Logs:Number One

From X-Men: rEvolution
Number One
Dramatis Personae

Dusk, Flicker, Hive, Jax, Matt, Joshua, Number One

2019-06-09


<< I won't be second best! >> (Prometheus raid, team #1. Concurrent with cellblock two's raid.) cw: violence

Location

<PA> Hofstadter Research Facility - Cambria County


This was a U.S. Army base and, as far as the residents of the surrounding countryside are concerned, it still is. Though its purpose has always been highly classified, it showed little obvious activity even in its heyday, and even less since its decommissioning -- until it was repurposed as a research facility for the Prometheus Project. The central building currently housing the labs and detention cells is a bunker hardened against nuclear attack, three of its four levels underground. A garage near this bunker and a recently updated barracks are the only other buildings currently in use on the base. There are no guard towers, though the two main gate checkpoints that control access to the restricted area surrounding it are always manned, and an extensive network of motion sensors and security cameras watch the perimeter as well as the facility itself.

The bunker has two large entrances, one at each end of the long structure: the front entrance most personnel use on a daily basis for entering and exiting, and a loading dock in the back, nearer to the garage. There are also four smaller emergency exits, two on each of the long, curving sides of the building. The front and back entrances have security checkpoints just inside which are guarded around the clock, while the emergency exits rely on good locks, thick doors, and extensive electronic security. The main entrance leads into a warren of offices, break rooms, and conference areas with its own bank of personnel elevators. The loading dock accesses a block of storerooms, the kitchen, the machine spaces, as well as a heavy duty cargo elevator. Each emergency exit leads directly into emergency evacuation stairways spiraling down into the depths of the facility, each door locked from without and alarmed.

The first basement level is taken up by labs, the infirmary, and storeroom for more technical equipment. Many of the labs here are psi-shielded, equipped with power suppression tech, or both. Even without the state-of-the-art medical and scientific equipment, this single storey of the facility is easily worth multiple billions of dollars. The second and third basement levels are taken up by nearly identical cellblocks, each with two guard stations -- one at either end, where they are accessible by the the personnel and cargo elevators -- and twenty detention rooms (although not all are occupied) wired with power suppression grids. Beyond meter-thick reinforced walls, emergency exit hallways circle the detention complexes, connecting to the evacuation stairways.

The detainees in the cages have, at least, some forewarning of the chaos that is about to occur. Hive's soft chorus of mindvoice has radioed ahead, given the labrats notice -- that a team of mutants is incoming, that they intend to break into the labs, get everyone out; that they've done this many times before in other labs across the country, that it's going to get chaotic, that they have a teleporter who can get them away from the worst of the pandemonium rapidly.

The team's approach, through this, has been remarkably quiet. Uneventful, for the beginning, thanks to their tech support handling the security systems and Ion zapping in to drop one team off at an evacuation stairwell door on the first of the cellblocks. Nearly the same moment they've landed he's disappearing again with his team -- off through the walls to the lower of the cellblocks, taking a detour through the walls along the way to fry both the suppression grids before he and his team materialize in the lower hallway.

Jax doesn't waste any time, once they've been deposited in the stairwell. "Stand back 'n cover your eyes." Their little section of the world is about to get real bright. A delicate spiderwebbing of light blossoms across the wall, thin glowing strands sizzling into the surface. Boring deeper, in and around the heavy door, until abruptly the luminescent latticework expands in a sudden ripple, a sudden heat, the metal and concrete crumbling and buckling with the sudden surge of energy. The door, for a moment, still stands, amid singed and smoking rubble in the charred tunnel into the cellblock. Jax himself is glowing, a radiant heat rolling off of him as well.

Beyond the destroyed emergency exit, a largely featureless hallways stretches far away to the right and only a little ways to the left before turning a corner toward the cellblock entrance and the freight elevator. There are three doors in view to the right -- one, set into the outer wall, is the other emergency stair access on this side of the facility, and the others are presumably storage closets of various sorts. The inner wall in front of them is smooth concrete, painted with CELLBLOCK 1 in meter-high letters. The outer wall behind them is covered with access panels and dire warnings to the effect that only qualified technicians may operate the power suppression relay. Meanwhile, someone somewhere in the facility has probably noticed the multiple holes in their reinforced walls -- or possibly that a non-qualified technician has operated the power suppression relay -- because klaxons start blaring from the speaker system, and red emergency lights come on all along the hallway ceiling.

Matt obediently threw an arm over his eyes at Jax's signal, but the bolstering field of his power doesn't waver through this. To those in a position to notice, his boost is stronger than usual, and encompasses--for the moment, at least--the entire team. He is now also pressing outward to search for the detainees inside the cell block, cautious and ready to suppress.

Dusk has dutifully stepped back when instructed, his wings flaring out to shade his teammates as well. His eyes are shaded already, a large pair of tinted goggles providing protection from the glare and debris alike. Once Jax's explosion dies down he moves, wings wrapping back in and gloved hands knocking the still-standing reinforced door down effortlessly as he ducks through the smoldering gap.

To those with the senses to perceive it, the interior of cellblock 1 (like its twin below) is built around a long, straight hallway that runs from the guard station at one entrance to the one at the other. The stations themselves are heavily reinforced, with thick steel walls and bulletproof glass and gun slits that allow the guards inside (two each, at this moment, although with the alarm more are likely to turn up) to cover the ten-meter-long corridors leading from the elevator banks and the connecting emergency exit hallways. The stations are just as heavily armored on the side facing the interior of the cellblock, even though the cells themselves are extremely well reinforced and have physical locks alongside electronic ones. There are twenty cells in each block, lining the central hallway, ten on a side. At present, cellblock 1 contains seventeen detainees (which is notably one fewer than the team had been led to expect).

Hive can put together that the missing detainees are upstairs in one of the labs at the moment, for though several of them are psi shielded and inaccessible to him, he can reach the minds of two researchers in a monitoring station, plus the guards stationed outside of it, all of whom are currently in a panic as to what exactly they are going to do with subjects 1 and 35 with the facility in lockdown mode.

Flicker hangs back with the rest as Jax brings the door down. Waiting quiet behind Dusk's wing. Bringing a hand up to trace fingertips lightly against its soft nap.

The moment Jax is finished, though, he's gone. Off in a barely-there blur that disappears before any of his teammates have moved, through the smoke and around the corner. Past the guard station into the cellblock beyond. Into the first occupied cell to tell its occupant immediately: "Hi. I'm here to get you out. Can you come with me? It'll be a little disorienting when I move you. We have people on the outside who can keep you safe while we get the others."

The occupant of cell two, which Flicker has just entered, is already on their feet. They're pale and skinny, their eyes hollow and terrified. "One will come," they whisper, stepping up to Flicker on slightly unsteady feet. "He will make you stop." They punctuate the last work with a startlingly loud snap of their fingers, even as they place their other hand in Flicker's.

The fact of the missing detainees -- and their presumptive whereabouts -- is relayed to Jax and Ion in a quiet mental recompartmentalization. Hive knows this. Now they know it, too.

The brief twist that flashes through Flicker's mind is -- too fast to properly pin down. Calling up something familiar and painful from training. << One? Again? >> Shoved just as quickly aside, calm but with a quiet mental flag for Hive. "Thanks for the heads up. We'll be careful." He's closing his hand through the other mutant's, vanishing back through the facility in a jerky rapid path.

"B, Skye, can you shut the elevators down?" Jax is asking this quietly of a different small dragonfly hovering near his team. A shield plasters itself against the front of the guard station, barricading the approach before he turns down the hall. Slices through the door with a few neat raking shafts of light.

The guards inside the station are at their gun slits, firing three-round bursts uselessly into Jax's shield. As their door falls open they stagger back against the far wall of their station. From one of them comes a wave of almost physically nauseating terror, noticeable to Hive and Matt before it reaches the other members of team one.

Unfortunately, it also reaches the other guard, who immediately starts screaming and, slamming the emergency door release, flees into the cell block, his mind casting wildly for a way to keep safe.

Also sensible to Hive and Matt is a telepathic presence reaching out from cell five, questing blind and somewhat tentative. Its origin is oddly difficult for Hive to read, the other telepath's mind feeling more like static than thoughts.

Matt has been following silently in Jax and Dusk's wake, stretching his power to its maximum range for the sake of the team on the floor below. His eyes go wide when he feels the guard's power activates. It takes a moment--not long, but also not quite quick enough to keep the edge of the panic from washing over them--for him to isolate its source and tamp it down without muting his own teammates' powers in the process. This done (he's breathing fast, his eyes wide with residual fear), he stretches out farther, reaching for subject five but not quashing their telepathic exploration just yet, thinking a wordless interrogative at Hive.

Dusk folds his wings tight in against his back, moving swift down the hall once the shield is in place. The wash of terror gives him brief pause -- only brief, though, looking back to Jax as if for reassurance but continuing forward when Matt quells the empathic assault. The forcefield gives him another pause -- only brief, again, waiting just long enough for Jax to carve him an opening in the wall so that he can launch himself through. Wing snapping out immediately in a hard crack toward the guard's gun, even while his other strikes upward toward the man's chin.

Scary guard doesn't seem to understand what Matt did at first, straining to pile more fear on Dusk as he approaches. As Dusk passes through the forcefield, though, he scrambles to bring his gun to bear while shouting into the radio mounted at his shoulder. "Hostile jammer --" and a single three-round burst is all he manages to get out before Dusk smacks the gun clean out of his hand and snaps his jaw shut, blood splashing where he bit down on his lip or tongue. He crumples to the floor and writhes in agony, clutching his face.

Meanwhile the partner he had scared off has somewhat gathered his wits and darted into the nearest cell, dragging out a terrified subject five (whose telepathic reach has gone from questing to flailing). "Try anything and the freak gets it!" the guard shouts, backing away towards the other guard station with his hostage.

<< We can get you out of here, but please try to stay calm, >> comes to Number Five in soft overlapping rustle. << We are sorry. It will be startling. We teleport. It is safer than getting shot here. Please just hold on, until we get you away from this. >>

Hive is jerking Flicker off-course mid-jump. Yanking him up through the floor with Number 23 to -- not even land, really. Just blur past the guard and Number 5 in a flutter, yoinking the frightened telepath along with them on their way up through the building.

Subject five's telepathic presence stretches out desperately for Hive's, groping first in Jax's direction, then Flicker's when he strays abruptly closer. The touch of their mind is tentative but the information they shove through that connection feels urgent -- a shaky panic-filled recollection of two guards in Company X uniform appearing right in front of them. << Teleport. Get away. >> Their thoughts echo Hive's many-voiced susurrus precisely. << Please. >> This all occurs in a fraction of a second, and they show neither surprise nor resistance when Flicker (and subject 23) appears to grab them.

<< Fuck, >> is the way this information (layered over a matter of fact backdrop of Potential Teleporting Guards) comes across to Jax and Ion.

In the barracks, the previous shift's guards have reluctantly peeled themselves away from dinner and the Tony awards to gear up and head over in teams of four. The two guards who had been in the breakroom of the facility itself were faster to mobilize and are headed down the emergency stairwell to cellblock one.

With 5 out of danger, the guard who'd held them hostage is finding their gun -- shredding to pieces in their hands. A bright sizzling mess of light dancing through it in scorching shearing lines to carve the weapon into melting useless pieces. << Dusk, we got incoming, >> the press of Jax's mind pushes with considerably less finesse than Hive's in utilizing the hivemind to push telepathic contact outward. Trusting Hive to fill in where he can't. << Stairwell. >> There is a careful shimmering bubble that is going up -- just around Matt.

Blink-blink. Flicker is passing back through in a bit of a blur. Stopping into two cells just across the hall from each other to pick up their occupants -- vanish again.

Matt is straining his senses for the incoming guards, ready to manage any powers they might deploy, but in the meantime he reaches out to subject 10, gently but firmly damping their biokinesis. << Number 10 is safe to approach. Power-wise, at least. >>

Number 10 -- one of the younger detainees in this lab, perhaps 16 or 17 -- is, in fact, freaking out a bit. He's pounding at his cell door now, shouting, "What the fuck is going on out there?"

The guards from the break room are rounding the corner now, helmets on and guns levelled. They start firing the moment they see team 1, but neither of them are mutants.

Dusk had dragged his first guard back to his feet, briefly -- long enough to sink his teeth momentarily into the empath's neck. The damage isn't severe or lasting -- the intense flood of venom that comes with the bite, though, enough to relax muscles, send a mind into a state of woozy euphoria. Jax's warning has him heading back towards the hall -- just in time to meet the incoming breakroom guards, with a flare of wings and deep rumble of growl. The first gunshots that slam into his chest don't, actually, seem to phase him much. He barrels straight for the shooting guards, wings snapping out and up towards their guns.

"Hey." Flicker has just appeared on the far side of #10's cell, holding his hand out. "Sorry about all the chaos. We've got a team here to get you all out. It's kind of intense outside but we've done this before. I can teleport. If you come with me."

The reinforcements are now sorely regretting their life choices, having rounded the corner to Dusk, who not only doesn't have the good grace to go down when shot, but then charges them --bared fangs still dripping with their compatriot's blood! One of them is promptly disarmed by the attack, the other tries to move his weapon out of reach but only manages to present his arm as a target instead. Even a glancing blow from Dusk's wing snaps both of the bones in his forearm completely and he shrieks with agony, still dropping his gun after all. The one who managed to get disarmed without injury also screams and, in a heroic moment, grabs his partner and drags him right back the way they came.

The guard who had taken number 5 hostage is now one gun short and screaming as his gloves melt to his skin where they had been holding the weapon as Jax took it apart. He turns tail and flees toward the guard station at the far end of the cellblock hall.

Number 10 turns around when Flicker appears, instinctively trying but immediately failing to summon his power. "How the fuck -- the suppression grid is back on!" His eyes narrow suddenly. "Wait...no, you must be working with One. This is some kind of mindfuck."

"One?" There's a sudden panicky doubt that pings loud in Flicker's mind. Replaying in short flashes their training scenarios (<< "They're going to kill One!" >>). Trying fruitlessly to summon up the specific events of this morning from behind his intense concentrated focus that has foreshortened the world to just this complex, just these moments. Momentarily debating telling the Danger Room to cut this run short.

In the next instant he just blinks, shakes his head. "I don't know One. My team has done this at a lot of these facilities. Please, I can explain more outside, but we -- should go."

"Marde!" Matt doesn't seem to be cursing at the guards who had just shot at him and Dusk--doesn't seem to have paid them any mind at all. He squeezes his eyes shut and reaches out for Ion, seizing control of the electrokinetic's power. In a flash he's unceremoniously discorporated him and sent him blazing through cellblock 2's electrical system to dump him with no explanation in the hallway behind the guards who had just teleported in.

Whatever response Ten was going to give is curtailed by the sudden neat scooping of his suspicious mind into Hive's vast one. In the next moment he's going along with Flicker, Hive shunting both of them off to the opposite cell before letting Flicker take back over to get out of the complex. In the back of their minds, quiet but firm, is the solid and serious knowledge that this is very much Not A Simulation.

-- Up into cell seven, and then their neighbor. Another blur running through the cellblocks. Simulation or no, Flicker is just. Moving on autopilot.

To Hive's senses, the first two teams of guards from the previous shift are finally coming down the emergency stairways, one to each cellblock (two more teams are not far behind). Matt can feel them coming, too, though only by the single mutant on each team. The first team, not much discouraged by passing the two fleeing guards Dusk had just rebuffed, pours around the corner with guns blazing. Their mutant trump card is taking a well-defended position in their formation, moving behind one teammate and flanked by the other two. A telekinetic force raises Dusk easily up into the air as the others start firing on full auto.

Matt had just turned his attention to dampen subject 17's upredictable power when more guards arrive. "Ben tabernak," he mutters, straining to shut down the telekinetic guard without easing up on 17 or dropping the augmentation of his teammates.

Flicker has just returned to nab #18. And #17 next, with Matt straining for them. His own movements are growing considerably more jerky, even, than they usually are, a rougher and less pleasant ride for his passengers with the psionic screeching echoing through his mind.

Jax has whirled as the new guards arrive. A barrier wraps itself in front of their guns, catching at least some of the hail of bullets that they unload toward Dusk, albeit not quite fast enough to shield them all. The process of dismantling the guns is a slower thing -- needing to start one burning-melting gun at a time (or risk taking all their hands off in the process.)

THUMP. When the telekinetic's powers shut back off Dusk slams back to the ground, not nearly enough space in this hallway for his wings to do him any good. There's a smear of blood where he's landed, wing crumpled awkwardly beneath him and its sail torn in multiple places when he stands back up. Launching himself at the barrier and trusting in Jax to let him through to swipe his uninjured wing in hard slam at the nearest guard's legs.

<< Matt, can you reach that -- that -- that -- >> Ion's voice is coming through to Matt in relayed question. Relayed question that ends in a psionic screeching, steadily growing louder.

Still tamping down the telekinetic guard, though at least he's free of 17, now, Matt reaches out to quash the psionic screeching by way to a reply to Ion, while cranking up his augmenting of Jax's powers while the photokinetic methodically disarms the guards in front of Dusk.

Flicker isn't paying attention to blood on the ground, or flashes of light. Or even incoming guards, really. His path has gotten a little smoother once the screeching shuts off. Flitting back through the first cellblock once more.

The four guards in the hallway had eased off firing when they noticed the forcefield -- or, more to the point, noticed their bullets bouncing off the forcefield. At Dusk's attack, though, they scramble backward and start firing at full force again, forcefield or no. The two of them closest two Dusk stumble and crash to the ground with his attack, one of them still spraying bullets into the air as he falls. The other two are managing their retreat with a little more grace and control.

In the barracks, the shift that had been sleeping is mustering, though slower to get to readiness than their waking fellows.

The reinforcements that were already on their way had been slightly delayed by a regrouping upstairs, but now they are getting underway. Subjects 1 and 35 have emerged from the psi-shielded lab, though Hive can only vaguely perceive their minds, unable to read either or grasp them through a haze of psionic chaff that seems to extend in about a five-meter radius around them. Four guards (one mutant among them) are escorting the detainees to an emergency stairway on the far side of the facility from where the raid team had entered, coming down to meet the two guards still holed up in the far guard station.

Two more guards (one mutant, one human) are rushing down on the side the team entered from to back up the four who are already facing down Dusk. From their minds Hive can glean that they're frightened and unhappy about being sent as a diversion, and why do the goddamned scientists need another pet jammer, anyway, they already have One...

There's a sudden quiet shift of Matt's perception, Hive's awareness grabbing hold of him, pushing their mind deep into Matt's with little preamble. The flood of incoming reinforcements, their unhappy thoughts, these things become part of Matt's consciousness together with the team leaders'.

Matt was in the midst of reaching out to dampen subject 20's power when Hive takes over. There's no hiccup to any of what he's doing, really: the nearest mutant guards and 20 remain powerless while his teammates remain augmented. But the weight of his concentration is an almost palpable thing in Hive's network, the unnerving focus of his strategic mind bent toward diffusing whatever plan is being put into play with subject 1.

He does not verbalize these thoughts; they do not manifest in images or any kind of sensory metaphor; all the same, his cold calculations come through with perfect clarity to their minds. Quickly considers and dismisses several approaches before they are even fully formed (ineffective). Pushes aside a couple that involve using Jax to blast the entire group escorting 1 and 35 (unacceptable). They arrive at his conclusion hardly a fraction of a second before he starts putting it into motion, reaching out to tamp down 35's psionic interference while silently directing Hive to take 1.

Jax's mental arithmetic takes a rather different path than Matt's but, ultimately, arrives to the same place -- pushing Hive in #1's direction as he focuses on dismantling the weapons of the guards shooting at Dusk, the smells of burning plastic and flesh and metal mingling heavy in the hallway. A barrier forms behind them, cutting off the hallway between them and the far guard station as the new guards arrive escorting #1 and #35.

The reluctance in Hive's mind doesn't stop him from reaching out. Sinking mental claws into One's mind, pulling it deep into his own with a rush of explanation that comes more in innate knowledge than any words. They're here to get the others out -- One, too, if they want it; they'll see to One's safety -- but whatever their choice, Hive is determined not to let them hurt the team.

Between Jax's rather painful disarming and Dusk's rather terrifying (also painful) assault, the four guards scatter back just in time for their two unfortunate reinforcements to arrive. But only one of them looks like a guard. The other looks different to each viewer, resembling a loved one they feel strongly motivated to protect in every sense that the viewer possesses. However, Matt -- and thus Hive, for the moment -- can detect a psionic power at work beneath (or behind?) whatever form this person appears to take in his mind.

One can feel 35's power being suppressed -- tries and fails to boost them up in opposition -- and casts about wildly for the source -- but cannot reach Matt. << Just die! I don't want you in here! >> He feels Hive's weight against his mind and lashes out impotent, also unable to reach the source to stop his own assimilation. At the explanation they flail even harder. They don't want out. The others will kill them. Here they're valued. Here they're loved. They've finally made something of themselves. After so much hard work, after all the struggling to meet Doctor Messer's standards! "We cut our losses and let them go," they say flatly to the leader of their guard escort.

<< We can't let you go, >> Hive's reply comes, quiet and regretful. With it, there's a tinge of memory -- a different lab, long ago. Of the terror and pain that came with failing. The control they exerted on the other detainees. << They didn't kill us. They won't kill you. It will hurt. It will keep hurting. But -- >> There are other experiences here, too. Other memories. The shaky fragile trust being built back up between the labrats. The fierce protective love between the team now. << Leaving wasn't easy for us, either. We won't force you. But the life in here can't begin to compare. >>

<< I won't be second best! >> One is raving at Hive, attempting some ineffective mental contortion to eject the telepath. << Everything I did for them, nothing was good enough. I was never as good as him. >> They have no mental picture and no name to put to "him", but Hive instantly knows that they mean Matt. << I never will be. I hope they kill him. I hope they kill you all. >> The sheer force of their vehemence is staggering.

Dusk is whirling toward the newer guards as they arrive, teeth bared once more. Only for a moment, though. A shiver ripples through his wings, and separate from Hive's network though he might be, the palpable shock of confusion -- grief -- guilt -- love -- denial -- that run through him is stark. For the moment he's rooted to the spot -- kiiind of wrestling with that sharp denial which is, steadily, mingling with a growing sense of rage that doesn't entirely manage to shake the other feelings. Just jumble them into a wordless chaos.

Flicker has reappeared in the hallway, somewhere down between cells thirteen and fourteen. He isn't going into them, though. He's stopped, tentacle-arm curling restlessly at his side. His eyes are fixed steadily on the door in front of him but his mind is keen and intent on the conversation between One and Hive, something cold and sick coiling inside him.

Flicker isn't left to freeze for long. Hive takes over where Flicker's own impulses fail, yanking him back down a level to 33 instead with a sharp mental NUDGE. Get. Going.

<< Someday, >> Hive is saying wryly to One, << They surely will. But not today. Not you. You don't have to stay here and be 'good enough' for people who won't ever see you as anything more than an experiment, though. >>

<< It's not real, it's not real, it's not real, >> this is Jax's constant mental chant which -- somehow isn't making it any easier to fire on Spencer at the end of the hall. He puts up another barricade in between the incoming guards and their hallway, though -- even with his constant boosting, this latest has him looking paler, shakier. The shield that has been encasing Matt in a protective bubble vanishes. "Dusk, honey-honey, it ain't real. We're almost there."

As further flares of pain register over their mental connection he pings Hive further -- << Can you check in with the folks still in the cells? If there are any in better health -- who could take the trip with Ion -- let me know. Let 'em know. They can get out with us. >> He doesn't actually specify his strong and growing fear over Flicker's health but -- he doesn't need to.

The flare of Matt's rage at the sight of the psionically disguised guard is abrupt and incongruous to the others. He strains for that guard's power, then draws back at once when all the other effects he's maintaining start to collapse. Even after he lets go of the guards in cellblock two, he has to strain to prop up Jax's photokinesis. The new shield wavers dangerously. He draws his gun and lifts it, his hands steadier than his mind at this point, his fury unabated but also oddly detached from his actions. He opens a window in the shield, takes careful aim at the little girl in dirty denim overalls, her hair coming loose from its braid, and fires.

There's a sudden tightening of Hive's mental network. Whatever extra sensory input, thoughts, feelings, Matt had been getting goes abruptly darker, quieter, reeled back in to a brief walled-off psionic silence. Hive clamps down sharply -- lowering Matt's arm a moment too late.

Jax shudders as his shield rearranges itself. The entire thing flickers and collapses, for a moment in the wake of Matt's gunshot, his posture tensed and a sharp hiss escaping through his teeth. It takes a second before he erects it again, tamping down hard on the flare of rage and sick unhappy stress that rise in his mind.

The guard -- suddenly he's just a man in Company X tactical gear again -- doubles over clutching his abdomen, body armor nothstanding. His partner had never quite stopped firing into Jax's shield, which lets through a few wild shots while it's down.

Subject 35, meanwhile, has been standing beside subject 1, quietly terrified. Their thoughts race and flit, dominated by fear of being near the guards and, far more so, near subject 1. They can't quite understand why 1 is suppressing their power now, and keep waiting for a retaliation that doesn't come.

It takes a moment before Hive speaks again. Careful, quiet, their voices whispering in chorus through 35's mind. << We're sorry for all the chaos. Our team can get you out of here, if you want to come with us. >>

There's a crackle of energy running through the cells. Ion's journey through to grab the detainees out of cells 13-16 is a good deal more jarring and painful than Flicker's, even with Hive forewarning all of them as to what's about to happen. It is, though, at least quick. Requiring no intervening stops out in the open.

The shield, though -- drops again. Shimmering and vanishing as Jax stumbles, drops to the ground, one bleeding leg giving out from under him.

Dusk snarls. Doesn't wait, the moment the shield is down. Just surges forward, a sweep of his wing shoving the creepy empathic mimic hard toward his companion guard.

<< The fuck kind of rescue do you call this?! >> is 35's unconscious reflex, though they cringe the moment the thought passes and carefully concentrates on, << Oh god I'm sorry, please take me! >>

In too much pain to dodge or resist Dusk's attack, the mimic topples into the last guard who was firing, though the latter manages a couple more shots before they both crash into the wall and thence the floor, unconscious from the shock of multiple impacts.

Flicker's shuddering path is, at this point, bolstered mainly by Hive's sheer force of will continuing to propel him through the complex. Even as he's stopping through for #20 -- stopping to pick up Matt, as well -- there's a wordless question in his mind. #35 and, more prominently, #1, hammering there in loud uncertainty.

The guards at the far station are starting to usher subjects 1 and 35 down the hallway running through the cellblock, apparently unaware that neither subject was actually doing whatever they were sent down here to do and also unaware the cells around them are already empty.

Dusk just growls again as the shots thud into his body armour. He returns to the hall to scoop Jax easily into his arms, sparing a brief glance down the hall as the guards start to charge them as he backs away towards their original entrance.

-- Where he's met by Ion. Kind of jittery! Kind of zappy as he reaches for Dusk. Not as zappy as the trip out, though.

The incoming guards are abruptly halted in their path. Hive's mental presence is expanding very abruptly, shoving sharp and forceful into the incoming minds and simply arresting them there. It's coarse and inelegant, but it creates a quiet lull.

That Flicker takes advantage of. Jumping into the middle of the group, pale and bleeding and decidedly shaky, to grab 35 without preamble. And away again.

Briefly, at least. He's nearly immediately turning around again to head back for #1.

<< Friend, we going. Now. Come on. >> Ion's voice, crisp and sharp across their mindlink. << They all out. >>

Flicker's reply is immediate. Just as sharp. << Not all. >>

<< He doesn't want to come. >> Jax is far less sharp than the others -- more out of pain than any lack of feeling on the matter, a haze of exhaustion and nausea thick behind his words. << We can't force him, sugar. We gotta go. >>

Subject 1 can feel Flicker returning, the teleporter's power lighting up their senses like the trail of a firefly in their mind. They stretch out for it tentatively to stop it flickering, expecting Hive to stop them at any moment.

Hive does not stop this. Even before it actually comes, he is curling closer around Flicker, a steady mental presence that just -- wraps itself tighter. Holds a little bit closer, quiet and bracing.

Flicker drops mid-jump halfway through the complex. Struggles again to blink away -- when this fails to work, does not bother trying to stand again. There's a moment -- just a moment -- where he starts to lean more heavily into the psionic presence. But this slips away; though it's impossible to hide the grief and guilt and horror he feels across their mental connection, he pulls them inward as best he can. Crumples, finally, exhausted, into a bloodied heap on the floor.

Joshua's arrival here is just a quiet thing, after all the chaos. Unbloodied, unharmed, he still looks exhausted from whatever work has been ongoing at the vans calming and stabilizing the rescuees and injured team. More exhausted still, as he looks down at Flicker. Crouches to rest a hand gently on the other man's shoulder. He represses a shudder -- vanishes, leaving only the smeared patch of blood behind.