Your Only Way Out


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Also featuring:

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NPCs by Raith

Scene Title Your Only Way Out
Synopsis Gabriel and Eileen wrest answers from 00-03 and 00-05.
Date August 20, 2010

St. Petersburg, Russia

An old herring cannery on the St. Petersburg waterfront hasn't been in use since the late eighties, when Eileen was born, and serves the Remnant's purposes; as long as she and Gabriel don't stay for more than a few hours while Raith ensures that Bennet's team gets out of the city safely, they're in no immediate danger. The same cannot be said of the men sitting on the warehouse floor with their backs to the wall, wrists locked together by identical zip-ties.

Rainwater patters against cement, the cannery's broken skylights providing minimal shelter from the inclement weather, but some cover is better than none, and they're already soaked through. With their armour removed, 03 and 05 — Adrian Plante and Leonard Hicks — have very little in the way of protection from the elements except for the government issued bodysuits worn beneath.

The chances of getting away with something like this on American soil are so miniscule that they might as well be non-existent, and although Eileen isn't taking any pleasure in the situation she's helped to create, she can appreciate how fortunate they are to have been given an opportunity like this one.

A lit cigarette burning between her fingers, she leans against a shipping crate with a corrugated metal side half-eaten away by rust and exhales smoke through her nostrils as she watches the soldiers in silence. They've been conscious for the past few minutes, but so far no one has said anything. Their captors are at least courteous enough to let them regain their bearings.

Gabriel is seated too. On the ground, crossed legged, apparently comfortable. A good ten feet away and directly before them, dressed in the same clothes he'd done battle in, black cotton, denim, wool all, with the tail of his coat twisted, collecting the dust and grime from the warehouse floor. His hands have been seen to, since, with patches of adhesive bandage making vague shapes of his knuckles, fibrous and starkly white in contrast to the rest of him. There are burn marks on his face, ones he'd let Eileen only touch minimally, unbandaged, though the one nearest his eye, the one near his mouth, is greased with some ointment.

He's waiting, patiently, currently picking at a loose thread on the patchy bandages on his hands in the same manner of attention that one may pay their nails. It might be smarter, to have changed his face into something else, so that they wouldn't be dead certain that there is probably only one way this can end, unless the others in the room have a decent leash they aren't seeing.

Waiting is always the hardest part of these situations: Mexican standoff. Only it is in no way a Mexican standoff, because neither FRONTLINE soldier is armed or in any condition to make even vague threat to Eileen or Gabriel. They're had, dead to rights, and it sucks, Gabriel most aware of how dire their situation is in their eyes from the fear filling the space around them. 03- Adrian Plante- puts on a better show than his partner does, either more defiant in the face of overwhelming odds, or more certain that his ability will see him through. It may also be that for as strong as his skeleton may be, Leonard Hicks- 05- has the same flesh as any other man, his face shredded from the murder of crows and knee shredded from Raith's counterattack. There's no denying the poor shape his in, and his disorientation testifies to this, not completely sure of where he is or what's happening.

Plante, meanwhile, is much more alert and is fully aware of what's happening, even if he can't say for certain where he is. Eileen and Gabriel watch him, and he watches them. They say nothing, and he says nothing back. That may be the one thing the three of them have in common: However different they all are, they're still soldiers at war with each other. Maybe it's that dead certainty that allows Plante to put on a tough face. Or maybe he's confident- or deluded- enough to believe that at any moment, Eldridge will appear out of thin air and save both of them.

The crow perched on the shipping container behind Eileen flutters down to perch on her wrist when she offers it, her hand turned out so the leather of her glove will protect the softer skin of her wrist from its claws. Songbirds tickle and pinch, but only occasionally draw blood. Corvids have the potential to do much more damage, whether it's intentional or not, as Hicks can probably attest.

She wears her double-breasted coat open, exposing the sleek ballistic vest she wears beneath it and her pistol in its holster. The weapon is a precaution only. As adept as she is with her ability, she's encountered negation gas too many times not to factor it in when preparing for missions like the one that's brought the Remnant to Russia.

There's something liberating about being here strictly on her own terms rather than as a representative of the Ferry: she doesn't have to wonder what Joseph would think if he knew what she was doing in the network's name.

"You know who he is," she says to break the ice, chin angled in Gabriel's direction. "We have questions. You can either volunteer the answers, or he can force them from you. It's your decision."

Glancing up after a few minutes have ticked by, Gabriel's attention drifts from the more mauled of the two men, to the one sitting beside him. Arguably, this will be a more difficult task than the extracting of information from criminals, terrorists, petty victims of circumstance. But then he breathes in, a long draw of air at the musky scent of fear that saturates the air around him, and experimentally, he sets a hand down against the floor in front of him, and digs his fingers through concrete, picking up a handful of sediment and crumbling it in his palm like breadcrumbs.

Maybe not so tough after all.

He dusts off his hands as Eileen makes their introduction, filmy grey dirt from the pulverised concrete, and without needing to blow against his palm, the fine particles of earth lift off to disperse into the air. "I don't care about your names," he starts as his eyes refocus on the two men, voice monotone, but a slithery edge of threat in his tone easily detected. "Or your ranks.

"So skip that part. I want to know what you do for the Institute." He looks towards Plante, raising an eyebrow, and tilting his head to the other. "Maybe he won't have to suffer for long if you're smart about this."

The words have the desired effect, at least in part. Plante regards his comrade briefly from the corner of his eyes, and decides that if they're have any chance of getting out alive, a little cooperation is unavoidable. "Physical security," he replies, spitting the words more than saying them, "They need a fighting force? We're it. They need something destroyed? We're it. That's all."

Eileen completes an arc that carries her from the shipping container to a point somewhere between Gabriel and the two men, off to the side. With her cane nowhere in sight, the only sound that punctuates her footsteps is the click of her flat boot heels against the wet cement and the echo it produces in the warehouse's high rafters.

Good cop, bad cop is one of the oldest games in the book and not one the Englishwoman is going to play with the soldiers — that would be an insult to their interrogation resistance training, but putting distance between herself and her companion helps differentiate her from him.

She pulls from her cigarette, saying nothing. There isn't a need to. So far, Gabriel's line of questioning provides results.

"Cool job. What else?" Gabriel's hand drifts up, then, eyes flicking towards Hicks who will abruptly feel a sort of pressure in his leg wound, difficult to describe and fading swiftly, but a warm dampness fills the fabric that clads his thigh, pools beneath him — the smell of blood is strong to both of them, coppery, salty, distinctively bio as his begins to bleed afresh. "You know how this works. Details. I wouldn't worry about protecting them anymore — they've stopped worrying about protecting you."

Hicks feels it: It would be impossible not to. It wakes him up a bit more, draws his attention down to his leg and the fresh rivulets of blood that are beginning to flow. Plante sees it too, turns his head when he hears Hicks shifts, the sight of the blood starting a new wave of panic. At first, he forces his gaze away, down at the floor, maintaining strong silence, even as Hicks' panic swells, his breathing picking up pace because he's starting to bleed like crazy. But even Hicks, with no reason to feel he can keep himself from bleeding to death, grits his teeth and stays quiet, the two of them finding solidarity in silence.

"Eldridge abandoned you," Eileen reminds the men gently, smoke hemorrhaging from her nose and mouth when she speaks, "half of his team, to save his own skin. He's still in St. Petersburg, probably back at the U.S. Consulate, out of the rain, receiving proper medical attention for his injuries while he waits for a phone call from your superiors. If he had any intention of coming back for you, he'd have done it already.

"We're your only way out of this."

The blood pool continues to grow, wide enough that it soaks into the seat of Plante's pants as well, spreading in a thick, satiny red puddle across the ground— until it stops. Gabriel's hand turns, cupping air, palm ceilingwards, and the blood flow stops, and in fact, retracts — it pushes its way back in in an intuitive slide through veins, a gentle push that makes for uncomfortable pressure but doesn't feel, to Hicks, especially damaging.

No more damaging than his leg is already fucked up. The blood flow inwards slows to a near halt, some promise held at bay. "Gentlemen?" is a prompt, at their silence.

Despite the training they did receive, this sort of situation was clearly not part of the curriculum. Seeing blood that once poured out of veins actually climb back inside, coupled with their injuries, the pressure of the situation, and the realization that, in fact, their captors might be right, pushes both of them right to their limit, and is just enough to nudge Hicks over the edge. "There's f-five on the team," he blurts out, "Just like FRONTLINE. Us, and Eldridge, and Roland, and… and…" The final stutter has nothing to do with forgetfulness. It has to do, simply, with 'too much.' Rather than finish his list, Hicks turns sideways as calmly as he can and immediately empties the contents of his stomach- little more than acid, saliva and a bit of blood- all over the floor. It takes a great deal of effort to not slump over into the puddle.

"And, Harper." Plante finishes the list. However opposed to giving out information as he was at the start, enough is too much. "They got us right from the service except him. He's CIA, some sort of 'king' or something, I don't know."

Eileen's crow slants a look over at Gabriel, watching him for a reaction. The name Roland isn't anything new. Like Eldridge, it was being shouted toward the end, and she assumes that it belongs to the woman with dirty curls of blonde hair plastered to her forehead, ice in her nostrils and wild eyes that rolled around in their sockets like marbles.

Harper has her mouth thinning out around her cigarette's filter, expression adopting a sharper edge more reminiscent of a raptor than the black passerine with claws hooked around her wrist. "Jensen's replacement," she provides, her clipped syllables intended for Gabriel and not the men with their arms twisted behind their backs.

Blood continues to siphon back into Hicks whether he likes it or not, and crusted up with scabs too swiftly so that it won't break, necessarily, unless jostled. Gabriel moves, then, not by much, settling into a comfortable crouch with his arms looped around his knees, one hand keeping balanced on the floor, just next to where he'd dug into it previously. He nods once to show acknowledgment for Eileen's connect-the-dots statement.

"I need information about what the Institute thinks it's doing. I need details on anything to do with some sort of cloning programme. And I mean anything. Transportation, locations, people, names faces. Think hard."

It should be easy to get the last bit, but it's not. Hicks is in condition to immediately tell anyone anything, still reeling from his bout of illness, and Plante decides at that moment to grow a small backbone. "We're your only source of information," he says. Once again, he turns his gaze down toward the floor in front of him, not looking at or acknowledging anyone else in the room. "Any info you want, has to come from us. So why don't both of you get fucked, and get him a doctor before you ask again."

Eileen flicks her cigarette to the warehouse floor and crushes it under the toe of her boot. The gesture turns out to be largely unnecessary — the air is so damp and the cement so saturated that it hisses on contact, embers snuffed out with the abruptness of a lightning bug pinched between two fat fingers. When she steps forward, she leaves a boot print three parts water, one part grimy black ash. With a two quick pumps of its wings that sound like crackling gunshots, her crow kicks off her wrist and climbs through the falling rain, its ascent slow but but purposeful.

It alights in an empty window frame with shards of glass for teeth some twenty feet up. Her dominant hand, now free, gingerly frees her pistol from its holster, and she levels it with Hicks' chest. Her finger contracts around the trigger twice, which turns out to be more painful for her than it is for him. The time that elapses between the first shot and the second is too short for him to register the perforations in his heart and lungs.

A third shot to the head to make sure is customary in a situation like this, but she stays her hand for the same reason she reprimanded Lashirah earlier. Gabriel needs it intact.

The hiss of pain she releases through her nostrils is audible if anyone is listening for it. Her fingers haven't fully healed yet — it was a mistake to remove the splints for this.

"See what you made her do?" Gabriel's hand is extended, now, teeth showing a little as blood comes flooding from Hicks' body while it's still warm, stinking and rich as it saturates through his clothing, comes to collect on the ground only to start climbing in river-like tendrils up over Plante's legs, creeping like a fast-growing vine of many soaking wet tangles up his torso, his throat, tickling and persistent. One creeping ruby red rivulet reaches as high as his face, dips along the corner of his mouth, tasting like metal and salt, and stops just a fraction shy of one nostril.

It's still warm, retaining Hicks' body heat even as it grows tacky on Plante's skin. "He doesn't need a doctor now. Talk."

Plante's pointed shout, "No!", when Eileen draw her sidearm has no effect on the present situation. The weapon discharges, the bullets fly, and for as unbreakable as his bones may be, Hicks' flesh, and his organs, are as soft and weak as any man's. It's not much of a leap to decide it's his fault his partner's dead, but when 05's blood crawls out onto the ground and snakes up 03's body, taunting him, well. As they say, 'that's all, folks.' "DHS," is the initial, suddenly meek reply, "Lemay. Howard Lemay. He knows it, all the programs. He knows everything. All of them." If the taste of copper and salt in his mouth even registers, Plante doesn't care. He hasn't lost his mind completely, but he's still not in great shape mentally, either.

He lets Eileen's question stand as it may, that hand out maintaining the position of damp blood even as his gaze tricks on over towards the dead man lying slumped next to Plante, shoulder to shoulder, smelling of at least three different kinds of human excess and waste. With the kind of tentativeness of a scavenging coyote, Gabriel moves forward, descending on all fours until he's far enough to latch a hold of Hicks' limp leg and tug. The fresh corpse gives a shudder, slides further in its slump, arms awkward behind him. Tug, tug, and Gabriel pulls Hicks' further away from the wall and Plante both, dragging a trail of what is mainly blood.

It might be expected than another familiar name might refocus Plante's attention from his dead comrade being dragged away. But the particularly laser-like focus he gives to Eileen might not be quite expected. "Broome?" he asks. Before he slips out of range, it's clear to Gabriel exactly why Plante's attention is so narrow at this time: Broome might be the only person who scares him as much as Sylar does. "He- yeah. He's running, everything. I don't see him. Uh uh." A shake of his head further supports this fact. "Harper sees him, I don't. He tells Harper, then Harper tells Eldridge. He doesn't tell me, I don't see him, I don't know, clones. Harper knows. Maybe Suresh knows-" Likely a name that neither Eileen nor Gabriel were expecting or hoping to hear- "Yeah, Suresh knows. Mohinder Suresh. You can ask him, he knows." That's enough, isn't it? Plante's just a security specialist, what does he know about clones or science? "Can I go?"

Eileen holsters her pistol and takes her dominant hand in her left, using the tips of her fingers to massage the sinewy tissue between her bruised knuckles. The crow in the window follows the trail of blood spattered across the wall at Plante's back with its eyes, tracking Gabriel as he drags Hicks' corpse across the floor, its beak parted around a silent hiss.

The Englishwoman's gaze remains fixed, and if Plante was thinking a little more rationally, he might notice that her eyes fail to meet his even though she appears sincere about seeking them out. "Thompson," she says.

That's a no. "The commune in Manitoba. Your unit was there. What were you looking for?"

"Mo~hin~der~." This name is repeated, its syllables sounding broken up, the way Gabriel says it — fondly, too, as he focuses on drrragging Hicks closer and closer, before a fistful of shirt is taken, wheeling him around. A hand is placed on the osteokinetic's forehead, a thumb on one temple, middle finger at the other, testing the density of bone beneath easily tearable skin.

Gabriel glances up at Plante, as if considering that question, before Eileen answers it for him, and he refocuses on his task. Breathing deeply, tasting the man's fear like a storm in the air, Gabriel then closes that hand — not all the way, before enough for a sickening crack to sound through the warehouse cavern. A red seam through skin tracks across Hicks' scalp.

Wincing, Gabriel takes his hand back, shaking it out.

"Mani… Canada." It's not for anybody's benefit but his own that Plante says this. It helps him keep his thoughts straight. "He wanted them. The Retrievers went to get Case. Tyler. And, and Del-phine…" There is a pause before the rest of the name- "Kuhr."- makes it out. "Broome wanted them. Others too. 'Minimize casualties, recover as many Evolved as possible.' Secondary. Cambridge for all of them. Case and Kuhr primary. Kuhr-Case."

Eileen sometimes imagines that when Gabriel was still small he was one of those children. The kind that stealthily slip their fingers under the edge of gaudily coloured wrapping paper covering boxes adorned with silken ribbons and bows, plastic poinsettias and miniature ornaments as delicate as eggshells, peel it back and glimpse at the present's contents the night before Christmas morning.

Enthusiastic is a kinder word than impatient, but she's not feeling particularly generous today. What she does feel is irritation, sandpaper-rough in response to his zealousness, and maybe he'll feel the friction of it scraping between them as she steps through the trail of blood toward Plante. She doesn't enjoy this, and the longer they spend drawing this out, the more sleep she's going to lose over it — assuming she gets any tonight at all. "Was there a man with Kuhr?" she asks, voice quieter now. She crouches down in front of Plante, blocking his view of Gabriel and Hicks. The smallest mercy she can afford. "English, early forties. Bald."

Where Eileen notices the crack of bone, the sound is lost to Plante, his focus only on what is presented to him directly. When asked this question, he has to stop and think, but even by the time he offers, "No?" Eileen likely already guessed that. If that man, Ethan Holden, had been with Delphine, the Institute would have almost certainly suffered heavier casualties than they did.

"Thank you." And that's sincere, too. Eileen does not immediately rise from her crouch. Rests some of her weight on her knee instead on a slick patch of pavement that's more rainwater than blood and places her hand on her thigh. "I'd appreciate it," she says, and these words aren't meant for the man in front of her, but rather the one behind, "if he didn't feel any pain."

There's room for argument, however small. It isn't a command — it's a softly-spoken request.

There's a black look sent to Eileen's back, Gabriel leaving the corpse alone now that fear has been converted into strength enough to split impossibly strong skull. It's all he does while they still have an interrogation, although he can tell when the reins have been taken away when he sees it. He pushes himself up to stand, absently pushing a bandage back into place.

"You people."

His voice smooths roughly passed Eileen on the tail end of her request. "They want to cut people like us into pieces, find something to replicate, something to sell. They're more butchers than scientists, really, and you're cowardly enough not to care." Not that Plante necessarily knows about the murky details about what goes on in the Institute labs, but it's hardly the point.

And as if it had waited for that command, thick red blood suddenly floods through Plante's mouth, up his nose, lining thick down air passages and tubes to fill stomach and lungs both.

However addled his brain might have become over the past several minutes, Plante doesn't bother to answer Gabriel when his survival instincts kick on and override all other thought. Frantically and viciously, he tries to cough and ultimately his lungs and stomach both wretch and fight to expel the liquid that has very suddenly occupied them. Ultimately with no success, his reward nothing more than a series of convulsions so energetic and violent that a normal human may have broken their bones on the concrete floor. It isn't at all like the movies where the villain's struggles gradually come to a halt (although it's arguable who, exactly, the villain is in this case). Plante struggles with equal, even violence right up to the point where his body can struggle no more.

In an instant, he stops struggling.

And then he just stops.

Eileen's brows angle downward, rivulets of rainwater carving a silver path down the side of her face along the bridge of her nose and cheekbone, following the shape of her jaw all the way through to her chin. Blindness spares her a close-up of Plante's death throes, her view limited to what the crow can see from its lofty perch, its wings mantled and feathers bristling.

Its distress is reflected in the dark-haired woman's round-backed posture, or maybe it's the other way around, but when Plante has finally stopped struggling and Eileen rises to her feet, open hostility defines her movements, aggression sparking off her with glittering flecks of rainwater as she turns, rounds on Gabriel and cracks her open palm against his mouth.

She's done worse before than strike him, and there's not even a flicker of remorse shimmering down the empathic thread between them. Her hand drops.

Although she didn't interfere — a request is only just that: a request — she has absolutely no compunctions about letting him know what she thinks of his decision.

He takes it, usually, and he does now, too — his face turns under the force of the blow, not yet acquainted with either man's power to just shrug it off. Burn wound splits, aggravates, and it's enough that, viper quick, Gabriel's hand swings around and deals back the same, smarting across her cheekbone and angled upwards. Breath shuddering a hiss inwards, his hand latches onto the stalk of her arm a moment later — whether to stop her from leaving or returning the slap again is up for debate.

"You don't leash me. Don't discipline me." A not-so-gentle shove guides her away from him, one not designed to topple, but it's not the way you're supposed to handle a girl who isn't half your size and weight soaking wet.

A hand braced against the brick wall behind Eileen prevents her from stumbling into it. The heel of her right boots clatters against a piece of discarded metal that was once part of the cannery's machinery and produces an echo that resonates more than the initial sound itself. It startles her crow into flight, out the empty window, past the shards of broken glass still clinging to its rusted frame.

This is one of those situations where Eileen shouldn't be surprised but is. He knows because she's too preoccupied with processing what just happened to call her bird back, and by the time she does — it's gone. The muscles in her face tighten, and she tips it away from Gabriel, chin tucked against her shoulder as she reaches up with her free hand and touches her fingertips to the cut on her cheek as if to check for blood in case the blow was enough to reopen the wound, but that requires holding them up in front of her, and this is ultimately a futile gesture.

Her jaw sets, firm as the steel support structures that still hold the cannery up after more than twenty years of disuse, and she eases herself away from the wall at the same time she releases her breath, slow and shaky through her nostrils.

She remembers the way out: it's the same way she and Gabriel came in. "Jensen is going to Estonia with the others," she says, her voice deceptively steady. Taut. "I'm taking the next train to Germany. You can come with, or not. I won't ask you to heel."

When she goes to move around him, she offers a wide berth.

"I need a few minutes." The syllables fly clipped through his teeth, and she'll hear more than see the way he turns his back to her. The toe of his boot nudges at the limp hand of Hicks as he casts a look towards where Plante lays in his final resting place, blood now pooling from his mouth and nose in gratuitous amounts, eyes round in his head and throat looking bloated, an overstuffed sausage. Gabriel crouches down again at Hicks' head.

A moment later, there's the sound of splintering bone, breaking wetly.

It's the last sound Eileen hears before she emerges into the misty light outside, ears awash with rain, the distant murmur of St. Petersburg traffic and a roaring breeze that tugs at the hair plastered to her brow and cheeks and makes her wool coat flutter and flare out behind her.

She can probably spare a few minutes. Whether or not she will, she hasn't yet decided and won't until she arrives at the edge of the shipping yard and slips a hand into her interior pocket in search of her watch and the silver chain it dangles from so she can check the time.

Its familiar weight and the feel in the seat of her palm ultimately acts as an anchor as effective as any left to gather shit and rust on the docks. She'll give him fifteen.

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