Zombie 02 (Forlorn)
Katherine Hana Li spin_kick_snap
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Stealth's Office, Roddenberry Building, Saturday Evening
After Gorgon had hauled Josh away, Stealth had given the Fandom contingent very strict orders to stay put. The Mount was already a powder keg, the last thing it needed was an errant match in the form of a stranger that no one had seen enter and certainly didn't look like they'd spent the past nine months eking out a bare survival. Especially if any one of those strangers decided to mention the little bombshell Josh had dropped on them earlier.

Less than an hour had passed before Gorgon came to collect them, bringing them upstairs to Stealth's office. A meeting was still in progress, with a blueprint of the map hung up on the wall and the other superheroes clustered around it, Zzzap remaining a slight distance away to avoid charring paper or blistering flesh. "--walls are still secure, the fences are all reinforced, so the most likely attack points will be the Melrose Gate, Bronson, and North Gower."

"What about Van Ness or Marathon?" St. George asked.

"Too far east and north for a major assault," she said. "We can leave regular guard units there. If the Seventeens have done any reconnaissance of their own, they will know Marathon is sealed." She glanced up at Gorgon and nodded sharply to the chairs surrounding the large table. He gestured for their guests to sit.

"Bronson's sealed, too," Cerberus, the large mecha suit, pointed out.

"Sealed to regular exes. If they are being guided by Cesares, we must assume they will be smarter and more resourceful. It is the next closest gate after Melrose, the fence is low, and it is a very tempting target."

"I'd still like to see extra people at Van Ness," Gorgon said, slouching against a wall now that his tour guide duty was done.

"We're starting to run low on capable and trained people," Stealth said, her mask not facing him or any other hero, but the group at the table. "But it's possible that we have the means to make up the difference."


Eliot
Eliot leaned forward with his elbows on the table, wishing he were in the position to put himself bodily between Stealth and the kids. "We ain't here to fight your war for you, Stealth. We've already got our own objective."

They were already wasting time. Every time Hardison reopened the portal was another chance for exes to infiltrate Fandom. With Hardison and Alluka -- and whatever Nanika was -- right on the front lines.

Stealth
"And how precisely do you expect to get beyond the walls?" Stealth asked. "We are surrounded by exes on a good day, which today is not. We will not loan you one of our trucks and we cannot spare Cerberus or St. George to clear the way. How do you propose surviving the fifty feet past our gates, never mind the next 4.8 miles?"

Eliot
Eliot tilted his head towards Raven. "This one's survived about 3,000 miles past your gates. You got no idea what we're capable of."

Dante
"Punching these things still works, right?" Dante said, glancing briefly at Stealth. "'Cause it did last time I was here."

Raven
"I prefer stabbing them through the head," Raven said. "But yeah."

Ringo
Ringo didn't say anything. This kind of tactical planning wasn't really her bag.

She also wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of stabbing anyone in the head. Even if they were, you know, already dead.

Stealth
There were times when Stealth wished she could dispose of her mask. It would be easier if people could see she was rolling her eyes at them.

"It is one thing to get past a handful of exes when you are in the open with room to maneuver," she said, enunciating every syllable. "It is another when you are trying to get through a small area--say, for example, a gate--that is already surrounded by them. Even if we were willing to open a gate for you, you would be greeted by a great many exes who will then surround you in every direction but one. You would either be fighting these exes hand to hand, which is a bad idea when you are outnumbered, or shooting at them, which will draw more to your location."

Again, assuming they were willing to open the gate for these people. Which Stealth wasn't. But that was secondary to the issue.

"Furthermore, you will not be going up against stupid exes," she added. "It is entirely likely that the exes you will be fighting will be able to think, reason, and use rudimentary tactics. Or even more than rudimentary. Odds are, it will be a killing field and you won't be the ones doing the killing."

Eliot
"So, what, you all are gonna just stick it out in here and starve?" Eliot asked. "What's to stop us from usin' your little war here as the distraction we need to get our job done? You want our help on this, try askin' instead of forcin'."

Parker
"And just to be clear," Parker said, her voice clinically detached. "We can leave. At any time. And come back when you're all dead. Find some other way to find Kathy." Granted, it would be that much more difficult to get it to work. Parker wasn't about to mention how the portals worked. "We appeared here, we can disappear from here." She gave Stealth a dead-eyed stare.

She suddenly smirked. "And if we want to get out, we'll get out. Thief." She tilted her head at the others. "Magic user. Advanced tech. Nice try at a con, though. But you really don't sell it very well."

Gorgon
"She's not bluffing, Stealth," Gorgon said. "I spent time on that crazy island, same as Banzai and Mystique. Saw some of them in action there. I don't even know half of what they can do, but odds are it's weird and more than you can account for."

St. George
"C'mon, Stealth," St. George said, tone gentle. "Mystique was one of us. She's here to help us get Kathy back. Enough strong-arming. More flies with honey and all that."

Stealth
"Technically, cider vinegar is more appealing to flies than honey." Being technically correct was the best kind of correct! "Flies are drawn to fermentation, and apples ferment to make cider vinegar, while honey is far less attractive, odor-wise. Still, I take the point of your aphorism, even though it is logically flawed." Stealth gave a brusque nod and gestured at the map.

"No, then. Our plan is not to stay in here until we starve, though the Mount is working towards being self-sufficient. But it is not yet and, furthermore, there will be more unrest and demonstrations like the one you witnessed today if the current situation is allowed to continue. Fortunately, however, our enemy is both impatient and prone to bravado. He will be here, tonight, in force. His plan is to hit us hard and hope we crumble. In his arsenal, he has several hundred active gang members, guns and ammunition, and control over potentially thousands of exes, including one of our own. We saw the zombified version of Cairax Murrain, a Reaver Lord from the Abyss--or, as is more commonly known, a demon. While we could potentially hold them off by ourselves, adding in your skills and abilities will save time and likely lives. We would greatly appreciate your help."

Anders
"Dante and I know what to do with demons," Anders contributed. "Not that that helps with how badly we're outnumbered."

Really, this was sounding more and more like a terrible idea. Had he mentioned that?

Dante
Dante shrugged. "I could definitely handle the demon," he said.

But he was too tense right now to make that sound casual; instead it came out pointed, focused, almost growling.

Eliot
"Orchestratin' that many mindless pawns ain't gonna be easy on him," Eliot mused, getting drawn into the tactics despite himself. "He's likely to be weak. Distracted. You should be able to cut the head off this army tonight."

And then they'd just have a shitton of unfocused zombies to deal with.

"How much firepower you folks have around here?"

Stealth
"We can arm almost a hundred more with guns and ammo if we get the volunteers, though we'll deplete our stores if we do. About three hundred more can be armed with decent melee weapons. However, we have very few trained military or police forces. Most of them died during the first waves. Most people here are fit for guard duty at our defenses, not for taking out a being as powerful as, say, Cairax Murrain."

And if people wanted to explain to her how two teens thought they could handle a creature that gave St. George pause, she'd be happy to hear them out.

Raven
Same way one teen had managed to walk across the continent and come back with reinforcements.

Age wasn't nothin' but a number.

"We've got him covered," Raven said, figuring Stealth might be slightly more inclined to believe her than Dante and Anders, whom she'd only barely met. "Demons are what Dante does." The side of her mouth curled up. "Hell, overwhelming odds are what all of us do."

Dante
"And I don't need weapons," Dante said.

He patted Ebony and Ivory, in their holsters at his sides, and let Rebellion come into being across his back.

Not that it had ever been far.

Stealth
Stealth was willing to accept that they thought themselves capable of going up against Cairax. Either they were right, which was good, or they were wrong, in which case St. George would be on his own against the demon. Not ideal, but that would be the case if they weren't helping. And if they were catastrophically wrong, and actively hindered St. George, there were other ways they could be removed from the field. A bullet to the leg was often very convincing.

Not that Stealth wanted to get in the habit of shooting allies, but sometimes it was the most expedient thing.

"In exchange for your assistance tonight, assuming a successful conclusion, we will utilize every asset the Mount has starting tomorrow to find where Banzai has gone. It will likely be a slow process, but we will be able to cover more ground than simply the six of you alone."

Parker
"Thank you." Parker met Stealth's eyes as best she could through that mask she was wearing. "We're going to hold you to that." She paused and added, "And metaphors and plans aren't always about logic. Weird, I know. But if this were logic, we wouldn't be fighting these guys, they'd be helping us." She looked around at her people and said, "If you need to tag out, at any time, I'll be on comms. Just say the word."

Gorgon
Gorgon looked back to the map on Stealth's wall. "I'd still like to see more people on Van Ness."

"You doubt my strategy?" Stealth asked, curious.

"I doubt Rodney's going to approach it as strategically as you are. He's kind of an idiot when you get down to it."

Cerberus
Cerberus pointed a thick metal digit north of the studio. "Are we worried about Hollywood forever?"

Stealth
Inside the hood, Stealth's head shook. "The sheer height of the walls still protects us there. Regular numbers along that wall."

Gorgon
Gorgon tapped the blueprints. "If we break it down that way, we've got enough manpower for forty, maybe forty-five guards at each of these gates."

That's it?

He shrugged. "Like I said, we don't have an army. We barely have a militia."

Zzzap
*I don't think we need to worry about exes too much,* said Zzzap in his electric buzz voice.

All the heroes looked at him. "Why not?"

Well, everything we've seen this guy do is either individuals or groups that are all acting the same way, right? The wraith looked at Stealth, who nodded. He continued, I'm betting he's still got a human brain. Or a human mind, at least. It's too much input and output for him to handle. Like playing an RTS video game. You can work with one unit or click or click on a bunch and make them all do the same thing. But it's impossible to manage more than three or four to do specific tasks.

Gorgon
"Does he need to?" Gorgon shrugged. "They just break open a gate and the exes are going to do what he wants anyway."

Zzzap
Right, but I don't think we need to worry about anything too elaborate. He'll probably just move them to wherever they'll do the most damage and that'll be that.

Stealth
"A good possibility," said Stealth. "That makes splitting our forces more advantageous. Cesares will have to split his attention between all of us."

St. George
St. George nodded. "Keep him off-balance on multiple fronts and he won't be able to focus."

Stealth
"Correct. We know he has Cairax as an asset. The demon is still faster and stronger than humans, even as an ex, and also fireproof. Odds are, he will focus some of his attention there." Stealth looked up at Gorgon. "His main focus seems to be capturing you, however. You and I will be at the Melrose Gate, along with you others." She nodded at the Fandom crowd. "It will most likely be the primary point of attack and where he will be. Your assorted abilities will likely come in handy most there."

Gorgon
Gorgon nodded. "I can play bait. Barry?"

The burning silhouette turned to him.

"Remind me to bounce something off you. I thought of it awhile back, but it seemed weird to bring it up if we didn't need to." He spread his hands, as if to say 'but now we need to.'

Stealth
"St. George, you can monitor the area between Bronson and Van Ness," continued Stealth. "As well as do recon if needed. It is a larger area, but you are the most versatile of all of us. They have used signal jammers in the past, we cannot guarantee our radios will continue to function. Cerberus and Zzzap, you will guard the North Gower gate. If conditions permit, Zzzap can offer support to other crisis points." She looked around to see if anyone had anything else they needed to say. "Then let's get a move on. Daylight is wasting."


[NFI, NFB, OOC is love. Preplayed by whoisalicewhite, tigerundercover/vdistinctive, rebelseekspizza, not_every_mage, and soniaroadsqueen, all of whom I owe drinks to at this point. Bits of text adapted from Chapter Twenty-Four of Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines, ]