Event Den of Rats

It felt like the operation, and the house, was falling apart around them. From the sound of it, via Molt over comms, one of the bombs had gotten away, and from the sound of explosions, it seemed like the rest of them were going off inside. Rowan was still moving towards the staircase, hoping to hit their target just as the gas was kicking in, a scowl permanently etched on her face. Why had they sent Miasma with them? She wasn't ready for this yet, she still needed time, and clearly it had thrown Hannah off her game, otherwise the bomb would still be-

She froze, as the man demanded. She hadn't heard him, hadn't seen him- between the explosions, the lack of power, the shaking of the building, it was understandable, but she was supposed to be better than this. She didn't even have time to raise her gun, stuck with it held out in front of her, staring down the barrel of a rifle. She couldn't get Gaz to help, he was currently stuck in the vents. Miasma and Hannah were too far away. Rowan pulled in a breath, preparing to speak, but he warded that off, too, as his finger twitched dangerously on the trigger.

Her heartbeat was thumping in her ears, louder by the moment. She felt a shiver run down her spine, and couldn't do anything but anticipate the gunshot. Just as she felt it was coming, she gathered her resolve, and decided to go down fighting. As her handgun came up, her heartbeat came through the wall, grabbing the militiaman by the throat, sending him into the ceiling, leaving him a broken mess on the ground. Rowan, understandably, was frozen, in shock and relief, for a moment as Cannonade fully revealed himself, stepping through the wall as if it were a curtain.

"F-fuck... thank you," she said to the suit of armor, finally letting the held breath free. She readjusted her mask, and began towards the stairs once more, adrenaline still surging. Songbird cleared her throat as she made it to the base of the stairwell, then reported in for herself. "Gas is progressing. Moving up to secure the target."

Yeah I’m not — I’m good. The napalm just —” Miasma shut her mouth at the sound of the bike approaching. Miasma gave a nod as Molt slid onto the back of the bike, swallowing a question about Molt’s arm as the woman directed her to meet up with the others. Right, she could do that.

Right, got it.” Miasma said. “Good luck” she added with a wince she managed to hold off until after she had turned away. She slid back into the smoke of the vehicle bay, half hunched and moving at a jog as she gave her gas mask a check to ensure it was still attached properly. It was a quick sprint to the building, and the warming prickle of the fire that peeled the paint from the walls as it sank into the material beneath. Miasma would have winced at that too if she weren’t keeping an eye on the windows above for the movement of a rifleman with more hate than sense.

Wisps of flame flickered in the air around her as vapor ignited and Miasma brought her hand back to her earpiece. “Miasma, entering through the west side.” She said, coming to a stop at a door well on its way to being consumed by the flames. Ayla lifted her leg and kicked hard just under the door’s handle, hoping the weakened wood would give way.

UPON THE BIKE, Molt would be greeted with the blank stare from Iris at her idle threat.

"If you fall off the bike, I'm letting you ride the pavement," He stated simply, racking the slide on his pistol and checking the chamber in one flourish before handing it to her. "Bomb's too important. Or maybe I just don't like you. Hook your injured arm into my rucksack. Now." He stated plainly, a slight southern drawl evident as he revved the bike and accelerated-- the jolt sending Molt sliding back on the seat somewhat as they gave chase. There was the screech of tires as they met pavement, pulling onto the road and following in the dusted aftermath of the route their target had taken. The sharpshooter's shemagh fluttered against his neck as he leaned forward.


Be advised, target is en-route to freeway. Broke through police barricade.

Sure enough-- rounding a bend nearly ten seconds later, the distant flash of lights was visible. The bike rushed past the police barricade, the smashed fronts of the police cars evidence enough; Iris deftly avoided the spike strips upon the ground, a sharp lean nearly throwing Molt from the bike as the wind bit at her face and hair. They weren't far, now-- if anything, they were gaining, the lone tail-light on the Toyota pickup visible as it turned onto the freeway on-ramp with the distant screech of tires that was lost to the roar of wind in their ears.


Another rev of the bike denoted a change in gear, and the bike sped forward at breakneck speeds onto the freeway proper. The Toyota pickup was already butting cars off of the road; even at this time of night, there were a few scarce cars on the highway. Iris weaved between vehicles as the Toyota pickup moved into the breakdown lane of the leftmost side of the highway, halfway over the rumble strip as a slam into the side of a car sent a sedan into a fishtail-- leaving Iris to give a sharp lean to the right, narrowly avoiding slamming into the back of the car. The impact slowed the truck enough for them to gain headway-- and soon enough, the pair would pull up alongside the truck, with Molt getting a clear look inside the cabin.

Sure enough, their target. Gerald. What was most pressing, however, was the submachine gun pointed at the window-- and the torrent of bullets that sought to tear into both Iris and Molt.

THE COMPOUND, meanwhile, was tame by comparison. Allowing for everyone to link up in the aftermath of the gas attack-- the morse code signalling confirmed with a small reciprocated answer by Cannonade-- the armored Juror took point up the stairs, looking back to Miasma, Songbird, and Elixir as they ascended. UNSURE WHAT THE SECOND LEVEL WILL LOOK LIKE WHEN WE GET UP THERE; WORKSHOP SHOULD BE DIRECTLY THROUGH THE STAIRWELL DOOR. KEEP BEHIND ME UNTIL I GIVE AN ALL-CLEAR.

He was bulletproof, after all. As they pushed through the stairway, however, it appeared that their work was cut out for them.

The place was still. Bodies lay on the ground, either fully incapacitated or approaching it; smoke lay at eye level, rising up to the ceiling as flames consumed the outer portion of the building and began to spread to the interior. About half of the room lay consumed in flames, with the other half untouched-- and in this portion, the Jurors were in luck.

Sitting at the far corner of the room, next to a workshop table laden with tools, was a device roughly three feet tall-- cylindrical, with a rectangular latticework of steel about it. Strapped along the outer edge of the cylinder were evenly-spaced plastic explosives, each wired to a central transmission device at the top of the cage.

Cannonade was silent as he approached; a moment later, his suit hissed, only for its front face to open. Clad in a black jumpsuit, an older man stepped out, greying hair tied back in a bun as he looked over the device. Though his eyes were obscured by goggles, his expression was suitably grim.

"It is active." He muttered, looking to the table. "Interior core of... ammonium nitrate fertilizer, most likely, with enough plastic explosives to level this place already. There's-- I need time to defuse this. We can't just lift this out." He spared a glance to the growing fire across the room, then looked back to the group of three. "Guard the stairwell while I handle this-- I-- nnh." He moved back to the suit, seeming to rummage about it before procuring what appeared to be a multi-tool from a side compartment.

Even above the crackle of fire, the sound of an approaching engine-- and clamoring yells-- was audible. Reinforcements. And judging by the sound of it, at least a car's worth-- or maybe more.

"BUY ME TIME." Cannonade yelled from across the room. "IF THIS DETONATES, WE'RE ALL DEAD ANYWAYS."
Molt bit the edge of the rucksack and pulled it back, shoving her arm inside. It hurt. A lot. She was used to that, but it didn't mean she had to like it. Still, better to get it hard wedged for stability than to have the muscles go out on her when trying to use it the normal way. As the bike took off, she leaned in - lowering down before Iris even told her to once they came in view of the truck.

Do not hit the pickup bed.

"I wasn't fucking planning on it," she replied to him through gritted teeth, bracing her elbow against his back as she leveled her gun. They moved in - closer - closer - closer, swerving hard enough that her hurt arm twisted in its hold. A whimper slipped through her teeth.

"Fucking. Almost."

The window came into view. The barrel of an SMG poking through.

"SHIT!" Molt shouted, ducking down hard, firing off two shots into the cabin. That was all she could manage before her gun slipped through her fingers, toppling onto the highway and disappearing in a skittering crack behind them. It took her a second to realize she'd dropped it because two of her fingers were now bloody stumps. Even worse, they were now falling back slightly, safer from the gunfire, but almost out of view of Gerard.

Hissing, hand shaking and slick, she thrust it into her bag, forcing her remaining fingers to wrap around the cannister inside.

Chuck it in the ground, shoot when they stop twitching.

"Keep us fucking steady. Steady -"

She fucking hoped whatever set it off couldn't tell the difference between the ground and the dashboard of a truck. Twisting her arm back, she chucked it as hard as she could into the open window.
It worked.

Gaz wasn't surprised by this. He knew exactly what he had released- chose it specifically for its effectiveness, since the shit was strong enough to knock him out the first time he took it. But crawling out of the vents and stepping over the bodies was a sequence that gave him pause. Maybe it was the fact that he wasn't surprised that did it. That familiarity should've set him on edge- or, at the very least, made him stop and think.

The others had gathered in the stairwell, watching as their escort unveiled the bomb. Tempted as he was to volunteer himself for material disposal, Gaz decided to hold his tongue. There were more important things to say.

"Don't worry, Ayla." He said, "I just put them to sleep, 's all."

Best not remind her about the fire. Burning people to death in their sleep doesn't strike me as a Cloak-worthy tactic.

So, this was it, then. Life or death- clear out this lot, or die in an (admittedly somewhat deserved) explosion. His brain was working overtime, eyes scanning the stairwell- its dimensions, exit points, convenient lack of ventilation unless they held the doors back. There were a lot of places for things to get trapped. As handy as it would be for these dipshits to cram themselves in a lift for him, a space like this was definitely something he could work with- he'd just have to find a way to push them close together.

He tapped his hand against his leg and will, with the pace and suspicion of someone who you could reasonably assume had a fucking bomb himself. He looked down the stairwell, at the route they'd take. Then up at his companions. He opened his mouth to speak (unseen), closed it, then finally seemed to decide on something.

When he spoke, he was still, and-

"Ayl- Miasma, could you saturate each of the doors for me? Leave us a little space to get out--we'd need an exit route if we don't all blow up--but it's gotta be enough to scare them when it lights up. Can you do that?"

-it was fucking weird. He spoke with the urgency of a stressed middle-manager; like this was paperwork he was sending to the shredder, and not people he was trying to murder. It was the type of tone that could easily be patronising. Perhaps it was- but that certainly wasn't his intention. He sighed; a thin, hissing sound, not quite human enough. Then, he turned to Rowan.

"Not sure how many of them carry gas masks, but let's plan for the worst. I want them off, yeah?"

Though none of his expression could be seen through the mask, there was a certain tight smile that could easily be projected onto him- ingenuine, one would assume. One would hope.

"My initial thoughts are to drive 'em up here, block off the doors, make sure they're unprotected. Then, all we have to do is hold them off for long enough for the gas to kick in, then they'll.. all... actually, did anyone pass by-"

Put this in comms.

He pressed the earpiece.

"Did anyone pass by Gerald? Is he likely to be in the convoy?"

He turned the mic off.

And he stopped. Somewhat bewildered.

"Rowan, can I talk to you a sec?" He muttered, "If we- if we are doing this, I need you to make a call on something. Can't do it myself."

He glanced over to Ayla, then back to Rowan.

"You'll know why."
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Ah, right they were just asleep, that was nice, that just meant that either the smoke or fire would get them first! Wonderful. It was probably better not to think about it, as she would much rather not explode, as she really didn’t fancy her chances at being able to survive that. The room here was thankfully only half on fire, which seemed to be about as good as her luck was going to get to be today. Would have been nice if they could have arrived in time to tear down the curtains, but it would have also been nice if there hadn’t been napalm so there wasn’t much point in thinking about it.

Instead of thinking much more about it, Miasma gave Gaz— Elixir a nod. She turned away as he moved to speak to Songbird, but a different thought caught her. This room was going to fully be consumed, one way or another, but they only needed time for the bomb.

Elixir, uh, can you make foam or carbon dioxide? Anything to slow the spread in this room.” She tossed it out over her shoulder as she hurried off to the door they had entered through. The outside wall she gave a spray, before doing the same to the outside of the door before she swung it closed.

Could they have Cannonade blow out the floor when it was time to make their escape? Though, that seemed like a bridge to be crossed once they didn’t all explode or get shot. Ayla moved to the next door, giving it a heavier spray so they could hopefully cut off the approach if need be.
The fire had only gotten worse in the time it took them to make it up the stairs, but at least Gaz's gas had worked. Everyone in the building who hadn't been wearing a mask was out cold, people and weapons now strewn about haphazardly. Of course, it couldn't be that easy. Nothing ever was, with this many moving parts. Either in incredible foresight, or by a stroke of luck, the freaks had left one of their bombs sitting in the center of their workshop, and according to Cannonade, it was live. If he hadn't been here, odds were they wouldn't have made it out.

Lucky break.

While he looked the improvised device over, Rowan took a moment to scan the room. Fuck. Fucking- "Gerald's not here. Unless he was hiding out away from the rest of his crew, he's gone. Has anyone seen him?" Of course. She'd fucked up with the drug deal- no, that wasn't her. That was the vigilante, goddamn Blood Pact- and lost some of them, including Hernandez. Now, the building was on fire, there were two bombs, one in a truck headed towards a populated area, and her target got away again.

Maybe she wasn't cut out for this.

No time to dwell. Engines outside. Gaz jumped to it, and given his lack of field work to this point, she was genuinely surprised at how solid it seemed. She didn't agree with adding more fuel to the fire, but if it came down to it, it was a better chance at survival than letting terrorists get to her, or letting a bomb go off. "So long as they can hear me, I'll get it done. Hopefully they won't be wearing masks, though. Don't know how any of them would've gotten word out."

Then Gaz gave her a look, and asked a question that gave Rowan pause. She too took a look at Ayla. The panic was setting in. This was out of control, and she was young. Maybe- fuck, she should've checked in. First thing after. She nodded, shutting her own mic off as she stepped over. "What do you need? Be quick, not much time."


THE PICK UP TRUCK was gaining distance. Shots to the bike erupted smoke from the engine; a sputtering crack made Iris cuss under his breath.


Admittedly, there was a second of momentary confusion as Iris-- and Gerald, from his perch within the driver's seat-- saw a canister fly in through the window instead of a retaliatory hellfire. The eruption of gas was instantaneous; its paralytic effects, less so, the truck roaring ahead a few feet as Gerald stomped on the gas pedal. Iris-- seemingly understanding Molt's strategy, and accounting for it accordingly-- eased off of the gas, watching as the truck gained a few hundred feet of distance. Colorless smoke wafted from the windows in wisps, for a few moments, and it seemed like nothing had happened.

Until the car began to drift to the side.

The truck jerked left-- and then veered into the guardrail. With a deafening crack of warped chassis and shattering glass, the Toyota rebounded off of the metal and was thrown into a fishtail, skidding perpendicular to the road itself and cutting across two lanes of traffic before its wheels caught on the pavement and flipped it into a barrel-roll.


Debris was whipped from the midair chassis as it whirled upon itself, slamming down onto the pavement with every few rotations to either speed up or slow down its angular velocity; Iris immediately hit the brakes on the bike, jolting the pair forward as the back of the bike lifted up into a controlled stoppie. The front of the bike wavered, for a moment, as the operative nearly lost control-- before he promptly leaned back and slammed the rear tire down upon the ground, leaving them to skid for a few more seconds until the bike fell backwards into a slide along the pavement. Molt and Iris were thrown along the ground, rolling for a few more feet as the truck continued to spiral-- thrown from the road itself off of the highway proper, and slammed into a batch of trees along the road at over 80 miles per hour.

Iris quickly threw himself overtop Molt, covering her body as a shield with a grunt.

The resulting catastrophe was a simple result of physics.


The bomb-- whether through an ignition of the fertilizer core via an explosion of the truck's gas tank, engine block, or otherwise-- detonated. Both Iris and Molt would be able to feel the explosion-- the blistering heat, first, followed by the resultant shockwave that cast shrapnel hundreds of feet around the epicenter and into the air. Even with Iris atop Molt, she would feel the stabbing pain of thrown rocks and splintered wood along her uncovered leg; the momentary deafness and pounding of a shockwave-battered skull, too, was unable to be avoided. For a few moments, the world was cast into an uncertainty of sight and sound-- just the darkness of being covered by a meat-shield and the overwhelming whine burst eardrums. The rush of blood in the skull. The overwhelming ache.

Slowly, Iris withdrew from Molt, and the destruction would reveal itself as he slumped onto his back, motionless. The forest the truck had been thrown into was no longer a forest, but a crater-- felled trees and dredged rocks littering the scorched radius around the explosion. It was a miracle the highway had been largely abandoned; no cars had been hit, and any vehicles that had been on the highway were promptly pulled aside and completely still, with shattered glass littering the hoods of the closer ones.

One bomb had been neutralized. Unconventionally, and with the... near-certain loss of Gerald Davis, but neutralized nonetheless.

THE WORKSHOP CREW would have been able to hear the explosion-- distant, but present nonetheless, a clarion thundercrack that rose above the crackle of approaching flames. Easy to lose amongst the current clamor, but audible nonetheless, to anyone perceptive enough to take note. Cannonade didn't seem to react-- too busy with defusing the remaining bomb, it seemed.

Everyone had bigger things to worry about here, anyways.

"COME OUT, YOU MUTANT FUCKS!" Came a scream from outside-- gunfire peppering the western wall, where the fire had already consumed. Nobody was at risk of getting hit, but the staccato pop of gunfire was startling enough. "OR WE'LL SMOKE YOU OUT LIKE FUCKING RATS AND SHOOT YOUR FLAMING FUCKING CORPSES!"

Trudging footsteps below. The sound of a door being slammed open; more gunfire. This time, from below-- bullets tearing through the plaster and hardwood beneath their feet and striking the ceiling above as a gunman shot upwards from the first floor. They were in the stairwell, too-- more than one, judging by the sound of multiple footsteps.

"Carbon dioxide? Easy. Foam? Less so." Gaz nodded, "It's probably best I only smother the flames when absolutely necessary. Your masks are filters; they're not going to protect you from asphyxiation if we run out of oxygen. That's another thing to consider."

I'll be fine, though. I can just keep cycling what I've got- right up until that fucking bomb goes off.

Giving a last nod to Ayla, he stepped back, taking Rowan aside to talk to her.

"Got a choice 'ere, Songbird."

His voice was quiet and calm; oddly bereft of the urgency of before, as strange as it sounded at the time.

"Now, I could knock them out again. There's enough in me for another round of that sedative, easy- more, if we need it. Alternatively..."

A quick glance over to Ayla to make sure she wasn't listening, then back to Rowan to make sure she was. He breathed in, sharp and hissing, almost composing himself before he spoke as if he wasn't perfectly level before.

"Got a nerve agent I've been carrying for a while. Paralyses in thirty seconds, kills in ninety; if we can get those masks off, we'll be done in less than a minute."

He lowered his voice again.

"But it's inhumane. Horrific. A real, old-fashioned war crime. I'd hate to do it in front of you, let alone Ayla- and, come on, it's not like I can be the one to make the fucking call on this, is it?"

An explosion sounded off in the distance. Shouting. Bullets.

"I've got my preference, certainly- but, 's best I act on yours."

With that, Gaz stepped back, ready to disengage from the conversation at her response, to return to his position on the stairs and begin preparations; whatever those preparations may be.
Right. Of course. She should have known, or at least suspected. The bottom half of Rowan's face was covered, concealed and protected by the mask she'd been wearing since before this operation started, but her eyes told him well enough what she was thinking. This decision hurt. She'd been prepared to shoot, ready to kill if necessary, but- these people had bombs. They'd wanted to kill as many as they could, just to get eyes on them so that they could say that she, and everyone like her, was bad. Evil. Wrong. But for some reason, she found it didn't make the choice any easier. "I..."

The shouting started downstairs, and bullets tore through the floor. Thankfully, it didn't seem any of them were hit, but it interrupted her train of thought. It was getting hot in here. She was sweating, the room was on fire. There was a bomb in the middle, and if it went off, she was dust. Somehow, all of that didn't have priority in her mind. The floor shook, between the destruction in of the building and the detonation down the road. Christ, she hoped Hannah was okay.

Just don't be dead, please.

A paralytic would take too much time. They didn't have time, anymore.

I promise I won't die, either.

"Do it."

She cracked the door leading to the stairwell. Across comms, she spoke to the rest of her team. "Cover up, block me out. Don't need any of you doing this, too."

Then, she shouted through the gap in the door, down the hallway, trying to project her voice over the roar of the fire.

"Stop shooting! Masks off! Identify yourselves, or we're gunning you down! "
'Everything happened at once.'

It's a stupid trope, cause most of the time, everything doesn't actually happen at once, right? Things lead into things lead into things, and even when there's a bunch of different disparate shit happening at the same time, they don't all synchronize their watches to say hey, lets fuck everything up at this exact moment.

Well - stupid or not, that's what it feels like. Brain takes too long to process. Yeah, everything doesn't go to shit at the exact same time, but when you can't react to anything, it really fucking seems like it does.

The cannister went off. The truck veered. It flipped. The bike shuddered. They weren't on the bike. The truck flipped again. The ground was flying past. They were on the ground. The truck flipped again.

It exploded. Light, then heat, then sound, then pain.

All at once. At least, to Molt.

By the time the serial enfuckenning of her day had finally reached its climax, some level of consciousness seemed to jam its way back into her skull. Iris had been on top of her. He was now beside her. She'd told him if he did that, she'd hit him, but all she could muster up now was a feeble jab of her foot into his leg.

"Ow. Fucking - ow."

She couldn't hear herself talking over the ringing in her ears.

Did that grow back? She fucking hoped so.

Slowly, she sat up, surveying the damage. Truck, down. Bomb, detonated. A cursory glance didn't show anyone hurt in the explosion, except, well, the fuckhead-in-chief who'd been behind the wheel. Grinning almost wildly, she reached up for her earpiece, fumbling for a second when her bloody nubs missed the button.

"Molt reporting. We got the fucking bomb, assholes. I'm gonna take a nap."

Without even bothering to sign off, she slumped backwards onto the asphalt, unconscious.
There weren’t a lot of options currently open to her that weren’t just burning this place down, which at this point seemed more like she’d just be speeding up the timetable rather than adding anything new. Still, she had the traps set as Gaz had asked, so now she just needed to—

There was a distant fwump[/b] that rocked through the building and made Ayla pause in place. This was followed by the crack of gunfire and the feeling of splinters spraying against her legs. A bullet cut a wispy trail of fire through the air as it zipped past and embedded itself into the ceiling. The girl looked quickly to the others, checking that none of them seemed to be down before she slid her pistol from its holster. She flicked the safety with her thumb, and took a careful step backwards, away from the door and watching for any shadows on the other side.

So long as they didn’t need to ignite the staircase Rowan was covering, then they could make an escape that was.

THE COMPOUND was quickly consumed by flames. Rowan's glance through the doorway was met with another hailstorm of gunfire from the stairwell-- bullets crackling by her hair and head. The staccato, deafening roar of gunfire, however, could not neutralize the sound of her voice-- nor would it prevent it from reaching most, if not all, of the gunmen that'd began their steady advancement towards the second floor. There was a brief pause as the gunfire died down-- and then a few moments further of silence.


And so, the plan was executed. With Songbird forcefully removing their masks with the power of her suggestion, Elixir leaking a steady amount of paralytic toxin into the stairwell and workshop proper, and Miasma coating the doorway to the stairwell in propellant, their trap was laid bare-- with an addendum, as Cannonade quickly stood from his place beside the bomb and retreated into his powersuit. With the group having retreated to the far end of the room-- there was no reason to linger around the area where the Natural Sons would be entering from, and the fire was growing closer and closer still with every moment-- they were finally able to lay eyes upon the bomb; even up-close, it was unclear as to whether or not the bomb had even been defused... until Cannonade finally spoke up.

CAN'T DEFUSE AND GUARD MYSELF FROM THE PARALYTIC. Notably, he didn't have a rebreather outside of the IDX's onboard filtration system-- and he didn't have a means of possessing the dexterity to defuse a bomb when fully armored. ... WE NEED TO LEAVE. NOW.

As if on cue, the frontmost group of the Natural Sons burst through the entryway-- kicking open the door, guns raised. However, with the earlier directive still within their mind... triggers were unclenched, and their hands nearly shook as gut instinct became embattled with the overwhelming neural block from Rowan's command.

"What the fuck are we... waiting for?" Somebody muttered in the back. All guns were trained on the group; not a single bullet was fired. The foremost member of the group-- a bald-headed man with a beard that was partially obscured by a lowered gas-mask, and a series of tattoos along the brow-line-- had a trickle of blood leak from his nose.

"I..." He muttered-- looking down at his arms. Bewildered. "You-- fucking--"

The doorway finally lit up. Fire enveloped the stairwell's entryway-- and quickly spread to one unlucky gunman who'd been lingering in the doorway itself, fire leaping onto his outfit as he quickly attempted to stamp it out. Predictably, panic ensued-- and in the clamor, Cannonade turned entirely around, and broke out into a thundering run.

JUMP TO THE GROUND AND RUN. AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Was all he offered as he slammed through the workshop's far wall-- collapsing a bit of the floor and roof, and landing onto the ground with another echoing THUD of groaning mechanical weight.

The hole was partially collapsed into the first floor, provoking an impromptu ramp to navigate down to the ground-- the Daggers would have the ability to forego the ramp in exchange for simply jumping and rolling once they hit the grass. Whatever the case, a few of the Natural Sons gave chase-- only to collapse midway down the ramp, the paralytic finally setting in as nervous systems failed and muscles gave out with quiet terror.

All while the fire spread. Bit by bit. As footsteps clapped along the dirt, as seconds passed by with the frantic rhythm of a heartbeat in the ears.

And, finally, the fire reached the final bomb.


The shockwave was felt first-- along with the flash of heat. Shrapnel, of course, followed-- but with their head-start, there was only the soft pelting of rock and dust in the air as the law firm's building suddenly wasn't. The second of two catastrophic explosions in one night-- and only the plume of fire and smoke in the air to mark the horrific devastation that'd occurred. The first few moments were always the most frenetic; the ringing in the ears, the painful pop of nearly-burst eardrums. The distant explosion that seemed far, far closer than it had any right to be. And then, of course, the silence; the deafening quiet undercut by the soft ringing of the ears, and the roiling crackle of a distant fire.

SECOND BOMB'S BEEN LOST. Cannonade spoke, inevitably. Voice quiet. Solemn. Their adversaries-- and their available leads-- now, quite literally, up in smoke.



Pyrrhic victory.