2238-01-21 - Escaping Axios

Gage and Ines traverse the area surrounding the production facility in a bid for the forest beyond, and Ines accidentally almost gets them both killed.

Date: 2238-01-21

Location: Axios Province, Picon

Related Scenes: 2238-01-20 - Not Alone 2238-01-25 - Lovely, Dark And Deep

Plot: Operation: Bullhorn

Scene Number: 1629

Jump to End

It probably feels like seconds since she closed her eyes.

It's still dim, inside the room. Gage is leaning over her, a hand on her arm to wake her, his touch light -- he's used to, perhaps, waking far more jumpy marines with more dangerous reflexes. His face is no longer a line of tension, but up close, he looks... weary. Weary, but determined.

"It's time," he says, moving away to shoulder a hefty (heavy!) looking backpack. There's a second one, on the floor, which he sets beside her. "I'll need you to carry this. It's not heavy, but we'll need the blankets to get over the fence." He picks up his rifle, slinging the strap over his shoulder, habitually ejecting the magazine, grimacing (again), at what he sees, and slamming it back into place. "Your pistol loaded?" he asks, glancing at her. He's all hard business, now.

It's showtime, after all.

-

The Leonese pilot with the affluent, privileged personal history and the deep, well-documented disinclination to become a morning person should be a piece of cake to wake up without any worry at all.

Her eyes snap open in the split second just before he touches her, and for that split second there is absolutely nothing in her eyes but the possibility of violence.

Two full heartbeats after that recognition of where she is and who he is and what's happening -- the lack of an emergency -- allows drowsiness to roll back in like a bank of fog, her wide eyes lidding, then closing completely as she brings a hand up to rub at both. "Okay."

She curls to sit up, then leans down to begin unlacing her boots. She moves quickly: she does not want to be caught with her boots off in a bad situation. But that flight suit still bunched around her calves doesn't breathe, and it's not the most silent material. She ditches it and re-laces her boots in moments, tucking her laces beneath the interlace that runs down the front. The flight suit she begins to roll up tightly. She's bringing it, probably for the protection it could offer against exposure, but she has no plans to wear it as they relocate.

Your pistol loaded?

"Yes." That comes next, buckling the holster in place and tightening it down against her thigh. "Do they patrol less at night here?"

-

Gage's grunt seems to be one of approval at her affirmation about her pistol. He bends, collecting something off the flow next to the backpack he's set down for her, moving over towards her and crouching beside her. He's eyeing her in an assessive way, before he reaches for one of the many pockets that dot the tactical vest. He opens one, slips something in, and shuts it again, patting it for a moment. "Painkillers. Top left, when you need it." Not if, when. No judgement in his voice, either, just matter-of-fact.

His gaze flickers over her once more, before he straightens. "The same, as far as I can tell. Night or day doesn't seem to make much difference to them. I'd bet they were running the facility twenty-four-seven." He rolls his shoulders, glances towards the door. "There's a place where the buildings group closest to the fence. Even so, it's a fair hike in open ground. If we're spotted..." he hesitates, just for a moment. "...whatever you do, just keep running. Blankets over the razor wire at the top of the fence, straight into the woods. Head maybe twenty, twenty-five degrees left of the sun, when it rises. Water'll be your most important priority -- there was a river that way, on the way in. River, maybe, you've a chance of running into another human."

A chance. A chance he lays out without looking at her. Habit makes him touch his pockets, mentally taking stock; less pockets than usual, with her wearing his vest.

-

Ines is brisk and efficient as she prepares to go. She coils the rolled flight suit and slides it down into the side of the backpack, closing it up again and beginning to tuck all of the loose straps on the back of that, too -- whatever she won't be able to reach once she puts it on. She touches her fingertips to the pocket he puts the painkillers into so that she can find them again without having to look, then spends the time that he's talking swiftly braiding the long tumble of her hair into a loose braid behind her head that she then wraps up into a bun and secures with the pins she took out of it only a little over an hour ago.

"If they can see in the dark and we can't, what benefit is there to moving at night?" Pale eyes lift, shining in the dim. "Are there still a lot of-?"

A chance of running into another human.

She stares at him in a long silence. Her expression flattens out into something inscrutable, silence broken with a quiet admission: "I don't really want to run into another human."

-

"There's a chance your friends might run night flights over, picking up heat signatures. Even if they don't spot us -- they'll provide distraction." It's probably wishful thinking, given how well the last rescue attempt went. But again, Gage is matter-of-fact. Also matter-of-fact: "They've likely sent patrols out into the woods already, which means less of them in here with us." But more of them out there, where they're headed.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, as the saying goes.

He's done with his checks, and her silence draws the Tauran's gaze even before she speaks. Her words draw his brow down, but his mouth twitches into a wry grin. "That'll change quickly enough. I give you a day or so." Of his company, presumably. He moves to the door, glancing back at her with a lift of brows, expression silently asking, ready?

-

He looks wry.

She does not. That expression stays closed like a vault door.

Eventually she does pull her eyes away so that she can focus on what is going to be the least pleasant part of getting ready to go: standing up. She's careful about it, testing weight on her injured leg before giving it the full measure just in case the stitches pull. If it hurts, she isn't sharing that with him; her expression stays taut and neutral.

She checks the security of the bandage stuck over the suture site and then leans down to pick up the backpack and swing it up and over her shoulders, rolling them to adjust, and if a canny eye is paying attention they'd see that one shoulder moves less than the other one. There are straps to adjust and tighten, then tuck away with that same obsessive care as before.

She sees the question in his eyes when he looks back at her from the door, and for just a moment she looks like she's somewhere else. Is, actually. Running down a checklist she'd hoped she'd never have to use again.

One short little nod later she sets her jaw and follows.

-

He watches her, while she readies herself; notes that guarded expression, the way she tests her legs but seems not to react, maybe even that shoulder. Noted, but not commented on; he's not about to cast stones about her being reticent about her well-being -- he's the king of it. Her nod simply earns one in turn.

And then Gage cracks open the door, waits, listens, holding his breath. Silence greets them. He's, maybe, counting in his head. It feels like forever before he moves. It's awkward, climbing through that bunk up against the door; it's meant to be. He straightens once he's through, one hand resting lightly on his rifle, as he moves to the outer door, glancing back to make sure she's navigating it well with the unwieldy bulk of his tac vest and the backpack.

-

The vest is definitely giving her more problems than the backpack is, and only part of that is because it's too big. She is visibly unused to trying to maneuver in something like it.

It's only once she's on the other side and the need to remain quiet is paramount that it occurs to her to wonder where the hell they're ultimately hoping to wind up. She glances up and sidelong at him as she joins him at the far door, then drops her gaze to it and waits. It's possible to see every muscle in her throat shift when she swallows, all a play of light and shadow. Behind the hinge of her jaw, her heartbeat is faster than her sedate exterior would have implied.

She reaches down and checks the holster and pistol, and the strap that secures the one inside of the other.

-

There's a moment, just a moment -- after she swallows -- when the fingers of his left hand stretch out, to brush at her cheek, his dark gaze meeting hers. "It's just like running the stairs on the Dauntless. Just focus on that -- on beating me."

And then his hand drops, and reaches instead for the door. His wary approach is repeated, cracking it barely ajar, listening, counting maybe, before he swings it open. A peek this way and that, a glance over his shoulder to make sure she's taking her cue from his lead, and then he's off.

Gage sets a light pace, for now, darting between buildings and slowing when in the cover of them. They can hear patrols in the distance, the now-familiar mechanical whine-and-thump of movement, but not close enough yet for the marine to halt.

-

Unsurprisingly that might be one of the last things Ines was expecting, and if anyone in the room were actually fooled by her restraint and stillness and that mask of an expression she's wearing, they'd be disabused of the notion that she's fearless when he touches her and she startles, everything in her going tight in one moment of edgy, frayed-nerve surprise. Jumpy. Her eyes are slightly wide when they lift and there are whole worlds in them, none of which she would be able to describe for him even if she wanted to; even if there was time. Under the barrage of all of those busy ghosts she somehow manages to scrape together a small, tight smile for him, like: I'm okay, I promise.

Not that it matters whether she actually is or not. They're doing this either way. As he reaches for the handle she draws a long, deep breath, tries to push her shoulders down -- they're trying to creep up around her ears -- and gets ready to run.

The minute they're outside her skin crawls the way a child's does on that dark midnight run-and-leap from the door to the bed, expecting any moment to have something grab them around the ankles and pull them underneath. Vulnerability has a sensation, and this is it, and she loathes it. Not even the vest helps. The knowledge that he isn't wearing one is a constant weight. This early, the red-black sensations of pain that bolt up through her leg every time she does anything with it at all are almost a welcome distraction from her thoughts. That won't last.

-

It is, indeed, awful. That feeling of being watched from the darkness, even if the eyes are imagination, and the eyes are less eyes and more the glowing beam of the cylon's red gaze.

It's exhausting, too. Not just the running, but the hyper-vigilance, the constant turning of head that for Gage is habit -- checking in front, behind, to the sides, constantly looking for anything he's missed. They progress, but it's slow -- it's a large facility. It feels like forever, but it's probably not.

There's no sight of the fence line yet with Gage holds up a hand and stops, abruptly. They're alongside a building, behind a stack of boxes. Thunk, thunk, thunk, goes the familiar, heavy tread of cylons. It's close enough that the ground seems to shake underfoot. Any moment, any moment they might be spotted. Gage raises his rifle, waiting, waiting...

-

It all comes back to her more quickly than she would ever have expected, though some of her instincts from those horrifying early days are outmoded: she still checks windows and rooftops even though there's probably less reason for her to be doing that now than there was in Montseny. The worries are slightly different. The threat profile is slightly different. She can't help it, even knowing that. It was only a month, but the things it carved into her were driven just as deeply as anything that military training was able to do for the full span of years to follow.

She doesn't say a word. Tucking all of those straps, even the laces of her boots, means she's essentially soundless when she moves save for her breathing and the occasional misplaced footstep, too much gravel or something else under the sole of her boot now and then serving as a reminder that she doesn't actually have recon training at all. Time stops meaning much of anything, breaking apart into the smallest of increments: from this building to that building, from that building to the low wall -- life measured out in parcels during which they're not in cover, every transition they make unspotted a small success all on its own. There's a rhythm to that, and she remembers that, too. The pauses to listen just afterward, the pacing, the circuitous routes. Evaluating side streets and structures, even though he's the one setting their route. More than once, her intuition tells her to go a different way than the way he chooses, and she wonders distantly what determined his choice -- some instinct developed through experience, or something he was formally taught? Something he sees that she doesn't? Some combination of everything?

For the most part, though, she does very little thinking at all after a while, reduced to a machine with a single purpose. Flooded with information to process, reactions all on a knife's edge.

By the time he signals a halt she's already shrinking back against the place the wall and boxes abut one another and reaching down to tug the strap clear of the holster at her thigh. The pistol slides soundlessly free.

-

Time stretches, and the moment passes. The thunk of the cylon's steps passes out of hearing. Gage's breath is slow and deep through his chest, but no less relieved for all that. He squares his shoulders, looks back at Ines. Just a quick check, and then he has them moving again, relentlessly.

They don't get much further, though. Just before they pass out into the next open space, there's an unmistakable whirring noise. Gage's low, "Frak," is enough to highlight the danger. Out in the open, across from them -- two cylons, one with a shotgun, one with a rifle. They've spotted the pair already, so this time, there's no wait-and-hope.

Instinct makes Gage lift his gun and fire without a second thought.

At precisely the same time, however, the cylons return fire.

-

If there's any relief in her eyes when he turns to look at her, it's a small mote at best. They have a long way to go, and she doesn't seem ready to give herself the luxury of feeling any less at-risk. She nods, though. She's ready.

It wasn't altogether that long ago that a couple of marines gave Ines a little bit of a hard time for wanting to spend more time at the range after a pilot went down in dangerous territory. It wasn't enough to chase her out. Not that day, and not any of the other days she went down there to do the same thing.

It hasn't been enough time for her to significantly improve as a marksman, but it does mean her form comes more easily and with less thought than it would otherwise. And this is good, because the moment she hears that mechanical sound all of the blood in her veins turns to icewater, every last fine and invisible hair on the back of her neck standing up. Her insides hollow out. The pistol lifts.

Ines attacks Cylon1 with Pistol and HITS! Graze wound to Abdomen. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Cylon2 attacks Ines with Rifle and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Left Arm.

Gage fires a burst!

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle and HITS! Impaired wound to Left Arm.

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Abdomen. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle and HITS! Graze wound to Right Arm. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Cylon1 attacks Gage with Shotgun but Gage EVADES!

Ines attacks Cylon1 with Pistol but Cylon1 EVADES!

Gage's rifle rattles as he fires a burst across one of the cylons. It's a tight grouping that punctures across its lower body -- at least two punching holes in it. It's looking worse for wear, but it's not down. The marine's growling under his breath, "Correa?" it's a request for her status -- he doesn't dare look yet, simply fires again.

The cylons fire. The shotgun blast slams into the cover Gage is behind -- the marine managing to dart back from the flecks of stone that fly off as a result. The second cylon's arm is more precise, with the rifle -- slugging the pilot in her left arm.

-

Further proof that Ines isn't a marine, no matter how tough she either is or pretends to be: she gets shot in the arm and makes a short, sharp sound of surprise that has an audible note of pain in it. For a moment it makes her grip weak on that side, but the pistol only noses toward the ground briefly, as she leans back into cover and wonders how in the hell she managed to mistime that. She can be hurt after this is over.

If she's not dead.

"I'm fine!" She snaps the words out with a vengeance. Like she's mad at him. Like he shot her in the arm.

Better proof is probably in the sound of the weapon in her hands firing again.

Gage fires a burst!

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Abdomen.

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle and HITS! Graze wound to Chest. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle and HITS! Graze wound to Left Arm. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Cylon1 attacks Gage with Shotgun but MISSES!

Cylon2 attacks Ines with Rifle but Ines EVADES!

Ines attacks Cylon1 with Pistol and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Chest. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Cylon2 has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Gage)

Well, that's logical. And it earns, as one might expect, a growling response from Gage. "Pretend it's me! Shoot the frakking things!" is his oh-so-solid advice, as he proceeds to do just that. Another grouping goes tight across the cylon's abdomen, and with a sharp jerk, the thing collapses to the ground like its strings have suddenly been cut. For a moment, he breathes easier; spares her a glance.

Seconds later, Gage's expression tightens. Half a second of pause, and he's flipping his gun from burst. He's counting bullets. That can't be good.

-

It's not good.

She sees it out of the corner of her eye, even with her left arm turning into a long, burning cramp while they're being shot at, and she knows exactly what that means. Lining up her next shot, her thoughts are already leaping out ahead of the moment: what they need to do if he winds up dry and this frakking toaster isn't dead. More accurately, what she could do, given she'd at that point be the one with a vest and a firearm.

"Oh my gods, Tomak, just shut up," she breathes, squeezing the trigger.

Ines attacks Cylon1 with Pistol and HITS! Graze wound to Abdomen. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Gage attacks Cylon1 with Rifle and HITS! Impaired wound to Head.

Cylon1 attacks Gage with Shotgun but hits the COVER they're behind.

Cylon1 has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Gage)

Unaccountably, Gage actually laughs. It's one of those inadvertent sort of belly laughs, and, despite all that, it doesn't seem to affect his arm. Seconds after the cylon fires and hits the cover he's behind, he leans out and angles a solid shot that slices right through the thing's head, the momentum and sudden flicker from red-to-nothing as the gleam of its eyes goes out like a light, and it thuds to the ground a moment later.

Meanwhile, the Tauran's still frakking laughing.

-

The silence is sudden, and in it all she can hear is the rushing of blood in her ears and the pounding of her heart.

There's no time to regroup. She shoves the pistol back into the holster and drags the strap back over the end of it, and then reaches out to touch his arm, already turning her head to look over her shoulder, back the way they came, where that other patrol had come so close to where they crouched behind those crates. She knows her arm is bleeding, and it's not difficult to see -- the sleeve on that side is turning dark across the top of her forearm, close to the hinge of her elbow -- but she's less interested in that at the moment than getting away from the place where they just made a whole lot of noise.

"Come on. Let's-"

He's still laughing.

She swivels her head back around to look up at him, expression crinkling into an 'are you serious right now' sort of look that probably isn't going to help him stop finding it hilariously funny. Nor is the fact that she sounds almost primly offended. "Are you quite finished?"

-

Gage swings his rifle back across his body, where it won't bang against anything. He's grinning at her -- just enjoying that moment, the sweetness of victory, combined with her growing irritation. It dims briefly when he spots the blood on her arm, movement aborted--

There's definitely thudding, metallic footsteps heading their way, from the patrol they narrowly escaped earlier. It's enough to sober Gage instantly. "Let's go," he says, abruptly. Like she was the one holding them up.

He's already moving, setting a gruelling pace. It's totally coincidental that it'll make right-of-reply difficult. Right now? Survival's at the forefront of his mind.

-

That grin meets a look so flat that it threatens to shed a full dimension of space, but as the worst of the icy-hot waves of adrenaline roll off of her it's more for the sake of tradition than anything -- and really? Two days ago Ines wasn't sure she'd ever see that insufferable look again.

She still rolls her eyes when his tone seems to fault her for their need to move quickly. She does it while she's already moving, but she does it. It feels, even in the smallest degree, like a desperately wanted scrap of normalcy.

Maybe it's because the two of them created enough of a ruckus that patrols in the surrounding areas were pulled that way, and thus away from their rough trajectory, but the next ten minutes pass uneventfully. They spot no other Cylons. Her sleeve does a fairly good job of absorbing most of the bleeding from the groove shot through the top of her arm; she only very occasionally wipes her hand on the thigh of her tights, leaving behind smudges of sticky shadow.

The buildings closer to the perimeter are taller and more varied. Maybe they were habitation for the employees at one point in time -- small blocks of flats, or maybe offices. They're bunched together. One of those nearest has a caved-in exterior, a large part of the slab siding forming a slant through a rebar-netted hole.

"Hey." It's the first thing she's said since they started moving again. She's just behind him, leaning into the wall and squinting across the street. "Do they post up on rooftops?"

-

The flatness of the Leonese woman's look only seems to embolden the Tauran. Another flickered grin is given even as he's moving. Only once they stop to take a break, does he swing his pack off his back -- all while looking back and forward for any movement. Her, 'hey' draws his gaze, quizzically, and he thinks for a moment. "I haven't seen them do so. It's the reason why we set up on the rooftop for a rescue."

Meanwhile, he pulls out her medical supplies, grabbing one of the bandages. It's super-white compared to her bloodied arm, and he reaches for her wrist, holding it still for a moment until she realizes what he's doing, before he quickly begins to wrap the bandage around her arm. It isn't the neatest thing, but it's tight enough that it won't shift, loose enough that she can still lift her arm.

While he repacks the kit into his backpack, his eyes are on her, for a moment. "What do you have in mind?"

-

Pale eyes flick back over her shoulder, keeping an eye out while he digs for something. Her attention snaps back when he grasps her wrist, dropped down to his hand, then lifted to his face as the weight of her arm lifts out of the cuff of his fingers, held up for him. It doesn't seem to bother her much, though it's still oozing slowly. The first coil of it turns red almost instantly.

"If there are people left and they don't post on rooftops, they'll be up. And the toasters, they don't-" Hesitating, Ines ticks her eyes across his face, suddenly slightly self-conscious. It's audible in her tone of voice, stilted and slightly awkward as she finishes her sentence. Her accent is heavier now than it usually is -- stress, or pain, or being tired, or some combination of all three. "-they aren't really designed for looking up. Or, anyway, they never used to be." He would know better than she would, obviously, which probably accounts for her awkwardness.

Or maybe it's this, after the silence goes long and she holds his eyes, expression never changing: "I'm not sure, all of the little blind corners there, if we had to run..." Mouth opens, closes. "I don't know if I would keep up."

-

"If anyone was still here..." Gage snaps his mouth shut on those words. Not that he doesn't mean them -- he does -- but it's a moment of hope for her and he doesn't seem to want to stamp it out. He passes the bend of his elbow across his forehead, a moment of weariness visible.

"We could post, for a while. But there's regular air support for them -- not to mention we don't have an endless supply of water." Just what's in his pack, which is swing, with a grunt, onto his back, fingers settling the straps.

"You're stronger than you know, Ines," he says, after a moment, his gaze on the path ahead. And then, with another glance at her, relents, albeit with a visible reluctance. "But we can take a breather."

-

"I know, it's unlikely," she murmurs, gaze turned up toward the edge of the rooftops. "But if there are any, I'd still rather not have them aiming down on me."

Gage thinks Ines is hoping to find survivors, and Ines is hoping not to find any at all.

She doesn't process the disconnect in their understanding, though. The words 'regular air support' bend her shoulders. "No..." In the dim, her fingers reach for that place on the vest he tucked away the painkillers earlier, the sound of the pocket being opened loud in the near-silence. "No. I didn't want to rest, I wanted -- in Montseny, I made good progress on rooftops. I never- they never spotted me. But the flyovers..." She retrieves the blister pack and dips her head to watch her fingers work with it, trying to extract the first of the few they have.

Probably as a means of misdirection from the silent implications of her need to do that, she puts on a wry tone. "You must be really worried about me. On the verge of tears! Seconds from-" Silent as she struggles, and then there's the sound of the pack splitting, finally. "-bursting into tears for me, no? I think that's the first time you've ever called me Ines."

-

Gage's brows go up, briefly. "I'd hope they'd aim down on the cylons, not us. But point taken."

The fact that his jaw tightens for a moment suggests, perhaps, that either he was unaware he was using her first name, or -- just as likely -- he's uncomfortable for just the fact that she drew attention to it. "Fine," he grunts, with a wave of his hand. "We'll play it your way for a while, Correa." He's humoring her, nothing more. Clearly, in addition to thinking she's hunting for survivors that don't exist, that she needs a moment.

Maybe he needs a moment, too.

-

The pill goes into her mouth and is swallowed. Sort of. There's a moment there where Ines worries it's stuck in her throat in an unfixable way and she's not going to die from being shot down, or shot, or exposure or whatever else, but instead choking on a pill. Wouldn't that just be her luck?

She finally gets it down, wincing, and leaves the blister pack on the ground. Add littering to her list of war crimes, but she's just too tired to think about finding somewhere else to put it.

Coughing: "If they're going to see us from the air it's pointless anyway. When the painkiller starts to work, I can run." She angles a look at the bandage on her elbow but the outer layer of the wrapping has yet to stain, so the bleeding must be slowing while they stand here and her heart rate comes down. Given enough time it might actually clot.

She lifts her chin in the direction of the building across the street, with the buckled-in facade. "Inside maybe, until-?"

-

He's waiting, even though every part of him itches to move. It's obvious, in the way that Gage's weight shifts from foot to foot, from the toes to the balls of his feet, the way he's constantly looking this way and that. He wants to be gone.

But he waits, until she's ready. And when she gestures towards the street across the building, he nods wordlessly. His fingers slide down to find his weapon, hand resting on the rifle to hold it tight against his leg as he leans out, looking, waiting. A countdown in his head that is maybe familiar now. She could almost count along.

...three, two, one... and he's moving across the street, fingers reaching for the doorknob and sliding to one side to make room as eyes survey in the dark interior.

-

When he turns away she closes her eyes for just a moment, drawing a quiet and fortifying breath. It's less the seriousness of any one of her hurts than the cumulative effect of all of them that she's fighting with, and it seems to creep in when they stop and she has nothing else to focus on, even if her leg is a throbbing misery she's not copping to, and the ability to take weight off of it so much a relief she could cry.

She won't. But she could.

Ines is his shadow as he crosses the street, and she slips past him into the darkness as he draws the door open, small and fleet.

The interior has the familiar smell of mildew, an inevitable encroachment on any shattered structure left open to the weather. Pulpy paper scattered underfoot suggests 'office building,' dim shapes in the darker shadows like boxy filing cabinets and desks. The ceiling of the first floor is almost entirely missing in the first room; that chunk of wall is at least three stories tall, leaned into the building it was broken out of like a ramp. The underside of it, though, is well-sheltered. It's also nearly pitch black, cutting most of the little bit of light from outside. A door in the back wall leads further in, probably down through corridors and a different entrance entirely.

-

Gage paces the length of the room, ill pleased -- to judge by his restlessness -- by the lack of defensibility he finds within. He glances at her again, checking -- though he can't see much with the lack of light. His voice, too, is low, pitched for the darkness that inevitably brings a bare whisper: "Stay here. I'll sweep the building."

Will she stay? Maybe, maybe not. But he tried. He moves towards the back of the room, not as soundlessly as a recon might -- feet briefly whispering over strewn paper -- but quiet enough for all that. He treats the room as if it's just as much of a threat as outside, the slight crack, listen and wait before pushing in.

-

Will she? Even Ines doesn't seem sure, the pale mirrors of her eyes almost the only thing about her that's visible in the dark.

She must be making concessions because by the time he's in the corridor beyond the building there's no sign of her behind him at all.

The walls used to have wallpaper on them. They're stripped down now, not even bubbled so much as leprous and peeling away, flakes underfoot. The sickly-sweet stink of rotted glue and the musty smell of mold and rot seem to suggest the building hasn't been occupied by anyone or anything for a long while.

All along the right side of the corridor to his point of entry marches a line of doors leading into individual offices. Six altogether. Four are closed. Two of them, doors four and six, are partially open. The far end of the hall has a door that leads outside again on the far side of the building, and beside it is a push-door that looks as though it would grant access to the stairwell.

-

Gage is listening -- as much for Ines' footsteps as any other. When he hears nothing, he exhales a slow, almost inaudible breath. Relief, maybe. He moves as much by touch as sight, one hand trailing the wall as he carefully moves forward.

He doesn't pass a room without looking in. It's a quick sweep, but one intended to make sure they're the only occupants. He leaves the doors deliberately open after he's done so. On the far side, he puts a hand against the external door, listening, but he doesn't try pushing it open. Instead, he regards the other door with a grimace.

He doesn't like waiting around -- as much, clearly, because he's already had a week of this as anything else. Another low breath. He doesn't pray, but he takes a moment.

And then he's cracking the door, just far enough, listening, waiting... if nothing warns him audibly, he proceeds carefully through.

-

The contents of the offices are alternately unremarkable and unpleasant, though not any more unpleasant than anything he's seen during the rest of his time as a soldier: mostly empty, but one has bodies in it. Dessicated beyond recognition, it's impossible to tell whether they died as a result of violence or inability to venture out safely for supplies.

The stairwell door opens with only a quiet creak after the application of light force. The plaque on the wall directly opposite says there are four stories total, and insofar as he's able to crane his head to look up, the railing-ringed cement stairs are completely intact. From somewhere up above him, almost buried beneath the hollow sound of air moving through broken-apart walls, there's an occasional sound, faint but clear, of metal scraping on cement.

-

Gage stops, dead. Assessments flow through his head -- stocktakes. How many bullets he has left. How long Ines might need before they start moving. How long it'd take him to climb the stairs, or whatever's up there to descend. Conclusions could go either way -- it's a touch and go situation. Fighting would be terrible, but then, he needs to see what they're up against.

And so he proceeds, up the stairs. He is slow, inordinately so, each foot being placed down carefully to muffle sound. An eternity of climbing, one hand brushing the wall, the other on his rifle, to keep it close to hand, should he need it.

He doesn't pray, but the reluctance that paints his expression suggests the last thing he wants to do right now is get in more combat.

Gage rolls Stealth: Good Success (8 7 6 6 5 5 5 2 2 2)

Gage rolls Alertness: Good Success (8 8 6 6 4 3 1)

Approaching the second floor it begins to become difficult to discern where, exactly, the sound is coming from. Spending a moment listening, he can gradually make out the reason why: the sound is faint coming through the second floor door, and louder from one floor up, but definitely audible coming from both directions. Chances are good that the collapsed facade managed to collapse more than just the ceiling of the front room on the first floor; at the angle on which it was situated it probably carved increasingly more dramatic sections out of the interior of each floor. It's probable that he can hear it through both because they're essentially connected via open air now.

Fainter through the second door means it's probably upstairs on the third, whatever it is. He has options. He can approach from below, or continue up the stairs.

There's no sound from the front room where Ines is at all. She's keeping her head down.

-

The longer he waits, the more likely it is Ines will come looking. At least, that's the odds that Gage is calculating, based on his knowledge of the Leonese pilot. It makes him grimace, glance further up the stairs, but -- instead of climbing, head into the second floor. He advances slowly, head tilted up.

His eyes have largely adjusted, but it's still more shapes than actual things. Instinct counts for a lot, though; as he approaches, he has his rifle, lifting it up in case he needs to take a shot. The fact that it gives him reassurance, too, is a thing, but it's a secondary thing. Training overrides whatever dread those sounds must be dredging up in his brain.

-

The second floor is a disaster, and it doesn't take a combat engineer's educated eyes to grasp that parts of the remaining floor are structurally unsound. The cement exterior slashes through it like a crude arrowhead. Light fixtures dangle, thin steel cables tangled on jutting rebar, furniture punched clear of the far wall and toward the interior during whatever event caused it to collapse in the first place.

There is a Cylon after all though it doesn't seem to pose much of a threat: the legs have been heavily damaged and it's laying prone on the floor above him, close to the edge of the rind of actual floor that remains. Sheltered by the collapsed wall from the elements, it's still probably remarkable that it still functions at all -- but it does, because that red light pivots around immediately upon the door opening, and the limbs begin to move. It still has a rifle.

Chunks of cement crumble underneath it as it tries to shift to get an angle on him. It skews, and begins to slide. It's going to fall.

Probably all the way to the first floor.

Gage rolls Wits + 4: Good Success (8 6 6 4 4 4 3 3 3)

Gage rolls Athletics: Good Success (8 8 8 7 5 5 3 1 1)

Firing will only draw more cylons. But the crash if -- when it falls, would too. His gaze flickers up towards the cylon, does a quick calculation of its weight and just as quick assessment of the structural integrity of the floor below it as well as the one he's on.

Probably a dumb idea. But hell, he's a grunt. He just happens to know how to build buildings -- and also how to break them apart.

He moves forward, lifting his rifle. It gives him just enough height to reach the half-collapsed roof above. Lifting the rifle above his head, he jolts the butt of it into the precarious seam, with the intent of making the floor above him collapse to his floor, rather than all the way down.

Of course, this plan involves him getting out alive, too, so when he hears that all-too-familiar creak of rebar giving way, he's going to throwing himself back towards the stairwell.

-

If Cylons are sentient -- a hotly debated assertion -- then one has to wonder what this one makes of its lot, damaged in the opening salvo of a coup and left behind as too much trouble to collect from that thin ledge of remaining floor, hidden away beneath collapsed walls. After however long alone, a human turns up just long enough to knock the floor out from underneath it, and then disappears before it can so much as hit the floor in the aftermath.

If it were more intelligent it would fire the rifle it's holding to draw attention, possibly -- or maybe it landed face-down. Either way, there's no sudden report from behind Gage to chase him back into the stairwell, and should he stop to listen he won't hear anything else moving in the building in response to what just happened. Whether or not the same can be said for outside is probably another story.

Down below on the first floor Ines has the line of her spine pressed hard into the place the slab of wall meets the actual wall, the knee of her good leg drawn up to help brace her hands. The pistol is level on the door that he walked through when he left. She has no idea what the hell she heard -- all she knows is she did not like it.

-

Gage is coughing as he leans against the stairwell's wall -- dust and debris being kicked up by the partial collapse. After a moment, he steps back into the doorway, listening. Silence -- for now. He picks his way carefully across the floor, amongst the chunks of concrete and other things, listening for any creak that might suggest a second collapse is imminent.

He heads for the cylon. Not to make sure it's dead -- although that would be a bonus -- but to collect its rifle, and whatever ammunition it might have. Right now, that's more precious than anything else.

He doesn't call down to Ines. Not yet. Maybe this time he is praying -- that she stayed in the corner -- and that no one outside heard that.

-

The Cylon isn't actually face-down, but it lost hold of the rifle completely. It landed a meter or so away, and even as he carefully negotiates the rubble on his way to where it lies, it's trying to rectify that issue, and making enough progress that if he hadn't doubled back it probably would've gotten its hands back on the weapon before too long.

It doesn't beat him there. As things continue to dribble down into the cauldron of shadows below from the weakened floor above -- everything still seems to be holding, though -- he has time to bend and retrieve the half magazine of ammunition that remains.

Baleful red light watches him while he does, oriented on his moving shape.

Outside, the news is not good. There are footsteps too regular to belong to any human being, ever-closer. There's no hurry in them, so it may be that they didn't actually hear anything, but Ines can't tell either way, and the desire to break for the hallway in search of him builds to a dangerous point of pressure behind her sternum.

-

The second rifle is hefted, the strap slung over his shoulder; the ammunition put in his vest poc-- no. He gave that to Ines. He grimaces, briefly, shoves it into the pocket of his pants instead. For a moment, dark brown eyes regard the red glow of the cylon's.

"Yeah, sucks to be abandoned, eh? I know the feeling." It's a moment of... not camaraderie, but understanding, at least. On Gage's part, anyway. Not that he seems to feel sorry for the thing. He's going to leave it, there, trapped.

Indeed, he high tails it down the stairwell. Easier going down, and easier when he knows the way, now. He passes through the corridor, past those open doors, some smelling worse than others. He doesn't bother looking -- he knows what's in there.

"Correa," he breathes, softly, as he steps back into the front room. A warning, so as not to startle her.

-

Her intake of breath at the sound of her name is audible, amplified by the cone of cement within which she's tucked herself. In fact, almost every noise she makes as she reluctantly holsters the pistol and begins to get to her feet is uncomfortably amplified, turned into something of an echo.

Her leg would be screaming bloody murder for their having stopped only to start again, if it weren't for the painkiller she took. They've given it more than enough time to start working, which is probably why when she braces her hand on the wall where the paper is peeling and uses it to lean down and haul on the strap of that backpack, she's not quick enough to catch herself as the paper sloughs suddenly away. She doesn't have far to fall, though she falls awkwardly over the backpack's weight, and she might have even done that soundlessly...

...if the backpack hadn't jammed itself into the side of her thigh.

It's such a small sound, just a little hurt note on the tail end of a gasp, but there's a telltale whirring sound moments afterward from just on the other side of the building's broken wall.

-

He's too far to help catch her, and he hears that whirring barely seconds afterwards. He's striding, fast, towards her, one hand under her arm, as much hauling as helping her to her feet. "Move," he breathes.

No niceties this time. No asking whether she's okay or wants to stop. This isn't time for that. This is the time to move, one hand remaining gripped around her upper arm -- hopefully the uninjured one, but he's not even caring whether it is or not.

Back through the door he just came from, closing it behind them. Not enough, maybe, to deter them, but a moment. And he's pushing on through, something hard painted in the line of his face -- what can be seen of it anyway, in the dark.

-

Hauled to her feet, she clutches the strap of the backpack in her other hand and similarly hauls it from the floor and onto her shoulders, working her second arm through the strap only as they slip out of the main room and every nerve in her back prickles with the expectation of a bullet. She doesn't wait for him in the hallway while he closes the door, but it's not difficult for him to catch up with her and wouldn't be even if she weren't injured.

If she has feelings about what just happened -- her clumsiness and the cost of it, and this being Ines 'having feelings about a thing' is essentially a guarantee -- it's impossible to say what they might be. It's dark and everything is moving quickly. Before they even reach the door at the end of the hallway she can hear the one on the far side of the building -- the one leading in from the street -- opening.

-

As he's moving, Gage is lifting the recently acquired rifle's strap over his shoulder. "Here," he says, slowing her -- just long enough with a tap to her shoulder -- to hand it to her. His expression remains hard, as does his eyes.

Is it better in his hands, giving him extra ammo? Probably. But there's psychological value in holding a weapon that can actually hurt your enemies.

And he's heard the door behind them. "If you can run, we run. If you can't, we'll fight." Either way, he sounds confident. It's a facade, but it's one that he adheres to, all day, every day. The stoic, surly marine.

-

The necessary act of slowing her to hand her something meets with some resistance, because the very last thing Ines wants to do is slow down or stop. She does take the rifle -- there's no time to debate whether or not it makes sense for him to do that, though the expression she makes might suggest she's in agreement with him about where it would be most useful -- but once she has it the sound of the front door opening snaps her head up and around, and she's already moving again, eyes wide as searchlamps.

"Run," she says, whispering. "Run, let's run." At this point, it seems unlikely that any amount of physical pain would change her choice.

In spite of her moments-ago screw-up and the almost overwhelming urge to just break for it and rush out into the far street, when she reaches that far door she performs, in miniature, the same cautious procedure that she's seen Gage do several times already: the gap in the door, the hold for that count, checking they're clear before she lets the desire to break for cover finally win out. It's a little rushed, but she's still capable of thinking ahead, at least.

-

There's a grunt of something that might be approving from the marine behind her, but he doesn't spare breath for words. She can sense him, right on her heels, hand occasionally reaching out to brush her shoulder to let her know he's close and for her to keep moving. He's running, keeping pace with her as they move out into the paths between buildings -- but letting her choose the direction for now, since the only important thing is away.

He, for the moment, is watching behind.

Their pursuers are relentless. They are machines, after all. Their options are to outpace, or hide from the things. For now, Gage seems happy with outpace, though he does, after a few minutes, mutter, "Left here, right up ahead." A keen sense of direction would suggest the path he's aiming for has a destination of sorts.

-

As it turns out, Ines has a good instinct for threading through urban environments in this particular way, evasively. It's by no means educated in the way a marine's would be and it still suffers in some small part by the fact that her grasp of it continually factors in elements that don't matter here -- windows, high points for snipers, reluctance to wind too closely to gutted out buildings that people might have been hiding within -- but for the most part she seems to be able to tell which directions are going to keep them out of sight of main roads without leading them to dead ends. It's an aptitude that was hard-won.

She still obeys instantly the moment he gives her a specific direction, glancing behind them before diverting -- left, then right. She's still whispering. "Is it the fence?"

-

Gage might just be impressed by Ines' instinct for evasion, but if he is, well -- it's Gage. It's not like he's going to come out and say something nice all unprompted.

"The closest set of buildings to it. Not sure how heavily patrolled it is, I didn't have long to watch when I scouted it a week ago." Gage's response is pitched low, voice tense as he casts another glance over their shoulder. He's breathing hard, but not out of breath.

The place they're heading for is a small cluster of one-story buildings, and one two-story guard-style lookout. The latter seems empty, and it otherwise seems quiet. Behind -- a good three hundred meter open run away -- is the fence, topped by barbed wire. It's not the worst, but not the best. Maybe a minute of running in the open, climbing up the fence, getting over the barbed wire, and into the safety of the woods behind.

Not the worst, but it leaves them pretty frakking exposed for far too long.

-

By the time they get where they're going, Ines is breathing less like a young woman on a challenging run and more like someone toeing the line of their own limits, where challenge instead becomes difficulty. She hasn't slowed. Fear is a peerless motivator. She's probably running her leg straight into the ground.

The moment they're within sight of the fence she adjusts the hang of the backpack on her shoulders, twisting it around to hang over one shoulder with the bulk of the weight in front of her so that she can yank at the zipper and expose the top of the first blanket it contains. It leaves her back -- sweat has essentially soaked through the whole of her long-sleeved shirt in a perfect imprint of the backpack's contours -- free to press against the wall where they find cover before the open field, and the way she's looking at the fence itself is more than just anxious, it's visibly shaken. Looking at that field leaves her feeling literally dizzy. The thought of trying to cross all of that distance in the open...

"Do we wait to see if they're still following us, or just...go? What if they're bringing friends?"

-

The fact that Gage doesn't immediately offer a direction is telling. Of course, it could be because he's catching his breath, but his attention is on the fence and beyond, then on Ines as she begins to yank the zipper of the backpack open.

His jaw tightens after he swallows. The Tauron's voice is hard when he says, "You're going to go first, Correa. I'll cover you from here."

He anticipates an argument, that much is clear; his hand descends onto one of her shoulders, fingers squeezing -- not excessively, but in a way that's meant to be reassuring. He sounds certain. "Leave the blanket up on the fence for me. When you make the treeline, you'll cover me in turn."

A breath, and then he releases her. "No time to waste."

-

Telling, and worrisome. It means there are no safe bets or good choices -- and it's not as though Ines needed his silence to confirm that for her, but he's so often steadfastly confident that the hesitation manages to get its fingers into her insides and squeeze, anyway.

He can't be faulted for expecting an argument, given just who it is that he's dealing with. She doesn't like it; that's plain even though she won't meet his eyes, regardless of the squeeze to her shoulder. She has yet to look at him since the moment she told him they should run and there are reasons for that, too -- things they aren't going to get to deal with until, unless, they escape. But even without eye contact, the look on her face is sick at the thought.

Perhaps surprisingly, she doesn't argue. Her leg is hurt. She's slower than he is, she may struggle to scale the fence, and if so-

But she does have opinions, and she isn't going to be dissuaded. She shrugs the backpack off of her shoulder and it hits the dirt with a heavy WHUMP. By the time it does, she's already got half of the vest buckles undone.

"Don't argue with me on this Tomak, it makes the most sense if you're going last and you know it." And just in case he feels compelled to try, anyway, she does something she has never done. Not with him, or with anyone else: "I'll pull rank if I have to."

-

Just as he anticipates an argument, so does she. And she is correct in her guess. Gage's jaw tightens, his free hand reaching out to stop her unbuckling the vest. "No," he says, flatly. "We don't have time. Charge me for insubordination later."

"Go, Correa." It's as fierce as he can manage without yelling -- still pretty fiercesome for all that, growling.

-

It isn't often that Ines has reason to lament her lack of physical ability to deal with Gage. He doesn't usually give her any reason to regret it. Grasping at her unbuckling hand with his other one, though, there's not very much she can do to fight him off if he's determined -- and he is -- but she does try, ever-so-briefly, pushing and pulling against his grasp as her expression buckles around a braid of fury and grief.

"We would have time if you weren't getting in my frakking way!" She hisses the words, but she has no choice other than to concede. The longer she waits, the worse things get for him, and she can't force him to physically let her take the vest off. She reaches for the backpack and turns around with a wrenching pivot, and when she speaks her voice is hollow and thick. "If you get shot I'm coming back over the fence for you no matter how many toasters there are, and you won't be able to stop that. So don't frakking get shot."

It's the last thing she says before she starts to run.

-

He weathers those emotions, a stone of determined stubbornness against the fury of her frustration. There's no hint of satisfaction when she concedes, either, just a flicker of relief. There's lots of things he could say in response, certainly. He has the wisdom of the parting shot.

Instead, he just frakking laughs.

While she's moving -- running -- he's swinging his rifle around, sliding away into the darkness, finding somewhere from where he can both see her progress, and -- hopefully -- any approach of enemies.

It's eerily silent and so alone out there, in the open. No familiar voices of the Wolves' air wing in her ear to keep her company; no familiar cabin around her. Just the dark, and the silence, and the loneliness of her own breath.

-

The real cruelty of the length of that run isn't that she could be shot in the back at any moment. Strangely, running through a tangle of buildings is almost worse in that way. There's plenty of cover, there's a shot at getting away, and hope sits on a knife's edge, teetering in the balance of chance. This? Is different. This is a leap of faith, ultimately: once she's out there that's it. All she can do is run. She's hurled herself into the void and all that's left to do is find out whether or not she lands on the other side. In some ways, it frees her of the necessity of worrying about the consequences.

For herself.

The real cruelty is that she spends the entire duration of it worrying about whether or not Gage Tomak is going to die, because it would be her fault.

She would vastly prefer to be shot in the back over having to live with that possible reality.

Her leg is screaming unholy murder again before she's even halfway there, the painkiller nowhere near enough to stand up against that kind of punishment. Two thirds of the way there she starts to test the tightness with which the blanket is packed into the backpack, trying to set aside other worries to think about how she's going to get it over the top on the first attempt.

-

Behind her, silence. Silence that could just as readily be comforting as it could be worrisome.

Gage has posted himself at the corner of a building, one shoulder leaning into the wall, the other facing towards where Ines runs towards the fence, so he can just as easily glance her way to track her progress as he can watch the approaches. A hand, reflexively, reaches for one of the pockets of his vest that he isn't wearing, and he grimaces as much for the habit, as the lingering, last moments of their argument.

Maybe a last one. "Frak me," he breathes. Another darted glance is giving Ines' way. "Frak you, you, too," is muttered, somewhat less fervently. "Run faster."

-

The last thing she does before she gets ready to throw the blanket is flick the safety on the rifle and throw it over. She has no choice. It won't fit in the bag, the Cylon wasn't using any kind of strap, there's no way she can climb while holding it-

Her lungs are burning to the point that her spine aches by the time she's digging the blanket out with trembling fingers, letting it drop open, winging it behind her and, with hands to either edge, whipping it up overhand to sling across the razorwire in as broad a strip as she can manage.

She yanks the zipper on the backpack closed as best she can and swings it around onto her back, then begins to climb. The minute her leg has to take her weight while bent that way she feels all of the blood drain out of her face and a frightening wave of cold numbness squeeze her whole body like a fist, telltale signs of a near-faint. She gives herself two sends of eyes-closed stillness to let it pass, and then begins to climb. There's no graceful or safe way to pivot at the top and go down feet first on the other side, so she just lets herself fall over the fence to keep from getting her clothing snagged on the barbs, hitting the ground on the other side on her back, on the backpack. The air gets punched out of her lungs. She rolls onto her side and blindly feels for the rifle, grasping it as she pushes up onto both hands.

From where he is she's far enough away that all he'll be able to see is that she does manage to get up again and start running for the treeline, into the shadows of which she disappears instantly the moment she crosses the line between open air and canopy. Behind a tree, possibly, or prone. Sighting behind him, one hopes. Without a radio, it's impossible to tell.

-

She's climbed the fence and is dropping to the other side when she hears it. It's unmistakable now, like her ear is finely tuned it to -- the mechanical whirring, paired with the thud of heavy footsteps. There's no sight of the approaching patrol yet, obscured either behind the buildings or in the dark. But they're definitely coming, and soon.

If she risks a glance back as she's moving, she'd see them -- three cylons, red lights gleaming to mark their approach from the direction they so recently ran from. They haven't seen her -- yet -- but it's only a matter of time...

...at least until there's a flash of rifle-fire, nearer to her. Gage, hopefully catching them by surprise, fires a shot at the nearest one to stop them looking in her direction as she makes the safety of the tree-line.

Ines attacks Cylon3 with Rifle+Ap and HITS! Impaired wound to Head.

Cylon2 passes.

Gage attacks Cylon2 with Rifle+Ap and HITS! Incapacitated wound to Head. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Cylon3 passes.

Cylon1 passes.

Cylon2 has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Gage)

It may be an alarming moment before there's any sound of fire from the woods beyond the fence, but it does eventually come; Ines must not like the idea of trying her luck with a rocket for a second time, because a hole erupts in the head of the Cylon carrying that ominous, obvious tube.

There's not enough ammunition to suppress them, so the shots are single-fired. One can only hope she didn't just get absurdly lucky with that shot.

Hope, and run.

-

With a precisely aimed headshot from Gage, one of the cylons immediately drops before they even know what's hit them. The second shot from Ines impacts the rocket-wielding cylon in a way that, in addition to the hole, makes its head jerk back and sit at an odd angle. It's still up, though, the red gleam turning to look beyond the fence-line, now, as the both of the remaining cylons prepare to return fire.

Gage, meanwhile, is frakking running, once he hears the fire from the woods. There's a time to stand and fight, and a time -- like when he's low on ammo -- to just book it, headed for the section of the fence that Ines has left the blanket covering the sharp razorwire at the top. The shot that he aims back at one of the cylons is a bit of a hail-mary, but he'll take it, because he's noticed precisely what that thing is packing.

Ines attacks Cylon3 with Rifle+Ap and HITS! Graze wound to Left Arm. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Gage attacks Cylon3 with Rifle+Ap but Cylon3 EVADES!

Cylon1 attacks Gage with Rifle and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Right Leg.

Cylon3 uses Rocket. EXPLOSION!

Cylon3 attacks Ines with Rocket(Concussion) and HITS! Graze wound to Chest. (Reduced by ARMOR)

In the treeline, the rocket punches into darkness and briefly illuminates the woods with a blossom of incandescent fire. Chunks of earth, leaves and branches billow out of that space as the canopy ripples to the explosion.

There is, for just a moment, no return fire -- and that's because Ines is peeling herself up off of the ground, having been pegged in the vest by a chunk of shredded tree. Aside from knocking her on her ass and ensuring that her developing case of tinnitis is going to be considerably worse -- and, y'know, scaring the shit out of her, generally speaking -- she comes away from it unscathed, incredibly enough. Whether or not that'll remain true as pieces of the area around her continue to ignite and the fire spreads remains an open question.

The next time her rifle's muzzle flare is visible, it's much lower to the ground in a slightly different place. She just cannot get back onto her feet without help now, and if she took the time to do that she'd have to put the rifle down.

So she just gets up onto her good knee, and keeps shooting.

-

As perhaps expected, Gage's shot goes wide. The return fire from one of the cylons, however, is more precise, striking his right leg, drawing a guttural, sharp exhale of breath as he half collapses against the fence, fingers of his free hand clutching at the wire to keep himself upright. "Frak, frak, frak," is the Tauran's chant, face twisting in pain.

That's before he sees the rocket slicing towards the trees, and he freezes, face draining of blood as the edge of the woods lights up, trees catching on fire and reflecting in dark, wide eyes. "Correa--" is all he manages.

The, "No," that he breathes a moment later is mostly inaudible, fingers clenching against the wire. He turns, firing again at the rocket-bearing cylon -- few fraks given about being in the open, apparently. Only belatedly will he hear that additional chatter coming from the woods, breath finally filling his lungs again.

Cylon1 attacks Gage with Rifle but Gage EVADES!

Ines attacks Cylon3 with Rifle+Ap but MISSES!

Cylon3 uses Rocket. EXPLOSION!

Cylon3 attacks Ines with Rocket(Concussion) and HITS! Impaired wound to Left Arm.

Cylon3 attacks Ines with Shrapnel. Stopped by ARMOR on Chest.

Cylon3 attacks Ines with Shrapnel and HITS! Graze wound to Chest. (Reduced by ARMOR)

Gage attacks Cylon3 with Rifle+Ap and HITS! Impaired wound to Abdomen.

The second time is worse. She can tell that her shot goes wide, and that's the last thing she processes before her world explodes again into nonsense. Something else hits her in the chest and spins her away, down onto the ground. The concussive force of the blast smashes her wits out of her head entirely, leaving her dazed and face-down, confusedly trying to make sense of what just happened. Instincts take over, one dirty hand still grasping the rifle; the other plants on the ground to help her get up and pain erupts through that half of her body, shocking enough that she gasps -- but it has an anchoring effect, too.

She can't hear a goddamn thing anymore, her chest aches (the vest is shredded in the center, now), and she's pretty sure her left arm is broken or in some other way seriously frakked -- she doesn't look to find out what flavor of bad it actually is, though the amount of heat implies blood -- but she's able to roll onto one hip and then pivot around to use her bent knees to hold the rifle up, wedged between her shoulder and the ramp of her thighs.

She doesn't even really register that he stopped on that side of the fence, because she can't really afford to look. There's smoke in her eyes and what he needs her to do now more than anything else is keep pulling the trigger.

-

The Tauran's fingers clenched into the wire tighten, and he's moving, quick enough to avoid the fire from the cylon behind him -- up and over the fence with a deftness only marginally slowed down by the wound to his leg. Gage lands, heavily, on the other side, earning a grunt of pain. Almost immediately though, he's up on his feet again, before he's running for what's left of the treeline.

The second explosion lights up the woods again, sending a blast wave of heat in his direction. He lifts an arm to shield himself -- to instinctively protect his night vision -- but it's all for naught now, and he keeps moving, slightly favoring that right leg. One good thing about the rockets -- it's lit up the woods, so it's easy to see where he's going. It also makes apparent the strain in his expression, not so much stoic, his expression is a mixture of fury and fear alike -- the former common, the latter less so.

"Correa?!" his voice is taut with that mixture of fury and fear, as he enters the burning woods, casting about for her. His eyes lock onto her form, expression twisting in a moment of relief before his jaw tightens at her state, and he's heading for her, threading between the burning trees, reaching for her.

Behind them, the rocket-bearing cylon doesn't launch another volley. It drops down, reloading. It won't be long, though...

Ines attacks Cylon3 with Rifle+Ap and HITS! Flesh Wound wound to Chest.

Gage passes.

Cylon1 attacks Gage with Rifle but hits the COVER they're behind.

Cylon3 passes.

Cylon3 has been *KO'd* ! (Damaged This Turn By: Ines)

It falls down.

It actually falls down.

Ines takes a breath that ends in several coughs and she's starting to shift her posture when she actually processes that there's a sprinting figure bearing down on her -- she didn't hear her name at all -- and her relief is so acute as he breaks through the treeline that not even the dirt or blood smeared on her face can conceal it.

There's no way she's getting up by herself. Her bad (right) leg is officially clocked out for bending that way and her left arm is, indeed, completely frakked in some presently mysterious way that probably requires safety to examine in any detail, which makes getting upright a daunting prospect. She tries, anyway, able to use the butt of the rifle planted into the ground to get onto her knee, and then lift her good arm, anticipating support.

"We really need to go," she's pretty sure she says. She can't hear herself, either. She's always been so good with languages, all of her diction precise regardless of whichever fluency she was using. It all sort of blurs together around the edges now, tongue sluggish for countless reasons.

-

"Yes," Gage breathes, less agreement and more just an expression of equal relief. There might even be a twitch of lips there, but it fades pretty quickly when dark gaze flickers over her form and takes account of her injuries.

Support, indeed comes. His rifle is slung back, one hand sliding around her back, the other under her knees -- hefting her up with a grunt. From that angle, the fire lights his features, the tightness of his jaw on whatever he might want to say, already moving. I've got you, he could say, or We're going to make it. But they're not words he's entirely sure he can back up, the strain of his muscles and exhaustion both evident in the set of his expression.

It's not pleasant. With his own injured leg, his movement is uneven, but speed is key here, and he doesn't slow down despite very probably jerking both that badly injured left arm and her own leg. Soon enough, they'll pass into the dark of the woods.

Behind them, there's the chatter of more rifle fire, but it goes wide of them, only one stray bullet landing near one of the trees as they enter the relative safety of the darker woods.

-

It's probably telling that she doesn't argue with being picked up like a rag doll, even though she was only expecting him to support her on that side. It probably hurts: she cradles her bloody arm against her torso as best she can, but that leg wound is positioned just right for bumping into his body every time he fights against his own injury or the inconveniently uneven ground. The rifle she's clutching in her good hand, behind his shoulders, probably doesn't feel especially great anytime it bangs into him, either.

She doesn't make a sound, though. Not one.

Over the line of his shoulder she turns one eye, pale iris bright in the smudges on her skin, to look through what seems to her an apocalyptic scene of torn-up earth, broken trees and hungry, traveling flames, toward the place where a single Cylon still glints. At the sprawl beyond, too, buildings that look so innocuous from a distance -- like it's all just a quiet, empty installation surrounded by abandoned structures.

She'd flip it off if it didn't mean letting go of the rifle.

Instead she gives in to various aches and pains, tilting her head to rest her temple at his shoulder and close her eyes underneath knitted brows. A few strides further along, blood-slick fingertips lift and very lightly leave small smudges of scarlet low along the cut of his jaw, then fall away again. He may be reluctant to make promises he's not sure he can back up, but if that silent gesture says anything, it's that she knows, anyway.


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