Gavin de Luc

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Everything posted by Gavin de Luc

  1. Blasphemy and Sacrilege

    November 8th, 2020. Upper West Side, New York City. 1330hrs. Fucking hell. This was suicidal and stupid, even he knew that. But he did it anyway, because he had become weak. His stockpile of alcohol at the house did not last for nearly as long as he thought it would, which forced him outside in the frigid cold to get more. Smashing the window of the liquor store was probably not the best decision the man had ever made, but what the hell else was he supposed to do? The beer was frozen and had destroyed their containers, and the liquor was already looted before from the other end of the store. He did eventually manage to find some rum stashed away behind the counter that was untouched, but it wasted valuable time that could end up damning him. The soldier had many layers of clothing on, but that only got him so far. A thick parka was his outer layer, which his heavily gloved hands tried desperately to find some small bit of warmth inside. A layer or two in he had a snub nosed revolver and his karambit knives, but they weren’t exactly accessible in his current state. The gloves that covered his hands were too thick for any real dexterity, even if they weren’t completely numb from the cold. He had never bothered to get any of his extremely thick winter coats enchanted, because he never had the occasion to really use them since he had joined ARMA. He always stubbornly wore his leather jacket or something lighter and just wore layers, but very little of his silver thread clothing was actually very warm by itself. It wasn’t like his chances of being shot at today were very high, and if anyone wanted to try and stab him through this many layers of clothing they were welcome to try. The far more immediate threat, of course, was the damned cold. He had assumed it was too far back to his house before some severe frostbite kicked in, and the bike that he tried to steal to expedite the process was frozen to the point of the pedals breaking off when he tried to get moving on the damn thing. That wouldn’t work, so he needed to find something else. He needed to force a way inside of a building, but if he guessed wrong and there was no heating he may just be fucked. He needed something with lights, because if they still had power it meant that they probably had heat. Maybe a store or something, because there might still be blankets left and if he was really lucky maybe a heating unit. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be any stores outside of a bike store and a bunch of restaurants nearby… and none of the restaurants seemed to exactly be open. There was another option, the churches, and Gavin would not try that particular option unless he was desperate… and he was just desperate enough to do it. The nearest one was a Jewish synagogue, with big wooden doors and lights that were still on. No doubt there were people inside, and even if there wasn’t they had power and likely some material inside that the soldier could use to get warm again. The single bottle of rum that he downed earlier would hold him over, at least for now, so at least he wasn’t shaking at the present. Boots stomped against the snow coating the ground on the way, and hands desperately trying not to shake from the cold tried the door. Locked, predictably. The windows on the doors were opaque, and had the Cross of David prominently displayed on them. Gavin couldn’t see whether there was light inside of the door, which meant he had an interesting choice. He could break down the door with his powers, but if the heating was not on or able to turned on inside he would just freeze to death slightly slower due to letting all the cold air in. He could also try teleporting inside, but if there was not a connecting shadow that ran underneath that door… He wasn’t exactly sure what would happen, because he had never wanted to change materializing inside of solid material like a door before. The likely result would be instant death, but when the alternative was slow and withering death for the crime of wanting a damned drink it didn’t sound so bad. Since the light outside was still on, this was his best shot at not freezing to death. Steel gray eyes locked on to the door, and the man breathed deeply before letting the shadow over the door take him. If he was going to die, he wouldn’t close his eyes for it. A second later, he was just past the door no worse for wear. It was noticeably warmer inside, and the soldier immediately threw off his thick gloves and started rubbing them together furiously to try and get some feeling back in them. Upper West side was an affluent part of town, of course its infrastructure still worked. Thank God for the small victories. A cold, calculating gaze surveyed the entrance area… but it didn’t seem like anyone was home. After a few minutes, the man lost the parka to have easier access to the revolver in the jacket underneath it. If there was anyone in here, he doubted it was the actual men and women who came to this holy place. In an area like this, all the locals were safely in their homes and away from the danger of the outside. Unless they were goddamn alcoholics with no self-control, that is. Fucking hell. He hoped it didn’t come to that, killing people in a goddamned church. If he had to do it, he would… but despite the awful things he had done to survive in the past, something about even the thought of killing someone in the house of God revolted him. With any luck, he would just be alone with his paranoia and nobody else would show up. What were the chances, anyway? Looking around, with the scattered lights still on… he determined the chances were too damned high and activated both cloak and noise dampening. Pulling out his revolver from the pocket of his second jacket, he held out the firearm in front of him and started moving to search the building, starting with whatever room was directly in front of him. He would not be taken by surprise and killed like this, feeling naked without the protection of his silver thread armor. Trespassing on a church, lightly armed with the stench of alcohol over his body from the residue from the liquor store... no, not like this. Not here. If there was anyone inside of this place, he would know before they ever caught a whiff of him. No regular human, or even most altered, could detect him like this. If they did somehow manage to gain awareness of him, he knew damn well they weren’t human and could react accordingly. He would get them first, before they got him. Killing a monster in the house of God wasn’t sacrilege, was it?
  2. Blasphemy and Sacrilege

    Cold gray eyes watched the tank of a man turn around and every fiber of Gavin's body tensed up for just a second as he prepared himself to unleash every shadow in his range at the first hint of magic. Now that he was face to face with the man and was actually looking at him rather than at his movements for the first time, the soldier realized that the man's face looked familiar for some reason. Why it was familiar didn't exactly matter in this moment, because the man's alcohol ravaged memory couldn't conjure why exactly it would matter in the first place. He had a terrible habit these past few years of flat out ignoring things like training, the news, and other sources of information that most people used to stay aware of their surroundings. He had been far too busy imploding for any of that to really matter, and it was occasions like this that made that a disadvantage. The tank of a man didn't even flinch when he dropped the cloak, which was another thing that the American didn't like. If the guy was actually a priest, he would have been shitting himself knowing a potentially hostile magic user with visual and noise cloaking abilities was inside of the building. The man just calmly adjusted his collar… and he wasn't even holding anything. No firearm and this confident was a bad combination, but at the same time he wasn't openly hostile and certainly didn't immediately lash out like Gavin would have in a situation like this. The accent was weird, too. He had never heard anything like it before, which put him even more on edge. Not Vanguard with an accent like that, and exceedingly calm in the face of someone who he could only assume to be a magus. This guy was either Order or a very powerful non-human. Or insane to the point of being in delusion of their own abilities, if he was extremely lucky today… which he wasn’t, because he was locked in a church trying not to freeze to death. Wait a minute. If it talked like a vague European, dressed like a Catholic, and was super calm when faced with magic it had to be an Order magus. Gavin rolled his neck to crack it as the tank finished speaking, and waited a couple seconds before replying. "All else being equal, I'd prefer us both not stand here like morons until us and the old guy upstairs freezes to death. I also think it would be fucking pointless to fight and die like an animal underground when we could just agree as mages to hold off at least until we're off of holy ground." he conceded, voice measured and neutral. He was carefully watching for the reaction when he called the other man a mage, hoping to see confirmation. Gavin certainly wasn't a mage, but Empowered Human just didn't flow off the tongue nearly as well. "What I don't understand, though," he continued in the same neutral tone as he worked out what his attack strategy would be if the guy went fucking berserk on him, "Is I thought you fucks worked in threes." It was why ARMA had to beef up their usual patrols, because the Order liked to have trios running around that were admittedly a giant pain in the ass to deal with at times. Gavin spent most of his career in SHIELD, so he didn't exactly enter combat against the Order of Light very much but it was one of the few things that he did remember from training. The smart thing to do would be to just placate the guy and fuck off with cloak before a reassessment or just waiting the guy out and leaving in the morning. That was what a man who valued his life above all else would do, because it was smart and extremely sensible when you had an acute sense of self-preservation. But color him curious, and at this point in Gavin's life he was willing to sacrifice a bit of safety to sate spur of the moment curiosity. Worst case scenario was they both died in combat, which was a lot better than liver failure or a car accident in terms of ways to go out.
  3. Blasphemy and Sacrilege

    Fucking hell. Tank woke up to the cold and was suspicious, which left Gavin in a position of few good choices available to him. He could just strike from the shadows and assassinate the guy, but aside from being rude would also not fix the bigger issue of being in danger of freezing to death. He could simply go back into the warmer room with the elderly man, but that would mean an immediate confrontation when tank got back into the room since there was no way to appear nonthreatening in that situation. He could just remain hidden, but the need to stay completely conscious the entire time would make time go excruciatingly slow. He had very little outside assistance possible with that route, too. If he had anybody that would come out and try and get him, he would have called them already. Maybe Aingeal, but that idiot would be just as likely to get herself killed in the attempt as to actually be helpful. So to aid in the decision, he just slipped back and observed the tank of a man as he went along trying to find the intruder. Maybe it was the paranoia talking, but the guy moved eerily similar to someone who was combat trained. There was very little wasted movement, and his posture was all wrong for a civilian. Far too upright and measured, when most people would be spooked into terror at a bump in the dark in a situation like this. He was far too calm, which meant that it was likely Gavin drew the short straw here considering he couldn't exactly exit the building at this point without killing both himself and everyone else inside by letting the cold in. Wait a minute, that's genius. Mutually assured destruction, that was how he was going to do this. That was going to be how he avoided killing everyone before freezing to death in the House of God. As they walked down the service hall stairs, the soldier made a point to put his revolver out of sight by slipping it into the folds of clothing and waited until they were both at the bottom of the stairs before dropping the cloak and noise dampening all at once. "Dead man's switch on the door, I lose consciousness and we all freeze to death. I got no interest in fighting on holy ground or dying right at this second, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't either." he started in a conversational tone, his blended Irish and American Southern grating even to his ears because he knew how recognizable it was in case this jackass was a member of a faction who hated ARMA. Dude looked like he could easily be an outlaw or a Vanguard, that was for sure. "I can't get out right now, but neither can you or you would have done it already. Can you fix the boiler, or would you like assistance so all three of us don't become popsicles by the end of the night?" He came off almost bored, and that was largely because he had damn near perfected the apathetic facade over the years, much to the chagrin of his supervisors. He stretched his arms out slowly with his palms open and facing the man to show that he had nothing in his hands and let the tank act as he would in response. He was more than ready to cut the man down in an instant if this attempt at peace didn't work, but hopefully a bluff was all it took to prevent going that particular route. ...hopefully.
  4. Nobody Expects the ARMA Inquisition:

    ”Given that you’re a mind reader, Lieutenant Walker, I hope you don’t mind me thinking out loud so that the others can hear me as well. I’m also going to be very candid with y’all, given that any secrets will be vetted out anyway soon enough.” His body language was completely relaxed, now, because once the threat of neutralization was slipped nothing else really mattered. His life was already forfeit at this point, so all that remained to see was how far he could push his skills to advance that life into a state that he could live with. ”Since I do not wish to be… neutralized, I guess I better start making the case I don’t need to be. My sunny disposition is not suited for Knight Division, so we can strike that immediately. That wing needs peacemakers more than dogs of war, and that’s not me.” Snarky and flippant were two ways to describe the tone that the soldier was using, though his stance remained the very image of respect. He was now railing against the authority that chained him so, as much as he yet dared. ”I would not be adverse to a swap back to Shield, if there was a pressing need. My specialty is leadership at the squadron or platoon level, but I’ve led companies before and would again if we should find ourselves attacked again by monsters or men that would seek to have us all die violently. But it is at the moment too safe, and too stable.” Therein lie the crux of the argument that he was about to present. That safety and stability were new enemies that he did not intend to suffer for long. Gavin wasn’t completely oblivious to what he had become. He was going to kill himself before an enemy did it at this rate, especially with his own ability to control the terms of combat in Shield. Self-preservation was an instinct that he had not let go of, despite trying very hard at some points. With Cloak, and the added incentive of his employer to get him killed during the course of work, that would change. He would have no control over the battlefield, and no control over what duties he was assigned. An elite level ex-special forces operator with the ability to make himself invisible and completely silent was an asset that most would be able to pay dearly for, and that wasn’t even including abilities past his most basic. ”Cloak is the most interesting, and probably the best choice to put a killer who you were thinking about getting rid of anyway. You could send an operative to die and not have to suffer the bad press of them doing something stupid while wearing your badge… I’ll play ball, but I need something in return to make sure we both get what we want out of this.” This was stupid and risky, but it also forced a resolution. If this gambit failed, at least it ended without years starving as an outlaw in the vast nothing of the outside. He knew it was impossible to win a confrontation with Lieutenant Walker, so he was fully prepared to end his own life rather than let his mind and powers be wiped. He would rather die than be neutered, and that was one of the only reasons that he was still in this organization to begin with. The relaxation in tone and posture was almost unnatural at this point, because it was the mannerism of a man who accepted that in all likelihood they would not leave the room alive. ”I’ll sign a contract, a year or so long with Cloak. I will remain functioning enough to do my job, or I will simply die and your issue is over. Also in that contract, which I want no less than ten copies of, you will agree that at the end of the contract I am free to walk out without the aforementioned neutralization resulting in death or in my case specifically most likely complete power negation. You will also agree that as long as I end up my end of the deal, my memories and mental faculties will remain intact as well and I will suffer no retribution from ARMA personnel for having the gall to survive, if I do in fact make it to the end.” A pause and a smirk, here, because he had nothing to lose at this point. If one is going to demand things, they might as well not stop there and go full out. The board was not used to being talked to like this, with such candor. He could tell, and steel gray eyes relished the look on their faces before this meeting reached its inevitable conclusion. ”Two years is my hard limit, and a willing signature on that end of the spectrum would have to come with more incentive… seeing as though if I get this contract you have pretty good incentive to make sure I do not last the duration, I think we both know I would not receive the full benefits of any contract written out due to untimely death negating it. I am perfectly fine with that arrangement, frankly. Give me a soldier’s death, or I go off to find someone else who can. That’s my counteroffer, and I think we both know that if there wasn’t a need for someone to die in service to their country that I would not be here to listen to talk of neutralization – it would have happened already. The only question that remains, now, is whether or not I leave this room alive or not.” This was not a gambit that Gavin expected to survive. Even if it was accepted, one way or another he would be dead by the time the contract was up. ARMA weren’t idiots, and they sure weren’t letting someone with his skill set just walk. What if he was captured by the Order of the First Light or another organization and tortured, brainwashed, or worse? There was no way that was happening, and that’s exactly what the soldier was counting on. The very fact that he was physically present to hear threats and given a space to move into meant that there was a need. If there wasn’t a need, he would have just died in an unfortunate vehicular explosion or something else that could have been chalked off as an unfortunate accident. He still would not survive the term, but he could trick himself into thinking he had a chance for long enough to have an honorable death. A good death, one in combat against an enemy that was either technically or numerically superior. Close quarters would be the ideal, so he would know who did it. And if ARMA could not provide a threat deadly enough to kill him without betrayal and sabotage, at least he knew he was good enough to force their hand in that respect. And if he actually made it out the other end… well, he would cross that bridge when he came to it. He would actually need to be perhaps the best in the world to pull that off, however, which would mean his negotiations with alternate employers would be … interesting, to say the least. Call him a drunk, call him a loose cannon, call him suicidal… but one thing you could not call Sergeant DeLuc is a coward unable to make a stand.
  5. Old spectres and new phantoms

    If there was one thing Gavin was not expecting, it was to be grabbed. Instinct took over a moment as the soldier’s left hand stopped fumbling with his keys and reached up to grab the offending arm and yank it forward. The shadow caster was only a little over two inches taller than the woman, so this had the unintended side effect of pulling her in quick enough for the top of her head to crack him on the jaw. That bit was not pleasant, but the warmth of the woman’s form against his own for a fleeting few moments was something a little rarer than just mundane pain. Standing at such similar heights, he could feel her breath on his neck and the soldier’s steel gray eyes locked with the woman’s light brown for just a moment too long. ”Fine,” he finally said after that moment’s pause, releasing his hold on the girl at the same time. ”You drive, then. It’s armored up pretty thick, so it’s a little lower to the ground and a lot heavier than a normal SUV. Please don’t crash, it’s fucking expensive and I can’t exactly get a replacement right now.” The earlier contempt in his voice was gone, replaced with an odd blend of confusion and acceptance. He had no idea why Casper was doing this, but he also didn’t exactly care enough to ask too many questions about it. It was what it was at this point, and he was fine just going along with it. He reached for his keys again, and once his fumbling hands finally got a hold of the damn things he tossed them unceremoniously to the woman beside him. The doors were unlocked to the vehicle anyway, so there was no need for him to open the doors. ”I can give directions once we’re inside.” he added, not missing a beat with the rapid acceptance of the latest weird thing to happen to him today. ”It’s not parked that far from here.” There was something off about the delivery of the words, though. His tone was friendly and conversational, but his body language was all wrong. The shift in the latter was quick, and had only happened in the last minute or so. The man’s footsteps were unsteady, but nevertheless moved at a deliberately faster pace than the woman behind him. Every time she sped up, so did he. For the moment at least, the soldier simply seemed to be refusing to look in Casper’s general direction as he kept moving forward through the field of shell casings and empty liquor bottles. His left hand was clenched inside of a pocket of his leather jacket, and his right hand clutched with similar tightness against the grip of the carbine. Gavin still had no idea what he was doing, or what he was going to do five minutes from then. At this point he was just kind of going with it, anything to get him away from this area and this feeling. He needed to put some distance between himself and the place where Gibson went off into the fucking ether, and he needed to do it quickly. If Casper was coming, she had better hurry up and start driving. Soon, the man reached the bottom of the hill and started jogging to get to the vehicle just a few seconds sooner. Though the windows were tinted, he could still see just enough inside to verify that everything was in there through the outlines. His ARMA badge was on the dash, and the half dozen or so duffel bags filled with ammo and other firearms that he had brought with him were directly behind the passenger seat, with some of them partially unzippered out of laziness. While the haphazard setup was normal to him, it did not exactly occur to him that it was not normal for anyone else. The thought that not everyone drove around with enough weapons to stage an impromptu bank robbery or military coup would baffle him, so he did not bother to warn the woman in the slightest of the weapons cache inside of his own vehicle. What would be the point? Wasn’t everyone just as paranoid as he was these days?
  6. March 25, 2020 After that close call at the Harbor a few days ago, Gavin finally decided to use some of his vacation hours to clear his head and attempt to recenter himself. It was the first time on the field in a long time where he had been put in a position where he could not perform up to his standards. He made it out alive, sure, but that was entirely too much risk for his liking. He needed to be better than that, but such a close call with death meant that he had deserved a few days off to just relax and do whatever he wanted. Today, doing whatever he wanted meant he was headed for a short trip out of town and he had loaded up his armored Toyota Land Cruiser with enough alcohol to kill him and a few firearms so he could just shoot, practice his powers, and then get shitfaced away from any police or innocent bystanders. The last thing he wanted to do was get into a confrontation with the police at this point over something as stupid as intoxication, especially after that near-death encounter with the CDC putting him even more on edge with the government types. He was dressed in what was for him pretty standard attire when he was pretending badly to be a civilian. Dirty, unshined steel toed boots, carpenter style jeans, and a black leather jacket over a flannel shirt. The brim of a black and beaten up Atlanta Falcons baseball cap saved his eyes from the worst of the remaining sunlight from the sun that had just started setting in the distance. He hadn't fully gotten the orange decontaminate out of his hair, yet, so small traces of the orange gunk still stubbornly remained glued to his skull. He had only drank enough today to stave off the craving for the stuff, so he was also more sober than normal at least for the moment. Portable ward package and an M4 carbine with 2 filled magazines adorned the passenger seat of the vehicle as he drove, because his growing paranoia made him wildly uncomfortable without some sort of firepower within arm's reach. Especially when night fell, it would not be the first time that he was attacked outside the city and he would definitely rather be overprepared for nothing than dead in a ditch somewhere for the maggots and crows. He had a once professionally created and maintained shooting and training range built on a field a few miles out of town, out of the way of anything else and purposefully so. These days, it was still professionally built... but the maintained part had gone by the wayside years ago. Old whiskey bottles littered the place from the times he had drunkenly driven over to shoot at ungodly hours of the night and shell casings lined the ground. Looters had found the place and made off with a lot of the casings and a lot of the lighter targets and ammo boxes along with the occasional misplaced weapon, but there was still spare ammo and litter around to account for quite some time of neglect. He wasn't exactly trying to be subtle when he drove in towards the bottom of the small hill the field was on, mostly because he was not expecting anyone else to be there. As he was pulling up, though, a gunshot rang out and the soldier immediately lowered his head and reached for the carbine. Still keeping his body low, he loaded the damned thing before putting it back in the passenger seat. He was still out of sight of the hill, but that cut both ways. His windows weren't broken, so the shot didn't hit the vehicle. He could take the safe route and scare the intruder off by being loud in the armored truck, or he could get out and physically confront them. Fuck it. He turned the key to turn off the vehicle and locked the damn thing before putting his keys in his jean pocket. He was going to go for it, because damned if he wasn't going to do something else needlessly risky this pay period when the opportunity presented itself. Gavin grabbed his carbine and pulled a Springfield Armory XD .45 out of his glovebox for a sidearm since the rest of his were in the back of the vehicle and not worth getting at the present. He also still had his karambits, but those wouldn't see any use unless he got desperate. He put the small sidearm into the right jacket pocket of his leather jacket and put the one point sling of the carbine over his shoulder before opening his vehicle door and immediately activating his cloaking and noise dampening abilities to mask the door closing and his approach up the hill. Carbine in hand, the soldier marched forwards in the direction of the shooting range fully expecting the worst. It could be anyone or anything up there, and with his luck it would be a pack of lycanthropes or something equally unfortunate. Since he was dampening the noise he was making to almost imperceptible levels, Gavin was not concerned about anything but speed and making sure he would not be blindsided. If it was a human, he would be effectively invisible and silent with all of the growing shadow around with the sun halfway through setting in the distance. If it was a monster, he would know immediately just by virtue of the fact that they had noticed him and could react accordingly. It was a gunshot, so chances are that it was a human or magic user. Gavin liked his chances at remaining unseen against a human or magic user until it was far too late for them to do anything about it. And who knows, maybe it was just a random person who had happened to find the place and was not out to kill him and take all of his stuff. But he doubted it, because with his luck lately it probably was the pack of lycanthropes. Or more CDC agents, which was a somehow even worse option.
  7. Blasphemy and Sacrilege

    Thank God there were no dogs. Gavin’s power set allowed him to hide from discerning eyes and ears, but not from those with noses strong enough to identify specific smells… normally the alcohol. For now, though, it looked like he was in the clear. He went methodically through each room, much faster than he would be able to without his powers due to not needing to worry about the noise factor of his own movements due to his noise dampening. He would have to either accidentally kick a metal pipe or literally run into someone to be heard at this point, which allowed some liberties to be taken. As he progressed through the building, his patience to methodically search each room waned quickly. If someone was hiding in a closet or deep underneath a couch or bed… he would deal with them later if he had to. If anyone put that much effort into hiding, it was very likely that they weren’t exactly a threat to him at the present. It was the ones who took no efforts to hide that were the dangerous ones, especially when one was unlawfully trespassing. The police would not pursue a charge with current conditions, but there would be no shortage of individuals ready to kill trespassers regardless of extenuating circumstances. The doors that were unlocked were opened and the rooms searched, but when a door was both closed and then locked the shadow caster did not bother breaking that lock. It was lazy, sure, but something made him uneasy about picking locks in a holy building. As he made his way throughout the building, however, he became more and more sure that there was nobody inside. By the time he opened perhaps the one occupied door in the establishment, he had gotten sloppier. The door was opened a tad more quickly than usual to save time, and while the noise of the door opening was absent due to magic the second it took for the soldier to register that people were inside of the room meant that the door opened several inches wider than was strictly necessary. Luckily, it seemed like both of the men inside were asleep. There was an older man audibly snoring, and a younger one built like a tank that also had his eyes closed. This was the major source of warmth in the building it seemed like, because the two men inside were maintaining it. For now, Gavin was content to just shut the door and continue on his way. The warmth from the room would be nice, but avoiding an unnecessary confrontation was more important at the present. The rest of the building was free from the bone chilling winds, and while he could not stalk these halls forever… he also did not have to deal with that confrontation right this second. If he could find the source of the heating in the first place, he could also loiter beside it and ensure that a confrontation was never necessary. Sulking next to a radiator or a boiler was not exactly dignified or respectable, but it was a sight better than making a rabbi panic in their own house of worship or freezing to death besides. In years past he might have relied upon his charisma to just walk in, but for now he was just happy that neither of them were awake enough to notice the door being opened. For now, the goal was to finish searching the rooms so he knew generally what he was going to be dealing with in here and then find the heating system to camp out next to. It was still early enough in the day where he could get back to his place of residence as long as he warmed up completely first, and that was likely going to be the plan of action. If he could not locate the heating system, or it proved insufficient to actually fully warm him up… well, he would be stuck here for the night to avoid a large risk of freezing to death. And if the heating system completely died... Well, hopefully it wouldn't come to that.
  8. Old spectres and new phantoms

    When the woman gave her explanation of why she was out there, the soldier just shrugged in apathy. That was much more mundane and boring than he thought, and he made no effort to conceal that feeling in his facial expression. It was not exactly a secret that Gavin had an ego, and despite the fact that ARMA tried its best to instill the idea that those with powers were not inherently better than those without… there were some holdouts. The soldier was more prejudiced than most, and one of them included a consistent habit of talking down to civilians that he saw as trying to play war and having the body language to match. This time was no different, though he left the comments to himself this time. Truth be told, he was starting to mentally disconnect from the situation in front of him and just let himself enjoy the feeling of the alcohol taking effect and spreading throughout his body, until she started talking about Gibson again. That got him to stop spacing out and actually pay attention to what Casper was saying, if only for a moment. But unfortunately, a moment was all that was required. When the woman said that the ghost was disappearing and that it was likely talking to Gavin that kept it in this world, the soldier’s steel grey eyes unfocused completely as he abruptly sat down to process the statement and what it meant. God damn it, he hated having a rush of emotions flood through him. That was why he started drinking in the first place, to avoid the rush of emotions that always threatened to drown him in their intensity. While he went off on Gibson for being an idiot and getting himself killed in the Vanguard, Gavin didn’t exactly do a whole lot better. The ruthless took power in Ireland as well, because they were simply willing to force out or kill those who did not comply with demands and lacked the stomach for political assassination. As much as he wanted to say his friend’s life would have been better if he had followed Gavin across the sea, the simple fact of the matter was that the shadowcaster only survived himself because he was lucky enough to be attached at the hip to someone who death himself seemed to be uniquely terrified of. In the end, every cause that either of them had ever fought for had failed. The United States was fractured and barely a shadow of its former glory. The Vanguard of Humanity was never able to destroy the monsters had that infected the planet Earth with their presence, and indeed could not even maintain their initial standing across the world and was confined to very narrow areas in most nations outside of their native South. The Republic of Ireland never reclaimed the eastern half of the island, and never approached the prosperity of even the other major nations post-Resonance. Everyone that pushed for progressive, reformist policies like Rebekah did once upon a time were forced out of the country or stripped of all power to resist in favor of a system of warlords with no transparency and no accountability. As for ARMA, they never had the ambition or the guts to seize a truly global agenda and would likely never even attempt to. Can’t fail in a task you never try, eh? There was no point in telling him that, though. Sometimes the kindest thing was a harsh word and an omission of truth, to let him think that Gavin had somehow done better. He would not burden a dead man with the failure of the living. By the time his eyes refocused, he was already up and walking to pick up his carbine and head back to his truck. His footsteps grew visibly more unsteady the more that he walked, but he bent down to pick up the carbine and just kept walking. He couldn’t stay here. Not now. He needed to leave, to put some distance between himself and this place. His right hand held the carbine lazily, barrel pointed downward while his left hand fumbled in his pockets to retrieve the keys to his vehicle. He was in no condition to drive, and once the alcohol that he had binged fully hit him he was going to be even worse off. But he didn’t care. He was not going to stay in this place and be forced to deal with his own failures. To be forced to confront actual emotions and fears that he had been bottling up for years. He might be the only one left, but damned if he was going to sit here and cry about it. What right did that fucker have to come back, just to throw some shit at him and then just fucking vanish into nothing? What right did he have to put his death and failure on Gavin’s shoulders? Fucking hell, why was his face starting to get wet all of a sudden? Why was his breath bottled up in his chest and coming out in gasps as he walked? Oh, right. The drunk crying, the type that he didn’t have the self-control to stop once he started. Just when he thought his week couldn’t get worse, some supernatural shit started happening to catch him completely off guard and send him further down that hole of drinking to cope with emotions he didn’t know how to keep a handle on.
  9. Finding your faith

    Galway Province, Ireland. February 11st, 2013. 2155hrs. This was it. This was the road to the end. A massive invasion force was marching toward the province of Galway, and Gavin was unlucky enough to be part of the diversion that would stall for the time needed for all of the civilians to flee. They were to stop the draconic forces, mostly the terrifying mages who looked like a terrible mixture of reptile and human. Their vile fire magic had killed uncountable masses at this point, and orders had come down for higher ups given the reptiles storming the previous borders en masse over the previously more or less secure borders to evacuate the entire damned country. The creatures were more intelligent than the dragons, though thankfully less so than humans. Individually, they were not that powerful. They won fights against mages because most mages were fucking terrible, not because the reptile mages were particularly powerful on their own. When in groups, however, their combined power was enough to torch an entire city to ashes in a matter of minutes. With virtually all of the winged dragons headed farther down south for an unknown season, the slower bipeds were left to spearhead the new westward push of the aliens. Ireland was to be given up, but the military were to be the ones to cover the final retreat and lay down their lives for the greater good. At least, that was the pitch. Nobody expected them to survive, so the remnants of the defense forces in the province were all riding to their doom as a ragtag bunch of misfits. Remnants of the Irish and British militaries were in abundance, but also volunteers from nations across the sea like Gavin himself were thrust into this position as well for better or for worse. It had been for volunteers only, and those who were particularly patriotic or had nowhere else to go signed up for the suicide mission in droves. Better to die in battle than drown due to a leak in the ocean, or be stuck out there to get roasted to death should the stalling mission fail. Better to take destiny into their own hands, they figured. Not Gavin, oh no. He wanted to be on that boat yesterday, but he wasn’t about to leave Rebekah here to die even if it meant he was damned as well. She grew up in this county, and was able to see her family in person one more time before departing in tears to ensure that they would be able to make it to the deep ocean before any of the reptile invaders made it to the western coastline. Rebekah was promoted to Company Sergeant and given command of roughly ninety individuals simply due to the fact that she was the highest ranked Irish soldier left on the ground. All of the officer corps were either down south or getting onto the boats themselves, which left Sergeant Lynch in charge of Galway’s last stand. They were arranged in three platoons, with Lynch taking the vanguard and the two other most senior enlisted taking lead of the left and right flank. Darkness fell early on in the night, but the bright headlights of the vehicles cleared the way, at least for now. All of their proper armored vehicles were destroyed at this point, so they were riding in the biggest and heaviest trucks they could get their hands on that were retrofitted with as much armor as was possible and decked out with two machine guns in the passenger seat and bed. Each truck also carried the flags of the soldiers fighting within the truck, which meant that the one Gavin was in had both the Irish and American flags streaming on the sides as it raced down the road. Body armor was worn by some, but against the threat of fire most saw it to be useless. Those who could get their hands on fire resistant gear slapped that shit on, but the rest of them typically just wore their plain old uniforms. The average age of the troops here was on the depressingly low end, probably early twenties with those being younger or older not an uncommon sight. The ride there had been boisterous, to say the least. The Irish soldiers sang A Soldier’s Song both in Gaelic and English almost nonstop for most of the ride, with Rebekah and the gunner in the back physically touching Gavin whenever the verse about soldiers coming from a land beyond the wave came up. It was a ritual that had developed because he was the only foreigner in his immediate unit, and had become a real asset as the war raged on due to his magical talent and the fact that he was quite frankly better than just about any other mage they had encountered along the way. They had gone over the plan numerous times, and when they started approaching the border the boisterous singing quieted down into almost complete silence as the praying started from the vast majority of the group. They were making peace with their God, fully aware of the fact that they would not be making it back home. Gavin himself was never religious, but he did spare a few glances over to Rebekah in the passenger seat with her head bowed and muttering a familiar prayer that she did before every major battle. ”Lord, I ask for courage. Courage to face and conquer my own fears… Courage to take me where others will not go. I ask for strength... Strength of body to protect others... Strength of spirit to lead others. I ask for dedication... Dedication to my duty, to do it well... Dedication to my country, to keep it safe. Give me Lord, concern... For those who trust me, and compassion for those who need me. And please Lord.... Through it all be at our side.” Many of the Irish soldiers wore blue face paint at least in a few lines across their cheeks, and Rebekah was no different. Hell, even Gavin did it because he wasn’t about to refuse a morale boosting exercise immediately before riding right to his death. As she was finishing her prayer, Gavin glanced over one more time and let his left hand slip from the steering wheel and held it out for a moment before it was grabbed tightly by the woman to his left. ”We’ll make it through.” the American said with a conviction he did not truly feel, ”We always do.” The American’s steel gray gaze met with the Irishwoman’s soft brown as she gave him a forced smile in response. Dress code was nonexistent, and most soldiers just let their hair grow out naturally due to the lack of time during the war to actually do any self-care or grooming, but this mission was a little different. They had time to prepare, and most wanted to die how they lived – so many of the men, including Gavin shaved off their facial hair and trimmed up enough to look good for what would likely be their final photographs to be sent back to their families. Some of the techie mages managed to upgrade some radios so every member had one, and the live feed made it back to the people on the shores so they theoretically would know how many to expect coming when all was said and done. If the group managed to survive, it would also mean that a rescue party could be sent back immediately and they could hop on one of the last boats out. An unlikely proposition, but it was good to know that if somehow, they managed to make it through this suicide mission alive they wouldn’t be left out here to starve to death or get whacked by the next patrol. Rebekah was always more of a rebel than Gavin was in some respects, and her own personal style was one of them. Her orange hair dye that she adopted early on in the war was redone, and her longer hair was braided in the style of the Celtic warriors of old. She eventually pulled her hand away, however, to reach for the radio in the truck and give out the order they had all been waiting for. ”Turn off the headlights, and put on your NVGs. I just wanted to say a quick word before we went into radio silence for the last few minutes of peace before contact with the enemy.” Gavin already started the dampening effect around their vehicle, mostly out of a precaution because these pre-battle speeches tended to get a little loud. He would not activate the darkness for a few more minutes now, because there was no possible way the enemy could be in line of sight to the convoy now. Steel gray eyes, altered to be able to see clearly in the darkness, glanced over to Sergeant Lynch as she gave her speech with admiration and pride written clearly on the American’s face. ”Today we stand as the last line of defense for the tens of thousands of refugees at the shores that are packing up their entire lives to flee their homes as we speak. Three days ago, you all answered the call to help save these lives by making a line in this ancient ground to give the rest of humanity hope. Hope that this alien menace can be stopped, and our sacred homeland may one day be reclaimed from the jaws of the reptile invaders that currently hold her hostage.” ”Someday, when these invaders are but a history lesson for the children of Ireland, the entirety of the world will come together and remember this place… this sacred ground watered with our blood, freely given to heavenly cause and say that humanity was here! They will say that the soldiers here, on this day, taught our enemy that humanity does not falter! That we proved to those reptilian bastards that humanity does not surrender! And most of all, they will salute the battle standard of our ancestors and say that we are the reason that they yet draw breath! Their mothers, their fathers, their daughters and their sons… all alive and well because we DID NOT FAIL! Faugh an Beallach! Clear the way!” With that, the woman put the radio down and manned the machine gun in the passenger seat. They had made their separate peace before riding off, promising each other that they would not devolve into tears and I love yous in the midst of battle to get both of them killed like idiots. They held a simple wedding the day before to join them in the eyes of God, and if they both survived it would be made public when both of their families could make the trek over to attend. For now, though, the shadowcaster just focused on maintaining a minimal shroud over the vehicles around him and a moderate noise dampening to make sure that they were not heard in their approach. After the awful waiting that seemed like an eternity, the enemy was spotted on the horizon. Previous encounters showed that these reptile mages were not immune to their own fire, and tended to have quite the accuracy at a distance with their magic. Up close, however, they were not immune to panic and were not nearly as comfortable flinging around that deadly fire. This led to a simple, but extremely dangerous strategy in closing the gap and fighting the enemy in hand to hand combat to prevent the mass use of magic. Their scales were thick, but not thick enough to deflect bullets like their trueborn flying cousins. They were also not immune to solidified shadow, which in this much darkness meant that as long as the American stayed alive he could cut a devastating swath of death throughout the battlefield. Which would be more necessary than initially thought, because not only were there hundreds of the abominations present… but two dragons circling overhead as well to protect the flock. This was not in the plan because while the two species had worked together in the past the dragons were never intelligent enough to actually guard the mages for any extended length of time. Their animal level intelligence made it impossible, or so they had thought. ”I’ll take care of the dragons. You take care of the mages. I love you, Gavin. Stay safe and don’t do anything stupid.” Rebekah whispered, grabbing the 20 inch barrel HK417 that she had become so famous for shooting down dragons with before and jumping out of the damned vehicle with all the casualness in the world. Like it was routine and like those weren’t the last words that she would ever speak to her husband. Fuck. With Rebekah there, Gavin could at least lean on the aura of confidence that she always had to make it through the initial charge and steel himself. With her gone, he was just left by himself staring down a suicidal run forward that would likely see him killed instantaneously. Alone. Despite his best efforts to hide it throughout the campaign, the fact remained that Gavin seemed to feel fear more than most others that he served with. The fact was, he was still terrified to die and only forced himself to keep it together so Rebekah didn’t notice. With her gone, the façade of confidence started cracking immediately. All he could do now is maintain the cloak and noise dampening and hope to God this plan worked, because if he fucked up and any one of them caught wind of what was happening… all of them would die without firing a shot. If anyone panicked and fired a shot too early, it would also kill them all due to making a noise too loud to be dampened without significant power expenditure and advanced warning. But the wedge held together and waited. They waited until they were within one hundred yards of the enemy, and then they lowered their machine guns and started firing into the masses of the reptilians. The drivers also started flooring it to close the distance as quickly as possible, and in Gavin’s case he started to scream the words to spells to unleash every bit of shadow he could into killing and disabling the invaders with as little power expenditure as possible. As soon as the machine guns started firing, the shadowcaster dropped the noise dampening and as soon as the trucks started ramming into the aliens he dropped the cloaking entirely. He would not let Rebekah down, not now. He would survive this, regardless of what it took. Sharp and deadly stakes rose from the ground in intervals to impale the monsters where they stood while balls of shadow as big and dense as cannon balls were propelled as fast as the Altered could manage in a wide arc in front of Gavin’s lead vehicle as he used almost all of his remaining power all at once to cause as much initial damage and panic as possible. Here in the pitch black of an Irish winter night, his strength was as high as it ever could be with the complete lack of a moon overhead to wash away the shadow. This was the strongest he had ever been, with more shadows than he had ever had to fuel his powers. He just needed to cause enough initial damage to give the rest of them a chance, and he willing to damn near kill himself casting spells to do it. From above, he heard the roar of one of the dragons above and looked up to see the damned thing soaring straight at him. He could hear the screams of his fellows as their vehicles were met with the fireballs of the mages, but so far Gavin had cleared a path for himself and those immediately behind him that they were able to just roll on through… until now. ”Fuck…” he muttered, his face draining of color immediately. He didn’t have enough left to take down the dragon, at least not quickly and in his panic he just froze there with his foot hard on the gas pedal and watched the dragon open its mouth to rain fiery death over the wedge… Then a shot rang out and hit the fucker in the jaw. The force of the impact and surprise factor on the dragon caused it to redirect its fiery breath to the back rows of the mages, killing at least a hundred of its own kind in one fell swoop. A second shot hit the wing bone of the creature, causing it to screech in pain and start losing altitude, and the third shot hit the fucker right in the eye and dropped it over another group of reptilian mages. The corpse falling out of the sky must have killed at least a dozen of the damnable creatures, but that still left one more dragon. But by the looks of it over half of the ranks of mages were destroyed, and the American raised his left fist in the air to give a cheer of celebration for a moment before turning his attention back to the battle… Too late to react to the ball of energy that hit the truck he was in and sent the damned thing flying. Due to the lack of a seatbelt, he was flung into the air quite a distance away. He lost his radio in the fall, alongside the rifle he had between his legs. His means of communication and his best nonmagical weapon both taken from him in an instant, and then everything went black. The next thing he knew, the American was on his back in the middle of a pile of heavily scorched reptilian bodies, and absolutely covered in wet blood. Whether that blood was his or someone else’s, he had no idea, but what he did know is that his head hurt like hell. He propped himself up on his elbows to observe the situation around him, and to be frank it looked better than he had expected. Out of the thirty trucks they had brought with them, every single one of them seemed to be destroyed. There were still about a dozen fighters still alive, using the destroyed hunks of metal as somewhat effective cover against the remaining mages who seemed to be doing the same. There seemed to be about two dozen of the mages left, and one of them just got brained by a sniper round as he was watching. The second dragon was also dead, riddled with bullets in both wings and its face that looked like they came from multiple machine guns while the American was knocked unconscious. That meant Rebekah was still alive, so Gavin just needed to do his part as well. He still had some energy left to play with some of the shadows that covered every inch of the battlefield, aside from the bits on fire. Three reptilian mages ducked underneath a destroyed truck in front of him, and soon each of them were decapitated by a trio of higher speed scythe slashes that cleared one small group of human soldiers to advance just a little bit farther. The shadowcaster was too drained to cast spells without at least whispering the words to the spells, but he had assumed that all of the reptilians around him were dead already. He was wrong. The good news was that the fucker was just as drained as he was, or he would have died in a ball of fire. The bad news was that the American had thick, reptilian hands around his neck and was close to either getting his neck snapped or suffocating to death because he was caught in an exhale from the start. God, it was a strong little monster. If Gavin didn't have such a muscled neck it would have snapped under the pressure instantaneously. The bastard lunged right at him and had its body weight sitting on the human’s stomach, and the mage itself was absolutely wretched looking. Severe burns covered its entire body and seared the skin beneath the thick scale, and it seemed to be breathing out of sheer spite while it summoned the last of its life force to kill one last enemy. The thing had the ugliest elongated lizard face the American had ever seen in his life, and its jaw seemed to be locked open with burns so severe in its mouth that the human could see its jawbone, along with the charred flesh that remained attached to that bone. He wasn't sure how it was still alive, but the reptile seemed pretty to determine to ensure that Gavin didn't remain breathing for much longer than it did. He was too far away from the action for anyone to help him, because he had given no indication that he was not simply a corpse at this point. The pile of bodies would probably block vision of the reptilian basically lying on top of him at this point, so he needed to come up with a way to get himself out of this situation himself. He had his pistol in a leg holster, but it was secured by a strap and there was no way he could get that strap undone in this condition… The knife. He had a knife. Gavin used his last bit of energy to lunge his chest forward in order to grab the fighting knife on his right thigh, and then just started stabbing as fast as he could will his muscles to move. The first stab was too weak to pierce the scales, but the second and third ones in the exact same spot started to dig deeper and deeper into the stomach of the beast. The American twisted the knife around as best he could to release or at least loosen the grip of the creature and cause as much internal damage as possible, but the stubborn thing continued holding on tight. Just as his vision started to black out, the reptilian loosened its hold as the blood loss became too much for the creature to bear. The man immediately shoved the creature to the side as it struck human with fist and foot in its last gasps of life. The strikes hurt, but were not nearly as life threatening as the choking and within about thirty seconds the beast was too weak to fight or simply dead. Breathe. Breathe. The man became acutely aware of a few things in that moment as he regained awareness of his surroundings. The first thing was that he had liquid on his face that his grimy hands could only somewhat wipe off, which was likely spittle from the reptile’s jaws. The second thing was that he had pissed himself while being choked out and so his pants were soaked, and the third thing was that the humans appeared to be winning now. There were roughly a dozen reptilians left to six humans that he could see, and another sniper shot rang out to make it eleven mages and eight humans if he counted both himself and Rebekah. They could do this. Gavin dropped the knife he had been clutching for dear life and carefully and slowly reached for his old American issued M9 and undid the holster for it. He drew it making as little sound as he could, thanking every god there ever was that the enemy mages were too distracted with being shot at that they neglected to notice the melee that was going on behind them as he lined up a shot at the closest one. It was stupid, but in the moment, there was no thought behind these actions. It was just instinct, and his instinct was to kill as many of these abominations as possible to ensure that none of them made it past the border of Galway into the lightly defended ports behind them. He fired his first burst of four shots in time with a burst from the assault rifle of an ally to help cover the noise, hitting a lone mage hiding behind a truck multiple times and wounding it severely. The fucker was so distracted by the threat from the front that it had no idea that there was a threat from behind, but it hissed something to its comrades that made them very aware of what had just happened. Fuck. If only he had been a better shot. Before the reptiles fully turned back to observe where the shots could have come from, Gavin discretely dropped the pistol and just played dead as a last ditch effort to survive. He closed his eyes and did his absolute best to remain as still as possible, hoping for the best and knowing at least he wouldn’t see his death coming at worst. In these tense moments, he was acutely aware of every discomfort possible that would make him want to move. The disgusting blood, spit, and piss that covered his body was absolutely disgusting and most of it came in layers at this point. His upper back was lying on a few small rocks that dug into his flesh in the most uncomfortable way, and the soil underneath his body overall was wet and goddamned cold. To shiver while the mages were watching was to die, though, so he fought the urge as hard as he could. He stayed completely still, refusing to flinch at the sounds of gunfire and the smell of burning flesh and the screams of those being torched to death by that roaring dragon for what seemed like a goddamned eternity. Then all the noises stopped. Gavin waited ten long seconds, counting as slowly as he could before he opened his eyes and took a look. Two injured mages hiding behind a truck about fifty feet from him, looking in the other direction. The soldier grabbed his pistol, aimed, and emptied the rest of his clip of eleven bullets right at them in quick succession. About a five of the shots missed entirely, but the other six found their mark around center mass and ended up dropping both of them fairly effectively. Thank God for hollow point bullets. Gavin continued pulling the trigger after the clip emptied for a few more seconds, not registering the metallic clicking and lack of bullets due to exhaustion and the sustained panic and fear that he was still suffering from. Any second now, any of the surviving mages would burn him to a crisp for taking that stupid risk and he would be burnt alive for making too much noise. Any second now. Huh. Guess not. The soldier pushed himself up, finding himself still dizzy from the concussion sustained earlier as he got a full view of the battlefield for the first time. The smell of burning flesh remained exceptionally strong in the air, and the landscape matched the scent. Human bodies burnt to the partially melted bone by dragon breath littered one end of the battlefield, with reptilians riddled with bullets littering the ground in front of him and behind the trucks that made it past the initial push. The stench of burning flesh was nearly unbearable at this point, and anyone who was not a veteran of this war would have been doubled over puking at one whiff of that awful scent. Not Gavin, though, because as unpleasant as it was he had smelled worse in the beginning of the conflict. They had held the line, but at tremendous cost. Even with Rebekah coming down to observe the damage up close, Gavin only saw four people total still standing… and that was including himself. Two additional soldiers seemed to be breathing, but they were visibly burned pretty badly. When he caught site of his wife, however, everything else seemed to just fade away around her. Rebekah seemed to have her uniform burned moderately, and made sure to give a wide arc to some of the hunks of metal that used to be the trucks that were still bright with heat from the fire magic of the reptilians. Otherwise, though, it just seemed to be sweat and dirt which meant that she didn’t sustain any major injuries. The American could spot the exact moment that Rebekah noticed that the figure completely covered in dried mud and reptile blood was him, though, because she immediately started sprinting towards him and tackled him to the ground in a fierce hug. She managed to hold in the tears until she had made physical contact with him, which meant that she probably thought he was dead. Which was a fair assessment, because so did Gavin for most of that fighting. ”You picked a hell of a day to not wear a seatbelt,” she breathed in between tears, ”The rescue crew are on the way and…” she paused, pulling her arms off of the American momentarily to actively check his body for injuries. ”Fuck, I didn’t hurt you did I?” ”Becks, you’re perfect.” Gavin murmured, the reality of the situation finally hitting him. It finally hit him how lucky he was to not be one of those charred corpses on the ground, and he started crying too in a mess of fear, guilt, and relief to be alive. They had done it. They had won. And it was mid-sob that once again the American lost consciousness, all of the exhaustion from his massive power expenditures and injuries catching up to him all at once as the adrenaline finally wore off.
  10. Finding your faith

    February 22nd, 2011. 2200hrs. ”Aren’t I supposed to be the dumb, reckless one?” a masculine, amused voice teased while drawing out each syllable a little longer than needed. There was only an irritated grunt in response, as Gavin continued to replace bandages to the burn wounds sustained by his superior officer. He had already bandaged her legs, and had moved on to her torso and arms at this point which were also pretty wrecked from her act of heroism earlier in the day. Rebekah was a hardass, to be sure, but the longer he had stayed here in this unit… in this war, the more humanity started to slip out. More willingness to go against orders as stated for the purpose of saving more people and reducing the loss of life for not just the military, but for the civilian population as well. How could it not? This was not a conflict of humanity against humanity, but instead a conflict between humanity and a new species that was intent on seeing humanity burn. Sometimes they got there fast enough to stop widespread destruction, but more often the monsters were only repelled or killed after the damage was already done. After so much death was already dealt that their presence made no real effect. They were both trained for one type of war, and were both conditioned for it pretty well. The reality was an entirely different beast, both literally and figuratively. Earlier today was slightly different, because the advance of the monsters had some forewarning and there happened to be some heavy weaponry stationed nearby. A lucky hit with a rocket propelled grenade stunned and disoriented a dragon well enough to get it close to the ground, and once it was near that point it was much easier pickings for follow up shots, shadow blades, and elimination. The beast had managed to set fire only to a neighborhood, and while the rest of the team worked to stop the fire from spreading, their fearless team leader went into the flames to save who she could. Rebekah—Sergeant Lynch managed to get out and save eight people from burning to death in that small neighborhood. She suffered pretty significant burn wounds in the process over a good chunk of her body, and was still just disappointed that she couldn’t save everybody. Not that she was the only one running into the fire, willingly jumping into a needlessly life-threatening situation – mind you, the exact thing that Gavin himself got yelled at for more than once. No, not that. That she was not able to somehow become even more superhuman and save literally everyone by herself. The American, for his part, was generally pretty happy to just be alive at the end of every day at this point. He was never part of a combat role before, and sure he got the same basic training that every other soldier got… but he had never seriously expected to be using it very often. Combat in his old line of work generally meant that something had gone pretty terribly wrong, which wasn’t exactly untrue in his current line of work either. Being on the open field made for weird situations like this one, a random non-medic trained private patching up a Sergeant in the medical tent. Their medic had been killed in an engagement about two weeks ago, and the new one who was supposed to arrive yesterday had not quite come yet. So here he was at Rebekah’s request, trying to apply his minimal training medical assistance to someone who could spasm and break his neck at any moment by accident. Distinct lines between superior and subordinate were still there, but became more and more blurred the longer they were out here. They became much closer than any of them had ever expected, turning into friends and maybe something—no, just friends. Which is why she had requested Gavin to come and bandage her up in particular, because she for whatever reason trusted him to do a good job with it. Lynch started squirming a bit, likely in pain from the fresh burns being messed with. She healed faster than anybody else, but she was not spared the agony of the fresh wounds themselves. Her form was muscular, but still lithe. At roughly five feet, six inches nobody would really expect her to be the powerhouse of not only the team but basically the entire Special Forces wing. Red hair clipped exactly to uniform length shifted slightly with each movement, and Gavin laid a gentle hand on the Irishwoman’s bare shoulder for a moment for what he hoped to be comfort. ”Jus’ a lil’ longer.” the American breathed out as calmly and reassuringly as he could manage. The squirming stopped almost immediately, which was something considering that the pain of having a human being only a few brain cells away from being an actual monkey fiddle with numerous fresh second and third degree burns must have not been the most pleasant experience. “Yuh never did tell me, DeLuc.” Her voice all but mumbled, much lower than the American was used to. He knew what she was getting at, and he had told her. She was bugging him from the first day about it, on and off. Why an American would abandon their home, their chance to reunite with family, and their way of life to go volunteer to join the Irish military in the biggest active warzone of the planet. A country which he had never been to and had absolutely no ties to whatsoever. ”I told you, I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he started, but was interrupted quickly. “Don’ gimme tat shit, Gavin. Nobody’s gonna over’ear yuh in ‘ere. Ah don’ give a shit if yuh tell me, jus’ don’t fuckin’ lie to me. Ah’d tink we’d be past tat by now.” Rebekah’s tone was not accusatory or even irritated, just matter of fact. Silence hung over the room for what seemed like eternity, with Gavin continuing to replace the bandages all over his superior’s body and Rebekah closing her green eyes in some form of meditation. Eventually, however, Gavin spoke up once again. ”I’m not gonna die where I was born.” he started, and then trailed off. He was not interrupted or questioned while he gathered his thoughts to talk more, which he eventually started doing. ”I did manage t’ make it back, close t’ where home was. Lots of… ex-military, ex-police, would have fit right in if… If I wasn’t effected in the… event.” He trailed off again, and he noticed a slight nod from Rebekah but no verbal response. There was another long silence in the room before he continued once more. ”There was a new group that took control of the area, the ‘Humanity Vanguard’ or something. Pure human supremacists, basically. Only made it through them because me’n’my only surviving coworker killed some lycanthropes for them. He got acceptance in their ranks, and I got put on a shitty cargo ship here. If I had stayed, I would have probably died in some alley and there was no way I was turning back towards Colorado. Not after making it so far.” That was the most he had said about his recent past since coming here, and he knew damned well that Lynch would memorize every word of that to ask questions about later in quiet moments. She was exceptionally good at putting those questions to words at a time where her subject was most likely to respond positively to them, a trait which Gavin wished he had. It wasn’t that he was trying to hide anything, moreso that he thought his own recent past was nothing in comparison to what every soldier on the British Isles and Ireland have fought through in recent times. A few lycanthropes and zombies and anarchy spreading throughout the country pale in comparison to a full scale monster invasion and a fight for the right to exist in the new and changing landscape of the world. “Lycanthropes, are those…?” Rebekah trailed off, most likely intentionally, knowing that Gavin had gotten the essence of the question. ”Apparently. We killed ‘em before seeing them transform, but good God were they tougher than normal even still. If we survive the dragons, I’ll see if I can’t introduce you to some. You might finally get a decent sparring partner.” he said, noting that some humor had finally returned to his previously toneless voice. “When we survive the dragons, you mean.” Rebekah corrected, with some forcefulness. Almost as if she was trying to convince herself as much as Gavin. The American did not reply, and instead finished cleaning the wounds and swapping the bandages. He might not have been practiced, but he was careful and while it did take longer for the task to be completed it also meant that no major mistakes were made and the chances for infection were next to none unless they were crawling through mud or other mildly to moderately disgusting semisolids tomorrow. Which unfortunately was a distinct possibility. He just hoped it wasn’t sand this time, because by God Gavin had learned that he absolutely despised sand during his time here. It got literally everywhere on your body and was impossible to get completely out of clothes. ”All done, Sergeant. Anything else?” Gavin asked, as Rebekah was already pulling over a shirt and her uniform jacket over her torso once more. “Jus’ a few more tings ah’d like t’ make yuh aware of.” Lynch responded, standing up with her jacket over her shoulders and already starting to head outside. “If it’s all t’ same to yah, ah’d like to talk’n’walk.” The American needed no other motivation to bolt up and follow after his superior, because even with extensive burn injuries she was still much faster than Gavin was and he did not want to be left in the metaphorical dust, again. Thankfully, once outside it was not hard to miss the indominatable redhead walking across the camp like absolutely nothing on the planet could stop her forward march. It took a little jogging, but in short order the American fell in step beside Rebekah’s admittedly brisk pace and awaited further instruction. One of the pleasant things about his new… abilities was the ability to see in the nighttime as clear as day time. Gavin was taller than Rebekah, but not significantly so. He was put down at a charitable five feet, ten inches… which was true, if you rounded the number. And things were so hectic that nobody really bothered to check an inch or two here or there, which was just dandy for the American who had always been a little self-conscious about his height. Rebekah’s green eyes met Gavin’s steel gray for a moment before she stopped walking and started talking, gauging his response no doubt to what she would say next. They were a decent ways away from the camp, far enough that there was no chance of being overheard by anyone. “Firs’ tings firs’,” she started, her tone betraying absolutely nothing. “Ah’ve signed papers to field promote yuh to Ceannaire, or Corporal. I’ll tell te rest of te team tomorrow, but you’ll be acting as my second for te rest of tis deployment.” Her tone was completely neutral, with only a bit of smugness leaking through that quite frankly confused Gavin more than he was already confused. Why him? There were more qualified people to take that spot in the squad, especially because it wasn’t that long ago that this same group of individuals didn’t trust the American interloper as far as they could throw him – which in at least one case was pretty damned far, admittedly. He must have done a pretty terrible job hiding that confusion, because a smile spread across the woman’s features at the response, and just that simple gesture made Lynch’s face light up and Gavin’s flush. It was a good thing the darkness over their camp did a great job at hiding the latter, for both of their sakes. “And tat’s why. Most soldiers would be hootin’ an’ hollerin’ by now.” Rebekah said with a low laugh. When she continued, though, her tone was much more serious. “We’re both not human anymore, at least not completely. And tese effects are too new fer me t’ know much about ‘em – ahm doing this partially because ah tink your winning personality and cautious style clashes with mine in a way tat will help us become more successful… an’ partially because nobody else knows what your limits are but you. DeLuc, much as I hate to admit it, you seem to be at least somewhat competent at simple tasks such as putting on your pants on one leg at a time or cutting up wing membrane, and I want to empower you to do more of that when you think you can. If we’re gonna save this place, we’re going to need everyone to be contributing at max potential and to be frank I’ve realized I have no idea how to use a shadowcaster.” This was the first time Gavin had ever seen this happen: Sergeant Rebekah Lynch admitting that she did not know what to do. It made sense, because this was not the type of war either of them had ever trained for. She was trained to engage in close quarters combat with enemy human soldiers and destroy them. He was trained to interrogate humans and get information from them. Neither of those things were particularly helpful when your enemy happened to be swarms of giant, fire breathing lizards in the sky who were heavily resistant at worst to small arms fire and people who were not quite human were starting to crop up more and more. Who would know how to use a shadowcaster, for example? Gavin sure as hell didn’t, and he was the shadowcaster! Umbrakinesis wasn’t exactly a new and emerging field in military strategy or tactics a few months ago, so there wasn’t exactly a wide base to draw from when generating ideas. Noting the silence that had fallen, Sergeant Lynch spoke up again. “I also told you early in case you wanted to refuse. I didn’t want to force you into a position that you think you would do poorly in.” Her words came in slow, enunciating every word clearly and her tone was soft and reassuring. It was clear that she believed in him, and the only question that remained was if Gavin believed in himself. Which was a good question, to be fair. One that the American was not sure he could answer at the moment, but as was normal in the military… decisions had to be made very quickly, and he figured it was worth a try. ”I trust your judgment, Sergeant. I accept.” “Ah tink yah misunderstand.” Rebekah said after a pause, her tone neutral. “Ah wan’ your judgment. Do you trust that?” ”If the other option is O’Quinn getting the spot,” the American responded with a laugh, ”Then I trust in my judgment a heck of a lot.” With that, Gavin threw up a salute that was quickly returned. The Sergeant tried to make her face neutral, but a smirk escaped her features anyway. It was obvious she was pleased with that answer. “That’ll be all, Corporal. You’re dismissed. It’ll be a long day tomorrow, rest up for it.”
  11. Drinking Buddies [02.25.2020 7PM]

    Gavin was never the type to complain about getting his hands dirty, which was just as well because the current situation from any outside eye was pretty disgusting. The warm food was hitting the soldier’s face, but only about half of it was actually reaching the chewing phase. He jumped slightly when he heard Cruz’s voice so close to him, but quickly went right back to shoving food into his face with just a tad more accuracy. ”Of course it is.” the soldier snapped back, words slurring much more noticeably than before. ”The taxi should be here any second now.” he continued in between bites, before suddenly pushing himself up in the middle of one and abandoned the now smashed remnants of the cheese sticks and the unopened pizza completely. ”Fuck, it’s cold.” he mumbled, glassy gray eyes surveying both sides of the street in anticipation of the cab. The man absentmindedly rubbed off the cheese and grease seared into his hands and forearms as he started to pace back and forth impatiently. Boots stomped on the ground with every step as the soldier’s upper body slumped forward and shivered. ”Keys left front pocket.” he recited as Cruz came into view once more, part of the ritual he had gotten used to saying to a person nearby that wasn’t completely destroyed when they were around. He would normally say where his keys were and where the weapons on his person were, but for once he had brought no weapons with him. No matter how destroyed he got in a random bar, his powers couldn’t be stolen from him and he couldn’t exactly discharge it by accident. He also couldn’t flat out set it somewhere and forget it in a blackout phase, which happened often enough to be an issue that was planned for when possible. … Fucking light. This wasn’t the first time he had to be dragged into his house, and it was certainly not going to be the last. At the very least, it was a good house in a good area. Five stories with a garden (though horrifically unmaintained at this point) and both basement and roof access. Hell, he even had ten parking spots reserved in the parking lot about a block down the street. Much too good for him right now, but a goddamn battle to get in the first place. It was a townhouse style building in the Upper West side of Manhattan, within walking distance of the old Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity. It was an enormous purchase, and was originally a group purchase between about four families that fled from England in the beginning stages of the Dragon War and bought up the enormous building while prices were extremely low because of the lack of public order and lack of bodies to occupy the many buildings in the city. By 2017, the house was put up for sale because the property prices had shot through the roof and the four initial families had an irreparable falling out that had to be settled in court. Gavin made a habit of taking souvenirs from doomed areas over the years to supplement his horrendous salary as a soldier before joining the Silver Winged. Mostly jewels and other easily portable objects that would retain value once society got back together. When all was said and done, the American contributed about a million towards the house by selling off all of his baubles and pooling all of his savings together from the year they had already spent with the Silver Winged. Rebekah ended up auctioning off about four dragon skulls for roughly the same amount to collectors who were much more eager for the bones than they might have thought. Four other coworkers ended up chipping in roughly a quarter of a million each in exchange for rooms within the complex, but both had sold back their shares in the years since in order to chase money or adventure. Most of them went outside of the city in search of these, but the one that didn’t was actually the one who got the tip off about the house in the first place and was at this moment a very successful house flipper who got filthy rich by making the necessary renovations that the previous tenants lacked the resources to do and just reselling. Not that Gavin could touch anywhere close to a million these days, and indeed even paying for the maintenance of the house cut a decent chunk out of each and every one of his paychecks. He was living alone in this enormous house, partially because he was paranoid and partially because anybody that he trusted enough to share the building with found him to be absolutely insufferable and left within a few months. That didn’t exactly help the soldier’s willingness to bring fresh blood in, but between the drinking and the fact that he was too damned lazy to do some of the repairs and general maintenance by himself meant that he might not have much choice in the matter sooner rather than later. The drunkard woke up on his couch on the ground floor with a groan, in an instant noticing that for some reason he had dried cheese all over his bare hands and arms alongside the fact that he had a noticeable amount of dirt on his left side for a reason he could not entirely remember. The living room itself was fairly generic at the moment, with multiple couches surrounding a fireplace that hadn’t been lit in years and a large flag of Connacht hanging above it. The room had a metal door to the back garden area and another opening towards a long and narrow kitchen area. There were three other doors that led to the bed and bathrooms for the floor, the cellar, and the foyer with stairs leading to the second floor respectively. The house was obviously a thing of beauty, once, but years of partial neglect had taken its toll and any polish the area might have once had was gone. It was much more of a functional living space than the pet project it used to be, which suited Gavin just fine. ”Fuck…” he muttered, reaching blindly for the whiskey that should have been on the table next to him but finding nothing. ”Fuck.” he hissed, a little bit more loudly this time as he rolled to his side and grabbed his aching head before forcing himself to sit up and steady himself. He closed his steel gray eyes and was content just to breathe in and out for a few moments as he steadied himself. ”I need a goddamned shower, jesus.” he muttered under his breath but made no immediate effort to actually get up. He needed to work up the motivation to do that at this point, and that motivation was simply harder to come by than usual.
  12. Nobody Expects the ARMA Inquisition:

    This was odd. This entire setup was off, the entire atmosphere of the event was not the typical. Not that he was typical, given the fact that he was a jaded drunkard past his prime trying to keep his job and pay grade… but he expected a little more hostility, to be frank. When Lieutenant Walker made the quote, Gavin just nodded his head sharply without committing to a verbal response. The next words out of the Cloak’s mouth were equally off, because if that wasn’t the purpose of this meeting… Well, Gavin had no idea what the hell this was about unless it was some wacky ass Cloak recruiting mission given that two of their officers were sitting right in front of him. Seeing Halliday knocked down a peg was also a great feeling, because if Walker wasn’t here to fuck him the soldier was safe… at least for now. This meeting became more and more surprising by the second, and when the Lieutenant continued the soldier again visibly stiffened as he was caught completely off guard by the direction the conversation had taken. He had been with Shield from the beginning, and was part of the initial merger of the Silver Winged and ARMA to begin with. Rebekah played a much bigger role, but he was at least present during the entire affair. The entire division was his wife’s baby, essentially, and she had gone above and beyond early on to help Aura make the transition as smooth as possible. It wasn’t Gavin’s baby, though. He had lost all emotional connection to that branch the day that Rebekah went missing, because she was the only thing that tied him to that job in particular once all of his original group either fell in battle or got promoted out of the squad along with getting alienated by his alcoholism and depression in the years after her disappearance. This was not the meeting he had expected when he came in, but he was not going to waste an opportunity like this because he was all but being asked to switch. He had a position of some leverage here, and he was more than willing to at least test the waters. He forced his body language to relax as much as he could physically force it to before continuing, but it was admittedly very difficult to do so when caught so off guard. His intense gray gaze locked with the mentalist’s before he started speaking, trying to gauge what the hell sort of game that he was playing. The officer had access to his file, which meant he had full access to the soldier’s vast array of deficiencies as well as his skills and power set. It was extremely risky to offer someone like Gavin a transfer, and Walker had to know that. There had to be some ulterior motive or critical need, which would complicate things if he was indeed suggesting a move to Cloak Division. If that was just to butter him up so he would accept a swap to another division as well as a demotion and pay grade drop with it, the mage could go straight to hell. If it was an actual offer, though, that would just be ill-advised from any practical perspective. Also, internal work? If everyone hated him anyway, he supposed nothing exactly changed on that front even if he did swap over to the rat hunter division. ”If that million dollar question came with a million dollar offer, I’d be willing to hear about a job swap to just about anywhere.” he joked drily as he bought himself time to both think of an actual response and to force his body to stop being so damned rigid. ”In all seriousness, as long as the pay grade remained the same I would be willing to take offers from anywhere in the organization provided I could be at my house at least enough of the year to keep it from falling apart.”
  13. Old spectres and new phantoms

    ”There has to be a better way of fixing your dead people issue than drinking yourself blind… You could always see if you could get your powers curbed or whatever. You might even be the first person who actually wants that shit, seeing as how they seem to have no use that I can ascertain.” The soldier had made the mental judgment that the woman was harmless, so his tone was almost overly friendly and comfortable. Words were slurred, but only a small amount due to the practice that he had in covering up his drunkenness to the authorities when needed. Her power set, frankly, sounded absolutely fucking atrocious and he couldn’t understand how she managed to live day to day with life that bleak. With his attempt to influence the spirits an utter failure, there wasn’t exactly a lot else to do other than drink and just ignore the man at this point. He couldn’t help in any way, shape, or form so as shitty a situation as it was it wasn’t like there would be any point in communing with spirits or whatever the fuck. When she mentioned practicing her shooting, the soldier’s head cocked to the side as he thought out loud for a bit. His intense gray gaze bore through the woman as he inspected her like a piece of meat instead of a human being. ”Cop? No, too timid.” he paused for a moment before continuing, ”Security guard? No, too pretty.” Another pause, ”You also don’t have enough mods and excessive gear to be a competition shooter. Too soft to be a vet…” The man ended up just shrugging his shoulders and just stopped guessing. When she mentioned if he had any more booze, he had binged enough alcohol to not care about a convenient use of his power and ended up just gesturing to a patch of land about ten feet away from the woman and just used the shadows around the dirt to violently eject dirt into the air and quickly create a hole around the sack of rum and whiskey in that larger stash. Most of those bottles were at least half empty, but it was a sight better than nothing. ”There’s a good chunk of booze in that hole over there, Casper. Guns and fresh booze back in the truck, if you want something a little bit more powerful than the sidearm you have on now. Melee stuff, too, more effective in alleys and spots like that.” his tone remained friendly and casual throughout, but at this point his eyes were completely off the woman as he sauntered towards the last spot the spirit was located. ”I told you that we could have stormed Ireland together.” he murmured, underneath his breath. The words were coming out with a clear disappointment and a particular type of venom. ”But your dumb ass decided to take your chances with the fucking Vanguard instead. You knew damn well we would never be able to recreate the armed forces, not with that fucking rabble. The cutthroats rise to power in the fuckery, like they always do, and they shove it down the throats of the projects like they always do. You knew that, you fucking idiot.” There was a small pause as the soldier collected his rage and his balance before continuing, but he did continue in a voice too low to be overheard by anyone. ”You were my brother, but you also never made an attempt to make contact. I did, God knows that I did but you know how fucking unwelcome someone like me is in the South. You’re dead, and I can’t help you figure out whatever dumbass quest you need to accomplish in order to leave. That’s between you and God, and God knows I’m too broke to help myself … let alone you. Good luck, but I think it’s time you went back home and stop haunting random women. I realize you’re a horndog, but holy shit dude… you’re fucking dead and couldn’t do anything anyway. You have to understand that running around with your throat slashed chasing after women who aren’t dead is creepy as shit.” With that, the man stalked off in the direction of the young woman once more. He adjusted his leather jacket to cover up the fact that he was adjusting his balance on the fly with mixed success as he hollered out to her: ”At least this spirit should be leaving you alone now, if he has any human decency left.”
  14. Drinking Buddies [02.25.2020 7PM]

    The cold night air outside immediately made him regret not bringing an actual shirt or a jacket into the bar itself. Each step was unsteady, but despite all appearances he seemed to keep his balance just fine and more than prevent himself from taking a spill onto the pavement. He would have normally driven to the bar, but he couldn’t exactly be seen breaking the law at this point and it was kind of hard to miss an armored truck in the streets of New York City. Drunk Gavin, however, was not the most reasonable of individuals in the world. He ignored Cruz’s question for the moment to fumble out his phone and make a phone call. He rose the device to his ear, shivering slightly due to the fact that his beater shirt covered very little and barked out the address of the place immediately before continuing in a tone of voice that was much more giving orders rather than pleasant conversation. ”One extra large meat lover’s with barbeque, roll it in with two things of breadsticks and a two liter of Mountain Dew. Paying in cash.” he all but yelled into the phone, not giving a single damn about keeping his volume at a reasonable level with all the people around him. The soldier was not the best planner to begin with, but the more trashed he got… the worse his grasp of the future outside of immediate wants and needs was. Which is why the second phone call was to a taxi service. He made absolutely no attempt to move to a more convenient location, and seemed more than content to loiter right outside the bar he had just left and continue shivering right by the door. He had left the establishment, so it had ceased to exist in his vision and thus his mental state at the time. After the phone call and explicitly calling the cab to the location outside the bar, he started pacing back and forth while continuing the shivering. ”I should’a just fucking drove here.” he breathed, frustration clear in his voice. ”Fucking hell, it’s not like the truck would get damaged even if I rammed it into a power line anyway.” The pacing continued for another thirty seconds ago until he seemed to remember that someone else was with him and actually turned his attention to Cruz once more. ”Hey,” he started, then shook his head slightly in a brief moment of lucidity. ”Sorry. Just a bit fucked up right now, I just need some food in me and I should get a lot better. Sorry you have to deal with,” The brief pause was caused by a momentary loss of balance where a violent lunge to a nearby parking meter was the only thing that prevented a full on fall onto the concrete. ”This shit. I should probably just go home,” he started, but completely lost the train of thought when the most timely delivery of pizza occurred, mostly because Gavin didn’t realize that the pizza he had ordered had a building not even two blocks away from the bar he had holed up in. This was not a part of the city he exactly frequented, due to the fact that police tended to get angrier about people flaunting the law in the higher income areas. If a little drunk driving and a little fighting happened in a poorer area, the chances of the police being called were much lower. Once the conversation left his immediate field of view, it was forgotten. That was a sign of enough drinking that at least this point of the night would be a complete blackout by morning, and only happened when he drank an excessive amount even by his standards. At the moment, though, Gavin just stuffed a hundred dollar bill into that confused teenager’s hand as he grabbed the entire order and sat down at the edge of the sidewalk without a word. He tossed the order to the ground, opened up the breadstick containers and just started sloppily devouring the food as quickly as possible to satisfy the momentary craving for food. Back in the old days, he would never allow himself to get this wasted. He had not gotten quite this bad in months, though, because things at least seemed to be getting a little bit better. Now, with the possibility of everything that he had worked for crumbling before his eyes… he was right back to match the worst alcohol abuses that he had ever done.
  15. Drinking Buddies [02.25.2020 7PM]

    Trust was a funny thing, and recent events had a way of changing his perspective on things. God, it just felt so bad to be completely powerless over your own life… but here he was, drinking himself half to death waiting for a decision that he no longer had any control over. Worst case, they cut him and try to dampen his powers before letting him go due to the instability. Quite frankly, he would rather die fighting than survive a neutered shell of his former self. He had no illusions of actually making it out of the headquarters building alive if he decided to try and fight his way out, but he could do a good bit of damage before the top shelf mages came and snuffed the life out of him. If they just released him, he would have to try some new line of work. He wasn’t cut out for much more than fighting at this point, and having to stay in New York lowered his options considerably. Maybe he could set up a mechanic shop or something, but his pride was too high to go to a customer service job after all of this time. He was a soldier, and would continue to be a soldier regardless of the organization or cause that he ended up fighting for. That was a fact of life, and if that fact could not be true…. He would die fighting before it was taken away from him. It was all he had left, for better or for worse. ”None of our people died, so at least there’s no personal guilt.” he admitted, tone flat as he took another long drink. ”And yes, ‘administrative leave pending investigation’.” he almost spat the phrase, the distaste and anger clear in tone and expression. Shoulders and right arm tensed for a few moments before relaxing back to normal as he briefly considered chucking his glass against the wall in frustration, but thought better of it at the last possible second. Cruz, with a laugh, asked him what he was going to do when he was on leave. She knew him well enough to know that fleeing to maintain some level of control was something that he had thought of… but he just stared back at her coolly with a blank expression and unfocused gaze and a completely rigid posture before speaking again. ”No felonies, destroying my liver, the occasional shooting range day… you know, the usual.” he said, his tone matter-of-fact and voice low. It was almost as if he was talking to himself, and maybe he was. In an instant, his eyes refocused and his body relaxed just a tad bit more as he seemed to regain awareness of where he was. ”Fuck.” he hissed suddenly, getting up from his seat abruptly in a way that made it pretty obvious how much he had to drink already that night. ”I need some air, you up for a walk?” Using one hand to steady his uneven feet, he started meandering out of the building without a response. His pace was slow, because he knew damn well that if he moved quickly the chance of falling or getting into another fight were relatively high. He had already paid his tab off, because he paid after every drink to give him the freedom to just wander off whenever he damn well pleased. It was a habit that he always had, because in the old days he never used to get more than comfortably buzzed at these places and certainly not to the sloppy drunk level that he routinely descended to these days. He had done a great job at training his voice to not slur in a manner that made it obvious to others, but the body movements and glassy eyes always gave it away.
  16. Old spectres and new phantoms

    Huh. This was an odd experience, to say the least. He wasn’t drunk enough for this shit right now, but luckily for him he knew a spot that should have some alcohol left. The soldier stuffed his sidearm back in his jacket pocket and let the shadows go back to their normal state as the woman talked. He took his intense gray gaze off of the woman for the first time and walked off in a seemingly random direction and kicked at the ground a bit to unearth a small shovel buried approximately an inch into the ground. Gavin let her continue to talk and only kept her at the edge of his vision as he pulled up the small shovel and started digging in a seemingly random spot in the ground. After about a minute of digging in silence, the man unearthed a small sack that clinked as he lifted it up from the ground. He quickly undid the string on the small sack and pulled out a half-full bottle of Fireball whiskey that he had left there maybe a month or two ago and set the rest of the sack down with another audible clink. The American unscrewed the cap of the bottle and tossed it to the side before taking a long swig of the stuff as he turned back to face the stranger in his shooting yard. ”Sorry,” the man said halfheartedly in between gulps of the drink, ”I’m not nearly drunk enough to deal with this shit right now so I am trying to rectify the situation.” The bottle emptied completely, and he tossed it carelessly to the side as he pulled out a three quarters full Jameson bottle out from the same sack and unscrewed the cap to that as well and started drinking. Once he had gotten about a fourth of that bottle down, he stopped drinking so quickly and cocked his head to the side slightly and exhaled heavily. ”So, does the spirit know what stupid task they need to complete or is the spirit ignorant to the reason why it is trapped and creepily following around young women in New York when you clearly died in Georgia you fucking shit how did you even get here?” His voice was extremely calm until the end, where the insanity of the entire situation finally caused him to raise his voice up an octave in frustration and confusion. There was another long exhale and the soldier allowed himself to close his eyes for a few moments and forced his shoulders to relax if only for a moment before the next words came out: ”To answer your earlier question, I wouldn’t have killed you regardless. Worst I would have done is fired a few warning shots to get you off of my property and then get shitfaced like I was planning to do in the first place – without the haunting.” With that, Gavin did a small test. He had seen where the woman kept glancing, and decided to try something out. He pushed – hard with the shadows on one side where the spirit would have been. It would not have touched the woman, but she would have likely felt some amount of wind from the speed at which the shadow had moved. If that moved the spirit, he knew he could affect it – and if it did not… Well, Gibson was fucked because there was no way in fuck the soldier was going to ditch everything he had in New York to go plant flowers on some idiot’s grave or something. Another swig of the Jameson and the man met the stranger’s gaze once more. ”Alright Casper, I guess I’ll overlook the trespassing just this once.” the soldier started, his tone deathly serious. ”But if I see you corralling any other dead people to my land again I’ll shoot you dead because I do not want to be haunted like you for the rest of my life. God knows if I had your power, I would’a done the deed myself and been done with it. Hell, purgatory, or whatever has to be better than waking up every morning to a fuckin’ corpse every day when you roll over in the morning or when you curl up at night.” A shadow of a smile crossed across the man’s face as he said that last part, just a part of the gallows humor that he had grown so accustomed to over the years since the Resonance. With that last barb, he tilted the bottle of Jameson back and downed the rest of it before tossing that bottle aside as well. Fucking hell, all he wanted to do was get drunk alone in peace and he had ghost whisperers come over and disturb his tranquility. At this point he might have just preferred the pack of lycanthropes, because he could have just killed them all and gone on with his day with a clear conscious. Gavin couldn’t just kill someone with a worse life than he did and feel good about himself afterwards, that would just cause that awful emotion of guilt and quite frankly he had enough of that in his life as it was. So here he was, getting drunk while this woman was staring at him like he was a fucking idiot. Because he was an idiot, and he needed a drink or twenty to deal with this shit.
  17. The ability to use sites like when it came to profile pictures and have it be functional. What it does basically is it piles a number of images in, ideally the same exact size and randomizes the image on every page load so that the same profile picture is not used every single time and you do not manually have to change it for it to be different, just a refresh. A small thing, but for people like me who like to change up the images every so often it would be a nice convenience change.
  18. Drinking Buddies [02.25.2020 7PM]

    It wasn’t public knowledge yet, but it would be soon. Within a few days, likely, and maybe even before then. Fuck. The incident that finally caused senior leadership to strip his command was smaller, by itself. It wasn’t public yet, because all of the witnesses were just now coming out of their interrogations. They had come across an odd caravan, and Gavin had taken the lead in interacting with them. They were suspicious of ARMA, and the soldier did very little to assuage those fears and ended up searching the caravan. It became apparent that at least a part of the group were lycanthropes, and tensions rose until fighting broke out. All of those travelling with the caravan, mostly humans and lycanthropes with the occasional Outworlder besides were killed, and three of the American’s men were injured. The sticking points were whether the conflict could have been avoided, and the giant elephant in the room being the fragmentation grenades being thrown into one of the caravans that had the transformation cages inside which ended up having a few humans inside that seemed to have little connection with the group aside from being servants or basic hired help from the initial findings of the investigation that was still taking place. There had been some banging noises inside, but they were the help trying to hide from the fighting and not a hostile entity as Gavin had assumed when he gave the order to let loose the grenades. With four lycanthropes already shot down and only a small group to work with against a larger force, the soldier made a decision that kept everyone alive. If there had been hostiles in that caravan and someone had walked in instead, they would have died or been critically injured before anyone could help them. He stood by his decision, but was stripped of command while the investigation was to run its course. Gavin had just gotten back in the city two days ago, and spent most of today defending himself and getting the entire line of events as accurately and consistently as possible for his superiors. He was on administrative leave that started as soon as he left work, and thus had some time to kill while the investigation ran its course. The soldier had hoped to remain unseen here in this place, but fate had other plans for him that night. Melissa Cruz was a fellow 35M back in the United States Army, which made her really good at reading people even outside of her power set and predicting what people would do under stress. Gavin always thought she was an idiot for enlisting in the first place, because she was the clear cut definition of someone who should have gone to military academy and been an officer. She was smart, more educated than any other grunt in their class, and capable of independent and useful thought in a group setting. She was always a cut above the rest of them, and quite frankly it showed. They had never gotten particularly close until she managed to find herself across the pond for the Dragon War, and to be frank Rebekah was always closer to Mel than Gavin ever was. They were both smarter than the grunts, and both were ambitious and competent women in a subculture that was very male-dominated. Quite frankly, back in the day they made one hell of a team. Cruz was a thinker who would provide a lot of input on the big picture stuff, and Rebekah colored in the lines of that big picture with her larger than life charisma and tactical adjustments when the situation called for it. Mel grounded Rebekah and brought down those ideals into something workable, and Rebekah drew Mel out of that shell and gave her a purpose beyond just following orders. After Lynch’s disappearance, Cruz was one of the only ones who this far out from the event had not just abandoned him. He didn’t know why, truth be told, because she had little reason to not leave like the rest of them had. Excessive loyalty was an admirable trait, but she was always closer to Rebekah than to him. It made no sense, and worked to her detriment in advancing at all when a main associate was as big a fuckup as the former Sergeant DeLuc. When she walked over, casual as a cucumber he knew that she had no idea what had happened yet. He knew that she had no idea how precarious his position was and just how bad it would be for her to be seen with him in any sort of setting at the moment. Steel gray eyes surveyed the room around them, noting that he didn’t recognize anyone else in this establishment. That wasn’t foolproof, but it was a start and a good sign. ”Normal? No.” he responded flatly in his weird blend of acquired Irish brogue and his native Southern drawl. ”But then again, I guess most wouldn’t feel normal less than 48 hours after being accused of war crimes by senior brass.” Shoulders rolled back, but his tone and facial expression were both dead. Gavin in recent years had become a lot less of a joker and a lot more blunt with things, and this day was no different. He could be completely fucked in about a week, and he had no control over the situation unless he wanted to flee the city at this point – which aside from being rude would also mean he’d have to go hoofing it in the wilderness outside of the city again… alone, which wasn’t exactly high on his list of priorities at the present. He’d take most things over being forced to live like an animal again in that great wide nothing outside of civilization once more at this point. It wasn’t fear, exactly, just realizing that his chances of survival in this state and this mindset were much lower than the same man five years ago.
  19. Old spectres and new phantoms

    Gavin looked a hell of a lot different than before he had left for Ireland, and not in a good way. He was older, for one, and visibly more haggard from his years of combat tours since then and at this point years without a routine and healthy sleep schedule. His demeanor was also completely different, because that wide-eyed idealist that sailed across the Atlantic to go out and save the world was long dead by now. What was left was some sort of monster wearing human skin and trying to masquerade as a great man who had long since left this Earth in spirit if not in body. When the woman said that she wasn’t part of the Vanguard, Gavin’s entire demeanor changed in an instant. Shadows visibly pulsated in the area around both of them as the soldier slowly but deliberately pulled out his sidearm from his jacket pocket in complete silence as his eyes carefully studied the woman for any sudden movement. The woman kept glancing at something that the soldier couldn’t see, and while her next words were not exactly surprising the American had gotten his hopes up given the circumstances that he would be able to see his friend again. The shadows continued pulsating as the soldier slowly and deliberately pulled the barrel of his sidearm to point directly at the woman’s heart as she continued talking. If she wasn’t part of the Vanguard and knew Gibson and the fact that he was dead – it was a logical conclusion that she had killed him. If she had killed him, it meant that she was part of a hostile faction or a bandit, which meant that a gun pointed at her was a perfectly reasonable measure. It didn’t click until the woman continued talking and said those last words, and suddenly the glancing made sense. Or the woman was a goddamned liar and loved fucking with people. But she didn’t seem the killer type if the soldier was being honest. Her posture was all wrong, and her demeanor was too resigned. ”So you see dead people.” Gavin said, more of a statement than a question. The pulsation of the shadows lowered to almost imperceptible and the soldier lowered his sidearm so it was pointed diagonally towards the ground rather than directly at the woman, but he did it slowly. ”Which means that either you summon them, or they’re wandering around.” he continued, again a statement rather than a question. ”Which means that either heaven is a lie or my best friend before this conflict is stuck in purgatory back here in Earth, and is standing right there where you keep glancing.” Another pause occurred, and the American cracked his neck slightly while keeping his eyes locked on the woman in front of him. His tone was casual, a complete contrast to the actual words coming out of his mouth. ”I’m not much of a holy man, but I’m real good at making things die. Is it possible for me to kill him and send him on to the afterlife he deserves? I can make it quick and painless if you point me to the brain. Sorry to hear the dogs got you, friend. That’s a terrible way to go, and our people have suffered greatly at the hands of those fucking monsters as well up north. I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to visit your shitty grave back home, but I am willing to try and kill you better than that lycanthrope did.” He paused for a moment, and letting his eyes refocus and meet the woman’s gaze rather than watching her hand. ”Happy as shit I didn’t get your power. Seeing corpses all the time is a real shitty way to live your life.”
  20. Nobody Expects the ARMA Inquisition:

    God, he hated these damn things. Gavin had felt stagnated and trapped in Shield Division, and here was his opportunity to get out without leaving the city or the organization. Being real, there was no way someone with a track record of instability and a power set like his would just be allowed to fuck off when and how he wanted anyway. It was better for both parties if he stayed in ARMA, and he had managed to stay on so far despite his depression’s best attempts to the contrary. Still, he couldn’t quite shake the urge to regain that freedom and be done with this shit for good. He knew that he had all of the tools and skills to survive wherever in the world he decided to fuck off to, regardless of the circumstances of how he left. There was very little tying him down at this point that was actually still present. He still had his property here, sure, and his possessions and the money that he didn’t piss away on alcohol and the occasional donation to a charitable organization when guilt and self-hate got to him really badly. But material possessions were never extremely important to him aside from a small assortment of things he could carry on his back if he needed to. He used to be a person who put a lot of stock into teamwork and team cohesion, but to be frank at this point he was no longer capable of leading in that manner. The soldier was no longer the emotional and inspirational enlisted officer that he used to be, and that was a fact. Gavin these days was a cold, aloof, and brutal man who still looked after his men but had lost that human touch that was present in the past. Hesitation to use violence was as good as a character trait before, but his shadows have tasted more blood these past few years than most mages spilled in their lifetimes. Today was the first day in months where the man had given any care to his appearance, so he had to trick himself into getting into the frame of mind that would allow him to actually make it through this without fucking it up. One of the first things he did when he got back to America the first time was to ensure that he got a new set of United States Army uniforms so he could always trick himself into behaving a certain way when he needed to. The Irish uniforms served the same purpose, but he was all out of field uniforms and had not pulled out the formals in years. Gavin strode into the interview room with his Class B Army Service Uniform on, consisting of army blue trousers along with a white shirt and black combat boots. The shirt was unadorned with ribbons, and was worn entirely within regulation otherwise with three notable exceptions: the combat boots, the unit insignia, and the rank. The soldier had never earned the right to wear the green beret in America, but had done so in Ireland and thus audibled and wore the combat boots. The unit insignia, in turn, was for the Army Ranger Wing of the Irish military instead of his unit in America, because he had spent far longer in the former than the latter. The rank tab was also his Irish and ARMA rank of Sergeant rather than his American military rank of Specialist, which meant both epaulettes bore the three bar chevron. None of these differences would even be noticed by a civilian, but Gavin did them deliberately more to show himself that he still had that attention to detail more than anything else. Gray eyes surveyed the room as he walked in, knowing that a large part of a performance review was the panel that was put forward to examine each soldier. When an unfamiliar voice rang out that instructed him to take a seat, he resisted the urge to physically react with the realization that quickly dawned upon him: there wasn’t even an officer of Shield up on this damned panel. Halliday was a Tower representative, and quite frankly his very presence made Gavin quite sure that this would not be the most friendly review he had ever had. They had never gotten along, especially because the officer thought that Gavin was a danger to himself and others and had made his opinions quite clear to him in the past. Even in the good old days they had always been frosty with each other, because Shield tended to break things and need the most enchanting and ward resupplies out of any division due to the skirmishes that they got in semi-frequently. Some Shield members saw Tower as basically their gear dispensers, and Gavin was one of them. He never thought it would bite him in the ass quite this hard, though, especially because he was already temporarily stripped of command earlier this year and was in danger of losing it again with an official demotion this time around. There was no changing Halliday’s opinion of him, and his employment would be terminated if it was up to him. Merval was a Cloak representative, and the only one of the three that the soldier knew would not fuck him over without good reason. He was a Dragon War veteran and English Army Officer before the Resonance. He and Rebekah used to be good friends, and they had served together during the war more than once. The past few years, though, the officer had wisely distanced himself from Gavin and was more than likely on the hostile end as well at this point. Lieutenant Merval was a man that Gavin respected, which made the fact that he didn’t know which way he would lean even worse. He was fair, but strict and was actually on the last panel that reinstated his command and rank. He had shown improvement in most areas, but whether it would be enough and whether his admittedly unorthodox style would be a negative or a positive in the officer’s eyes would influence how the Brit would lean. The third man was the one that Gavin knew the least about, but he had recognized the name for sure. Alec Walker was a man who Rebekah always considered pleasant enough, but more than a little distant and aloof. To Gavin’s knowledge, they didn’t know each other very well and the Shield Sergeant certainly never had any interactions with him. He was a mind breaker, though, that much he did know. How exaggerated or true the rumors of the mage’s skill set were, the American had no idea, but either way the soldier figured that it would be worse than useless to lie because he didn’t know the triggers for Lieutenant Walker’s power set and had no way of knowing whether he would be put under some magical damned lie detector… or if he already was. He was running through the possible scenarios of what could happen here, and few of them were positive. The soldier was tense and stressed almost as a character trait at this point, but his posture and movements were stiff even for his standards as he moved to stand in front of the chairs rather than sit and instead stood at parade rest in an attempt to make sure he didn’t start any nervous fidgeting. He was unarmed, which was something that should not have a mental effect on him but did due to the fact that he was so used to the weight and feel of a sidearm somewhere on his body that just amplified an already stressful situation just a notch more. ”I’d prefer to stand, sir, if it’s all the same to you.” Gavin said in his odd accent that mixed acquired Irish brogue and native Southern drawl, making eye contact with Lieutenant Walker and steeling himself for a rough ride ahead. He forced his body posture to relax for a moment, before allowing it to stiffen in as picture perfect a posture as he could manage at this point. When he continued speaking, he shifted eye contact between the three of them but noticeably looked at Halliday the least because he knew that no amount of polish would change that man’s opinion of the soldier in front of him. ”As for willingness to lead, I think that it is fair to say that I am not the most excited man in the world to be in charge of other people’s lives when we go down range, or even when situations occur like the incident at the Harbor bombing with the virus exposure.” He paused, then, and looked to Merval in particular before continuing: ”There are risks that we take every day out there, and even a routine call can turn into a life or death situation for the entire squad. Since my last performance review, I have been in multiple life-or-death situations that you all have the after action reports for and have kept all of the men under my command alive and uninjured through all of them. While leading others on a day to day is not my favorite task in the world, I recognize that it helps keep our guys alive out there in that great vast nothing outside of the civilized world and for as long as I am allowed to maintain command I will continue to keep my track record of routinely making sure the only casualties suffered on the field are our unfortunate adversaries who threaten the Eastern American Alliance’s safety and security.” He was never the best at these inspiring messages, and the fact that he was even trying to do it was a sure sign that he was extremely concerned about his position getting axed, and promptly. He also chose to leave out the parts about the tiff he got into with a Shield Lieutenant on that Harbor assignment, as well as the fact that he underwent that entire scenario by inserting himself in command and up-jumping the chain of command due to his belief that it would be much easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission in a scenario like that – and safer for everyone involved too. Safer for everyone but him, anyway, because the rung above him on that chain of command was staring back at him now. He still believed wholeheartedly he did the right thing, because that zombie and contamination could have killed quite a few people if he had not intervened and killed the damn thing… but whether these officers would agree was an entirely different issue, and one that the American had zero confidence in at the present.
  21. Drinking Buddies [02.25.2020 7PM]

    The Derby was a rougher dive bar that attracted all sorts of the more colorful types from society. It was a hole in the wall place that opened up into a pretty vast establishment, perfect for illicit deals and violent enough where the police generally just leave the place be so long as it does not spill outside. This was all well and good, especially when Gavin had a tendency to become rather angry at various points throughout a drinking night... which was every night for a while now. This was especially true if the day he had at work was bad, like today. He went outside the city and vented his frustration a little earlier, exhausting himself to get all the rage and energy out of his system so he couldn't do anything stupid tonight. Anyone walking through that particular section of woods anytime soon would swear that a pack of monsters with claws as sharp as swords cut a path through the trees. He felt more and more trapped in a role that he should be a perfect fit for but just wasn't anymore. Patience was wearing thin both on ARMA's end and his own, and the goodwill he had gathered in his initial run had run out months ago. There was nothing else for him to do, though, not if he wanted to stay in New York State. The government wouldn't have him, he was too violent and erratic for a cop, not charismatic enough for a public official, and too prideful to take a job he deemed beneath him. He couldn't turn criminal, because once upon a time he had sworn an oath of allegiance to his country - and even though the name might be different the land was still the same. He couldn't go private sector because he had no civilian skills, and he couldn't go executive security because he had no connections. He was stuck, for better or for worse, with ARMA until he finally gathered the guts to finally leave the state for good. As it stands now, though, the ex-soldier was on shot number twelve and had already been in one fight tonight that secured him a back corner to himself in the establishment. He was dressed in attire more fit for a homeless man than a soldier, with a white beater shirt that while still dry retained the stench of sweat being the only clothing on his torso. He had a beaten up, red Atlanta Falcons cap turned backwards on his head and a visibly damaged pair of carpenter jeans and dirty, unshined black leather boots on to complete the urban trash ensemble. The boots and jeans also had small flecks of dried blood on them from when he had kicked a guy in the face earlier when he had dared catch a kick to the stomach during an earlier scuffle. Nobody would recognize him like this from a distance, which was just how he liked it. The more separate this piece of shit was from Sergeant DeLuc, the better. It was the reason why the initial few months of group drinking had degenerated to drinking alone and at home more and more as time had gone on. At this point, Gavin needed the alcohol to function as a normal human being and certainly was not proud of that fact. So here he sat, in a dark corner of a rough'n'tumble bar to make sure the shaking stopped and stayed away. To calm him down and make sure he could sleep at the end of the day. So he could eat without vomiting and actually feel his entire body instead of having bouts of numbness. This was life, now, for better or for worse. There was no need to get anybody else caught in this shit, especially in this day and age. Even if he did have a problem, it was minor compared to what most people dealt with. So what if he would die of liver failure when he was 50 or 60? It wasn't as if he expected to get that far anyway, he would die young like all the best did. Because despite his shortcomings and his challenges the past few years, Gavin still considered himself to be in that elite tier. He had proven himself time and time again, and while he may not be at his peak anymore he had certainly not fallen to the level of only hitting that above average mark when push came to shove and shit hit the fan. He was still useful, damn it. He could still do things, if only that wretched organization would give him the latitude he so craved.
  22. Old spectres and new phantoms

    The evening breeze was still chilly, and the soldier suppressed a shiver as one gust hit him right in the face as he made his approach. Carbine forward, stance tight and sweeping left to right with the barrel and his eyes both to ensure that he didn’t get blindsided. On one of the scans on his way up the hill, he saw a the top of a car parked on the opposite end of the hill as Gavin was with the damned lights on. It was hidden from view from the spot where he had parked, and the lights were pointed up the hill presumably to make it easy to spot if someone tried to steal it. He moved closer to the car to make absolutely sure that nobody was lying down in the damned thing, extremely careful to avoid the lights and being ready to move in case the car started moving unexpectedly to maintain his cover. His finger was off the trigger the entire time, mostly because if it was an actual threat he would use his powers first and the bullets second and also because by the look of the car it didn’t seem to be a bandit – or maybe a very poor or new one. Just as he initially suspected, there was nobody in the car. It was well maintained and much cleaner than the inside of his, but unremarkable otherwise. Lycanthropes tended to not be on the richer end of society, though, and lots of mages were not wealthy either. Just because the car was basic did not mean that the person occupying it was not a major threat to Gavin’s physical well being. From there, again avoiding the front lights of the vehicle but no longer concerned about them moving the soldier moved up towards the top of the hill and onto the field on the top. He thought he was ready for anything at this point, and for physical threats he was probably right. What he was not expecting, however, was to find an unarmed young woman raising her voice to call out to him while also staring directly in his direction. That on its own was odd but not entirely unexpected, but the content of that hollering was. She called out his name, for one, and also relayed that Little G was wondering why the soldier was still wearing his Atlanta Felons cap. At that, an uncommon thing happened. Gavin completely froze, because he had absolutely no idea what to do. The woman had a smaller concealed carry in a holster on her side, looked like a Glock, but no other visible weapons. What was clear, however, was that she had magic. How much, he had no idea, but judging by the fact that she saw him pointing a rifle in her direction and still chose to keep her firearm holstered he had to assume it was formidable. What the soldier could not understand, however, were the words that came out of her mouth. Gibson was not here, of that Gavin was almost certain due to the layout of the area making it pretty impossible to hide once you were on top of the hill, but she knew exactly what to say to cause him to doubt everything and freeze. Which meant at the very least that she was likely part of the Vanguard, and was likely one of the altered that joined up that cause. Which meant that he needed to lower his rifle before he got blasted with whatever that woman preferred to use instead of her sidearm. If he was completely sober, he might have stood his ground here, but seeing as the woman wasn’t even flinching… he decided to at least outwardly yield for now. He lowered his rifle barrel to the ground and walked forward enough to where he would not have to raise his voice to talk before deactivating his cloak and noise dampening. Immediately upon deactivating both, the soldier crouched down to place his M4 on the ground and let the woman see both of his hands as he got back to a standing position. It was a mostly placating gesture instead of a full disarming, because he still had full access to his powers… which the woman would probably know if she knew his name and had contact with Gibson, but he wasn’t getting blasted with whatever it was that she had yet so that was a good sign. Gavin had not had contact with Gibson, his best friend during his entire stint in the United States Army since he had left to go to Ireland. Honestly, he had thought the man was likely dead due to his tendency towards stupid bravery. They had fled Colorado together, right after the Resonance hit and everything went to shit. Gibson had joined up with the Vanguard after the two of them proved themselves by dispatching a lycanthrope in a nearby village… and Gavin decided to board a shipping freighter on its way to Ireland to fight. They embraced at the docks, both fighting back tears, and never saw each other again. The soldier had absolutely no problem showing a bit of deference in order to have the opportunity to see his old friend again, though he couldn’t help but wonder why the hell Gibson wouldn’t come himself if he was in the area. ”Sorry ‘bout that, ahm not used t’ seein’ te Vanguard in plainclothes.” the man started, his accent an odd blend of native southern drawl and acquired Irish brogue. His tone was neutral, even slightly deferential as he moved to clasp his hands together slowly in front of him before he continued speaking again. ”If Gibson sent yah, shit must be real bad. Fucker isn’t te best at keepin’ in touch, so what’s the situation?” The woman obviously wasn’t here to kill him, because if she was here to do that she would have at least attempted to do so already. With that out of the way it meant that she was here for another reason, and since his old friend’s name was invoked it probably had something to do with that idiot. Gavin had never gone back to Georgia since he left for Ireland, and had been avoiding any notion of going back since he came back. There was nothing for him there but hate and persecution, but it also meant that he was cut off from everyone that he used to know that survived the event. He could have tried to get back in touch, he supposed, but after his return from Ireland it just seemed like too much time had passed. Gibson apparently didn’t think so, which was odd. Why now, of all times? Why Gavin in particular? Why here, and in this inefficient manner? Waiting in a random shooting range outside city limits wasn’t exactly their style, but he wasn’t about ready to say anything verbally when he still had no idea what or who he was dealing with. Steel gray eyes scanned the area around him as discreetly as he could manage to find concentrations of shadow that he could use in case shit hit the fan. If she was Vanguard, she sure as hell was not a lycanthrope or a magus so that left her as an altered with strong enough abilities to see through his cloaking and to be confident enough to keep her sidearm holstered this entire time. With those conditions being true, Gavin needed to be ready to unleash absolutely everything that he had on a moment’s notice. He had always considered himself one of the strongest Altered when it came to combat ability, but if someone knew him and his skill set and was this unafraid and casual about it he had very good reason to be cautious.
  23. Not all is what it seems......

    Detective Psycho was an appropriate name for that woman, God bless her insane little heart. She called the bluff of the CDC men who she knew somehow would not shoot her and took out the damned spotlight. As soon as that spotlight was gone and darkness returned to the area, Gavin wasted absolutely no time activating cloaking to ensure that his less connected self would not be shot in the confusion. It wasn’t complete invisibility, but it was pretty close. A very attentive person could see a faint outline of Gavin’s form, but other than that the active camouflage was close to perfect. Infrared devices would still pick him up, but as long as the shadow wasn’t completely gone from the area he was standing in the desk jockeys pointing firearms at him seconds ago would not be able to see a damned thing. The detective was talking, but the soldier was not paying much attention at this point. The police officer was not a threat to his life the way the rest of these idiots were, and if necessary he was willing to kill a few or all of them to get his sidearm back. Hopefully it would not come to that, but planning for that possibility made it much easier when and if his hand would be forced. His metal was lifted down, and the soldier deftly moved around the eggheads surrounding it to pick up and cloak each individual piece of equipment that he put back on his body. His leg holster and sidearm, his shoulder holsters and karambits, and his phone and radio were all stuffed on his person. The extra magazines he just left on the table after replacing his sidearm magazine with a fresh one. The last action he dampened the noise of to make sure the jumpy desk jockeys nearby did not jump at the metallic noise, and with that the man headed off in the direction of the detective and back to their people. The dampening was in constant effect on his footsteps, because the cloaking did not cover noises and he knew damn well he was being noisier than usual due to balance issues caused by the triple antiviral. On the walk back, Gavin took his own way to carefully avoid the lights that were starting to come back on behind him with the CDC group and any artificial lights in general to conserve energy. Once out of sight of the goddamned eggheads, assisted by some convenient buildings, he decloaked and stopped the noise dampening almost immediately, it was a waste of energy and the last thing he wanted was the Detective shooting at him because she saw a ghost when he got within earshot of her again. Bare feet smacked against the pavement, and the orange shit had already seeped into almost every crevice of the end of the shitty clothes he was now wearing as well. The first order of business when he regained enough sense to drive, because he was going to have to be the one to drive all of those fucking idiots back, was going to be to get a change of clothes and get as much of this shit as possible off of him. It was a disgusting semisolid that stuck to your body as well as feeling wet and just generally unpleasant. He needed to call his superiors back at some point, but that could wait. If he recounted what had just happened this soon, he would just get angry and the retelling would trigger a massive homicidal urge he wasn’t quite sure he could contain at the present. If he couldn’t contain it, that would cause a … diplomatic incident and he would be back to where he started before he started this whole fucking mess – on the run with no allies with everyone trying to kill him. ARMA was annoying to deal with, but staying in the same place was the best option for him right now. When Rebekah returned, she was going to come back here expecting him to be there and ready – which he would be. When Gavin made it back to a place where he could see the previous area, he saw that his men were starting to at least sit up and cradle their carbines. That was a vast improvement over before, but none of them were up and walking around yet. Gavin noted the location of the Detective talking with her own people before grabbing his own M4 carbine, mostly so he would not forget the damn thing when he left, and hobbled over to the police powwow. ”Anytin’ else ah need’a do on yer end right now, or am ah jus’ good to fuck off an’ scrub tis fuckin’ orange shit off?” Normally he would not give this courtesy, but anyone willing to throw a fucking knife into a searchlight with a dozen or more firearms pointed in their direction deserved respect. Maybe not for their intelligence, but at least professional respect for having guts. And getting him an escape route by knocking out the light, but mostly the guts.
  24. Not all is what it seems......

    The orange decontaminate was probably the most disgusting thing Gavin had been covered in for years. It wasn’t quite liquid, but it also wasn’t quite a solid. It stuck to hair and skin pretty thickly, and was quite disgusting to the touch. It didn’t make sense, because the rinse was just as uncomfortable and painful as the decontamination box, but the damn water just wasn’t enough to get off the orange shit. The soldier made absolutely no attempt to get the gunk off of him with his hands, and instead was more than content at the time to just raise his head slightly to get it out of his eyes and face as much as possible. When the water finally stopped, the man was again the second one to make a move to the next station. Partially because he was absolutely exhausted, and partially to center himself to ensure no more violent outbursts came out until he was in a position to not be shoot and killed instantaneously for the offense. Death would come for him, probably sometime soon. But not here, not in New York. Not in Yankee country. Not by the fucking Center for Disease Control. A lycanthrope or similarly dangerous monster, sure. A soldier of the Vanguard or the Order of the First Light, sure. A death to be proud of when all was said and done, not euthanized by bullet like a diseased and rabid dog. ”Not today.” he muttered under his breath as he finally opened his gray eyes and forced his aching legs to move into the next room. Shitty clothes were already laid out for him, and he put them on over his orange-coated body without a word. When the cop spoke up about the ‘Viral Wars’, Gavin remained quiet and instead finished slipping clothes on that were entirely too big for him and adjusting at least the pants so they would not simply fall off as soon as he moved two steps. He was too damned old to learn another kind of war. He would stick to organic targets until his inability to change killed him, and that would be that. He opened up the door to the outside without hesitation, to find many more lights were shining in the area, mostly directed at the exit. Well, at least the fuckers respected his ability a bit more since he had just almost destroyed their truck. Gavin raised his hands in an effort to lower his chances of getting shot at and walked out with a very deliberately slow gait. He took the time to look back and get a good, long look at the truck behind him to locate the engine and get a rough idea of where things like the fuel tank were… just in case. Head turned back to the front to avoid looking too suspicious, with hands still up in the air as he continued his slow walk forward. He had no idea the procedure for shit like this and should have probably let the cop lead the way out, but thinking before stupid actions was never exactly Gavin’s strong suit.
  25. Not all is what it seems......

    In and out. In, and out. Breathe. Avoid panic. Avoid losing control. Gray eyes closed to focus on the sensation of hearing slowly coming back and his own hand scoured his body for any signs of blood. There was none, but the first thing he heard when his hearing started to return was sirens. Not emergency services though, it was probably the CDC to clean up this entire mess down here. All the blood and the body parts to prevent people from getting contaminated with the virus. Like Gavin might have been. He had never been sloppy enough to go through this process, but there was a first time for everything. Up close and personal generally meant up close and dead, so the soldier generally stood far enough back to where contamination was never an issue. Not today, given that the triple antiviral was still giving him hell. Still on the ground, he turned over and vomited. Mostly spit and water at this point, but vomit nevertheless. The detective was still standing, somehow, so Gavin was more than content to keep lying there until he was eventually dragged off. Unfortunately for him, the men in hazmat suits and bright, wide lights on their helmets weren’t going to assist in getting him up. Unless four eggheads pointing sidearms at him was supposed to be assistance. He briefly considered making a fight out of it, but the headlights on their damned helmets would make it difficult at best. Even though he couldn’t see their body types, their movements told him all he needed to know. Fucking civilians making sharp, jerky movements in accordance to whatever stupid handbook or two hour training they had on this shit. He didn’t need his powers to kill these fucking animals, but he did need ammo. He couldn’t remember how many shots he fired off at the zombie, but it had to have been at least five. Shaking hands and arms pushed the man’s body up, and as he was being led by the eggheads he worked out an escape plan if it came to that. The CDC men were not disciplined, and did not keep the headlights pointed at him in particular at all times in a way that would prevent him from doing a lot with his power. They left a decent percentage, and at some times a large percentage of shadows nearby and very easily accessible. It would have been so easy to just cut their legs out from under them, especially when he would have had the element of surprise. But he needed to keep his shit together. They had a semi outside, which was… disturbingly fast for an event like this. When exactly was this shit called in again? Two business days was fast for most government agencies, but this was like what, an hour? Two? He was so disoriented with the antiviral he didn’t know, but it seemed suspiciously fast that the damned CDC were here in force so damned quickly. Maybe he should just kill them all and get out. Was that the paranoia talking, or was that just an honest assessment of the situation? If he was completely healthy and focused at that point, he might have just tried fighting his way out. In his current state, however, there was no way he could efficiently make sure that every armed hostile was killed or at least not in a position to shoot and kill him as soon as he started to make a break for it. There was also the fact that there was no way he was running particularly fast or particularly straight at the moment, given that his walk was pretty wobbly as it was. Up the creepy looking stairs and into the truck it was, then. Worst comes to worst he was damned sure he could blow up the damned truck out of spite and at least make sure there was some level of revenge if they didn’t kill him instantly. None of the egghead bastards he had seen were capable of doing that, so at least he had that in his back pocket for now, especially with the complete lack of floodlights. There was a locker on the side, with a voice over some sort of sound system telling them that metal went on one side and clothes on the other. The metal was the first thing that he stuffed in the locker. Extra magazines, his sidearm, and both karambits along with their respective holsters. He also put most of the things in his pockets in the locker, like his phone and radio. For the clothes, he first tossed in his vomit-stained scarf and quickly realized it was in fact an incinerator. There was a noticeable hesitation once that became obvious, mostly because this was the last Irish Army field uniform he still had. If it was the fancier service uniform, he would have rather died than give that up… but since it was ‘just’ the field uniform he was willing to toss it in after roughly thirty seconds of internal debate. Once the decision was made, the contaminated material made its way in the incinerator in short order. Gavin didn’t feel good about it, but he did it and walked into the next area. Darkness was no impediment to his sight, but nevertheless he kept staring straight ahead with his mind was off in space. Old battle scars littered the soldier’s body, mostly old burn markings due to the nature of the conflict in Ireland. Remnants of old gunshot wounds, slashing wounds, and knife wounds also made their mark across his naked form. Lean and muscled, his form was one of someone who was physically active to an extreme but did not go that extra step in making sure their diet was not up to par. When he stepped into the next room, he was not prepared. When the orange liquid shot out and swept the man off his feet and onto the ground shoulder-first, his first instinct was to get the hell out of there. Shadows coalesced and solidified into massive blunt force trauma to the side of the truck. The metal of the side bent noticeably, and some of the hosing mechanisms broke and started spilling the liquid down instead of in a steady stream outwards on the side of the semi next to Gavin. The entire truck shook slightly, and the harsh admonishment coming through the speakers forced the soldier back into reality long enough to not instinctively do it twice to try and bust the side of the truck open. ”I fuckin’ hate civvie pox.” he grumbled to nobody in particular as he forced himself back to his feet as another admonishment over the speakers came out threatening some sort of retaliation if cooperation was not given. Death, Gavin assumed, but attentive hearing to something he didn’t care about while in extreme disorientation and pain was not one of his strong suits. Finally, the stinging orange spray was done and he wobbled into the next room after a small delay. Focus came back unexpectedly, but for the first time in a while he was fully aware of what the Detective was saying to him. This one was just a rinse, but the damned orange stuff was not coming out anytime soon. ”Fantastic.” was the only word that came out of his mouth, slow and enunciated especially clearly. The paranoia and energy of earlier was reduced to just a cold demeanor, with most of his focus now directed at making sure his powers didn’t manifest out of instinct again and get them both killed. In and out. In, and out. Breathe.