We Were Always Here, Part II


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title We Were Always Here, Part II
Synopsis Shedda-Dinu completes the second phase of their maneuver against the Deveaux Society.
Date February 11, 2020

Times Square Building, Rochester

February 9th

5:30 pm

The sunset looks incredible from up here, from the penthouse of one of the tallest buildings in Rochester.

For Benjamin Ryans, the view makes a hell of a first impression. For the woman sharing the space with him, it’s all old hat by now.

There’s an impersonal and yet cathedralesque quality to the penthouse hall, with its concrete walls, tall and narrow windows that evoke Catholic church architecture, and Art Deco frescos of tarnished brass illuminated by electric chandeliers of iron and stained glass. Amid this anachronistic design, there is nothing as formal as a banquet table. Rather, through an arched doorway there is a smaller and more intimate seating area apart from the marble-tiled floor, at the center of which rests a number of expensive antique rugs and furniture. Chaise lounges, couches, armchairs, all arranged in such a way as to allow a large number of guests plenty of space to sit and converse, while end tables and stands hold drinks drawn from a sideboard stocked with decanters of alcohol.

Along the long meeting table, a man with a finely-groomed beard spreads out a large sheet of white paper, using bottle of whiskey on one corner to keep it pinned down, and an empty tumbler on the other. Another glass is set in the center on the bottom to better display the thin lines that detail an infrastructure hidden from all but the eyes of a privileged few.

His was one set of them. Ryans and Vör, though…

“There,” he pronounces, then looks up. “If you wouldn’t mind gathering around…” He’d introduced himself only as Fitz, and as he stands, he smooths down his suit jacket with one hand and gestures to the table with a spread of his other. “I think there’s one or two more folks joining us, but please, make yourself acquainted with the subject material.”

The map details a broad web of hallways and halls, by far much longer than it is wide. Boxes around certain areas divvy up the space between one entity and another, detailed on the map itself as a number which is translated in the top margins in a neat legend. There are few entrances and exits to speak of for the space, though there’s indications of … railroad tracks? through some of the halls detailed, leaving to question the sheer scope of what’s being detailed.

Arms folded, Benjamin is lost in thought at the window. The sunset is there, but he isn’t. The old man’s mind is on what got him to this point and the family not far from him. Backs had been stabbed so that he could find himself. He wasn’t proud of it and he missed his girls.

He could go see them.


Not til it was done, then… then maybe Ben would go see them. He’d rest when they were done. It had been several months since he had been on the west coast and he had to sneak back for this meeting. Ryans was a wanted man after all.

A sigh escapes his nose when Fitz’s words cut through his thoughts. Letting his arms drop away, Benjamin turns his attention to the map on the table. A pair of reading glasses are produced from the inner pocket of his jacket so that he can read the map. Brows tick up once he can see it. “This is the place?” The question is redundant. It was huge. A finger traces the track, noting the exits and entrances with thinned lips. Not a lot of options for escape. That could be a potential problem.

Vör disappears from the chair she was sitting in and reappears next to Fitz, as if walking across the room was too much trouble. "Oo, a maze," she says, clapping her hands together in a brief display of excitement, "how fun. Is there a minotaur in there or are we bringing along the ancient, lumbering beast ourselves." She looks over at Ryans. She smiles.

A little too sweetly, really.

"What intel do we have? A bribed guard? Stolen keycards? Infil, exfil? Or are we gonna wing it?" She looks between Ryans and Fitz, eyes wide as if not having a plan were the more alluring option.

“My advisement is against winging it, Ruia.” Perhaps Antonio Garza had been eavesdropping from the foyer, perhaps he'd only heard just enough. Garza’s arrival into the meeting room is as discreet as the secret entrance used to gain access. His soft, leather shoes scuff softly across the tile floor, far subtler than that heavier footfalls of the man walking beside and slightly behind him. A man that Benjamin Ryans would never in a million years have expected to see here, of all places.

Not that long ago, Donald Kenner was the director of SESA-NY, but the bearded and scraggly-looking man standing before Ryans is a shadow of his former self. Kenner looks to have lost weight he didn't have to lose, sleep he already didn't get enough of, and years shaved off a life already long-lived. Gone are his immaculate suits, replaced by a cheap windbreaker with a split at one shoulder and a pair of old khakis. He walks with slouched posture, hands tucked into his pockets and attention fixed — for the time being — on Garza.

Kenner stops several feet away from Fitz, Ruia, and Ryans. “Benjamin, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Our mutual friend has said much about you.” Garza looks over his shoulder, motioning for Kenner to step forward. “This is Donald,”

Don,” Kenner corrects.

“Of course,” Garza is quick to respond. “This is Don, our newest member. He's been proving himself with an undercover operation in Wyoming, but now is the time for more immediate matters and for tests to become reality.” Garza pivots his attention back to Vor, then over to Fitz. “But I will let the lovely Fitz explain further.”

The moment Garza's voice lifts, Fitz's demeanor changes. He's at once attentive and deferential to the leader of Shedda Dinu, head dipping as he approaches. A glance is furtively, even enviously directed Vör's direction when she crosses the meeting space in the space of a breath, before he looks back up to Kenner, his reverence for the abilities on display nowhere to be found in his brief examination of Shedda's newest member. This was what he had to work with?

A huff of a breath escapes him as he composes himself with a brief smile. "Yes, this is the place. It's the Subtropolis. 'World's largest underground business complex', located right outside Kansas City." He gestures across the maps idly. "Storage site for a number of lessees, including the US government for the National Archives and Records Administration…" Fitz motions to an area close to the center of the space, picking up a pen on the table to circle it in red. "Which then has an arrangement with and subleases a high-security section out to the Deveaux Society." A second circling is done around a smaller area within that. The map otherwise doesn't show the difference— this is just information memorized.

"Your inside man is me. I've been working for the Sub for the last year and a half, and I have access to most of the site. My boss, the property manager, has even more. And she's just fallen mysteriously ill and will be out the next few days, leaving me as her deputy." Fitz allows himself another smile, because he feels it's owed to him at this point. He's been waiting for this opportunity to come up, and here they all were now. But that's as much as he'll pat himself on the back.

"So," he says, clearing his throat. "I can get us in as far as the first door into NARA's depot. However you want to play it once we walk in is up to you, since I immediately get less useful. After that, my key's no good. There's another physical door that separates the secured area from the high security area, and beyond that…" Fitz pauses to make sure his recollection is accurate. "I got one of the workers back there to open up, and he said access to the Deveaux servers is high-tech. Biometric readings, very few actually allowed in. But— that's the goal."

Fitz looks up, trying not to look in Garza's direction for confirmation. He knows this mission. He knows what they're after, and had to prove himself worthy of the trust of knowing. "The info we have says the Deveaux Society keeps an electronic copy of everything they ever recovered from the Company, the Institute, you name it. The question has always been where. It's not even publicly known they have this site, and with this amount of security and secrecy… this is it. Anything worth knowing, it's in those servers. I managed to get a tool from a technopath-for-hire that should be good for exfiltrating the data out, once we get that far."

"So," Fitz concludes with a look to the Evolved in the room, brow lifting. "How do you want to go about cracking in?"

Vor’s antics are mostly ignored or he acts like it, if her antics make him a bit uncomfortable, he doesn’t show it. His attention is only diverted when he is alerted to the arrival of more, Benjamin looks up from the map, pulling glasses off to see them better.

“Likewise,” Ben offers in return to Garza. Of course, Don is a surprise. Eyes narrow slightly as he studies the fallen SESA agent. He doesn’t linger long on the newest Shedda recruit, instead turning his attention to Fitz as the target is laid out. Lips pressing into a thin line at the mention of the security. “I can’t help but be leery about just popping through the door,” he comments tapping the area marked for the Society. He didn’t expect the ladies to make it easy for them to get the information or that people knew what else was waiting for them.

“I doubt that’s all that protects that information. Any other security measures we should be aware of?” He glances at Vor, before looking back at Fitz again. “Alternately, do we know who all has access?” He had an idea and he didn’t like it. Desperate times though…

Garza takes a step away from the planning, crossing his arms over his chest and affording Don a knowing look. Don offers a lopsided look to Garza, then shifts that same look across the table to Ryans. It’s an awkward reunion, of sorts, and as he closes in on their planning session he does not let his voice go unheard. “There’s got to be water down there,” he says confidently. “Pressurized, probably. Pipes for miles. People need to drink and they need to shit, and you need water for both of those.” Don briefly looks over to Fitz, then into the middle distance between the trio of Fitz, Ryans, and Vor. “If we can determine the proximity of water manes to the second door, I could try and wrench it open with water pressure.”

“Don is a hydrokinetic, if that weren’t clear.” Garza explains from the back. “Those of you familiar with Mr. Mortlock will find Don to be of a wholly separate caliber, though. While Jaiden is a brutally efficient hammer, Don is more of a precision instrument.”

Thanks,” is the sarcastic rejoinder Don replies with. “I don’t know if it’ll be enough, but if we want to take the brute force route, structurally, I can help.” This isn’t Don’s first operation with Shedda Dinu, and it’s become evidently clear that he’s invested in this one.

Fitz's lack of impression with Kenner doesn't exactly improve with the suggestion to break into the server space with water, but he's polite enough to keep his derision to himself. "We'll need that precision to make sure we don't accidentally break what we're there to take…"

He shifts his look back to Ryans. "After the second door, the server cage is accessed with biometrics. Who has access, though…" It's clear to see that not having this information is disappearing to him. He rubs the side of his neck. "Aside from the top people at the Deveaux Society? I couldn't guess names. They have to have a tech who looks after the physical setup that also has access…" Index finger briefly scratches the bridge of his nose before he shrugs. "I have a list of all the people that can get into the NARA storage, but the inner doors are on a different system they manage themselves. There's nothing I've got that clearly points out who might be who…"

A glint enters Fitz's eye. "But I've got security footage I could comb. Look for someone coming in looking different from the normal crew, maybe… any technical-looking gear." He bares his teeth as he admits, "It's cutting it close, but I could try to find something when I head in tomorrow. I'll send you something if I do."

But no extra call or extra information comes. Fitz is profusely apologetic when he meets the trio of Vör, Ryans, and Don in Kansas City. Once they're beyond the doors, it'll be up to their wits and their gifts to keep them moving forward.

To obtain the witches' treasure.

Two Days Later

The Subtropolis
Kansas City, MO
February 11th
4:13 pm Local Time

In the security booth, Fitz is waiting for them when they arrive. He smooths down the front of his suit jacket, offering each of the Shedda representatives a yellow-lanyarded visitor's badge. "To reduce suspicion until we're past the point of no return," he explains. Then, they're off, taking a golf cart down through one of the wide roads through the facility to head to the designated block.

Fitz lifts a hand in a passive wave to someone they drive past. Nothing exciting to see here. They belong. This is normal.

He brings the cart to a stop in front of a locked doorway that looks similar to the many, many others they've gone past to come this far. The difference is this doorway bears only the lot number on it, leaving free any mention of the company it belongs to. Fitz steps off the cart and heads to the doorway with confidence regardless, tapping his keycard on a reader next to the doorway. The light on it shifts from red to yellow, and the mole looks back at the three agents with him with a small, pleased smile. "Showtime," he murmurs to them, then pulls the door open.

Behind the door is the space of a warehouse, the size of it hard to appreciate given the wide underground road they'd just exited, and harder still given what's visible from their current position are just a few hallways that lead deeper into it. There's a guard position by the door, though, who looks up in moderate surprise at the unexpected visitor. He flips shut the magazine in his hand, standing up.

"Can I help you?" he asks, to the point.

Fitz smiles reassurance, lifting a hand in that passive wave before his arms fall back to his side. "I'm Deputy Hammond with Security. Following up on a report of some lighting issues in your area. Just here to escort Maintenance back so they can take a look at it." He gestures with one hand to the three accompanying him.

The guard takes a moment to look over the four of them before nodding, mouth pursing into a line. He looks like he's bored stiff… but he also appears to think whatever it is, the facility security has got it for now. "Assessment only, right?" he asks, to which Fitz nods. He nods in return. "Will need permission before anything actually gets swapped out … you know the drill." This, directed somewhere between Ryans and Don both. Either of them could be the senior tech in this case.

Then the guard sits and lets them pass. With a gesture, Fitz indicates that they follow.

And once they're out of sight, Vör is able to exponentiate their forward velocity.

When they stop, Fitz's head is reeling from the hops it's taken to get them to the next set of doors somewhere near the center of the space. They bear a notice in white lettering: High Security - No cellphones permitted. There's a lockbox on the wall next to the door for placement of such devices, not that the rules are going to be followed.

"Ngh…" After a rough shake of his head to clear his thoughts, he looks to Don and Ryans. "This is it," he indicates. "Remember, after here, the second hall on the right will have the entrance for the enclosed space subbed out to Deveaux. Going to need to be quick about this." He pats his hand on the breast pocket of his jacket for the tool they'd need once they got past this and the next door. That's his part to play in this as far as he's concerned, despite having brought them to where they stand now.

"All you," Fitz says, politely stepping aside to let them work. "Can you feel a nearby enough pipe, or do we go with Plan B, here?"

Don draws in a slow breath through his nose and massages two fingers at his temple, regarding Vör out of the corner of his eyes. He swallows back a bit of bile when deja vu hits in this particular moment, in these confined subterranean corridors with her. It may not have actually happened to him, but the experiences he had in the Overlay were none-the-less harrowing.

“Yeah,” Don replies unsteadily, though he’s certain of the point. “The pipes are full,” he says with a motion to the network of power conduits and water manes bolted to the ceiling and walls. “When we’re in place, I can cause a rupture where the pipes meet the concrete wall and go inside. I can increase the water pressure over a couple minutes, should be enough to crack the stone.” He slants a look over to Ben, “which should make your job easier.” After all, Ryans would be doing the literal heavy lifting.

Somehow, Ben manages not to look ill after all those jumps, maybe he’s an old hat at it. Not that he enjoyed putting his life into the hands of a psychotic woman. Still, even with experience there was a small twist of nausea, which might be why he doesn’t answer to Don’s glance.

He probably looked ridiculous in the overalls, shrugging out of the top part, he ties the sleeves around his waist and moves towards the door. Already, his expression slackens while his ability comes to life within him. He would never get over the feeling of wrongness, even though he felt like himself again. He was never able to find out who it was that gave him this new form of his ability, but he silently thanks them as he reaches out a hand.

Whatever Ben was looking for, he finds it. Fingers slowly close into a fist and blue eyes are narrowed even further as he pours more of his ability into it. After a moment, his hand slowly twists, his good ear turning towards the door, as if listening for the tell-tale click that will tell him it was okay to open the door.

Ben's hand turns and turns and…

The door moves, wobbling a touch forward. Fitz catches sight of the unlocked door and quickly moves to pull it open, not needing and not able to twist the handle from his side. He lets out a laugh under his breath at the simplicity of it, still in awe. They'd even practiced before this, but it's still a wonder to see at work.

Instead of having to concern themselves with getting access or worrying about a tripped alarm, all they had to do was use the exit.

"Gentlemen," Fitz remarks in a deeper tone, then casts a glance to Vör, adding much more delicately: "And lady…" He pulls the door in. "Here we go."

It's with confidence that he steps into the next area, looking this way and that. Glass cases cover over delicate works, and racks of non-digitized files sit in rows. Fitz looks up at the ceiling above and then nods to himself, gesturing with a hand off to the right. "So, it'll be to the right, a few rows deep…" he says eagerly, and begins walking down the main aisle.

He's intercepted by a pair of armed guards who round the corner of an aisle a few rows deep with sidearms already drawn. Fitz's smile fades as he looks ahead to them both, arm still half-raised. He's quick to wipe the excitement from his face, adopting a professional air immediately. "Afternoo—"

Silenced barks from one man's gun bite their way into Fitz's chest, and his expression falls entirely. The two shots send him stumbling back in the direction of his allies, one arm curling over his midsection to cover the holes in his suit. He blinks rapidly, his feet beginning to fail him in his shock. Red smears on his palm where he presses it into his stomach.

Return fire goes over his shoulder at the guards, going wide and sparking off the metal sides of one of the cabinet rows. The guards recoil back from the shots, resetting to a safer position. Vör bares her teeth at the inconvenience of it all, glancing aside to Don and Ben as she leans forward to roughly grab Fitz by the shoulder. She roughly reaches into the top of his jacket to free the little device that was supposed to secret them out their data, lobbing it in Ryans' direction. "Handle it." she tells the both of them, and looking over her shoulder back to the door, both she and their injured guide disappear.

The shock that was there in Don’s eyes quickly fades when he looks away from the point in space where Vör was and back to the two guards. That they shot first and aren’t even pausing to ask questions elicits a sideways scramble behind Ryans and then out the other side of the former Company agent’s silhouette, ducking for cover behind one of the racks of files. Clenching his fists together, Don concentrates and causes a rupture in the overhead sprinkler system, bursting the pipes in two spots, sending a distraction of metal and freezing cold water raining down on the security team.

There is no time to draw any weapons and no time for shock, Ryans’ ducks for cover right behind Don. His ability whips out to snag one of the guns to twist it free of the man's grip and pull it in Ben’s direction. With that concentration, he almost misses catching the thingamajig that is tossed at him.

A quick juggle and it’s in his hand, fingers tight around it. Whew!

Though doing so the grip on the gun is loosened. If the guy manages to keep control of the gun, he’ll find it hard to aim when Ben returns his focus to it twisting it in man’s grip.

Silencers… That fact finally hooks into Ben’s mind along with the ambush-style. Lips press into a thin line, he didn’t like this. It felt… wrong. “Don,” the old man says to the man, while he deals with the weapons. “Can’t give them a chance to raise the alarm. Can you drown them?” It was way too easy for him to ask that from his companion.

The exploding pipe overhead brings a swear from the security guards, hands lifting to cover their heads. One runs back in the direction of the enclosed cube of an area protected by a biometric scanner, gun falling from his hand and into the rush of water after Ryans twists it from his grip. "Shit," comes from him as natural as breathing as he scrambles to pick it back up, especially before the weapon is drowned. While this happens, the other guard charges forward into the main aisle space, the business end of his gun swiveling wildly as he looks for signs of any of the intruders and finds precisely none.

His jaw sets, keeping his silence. Over the water spitting from above, it's harder to hear the squeak of wet socks in the dress shoes he wears. Eyes sharp, he keeps his eye on the trigger as he slowly makes his way forward toward the door that only now clicks itself shut.

Did they bolt after being shot?

Don can see Ryans across the span of the aisle from him, can hear the sound of approaching footsteps. There’s a look of desperation in his face, soaked with water as he is. As the lead guard comes into view, Don presses his hands flat against the floor and closes his eyes. A vein in his brow throbs, and by the time the guard catches sight of either of them the water under his feet yanks like a carpet pulled out from under him.

Hydrostatic friction pulls the guard’s footing out from under himself, sending him windmilling to the ground with a bounce of the back of his head off the floor. Don’s hands clench and he straightens up into a taller crouch, then waves his hands in the direction of the other guard, sending a cascading wall of stinging water pellets in his direction. Don’s command of hydrokinetics is not often lethal.

Thankfully, for Don, that leaves the choice of killing to Ben.

Benjamin watches the man go down, internally grimaces at the sound of the guards head hitting the ground. His hand snaps out towards the man, ripping the gun from a stunned grip and pulling it into the telekinetic’s hand.

Stepping out from behind cover, Ben aims the handgun at the rightful owners head. That should have been it. A single bullet and the man wouldn’t be a problem anymore, but something stops Benjamin from firing. Probably, one of the reason’s Don doesn’t use his ability to kill.

It wasn’t right.

With a soft curse at himself under his breath, Ben ducks down and clocks the guy with the butt end of the gun. Hopefully, the guard stays down. When the old man straightens, he looks at Don. “Secure him.” Last thing they needed was the man to wake up and alert everyone. And that left one more problem, Ryans turned towards the last place he saw the other guard.

The dazed guard down on the ground is looking up at Ryans through blurred vision, eyes widening at the last moment before the crack to the side of his head sends him limp. An unspoken shout leaves him in the form of a groaned exhale, and then he's still. He's out entirely, it'd seem.

The guard who's crouched low in the rows of files is not, though, and Ryans' voice alerts him to the fact he's not alone. He backs away from the water pouring from the ceiling, edging around the corner of a rack to wait there around the end of it in silence, gun lifted before him. He flits a look to the secured doorway roughly ten feet away from him, then glances back down the aisle with the burst pipe. With a narrowing of his eyes he resettles his frame back against the rack and commits to his position lying in wait, listening for the sounds of footsteps in the hopes of evening the odds.

It’s a strategy that, in a more ordinary world, would work perfectly.

Water from the burst pipe creeps along the floor, molding around the treads where the guard’s boot touches the ground. Don, still kneeling, one hand still touching the floor, closes his eyes and angles his head to the side. He raises one finger to Ryans: wait. His brows crease together, and feeling the disturbances in the water not caused by water — like a spider in his web — Don slowly points that finger in the direction of where the last guard is hiding. A clear and simple hand-sign.

A thin brow tips upwards at the gesture to hold, but Ben doesn’t move, only watches the show. When Don points out the other gunman’s position, the telekinetic turns slowly and lifts the gun. He shifts forward to move, but stops as an idea occurs to him.

Lifting his hands, Benjamin turns his focus to the shelves. While he trains the gun at the end of the aisle, he pushes his other hand out. The action sends his ability shoving against the shelving with the purpose of toppling it over onto the unsuspecting guard.

When the rack directly next to him begins screeching, the guard jolts and turns to look at it. He never would imagine that it would begin to fall on him, and doesn't move until it's too late. When it goes, it tips and hits the rack he'd been laying against, carrying it down like a domino. It's the fact that it's there at all that keeps him from being crushed when the longer rack takes it and him down.

Awkwardly pinned, matters get worse for him as the cabinet drawers filled with documents roll open thanks their new position and gravity. By the time he pulls his arm mostly back to himself, the position isn't one where he could lift his head and get a shot off at Ryans if he tried. If he does have an ability, it's not one that lets him stretch and bend his limbs at unnatural angles.

"Fuck." he calls out at his luck.

Lifting his hands off the floor, Don levels a look at Ryans, then over to the downed guard. There’s a moment of silent uncertainty in his eyes, seeing him pinned there and helpless. Rather than standing around, Don quickly moves over to Ryans’ side and motions with a nod in the direction the guards came from. “We don’t have time to fuck around,” he insists, water still spraying everywhere from the ruptured pipe.

“You lead,” Don suggests, looking back in the direction they’d come from, to where Vor and Fitz were. To where blood swirls in the water. “You lead, I’ll be right behind you.”

All Don gets is a grunt of acknowledgement as Ben moves towards the down guard, though his intent in the vault. As he passes the downed shelves, the telekinetic reaches out towards the pinned guard. If the guard hopes to keep his firearm, he’s mistaken. The weapon suddenly gives a sharp twist, as Ben twists his own and pulls. It’s not graceful and the gun clatters on the metal in a few places before it clears the debris and flies into the man’s hand.

Benjamin turns a look to Don, eyes narrowing slightly. Something felt off, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Not that he could linger on it long, there was a mission to complete. Shoulders tense, Benjamin heads for the vault door. “Do your thing, Don,” he says looking back the way they had come.

The Deveaux man on the ground writhes and curses, trying hard to change his stars. When he finally accepts there's little else he can do, he lifts his voice in a last-ditch bid. "Stop!" he cries out.

Don steps forward, water sluicing off the ground in a thin stream. His hands are flat as he makes a gesture to bring the water round and angle it at the door, head bowed as he prepares.

"You don't know what you're doing!" the guard shouts.

The water that attacks the gaps in the door is as thin as a knife's edge and acts with all that same precision. It pulses through the lock side of the door, and then with considerable effort, two passes clear the hinges.

All it takes is a telekinetic pull from Ben to jerk the door free of the frame and set it aside, the sounds of which send the guard kicking and pushing in frustration in a new attempt to free himself. The door behind them remains shut, and it seems for now no one else is coming to intercept them.

The reader by the side of the server door, though, has turned a shade of red to indicate their presence is definitely known, though. A chill comes from the newly-opened dorway, the efforts of the server's cooling fans now spilling out of the enclosed space.

“Probably not,” is Don’s belated response to the guard as he runs a hand through his wet hair and it comes out dry on the other side, “but I ain’t paid to think.” Don admits, making a confident stride to the open door and the faint ground-fog rising up off of the water spreading across the floor. As Don reaches the doorway he extends his hands, preventing the water from intruding into the server room, keeping it held back as if a small retaining wall was in place.

With that ability flexed, Don holds out a hand and motions to the gun Ben relieved from the guard. “I’ll keep an eye on him, you get what we came here for,” he says with attention focused on the still-living guard. Distracted, in a fashion.

Flipping the gun around, Benjamin offers it over to Don; he already had the other. It was also a sign of trust. “Be careful,” he grunts out before turning to the servers. Passing through the rows of humming machines, his lips press tight with displeasure.


This wasn’t supposed to be his job. Technology was not something that the former Company agent was ever really good at. However, he knows what a computer looks like. There is a small flicker of pride as he finds the computer. Pulling the drive from his pocket, Benjamin goes about completing the mission. Still that unease gnaws at his stomach.

The tool from the technopath is set to go the moment it's plugged in. It'll grab every last thing it can shove onto the drive… Fitz had said. The cube of a device is heavy, the small cable extending from it seeming comparatively puny. Not that Ben has any clue how much it can store on it, the sheer weight of it makes it feel as though it's a lot though the pocket-sized case of it makes that also seem impossible.

Tech's changed quite a bit in his time.

Outside the cage, the door to the high-security area opens, the guard from the front door bewilderedly poking his head through at hearing the sound of running water gushing from the ceiling. "What the…" he breathes, standing there and finding the downed racks, next. His eyes widen and he starts a step forward into the puddles of water to venture closer to the pipe burst.

"What the hell is going on?" he asks to no one but himself. He's not seen Don yet, or the pinned guard. Only hearing him, without a clear line of sight on him, it's hard to tell if the NARA guard is armed the same way the Deveaux men were.

Inside the cage, the computer before Ryans is flickering visibly with all the data being called up and transferred, windows popping up and disappearing just as quickly. The stacks of servers let out a hum as processing power is burned through in the effort.

For all that there's signs it's working, there's no clear indicator to show when it'll be done.

At the voice, Don’s mouth presses into a flat, hard line. He rolls one shoulder and tilts his head to the side, briefly closing his eyes. “Goddamnit,” he whispers to himself, then steps out from behind his cover and trains the recently-received handgun up on the newcomer, firing three quick shots in a short burst.

The NARA guard spots the unconscious man lying in the water and blinks, slowing his steps. In his head, he's starting to put together an image of what might have happened. Maybe the burst pipe hit him in the head somehow, and…

"Max, look out!" screams a voice familiar to him, and he freezes. He freezes— and Don steps around the stack and fires into his chest three times. The presumptive Max stumbles back with all the same shock that Fitz had only minutes earlier, unarmed, unexpecting of the force he'd be met with. Like Fitz, he falls back to the ground, a shaky hand coming to his wound.

Unlike Fitz, there's no equivalent of Vör to be found— no one to hop him away to safety and presumptive medical care.

He just braces a hand behind him, shaking as he looks up to Don, not understanding what's going on.

Ryans watches the flickering of files with uncertainty and unease, looking up as the humming of the machines intensifies. With each new flicker his anxiety twists tighter and tighter. It felt like they were working on borrowed time. Of course, it instantly gets shorter with the thwip of a silenced weapon, making him jump out of his skin.

There is some relief that it wasn’t for him. Though the old man hurries to where he can see the doorway. A rather creative curse leaves him as he sees the guard fall. When he doesn’t return to his post, people will come looking. “We’re out of time.”

Ryans turns and hurries back down the servers, coming to a half slide at the terminal. He moves a hand over above the connection, waiting for the last possible minute to yank it. As the moments tick by he continues to wait, whispering over and over, “Come on,” under his breath.

“Where the fuck is our taxi?” Don asks with a quaver in his voice, backpedaling away from the man he just shot and over to Ryans. He’s no longer watching the back door, instead focused on the light beside the reader, looking down to it and up to Ryans and then back into the room. “Fuck, fuck.

Closing the fist of his free hand, Don causes the water on the floor and that still leaking out of the pipe to coalesce toward the middle of the room. Then, with a flex of one hand opened he causes the water to spontaneously evaporate, flooding the room beyond the servers with a dense fog. He prays that will be enough to buy them time to escape. “Where the hell is Vor?

"Oh my god, calm down," Vör says as she appears at Don's elbow. In her hand, a take away coffee cup. "You're so dramatic." She looks over at Ryans, her smile warm and sweet like they aren't at all in danger, "Got everything you needed?"

Jesuschrist,” Don gasps in legitimate shock.

And once it's clear that they're good to go, she links her arm through Don's— careful not to spill her coffee— and reaches over for Ryans as well. "This fog is gonna be hell on my hair," she notes to no one in particular just before they disappear.

Outside, a getaway van is sitting in an abandoned parking lot, a generic white color with no plates or stickers or anything to make it stick out. It's already running when the group reappears nearby. Vör lets the others go and lets out a sigh before she hops into the driver's seat. Inside, if they choose to get into a vehicle driven by her, there is a coffee cup for each still steaming.

"Well, come on if you're coming!" she notes, and far too cheerily.

There's even a cup for Fitz, sprawled out on the bench seat in the rear of the van as he is. He seizes and starts to sit up at the sound of noise outside the vehicle, pain-glazed eyes catching sight of flashing lights heading in the direction of the Subtropolis entrance. "Did you get it?" he croaks. They did— the computer had simply run out of windows and gone dark before Ben unhooked the cube, taking all of the still-encrypted information with him.

Fitz getting shot wasn't part of the plan, he reflects with regret. He should be ready to receive those officers descending on the complex, suitably distracting them. Instead, he's focusing on staying awake inside the van with its tinted windows.

The approaching vehicles don't head for this lot, though. The threat they perceive should still be indoors.

“Your timing is impeccable. Could have used a teleporter back in the day.” Even though the words are void of emotions, it is still a compliment given to Vor. Don’s shoulder gets a brief squeeze. Appreciation for what he did with the guards and maybe even sympathy that he even had too.

Of course, Benjamin had just managed to grab that drive, when Vor moved to teleport them. The drive makes a brief appearance as proof they got it. Ben holds it where Fritz could see it before tucking it away for safe keeping until he could turn it over.

“Alright… time to go.”

Thousands of Miles Away

Office of the Director
Praxis Ziggurat, Praxia
California Safe Zone

2:02pm Local Time

“…and the package is received?”

Adam Monroe can barely contain his smile as he leans back in his chair, looking up to where Sabine Hazel stands across from his desk. The dark-haired woman nods, hands folded behind her back. “Confirmed ten minutes ago, Ben is on his way back here with it right now. There were minor casualties on the Shedda side, but nothing permanent.”

“Give my regards to the boys,” Adam admits with a wave toward Sabine. Sabne starts to turn, but Adam’s next comment gives her pause. “This is it, now.”

Sabine turns to look over her shoulder. “Sir?”

“What would Dick Cardinal call it?” Adam muses, “The Endgame?” The two exchange a meaningful look at the term. “There’s no going back now. We have the archive for the future and we have everything in place. We just need to verify the bioweapon is complete and…” he shakes his head, sitting forward and folding his hands at his mouth, elbows propped up on his desktop.

“…and?” Sabine wonders. This was as far as the roadmap went, as far as she knew. Adam blinks a cold, blue-eyed look to her. There is a silence that falls between them and it is Adam that backs down, exhaling a sigh as he deflates against the back of his chair.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Adam says with a dismissive gesture to Sabine, who does not dismiss at the gesture, but instead turns to the third person in the room who has otherwise remained silent all this time. They, too, exchange a meaningful look, and Sabine wordlessly excuses herself from Adam’s office.

“Now,” Adam says with a slow sigh once Sabine closes the door behind herself. “Where were we, Martin?”


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