Chapter 1: Ante Up

And my heart rose like a freshet,
And it swept me on before,
Giddy as a whirling stick,
Till I felt the earth once more.
Edna St. Vincent-Millay, "The Blue-flag in the Bog"

Polecat Bell-412, enroute to Eden Island, 27 August, 0620 Hours

The small passenger VTOL is roomy enough for its three passengers and pilot to spread out a bit, especially after the initial chaos of ascent and navigation: gear has been stowed for travel and the 175 miles from the helipad to Eden Isle is expected to go quickly, even in these conditions.

The clear, if sickly, morning light begins to strengthen; the Aegis team soaks up the feeble warmth gratefully as they remove boots and socks in an attempt to dry off and find some small comfort. William reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out another Marlboro, and is about to strike a flame with his first matchbook when Steve snarls back something denigrating about damn fools trying to get them all blown up.

Tucked in the cargo bin beneath each seat is a manila folder; each contains a copy of the mission briefing and Agency dossier on Diamond Industries, along with various other reminder documents in the usual anti-liability Aegis doublespeak, fronted by a printed note, not in traditional company memo format and not signed, presumably for plausible deniability, but clearly from Vice President Randall.

Team,

Included in each folder are identical mission handouts, the usual Legal Team stuff with the usual meanings: SOPs detailing the illegality of carrying concealed weapons (underlying message: take what you think you'll need and don't get caught), advice about the carrying of unconcealed weapons (get a license, real or fake; Aegis can help you out either way), admonishments about cooperation with local law enforcement, and some details of the Louisiana criminal code with respect to emergency situations and private property law, along with limited waivers from Diamond Industries granting the team permission to conduct "security and document-destruction activities" on their property.

No details on the exact nature of the specimens you'll be retrieving or destroying, but we're hoping that the in-flight entertainment will include some radio contact from a Diamond Industries researcher, already evacuated, who can provide some additional insight. If we can get one in here to disclose for you guys.

Until then, sit back and enjoy the ride <ha ha>.

Oh, and as of this writing I have no idea who your third team member is, Mgmt is rumbling about bringing in some outside SME. If you exist, Mystery Third, welcome aboard.


Steve keeps the polecat pressed ahead at full rotor, the incline forward giving everyone the sensation of constantly falling toward the storm intensifying below.

Oh this is going to be a good one… "If you have half a brain you'll get this shit done in an hour and radio me before the weather gets any worse. Let me reemphasize the 0200 extraction deadline. DO NOT fuck that up or you'll be spending the next two weeks in there until this storm dies down."

Steve looks back over his shoulder at Avery and Anchee, then shoots Will a smirk before looking getting to his instruments.


"Two weeks, Steve? Man, and here I was thinking you were a halfway decent pilot. Come on, you telling us you don't feel up to sweeping our asses off a rooftop flooded up to the ears?" Avery's voice crackles into everyone's ears. Will laughs at the image of the three team members floating like rats on Noah's ark, waiting on a chopper rescue, but Anchee just looks slightly alarmed. Oh boy, didn't scare her, did I?

"Hey there, Min, so looks like you got kinda third-wheeled onto us today. Thanks for jumping in. Where you from? Been with Aegis long?"


Min lifts her head from the intent studying of the papers in her folder, lips slightly parted - she is annoyed at the interruptions, but accepts that talkative team mates sometimes come with the job. Besides, I believe Steve is just bluffing. Two weeks is completely out of the normative time range for dissipation of inclement weather, including hurricanes. Or does Steve actually believe that two weeks is acceptable?
That thought is disturbing in itself, but she couldn't dwell on Steve's actual or imagined stupidities. Avery was still waiting for an answer.
"It was my pleasure to answer the call today. I'm from Shanghai originally, but I studied molecular biology and biochemistry at Cornell before getting my advanced degrees at Harvard." She smiles, reflecting, and twines a few strands of damp hair around a finger. "I don't think I'm really from anywhere anymore - I just travel where the research takes me. And recently it took me to Louisiana, which is how I was nearby when I got the call." Anchee flips the folder around in her hands, silvery nail polish glinting in the weak sun. "I have only worked one job for Aegis before, but I have done multiple data extractions of this type for other people. Does that satisfy your curiosity, Avery?"


"That is the first time I've seen you crack a smile today, and it took you talking about molecular… sciencey-babble to start it." Avery grins personably. "Well, not that you asked, but I was educated in the fine halls of Robert E. Lee High School in Wilkes County, North Carolina. I spent 14 of the last 24 months in Iraq doing security work for Blackwater - yeah, them - and I'm pretty new with Aegis myself actually."

Curiosity? Just trying to pass the time a little faster on this stomach-tossing little ride. She looks out the window to try and get a better hold on her nausea, but after a half-second glance at the furious rain she thinks better of it and turns back quickly to face her companions.

Thunder Cat


A flash of sheet lightning out to sea sears the inside of the helicopter with a strobe-flash of brightness; shortly thereafter a reverberating wave of sound envelops the craft for a moment. Steve's voice over the static-laden headsets buzzes harshly. "Lightning's still a long way offshore… probably nothing to worry about."

Almost as soon as the words leave his lips, the shuddering, juking bird takes a particularly long downward lurch as the rotors pass through a low-pressure zone created by the shifting winds, plummeting toward the roiling cloudscape below. With a whooping laugh, Steve brings the angle and throttle into line to recover, but the momentary introduction of antigravity to the passenger cabin lasts long enough to easily turn the stomach of the unseasoned.


Steve can't help breaking into a chuckle as he lifts up off the seat, although his eye stays locked on the altimeter as it spirals downward, waiting for the chopper blades dig into the thick stuff again and start climbing, "Hold on!"


Wrenched in her harness by the unforgiving drop, Anchee slams forward, limbs flying like a ragdoll shaken by a very large and disgruntled child. Her folder flies from her hands, papers sailing merrily through the cabin. As the Polecat hits the bottom of its drop and gravity reasserts itself, her forehead smacks the cabin wall with a definite, teeth-rattling, thumping crack. A few drops of blood begin to seep from her hairline, but her only movements are in time with the shaking of the chopper itself. She hangs in her restraints, dazed and unresponsive, eyes half-lidded.


The heaving of the chopper is intensely gut-wrenching. Nausea grows in Avery's stomach with increasingly upsetting persistence, but she focuses her eyes on a spot on the wall behind Will's head and breathes slowly. With wicked determination, she manages to keep an iron grip on her insides and on her breakfast.

Relaxing her focus, she notices the limp form to her left.

What in the hell just happened to that girl?

"MIN!" she shouts. There is no response. Avery shoots an inquiring look at Will.

Goddamit, time to remember me up some basic first aid…


Steve glances back over his shoulder, "Fucking hell…" He grabs a heavy-duty first aid kit from the cockpit and slides it across the floor coming to rest at Avery's feet. "Hasn't even gotten interesting yet and you're already hurting yourselves!?"


William had kept his eyes closed since lift off; focusing on that warm fuzzy little ball of inner light that he discovered one time out on his first Peyote trip back in Los Angeles. It helped to keep his stomach under control.

Bumpy. But not the worst flight I've been on. Things are going to be alright

William opens his eyes to see the little white kit go sliding across the ground past him. He turns around to see a limp Anchee and a vexed Avery.

Well Fuck. First my ankle and now this. Doesn't this shit come in three's?

William flashes a grin at Avery and shouts, "Well time to put some of that recent combat experience to work, eh Avery?"

Keep it cool for everyone man, this luck has to come around.

Holding Court


Steve's concern for his injured passenger takes some of the aerobatics of the transit, but the unpredictable winds keep things interesting. Avery and William attempt as best they can to assess Anchee's state, pinning her down as somewhere between "really bad headache" and "mild concussion." No sign of skull fracture or severe trauma. While Avery gingerly secures a chemical chill-pak against the rising goose-egg with an elastic bandage, Min regains sensibility enough to swallow a few ibuprofen and a slug of bourbon from William's flask (coughing and spluttering weakly).

Hawkwood smirks. "What, not your brand?"

Calm settles in after a few more minutes, as well as a sense of relief that no one is about to bleed out or lose the content of their stomachs; Steve notes a decrease in windshear as the little helicopter passes the halway point of the journey to New Orleans. "Ought to have you guys on the ground by 0800, as expected."

Not long after, Steve leans forward, flipping a switch or two on his radio console, and has a short, clipped conversation before a further series of adjustments brings a new voice crackling over the headsets, clearly recognizable to Aegis regulars as Vice President Randall, West Texas drawl in full effect.

"Alright, folks, welcome to the Show. For those of you who forgot, you're officially Aegis Security LLC's doc-retrieval team for Eden Isle, Site 26, Diamond Industries supplemental contract 302-GF. I hope everyone's getting on alright, 'cause we're on a tight timetable here - that storm's not gettin' any smaller, so there ain't no time for nonsense. GPS puts you guys where you need to be to get into the area; Steve, I know you hate using "instruments" when you fly, but we're uploading the best-lookin' landing site within easy walk of the Eden Isle facility.

"We're gonna try an' get y'all in and jump outta there before the wind gets any worse; don't go breaking my helicopter, though, Washer. Might be the weathermen are wrong about our window, so if it looks too rough to fly back out then just sit tight until the extraction time. Should get a bit of a lull around then, but hell, that's the same weathermen talking. Anyway, the landing site's pretty high ground, so you should be alright - until Kat Herself makes landfall."


"You should know better than to give me a helicopter if you want it back," Steve says into the mic. Randall mutters something inaudible on the other side, making everyone wonder if that is a joke after all.


"…Like I said in the briefing memo, the Eden Isle site is a last-minute addition to our laundry list for these Diamond folks. Nobody been in there since the evacuation a coupla days ago, and the place should be locked up tight. We'll get you the door codes in a little while; still tryin' to raise one of their security folks on the line. As you can imagine, it's a bit hard to track people down right now.

"I DID manage to find y'all a researcher from the site, though - The esteemed Dr. Melancon herself finally answered her cellphone. Said she's in traffic on her way to Mississippi, but she's stopping at the next Starbuck's to get on the WiFi and send y'all some specifics about those spooky-mysterious biological specimens you're supposed to grab while you're in there gettin' the usual disks and docs.

"So sit tight for that to come in on…" Here VP Randall falters for a moment, and the sound of shuffling papers can be heard. "Well, hell, I don't have a PDA spec listed for you guys. Does any of you have a wireless device that can link to our mobile-email servers? Miss Anchee, maybe? I guess we can try to fax the info into the site, otherwise; you could pick it up once you get in the door.

"That's all I got for ya, kids; any questions? How 'bout that PDA number?"


Anchee adjusts the chem-pack on her forehead, muttering under her breath. "Oh, juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan…" This was indeed a happy development, if one's idea of happy coincided with a blinding headache and the loss of dignity.

"I have a Blackberry, Mr. Randall," she says into her headset mic. As she recites the number, she feels the happy warmth of the bourbon mix with the ibu, and the headache finally lessen.
"Ah, and I do have a question. How extensive are we supposed to be in destroying that which we will not be taking? We brought degaussing magnets just in case, but will grenades also be necessary?" She shoots a dark-eyed glance at Avery, who grins open-mouthed in return.


Randall's static-laden chuckle rolls across the wireless. "Ah, well, Miss Min, I'd say there's a decent amount of destroyin' to be done - plenty of paper documents, physical specimens, that kinda thing. Most people'd just use some o' the Bunsen burners and alcohols and maybe a touch of gasoline to have a little trashcan-fire inside one of the fume hoods… but we did have a few extra thermite grenades left over from a recent demolition op down in Venezuela; and I'll wager the reason you're askin' is because one o' your esteemed colleagues decided it'd be fun to bring 'em along, eh?"

The long pause which follows is heavy with consideration, but he continues hesitantly. "…and to be honest, you never know when something like that might come in handy. Things are getting kinda… well, unpredictable down there. I won't trouble you with too much detail - you lot are pretty far from city center, and our analysts are putting a pretty low risk quotient on your mission.

"Still, the whole biotech industry in New Orleans is getting a bit jumpy, what with having all these professional security folks runnin' around for them, and there's been a few incidents - rival companies tryin' to strongarm their way into research labs, stuff like that. Part of the reason we're keeping such a tight timetable here - Diamond Industries has some hot technologies, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone out there would want to try and get a bite of their discoveries in all the confusion, race 'em to the patent office before they can get their ducks in a row. So keep your eyes peeled for anyone snoopin' around out there, and if they start gettin' ornery with you, well, might be they don't know the difference between a thermite grenade and an antipersonnel one. Got me, Avery?"

An indistinct chatter comes over the line, and Randall comes back after a few moments. "That's all I got time for just now, Gamma Foxtrot. Safe trip; Miss Min, I'll get that Blackberry number to Dr. Melancon so she can forward you guys the data on those samples. NOTI-HQ, out."


The flight proceeds with some slight turbulence, just enough to keep anyone from relaxing into their seat.

As the landing site approaches Min's Blackberry vibrates with a message from Dr. Elena Melancon.

"Rabbits?" Min remarks in surprise before passing the Blackberry around for everyone to read.

Sharp Drop - 0700 Hours


Steve's voice cuts into the muted chatter of the passenger section. "We're coming within a few miles of the landing zone now… should be on the ground in about 10, but it's gonna get a bit bumpy as we come back down into the storm.

The lurching hops of the cargo helicopter change to a more vertigo-inducing downward plunge with occasional sudden stops; the roiling mass of clouds below begins to get closer and closer, and moist humidity seeps into the cabin once more, replacing the dry chill of higher altitudes. "Weather's holding in this area, shouldn't be too rough… looks like the weather guys bet on the right horse this time," continues Washer as leaden grey mist coalesces outside the viewports. "We should be able to get some decent visibility once we get under the clouds, just another minute and we should be able to see the landing zone."

Sure enough, a few more stomach-displacing lurches brings Polecat out into the paler grey of the whirling storm - the return of howling wind and the turbulence it creates is a far cry from pleasant, but no worse than anything that has come before.

"Just to make ol' Randall happy I'm guiding us in on GPS, but in a minute or so you should get a visual on the drop spot out the left side… vacant lot on the outskirts of Eden Isle, Louisiana. To your right you'll currently see - well, mostly rain, but if it clears a bit you'll catch sight of Lake Pontchartrain. To your left, a thin stretch of old-fashioned bayou along the lakefront - Slidell and Bonfouca are beyond that, and if it weren't for Katrina you might even see them too!"

The helicopter drops still lower, and some of the terrain Steve describes actually becomes visible through the driving rain as Polecat leaves the cloud canopy altogether. Lake Pontchartrain is a brown and murky mess, swollen with runoff and churned into dark, choppy whitecaps by the continuing weather. The trees and wetlands to the other side yield a similarly storm-thrashed view - likely many of those trees will not survive the coming hurricane.

A moment later, all scenery is forgotten.

Avery's sharp eyes catch it first - the helicopter is still well over 500 feet up, and the combination of distance and weather reduces the flare to a tiny flash in the dim morning gloom. Likewise the lengthening plume of smoke is just a more coherent streak of grey amid the slashing rain. Sloan's eyes narrow. "What—"

"—the FUCK?" finishes Steve, a fraction of a second later - the final syllable a startled yell, almost drowned out by the surge of hastily-applied torque and power to the rotors.


Everything rotates 90 degrees, but instead of falling against the helicopter's side gravity gives out as the helicopter drops straight downward. "Woohoo nice try bitches!" Steve yells during the spiral downward. The small spark in the distance swells up quickly, tracking the helicopter despite the evasive maneuvers. At the last moment, Steve snaps the chopper back into place and fires off some chaff. Everything hits the floor, the anti-aircraft missile screams just underneath, and then after a brief moment of calm an explosion throws the chopper forward through the air.

Steve shouts a mayday call out to HQ with GPS coordinates over the secure channel as he tries to regain control of the chopper…



Improbably, someone just fired an antiaircraft weapon at Polecat. Even more improbably, Steve Washer's wild evasion actually worked, insofar as the helicopter remains airborne and everyone is still alive. But the helicopter is not in good shape…

Steve will have to use every trick in his extensive repertoire to keep his bird steady and flying. The wind and weather, the unknown extent of damage to the tail section of the helicopter, and the dangerous closeness of Mother Earth all conspire against him. He needs to find a landing spot VERY quickly.
This might not be the most challenging act of piloting Steve's ever faced… but it's damned close.

Meanwhile, tendrils of smoke and occasional showers of sparks start to make things very unpleasant for the passengers… it's clear Washer's going to need a little help keeping Polecat from going up in flames before he can get her down safely.

Round 1


Polecat comes out of a lurching sideward dive,1 shedding smoke and metal from her tail segment.2 The steering rotor appears to be functioning - barely.3

Sparing a momentary glance away from the horizon, Steve can tell immediately that all is not well: fuel pressure is dropping rapidly, and the GPS and communications readouts go down before he can complete his distress call.4 A half-second later, the bright-orange emergency light for the aft avionics system begins to flash.5


Shitty fucking helicopter…

"Fly you piece of crap!" Steve yells, giving the now defunct aviation panel a kick with the heel of his boot, snapping off a couple knobs.1 The helicopter starts to spin counter-clockwise due to the damaged the tail rotor, slowly at first but picking up speed as you lose altitude.2 Steve grabs the map he had been ignoring in favor of the GPS from his clipboard and pulls a flashlight from his flight bag3, turning it on and holding it between his teeth while he mans the cyclic with one hand and pinpoints his location on the map with the other. He coughs briefly as the cabin starts to fill up with smoke4

"Somebody get that fire out, there'll be plenty of that when we hit the ground! Unlock the door you don't want it to get jammed locked when we land5. Steve glances out into the dark rain, the ground not even visible yet, and then back to his map, Not many buildings… flat marshes… if you're going to land blind this is the place to do it…6


Anchee does not want to be here anymore, suddenly. This was not on the itinerary, whatever "this" was. She hadn't really gotten a close look out the window before hell had broken loose, but whatever had caused the helicopter to nosedive wasn't a joke. She fights down a wave of panic, teeth clenched and eyes squeezed shut so hard she can see blue flashes behind her lids. Don't let them see you like this. Don't chickenshit out, now. What would your brother say? With a deep, fortifying breath, Min unbuckles herself from the harness as Avery careens down the aisle with her teeth bared and sparks reflecting in her eyes, heading for the closest fire extinguisher. That's when the crescendo of nausea chooses to make its appearance in her symphony of ineptitude; Anchee clutches her head and moans, staggering back into her seat. Looks like this one was out of her hands - she fights to keep down her coffee while Avery and Will battle the fires and Steve wrestles with his own troubles from the cockpit.


What in twelve hells.

Avery's eyes narrow into a glaring squint as she whips around to assess the rapidly growing flames, her characteristic easygoing grin having vanished at the first sign of enemy fire. The adrenaline surging in her veins launches her brain into combat mode. She rips her seatbelt off, with a fraction of a second's concern for what that could mean in the violently lurching chopper.

There is only one fire extinguisher. Avery grabs it off the wall, removes the pin, and turns to face the blaze. "Will, move your ass! Maybe there are fire blankets under the seats, or a spare fire extinguisher!" she yells.


The snarling wind, manageable through the first portion of the descent, is becoming seriously problematic because of the sporadic response from the rear rotor - Polecat pitches and bucks in the merciless grip of the hostile sky as inky black smoke begins to pour from the tail section and the altmeter continues to cycle downward.6

In the passenger compartment, Will Hawkwood finally manages to unclip his jammed safety belt and stands up - just in time to catch a particularly hard pitch of the steel floor beneath his feet and send him careening forward to the floor. Will's duffel bag then comes hurtling from its stow-bin to slam into his shoulders: he is now sprawled and winded, but otherwise luckily unharmed.


Resolution

As Min groans her way through disorientation and nausea, Will snarls a curse, shoving aside the heavy rucksack, and stands, casting wildly about for a way to help; the passenger compartment is beginning to get hazy from the electrical fire. Avery steps resolutely forward, sparing a quick glance at the instruction tag on the fire extinguisher. You can handle this, girl.

Steve, spouting imprecations and delivering a virtuoso performace - effectively drawing the helicopter along his chosen flight path by sheer force of will - nevertheless cannot shake a sense of foreboding as Polecat continues shedding pieces of metal and gouts of smoke as she lists and shudders her way toward the sodden grey swamp below… I can probably bring 'er down before we all go up in flames… but Jesus, it might be close.

Round 2


Anchee opens her eyes, a flashing thought curling through her synapses: Fool, get your BlackBerry! Heedless of the intermittent showers of white-hot sparks and acrid electrical smoke, Will and Avery's curses, and the shuddering list of Polecat herself, Anchee pulls the little device out of her pocket and attempts to match the her shaking hands to the movement of the cabin. Without wasting time finding email addresses, she pulls up the last accessed email - the forward from Randall and Melancon. Hits "reply all". Nearly drops the BlackBerry as she breaks into a coughing fit from the rapidly-increasing smoke. Clutching the little device in sweaty hands, Anchee thumbs a terse message: -hit by sthng gng dwn nr site- and pushes the "send" button.
Only to be greeted by an error message - the standard "message unsendable" banality due to -quite probably- the raging storm. Anchee stares silently at the little screen, transfixed by her mounting fear.
—-

With the rain completely occluding his vision and the electronics down, Steve's eye stays locked to the altimeter spiraling downward… 2000, 1900, 1800…1 The helicopter is starting to spin violently around the main rotor shaft creating a difficult centrifugal force.2 Steve flips the fuses off on all the electronics in preparation for landing and gets ready to punch the motor right before impact.3 1000… 900… 800… he glances at the map one last time to confirm he's aiming for sea level4. "Everybody hold on!"5 Steve glares at the altimeter, his hand gripping the throttle tight, I wonder when I last set the barometer?6


"Will, you damn well better not be breathing, cuz if you are, then WHY ARE YOU STILL ON YOUR ASS?" Avery's voice roars with the adrenaline in her veins as she steps over Will's sprawled form, extinguisher in hand. She vigorously sweeps the foamy spray back and forth across the growing fire. Beads of sweat drip down her forehead as she works.

Fucking hell in a handbasket, is he getting up? Avery's brief glimmer of concern is extinguished as Will clambers, moaning, to his feet. "You heard Steve, unlock the door so it doesn't jam locked when we land!"


Lying face down on the floor, William can barely hear Avery yelling at him. Way to go buddy, way to jinx the ride with your negative vibes.

The pitching of the aircraft makes it impossible for William to get up as smoothly he would like. He ends up grabbing the door bar on his way up to steady himself…and ends up back on the floor as the bar slides down with his weight. Damnit…well at least the door is unlocked. This time William manages to get up and sit back down in his seat, where he watches Avery struggling with the fire extinguisher, spraying every which way but at the fire.

"Avery, honey, its a little warm in here, makes it difficult for a fellow to sleep. Anyway you can adjust the thermostat while you're up?"


A particularly vicious blast of wind howls across the flight path at an obscene angle, delivering an intense blast of rainwater which completely obscures the windscreen for a moment1. Polecat lurches down and to the right under the gale-force wind, such that the right landing strut clips a treelimb, slewing the nose around even further and jerking the vehicle hard2.

The starboard cargo door slides open with a rumble and a clang, the latch jarred loose by the sudden motion3. Hawkwood's sitting position and grip on the latch handle are all that saves him from flying out the door and into the trees below4; instead he is merely jerked out into the grey gale5, one hand clutching for dear life as his feet dangle over the verdant swamp still 150 feet below6.


Resolution

Polecat lurches and wobbles like a badly-thrown football, continuing to surge toward the waiting earth below while hurtling forward and veering widly from the slow sidespin and Washer's frantic corrections. The wind around the little aircraft reaches a shrieking apex just above the treeline, fierce gusts reflecting up off the canopy and increasing the already seemingly impossible task of touching down safely - and making it extremely difficult for Will to retain his tenuous connection to the aircraft.

The eddies of smoke in the cabin are quickly sucked away by the howling wind and rain swirling in through the open hatch; a noticeable plume of smoke still trails behind the craft, though, so some trace of the electrical fire remains.


The Threat and Nemesis are defeated simultaneously. Hawkwood or Avery (decide among yourselves) gets to narrate the Coup de Grace on the Threat, Washer gets to narrate the Coup de Grace on the Nemesis.

Finale


Steve slowly pushes the throttle forward when he feels the tree branch nudge the polecat's landing strut despite the complete lack of visibility. He flips the fuse for the landing light back on at the last moment, but only receives a flurry of sparks as some short circuit blows out the lamp, just enough to get his bearings. The rapidly falling craft suddenly decelerates as Steve finesses the throttle, perfectly transitioning between flight and sinking slightly into the mud, such that when he cuts the engine nobody is quite sure if they've really come to a stop. Kid's shit…, he thinks before glancing back to the passengers, "Hey! I said unlatch the door not open it you morons."


Avery barely notices Will's sass in her concentration on controlling the fire extinguisher. In her keyed-up state, she sweeps the foam back and forth across the flames probably faster than she should, but the lapping flames slowly abate. Just about damn time, that smoke was fixing to make this a hella unpleasant hotbox to be in not long from now. Snuffing out the last vicious tongue of fire, she takes a deep breath and raises a hand to wipe the sweat from her forehead…

WHAMP.

…just as Steve touches the chopper down into the mud.

Managing to fall over with only minimal damage to her backside, Avery casts her gaze toward her companions. "Heya Min, how you holding up th - WHERE THE FUCK — IS THAT FOOL OUTSIDE THE CHOPPER?"

—- Fin

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