|Location||Abandoned Water Works Facility|
|NPCs||Ellie, Echo, Dryad, Mr. Mime, Charger|
|Summary||FLASHBACK: 2036, X-Force confronts a mutant girl using her abilities to control other mutants. She escapes custody.|
In 1677 the first public well was established in New York City. In 1890, the city's first aqueduct was put into service. It impounded water from the Croton River in what is now Westchester County. Not until 1904 did the city develop the Catskill aqueduct as an additional water source. The Delaware aqueduct was not put into service until the 1950's.
New York City's water supply system is one of the most extensive municipal water systems in the world. Water is impounded in three upstate systems which include 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes with a total storage capacity of approximately 580 billion gallons. It is consolidated to supply the Boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
In the early 2000's, one such water works facility located just off of the Hudson was made obsolete. Upkeep of the small reservoir fell victim to various slashes in the city's budgetary restrictions and although its lovely historical architecture made it the prospective location for many a museum, it was inevitably left to fall into disrepair. For nearly thirty years, nature worked to take back the little landmark. Although disconnected from the water supply system, it appears that someone has been gradually working to return some of the building's functionality as a shelter.
A few decades worth of flooding has been pumped back out of the structure and into the surrounding land, making the approach a muddy one. A black SUV and a beat up yellow cab are parked haphazardly at the very edge of the swampy terrain. Both vehicles sport Manhattan plates. Tracks of up to four individuals of various sizes can be easily spotted and traced up towards the building.
The off-white facility modeled after a would-be Parthenon opens into a massive, dank-smelling hall with double-doors towards the back that lead off to smaller apartments, presumably for offices and spaces for personnel. The hall itself is filled with giant emptied out water tanks and crumbling pumps. A pair of industrial-sized shopvacs connected to thick hoses hum loudly as they bring water up from the building's lower level into the surrounding woodland.
Weeks of thorough investigation have brought X-Force here, in search of a single girl believed to be at the center of a spree of mutant-propagated violence.
Ciel Kane is twenty-two, but far from a fresh-faced rookie. Even at this tender age, she's got four years of experience under her belt, and she moves with a confidence that borders on cocky. The team steps through a portals from some distance away, allowing their approach and placement to be all but silent (not that it matters much, given those shopvacs). Ciel herself hovers in the distance, watching and ready as they spill out to flank the doors, having already cleared the vehicles with a few quick portal-aided peeks.
Kade Caruthers is not exactly fresh-faced at 28, though he is clean-shaven (sans the goatee he'd sport in his post-XF years). He's had a lot of the cockiness beaten out of him in his eight years on the job, but he's still bright-eyed and focused and wholly committed. He steps through Ciel's portal ahead of his fellow agent. "Ready to rock and roll?" he asks with a slight grin as he looks over his shoulder, to make sure the telepath is keeping up.
"Say something more lame," Ellie Wheeler, snarky astral projector, snarks playfully. The young woman holds up both hands daintily as she navigates a suddenly deeper puddle of mud. She lets out a disgusted groan. "This place smells like it was just mulched. Oh my god, some of it got in my shoe already."
This place hasn't had a landscaper in nearly forty years. The vehicles are empty and their occupants have long since entered the facility. There is no sign of movement or life from this vantage point.
"Better yet, keep the chatter /off/ until we know what we're dealing with," Ciel answers, a little sharp, a lot judgmental. It's not that Ciel doesn't know how to have a good time. It's that she takes her work very, very seriously, especially when she's calling the shots. From the distance, she scowls, then she pops through another portal to join the two already next to the door. "Any signs of life?" she checks, her voice low as she looks at Ellie.
Kade seems about to rise to the challenge of giving Wheeler an even more lame rejoinders. He's not above on-the-job banter. But Ciel's comment over the comms keeps his chatter down. He looks to Ellie, at the question about signs of life. His brain cannot sense such things.
'Such a bitch,' Wheeler mouths to Kade. Still, she hunches down obediently and presses her hand to the water works building's crumbling wall. Somewhere between Ciel and Kade in age, the young woman knits her brow in concentration. Moments later, her lashes flutter as she stands back erect, "The main room is large. There's lots of cover. Movement in the back rooms but I was afraid of alerting them to my presence."
"Let's move slowly, then," Ciel says, her nod quick and oblivious to any mouthing. "I'll see if I can get you good line of sight. Psy, let us know if anyone seems to notice us. Ember, you've got our backs?"
Kade makes the slightest of hand gestures at Wheeler's mouthing. The implication of it is more 'Chill' than any particular disagreement. His reply to Ciel is firm and without hesitation, though. "I have got you covered, Comet." His gun's already out. He tends to prefer it to breaking out his fire powers, though he can if the need arises. "On your mark." He'll be ready to move on the word Go.
Wheeler curls over herself briefly and closes her eyes. There is a subtle vibration in the outline of her form as she splits off into a separate, visible but spectral copy. Both turn to Ciel, nodding firmly. “On your mark, boss ...y.”
Ciel gives Ellie a sharp look, but she doesn't pause to argue in the /middle/ of a /job/. God. She pries the door open, slipping through first with room for Kade and Ellie to follow. She moves quickly, but sticks to cover in the large main room, working her way toward the back rooms where Ellie reported signs of life.
Kade moves between what cover the room allows, slipping from column to column, trying to keep both Ciel and Ellie in sight as he maneuvers just behind them. He also tries to keep his shoes from squelching too much on the slimy floor.
The floor in the main room is damp enough to give footsteps an audible smack. Stealth may be challenging, but not impossible thanks to the pumps. The building itself appears to have shifted slightly over the years. If the team were to drop a marble on the floor, it would likely roll towards the back rooms without much prompting.
Large water tanks and out of service pumping equipment are still bolted into the main room's floor. Their layout suggests a clear walkway towards the slightly ajar double-doors at the back of the building, behind which a shadow passes.
Both Ellies to the sharp look by curling their upper lips to bare their front teeth. Slipping in just after the other woman, both Ellie and her astral self prance behind some cover. She knits her brow and splits off into a third astral copy, which flanks her momentarily before taking point towards the door. Her astral forms pass seamlessly through the multiple tanks of water, stopping on either side of the double doors. One of them kneels and peaks her head through the wall. "Fuck. Inside of a desk drawer," the real Psy hisses. Her copy crawls forward so that only her cute little butt and legs are on the team's side of the wall.
"Careful," Ciel cautions. She glances from side to side, taking in the room, then gives Kade a non-sparkly portal that will let him press himself flat next to that ajar door without squelching through the mug. Her voice is a bare whisper into the coms. "Let me know if you need me to take a peek."
Kade gratefully slips through the portal, positioning himself back-to-wall next to that door far more quietly than he was managing on his own. "In position," he reports shortly into the comms, shoulders tense, muscles at the ready. Keying himself up for whatever's in there.
"Two adult males. White, middle aged, I want to say approximately 150 lbs. The other is older ...I'm not good with races. One adult female. Obvious mutant, mutation unknown. Mid-twenties. They're... moving things." Ellie, the real Ellie, whispers in her com. She throws a warning glance between her teammates, as does her other present astral self, "They're fucking zombie-brained. Something's wrong with them." Her body jolts, and she looks off into the distance as if looking through the eyes of her copy, "Little girl. Early teens. Strawberry blonde hair. Far corner of the room. That's her." The astral copy poking her head in the other room pulls back very suddenly as if to avoid being spotted. If she weren't intangible, she might make a lot of noise. Thankfully, she's not.
"Little girl meaning /what/?" Ciel asks. She gives the room a quick check, then pops through another portal to press against the wall opposite Kade, on the other side of the door. Her eyes flick to him, and then through the slight crack that gives her line of sight into the room, though she doesn't open a portal into it just yet.
Kade gives Ciel a quick, short nod as she appears across from him. It's meant to convey readiness, and confidence. Even if some of that latter is a little forced at mention of 'zombie brained.' He's comfortable enough throwing himself as physical threats, but the less tangible ones still creep him. "Is there any sign of what's controlling them?" he asks low over the comms.
"Can you tell ages? I sure as hell can't," Ellie retorts. All three of her give big shrugs. "The girl is in far right corner of the room. She's not moving but she made my skin fucking crawl-"
Something is dropped in the adjacent room. When it hits the ground, the gentle splash of the item hitting a puddle can easily be made out. It isn't loud. One could go as far as to say it wouldn't be loud if a person were standing right beside it. ...suggesting that the acoustics in the old building are actually quite excellent.
Ciel freezes at the sound and draws in a breath. "Okay. That's our target. Take her down alive if we can, but--" There is no need to finish the end of that sentence. Instead, Ciel says, "Ember, far side of the room," and just like that she's leaning past the door's crack to get a quick visual, popping a portal open between Kade and the side of the room opposite the teen. If she can get line of sight on cover, she'll aim for that, even if it means dropping Kade a few feet into the mud.
Kade can deal with mud. Even particularly gross aqueduct mud. Another short nod at the part about taking her alive, if they can. He will certainly try, but this wouldn't be the first mission he's been on that ended with the implied 'but' becoming a reality. If Ciel can manage to open a door for him, he'll go through it quick.
Someone from the room takes an accelerated step forward, followed by a quick succession of steps as they rush the door. Through the crack, Ciel might see an older man of Middle-Eastern descent making a charge for her. His aura begins to faintly glow.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the woman that Ellie identified as a mutant and the other male present say in unison. Their voices are not overly projected and quite clear. Positioned an arm’s width apart from one another, they stand between the doorway and the girl at the other end of the sloping room. Water collects where the building sinks to its deepest, spreading to take up one third of the room at minimal one to two-inch depth.
Kade’s portal brings him between the girl and her protectors, but within the stagnant water.
Ciel doesn't duck away. What she does is glance over her shoulder, giving her a quick visual with which to place the other half of the portal that opens in front of the older man, so that his next footstep carries him through it and out the other side, as far from Ciel as she can manage. She doesn't pause to check on him behind her, trusting that her portal will dump him where she intended. Instead, she calls, "Keep him busy, Psy!", and ducks through the door, slamming it closed behind her with her gun held loose and comfortable in her hand as she gives the room a quick, sweeping glance to take in who's left.
Kade's eyes flit briefly to Ciel and Wheeler, should they call for coverage. In the form of fire. His main focus is the girl, though, and once he's in position he lunges for her. Trying to tackle her. It'll put him in that stagnant pool of stagnant if he's successful, though that doesn't appear to be a huge concern for him. For better or worse.
The charging man is easily manipulated out of Ciel's way. He continues to plow right through her portals and his aura continues to brighten as he gains momentum. Her move works. Behind her, Ciel may hear an audible metallic pang as the man slams into one of the empty water tanks.
"What?!" As hesitant as she is to engage with the man, Ellie concentrates and expends yet another copy. She runs for cover in such a way as to attract the man's pursuit, as do all other spectral versions of her.
The woman plants both of her feet firmly and squares off her shoulders as if bracing for impact. She brings up an open palm of her hand, "Leave, now." Her hand, like the rest of her skin, is a rough, bark-like texture.
The man standing to her right looks a great deal less menacing. He raises his hand in unison with the woman, "Leave, now." There is a thin shimmer in the air, like the invisible movement of gas. In this case, it establishes the formation of some type of invisible telekinetic wall.
"Leave, now." All spoken at once, it might be hard to tell who said it first. It was the little girl. She stares at Kade. Ripples run through her large blue eyes, corresponding with ripple-rings that run through the pool of stagnant water towards him.
<FS3> Kade rolls Mind+Mind: Good Success. (3 8 5 7 1 3)
"Ember!" Ciel yells, and lifts her gun. She doesn't fire it just yet; she gives him a beat to deal with it, and instead gives the two mutants flanking her a quick glance. A split second later, she leaves them behind, too, stepping through a suddenly-manifested portal that takes her to the girl's other side.
Kade experiences a pressure on his mind as hypnotic vibrations in the water begin to attempt to impose themselves on his free will. They do not yet gain hold.
There's a flash of naked fear in Kade's blue eyes as those vibrations snake into his mind. He pushes back with all the willpower he has. For the moment it's enough, but metaphysical battles aren't ones he's built for. His palm, the one /not/ holding his gun, comes up and in a flash he's generated a super-heated pocket of air that turns into a small fireball, to hurl at the girl. It's not big enough to do her serious damage, and it's aimed at her body rather than her face. Still, it's fire. It'd smart. Maybe he just hopes to scare her. Once it's off, which is literally in a flash, he continues to his rush at her.
<FS3> Kade rolls Mind+Mind: Good Success. (6 2 5 8 7 3)
The little girl can’t be much more than four feet in height but her hair hangs down to just below her waist. Her cherub-like features still carry a deceptive innocence that in time, she’ll grow out of. By her ears, two flesh-toned fin growths flap grotesquely as she reacts to the fire. A portion of her narrow shoulder and her beautiful hair are synched. The aquatic mutant jolts, screeching and stumbling back into the very corner of the room. The ripples in the water appear to surge briefly, causing to the smack against Ciel and Kade’s feet. With the influx in power from the fledgling mutant, the hypnotic vibrations become more difficult to resist.
All three of the mutants under the girl’s control screech when she does. The spindly young man that Ciel left behind turns to face the pair of heroes. The air ripples on either side of the girl. This time, a set of nearly imperceptible walls form a sharp outward corner around the girl. They effectively separate her from her attackers.
The tree-bark woman charges after Kade.
Outside of the room, the wall gives a great shake as the man fighting Ellie runs directly into it.
<FS3> Kade rolls Mind+Mind: Good Success. (2 8 1 7 7 6)
<FS3> Ciel rolls Mind+mind: Success. (5 8 1 6 4 5 1 1)
As Ciel lands, she's already got one hand moving to draw her Stinger instead of her gun. She works quickly, lifting it to level it at the girl at about the same time as Kade's fireball hurls off. She's on the opposite side, and so reacts by jumping sideways, her brows shot up as she snaps, "/Watch it/!" And then things are happening in quick succession. The waves, the charge, the ripples and their tug at Ciel's will. She doesn't hesitate, quickly reorienting her aim and pulling the trigger, only to discover the telekinetic wall between her Stinger and her target. She shakes her head hard, momentarily disoriented by /something/.
Unable to grab the girl, Kade finally tries to exit the hypnotic water. Brain pushing hard and increasingly desperately back against its influence. It means he's less-than-subtle when confronting the tree-bark woman. Another shot of flame is sent hastily in her direction as he scrambles to escape the waters.
The dryad-woman gets within a few feet of Kade before he shoots. In the glow of the fire, her brown eyes widen and exhibit a ripple that isn't unlike the ripples from the pool of water he was just standing in. As his attack hits, she lets out a squeal that is individual from the rest of the flock and buckles to her knees. Highly flammable as she is, fire flares up across her as she rolls off to the side and out of the action. "WHY?!" She cries.
In her place, the man from the other room comes crashing right through the wall. His aura radiates a glowing energy of various warm hues as he continues in a charge that zeroes in on Kade.
There is no sign of Ellie.
The telekinetic flourishes his hands and the wall shimmers as it extends and moves, creating a safe passageway for the girl to run down. She's trying to make her escape.
"Fucking--" Ciel says, and takes to the air. She doesn't spare a glance behind her for the ruckus, but she /does/ get herself as high as the ceiling will allow. This time when she lifts her Stinger, she opens a portal in front of it. The matching portal blinks open just in front of the girl, and she shoots through it, trying to circumvent the whole telekinetic wall thing.
Kade can't suppress a shudder at the screams of the dryad woman. But he'll have to table angsting about the horror of his particular mutation until later. Once out of the water his non-heated hand goes for his Stinger. It's not quite up and primed yet when the aura man comes charging at him, though. So, the fellow gets another jolt of flame in his direction.
Gesturing with even more emphasis, the telekinetic continues to adapt. A fat bead of dark blood slides down his left nostril and over his thin, awkwardly puckered lips as he creates a moving rectangular encasing around the girl to deflect Ciel’s stinger. Somebody should really think about taking him out.
The charging man doesn’t stop, even when it is clear that he is in eminent danger of being singed. He grits his teeth and continues to fly forward into the fire and into Kade with little consideration for his own safety, even as the flesh on his face and neck peel away in the fire.
“WHY?! HELP ME! HELP! MEE!” The bark covered woman crawls desperately for the water. Her limbs shake terribly as she half-cradles, half attempts not to touch her burnt body. It would appear that she has regained control of her own mind. “WHAT IS THIS PLACE?!” “WHYYY?!”
"Shit," Ciel bites under her breath. "Shit, shit--" Portal failing, she whips around to take in the situation with eyes gone wide. When she picks a target, it is not the telekinetic, but the charging man, who she quickly turns into a wall some distance away from Kade with a portal popped open directly in front of him.
Kade pulls back on his fire when his attacker's face literally runs into it, but probably not quick enough to stop it from doing some pretty horrifying things to the fellow. Seeing the flash of Ciel's portal he takes his focus off the charging man. Hopefully it will work! If not, he'll probably get bowled over. But his focus /does/ switch to the telekinetic, Stinger finally up. It's fired at him.
The charging man pummels into ...not his first wall of the day. The whole building shakes under the impact.
"WHYY?! WHY AREN'T YOU HELPING ME?!" "WHAT DID I DOOO?!"
The telekinetic is too intent on getting the young girl to the double-doors, which he succeeds in doing. His whole body convulses as the stinger gets him and he does a sharp, out of control dance as he sinks to the floor. Snot and blood fly into the air above him as he hits the ground with a wet smack.
The doors flap behind the girl and her wet footsteps can be heard pitter-pattering in the next room.
With the charging man taken care of (for now), Ciel whips her gaze around just in time to catch the teke go to the ground. She gives Kade a quick glance, then darts after the girl using a hopscotch of flight through portals in an effort to cut the distance to the doors so she can shove them open.
Kade goes to kneel by the tree-bark woman, when Ciel portals after the girl. Wincing. He has some basic first aid supplies on him, and he digs those out, for what good they might do her. "We'll get you out of here. It's going to be OK." He tries to sound reassuring, though his voice wavers. He's looking at damage he caused, after all. While doing that he sends off a quick comm message to their fellow agent, "Wheeler? You OK out there? Sound off."
"IT HURTS SO BAD!" The bark woman continues to agonize extremely dramatically. "OH GOD! MY FACE! WHERE IS MY SON!? WHERE AM I? OH GOD! IT HURTS!"
In the facility's main room, the little girl makes a darting leap onto her side and slides across the already slipper floor. The fin-growths on either side of her face flap as she turns to stare emotionlessly over at the woman shoving open the double doors. She is a fraction of a second away from disappearing down a deeply flooded stairwell that leads into the belly of the water works facility.
On the exact opposite side of the room, Ellie lies splayed out. She is not moving and there is blood. Her body gives a little agonizing jolt, but she does not appear to be conscious. Charging-guy managed to do a number on her. She does not sound off.
Ciel hesitates. It's a small hesitation, but it's enough for the girl to disappear down the stairwell, which is enough for Ciel to lose her line of sight, and in that instant, she makes a decision. She pops through to Ellie, cursing under her breath, raising a channel to an evac team with an urgent request for medical.
There's some medical gel in Kade's kit, and a few painkillers. The latter are offered to the tree-bark woman before he tries to apply the former. He swallows hard as he takes in the burns on her wood-like skin. He hears the raise for the evac team over the comm, and no report the girl's been retrieved. He just nods to himself before asking Ciel, voice strained, "Wheeler going to be OK?"
Once the medical evac team arrives and everything falls into place, it becomes very evident that each one of the mutants that were resisting Ciel and Kade were under some sort of hypnotic influence. Suffering from post-hypnotic amnesia, each of the girl's victims is able to recover their lost memories with the help of telepaths working with X-Force.Ellie Wheeler makes a full recovering however, the girl responsible is not apprehended.