glare most assuredly does cover some of that recoil that she gives. Cooling her tempestous reaction, the brunette narrows her eyes in a scrutinizing look to Gabriel, only to Have Julien offer then olive branch of peace in the form of exactly what Gabriel wants.

"This is a medical facility…" the blonde ex-Company agent explains, "as long as I'm sure you're not going to eviscerate me with a thought I'd be more than willing to take a look at the bloody sack of potatos that you're calling a friend." Aviators would laugh at that, but being unconscious and bleeding deprives him of some of his taste for humor.

"We have a… medical team of sorts here that can help your friend." Julien reaches up, rubbing fingers at his throat as his attention turns to Clara's silent frame where she kneels beside Aviators, looking down at him in a stare of disbelief. As if feeling the eyes on her, Clara looks up, meeting Julien's stare before her brows furrow and head cants to the side.

"I… I can help," Clara's attention diverts to Gabriel, "I think you know that already. I will help," is the way she clarifies it. Julien offers a hesitant smile at that, then looks to Sabine before settling his stare on Gabriel again.

"On our way to the lab, I'll tell you about my classified work if you tell me yours."

Twisting a look back at Clara, Gabriel takes a few moments to consider, before he's striding towards where Aviators lays bloodied and comatose upon the ground. Rather than haul him up, Gabriel simply bends, grips a fistful of the man's jacket in a solid hold, before letting his back straighten. Raised enough for his shoulderblades to lift off the floor and for his head to dangle back, Aviators is dragged a testing inch.

Much like a sack of potatoes, in fact, doomed to smear a wide track of blood as he goes. "Let's go meet the team," is Gabriel's consent, a brief arch an eyebrow. "And I can tell you what I know."

Colobanth is a relatively small research station, compared to the Amundsen-Scott facility that now lies somewhere at the bottom of the world's largest arctic sinkhole. But what it is lacking in size it undoubtedly makes up for in financing, to say that the Company is willing to throw money at a problem to make it disappear would be an understatement, and with Robert Bishop's ability to destabilize any economy with the application of one solid gold touch it's not wonder where all of the advanced hardware comes from.

While Gabriel regales Julien with a cliff-notes version of Operation Apollo, much to the shared disbelief of both Sabine and Julien, Clara is the only form of confirmation that they have to corroberate what Gabriel says as true. To imagine that they owe him any measure of gratitude for saving the world almost seems preposterous, but yet there it is.

Julien's explanation for things here is slightly less fantastical but still bordering on the implausible. Colobanth is the Company's arctic satellite tracking station, one of four remote stations across the world where the isotope tracking systems are monitored and recalibrated. But more than that, Colobanth is a remote location where research into more advanced tracking and identification methods for the Evolved are researched.

What Julien reveals is that six weeks prior, he and Sabine invaded the facility and, a bit confusingly, claim to have murdered all of the technicians and staff to commandeer the facility in order to discover what the Company was developing and researching for tracking devices and test kits for detecting the Evolved.

All manner of unusual technology in various stages of completion are on display here, from an aerosol spray that turns Evolved skin blue on contact to what Julien calls prototypes for a new tracking system to work in conjunction with the satellites. By the time they reach the medical bay, however, they've both only shared part of the truth of their stories.

When the door to the dimly lit medical bay opens, Julien enters first with Sabine following behind Gabriel and Clara. There's a researcher working in here, hunched over a desk where a small metallic device that could fit in the palm of a hand and looks like little more than a battery and some spooled copper wire rests.

But both he and the man seated at the desk nearby checking data on a computer are surprised to see Julien's arrival and even more surprised to see Gabriel. The reaction is, in part, reciprocated by Clara who notices — along with Gabriel — that Julien seems to have brought his extended family to Colobanth.

Because both of the men in the room look exactly like him.

Gabriel moves further into the room, just enough to take the lead of this little group, of Julien— this one, anyway— and Sabine, Clara, and Aviators attached to his fist, who Gabriel manages not to drop too sharply. Lowers him enough for his skull to peacefully connect against the floor, before dropping him to slump the rest of the way. Brown eyes roam over the twin faces of Julien Durmont turned his way, unphased by the replicating recognition shaping the same expressions like stamp prints.

It's eerie, but also a puzzle piece clicking into place, and just as satisfying. "I knew there was something missing from you," he says, and he's addressing the one who led him here, for all that he doesn't glance back, though he does at the end, a glance of acknowledgment down towards Epstein. "Get them to work."

He's assuming too much — that surely, the man he is talking to is the original recipe Julien Durmont. That his copies have unquestioning loyalty and eagerness to obey. It's what he knows, save for that one time, but Peter's a spaz anyway.

There's askance looks passed back and forth between the replicants, and the one that was working on the device looks at Julien a bit expectantly. "Exactly what's going on?" is phrased just accusatory enough to have barbs. "This is how you handle security breaches, you let them in and…" there's a look over to the other clone who seems more interested in inspecting Aviators on the floor, crouching down beside him to check his injuries.

"What can I say, he's persuasive when it comes to arguments," says the Julien that Gabriel had initially dealt with. It's in this very small vignette of interaction that the differences between Brian Fulk and Julien Durmont begin to become underlined, the very disperate personalities of the clones making them seem more like triplets, until the fourth clone comes in through a side door carrying a steaming plastic tray of salisbury steak that clearly has just been taken out of a galley microwave.

Wide-eyed staring happens for a moment before Sabine finally steps in and offers a scowl to the entire gaggle of copies. "You two help him up off the floor," Sabine orders of the two that aren't tending to Aviators, "you" she adds to the one kneeling, "go scrub up, and you…" Sabine's attention finally settles on the original Julien. "Show Gabriel's female friend where the sinks are to scrub up."

"Clara," the aforementioned blonde friend iterates as she rolls her eyes, looking down worriedly to Aviators before settling her eyes on Gabriel with a furrow of her brows. "Please try to play along nice with them?" she pleads in a way that implies it's cold outside and I don't want to have to run away from another sinking research station.

"And you," it seems Sabine isn't done, but this time she has the wherewithal to point accusingly at Gabriel, "get out of their way. I think the people sitting squarely on the Company's wanted list should have words…" While Julien seems nervous about letting Sabine be alone with Gabriel Gray he isn't going to question either of them in their current state, because as far as he's concerned having the Midtown Man on his side could prove to be a bigger advantage than anything this lab could produce.

"Why don't we discuss how our enemies overlap?"

January 17, 2010


"I know it looks like a compass, but it's more than that…"

The day that intervened between Aviators surgery and now has been an eventful one. Julien Durmont and Sabine Hazel have revealed themselves to be more than just co-conspirators willing to sign on to Gabriel's particular bandwagon and opened up to be a somewhat tragic case of Romeo and Juliet juxtaposed against a backdrop of the post-bomb world. Here in Colobanth's labs they've shown Gabriel much of their research into what the Company has been perpetrating. But all of this, what Julien and Sabine have revealed, doesn't feel like the Company that Gabriel remembers. It feels more like Pinehearst.

"We're not sure how it works, but it only works for Julien. He holds it and it just… spins."

Some of the technology being developed at Colobanth is confusing, and the device that Sabine has decided to show Gabriel is one of the more puzzling pieces. On the outside it looks like a wristwatch compass, save that the framework for it is coiled with copper wire and it doesn't point north. Nothing here, this Compass, these research projects, none of it seems to feel like the direction the Company was taking, and yet at the same time it makes sense to Gabriel that these leaps would be taken, just not by this group.

"There was only the one here, but there's documents referencing others that this was modeled after."

It's an alliance of sorts that they've made. Julien and Gabriel's common enemies overlap where the government and the Company meet, at a laboratory somewhere in the United States where what Julien refers to as the "root" resides, his core self that is in a state of hibernation, used for purposes he can't even imagine. That Sabine defected from the Company to try and help him earn his freedom is what made them both enemies of the state, but now they both feel like the scope of their enemies is slowly changing hands.

"You're a clever man… what do you make of it?"

Gabriel's enemies lie in Washington, in the beurocracy that offered him a pardon with one hand and drove a knife into his back with the other. There is a certain sense of vengeance that he and Julien share against the system, one that has become their agreement. Gabriel helps find where Julien's "root" is, and Julien helps Gabriel with the bloody path of vengeance he intends on carving all the way up to the President.

"I bet you're… clever in a lot of ways; creative?"

Sabine's too-close sidling while cradling the wristwatch compass in one raised hand isn't unsurprising, but that neither Clara nor Julien are around to dissuade it is a first. With Clara checking on Aviators and Julien testing his newest method for defeating the isotope tracking system by injections that diffuse the radioactive deposits from the mark, Sabine and Gabriel have been perhaps awkwardly left alone. Her advances are not entirely scientific.

Left alone with no where to go, but at least not dressed up. After existing so long in frozen time, it had first been a pleasant difference to almost feel the seconds slipping so swiftly by, to feel time working in sync with the mechanical processes of timepieces he's memorised instead of that sluggish crawl. Now, however, it feels anxiety inducing. Somewhere, there are people who care for him, not coming for him. Somewhere, they probably think he is dead, and the boat will be leaving, and right here

It's hard to know what to do. It's worse to know what to do and have to wait. Sabine had found him in a common kind of position, staring out into space and inside his own skull, had come alive at her appearance and paid her some iota of attention that has since grown at the device she holds out.

His heavy head tips, brown eyes showing sharper focus, and he reaches out like he might take it. "I'd have to take it apart," he says, in a tone that suggests he might like to.

"I'm not sure that'd be a good idea…" is Sabine's diplomatic anwer about taking apart the compass. Though perhaps it's the moment to arrive inopportune that Julien sensed in his lingering at the doorway. When he leans into the lab room there's a clunk of his boots across the floor, brows furrowed and head bowed, posture somewhat slouched and halfway-lidded eyes offering a scrutinizing stare to Sabine.

"What wouldn't be a good idea?" is the kind of tone someone uses when they sound jealous and are trying not to, Gabriel's perfected that very tone to an art. Sabine takes a coy step back from Gabriel, her fingers curling around the device in her hands and eyes flicking side-long to regard the blonde intruder, then settles her attention back on Gabriel.

"I didn't know you were up," is Sabine's dismissive greeting to Julien as she holds out the compass to him. "I thought Gabriel might be able to make heads or tails of the— "

"Go check up on Epstein," Julien interjects, sharply. For a moment Sabine looks incensed, that the dismissing from the room is uncalled for, but there's osmething in Julien's expression that she recognizes and it triggers memories of a rather recent conversation she'd had with the replicator in private. Smiling away her concern, Sabine offers a fleeting look to Gabriel, then dips her head down into a bowed nod before starting to walk out of the lap, lips creeping up into a self-satisfied smile as she does.

"She seems to have taken a liking to you…" is Julien's dry greeting to Gabriel as he looks over his shoulder to where Sabine exited, then back to Gabriel again. "I wanted to talk to you about your plan, about getting out of here. The cargo plane I told you about will be arriving on schedule in a month's time, figure by then we'll need to vacate here anyway when the rotated staff arrives. One of my clones informed me that the aircraft carrier you mentioned is stationed at McMurdo…"

Julien's brows furrow and his eyes search the room for something to focus on other than Gabriel. "I thought about what you asked me about, now that I know we're on a time-table… it helped me decide. I'm willing to give you one, if you think that'll work…"

"It will work." This spoken quickly, but not desperately. Gabriel's long legs unfold, standing from his perch upon the office chair — and while Julien's focus wanders, his own squares on the other man as if to watch for resolve's escape. "We're running out of time and you never told me exactly how long it takes to grow one of you." There's a slight sneer that curls Gabriel's mouth, and the clones themselves might know it, the automatic disdain of talking to a copy, as opposed to a real person.

But that's the catch. They are real people. "I need at least one to send a message to the right person who will listen, who can help us. The one that recruited me to the Apollo mission in the first place. We get her on our side and then get back to America. But hey, if you have any better ideas, you might want to start sharing them."

There's only a trace of seriousness in his tone. Better plans would be better. "I wouldn't worry about Sabine. You get to be ten times the man I am," he adds. "For now. Who am I getting?"

"This isn't a decision I'm making easily, I hope you realize. There's a finite number of me right now, as long as my root is captured. One of me has been recouperating from a broken leg from when we were trying to realign the base's satellite dish, he would recover fine but…" Julien rubs his hands over his forehead, looking across the lab before settling his attention back on Gabriel again. "It takes a day or two, I don't know with your metabolism or… other factors, I don't know exactly how it'll work for someone with as many powers as you have. My best estimate is a day or two though, for one."

When Julien furrows his brows he steps in slowly, looking askance into the lab and then more quietly explains to Gabriel, "We're not all the same, you saw that. You know that. You need to be careful what you make when you produce these offspring, because putting the genie back in the bottle's never as easy as it sounds."

"And they grow up so fast." It's probably no wonder that Gabriel and Sabine have managed to find a way to get along, if it can be called that, over the past two days — they share a kind of harsh and impatient humour, which normal people might consider to be a sign of being completely humourless. That Gabriel is not smiling, that the angles of his expression are hard and brown eyes cool, is more or less a case in point. His avid gaze does break, however, a feline looking through of Julien before his eyes roll up enough to regard the ceiling and the wind cutting howls across the rooftop further above.

Harsh and impatient humour may be underscored by an addict's need to get what he craves, this close to it, and he wills himself to stop. His fingers drum against the edge of the chair's back, shaking his head as if to dismiss not only his words but Julien's worries. "I'm better at people's powers, after I take them," he explains, gravelled and quiet. "I'll be careful."

Nodding his head, Julien reaches out and claps a hand down on Gabriel's shoulder, pale eyes staring up at him solemnly before looking askance to the door. "Try'n be quick too…" he implies grimly before taking a step away from the taller man, watching him intently with those sunken eyes of his and then turns wordlessly towards the door, his footsteps clunking against the tiled floor on his way out, just out of beat with the ticking of the clock on the wall in the lab.

That the clock reads 12:00 is hard to discern in Antarctica, it could be midnight it could be noon, the perpetual twilight that darkens the landscape makes it difficult to tell when it is, compounded even more so by Gabriel's oddly accordion sense of time thanks to his possession of Clara Francis' ability. Linear time has become more tedious than normal.

It's the same thought that Julien Dumont is thinking where he sits in the medical bay, slouched back in one of the hospital beds, staring down a a dog-eared paperback novel, tongue sliding over his teeth and brow furrowed at the ticking of the clock in his ear. There's an exasperated sigh exhaled as he sets down the boot and sits up straight, about to swing both of his legs over the side of the bed before the shooting ache in his right leg drives him back against the raised bed, eyes wrenched shut and hands clamped down to either side of his knee.

Recovery from a broken leg is a slow and arduous process.

So are the footsteps coming down the hall.

The door pounds open like punctuation — not truly loud, but in comparison to the silence prior to that and the echo of the chamber that makes up the mostly empty medical bay, it still could boom. Taking the lead, it's very possible that the clone lying prone on the bed has since heard of Gabriel and Clara's appearance, but this would be his first sight — unfamiliar in the flesh, but a shared memory will recall the grainy black and white mugshots of one of the most wanted men in the world.

Who. Is not saying anything to him, only moving with matter of fact swiftness. Quick, the clone shadowing the door had said. Gabriel can be quick. When he wants to be. Now would be one of those times.

A creeping numbness fills the injured Julien's frame from the crown of his head to toes that no longer tingle. Though he may understand the sensation of a book in his hands, the damage of his leg and the press of bedclothes, he cannot feet any of these things. It's both a mercy, as well as an indication as to what's to come. Deathly efficient, Gabriel has a knife in his hand, and without stopping, he physically steps up on to the cot with a protesting squeak of mattress springs, swinging his other leg to stand a boot on the other side of the mattress, and descending into a crouch.

By then, the entire room has gone silent, the lights a little dim — distracted run off of Wu-Long's attenuation ability as Gabriel thinks to shut off the sound. With barely a pause, a hand grips the front of Julien's shirt, twists and pins him there as the knife comes up to sink into his skin and skull like butter.

It's bloody. But quick. Strong thighs and his own generous weight staple down Julien's thrashing as the clone makes sure to communicate in those last moments that clones are people too.

White linens are stained black and red from the arterial blood that pulses free from his head following the satisfying crack of the skull being pried open like a saltwater clam. Warm rivulets of blood roll down onto the pillow beneath Julien's cradled head and the moment these fluorescent lights hit the wrinkled creases in the blonde man's brain, Gabriel can already start to see the pattern in the folds, start to see how the synapses and nodes fit together to create his singularly unique ability.

His hands are wet, tacky and slippery at the same time, cradling a body that has gone limp after its final thrashing. Thick, calloused fingers find pressure gently applied to the soft, spongy flesh of the brain's paper thin membrane, tear it slightly to feel the smoother, more rubbery texture of the lobes below beneath his fingertips, reading it almost like the way a needle reads a record on a phonograph.

That Gabriel's fingertips are turning inky black shouldn't be as worrisome as it is, except that the ink is spreading up his fingertip like slithering serpens across his skin, racing up the back of his hand accompanying that same feverish dementia that comes with the understanding of something, that just a moment longer will give him comprehension of something that will make him incrementially more powerful with each use.

It just seems to come with complications.

Air hisses out between Gabriel's teeth as the black crawls through his skin, up the loose sleeves of his sweater, arms going tense along its journey and back curving. But he's not stopping, god no, nothing would be able to tear him loose as he adapts to what he sees, brands it within his own genetic makeup with a definite kind of detail that empathic kinds of mimicry lacks in terms of instant gratification. But when it is done, when he's harvested all he can from the useless mass of tissue glistening in the cut bowl of Julien's skull, his hands wrench from it as if burned.

The body is left where it lies as Gabriel levers himself away at a graceless stumble in comparison with the swift and quiet competence of before. There is always something about the zone that makes him feel so comfortable, so efficient and himself. It's not entirely why it's so alluring, but it sure helps.

With feverish hands, Gabriel drags at his sweater, pale skin exposed to the ever chilly facility air. Bullet holes are long healing in his torso, his arms thinner than they usually are, ribs and spine standing out against his depleted flesh and displaying, for all to see, that he has some time left before he'll have his full strength back on any level. But this isn't the revealing thing — what is is the crawling mass of black lines that have worked their way up his spine, configuring themselves into tangles that resemble—

The tree bare of leaves probably looks this stark on Julien's pale skin too. The roots seem to dwindle and disappear almost where his belt cinches the waistband of jeans, trunk crawling up along his spine to spread its branches as far as his shoulders and his sides.

Turning an arm to observe where one particularly ambitious branch stems all the way around the curve of his shoulder, Gabriel stands and studies it, hands dripping thick red and knife ambsently clutched in one slick hand. Licking dry lips, he glances back towards the still living Julien, before swiftly pulling the grey wool back over his torso, smearing red blood as he goes.

"I should get to work. Close the door on your way out."

February 22, 2010

During the Corinthian ball…

The hotel room is dark, when the King of Pentacles and the Queen of Cups stumble their way through the door.

It's a chilly New York winter night, and downstairs, music is playing, and Sarisa is dead weight at his side. For all that he is a lie, his body is a solid mass, strong support and smells of champagne, cologne, an underlying scent of some stiffer liquor, and also a mildly sour quality to his breath blowing into her ear as the dark room swims in her blurry vision. The expensive lines of his suit shuffle and shift as they stagger their way inside, his hand hard on her arm. When the lights come on, her dizziness does not necessarily improve.

Particularly because that arm around her waist is abruptly driving her fowards in a callous shove, not turning to look at where she's falling by the time Epstein is turning to peek one last time out the sliver of door he has opened, before it shuts completely.

Flunitrazepam is a powerful drug even in small doses, a hypnotic and powerful sedative, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, amnestic, and skeletal muscle relaxant drug. That Sarisa Kershner collapses down to her knees on the carpeted hotel room floor before falling onto her side in a dazed heap is thank to the effect of a dose that would not normally have this potent of an effect on someone, even on someone intoxicated. That the man wearing Avi Epstein's face has some of his memory fragments is why he knows Sarisa Kershner's weakness to psychotropic drugs, a quirk of her ability that renders her highly susceptible to mind-altering chemicals, highly suggestive.

Breathing in and out deeply, Sarisa stares up at the ceiling, knowing what the dead weight limpness of her extremities means and knowing what the blurred effect of the spinning ceiling fan she's staring at indicates. Her heart rate is slow when it should be racing, her blood pressure plunges down and everything feels claustrophobic, muffled and deadened.

A cottony tongue flicks out to slide across dry lips, fully dilated pupils try to track around the room, eventually setling on the dark silhouette of the man standing in shadow by the doorway. Her hair is in a damp tangle around her head, soaked from the sleet that was falling on the roof, the sleet that tinkles gently against the hotel room's curtained windows.

"Avi," she breathes out the agent's name, fear by now having settled in on her. This isn't something he'd do, not even if he intended to put two in her chest and one in her head. It's all wrong.

The door locks, swiftly, and she can hear him breathing, a sort of heightened in and out, gusting air through his considerable nose as his mouth is tightly pressed together, going bloodlessly pale. He's tense, and perhaps pissed off, but not scared — that she can see where he casts a cool glance around the room they can both already see is empty of everyone except for them. His hands work into fists as he turns back to her, a distance in his eyes, and then he's going into a crouch.

There is something distinctly predator to his movement, a hand splayed to balance on carpet, the other on his bent knee. "Wrong," Gabriel— Sylar— Epstein or clone numero uno or whoever the fuck he is, he is starting to lose his grip— says to her in a frank tone. "I've been waiting a long time to get you in a room."

This wasn't exactly the plan. But it's a close resemblance. What justifies the means?

"I want to know who gave the order for Emile Danko to pull the trigger on Sylar," he states, teeth showing with each clipped syllable. "Tonight, I'm going to find out, and it'll be up to you how much you want to find out what I'm willing to do to do so."

A hitch of breath catches tight in the back of Sarisa's throat and her back arches, tongue sliding across her lips as her throat works up and down in a tight swallow. She's confused, disoriented, and shaky fingers are pawing up at her throat, curling around the gauzy silk of her blue scarf, trying to unwrap it with a likely intention of strangling Sylar to death with it. She doesn't even have the finger strength to tug it free all the way.

"Fuck you," Sarisa hisses between her teeth, mostly because it's too much effort to open her jaw the entire way with how lethargic she feels. "You… you'cn— go fuck yourself… who'vr you're…" her words slur together, brows furrow and heavily lidded eyes stare drowsily up into Avi's far darker ones.

"Was that… clear enough?" Sarisa grouses with a sluggish cadence to her speech, not quite understanding the last words that had come out of the clone's mouth very clearly.

Fast as a bullwhip and even louder, in Sarisa's skull, Avi's thick knuckled hand snaps around in a sharp and efficient blow that catches in Sarisa's eyesocket, snaps her head to the side and makes his hand sting. But not too much. When he rises up, his hands grip onto her arms, and he drags her with him — not exactly a wilting flower, even Sarisa, in her state, can recognise a startling amount of strength when she's at the receiving end of it. Like a rag doll, Sylar flings her into the wooden dresser, watching her limply bounce off its edges and back onto the carpeted floor, furniture shuddering against the wall before it's quiet again.

Striding on over, Sylar plants his polished shoe high up on her chest, near enough to her throat to worry about it, and the pressure that comes down through his leg and against her torso is immense. "I could do this all night, Kershner," he says, voice taking on a silken quality. "The band hasn't even retired for the evening. Can you hear it?"

There have only been a number of times that Sarisa Kershner has been truly afraid, enough that she can count them off on one hand. Or, she could until now. The true horror of this experience is that in her drugged state she cannot even fight back, even without the flunitrazepam in her system she wouldn't be much of a match for someone with that much physical strength in close quarters. Her mind rushes, groggily, mouth opens to gasp a breath and ribs strain under the push of a fear-strengthened leg pressing down harder and harder on her lungs.

Her fingers curl in the air when her brain tells them to claw at his leg, she can barely move, only watch in horror as a former comrade in arms is worn around like a mask and savages her. "Who… are you?" sounds more pleading than she wanted to admit, because she doesn't know many shapeshifters or illusionists who are also as strong as a bull rhino.

Sliding her tongue across her lips, it isn't a question that breathlessly escapes her mouth, but a name. Unfortunately for Sylar, the days when he could hear the beats of a hummingbird's heart from across a city are long since gone, and the hoarse whisper is too quiet, too breathless, to understand.

His eyes are narrow crescents, staring down at her from this height, and his mouth curls when she breathes a name where the syllables escape him. Nostrils flaring with an impatient exhale, Sylar considers his options, and then allows a smile to write across his face — a face that seems, quite suddenly, strangely wet. Or rather, the shifting of an illusion melting away gives the impression of moisture, as if the face of Epstein being worn were made of oil and wax, smeared away and back with invisible fingers to show off Sylar's slightly longer fingers, if still hawkish and severe in expression.

The pressure on her chest lessens, and again, he lowers himself down, exchanging foot for hand. The suit is apparently real, but Avi's care taken to shave was not, all stubbled grain shadowing his jaw and around his mouth, creeping down his neck.

"Someone wanted me dead. I think it was you."

She's been transfixed, staring up wide-eyed through the transformation, but the man revealed on the tail end of that illusory unmasking is not anything like what she was expecting; impossibly Sylar. "No…" she exhales the word, jaw trembling and tired fingers aching as she curls them against her palms, head shaking from side to side in miniscule amount. "No n— no…" it's the sounds Sylar's heard so many times before, people faced with their unavoidable end about to bed for their lives or begin pleading for something.

They usually don't laugh.

It's a bubbly, giddy laugh that ripples through Sarisa as her eyes fall shut and a drowsy smile lazily crosses her lips. Her laugh runs out of breath, wheezes, and despite the blood truckling from the split skin around her eye socket, despite the way that already blackening eye is tearing up from the pain and swelling shut, she's smiling.

Thankfully for Sarisa, the drugs making her as limp as wet cardboard are also deadening the pain that should be making the side of her head throb. "No I'd… never hurt you…" sounds somewhat haunting after how hard she was laughing. "I— I can't believe you're… alive." There's a hiccup of laughter, and Sarisa's eyes slowly blink shut and open in tired drooping, "You're alive."

An exhale leaves his mouth, revving a barely audible growl as Sylar's eyebrows angle into consternation. He'd known— back when he was one of a whole— that if Sarisa had nothing to do with it, that she could perhaps be trusted, if at least used. Still, there is bridled aggression making tension through his shoulders, like snapping her neck is closer to the top of his priorities, but his given strength is draining swiftly as Sarisa's relief— real relief, bafflingly enough— eclipses her fear of the unknown.

Gripping her throat, Sylar drags her torso up off the ground, to study the uninjured eye, to meet her stare. "If you're lying, I'll know. For now, you get to be useful. I need an answer. It had to be someone high up, someone with clearance to know and to act."

And then report back to the boss man, of course.

A hand around her throat reinstates the dominance of who is in charge in this reunion, and bug-eyed fear reasserts Sylar's strength as Sarisa gasps for breath. Her limp arms hang like wilted flower petals down at her side, blood runs in a warm rivulet down the side of her face and his question truly has only one answer that she can give, but he's not going to like it.

"The President."

It almost figures, doesn't it? Sarisa's throat works awkwardly beneath Sylar's hand, and one of her arms twitch in an attempt to reach up to her own throat in vain. "Nathan ordered it— I— I had no idea, Gabriel," she chokes out his name, "I would've— warned you. Something. He— he called in Danko. There was a plan," her voice is hoarse under the pressure of his tightly gripped fingers.

"I swear Gabriel, I swear I'd never— you have no idea— the plans I had for you I…" Sarisa's jaw clenches tightly, tears well up in her eyes and the look she gives is one so bitterly familiar, the look his prey have, save for the crook of her lips curled into a smile.

Had she not been drugged, she could've felt him out better, delved into his past thorugh this touch, but he knew well, figured her out, figured out her weakness and disassembled her every strength like the broken face of a watch. "Are you going to take it?" shouldn't sound so excited.


Sylar tracks his gaze over her face, and his thumb brushes up along the slope of her jaw once his stronger fingers settle at her nape, the temptation strongly considered, but he can feel that nagging imperative, the shifting of targets and the need to take down the big game prey, which Sarisa no longer is. Instead, he allows his mouth to draw into a thin smile, head ducking down enough to mutter his response against the soft shell of her ear.

"Not tonight."

He drops her, readily, allows her drug-addled body to slip from his grasp in the same motion as he stands. A hand comes up to check his tie as he backs away from her, dead-eyed, before Avi's appearance grows back over his own. Turning on one heel, he heads for the door, and silently steps through it.

Slouched over on her side, a line of blood running down across the bridge of her nose, Sarisa watches his retreat. There's a tightness at the corners of her eyes, a weakness in the back of her throat and an uncertainty in what she can trust now. The world is a strange and uncertain place, full of possibilities both myriad and frightening. With her eyes opened to the fact that Gabriel Gray did not, as she had been told, die in Antarctica, there is a certain hope for the future that Sarisa Kershner has that she didn't just a few short hours ago.

Laying there on the carpet, blood staining the fabric dark, her blue eyes watch his back, only to hear the sound of other footsteps in the room. The bathroom door clicks and creaks open, light inside turning off just as Sarisa's attention turns to the darkly dressed blonde man standing silhouette in the entrance.

When Sylar phases through the door and vacates the hotel room, this scruffy and bearded man quirks his head to the side and watches that closed door, then steps out from the shadows of the bathroom with a smile curled across his lips. "Hello darlin'…" he offers in a gentle tone of voice, but his posture implies that there's more than just turning the other cheek planned tonight.

"Names Julien, love, an' I'm going to make sure we didn't miss any details that might've slipped your mind…" leaning to the side, Julien's hands come out from behind his back and come to cross in front of himself. "Don't take any've this personally, we just have a whole long list of important things t'do." His hands are covered in leather gloves, a syringe curled between his fingers that sheds a soft, blue light from the contents within, and Julien is faintly smiling.

"Shall we begin?"

June 19, 2010

"He wants what you want," Jenny murmurs, becoming a little less distinct. The sound of rain pattering on the roof above them underscores some measure of silence as Gabriel studies this psychic impression, almost feeling the fever-sickness she carries with her, the density of her clothes and feelings of self-loathing and projected malice. "You lost me because it's not what I want.

"We deserve to die. We deserved to be buried in an icy grave when Emile Danko pulled the trigger and put us there, and now you've only made it worse. But now it's time to honour our promises, Gabriel. I've been talking to…"

At that moment, her green eyes shift to stare pointedly at something over his shoulder, and the reflection promptly dissolves before him as his own comes back into the foreground, and Eileen's slender frame boxed into the bathroom door. Letting out enough of a sigh to spend a streak of steam up the mirror's surface, Gabriel turns to her.

It's not like he doesn't know the end of that sentence. The psychic whisper flags on his consciousness as Jenny draws away, a reminder of the bed he's made for himself.

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