Virus Hunt Gaza Strip: Beyond Genocide

Summary:
August 27 2014: Storm and Cyclops hit a Hydra computer lab and run into Jericho Trent

Nuseirat

A built up refugee camp in the Gaza Strip


Characters

NPCs

  • Hydra Goons

Mood Music:
[* None]


The SHIELD team had cleared out but Jericho had not gone with them. This was getting to be par for the course. He was operating with Partisan on separate leads and coordinating quite closely with May's team, but it meant that he had to bounce back and forth to make sure their data was getting properly compiled and people weren't crossing tracks. Not that it was hard, generally. Partisan has done this kind of thing before and Jeri works well with her. Today, though, he's stayed behind for another reason. He got a look at the maps May had recovered before they left and noted the marked areas nearby. The nearest one was in Nuseirat, not far to the South and Jericho was willing to put money on Scott and whomever he'd brought with him investigating at the very least, that one, before they left.

It was only because he departed before them that he beat them there. But here he is, safely ensconced on a roof top overlooking a squat, uninviting adobe building in the middle of a built up, former refugee camp. It's fairly unremarkable from the outside but Jericho as already detected some fairly sophisticated computer systems inside.

*

"Storm." Cyclops finally breaks radio silence, and his words come on the tail of heavy, panting breaths. "Pick me up at R'ouz Point Delta."

Once safely aboard the Blackbird, Scott comes up to the cockpit. He doesn't take command, however, which is… odd for him. Instead, he rips open the sophisticated uniform at a seam upon his torso, revealing a couple of hearty bruises. Heavy ones, as if he'd been struck by a fist-shaped piece of galvanized metal. "Ran into friendlies," he explains. "But we didn't consider each other friendlies, not at first."

With one hand he reaches for a console. With the other, he fishes under the passenger seat for a first aid kit. His left hand punches in some commands, causing the Blackbird to download some data from his visor, while the right hand begins unfurling some bandaging. "Undock the data from Drive D," he instructs her.

The downloaded data will reveal a high def photo of the map Scott and the SHIELD team had found. The computer maps it to a topographical scan of the region, providing Storm directions on how to get there.

"We need to check it out," he tells her. "Could be a deployment location for the virus."

*

Storm heads to the pick up point and looks to Cyclops, waiting for an explanation of what happened. Which, she doesn't get. Just the sight of bruises. She arches a snow white brow at Scott, wondering if he will explain those. When he does, albeit a vage explanation, she smirks and spins her chair back to her console with a light shake of her head. Leave it to Scott to discover a person is a friendly by letting them beat him up.

Her fingers dance on the keyboard and soon the data from Drive D is loaded onto the Blackbird's computer. Seeing the map, Storm simply nods her head and starts to fly to the location indicated on the map.

"I do not believe I need to ask, but you have had your shots, Scott?"

The coordinates given to the Blackbird computer are close. Six miles. Easy for an aircraft that can do multi-mach speeds at the drop of a hat. Though if they plan to remain low profile they should probably not utilize that specific function. Sonic booms are so unsubtle.

*

It's getting fairly late and Nuseirat is quiet as might be expected. Jericho himself is watching the building through a sniper rifle scope, not particularly because he plans on shooting anyone but because it's his best option if he doesn't want to glow, and at the moment, he doesn't. He's picking at the computer network mostly out of curiosity now. Someone went to a lot of trouble to set up a secure satellite connection and a lot of processing power. What are they doing in there?

*

"I have." The dutiful, military-like nature bleeds away for a moment then. Scott looks up from his bandaging, hands momentarily still, and there's a look of concern on his face. "Have you?"

Scott soon finishes with the bandages, but soon enough his hands are preparing a shot. "Logan. He's the one who hit me. Cal apparently knew him from his timeline." Once the levels are right, he stabs the device into his torso and breathes a sigh of relief. "Was one of us in that world. Here…" He smirks ruefully, and shakes his head. "Not so much."

The uniform is closed up, the first aid kit put away. Only then does Scott climb into the co-pilot's seat, looking on as Storm flies the Blackbird closer. "Put us down over there," he says, gesturing toward a relatively abandoned area, roughly one quarter of a mile from the target. "Gently…" He checks the controls to assure that stealth mode remains active, then begins to key in commands that will enable the Blackbird's self-defensive protocols.

It seems that this time, Scott doesn't intend to leave Storm behind.

*

Hearing the concern in Scott's voice causes Ororo to smile. Yes, it means that clouds start to form, but that just means more weather for her to manipulate. "Yes Scott, I'm immune. I was at Syria, remember?" She looks to Scott for a moment, allowing her blue eyes to crinkle in mirth before she goes back to her practiced calm.

"Logan? I met a Logan at the Burning Human. Short man, lots of hair, smokes a cigar and seems grumpy?" She listens with interest, but keeps her eyes on the sky and the console. "He did seem to like getting into fights. Do you think we should try to bring him in to the X-Men in this world too?"

"Gently? Have I ever not landed the Blackbird in a gentle fashion? I do not fly her like you do, Scott," she says with a teasing lilt in her voice being the only indication that she is making a joke. The jet is touched down with precision and the security measures are activated. "Ready whenever you are, Scott. Shall I summon a fog to hide our approach?"

*

The Blackbird's stealth systems are impeccable but there's only so much you can do to hide the air turbulence a ramjet engine creates. It's that on the local weather satellites that alert Jericho to the fact that something has arrived off vaguely in that direction. What? Air turbulence is not a precise locating method. At all.

The hacker swings his scope in that direction, seeing nothing. Hrm. Interesting. The last time he ran into X-men in the field they arrived without warning as well. This isn't teleportation, he's fairly sure, so they must have something pretty high tech. That fact is noted for later perusal. At the moment, he's snake watching.

*

A small smile cracks upon Scott's face when she reminds him of her immunity. It disappears when she speaks of this Logan person. One eyebrow cocks up from behind the visor. "Yeah… that's him." There is a pause during which he considers Storm's question. "Honestly, 'Ro, I'm not sure."

He doesn't have much to say about the way she touches down, or her remark about his method of piloting. Not at first. Once the 'bird has touched down, Scott helps Ororo in setting up the security parameters, and when finished, he glances at her. "Your pitch was good, but you should keep an eye on the VTL updraft."

He's dead serious… until he grins. Yeah, looks like Summers knows how to ride this train.

Once everything is ready to go, he leans forward and looks out of the window, visor panning from side to side. "Yeah," he murmurs. "We'd better. Don't know who might be out there. Fog… and some sand if you can manage?"

He's still running infrared, but it's difficult to determine any real threats. Some signatures mill about, others are stationary, and there's nothing about Jericho's all-red body to suggest anything untoward.

"Be careful," he warns Storm softly. "They had guns, military grade. Armor. Sophisticated stuff." He's hoping that a little light sandstorm might help to jam some weapons, if this scouting mission came to blows.

*

"We can talk about this Logan person later. We have a job to do." She finishes setting up the security when Scott makes his critique about her piloting. She takes a moment to seriously go over her piloting and then looks to Scott when he grins. Two people with a dry sense of humor making fun of each other. It can be hard for others to tell there was a joke there at all, but at least they know.

Storm shakes her head as she disembarks from the jet. "I can do one or the other, not both. A sandstorm needs wind and fog needs a lack of wind. Do you have a preference?" When told that there are weapons involved, Storm nods her head as she decides. "Sandstorm would be best then. Cuts on visibility and gets into things like armor and weapons." Her eyes shift from blue to a glowing white as the winds pick up, kicking up the sand with it.

*

A sandstorm blows in from the east, quickly cutting visibility to nothing. Jericho switches to thermal vision, tracking the two figures approaching the Hydra haunt. He's already counted about ten occupants, so the building is largely empty, and, based on thermal scans, largely given over to a ridiculous amount of computing power. For now he doesn't move. He doesn't have to in order to access the satellite feed the building is using to communicate with the network. The moment the two new arrivals go in, it will crash. No alarms for the snakes today.

*

Scott is tempted to pull the leather jacket up and over his face, but he soon realizes that the sandstorm seems to be blowing around them, creating a relatively sand-free bubble directly around he and Storm.

His head pans her way, lips curled a bit. "Nice touch."

Onward they go, Scott using his own thermal scans to locate those inside as they draw near to the building. "Front door… back door. No side door. Ten people inside… seems most of them are congregated there— — and there."

Scott points out locations into the sandstorm. It won't mean much until they are close enough to see the building, but it means something to him. "Ironically? Fewer near the front."

Looks like they'll be going right on in, then.

The two finally come upon the door. Cyclops eyes the security measures, then reaches up to dial his visor down to a laser-thin, surgical circumference. "Shall we knock?" he asks.

*

Storm allows herself a smile. After all, it's not like she has to worry about causing a storm if she does. "I dislike the feeling of sand in my clothing. It was a very selfish move, I assure you," she says with that calm that is her custom, though the thought of Storm being selfish is in itself a joke.

She walks along among the sand and wind till the pair gets to the building. When Scott offers to 'knock', Storm nods her head. "By all means."

*

Front door. Sound tactical maneuver. Though it means that they'll be in the 'fatal funnel' as the Army likes to call it. Jericho drops down three stories on Amber wings which vanish as quickly as they came and, using the cover of the sandstorm - which he is receiving the full force of unlike others - makes his way around toward the back entrance. It's going to take him a minute. They'll be inside by the time he reaches the door. Fortunately there's really not much resistance to be had in the building with ten guys, most of them techs.

*

Thing is, Scott gets Ororo's humor. There's something to be said about that.

"Soon as we're in," he advises, "hit the wall and channel the wind directly into the door."

A tight beam of optic energy slices through the security keypad, frying it with a little tuft of smoke. A beat later, Cyclops is back on one leg, the other kicking the door right in. He goes in first, flattening himself against the door to prevent it from bouncing back. Once Storm is through, he jinks past the door and against the wall, head faced down the hallway. He holds his fire for now, instead scanning with thermal vision to track the inhabitants' responses.

Storm nods to Cyclops as he seems to read her mind with the tactics of using her wind when the door is open. When the door is kicked open, she slips in as quick as a cat and the wind follows behind her, a hard gale force gust accompanied with sand hitting any in the room with its full force.

*

Scott can see, using thermal vision, three of the building's occupants react to the sudden intrusion. Weapons are produced, small ones. Just handguns as they rush to block entance to the main room in the facility. The rest of the staff begins headed out the back, seemingly in a rehearsed evacuation.

The lobby is full of grit and sand and with the wind howling it's unlikely that anyone will come into the room. Shoot into it? That's another matter. In the brief moments 'Ro and Scott present their silhouettes, shots ring out.

*

At precisely the same moment, Cyclops reacts. The movement of three targets has him dialing the visor up a bit, then he disables the safety device, activating his finger triggers. In tandem with the gunshots, he takes aim. Handguns tend to remain relatively stationary, and optic blasts move at the speed of light. He can see exactly where the guns are, based on how the thermal images are standing, where their gun-wielding hands are. One is a lefty.

Three blasts hit three targets, those being the guns themselves. Two of them go flying; one whips back and strikes it's bearer in the face; but all three are now damaged beyond repair and lying elsewhere upon the floor.

Scott is also grimacing, left hand held over his shoulder. Seems he sustained a superficial bullet wound.

Regardless, he moves in, headed straight for their three assailants, while mentally preparing himself for some hand-to-hand combat, the old fashioned way.

*

If not for the fact that Storm had sunk down to the ground the moment she was indoors, she would have been hit. Standing after Cyclops blasts the three in the room, the wind stops and she looks at the wall behind her. She would have been hit in the head.

'Ro lets out a sigh of gratitude, thanking the Goddess under her breath and then turns to look at the room beyond. "Should we chase after the ones that ran, making sure they are not getting re-enforcements?"

*

About the time Storm asks that, which is to say, about the time that Scott is being engaged by three men wielding large combat knives and wielding them it must be said like they know what they're doing, shouting rings out at the back of the building where the door has been thrown open to reveal a rather unwelcome surprise. Muted thumps and the sharp clack of a rifle being used as a bludgeon sound over pained grunts and, if they're familiar, the sound of breaking bones.

*

Now, Scott is a firm believer in non-violence whenever possible. He's also adamantly opposed to lethal force. What that doesn't make him is:

1. Soft

2. Weak, or

3. Gentle on his foes.

The middle most thug gets an optic blast in the chest, hard enough to throw him back into the room a good twenty plus feet. No sooner has the blast left his visor when Scott drops to the ground, putting his weight on his left, uninjured arm. Both legs go up into the air, one boot swiping across the right-most thug's face while the other plants itself into the wall. When he comes back up, the left-most thug has swiped the knife in an arc above his head. Scott reacts by shouldering the thug in his legs (with the wounded shoulder, which smarts), smashing him off balance. A moment later, the knife is blasted right out of the thug's hand, and a well placed headbutt puts him out of commission for a while.

"We're not alone," says Captain Obvious, returning his left hand to its rightful home upon his bleeding shoulder wound. He gestures for Storm to go in first, a clear sign that he'll cover her with his optic talent.

*

Storm frowns as the men come at her and Scott with the combat knives. She spins around and kicks one in the gut, the thug bending over to get a kick to the face from Cyclops. She's about to do more but Scott has to play white knight and come to her rescue, even when she could have coped just fine on her own. She rises to her feet and shakes her head, smiling. Scott, like Remy, is who he is and there is no point in saying anything because he will never change.

Instead, Storm grabs one of the combat knives from the fallen and heads into the next room. She holds the blade, ready to throw it into the shoulder at the next person that comes to attack her.

*

The next room is empty, the remaining occupants having fled out the back door, from where the noises were coming. There's a sudden sharp bangbangbangbangbang of panick fire cut off by a single sharp, deep blam of a larger rifle. A body falls down in view of the open back door.

The room into which Storm has traversed is full of computer banks, all hooked up to a central table which seems to double as both display station and console. It is, presently, running some kind of algorithm though it's not immediately clear on first glance what.

The sound of boots approaching the rear door is now clearly audible.

*

Scott comes in behind Ororo, eyes panning about to find the room empty. "Thanks," he offers upon pulling up next to Storm, referencing her help back there.

The body coming through the back door earns a frown. And yet, something about the style of it all is vaguely, and freshly, familiar.

"Company," he quips silently. "One of the friendlies, I think." The console gets a quick examination. "Running a program, not sure what." Shortened, efficient dialogue, for they've got incoming bootfalls.

Just in case they aren't dealing with a friendly, Scott swivels himself around and against one of the computer banks for cover. He sticks his head out just so, still holding his wounded shoulder while the fingers of his other hand hover above his palm, ready to fire if necessary.

*

Hearing the bootfalls approaching, Storm takes cover, still holding the combat knife and prepared to throw it. She won't kill whoever it is, because that's just not her way, but crippling them is certainly not against her moral code. "Identify yourself," she calls out in that voice that is accustomed to having commanded thousands.

*

"Friendly coming in." A familiar voice calls out. The figure that comes around the corner and through the doorway should be familiar to both Scott and Ororo, though he looks different without the lit up traces and lupine power fields.

"Aaaah. Thought it might be you again." He addresses Scott. "Miss Munroe, nice to see you again." Between her celebrity and Remy being a bit free with her name, it hadn’t taken Jericho long to dig up quite a bit on her.

There’s movement in the shadows next to him, then a leap and a demonic looking lizard lands on the console.

The man is holding a good sized bolt action rifle… which appears to have been fired recently.

*

Cyclops relaxes his fingers, breathing a sigh of relief when Jericho announces himself. He glances Storm's way and nods his head, confirming Jericho as a 'friendly', though when Storm's surname is used, he can't help but tighten his jawline.

"Sorry about what happened back there," says Cyclops after emerging from behind cover. "Thought you might've been the 'heavy hitter'." That's X-Speak for 'boss of the level' in geek-speak.

Scott watches the leaping lizard, alarmed by the sight of it for but a moment. He… refrains from identifying himself, simply because Jericho seems to know Ororo's name. He'll leave it to her discretion how he ought to be introduced.

*

Storm looks over the man as he enters the room. He looks different then he did last time, but it's still him. But then he has to go and use her proper name. Okay, true, it's not like she is hiding who she is, but that is still just plain rude and unprofessional. She notices the animal as it leaps onto the table and is about to throw the knife when she realizes it's one of Illyana's 'pets'. "Hello again, Jericho," she says, her tone of voice sounding with a hint of disapproval. She gestures over to Scott. "You've met Cyclops already. Who else is here with you?"

*

"Just. K'nert there." Jericho gestures to the demon who eyes Scott and Ororo warily. "My allies are recovering from the last operation and crunching data." Of note perhaps is the fact that he calls them allies and not coworkers or fellow agents. In truth only a couple of the people on the op team are actual members of SHIELD.

"And yes. Cyclops and i have met, you could say." He doesn’t mention the fact that he’s rather badly burned from the feedback generated by being shot.

*

"So, you're Jericho." Cyclops has apparently heard the name before. He walks across the way, feeling that a proper introduction is necessary. His grasp is strong, despite the bullet wound to his right arm. Soon as that's done, however, it's right back where it was, at his side with compression applied.

Now, Scott turns to look at the little lizard named K'nert, before walking back around toward the console. "Any idea what's going on here?" he asks, in reference to the computers.

*

Storm gestures to K'nert. "He's one of Magik's … pets," she explains to the other X-Man. Like Scott, Storm also wears a badge with a large X emblazoned on it, though hers is worn at her hip.

She looks to Jericho, her face showing little to no emotion. Scott, who knows her well however, would note that Storm isn't happy. There isn't that bare hint of a constrained smile she usually has. "So, containers of the virus at point one and now computers here. Any ideas what the plan was, or are you still crunching the data to find out."

*

"He's my watchdog." Jericho explains as he moves over to the console which K'nert is staring at. "He's here to make sure I can get out of any trouble I get into." Why Magik would go to that length for him, he doesn't explain. "And I don't know what's going on here, but I'd be happy to help you find out. Just give me a moment."

It doesn't look like Jericho is doing anything but leaning on the table and staring at it. Actually he's accessing the database, removing protections and scanning the file list. The display on the table abruptly changes and lights up, showing flashing points around the globe along with complex probability predictions. "Mmmm. They were crunching numbers too. Calculating maximum impact from various simulated mutant massacres. The data was being uploaded via satellite to somewhere off site."

He pauses, canting his head as K'nert wanders over to peer at Ororo.

"Media effect, mutant outrage, social considerations, no wonder they needed so much processing power. They're trying to model the large scale reactions of the world to a very specific set of stimuli." It's more evidence, if Jericho needed it that genocide is not the goal her. It's something longer term, something more insidious.

*

Storm is still holding the combat knife, glaring down at K'nert as he approaches her. Only the fact that he is linked to an associate of the Institute stops her from trying to kill it.

"Why go to all this effort? To what ends? This makes sense, certainly, but we do not have all the pieces of the puzzle yet."

A sour expression forms at mention of what the enemy was trying to do. "I can tell you where we'll find our next clue." Cyclops tilts his head upward, a clear indication of aforementioned satellite. He's also paid close attention to Jericho's actions and the response of the computers. "Nice gift," he says, acknowledging Jericho's talent in the dry manner that is uniquely his.

"How much of this data can you acquire, and how long will it take?" he asks. "When we're done here…" He glances Storm's way. "We ought to flatten this place to the ground." Leave nothing behind for HYDRA to use, while sending a message that just might make them reckless.

*

"Wonderful thing about being me, I've got it already. If you have a server or something for me to send it to, I'll send it your way." Ordinarily the hacker is a lot more protective of the dataz, but in this case he figures the X-men have as much right if not more to crunch their own numbers. "Do as you will with this one. I'm going to overclock all of these computers and shut the cooling systems off. They'll melt in a few minutes. And the satellite dish I crashed when you two came in." Yes, he was watching.

Scots mention of his 'gift' draws a wry smile. "It has upsides and downsides."

*

Storm looks up skyward. Satellite. She's never tried to fly up that high. Would it even be possible? Instead, she focusses on what Scott is implying as her next move. "I am certain I can call down a storm that would have this place flattened."

She looks to Scott, letting him make the decision about if the X-server should be shared with this Jericho or not. He is a friend of Magik's but still… She starts to walk towards the door out. Calling a storm to burn this place down will take a little time, after all. "All gifts have their upsides and downsides, Jericho. Even ones that are considered 'normal'."

*

"Don't they all," answers Scott with a unique sort of irony in his voice. After all, he'll never be able to look anyone in the eyes without killing them. Clearly, he could learn to like this guy.

"Storm." Cyclops holds out his hand, a gesture for her to still hers. Flattening the place could cause too much collateral damage to the surrounding urban landscape, and… quite honestly, he finds himself enjoying Jericho's tact better.

He also gives Storm a meaningful look. No, there's no way he'll compromise the X-Men network. However, the Blackbird has ample storage, and with its security defenses up, it would take a Herculean effort to break into the X-Men network via the Blackbird's systems. Giving Jericho access to them could put the vessel at risk, should the man ever decide to betray the X-Men… but there was something about an olive branch here that Scott considers appropriate.

"I have a server." He turns back to Jericho. "Quarter mile from here." Then, he gestures for the back door with his hand. "Let's go."

*

Jericho nods. He understands perhaps better than the X-men realize the need for security and secrecy from his own experiences and his conversations with Nancy and Illyana. However in his mind it's already been decided that these people must be, if not trusted, then at least worked with. "It's a couple terrabytes of data. Unless you want the full simulation they were running. Then it's a lot more."

He's a bit curious about this 'server' of theirs since it must be mobile and also very well hidden.

*

Storm stops when Cyclops holds up his hand. He is the leader of Blue Team, and as such, she will listen to him. Besides, once she takes a moment to think about it, levelling this place to the ground was a desire of her emotions. Clearly they are getting away from her and she must meditate to calm herself.

"He's seen the Blackbird before," is all she tells Cyclops as she heads out and begins the long walk. She makes a mental note to find out what lightening will do to this Jericho's light tattoos should he ever turn out to betray the trust that Illyana and now Scott have placed in him.

*

"I've got a lot more."

Looks like Cyclops intends to take it all.

"Storm…" He glances to his teammate, and though she can't see the glimmer of mirth in his eyes, she'll know it from the curl of his lips. "We could use some fog."

With that, he leads them up through the back door and out into the streets, headed for the Blackbird on foot…


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