Logs:Of Riots and Rethinking (Or, Best Laid Plans)

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Of Riots and Rethinking (Or, Best Laid Plans)

cn: violence, murder, anti-gay slur, body horror

Dramatis Personae

Ryan, Sriyani, Nanami, Lael, Nahida, Lily, Nevaeh, Spencer, Roscoe, Rainy Ogden, Queen Bee, Beau, Gaétan, Kelawini, Naomi, Harm, Echo, Kavalam, Joshua


"I think things wen get real interesting."


<PRO> Lassiter Research Facility - Ohio

4:21 p.m. shield headquarters. times square. nyc.

It could be a trick of television magic, but this is live -- a stage floating straight in midair, hovering above a riotous Independence Day crowd in Times Square, perched just alongside the tall profile of the SHIELD organization's headquarters. The concert has been underway for some time, now, but now there's a break in the music, a break in the dazzling and flashy light effects that Jackson has been providing from where he sits off on the edge of SHIELD's roof.

Ryan is plenty iconic, on stage, plenty flashy, but at the moment his musicians have gone silent, his slimmed-down troupe of backup dancers taking a seat. Without the need for any amplification equipment his voice is clear and strong through all Times Square: "I know a lot of you might be here tonight to celebrate, right? America, Independence Day, Land of the goddamn free. I'm here because for many of -- maybe even most of us, America ain't shit but a fascist police state built on the backs of enslaved people and watered with the blood of genocides still going on today. Right here, stone's throw from the Statue of Liberty, this brave man's been locked up for a year and a half for daring to envision a world where we can be free. And for that he's had people try to murder him. He's been been imprisoned, he's been tortured and on top of all that pain --"

He isn't actually waiting here for Dramatic Pause, but the effect is still the same as -- first Spencer's picture, large, and then a collage of many more young faces join him on the backdrop behind him. "-- our kid and a number of his friends have gone missing. With the kind of threats we get all the time -- I don't even want to imagine what sick people could be after children because of their political differences with Jax, but. In Spencer's name I've started a fund to help families in times like this, to help bring these kids home. And we're offering a reward --"


4:21 p.m. wreck room E 19, lassiter research facility - ohio.

There's been a buzzing growing -- from the orderlies to the guards, supplanting the previous had-to-work-on-a-holiday grumbling. It's spilling over into the W(rec)k room, now, erupting once the TV switches on to a very familiar celebrity on screen.

"Two hundred fifty grand?" Sriyani is stage whispering across their hand of cards. "What, for each of us, dang." Across the room, one of the other inmates is looking, huge-wide-eyed, from the screen to their table. "Do you think -- they might -- that someone --"

Nanami is watching the current pair of rec room duty guards -- talking to each other in urgent low voices and hastening out of the room. "C'mon," she's tugging Sriyani up as she gets to her feet. "I think things wen get real interesting."


4:37 p.m. library chapel e 12, lassiter research facility - ohio.

Lael has been compulsively head-counting since he got here, but as the last stragglers catch up on the increasingly slap-dash version of their briefing he relaxes. "Thank God for Ryan Black shakin' up that hornet's nest we about to kick. Even if none'a them 'bout to snitch just yet, they sure got a lot more on their minds now." He glances at the Māhoes crowding near Naomi in readiness, then turns to Nahida and solemnly presses the keycard into her hands. "You ready?"

Is Nahida ready? Her expression is bland but her posture is tense, and tenses up further at the crackle-hum wave that rolls through the facility. For some there may be more of a tell than for others -- for her, she's just starting to make it rain keycards, enough for their group and a generous scattered stream for any other stray labrats who might want to take this opportunity to jump ship. "We have to be, no?"


4:37 p.m. lily's office, lassiter research facility - ohio.

In the harsh fluorescent office lighting, Lily was systematically destroying her data with errors and deletions and overwrites of the automatic backups. Isn't anymore -- now Lily furiously scrolling through inmate profiles, comparing them to a list of names pulled up on her dying phone, clicking her watch open, closed, open again and again. "Fuck me," she mutters, going to search for Brendan in her database. In front of her, the phone screen spins, goes black. Lily swears, keeps scrolling -- until her computer, too, goes black and the lights above her go dark.

She clicks the watch closed, sets it down on her desk. Waits. It's not till the halls fill with mobilizing guards, that she can hear the screaming of inmates in the researcher halls, that she gets up, quiet, and slips out into Lassiter.


4:38 p.m. basement hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

Things seem to be going well, by the standards of a prison riot engineered to give this plucky teenaged gang a chance to escape. Maybe. It's unlikely anyone involved in any quarter of this has much basis for comparison. The kids are moving as a body when Nevaeh stops abruptly, causing a minor pileup behind her. "Oh no," she says, "oh no, it's in the shop." She looks up first to Nahida, then at a small delay to Spence, then immediately from him to Gaetan. "The truck we were going to take. It won't be there." She sounds distressed, but not panicked. Yet.

Spence pivots -- doesn't quite stumble, this time -- and the pre-scripted Urgent Encouragement dies on his lips at Nevaeh's update. "Alright," he says, so intensely matter-of-fact that the slight cracking of his voice doesn't sound frightened or ludicrous. "So, we need to get a key to a car that will be there. The shiftfucks will be on lockdown, we can go through their stuff and find a key, one that beeps the car. Or we can try the offices for the van pools and other facility vehicles." He turns to Roscoe. "Do you know where either of those are?"

Is Roscoe looking at Spencer, or through him? He has a faraway kind of gaze and he's holding onto the wall to steady himself as he cranes his neck, but when he shakes his head his gaze is clear and focused again, trained on Spencer. Wider than usual, maybe, but his voice is casual too, even boastful. "I know where everything is," he says. "Where you wanna try first?"

"Both," Spence replies, his voice confident but the set of his mouth grim. "But we don't have time to do one and then the other. Split up by vehicle assignment group, we'll meet up in Lot E." He looks around at his gang. "We can do this."


4:39 p.m. stairwell, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

This is decidedly no longer the escape route Roscoe would recommend; in the half a second it takes him to skid to a stop in the doorway, he is splattered with blood and venom and sparks spraying out from a fight breaking out in the stairwell above. Roscoe makes up his mind quickly -- "Nope, nope" -- and is shoving the group back out the way they came, when --

-- Roscoe is flung aside, and Rainy Ogden slams the door with so much force that it warps, lodging itself securely in the doorframe. He looks very pleased with himself -- "Let's see Spencer fucking Holland get through that," he snarls. Does he even register that Roscoe is here? Maybe not until Roscoe starts rattling the very stuck doorknob, trying frantically to get it back open -- now Rainy rounds on him, shoves him away from the door.

There's a quiet clicking from behind them, sharp-clawed feet hard on the hallway linoleum. Queen Bee's expression is, as ever, difficult to discern, a hard-carapaced mask whose alien sensory apparatus doesn't betray much like regular human emoting. The weight of her consideration settles, nonetheless, heavy and thoughtful on Roscoe. Then Rainy. Then Roscoe again. When she finally does speak it's with just an edge of a sigh bleeding into the words -- but firm all the same, as she rises up, up, up, on her stilted legs, a quiet scraping shift coming from the rearrangement of the armored-hard plating covering her body. "Best get yourself gone, spy-boy. Me and the tin can need to have words."

The door doesn’t stay stuck for long, exploding outwards with chunks of the frame and rocketing down the hall, somehow avoiding the occupants. After a few seconds the cause of the explosion makes himself known, Leonidas stepping in and assessing the situation. The once mountain of muscle seeming to have deflated into a pretty standard looking (but still freakishly tall) teenager.

“Looks like you haven’t learned your lesson. Luckily for you I‘ve a pretty strict schedule.” He stops by Roscoe and Queen Bee, fixing his gaze on the latter, “I warned him. Rip his goddamn head off.”

“Sorry for this Roscoe, but we’ve gotta get while the getting is good.” Without giving the other teen any time to process what he’s about to do he snatches him up, one massive hand cradling the back of his neck before taking off at a full sprint, leaving the carapaced monarch and the metal Goliath to sort things out amongst themselves.

(Amid the crashing of Beau through wall, the clash of metal skin to giant stinger, the shitfuck running down the adjacent hall is easy to miss – even when she sheds her labcoat and her skin begins to gleam.)


4:39 p.m. ground floor hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

Two halls diverged in a shitfuck cube farm, and Spencer has stashed the rest of the group in an abandoned break room while he scouts them both with Gaétan in tow. His focus has been sharp and his demeanor confident even if his steps keep hitching in failed teleportation every time he's startled. He peers out into the quieter of the two paths, and starts frantically waving Gae back as his sharp indrawn breath stops mid-gasp and his feet lift off the ground.

"Spencer Fucking Holland. Not so tough without your faggoty-ass dad, are you?" The Company X contractor has one hand raised dramatically toward the teenager his power is holding aloft. "Or your little freak friends?" Spence might well agree, and point out the merc seems kind of like a freak himself, maybe even throw a Darth Vader reference in there somewhere. He might, that is, if he could breathe. As it is, all he can do is scrabble at the invisible force around his neck.

Gaétan has been peering down the other end of the hall but whirls as the guard's voice joins the rest of the current cacophony. He's racing the short distance back towards Spence, hand outflung like maybe he's planning to reach out, to yank Spencer out of the telekinetic grip. It's not Spencer he yanks, though -- something reaches into the guard and twists, stretching and pushing at what he finds there.

The invisible grip on Spencer's neck fails as the guard's X-Gene warps out of functionality. It's not the only thing in him that is warping -- his skin is mottling black in places as it starts to harden, almost scaley before some of it simply cracks and peels away; there are several oddly-shaped and unseeing eyes starting to sprout along his neck; from his actual eye several protuberances that look like they might aspire to be fingers are starting to reach. When he collapses -- because he does, in quite short order, collapse -- it's misshapen, limbs rubbery and bending in places they really shouldn't.

Gaétan has paled, a little greener around his edges. "I didn't -- I was just --" His mouth snaps shut; for a moment it looks like he is stifling a strong urge to vomit. He does not -- instead just looks at his friend, at Spence's neck still whole and taking in oxygen. When he speaks again it sounds slightly cracked, like he was the one choking: "-- it's the other way."


4:40 p.m. ground floor hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

The chaos in the facility around them is only deepening as more inmates are finding their way out of their cell blocks and more guards scramble to contain them. Recognizing some questionably former Rainy Ogden gang members, Kelawini charges forth in case they need dispatching, by blows or by bluster, but they are already scattering from a swarm of Sentinels now headed unerringly toward them. "Nanami!" Kelawini starts backpedaling but at a glance knows there's no way she'll reach her sister in time. With a cry of "chee-huuuuu!" she plants her feet and hurls her power at the oncoming Sentinels, heedless that however well it's been honed, she still can't reach--

And yet the leading Sentinels are stuttering and crashing to the floor, spidery limbs thrashing, then going still.

"Liddat, robo fakkas!" Even as Kelawini whoops her triumph, the trailing Sentinels are catching up.

"Aue!" Nanami has been pushing through their small pack, racing towards her sister with hand outstretched at that telltale clicking of metal spider-feet, but she stops now, wide-eyed, when the first Sentinels fall. She's looking down at her hands -- then at her sister -- then at the fallen bots. Does the flex of her power reach Kelawini first, or the Sentinels? It's hard to say but she's planting herself in a fighting stance, a faint shiver of sparks crackling between her fingers as she curls them into fists, and even in the chaos a grin is spreading across her face as the trailing Sentinels begin to fall. "Million miles from da aina and Tūtū Pele still got our backs."


4:40 p.m. ground floor hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

The flames flicker and fade but the damage is already done -- ugly burns on Naomi's palms, the hall filled with the smell of burning hair from the ends of her locs, uglier burns on her brother's skin from before she could cry out. In front of the trio of children, the pair of guards are frozen in place, staring at Naomi's inhuman eyes, one with gun raised and finger on the trigger, the other with a fistful of fire that is starting to burn his own hands. Naomi's mind is filled with pain, yes, but louder than that is the fear for her brother's life that is driving her heartbeat, and both are overwhelmed by screeching rage. She wants them gone, and in her mind the how is so clear -- they should turn their weapons on themselves, burn the way they tried to burn her and Lael. "Y'all don't want to hurt us," her power hisses, coiling tight around their minds until they can only do what Naomi puts forth -- "Y'all want to kill yourselves, now."

There is gunfire, a thud as body hits ground, and the acrid smell of burning polyester as flames sprout along the (not actually fireproof) mutant guard's arms and legs.

Lael bites back his scream, but he cannot help crying out, the noise choking off into a sob. His locs--long now, save where they've burned away shielding his face from the flames--are writhing, and his body is curling in on itself, but he's still trying to put himself in front of Naomi and Harm, still mostly keeping his pain out of their minds. << Nae-- >> cuts off into an incoherent explosion of agony as the pyrokinetic guard immolates himself and whatever rudimentary psychic barriers he'd mastered in this time here collapse as he's about to collapse.

Despite largely escaping the flames by virtue of cowering behind their girlfriend, Harm does scream. Maybe it's from the second-hand pain where they're clutching Naomi's arm, maybe it's horror at the death of the guards or just the entire situation generally. Despite whatever it is, they grit their teeth and grab hold of Lael's arm, too. There's no wave of soothing comfort, but the Winterses' burns abruptly hurt a lot less, new skin miraculously starting to mend beneath charred dead flesh. Lael can feel the searing agony that Harm's power is inflicting on them in turn and the nausea roiling inside them, but they don't let go, only lean harder on Naomi, their face gone pale. "We have to go, we..." They swallow hard and try again, faintly, "I'll be alright but we have to keep going."


4:41 p.m. ground floor hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

"-- no shit this ain't the right hall, where the hell is the exit sign I know we saw an exit sign --" Naomi's voice is growing hoarse from yelling down hallway after hallway, the green light fading from her eyes as she tries to orient herself, wincing as tender new skin drags along a wall. She drops back to Echo's side to ask, haggard, panicked, "Are we even close?"

Has Echo's myopia hindered their progress? The beginnings of swelling on her cheek and eye, the ugly gash on her thigh surely show it can't have helped, but right now, where every corridor is made of the same cold lines, she's not even looking. This Working Group is suddenly accompanied by the turns she muttered on the way in, unspooling in reverse as she determinedly turns left where they hear right -- and now it's Harm's voice, three nights old, helping her burn whatever Roscoe knows of these halls into memory -- and now it's Roscoe himself, and this part, all of them should recognize --

It's with a backwards jerk of fear that Echo registers people around the next turn, but she doesn't need to see much to see Beau's figure, there, and to jerk her thumb behind toward their jangling prize in Nahida's hands even as she slumps, spent, against the wall.


4:41 p.m. front exit hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

"Die, die, die --" These are not sturdy enough shoes, and Roscoe is not a sturdy enough teenager, to stamp out a Sentinel, though he still manages to do some damage to the first brave bot to reach him. It's only the first bot in its swarm; even as it staggers away, spitting sparks, it is overtaken by a dozen more, and Roscoe, stumbling into the wall, looks from the assembled bots up to the guards hot on their tail with wide-eyed panic. Did he have a card key, at some point, clutched in his sweaty hand? He doesn't remember dropping it, but it's no longer there -- his hand, at his side, keeps opening and closing on nothing.

Even so he shoves himself back around to the (empty?) hallway ahead of him, stumbling-running toward the closed door at the end.

There might as well be nobody in the hallway -- or nobody in the hallway but another bot scrambling at Evidently Nothing against the wall. It's only when Kavalam yelps, "Roscoe," when he shoves a rolling stool escaped from Some Office at the spidery robot trying to claw at him. "Please do not get yourself -- where are you I'm here." In contrast to his usual non-presence, right now he's compelling, commanding, drawing Roscoe's attention intently --

-- But, with it, that of the pair of guards who had been trailing the bots, as well. One of the guards is just taking aim, rifle hefted, when he notices the pair of youths in the hallway; the other is dropping his arm to his side like he's about to draw a blade. Instead when he lifts his arm again it's sprouted several sharp and jagged shards of bone slicing out through his skin. With a sharp flick of motion he sends one flying for Roscoe.

"No, Roscoe --" Kavalam's protest is cut off by a short burst-round of bullets. There are holes chipped and sprayed into the wall where he was just standing, but there does not, any longer, seem to be a Kavalam there. Not to human senses, at least, though a Sentinel is still clawing its way toward -- nobody.

Seems like all hell really has broken loose when even Joshua's cage has been opened. He's been dragging himself towards the exit, hand pressed hard against the wall to steady him now as he goes. The sound of familiar voices stops him in his tracks, and first he's lifting his head -- slow, heavy, to fix heavy-lidded eyes on the exit sign. He turns back against the wall with a sag, a lean -- but when he pushes away from it there are thick bone-daggers of his own sprouting bloody out of one forearm. He flings two at the body of the Sentinel menacing Apparently Nobody before his hand -- bloodied handprint, now -- returns to steadying him against the wall.

"Hey." It's his voice that's commanding, now, hoarse-low and gruff as it is. He doesn't shout. Just presses his fingertips back harder against the wall. His eyes lift once more -- towards the distant exit sign -- then drop to Roscoe. Then to the guards, who are fixating on him sharp and intent as they re-arm. Re-aim, the rest of the sounds of alarms and stamping footsteps and distant screams melting away as the chaos is replaced instead with just this tunnel-vision pull of the guards to the metamutant. His teeth bare as a second set of knives slices wet and painful from his arm. "-- Come at me, bro."


4:41 p.m. front exit hallway, e wing, lassiter research facility - ohio.

He is many things, but Joshua isn't bulletproof, isn't bone-blade proof, certainly isn't multiple-guard-proof. The battle here is almost over, it seems, these mercs almost gleeful to be executing The One and Only Joshua Salinas. The mutant of this pair has grown a huge spike out of his arm that remains attached, now, all the better to stab downwards --

-- into the grip of a metal hand that was not there before, shiny and chrome and snapping the barbed edge of the bone off with little effort. Was Dr. Lily Allred always a seven-foot tall metal goliath? Her staff badge and keycard are still swinging from a lanyard around her neck, at odds with how she is shoving the guards to the floor, crushing the discarded gun beneath a heavy steel foot. Kicks them both, hard, in the ribs for good measure. "Come on," Lily turns back to Joshua, one gleaming hand extended. "Let's go the fuck home."

The battle may have gone better for Joshua had he not spent the first bloody-flurried moments of it largely ignoring the guards that he's just called to himself like a beacon and, instead, flinging the sharp-bone-spears towards the Sentinels that had been harrying Roscoe. By the time his attention had turned to the mercs closing in on him -- well. Lily's save comes just in time; there's only so much more perforation he could take. The hand that reaches up to clasp her metal one is intact, at least, if slick with blood. and somewhere through the pain Joshua summons up a small sliver of smile, already eying the exit as he gets to his feet. "Take it the undercover portion of this vacation is --"

His breath hitches -- and it's not the pain, intense though that must be; it's not the sudden subtle-hum presence of the suppression grid snapping back down around them, either, strongly though he must feel it. It's the telltale metal skittering from where the pile of mangled Sentinels has partially reassembled themselves -- enough that two new spiders, bigger than the originals and pieced together from spare parts of their broken comrades -- are clattering their way. As strong metal legs clamp themselves shackle-like around their ankles his eyes close, hand tightening for just a moment in Lily's before he lets go.


4:44 pm. parking lot e, lassiter research facility - ohio.

Behind them, alarms are still blaring, loud. The violence and chaos that has erupted throughout the facility hasn't seemed to spill over out here, but even with the apparent lack of pursuing guards, Nahida is wide-eyed, stressed, not quite panicking but certainly not quite together, either, as the group raced the seemingly interminable distance to the parking lot. As the others do a headcount -- and, astonishingly, come up with all the group accounted for -- she's pressing the locks on the fob she holds in desperate hope. When one of the trucks obligingly beeps, she's beelining straight for it, handing a key to everyone in the group just to be on the safe side before she presses her hand to its side. One breath. Two breaths. Three breaths, and then -- bumper-to-bumper, close enough that the owner will probably be mad at the dinged paint, there's a second ghastly giant red Ford truck cozied right beside the first. Nahida is slumping, exhausted, against the side of the truck she was just copying, but struggles back upright with a wan smile. "I guess this is --"

It's the last thing she says before, suddenly, the parking lot vanishes from around them.


outside of time. dimension of misfit toys.

The klaxon-alarms are gone, the high fences are gone, the outposts with their guards are gone, gone, gone. Unfortunately, their ride is gone, too, parking lot vanished around them to leave a wide open field filled instead with a very baffling assortment of junk. Nearby a chalkboard sign is offering cheerful greeting, but just right now Sriyani is frozen -- one hand reaching to steady Nahida by the elbow and the other hand reaching for where the truck door should have been, had the truck not just vanished in front of their eyes. When their hand closes on nothing they look up, look around -- look around again, increasingly incredulous before throwing an arm up towards the bright sky overhead. "Oh, come on."


4:44 pm. parking lot e, lassiter research facility - ohio.

Behind him, alarms are still blaring, loud. In the parking lot here, though, it's just him -- a little wide-eyed and a lot alone. Kavalam stares at the empty spaces where his classmates had just been. He stares at the two identical trucks in front of him. When he stares down at the car key left in his hand, his shoulders sink. For a very long time he does not move. His fingers clench tight on the key. Maybe he's counting. Maybe he's just waiting.

Has it been thirty seconds or thirty minutes, when the sound of voices -- guards, intense in their conversation, hustling out from their perimeter station -- breaks through his frozen spell? He wipes tears from his eyes with a hard scrub of knuckles, looks for a moment more in very uncertain contemplation between the two vehicles, and finally picks one to climb into. He only lets his breath back out when the guards pass it by without a glance.

It takes him a while to adjust the mirrors, the seating, to his own height. He checks the parking lot one last time -- just in case -- and this time when there's still nobody there, his jaw sets resolutely. When he turns the key the giant truck blares to life, the radio is on and playing loud; it startles a sharp bark of a laugh out of him before he pulls out of the parking space. Despite himself, by the time he's turning onto the long road out, he's humming quietly along with the tune. Let freedom ring / Let the white dove sing --"