What's Old Is New Again, Part II


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Also featuring:

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Scene Title What's Old Is New Again, Part II
Synopsis With assistance from Hana and Colette, Nicole, Tania and Sasha make a desperate bid to save John Logan from a prison of his own making.
Date June 6, 2018

Underground, Staten Island

The sewer line directly beneath the old meat packing plant on Staten Island is less congested than Nicole probably imagine. Years of disuse have left the air stale and cool. None of the summer humidity has been able to penetrate the tunnel, only rainwater flushed down the island’s storm drains from the last time the skies opened up.

It’s stagnant now. She slogs through it without much difficulty, a flashlight in one hand and a crudely-drawn map courtesy of Sasha Kozlow in the other. She can hear him several paces behind him, his breathing heavy and laboured, drawn in through his nose is irregular intervals.

He shouldn’t be down here, but he is.

She shouldn’t be down here, but she is.

Up ahead, rats skitter and scurry, fleeing the flashlight’s beam as it washes over the tunnel ahead, illuminating old, mangled pipes and undated graffiti. At one point it falls across a phoenix in full bloom, its brilliant plumage long since faded, with the words RISE UP spray-painted in chipped metallic gold across the span of its flickering wings.

That was a long time ago.

Nothing’s exploding and nobody’s shooting at them (yet), so this still isn’t the worst situation she’s been in. The sewer may be disgusting, regardless of how it may be less so than she expected, and it will wash away. Nicole holds her flashlight steady, pointed ahead of her as she makes her way along with careful steps.

“Are you sure you don’t want to turn back?” Concern for the man at her back colors her tone. His help with the map is already valuable, but if he collapses, she’s not sure how able she’ll be to get him back to safety.

«Hey, give me a status update.» Colette’s voice chirps from Nicole’s phone, as though she were in an active call. She’s not, but that’s never mattered to a technopath. «Everything’s going according to plan up here. How close are you?»

“Am sure,” Sasha affirms for Nicole. To Colette, he answers: “Two hundred fifty.” Two hundred and fifty feet, he means.

The distance closes faster than it seems. Nicole knows they’ve arrived when an access ladder comes into view up ahead. It leads straight up, but a hand at the woman’s back urges caution. Sasha holds Nicole by the shoulder and points above them, where she can see artificial light streaming through a grate where the ladder meets the sewer line’s roof.

The access point.

Sasha brings a finger to his lips and lowers his opposite hand, reinforcing the need for lowered voices.

"We're here," Colette's sister informs her. "Going silent." Nicole moves to grab hold of the ladder, but Sasha's hand on her shoulder holds her steady. She gives a slow nod to indicate her understanding, while her eyes stay focused above her. The light of the flashlight winks out as she clips it to her belt for now.

Hand over hand, rung by rung, she ascends. When she reaches the top, she holds and listens. The coast needs to be clear - clear enough, anyway - before she'll emerge.

“Black?” asks a voice from above, familiar in a way that’s somehow deeply unsettling, though not something she can put a finger on. “Alister Black?”

“Yeah. That Black.” The answer is small, tinny, like it’s coming from the other end of a radio. “Sounds like he’s got beef.” A pause, then: “Something about an ocelot handbag?”

“Stay there,” the first voice suggests— commands. It’s accompanied by click of polished leather loafers echoing down a concrete hall, and finishes with a metal door as it bangs abruptly open, then shut.

Nicole counts to ten.

Sasha does, too. In his head. In his native Russian.


Lifting one hand from the metal ladder, Nicole watches sparks dance between her fingers for a brief moment before they seem to be soaked up by her skin. Showtime.

The hatch is pushed upward and Nicole gives a quick sweep of her eyes for a target before she swings it further to emerge from the sewer and into their target's space. Nobody. She reaches out a hand to assist Sasha.

“We’re in,” she whispers to her phone.


The slim redhead with the wild tangle of hair the color of burnished copper has no name and no identification. She’s led through the halls of the meat packing plant by the arm of the man who brought her in, his grip vice-like but not so tight that it leaves bruises on the fair skin of her bicep.

Girls like this one are easy to process because demand for girls like this one on Staten Island, where she was found wandering aimlessly on the beach the night before. Sand still clings to her bare feet and unwashed face, forms dark crescents under her nails and gathers in the space between her fair lashes.

Her first stop was a small, pristine room with white walls and an examination table that she was made to sit upon. They took a swab from the inside of her cheek, a curl of her hair, temperature, blood pressure, weight and height.

The clothes on her back, too, because they reeked of saltwater — but more importantly because they were what she was last seen in.

She was not permitted to linger and watch them burn in the furnace kept hot expressly for this purpose. Instead, they bundled a fresh seat into her arms, instructed her to change behind a metal screen, and sent her on her way to meet with the help.

Her final destination is a room at the end of a long, dark hall with pipes that gurgle overhead.

The redhead’s escort raps knuckles against the heavy metal door.

The noise of knuckles on metal, on the other side of the door, translate into small, tinny sounds that have in the past not been enough to rouse Logan from sleep, or what passes for sleep. Now, the latest stupor that comes from both extreme boredom and stress is not one he's plunged so deeply into that he doesn't twitch to attention, bone-deep reluctance stalling him from moving.

But he doesn't like to be told twice. The sound of feet scuffing over concrete is only just audible.

He opens the heavy door, and doesn't even look at the girl on the other side of it, eyes tracking automatically to her handler. The hand set against the frame still has bandaging wrapped around it, but the bandaging isn't fresh, as if he'd rebound it himself in a few loops across his knuckles to disguise the disfigurement underneath. He's skinny, because he always is, but not starving, just the result of a gradual flagging of appetite. Dark bristle grows close to his skin where a razor's touched his face only sometimes in the past

however long it's been. He's been given the clothes he's wearing, of faded denim and grey cotton, sleeves rolled past his wrists, as characteristic as dirty bandages and scruff, which is to say: not very. But the, "What?" that follows and the stare like a knife held to the handler's throat is all reminiscent, if not of the best of times.

If there's one thing Tania Kozlow knows how to do, it's to be timid and frightened. Since they found her, that's how she's gotten through this. Skittish movements, no talking, small yelps.

She's honestly a little surprised that they gave her a replacement set of clothes. But she puts them on hurriedly before she's led down the hall. Her head tilts a little, noting pipes and wetness, but also distance and layout. Under the guise of a frightened girl.

There's even a shudder when they get to the door.

When the door opens, her hair is in her face and she doesn't really draw attention to herself. Instead, she looks over Logan through a part in her hair, a frown coming to her face that is far more genuine than her expressions have been through this endeavor. Those minute changes just so happen to be the sort of thing she's wired to notice.

The bandage, too, of course.

After he addresses her guard, Tania lifts her head some, pushing hair out of her face. It really isn't enough to get anyone's attention except for the fact that he knows her. Even if he hasn't seen her looking quite so haggard in a long time.

“This one,” says the escort, of Tania, as if there was even a little bit of wiggle room for a misconception to slither in. He does not remove his hand from her arm. “Need you to show her the benefits of cooperation.”

There’s not much space for misconceptions there, either. He steers the young woman inside Logan’s room, invading his personal space as though it wasn’t exactly that: personal.

Or maybe he’s just naturally suspicious of what Sylvester has started calling their free range chicken, curious as to how he passes the long, still hours between the people they bring him.

“Think you can handle her without supervision?”

It's a good thing that the escort is as assumptive of space as he is, because Logan's shift out of the way is timed well enough that the flash of recognition that tenses across his features might get lost in the action. His breath catches high in his chest and is held there as they move into the sad, dark little room he's been calling him, a bed in the corner with unfresh sheets rumpled over the sagging mattress. Newspapers, tattered magazines, a wooden chair currently hosting a few changes of clothing, a light in the ceiling trapped in a cage that flickers occasionally.

It's better than most get, here, as far as accommodations go.

"Yeah," he says, voice at a croak, and he clears it. "I can handle her."

Tania steps into the room with unsure footing, reluctant to go where her escort is leading her— or that's the impression she's giving off. She shies away from him and from Logan at the explanation of what is about to happen to her, even with it being spoken in innuendo. Maybe moreso because her escort isn't speaking plain. But also, it gives her a better view of the room. Of the conditions.

She glances over to Logan when his voice croaks, face hidden from her captor, but not from him. So he can see that her expression doesn't match the scared whimper that escapes her at the promise of being handled. Her posture remains cowering, though, and she looks away from him to turn her features back to that of a frightened mouse. Just in case the wrong person bothers to look at her.

“Ten minutes,” says the escort, which is not a lot of time, even if he’s unaware that he’s opening a window even at the same time he’s closing a door.

It clicks shut behind him, followed by the sharp tack of a deadbolt turning and rattling keys. While they might trust Logan to be a free range chicken as long as the meat packing plant’s basement is on lockdown, the same cannot be said of Tania.

She could bolt.

Or attempt to inflict harm on herself.

Unlikely that anyone who’s come into contact with her thus far knows what she’s really capable of.

Ten minutes.

The door closes, and Logan— doesn't say anything, at first, but does lift a hand, a bid for silence, as much a reminder to himself as it would be to Tania, who seems like she has her shit together more so than he does. His injured hand wanders out to touch the wall, steadying himself without fully leaning his weight, set to sway.

He looks like the next time he opens his mouth, he might be sick on the concrete beneath his feet.

Instead, he manages words. "You can't be here," he says, voice hiked right down until it's barely above a whisper. Confusion and anxiety war with one another, obliterating more cunning thoughts like her little expressive asides might portend something good's about to happen.

Silence is easy. In that space of time, Tania brushes sand from her face and attempts to tame her hair some. The bulk of that will have to be done later, but at least she feels like she looks more like herself. The nails are hopeless.

But, too, she watches him. She was ready for a pulse-pounding escape, but now that she's here… she's worried. For him. "John," she says, matching his volume, and she reaches up to take his face in her hands. "It's okay." Instead of something more bantery like too late, I'm already here. "I'm getting you out of here." She holds his gaze with her own for a little longer— they have whole minutes to spare after all.

"I'm sorry we didn't get to you sooner. I made Sasha try a run on the building, which did not work." Her hands move to his arms, steadying as she talks, trying to sound normal despite the hushed whispers. What's clear here is that Tania is as much a slave to her emotional impulses as her brother has been known to be. "He found us some friends. Good people. People who care about you." A pause. "All you have to do is stick with me and stay quiet."

As if having no other job here might make him feel better.

There's no banter from here either. No thank fuck for that or what took you so long. Maybe it might even be a relief to see old viciousness show its teeth in the face of kindness, of the implication he is in need of saving, never mind that he clearly is. Instead, Logan is silent as he listens, clear dread hard in his expression and shuddering down his spine. His hands grip her arms as he holds onto him, more clutching than her own steadying grasp.

The last time he felt this way was before the executions in Eltingville. He'd made a decision, then, too.

It resolves in front of her, and he says, "fuck," and then, "what's going to happen?"

Stick with her. Stay quiet. Part of him latches onto this prospect greedily. Another strains against it. It's hard to say which part is the coward part, or if this fear is all consuming.

Tania had planned on searching the room for anything that could be used as a weapon, but with him clinging to her, she seems to put that firmly on the back burner. Whether this is out of an urge to comfort him or the realization that this won't work if he's too frightened to move is hard to say.

Also, she notices what's missing in that grip. And it pushes anger back to the forefront. Hers runs cold, hardening her features as well as her resolve.

"The others are coming in, you and I are going out. We'll meet in the middle and leave together. We have eyes on the building and secure communication." That's what Colette had called it, and Tania is obviously mimicking the phrase. "When he comes back to open the door, we're going to take him off the board. And then the next and the next until we're out. Is there anything in here that would make a good knife?"

Obviously, she wasn't able to bring one in with her. Or anything else.

This sounds wildly optimistic, but perhaps a little wild optimism wouldn't go astray. The prospect of just remaining is quick to shrink away, made more so that even if Tania does not consider herself to be in danger, with the knowledge of cavalry, of a plan, of an exit point, Logan sees it like a spectre. Sees them both found out, sees himself made to flood her system with euphoria, sees a lot of things, really, having seen plenty.

The request for a knife seems to snap him out of it, and Logan lets her go. For a moment, she detects a glimmer of humour in his countenance.

Then, he moves — quietly, still, which is optimistically still an instinct he has — towards the slouched bed in the corner of the room, ducking down. He peels up the mattress enough to carefully feel around within, before extracting a small object. Wooden handle and wedged within a split worked open by matter of a millimeter, a razor that's clearly been worked on, honing its edge. The other end has been worked down to a sharp point for a blunter, direct approach.

He balances it on his fingers as he sits, offering it for her inspection, and for the taking. "Plenty of time on my hands," he says, lowly. "Full of fantasies of daring, unlikely escapes." He glances at the door, and says, "They leave my room unlocked, but the basement's kept shut. Some of 'em are armed," sounds less like a warning and more like the prospect of an upgrade.

Even if he's rather certain that they're both going to get shot in the head within the next half an hour, or less.

The shift in demeanor, as minute as it is, gives Tania some relief. She didn't want to have to drag him out of here— she'd much rather he come along willingly, even if he isn't particularly enthusiastic.

Because he isn't wrong to assume the worst. It's only that Tania has not been afraid of death for a long time. Longer than she can remember.

When he moves, she follows him a few steps, amusement curling the corner of her lips as he pulls back the mattress. She reaches out for the weapon, to look at it closer. Approval comes in her turning it to grip in her hand as she looks back over to him. "I would very much like to think this one is a little more likely." Although, still a fantasy until and unless they make it out.

His last words draw out a smile— a Cheshire Cat's smile in a brief flash.

"Are you ready?"

Of course, it's coming even if he isn't.

The door opens.

It’s the same escort from before, all broad shoulders and a chunk of potroast for neck. “Time’s up,” he says, without really looking, or anticipating what’s on the other side. He’s done this so many times that the instances all blur into one another in a repetitive, infinite loop, only mild variations in his day-to-day.

The girls are sometimes different.

Logan is always the same.

They walk into the room timid and skittish, or clinging to him like a shipwreck survivor grabs at anything that will float. They fight. They freeze. They’re impassable and silent. They scream.

Nothing actually changes.

Except today.

He steps through the door, and rather than being ignored by Logan, he has Logan's full attention in the form of a fully bodied collision from his blindspot to knock him off-course, into the wall. Hands grip fabric and flesh beneath it, and shove him deeper into the room.

Eyes glowing bright green. Panic and aggression, dumped into this man's system on an inescapable chemical level. A countdown to ten until he's insensate with it. They probably don't have that long.

Logan kicks the door closed.

Tania moves in from his other side while Logan handles him. Elegant fingers meant for playing pianos and harps grab onto his shirt, holding him in place while she sinks the makeshift knife deep into his neck. It's the sort of move that would be quick and efficient with the right tools and knowledge, but in this case, she removes the knife and stabs him again in an attempt to make certain.

At the very least, she aims to keep him too frantic and too focused on her to do anything to stop Logan, but ideally, they won't need that count of ten.

Blood erupts from the fissure in the escorts neck in a thick, wide arc, spattering the walls in—


— red. Intellectually, Nicole knows how much is in the human body, but seeing it all laid out on the floor at her will affect almost anyone on an emotional level.

Sasha is still holding the guard fast against his chest, one arm looped around his upper torso, the other trapped between them. His leg jerks a few last times in its final death spasm and the Russian’s grip gradually goes slack as he lowers the body to the floor.

Nicole could have just shot him instead, but guns are loud, and the hallway she and Sasha have found themselves in is very narrow. He gives the knife in her hand a grim look.

“Maybe we call you meatpacker, eh?” he suggests.

Just trying to find some humour on the situation.

“She is with him now.” Tania, he means. “Most likely, I think. She will remember the map, rendezvous at showers.” Although he and Nicole still have their copy, it seems like it should be unreadable now. Flimsy. Sopping. Red.

So much red.

“These people… these not-human people. I see your eyes, Nichols. There is more you want to do?”

Guns are faster. Louder. Less discreet. The knife was the better choice, she knows. It’s been years since she watched the light go out in a man’s eyes, and Sasha’s words bring the light back to her own. “Right.” Nicole manages a shaky smirk. “They used to call me Nemesis.” But meatpacker is apropos for the moment.

“These people are organized. They’ve eluded SESA for too long.” Nicole purses her lips, frustration evident. “I need to gather evidence I can use against them.” Even if she isn’t supposed to be here. None of this is sanctioned, but she refuses to come away empty-handed.

If they get out of here with Sasha’s sister and Logan, it will be enough.

Sasha looks dubious.

Which is his default facial expression, so perhaps it is more accurate to say that he looks more dubious than usual. His brows knit and he slants a look down at the corpse crumpled at his feet.

“There will be papers,” he says. “Pictures. Their records, meticulous.” A three syllable word. The Russian is feeling confident today. A quick consult of the map, saturated to the point of tearing, tells him what he suspects Nicole wants to know.

“I would make office here.” Here is the section of map under his thumb. “What will you tell SESA?”

That someone has to do the work is probably not the answer that will save her job. “I’ll figure it out,” she says instead, because Nicole doesn’t know what she’ll tell her boss when she presents whatever evidence she manages to gather from this outfit.

She does know that it won’t matter if she doesn’t get any evidence. Opting to make her life more difficult, she steps over the body that’s spilled too much blood out onto the floor to make any sense in hiding, and begins to move toward where they expect the office to be. Nicole hopes they don’t have to kill many more people between here and there. But just in case, she wipes her hand on her pants and adjusts her grip on her knife.

As Nicole and Sasha come around the corner, he reaches out to seize her by the arm as a series of gunshots rings out sharp. Only after they’ve had the opportunity to react do they realize that they aren’t coming from inside the basement. They sound tinny, muffled.

The distraction outside must be working; it’s a straight shot to the room Sasha indicated on the map, and Nicole finds the door ajar.

Someone left in a hurry. They abandoned a handheld radio on the desk, which Sasha moves to heft in his good hand. “You take what you need,” he suggests with a slant of his chin, gesturing toward the metal bookcase mounted on the wall behind him. It contains shelves of plain, unmarked white binders with a glossy finish that gleams under the office’s flickering fluorescents.

There are filing cabinets, too. The cumbersome kind with locks.

«— if you can’t, at the very least, I wanted that warehouse burned to the ground!» someone is screaming over the radio’s static-flecked frequency. Sasha holds it away from his ear. «Not a single person left alive unless they’re being trafficked! Everyone else, dead

They should probably hurry.

Nicole lets out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding as she dashes to the office, once it computes they aren’t being shot at. She tests the file cabinets first, tugging hard on the drawers to make sure they aren’t just jammed. Cursing under her breath when she realizes it’s going to take more time than they have to get them open, she abandons that pursuit in favor of the readily accessible binders.

Dragging one off the shelf, Nicole pages through it at random to make sure there is at least some sort of useful information. Satisfied, she gathers up what she can in one arm and nods to Sasha. “This will do.” She doesn’t have what she came for just yet.

Smooth leather soles don’t make much more than a dusty scuff beneath the din of gunfire and orders screamed over a bad radio. Their owner is more shape than sound stomping the brakes just inside the open office doorway, wiry gorilla shoulders swaying and sparse hair scruffed wild.

He huffs like a boxer dog at the pair of them, wide-eyed and jut jawed, his Affliction t-shirt bunched up dumb under his armpits. Not sure what he’s just clapped eyes on down here. An audit??

This is an Arrowood. But which one?

“…Aubrey Hepburn?”

It’s Buddy.

He reaches for his gun.

If she hadn’t already been headed for the hall, Nicole might have been caught flat-footed. Instead, she watches Arrowood in the doorway for a split second before throwing her free hand out in front of her and letting the electricity leap from her splayed fingertips to his body.

She’d like to leave him a smoking heap on the floor, but she doesn’t know if she’ll need her power later. This was already a mistake. She could have reached for her knife or her own gun, but her ability was the fastest draw this time. All she needs is to stun him long enough for her and Sasha to get away.

“That’s for the ride, you fuckin’ creep.”

Buddy Arrowood jolts back into the door jamb with force enough to rock dust off the frame, breath let off at a tea kettle whistle, muscle bit down stiff through the back of his arm mid-reach. Sparks jump from his belt to the strike plate beside him, and he drops.

Whump, back into the wall.

And again, tipped over backwards to fall like a log half out into the hall.

Sasha steps over Buddy’s body. He pauses in the doorway, head at a wolfish cant as he looks down and makes a sort of slow, feeble attempt to figure out which Arrowood brother is lax at his feet. Ultimately, it’s unimportant, but his curiosity gets the better of him, and he’s still doggedly studying the felled man’s face when the lights go out.

Chert voz'mi,” Nicole hears him curse at the dark. Goddammit.

His shadow stoops beside Buddy, freeing the gun from the holster he’d been reaching for when Nicole shocked him. He tucks it into the waistband of his jeans.

«Power’s cut,» crackles a voice over the radio, which is battery-operated.


«Buddy, Kallis, get out of there. Meet Nyström topside. We’ve got smoke.»

Nicole exhales heavily when the lights go out. After a moment, she has her hand held up in front of her, letting sparks crackle in front of her, flashes of blue light illuminate the space while Sasha takes the firearm. “Comes in handy,” she says. She can try to make light of heavy moments too. Once he has the gun tucked away, she turns off the electrical works and takes out her flashlight instead.

Careful to angle the light downward, Nicole waits for Sasha to get to his feet before she sweeps the artificial illumination down the hall ahead of them. “We better hurry.”

«Which way are you coming out?» Colette’s voice crackles over Nicole’s radio. «Loading dock is completely engulfed in flames, I've got eyes on people retreating into the warehouse. Lots of gunfire.»

There's a pause, «Everyone topside is distracted, it's a clusterfuck up here.»

Nicole doesn’t have the opportunity to respond. Before her mouth can even begin to form an answer, she’s interrupted by what sounds like another burst of static at first— except that it’s too loud, too close, and crescendos too quickly.

It’s gunfire, and it’s coming from the other end of the hall. Her flashlight falls across a silhouette and reflects off the barrel of an assault rifle in the instant before blood erupts on the side of her face, although she can’t be sure whether it’s hers or Sasha’s.

The searing pain that pushes past the adrenaline coursing through her veins is a much better, more accurate indicator.


Like the realization they’re under attack, Sasha’s barked warning also comes an instant too late.

Nicole staggers backward over the body at her feet and back into the office she’d vacated a moment before. She starts patting herself down frantically, looking for the site of damage. Her pain receptors seem too scrambled to tell her where she’s been injured, only that she has.

She wishes she could say that’s an unfamiliar sensation, but she didn’t get through the war unscathed. It gives her some hope that she’ll recover just like the other times. Only this time, she doesn’t have Zeus at her side. She’s beginning to feel like she should have asked. “I’m okay!” she calls out. Probably. She doesn’t feel cold yet. So far, so good.

Nicole might not feel cold. Yet.

What she does feel heat: blood on skin, blood saturating fabric, blood filling the space between fabric and skin. Sasha snags her by the waist, arm hooked beneath her ribs, and hauls her across Buddy’s unmoving body, back into the office.

He doesn’t miss his cue, this time. Bullets ricochet off the doorframe and glance harmlessly away into the dark. The beam of Nicole’s flashlight arcs wide, making the world seem to spin.

Or maybe it is.

Thunder and muzzle flare is replaced by silence and darkness, until the soft thump of footsteps of an advancing enemy take over. Another set, for those listening keenly, but before either Nicole or Sasha can do the math on how many people they're going to have to contend with, distinct noise muddies after a solid sounding thwack of hard substance on bone, and a masculine grunt of protest.

Heavier sounds, bodies hitting concrete — two, exactly, one beneath the other, and an assault rifle that goes clattering across the floor.

That solid thwack sound happens again. And again. And again.

Whatever quick plan Tania and Logan had devised through uttered words and glances in taking down this one has mostly gone off the rails, but not for the worst. Connecting butt of pilfered pistol to the back of this man's head, Logan had gone down with him, now kneeling astride in the hallway several feet from the offices and bringing the weapon down again across the guard's skull, and again, and again.

Scarlet shines thick over his knuckles still gripping the gun turned bludgeoning weapon, speckles his face as each connecting strike grows damper.

This is fine.

Tania is right behind him, a stolen gun in her hand and blood splattered over her clothes. It's enough to suggest that they've been busy, even if half the plan has been improvisation. She watches this moment that Logan is having, not seeming to begrudge him expressing his feelings for a little while. She fills the time by scooping up the lost assault rifle, because you never know when you might need one.

It's really only that they haven't technically rescued him yet that gets her to step in.

"John," she says softly, a bit of a warning before she reaches out to touch his shoulder, "we should keep moving." She doesn't mention that the man is most certainly dead— that isn't really the point of the exercise. Even she knows that.

«Where are you? What's going on down there? I can't see a damned thing! What's your exit?!» Colette’s voice crackles over the radio again after the prolonged silence.

A cry that sounds almost more like frustration than the vocal manifestation of pain that it is tears from Nicole’s throat. Blood-slicked fingers never quite figure out where the point of injury is, but they find the radio. «Got tagged,» she groans into the receiver. «Standby.»

Because it’s that simple, obviously.

She’s noticed the lack of gunfire following them into the office. Nicole sweeps the flashlight to try and get a better look out in the hall and sees the shapes of people, but feels like the world is tipping. “I think I lied.” Tone apologetic as she stares at Sasha in the dark. She’s not okay.

Under different circumstances, she might tip over and succumb to gravity when she feels one of her legs give out from under her, but these particular circumstances still have Sasha’s arm cinched at her waist. When he feels Nicole buckle, he hikes the woman up onto his hip and navigates her arms in a loop around his neck at the same time her flashlight’s beam falls across the remains of guard on the opposite end of the hall.

Without confiscating the flashlight, Sasha places his hand atop Nicole’s and uses it to angle the beam upwards, illuminating Logan’s crouched shape looming over the corpse. He’s taken aback by the light’s reflection in the Englishman’s eyes, which gives them their familiar cat-glow — even in the absence of his ability.

There’s not much left of the trafficker’s skull. Nicole can make out the fleshy, bone-flecked cavity where the right side of his face should be, but is unable to determine where the corpse’s eye socket ends and its jawline begins.

Probably because it does not have much of a jawline to speak of anymore.

Zdravstvuyte,” says Sasha. “Johnny, good to see you.”

Logan does stop, once Tania says his name and puts her hand on his shoulder, the intent to say something — mixed intent between I'm fine, when she didn't ask, and let's go — squeezed out in lieu of trying to regulate his own breathing, which has become tight and laboured all of a sudden. The muscles in his legs coil to force himself to his feet just as flashlight sweeps through and hits him in the eyes, a dazzling blindness that sees a surge of panic pulse cool through his blood.

He starts to level his bloodied pistol just as Sasha's voice scissors through and cuts those strings of tension, arm falling again and Logan breathing out a fuck at this latest heart attack. Lithely stands, and then less elegantly stumbles aside so as not to be standing over the corpse he's just made, listing heavy into the wall, on hand out.

"We getting the fuck out of here or what?" could be more grateful than it sounds. No room for relief at the sight of Sasha and the figure he can't quite make out at his side.

Not yet.

Tania lifts her pistol, too, but lets out a sigh when she hears her brother. "Sasha," she says with no small amount of relief. She glances to Logan, concern there, but she's definitely putting off doing anything with it until later. Some nebulous later that may or may not exist, depending on how the day goes.

Instead, she laughs at his question, at the tone in it. She sounds strained and a little manic, just for the length of that noise. Once it passes, she slides her hair over her shoulder and looks over at Sasha and Nicole, her expression even.

"We should leave as soon as possible," she says, her tone even, too. She sounds a lot like she did when she was younger, as if she were still translating the phrase in her head as she went along.

«Stand by??» Crackles indignant over Nicole’s radio. «I'm coming down to get you. Where are you?»

“Oh, please make her stop.” Nicole grimaces and wraps her arm tight around Sasha’s shoulder. She knows all too well there’s no stopping Colette once she gets on to something. Especially when it comes to family.

Voice registers before image and Nicole feels a smile form on her lips, albeit briefly. “Logan. Glad you’ve joined the party.” To Tania, she nods and agrees through gritted teeth. “You’re right. Let’s move.” Not that she’s in any shape to be leading, much as she’d like to think otherwise.

From behind Tania and Logan, dense black smoke billows and bleeds into the corridor. It swirls around legs and rises, tide-like, past calves and knees, all the way up to their hips on its way. In a world where men like Vincent Lazzaro can transform themselves into a rolling mist, there’s additional cause for concern, but Sasha’s fear of another ambush is put to rest by the wall of heat that follows in its wake.

There is a glow, too. Flames spreading through the warehouse’s ground floor casts strange shapes in the stairwell that had been their designated route of escape post-rendezvous.

“Back,” is Sasha’s suggestion, suddenly cagey, apprehensive. He does not like fire. “We go again through the sewer.”

Logan's expression doesn't change when he recognises Nicole's voice, manages to sight her past the glare of the light beam, as if stress has pulled every micro-muscle into unmoving tension. But his eyes flash in the sharp glance over, mute acknowledgment, before the oppressive presence of black smog begins to thicken in the shadows.

Moving. Back. And so the fire is coming from the front-most angle of the warehouse.

He pivots, moving in the way suggested with rickety, nervous energy, thinking very little of the man he bludgeoned to death, still oozing out behind him on the floor.

Tania's gaze flicks toward Nicole's voice first, then to Sasha. She looks back toward the fire when the heat sweeps over them, taking in a sharp breath. "And quickly," she says, not even complaining about the use of the sewers this time. No one here is in good enough shape to charge through whatever chaos is happening. There is some regret, as Tania had thoughts of getting the rest of their captives out, as well, but they managed to get the important one— at least to this group— and that's enough for her to be able to turn to leave.

She follows Logan, pausing only to share a glance with her brother. When she picked up the extra gun, she had intended to pass it to him, but since he has his hands full, she just readies her pistol and keeps behind the others. Just in case.

“Back sounds good.” The smoke and the heat make Nicole’s eyes water and she coughs quietly. It’s painful, but she suppresses the urge to whine after. With Sasha’s help, she begins to make her way back down the hall the way they came.

«Coming back your way,» Nicole informs her sister. «We’ll see you there soon.»

«Give me a fucking landmark!» Colette sounds breathless as she calls that out over the radios, clearly running. «We’re having trouble pinpointing your signals!» The connection, too, is spotty.

Smoke chokes the corridor, weaving, spinning, spilling. If the security cameras inside the building were still functioning, they’d capture the small crew of only four seeming to float away on the wave.

If the security cameras had the ability to detect sound, they’d pick up the sharp answer Sasha barks back at Colette over the radio: GPS coordinates, a rendezvous point on the other side of the Rookery.

The light grows brighter, the flames higher.

Outside, a dense black column rises up into the night, invisible against the sky, the clouds, moon hidden behind new smog the likes of which Staten Island hasn’t seen since the war.

Since the last time there were this many people screaming at once.

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