United We Stand, Part II


aric_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif dl_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif elle_icon.gif felix4_icon.gif matt_icon.gif peyton2_icon.gif rupe_icon.gif

Scene Title United We Stand, Part II
Synopsis Following Molly Walker's intelligence down to Maryland, Matt Parkman and Richard Cardinal hatch a plan to try and assassinate the persuader before he can deliver his message, but unknowingly they are playing into another parties hands…
Date November 7, 2010

Baltimore, Maryland

By the light of the inner harbor, the city of Baltimore is a beautiful place. Tread too far beyond the boundaries of the clean city streets and the tourist regions and the city begins to take a steep nosedive towards that of an urban ghetto.

Even with all of the nicities of the inner harbor area, homelessness in the city of Baltimore is a staggeringly prolific problem. Every bench and street corner is tended to by vagrants, by men and women, sometimes whole families left destitite by the crumbling economical structure of the United States in the post-bomb world.

Baltimore had it rough before the bomb made things harder, but in the four years since the Midtown Manhattan was destroyed, the city by the harbor has begun to crumble in on itself. Closer and closer does the graffiti strewn streets, gang violence and urban decay encroach on the tourist-friendly inner harbor area.

It is on the fringe of this bastion where Rupert Carmichael makes his last stand, seated at a peeling formica breakfast nook in a linoleum-floored kitchen in his fifth floor apartment at Anchorage Arms. The clear view of the inner harbor from the partly blinded windows gives Rupert something beautiful to look at, even if the dark of night hides its imperfections. The bottle of whiskey beside his meal is to steady his nerves, that he's cut his hair short and trimmed his beard is a new lease on life.

That he feels slightly nauseous he passes off as anxiety. The day is approeaching, and from where he watches the glittering street lights shine down below his hotel room window, Rupert Carmichael feels safe and secure.

Sun Tzu had a quote about no plan surviving contact with the enemy.

He also had a more fitting line for tonight:

When the enemy thinks you are far, be nearby.

Anchorage Arms Apartments

Baltimore, Maryland

Downstairs, Richard Cardinal plans to show Rupert Carmichael just how near he is.

"Testing, testing."

The voice carries through the helmet mics and radio headsets of the others as Richard Cardinal makes sure everything is synchronized and tuned together. It carries through easily, and he nods in satisfaction to himself, turning a bit to look towards his team, assembled and ready to try and put an end to the man that's been playing the puppet-master over all of them for far too long. "Alright. I'll go in first… give me a couple minutes to get into place, then Felix and Elisabeth can breach. Elle, guard the rear. We don't know if he has reinforcements in the other rooms, or what, but let's assume he does, so… move fast to take him hostage. Any last minute questions?"

As he speaks into his mic, "There was none I could sense. There is one odd thing don't forget. The woman Janie. I saw Rupert yet…I did not seen Janie. She is scared and wants to get out of town asap. She could be a hostage or…a friend. I could not get a good read off it. I only got to touch her mind for a second as I scanned outward." Aric looks down at his gun and makes sure it is all set. He slides it into his holster behind his back of his pizza outfit. Aric looks over at Peyton turning his hat backwards.

"«He's still awake, though the drugs and the whiskey are probably working fast,»" Peyton remarks, black pupils like saucers, only the slimmest circle of warmer brown surrounding the inky depths. The rest of the team has been told her new protocol for these missions, now that she's doing enough of them to have such protocols — tap her once if she's needed to listen but keep looking, tap her twice if she's needed to come out of the clairvoyant trance completely. Right now, she is listening to the radio, however, rather than the quiet of the apartment Rupe is in.

"«Once you go in, I'm going deaf,»" she adds so they know she won't be able to hear unless told to listen.

"Loud and clear, babe," Elisabeth replies, her tone tense in spite of the unconscious use of endearment. The weapon in her hands is ready, the safety off, and the female officer has that 'ready' stance that becomes natural in soldiers. She and Felix already work like a well-oiled machine — he'll go left to secure the apartment and she'll go right, leaving Cardinal and Matt to steamroll right through the middle.

Fel? Fel's like a grayhound, panting at the gate because he -knows- that plastic rabbit is out there, waiting. Waiting for him. "Ready," he confirms, even that pair of syllables unevenly accented. English is hard. Especially when you're high as a kite on adrenaline.

Elle nods quietly toward Cardinal as he offers his instructions, remaining where he's instructed, behind all of those gathered. She doesn't look like she would be much use right now, with her right arm in a black cast up to her elbow, resting in a sling. The sling is mostly for the first two weeks or so, to keep her arm from moving too much. Not that she wants to. Her arm hurts right now, the woman opting out of taking her pain medication for this.

Still, she's ready and willing to kick some ass. "Got it."

For once, Matt Parkman is wearing his Kevlar vest on top of his shirt and tie. The effect is strange, especially when he goes without the jacket. He adjusts the position of the clear, curly-corded bud that transmits Endgame's collective voices into his ear. He double checks the extra clip of 9mm ammunition strapped to his belt, then chambers a round in the Baretta. "Roger," he says over the channel.

Then he squints, looking away from Cardinal for a moment as he mentally reaches out to the young woman he met all of an hour ago. In addition to her system of taps, he got to be able to plug into her brain. Like all people, Peyton Whitney's mind has a distinct texture, for lack of a better word. This is your backup, Parkman projects into her thoughts, a smirk clearly evident in the phantom voice. Just in case. And as easily as he slipped in, Parkman slips back out again, squaring his shoulders and adjusting his grip on the pistol even as he increases the volume of the surface thoughts around him bit by bit, trying to find that perfect radius. Not everything gets transmitted over a headset, after all.

"Alright," Cardinal says, smiling grimly beneath the helmet, "Then let's do this like professionals, people."

The armoured figure bleeds away to shadow, a ripple on the floor and wall as if the sun was fleeing rapidly behind a man - slithering through a propped-open door, up stairs, and beneath a door.

The apartment has not changed much since Richard was last in it. Stained, brown carpeting on the floor, the television on in the open living room just beyond the entrance but volume turned down too low to hear. The television shows footage of the attack on the Raleigh Science Center, aerial footage of the smoking building partly on fire, surrounded by police.

Past the living room and in the small, cramped kitchen, Rupert Carmichael sits hunched over his breakfast nook table by the window. The bottle of Whiskey is half empty, a notebook lays out on the table by his side, notes written in it as he goes. Clipped to his belt, a cell phone looks readily accessible, his clothing looking slept-in and wrinkled.

A bedroom door lays partly open adjacent to the opening to the kitchen, lights off, darkened. A bathroom door is open across the living room, light left on, toilet seat up. He's gone from terrorist leader to bachelor in just a few short months, and judging from the diet of cold cereal and alcohol, he's likely suffering for it.

Aric takes out his gun and holds it the way Liz taught him. He stays close to Peyton and says, "Be safe all of you. I will be here in the van with Peyton. I will have my senses out as much as I can. I will keep you updated if anything is happening here outside." Aric wipes the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve as he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He begins to extends his senses outward to 30 feet.

Her eyes shift, pupils constricting, then stretching back outward as she takes on Cardinal's view for a moment, watching his surroundings change as he slips into the apartment.

"Card's in," Peyton murmurs to those nearby, since those with Cardinal will already know. Her eyes shift again, as she concentrates on finding herself looking once more through Rupert's gaze to try to see if she can read what's on those pages — or to see if Rupert notices Cardinal's shadow play across his dirty apartment floor.

Elisabeth, with her face hidden behind the opaque shield of the helmet, takes position on the door with Felix flanking the other side of it and the rest ready to rock and roll. She waits the designated amount of time for Cardinal to get into position, holds up three fingers to warn the men with her, counts down, and then kicks in the cheap-ass door. The frame splinters around her heavy boots and the hollow interior door splits next to the knob under the weight of her body — someone's been practicing this shit! Then Liz pulls back, giving her speedster companion a clear path before she and Parkman follow him through the opening, the blonde breaking right as soon as there's a clear path to do so, weapon held to the ready.

Oh, boy, this is the -best part-. Behind the faceless, gleaming shield of his multimillion dollar gimp suit, Fel is grinning that coyote grin. Roadrunner, beware, I have my ACME Rocket Boots. There's the pitter patter of little Fed feet as he barrels right for Rupert the Unfortunate, intending to jump on him and subdue him as fast as possible. Surprise!

Elle heads up the rear, as instructed. She watches as the door is kicked in, watches as Felix zooms on in. She waits until well after Matt and Liz go in, then she makes her way in, after tapping the Kevlar that Cardinal gave to her earlier. She's totally keeping this. Tennis shoes carry Elle in, the girl's left hand held in a claw-like shape at her side.

While Liz goes one way, Parkman goes the other. The idea is to surround Carmichael, guns trained and ready. But in addition to quickly taking up his position, Parkman continues where Aric left off. He narrows the frequency of his ability to the apartment, looking for two things. One, any presence other than Rupert Carmichael, and two, confirmation that the man seated at the table with the bottle of booze is in fact Rupert Carmichael.

It would seem that even the words of a known terrorist, be he manipulated or not, carry some weight with Parkman.

In the moment the door is kicked open, Rupert is stumbling clear out of his chair as if he had been kicked. Falling clean on his ass, Carmichael lands on the floro, one leg hooked over the chair and arms tangled up in his sweatshirt that is caught on the back of the chair. "Oh shit!" is perhaps the expected response from a man who has done his level best not to ever be directly involved in any conflict.

"Shh— shit— fuck! Fuck— fuck!" By the time Rupert has begun his second round of profanity, the chair has been kicked away and near two hundred pounds of muscle, bone and ceramic plated armor is crashing down on top of him. Felix Ivanov moves like a jackrabbit fired out of a slingshot, dropping down on Carmichael with all his weight, knee in the wiry man's stomach, gloved hands at his collar.

"Stop! Stop! I order you to stop!" Frantic shrieking on Carmichael's part has absolutely no effect on Felix's helmeted form, nor would it even if he weren't wearing his fancy space-age headware. Rupert has been eating cereal laced with a crushed up cocktail of negation drugs for the last half an hour.

Advantage everyone else.

The apartment is silent only for a moment, though, the moment it takes for Elisabeth, Matt and Elle to come bursting in through the door. With Matt's mind focused outward on the others and searching for both pings of other minds in the apartment and the contents of Rupert's thoughts, he's admittedly distracted when he starts the headcount of conscious minds and comes up with a surplus to what his eyes show him.

When Elle screams reflexively in pain, it's all but confirmed.

Blood blossoms at the small of Elle's back, then again at her stomach before her knee pops and she finds herself crumpling to the ground. A brief rippling motion of something moving unseen in the apartment is tracking bloody footprints. The knife wounds on Elle's abdomen and back are already bleeding profusely, her knee dislocated by a swift kick.

Rupert's bodyguard is already on the move.

A shadow blacker than midnight spills across the floor at the speed of dark, not from outside the apartment but from within it in a surge towards the injured electrokinetic - her wounds shattering one possible future in a flurry of violence, the possibility of Noah Bennet's death at her hands no longer there - and blotting out the bloodied footprints staining the carpet and flooring.

Cardinal's hand erupts from that darkness, reinforced gauntlet tearing into corporeality in a lunge for something unseen, trying to seize an ankle, a calf, a foot, to try and pin down the invisible bodyguard.

As his eyes slowly open, Aric can sense Peyton's worry. He moves to the front of the Van to scan around it. He moves to the back of the van to scan around the back. He looks at the woman and says, "It's ok Peyton. They will be fine." He is not sure if the woman can hear him yet her worry has him on edge now. He sets the gun in his lap as he extends his senses out even farther now to 50 feet in all directions.

The clairvoyant gasps, tensing as she sees the sudden ripping of fabric and seeping of blood on Elle's body from some unseen hand. Someone else is in there, Aric — someone invisible, just took down Elle, I don't know if she's okay… This is all spoken through Peyton's thoughts, before she adds audibly through the radio, "«Parkman, Liz, yell if you need backup from Aric.»"

The fact that Felix has Carmichael on the floor and Parkman is covering the situation leaves Elisabeth free to also turn her attention back toward Elle. Her helmet's view switches with a minuscule movement to infrared imaging, giving the blonde heat signatures to work with. And you know what? Invisible people show up just fucking fine on IR images. She pivots back toward the door where Elle has hit the floor and takes in the silhouette of the person we can't see. Trusting Cardinal to keep his ass intangible or at least low to the ground, Liz fires four shots to the head and torso of Elle-stabbing bitch.

Carmichael can't see the grin. But it's there behind the polarized faceplate. Remember that comment about ball gags? Well…..let's face it. Nothing is better at shutting someone the fuck up. So that is exactly what is stuffed into Carmichael's mouth, though it's bigger than the average one you'd find at your neighborhood BDSM boutique. It's cinched too tight for comfort, but enough so that he won't suffocate, and then Fel flips him over like a cat playing with a mouse, all the better to handcuff him. Only then does he look up to switch his own HUD to IR, and he hisses with irritation. Invisibitch, you are cutting short my playtime.

Oh god damn. This is not Elle's week. As if the broken arm and the stitches in her scalp that are hidden in her hair weren't enough, now she has been stabbed and has a dislocated knee. She really can't do much herself, screaming and sobbing on the floor and writhing in pain. That feels really bad. And the blood coming out doesn't feel so good, either.

The sudden wave of extra pain is far too much for her to handle. At first, it's just a few sparks, traveling up her frame; however, as the severity of her injuries hits her like a brick wall, she lets out yet another shriek. She norma lly has exceptional control over her ability. However, when she's in this much pain, Bad Things happen.

Suddenly, electricity quite literally explodes from the electrokinetic, filling the air around her. It has no actual direction, but it's still electricity, and those within Elle's range at this moment are not likely to be happy. All the while, the little blonde is screaming out choked sobs, her good arm going to her stomach to press against one of her wounds.

Parkman doesn't have a fancy suit of armor to help him pinpoint the location of the invisible someone that's cause the live-wire to go off. But he's not without his own ability to pinpoint Carmichael's bodyguard. Still, his attempts to do so are cut short when Elle's electricity zaps through him. Peyton's voice over the headset is answered by a teeth-grinding grunt of pain as he hits the ground. He loses precious moments as the shock runs through him to the ground, and it's only once he has his wits back that he can try to regain his mental harness on the room and narrow his ability even further in an effort to nail down the source of those feminine thoughts not coming from either Elisabeth or Elle.

The sudden sound of free electricity sound like the buzzing of thousands of angry bees. Elle's inability to control her power when severely injured has been a detriment to her team on more than one occasion and caused the death of Bryan Buckley. Now, it is only further changing the scope of this encounter.

Lightning snaps in wild arcs, crackling and popping with a high-pitched whine of electrical impulse. The force of the blasts are enough to knock Matt right off of his feet, sending him over the sofa and crashing down onto the floor, one leg up on the couch's seat, his mind swimming and pain lancing through him in a way that scrambles any attempt to do anything other than inwardly — and outwardly scream.

Gunshots fired off at the same moment of the electricity explode with blossoms of red mist in the air when Harrison's rounds strike the invisible assassin anchored to her spot by the sleeve-tug of Cardinal's hand gripping her pant-leg from the darkness. Chunks of skull and blonde hair explode back as the invisible woman fades into view, no more than sixteen years old, landing dead on her back as lightning arcs through her.

And through Cardinal by laws of grounding.

The brightness of the electricity is bad enough, but the electrical shock forces Cardinal out of his shadow form, blasts him backwards across the floor, even as the MR fluid inside of his Horizon armor stiffens like steel plates, hardening even the soft joints and locking him up like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. It's a design flaw they still haven't worked out of these suits. Worse of all is that his helmet fries, everything inside suddenly showing flashing «ERROR» messages.

That's going to get annoying.

Elisabeth takes a bolt of electricity to the chest, sending her clear off of her feet and into a wall, her gun flying out of her hand, MR fluid seizing from the electrical charge, batteries overloaded, vision swimming in the moments before her legs buckle, breathing comes erratic and she slouches over to the floor and onto her side, unmoving and unresponsive.

Felix, in the kitchen, bears the least of the brunt of the attack, taking a few tingling snaps of distant electricity that has Carmichael writhing on the floor and Felix's armor sluggishly refusing to bend, but not entirely locking up. Fortunately for Ivanov, his armor should be returning to normal once the charge dissipates.

Unfortunately for Carmichael, it's given Felix a vice-like grip.

Oh fuck.

Cardinal realizes a split-second before the electricity erupts in a corona from Elle what's going to happen. It doesn't help. His reactions are merely human, and he was focused on grabbing hold of her assailant. That's the only thought that lingers as he's torn from the shadows and slammed across the room, helmet jamming solidly against the wall. He grimaces, tries to shake his head to clear it — but he can't. The armor's locked up. In a moment or two, he'll be able to shadow out of it, but for at least a couple seconds he's a turtle on his back.

As he opens his eyes, he can hear what is goin on through his mic and senses Peyton emotions. He looks up at the building in the mess that is going on. He begins to move towards the door, "Stay here Peyton. I am gonna try and help…not sure what the hell I can do yet…if this goes to shit…your gonna need to get help for us." Aric hopes out of the van and says, "Just be careful…please." Aric turns and begins to run full speed towards the building.

The clairvoyant's already talking into the mics, doubtful they can hear her as Aric speaks. "«We're coming in»" she says, her eyes returning to normal, black pupils shrinking as she grabs a gun and jumps out of the van to the sidewalk, right on Aric's heels. "Fuck that, we are the help, and the police are going to be on their way any second," she snaps, then switches to thoughts: You and Parkman'll have to sweet talk 'em into being on our side.

Peyton is pretty sure this operation isn't exactly government sanctioned, or else Parkman would have brought a slew of DHS agents, not Endgamers with him.

Anyone pokes their head out of the apartments, make 'em think we're cops or whatever it is you can do. When you get in there — don't kill Carmichael, just disable him. If you can calm down Elle, do it. Stay away from her though, she's out of control. It's easier to talk with thoughts than words when running up stairs — telepathy has some advantages. "You get all that?" she asks.

Goddamn it, Elle! I'monna punch you right inna mouf!! As the armor siezes around her and she flies backward, Elisabeth has a split second to think oh FUCK! as her feet leave the ground. She can't throw her arms over her head, the helmet is crackling with static and shorting out around her face, the HUD useless. She gets a single glimpse of the girl whose head she just blew away as well as of Parkman and Cardinal both getting thrown and then she slams full-bore into the wall. There's an inarticulate grunt of pain as she hits, the room sort of spins around her, and her body is sort of trapped there until the armor softens back up enough that her knees buckle. When she hits the floor, there's not another sound from her.

See, Richard? Having the goddamn helmet didn't help a bit!

Felix makes a noise that, amplified by the helmet mic, can only be described as a roar. Not a loud one, but an animal snarl of fury. He doesn't dare dart into the maelstrom that is Elle - only clumsily hauls Carmichael's body away from the door to crouch over it like a falcon over its kill. Here's hoping he doesn't start plucking Rupert's feathers.

The electric disco ball continues to sparkle around the wound for a few moments too long for those in the room. However, blood loss is having its effect, and her electricity generation weakens with it. She manages to get enough clarity of mind to rope her ability in once more. It's slow at first, the range shrinking, before it suddenly seems to suck back into Elle, leaving her sparking and gasping for breath. She rolls onto her back, using the floor to put pressure on her back wound, while keeping pressure on her stomach with one hand.

That done, Elle lays there and bleeds, sobbing from the pain. Sparks still course up her body, but she's managing to keep a clamp on her ability. "Hurts…" She manages to squeak this out through the choking sobs. The cast is used to apply pressure to the wound, as well.

Parkman is slow to get himself back onto his feet, the leg that was slung over the back of the couch falling to the floor with a thunk as he groans again. Getting tased hurts. Getting tased via blond sociopath really hurts. But once he does get back on his feet again, the grimacing government official is making his way to the kitchen, gun at the ready, to make sure Felix and Carmichael are still making nice with one another.

Carmichael is pinned, trapped beneath the weight of Felix's horizon armor. But in that same moment, there's a rippling distortion beneath Rupert, and the persuasive mastermind of this entire conspiracy disappears through the floor of the apartment as if it were made of water. Felix comes crashing down to the floor when Rupert disappears out from beneath him, sparks still arcing off of his armor.

«What the fuck!?» Crackles out of Felix's helmet at he stiffly moves to stand up. «Shit what— I— » Matt can feel Rupert's mind and someone in the apartment below disappearing on the fringes of his periphery, moving down faster than the space of floors would allow.

Five floors down, when Aric bursts through the doorway and into the lobby, frightened residents of the apartment are gathered out of their ground floor apartments. Lights are flickering on the ground level, the elevator doors are sliding open and closed erratically, fuses blow and light bulbs pop. Someone has shorted out electricity to the entire building.

Worse, though, than that is that Aric is now face to face with Carmichael as he barrels out of a ground floor tenement building, gagged and limping as he moves. At his back, an athletic looking man with dark skin in equally dark track pants and a hooded sweatshirt is brandishing a Glock and following Carmicharl to the front doors.

Aric recognizes him, fleetingly from a brief glimpse inside of Niki Sanders' head during the last Endgame meeting.

Her husband.

D.L. Hawkins.

One of the suits of locked Horizon armor suddenly sags as if it were deflating, threads of darkness bleeding out of the places where it's not quite airtight and surging upwards into the living shape of Richard Cardinal. A brief, moving crouch snatches up his gun, and he steps towards Felix—

— just as Rupert goes melting through the floor. "What the fuck…" A moment passes where he just stares and then he's stepping over to Elle, crouching to check how badly she's hurt even as he reaches to pull her headset off, barking into it, "Carmichael just went through the floor he's on his way down somehow…!"

As he runs into the lobby, Aric comes to a halt when he sees Rupert and then recognizes D.L. "What the fuck?" He brings his gun up quickly and yells for the people present. "I.C.E!!" In his head he can hear Liz's voice say, "Will you do what you must when the time comes? That is what makes it all the difference Aric. That is when you know you must use a gun and when not to use a gun." Aric says out loud, "D.L. Your wife is gonna kill me…literally but he is not going anywhere." Aric lines the gun up for Rupert and begins to unload his entire clip. Aric is not sure if his bullets will land true but he is aiming low to avoid D.L's head. If he shoots the man he wants him to have a chance to live…this way Niki won't hurt him too much.

Peyton comes up behind Aric, long legs failing to stop completely as her wide eyes stare into DL's face and Rupert's, just as she bumps into the telepath in front of her.

She too raises her gun, aiming it at DL, before thinking, Disable not kill Carmichael, we might need him so we can undo the damage, I don't know//.

The clairvoyant stares at DL. Belatedly, something clicks in her head — he just phased through from upstairs, she realizes from Cardinal's shout on the radio. Phased. Phaser. African-American phaser who looks suspiciously like the man depicted in the comics that Cardinal made her read in Endgame research and —

"DL," she gasps. "Stop, stop, we're friends of Niki's! He's lying to you — he's fucked with your brains, all of MESSIAH's, you have to help us…"

Elle is still losing blood at a rather unhappy pace, and her knee is bent at a slightly odd angle, dislocated as it is. Her face is starting to get pale, too, and she is unable to do much more than stare up at Cardinal with a pained look on her face. Thankfully, she's got her ability under control, now, and is no longer sparking. A bloody hand reaches up to grab Cardinal's leg, just below his knee. No shocks.

"S-sorry. I didn't mean to mess up—I'm sorry…" She winces, pushing the cast against her wound with tears in her eyes. This hurts like a bitch, and it's difficult for the blonde to do much more than bleed and hurt. It's all she can do to keep herself from losing control again.

She really is a pathetic sight right now, squirming on the ground like that.

"«It's HAWKINS!»" Parkman barks, regardless of whether or not the radios are working. "«Cardinal, Felix - MOVE!»" Since they're the two that can reach them the fastest. The gunshots downstairs are muted, and Parkman is too busy yelling to hear them anyway. Sucking in a deep breath through his nose, he closes his eyes and reaches out to Peyton, searching across the distance to find that texture again. It's a feat, to reach that far, but knowing what he's looking for makes a little easier, even if the stretch will leave him with a headache. But he reaches her, it's all voice - no assessment or reading. Just a message.

Peyton. Switch to Rupert. Stay with him as long as you can.

"«I want his ass alive, dammit!»" He shouts, tearing back through the living room and toward the door.

Time feels frozen downstairs, moves slower in Aric's perception of things. A few months ago, he'd never have considered pulling the trigger on another human being, wouldn't have known how to anyway. All this time at the shooting range, all this time preparing himself for the 8th, all this time trying to learn how to kill and how he's presented with the option.

«It's HAWKINS» Comes crackling over Aric's earpiece, «Cardinal, Felix - MOVE! I want his— »

Fifteen rounds of 9mm gunfire interrupt Matt Parkman's words.

Bullets whip through the air from Aric's gun, his reflexive firing causing D.L. to skid to a stop, eyes wide and arms up to shield himself. Bullets rip through his body, but in the same way that bullets pass through water, leaving a distorted rippling trail. Carmichael finds bullets perforating him too, but not in the same way that D.L. happened to be getting them.

Because Carmichael was in front of D.L.

Blood peppers from the gunshot wounds, Carmichael's body jerks, shakes, twists and yanks backwards and off of his feet as Aric unloads the entire clip into the persuader. People are screaming, the noise of the gun's report nearly drowns out Peyton's voice entirely and leaves her ears ringing. When the gunfire has abated, when Carmichael hits the ground with a wet slap he's gurgling and choking up blood, his fingers grasping at the air, lips moving and trying to speak.

D.L. stands there stupefied with eyes wide, then settles a look on Peyton before sinking down through the floor like a ghost, the tile of the lobby rippling like water beneath him as he ghosts into the basement, leaving Carmichael's bloody body to twitch, kick and gasp for breath and life from several life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Upstairs, Felix forces himself to his feet, trying to shake his limbs into movement as the stiffness in his armor begins to abate, but five floors is a long way to go. Slogging like he's running underwater, Felix starts to jog out of the apartment and into the hall, even as the sounds of small arms fire pop noisily from downstairs.

"It's alright, it's alright…" The headset that Elle was wearing is completely fried, and Cardinal tosses it carelessly to one side to clatter across the floor as he finishes kneeling beside her, "You'll be alright— just hold still while we get you out've here, babe." None of the wounds seem immediately lethal, but she's sure losing a lot of blood. Medical expert, he's not, though.

At the shout about it being Hawkins he looks up in startlement, "DL? What the fuck?"

His face has turned a cool shade of white, as the 'Pizza Boy' killed a man. Aric killed a man. When the world begins to speed up around him again, Aric jumps and looks down at the dead body gasping for air. He looks at Peyton and chokes, "I had too. I…I need to get what I can before he dies…please…tomorrow can't happen." Aric kneels down next to the man as he knees in his blood. The white and red cloth Aric is wearing begins to melt into just red as he begins to soak up the blood. As Aric looks up at Peyton, "Please protect me…" As he places his pointer finger on Rupert's temple bone and his jawline he closes his eyes as he begins the link.

"«Carmichael's down, Hawkins is gone»," Peyton hisses into the radio, rushing forward to fall down at Rupert's side in a strangely ironic gesture, her hands discarding the gun to one side and seeking the worst of Rupert's wounds to put pressure on them.

Her dark eyes pierce into his face. "Stay with me," she demands of the dying man — not because he doesn't deserve to die, but because they need to get in his mind, to find out what secrets he has.

She lifts his head with one hand, laying it on her knee to help him breathe rather than let him choke in blood, then finds another wound to hold her other hand over. Anyone watching would think she cared about the man, perhaps touched by the scene. "«Hurry, he's dying… Aric's trying… hurry»" she gasps into the radio — meanwhile she peers around for danger, torn between using her own vision and sliding into DL's to see if he's coming back around to harm them. With Aric in his own trance, she opts for the first, her heart pounding and fear probably shouting through Matt's and Aric's skulls.

"Stay with me," Pey murmurs again to Rupert, her face pale as she watches blood pool on lobby floor, feeling the sticky warmth beneath her hands. Will they ever be clean again?

Elle sobs, keeping her bloody grip on Cardinal's leg. "I didn't— I'm sorry." She whimpers this, shuddering. She doesn't quite want Cardinal to leave her, right now. It's scary. "Hurts…" Simple sentences are much easier. "You'd…better trust me now, after I got stabbed for you." This is slightly slurred as she grips at Cardinal's shin. "I wouldn't have gotten stabbed for anyone else." She offers a pained grin up to Cardinal.

Finally, though, she succumbs to her blood loss, her eyes fluttering shut as unconciousness takes hold. She definitely needs some medical attention.

Parkman and cardio have never been friends.

He's gasping for breath by the time he hits the first landing below the apartment where Carmichael was and Peyton's voice comes over the radio. He pauses, but only for the span of a heartbeat before he charges forward again. Aric is trying. That is something - even if Parkman can't get there in time to preserve Rupert Carmichael's memories, they may not come out of this empty handed.

Choking breath gasps up into Rupert's windpipe, his throat closes and blood gurgles in the back of his throat. One hand reaches up, curling fingers into Aric's shirt, tugging gently — pleading — as he feels the younger man's hands come down onto his head.

With Matt too far out of reach to feel Rupert's mind — five floors is a lot, even for Matt Parkman — it falls to Aric to rescue whatever information he can get from Carmichael, and do it before the authorities get here and make everyone's day far less comfortable than it really is. After all, no one is here officially. Well, except the terrorists.

As Aric opens his mind to Carmichael, the first flood is jarring, a flood of people and places — of events —

Aric sees a woman, young and blonde, laughing. A soldier stands behind her, head shaved, a smile spread across his face. But Aric can feel waves of anxiety, jealousy, desire. Rupert's mind, his dying mind, assails him with images of a curly-haired young blonde named Cristabella, a woman that was to be wed to his brother, one he coveted so much that he would try to force her to love him.

In Aric's mind, he watches Rupert's repeated persuasion burn down Cristabella's mind, watches his ability turn her into an emotionless husk of a person. Guilt wracks Aric, Rupert's guilt. People and places flood the telepaths' mind, erratic scraps that he has to grasp onto to see for too long. Trained as he is, Aric has never been inside the mind of a dying man before, it is like trying to read a newspaper in a hurricane.

A tall, dark-skinned man in a well pressed suit — the Vice President — is shaking Rupert's hand one moment, then they are arguing another. There's a young British man sitting in front of a radio microphone, smoking a cigarette in fingerless leather gloves, spewing anti-evolved propoganda. Aric plucks the name Julian Kuhr out of Rupert's mind, a radio station in New York.

Glimpses of Cristabella, a tombstone with the name Jonathan Carmichael on it and a date reading 2009. Aric feels another wave of grief, of guilt and remorse, a disjointed image of New York City on fire and the atomic inferno of the bomb burning a mushroom cloud into a noonday sky as buildings burst into flames and crumble.

Loathing, hatred, guilt, passion, emotions flurry at Aric's thoughts. Then, as Peyton hears Rupert choking again, sees him pawing at Aric's face, the telepath can hear a voice in his mind, and he can see a console.

A recording studio, a microphone, headphones.

Rupert's voice, click, goes the recorder.

"Every Prophet In His House"

It has the weight of thunder, and behind it comes an atrophied tidal wave of guilt and helplessness.

Then, as the world goes dark, Aric feels the lonliness of death grip his mind.

And the mental connection breaks.

Once the electrokinetic's passed out, Cardinal pushes up from her side and steps steps back over to where his armour's still stiff as a board — there's a small first aid kit with his gear, although it's not exactly a surgical kit. Still, bandages are bandages. A moment's pause to check on Liz, and then he's back over at Elle's side on trauma duty, just focusing on getting her wounds bandaged up so she stops losing blood so quickly.

He trusts the rest of the team to do what's necessary.

As he opens his eyes, tears are falling out of his eyes as he looks down at the man he killed. Aric whispers, "It's Rupert." Aric looks at Peyton and then says into his mic for Cardinal to hear, "I need time to sort through the images yet…I can tell you. Its Rupert…I…I am sorry Richard. I killed him…I just…I thought I could yet I am not gonna be able too." The shock of it all is starting to slowly set in for the man as he trembles slightly, " There is a studio…his voice…on tape….Julian Kuhr…a tombstone…the Vice President…so many images my head hurts Cardinal. I need time and we don't have it." Aric slowly stands the front of his pants from his knees down are completely soaked in Rupert's blood."

"«Carmichael's dead. Do we need an ambulance for those upstairs? I'm sure police are on their way, Parkman…»" Peyton's voice is a little shaky as the adrenaline fades and she is left with a dead man's head cradled in her lap, hands and legs sticky with blood that's growing cold.

"«We need to get out of here»" she repeats — of course, Matt can help soothe over any police that show up, but she isn't thinking clearly. She suddenly draws away from Carmichael, his head hitting the tile with a dull and sickening thud as she scrambles away, feet slipping on the puddles of blood.

"«Are we on the run or are we covered, Parkman?»" she asks, too aware of all the stares of people peering from the cracks behind their doors, and her eyes being to spill over. She can't look at Aric or she'll lose herself completely, so she focuses on the radio, pulling a cell phone with bloody fingers from her pocket, picking up the gun that never shot a bullet. "«Should I check on Hawkins' location?»" she asks, in an afterthought, still worried he might come back for revenge, as well.

The door to the stairwell flies open, and Parkman staggers through, leaning to rest his hands on his knees in an effort to catch his breath, his gun having been holstered two flights ago. He narrows his eyes as he looks at Rupert Carmichael's body, one part of him cursing the man's death even as the other rejoices in it. Peyton's words come as a surprise to him, partly given what little he knows about her coupled with the scene she has just witnessed. Cardinal's got a good, professional team - that's for sure.

"«Get out of here,»" Parkman instructs between gasped breaths, straightening up and unstrapping his Kevlar as he walks toward the lobby's new focal point. Once it's off holds it out to the woman, his eyes on Carmichael's corpse. "«Response time in an area like this is going to be a little slow, but someone's probably already called them. You need to be gone by the time they show up. I can cover.»"

With the electrical charge gone from his armor, Felix Ivanov arrives down in the lobby behind Matt, his joints no longer seized and his cadence a gallop before he skids to a stop, looking at the panicked crowd that — for good reason given the distinctive suits — think this is a special government operation. After all, Virginia has its own FRONTLINE team and they're a heartbeat away from here.

«Jesus… Christ,» Felix crackles over his comms as he looks down to Rupert's bloody corpse. «No time to mourn the dead, let's get out of here.» Booted feet scuff along the floor as he makes his way for the exit, coming to a halt beside Peyton and laying a gloved hand down on her shoulder.

Come on it suggests with a squeeze, hurricane is passing through.

On the floor, Rupert Carmichael lays motionless, staring up at the ceiling with unseeing eyes, his lips parted and arms limp at his side. For all the evil he's wrought, for all the damage he's done, perhaps his last laugh to the world is leaving unfulfilled the answers behind his greatest schemes, how the spiderweb was arrayed.

Whatever secrets he had, they died with him, save for the scraps that Aric was able to read inside of his dying mind, the whirlwind of moments they were. At least one mystery was solved though, Aric found out that life truly does flash before someone's eyes as they pass on.

Sobering, that.

The bloodied form of Elle Bishop is cradled in Richard Cardinal's arms as he emerges from the building not long after Felix, with Elisabeth in tow. He's back in his armour now, which makes it rather easier to carry the blonde. Not that she's heavy or anything, but mobility is rather of the essence here.

«Zzzzsshhzz-that, collect the body so we can destro-*crackle*-vent revivification.» A jerk of his head towards the body, and he heads for the van, jaw set as he notices the many eyes on the small group. A lot of eyes, but, he hopes, not a lot of voices. People don't tend to talk to the media about what the cops were doing in a shit-hole apartment building at this hour.

Aric did the deed. He should clean it up. He looks over at the group as they make their way for the door. Aric bends down and picks up Rupert's body. He has the build and the muscles for it as he slings the man over his shoulder. He follows Cardinal out towards the van, as Aric falls deathly silent. His mind torn within his own thoughts and that of Rupert's dying images.

Peyton's hand closes on the vest and she nods, brows furrowing as she sees Elle and Elisabeth carried out. She turns to speak to Aric, but he's already getting the body, and she casts a glance back at Parkman with a nod.

She hurries after the others, her bloody footprints left on the tile behind before the lobby doors close after her, the last of the team, leaving Matt behind to clean up the mess.

Looking to the people who have gathered, all looking on with the same sort of rubbernecker's horror at the bloody scene, Parkman breathes one last heavy sigh before pressing fingers to his temple and narrowing his eyes. He clears his throat before he rolls back his shoulders and tilts his head, extending himself in search for the hopefully malleable minds of those gathered, gawking at their wake.

"This was a drug bust. The man you saw dead was a dealer who only made this place worse than it already is." Matt's worse carry the suggestion, and little by little, he pulls context from the minds of the small group. Television shows they've seen, mostly, be they reality or fictional. "Officers addressed the situation. There was a gunfight, and one fatality. Due to budget cuts, the building supervisor will have to clean up." Parkman pauses, wincing at the strain as he struggles to keep his hold on the multiple minds.

"Sorry about that. That's all." Parkman swallows, then staggers toward the exit, barely avoiding the pool of blood before he collapses into the lobby doors, exhausted from the effort of using his ability to such an extent.

By the time Matthew Parkman's weight is forcing the lobby doors of the Anchorage Arms Apartment building open, his legs are wobbling on his way down towards the stairs. When Matt tilts forward and starts to fall, blood tricking out of his nose, it is a lone figure in black that braces himself and reaches up to catch the Secretary's weight against his armored suit.

«Woah there» Felix crackles, though his impulse to explain that he's not into bears remains unvoiced as his arms wrap around Parkman's thick frame, easing him down the steps and back towards the truck. Sirens are distantly wailing, and if the people resident in this apartment building didn't report the gunshots, adjacent buildings might have.

By the time Cardinal has rounded them up into the van, peels out and turned down the street, Rupert Carmichael's blood has not yet dried on the tile floor. His eyes stare up vacantly at the ceiling, lips are parted, Crista's name the last thing on those lips.

His last insult to the organization he built up from the ground, is depriving them the sense of victory of being the ones to kill him. But for Carmichael, this was a disaster, for others… it was a job well done.

For in every secret war, there are puppets…

And puppet masters.

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