1964-10-12 - Project Virgo: Deadlines
Summary: It starts with a hack on the comm systems. It might end with death.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
teddy hellboy bucky wanda 


Helicopters….they didn't really have those in his day. Not in his first war. But the later ones….those he knows. So Bucky's looking around with interest as they're inbound. Dressed in plain gray fatigues, no insignia beyond basic SHIELD stuff. He's something of an independent contractor and something of a project. His face is almost expressionless….though he smiles, now and again, when his gaze comes to rest on Hellboy. Little hellpupper is all grown up, but in Bucky's mind, Red's one of the more pleasant results of the war. Even if he's no longer small enough to be carried in a ruck, and squalling for pancakes.

Teddy is good at two things: infiltration and breaking things. SHIELD, of course, knows this. Infiltration usually has some advanced warning. So the rush to get on a helicopter and go somewhere is likely an emergency where he might need to break something. Or someone. It's not often he gets to ride in a helicopter so he's looking out and down at the ground.

He doesn't notice that Bucky's looking at him. With his coat opened, the bare-chested half-demon is sitting at the edge of the helicopter, so wishing they'd ridden in with the doors open. Tapping his finger on the side of the Good Samaritan, Hellboy waits for the signal to land and deploy.

Round up a few good men and take a tour. In these troubled times, SHIELD has far too much to do and not enough hands to do it. They can't afford to lose one agent for an idle trip, much less four. Who can spare a pilot and a sleek black chopper that looks like it belongs at Da Nang rather than Throgs Neck? Pilot and navigator both greet the assigned party with a minimum of fuss, giving no time to get strapped in before they're airborne. Kess wears protective earmuffs and carries a black dossier, giving a very simple rundown. "We're headed into Quebec. You can forget about issues with the Canadians," she shouts over the whirl of the blades that bump them high over the city and veer sharply north up the Hudson. "Settle in and let's make this real simple. Site I is a holding facility for some special guests of ours. They went into blackout eighteen minutes ago. Lockdown proceeded to follow. It's nine clicks out of a farming town where shit just doesn't happen, so let's make this a quick sweep. You're authorized to locate and contain. No bullets except for last resort."

She doesn't like the order. It's written in her face, her drawn expression. "Guests are enhanced. Seven total patients. They /may/ speak English. Incomplete assessments. We don't know what sparked blackout on comms, so until we have that we're putting a lid on it."

"Special guests? Enhanced in what way?" Bucky asks. A briefing is a briefing, whether it's here, shouted over the rattle of the rotors…..or in a flapping canvas tent on the south side of the Italian alps, months past the advent of Husky.

Teddy looks forward when the pilot starts filling them in. "Guests are enhanced? Patients? Are you saying you've been keeping people prisoner and experimenting on them?" Technically it's 'we've been experimenting on them' but at the moment, he's not thinking of himself as an agent. "What did SHIELD do to them and how are they 'enhanced'?"

While everyone else is asking about the enhancements, Hellboy gives a grunt. "Dammit. Alright, no shootin' them in the face. Just means punch them extra hard." he offers with a snort as he glances towards Teddy, and snorts. "Doubt SHIELD did anythin' to 'em, probably arrived like this. Ain't all the powered folks good guys, after all."

Kess doesn't look up from her notes for a while. "We've not assessed if they're more like Steve Rogers or him," and she hikes her thumb in Bucky's direction. The cold, flat stare that levels younger agents does absolutely no favours in warming the hawkish looks nature gave her. Credit where due that she doesn't flinch from Teddy's question. "We gave them room and board while administering psychiatric evaluations and treatment for boys that know plenty about killing and not two bits about buses, record players, or can openers. You have any idea of what a wetworks squad looks like? Project Virgo is SHIELD's idea for rehabiliting soldiers caught in a field of war. They're not prisoners because far as anyone knows they don't exist. They're not free because we don't know what trips their triggers and currently their home went dark, no one's answering the door, and we have six thousand people in a fifteen kilometer radius who might start looking like the enemy if you catch my drift."

The helicopter ride is a long one. Forest surrenders to patchwork fields and the pilot starts to push speed higher. It's not every day a military grade choppers goes howling over the north woods. Finger lakes slide in and out of sight. The banking curve sticks them somewhere past the murky point where two countries join.

He only knew about the one, the one in New York. Matvei. But Bucky apparently recognizes the description, and he blanches. "Oh, dear god," he says. And then he turns to the others. "They might react to a set of trigger phrases in Russian. They do work on me, so be careful when you use them." IT galls him to hand over the mental keys to a whole new set of others, but it'll have to be better than seeing his brothers slaughtered. "'Soldat sputnik' is the first one. Should knock them out. The second," He recites the whole 'longing, rusted' litany, "Will render them pliant to orders. Use the first if you can."

Buck adds, after a beat, "….they probably look like me."

Teddy considers what Kess says then nods, looking approving. "Good. We've been trying to help them." It's back to 'we' again. "I'll try not to hurt them." Says the guy who looks like a college jock in a SHIELD uniform. Brow furrowing, he listens to Bucky and mouths the phrases a few times to commit them to memory.

"Soldat sputnik. Ain't going to say what that sounds like, Uncle Buck." Hellboy offers dryly as he turns his attention to the countryside. "Think this is the furtherest north I've been so far." he considers and then ohs. "Is there a pancake house up here?"

Altitude decreases until the pine trees can be counted individually and if Hellboy tosses out a butt from his cigar, he could possibly cause an international incident by blowing up a gas refinery or causing a forest fire. Unlike the War of 1812, the British aren't going to evacuate anyone on their way to Washington. Kess snorts. "Land of maple syrup, big red. You get the finest in the land and they've got a cartel for it. We pay off tappers now and then." Could be serious.

The navigator stretches around his seat. "We're going in. You'll be jumping down from the lines at fifty feet, got it? Any hint of gunfire, bird's out and you go in hot. No word so far." The radios are sadly silent.

Well, it works. Because even that casual recitation is loud enough to be heard, and Buck's head lolls forward in what looks like a dead faint. Thank goodness he's strapped in. He's nudged back into consciousness after a moment, blinking owlishly as if he'd just had a nap, instead of a thirty second blackout.

Teddy just nods at the instructions. "Yeah, sure. We can do that." He doesn't sound very worried and, in fact, his mind is on something else. "Once we're done here, think we can stop at a store and pick up some syrup? If it's that good, I'd like to get some to take home."

Reaching over, Hellboy pokes Bucky a couple of times to make sure he's awake. "…you alright?" he asks. "Didn't tell me that phrase still works on you. Though you keel over at the table later, I'm pouring maple syrup down your earhole." That could have been serious. Who knows for sure, but Kess gets a grin.

Kess curses again under her breath. "This is right inconvenient. Why wasn't this in the file before?" Decimated expectations pile up and get shoved in a mental corner. The agent's jaw works under her thumb and she pulls at the straps. "Ha ha, very funny. We'll talk. These boys just disassembled the tower, sure. They got things happening then prove you can subdue without killing. Otherwise you're dealing with ladies and gents well above my pay grade and a full tribunal."

The pilot starts to slow the chopper and the drop in altitude is guaranteed to pop some eardrums or cause general discomfort. He's not aware of the fainting spell but the navigator is practically staring and undoubtedly remembering that exact phrase.

"Hundred and closing," shouts the pilot. "Get your asses off my bird!" Before him stretches out what for all the world probably looks like a functioning farm of some kind.

"IT's classified info, because I just handed you the keys to the minds of any number of Soviet agents. Including myself,' Bucky's voice has a growl in it, wolfish. "But….better that than you killing them. I count them my brothers," he informs them. Hellboy gets a pat on the arm, and a snort. "I hear you, Red," To the pilot and Kess - "If you've got a broadcast or loud hail on this bird, do it. Use the words, and try and knock 'em out that way." Then he's out of the bird and heading for cover - armed only with rifle and pistol. Neither of which he'll be willing to use, surely.

"I don't kill people." Teddy informs Kess. Even if he's being trained to. In case of emergency. Unstrapping, he glances between Bucky and the red guy, as the former explains. "Not a bad idea." he agrees and follows the former Soviet agent out.

"I only kill demons. And vampires. And other shit that goes bump in the night." Hellboy nods at the pat to his arm. "Stuff some cotton in yer ears before they broadcast, though." With that, he's dropping like a stone from the helicopter and the others head to the treeline, while he's a big red target that approaches the barn directly, lighting his cigar as he goes. Subtle, he's not.

"We'll be keeping the bird in the air and ready. I'm down and providing cover." Kess unstraps herself last, and the unspooling lines launched by a few presses of a button or a switch snap in the wind. It's a nasty way down but suitable for anyone with an iota of strength.

No wonder she reserves getting to the ground at a distance. She isn't a demon, alien or super-soldier assassin. Paygrades imply sitting at the back and firing a machine pistol at the nearest form of trouble. Her black hat and muffs are plucked off, anticipating a hasty departure.

Well, with Tall, Red, and Conspicuous in train, there's no approaching with stealth or subtlety. So Buck's not trying. Quite the reverse. He's yelling, in fact….and in Russian, at the top of his lungs. Considering he made sergeant by field promotion, he's got a set of lungs on him, even if he wasn't a DI. «Brothers!» he bellows, at the top of his lungs. «Hey! It's me!»

Site I

Pretty Quebec farm: imagine green fields that roll up to a collection of farm buildings scattered regularly around a central square. The fences are solid and sturdy as modern agriculture demands, though charged with a hell of a lightning spark for any fool getting close. Gates are pinned shut and the road leading in along the way has clusters of outbuildings presumably for handling things like sprinklers and whatnot. Lies, of course. They're all manned outposts for other countermeasures for anyone moseying up. The main facility buildings are long and low, some made of brick like housing for employees on site. Others are metal-shod and low, dark presumably, for whatever livestock expected here.

Once on the ground, a quick pair of wings making that easy and painless, Teddy trails behind Bucky at a more sedate pace. And with all the shouting, he bulks up enough that bullets won't bother him when they come his way. Guaranteed, someone's going to start shooting something.

With Bucky calling attention to them, Hellboy glances aside to the super soldier. "Yeah, you just keep nattering at them. I don't know your new language." Except in demon speak, but there's no reason to go summoning a russian demon? Illyana may show up and boy would she be pissed if he like.. summoned her from a shower or something. The electrified fence awaits, and he can feel the power flowing from it. "Suggest standing back. This is gonna make me all tingly." With that, he moves to grab the fence to open it.

|ROLL| Hellboy +rolls 1d20 for: 2

Who the hell made that fence? It's probably Tony Stark on a bender, because only a demented man like him would make a reactive metal fence. Hellboy may be immune to electricity but is he immune to barbed wire hugs caused by a number of pressure mechanisms that wrap around him? The mechanisms lash steel wires this way and that, a particularly notable addition. His hide doesn't really get garrotted as wet clay under a thick string, but it still doesn't make for fun.

Naturally the ozone scent of active electrification is there.

No one answers the shout. If there are guards, they are not at their posts.

"Fuck," Bucky says, under his breath. "IF they're like Matvei, they'll just accept me as one of them. He had a real hard time understanding I wasn't just one of the clones. We'll see if these guys do." Smart, Bucky, smart. Wearing a gorilla suit in the misty forests of Africa will totally fool the gorillas that live there. A glance back at the fence. "Here's hoping we didn't just let them all out," he adds. Too late. No one obediently prairie-dogs up at his call. "Down the road to the main house," he says. His rifle's still over his shoulder. No shooting.

Suggest standing back? "Why don't we…" …watch as Hellboy grabs the electrified fence. "…just go over it?" Teddy finishes about three seconds too late. "How much of this place is underground? And is it fortified? Would the guards have holed up somewhere safe or are they now all hostages?" Not that anyone here has an answer.

"What the fraggity frak!" Hellboy's language filter is well in place as he gets wrapped up in the barb wire and it starts to electrocute him with a large zot. The demon's frame is bright blue for a moment before he's straining to try to break out of the barb-wire trap. "Rassin' frassing - stop with the zapping, you damn piece of scrap!" he grunts as he works to rip it from his hide before going to follow after the others.

Site I

All began simply enough. The Triskelion or Chinatown isn't much different from Site I. Another day buzzes with the usual routine activities at SHIELD. Paperwork waits for no man or woman but stacks up in mountainous drifts that handlers insist must be dealt with before the weekend. Closer to lunch, the fitness room fills up with people sparring in the plain ring or punching sand-filled bags hanging from the ceiling.

Meeting rooms are filled by bureaucrats and typists. The more important mandarins slip from corridor to corridor, feeding data to the directors. Poor souls listen in to the Tokyo Olympics, tapped lines, bugged hotel rooms.

Some orderly in a brown shirt and ill-fitting suit taps another. The gathered group tunes in to hear news out of Vienna at the IAEA meeting. Was there nuclear fallout over Iraq? No one seems to know.

Lunch plans creep closer to fulfillment. In a glassed-in cell, a young man sits cross-legged on the ground and listens to calming, good old Four Tops under the watchful eye of a shrink and two bored guards.

"Bet the Yanks'll take the Cardinals tonight," says Edmunds.

"They better after the embarrassment yesterday. Boyer made 'em show their bellies." Clark's a bitter man. He doesn't even glance at the Soviet young man tapping out his fingers.

Throughout the facility music starts to play. A few startled sounds might be heard in the office. In a lab, a supervisor spins and demands to know, "What's the meaning of this? Turn that off. We've got sensitive work going on. This isn't a roadhouse and you aren't students!"

In another room, a young man looks up in puzzlement. Speakers that normally ding with the time for the next rotation of activity now blossom alive.

Over the hissing zap and scorch sonnets of the electrified fence, it's disturbingly quiet. Until that cheerful music starts to play, replacing a speaker system. It's definitely Four Tops of a kind.

Minus a word or two sinking in, the background noise on repeat.

"Baby, I need your lovin', baby, I need your lovin', although you're never near. Your voice I often hear… Zhelaniye. Rzhavyy."

A buttery crooning joins together, twinned tracks melting together. "Another day, another night, I long to hold you tight, 'cause I'm so lonely… Semnadtsat'>."

"I don't think they'd take hostages," Bucky says, quietly. "They're more likely to move out by stealth, try to escape, find a way to make it back….or cause what destruction they can reach. We've got no contact here, right? No sound from the legit agents…." He glances at Kess. "Probably underground, right?" he asks her, tone less than sanguine. Then there are those words and he stiffens. They know them now. "Goddammit," he says. "That's it. You may have to knock me out….remember the words I gave you." It's too loud - he can't get away far enough, fast enough.

Teddy hangs back a bit to make sure Hellboy is okay but when it seems that he is, he continues on toward the main house. At least until the music starts and he looks around uncertainly, focusing on Bucky. "Soldat sputnik?" he asks.

Somewhere comes a loud, cracking noise of glass or metal giving. Protesting surfaces hit repeatedly by desperate fists might sound so terribly distant underneath the mono refrain of the announcement system. The cracks originate not from the brick building but one of the longer sheds probably made to store equipment. Or people, as it were.

Finally free of the barb wire, Hellboy grunts and glances over at Teddy. "I don't think you were supposed to say it yet." he hisses, moving in case he needs to catch Bucky before he hits the ground.

Which is precisely what he does. Bucky swoons like a corsetted belle at an overcrowded ball - the pale eyes rolls up, and he simply collapses in a clatter of armaments, right into Hellboy's arms.

"He never said how long it takes for them to be taken over." Teddy points out, a bit defensively. "Better too soon than too late." But while Hellboy plays Prince to Bucky's Sleeping Beauty, he steps in front of them and starts scanning the area for movement. "They obviously know we're here."

"Yeah well, he's out." Hellboy glances down and pats the side of Bucky's face. "Hey, wakey wakey, eggs and bacey." No telling how many times Bucky said that to a much younger Hellboy, but the demon is trying to get the man to wake up.

"Gotta have all your lovin', baby I need your lovin', rassvet." So the lyrics churn on, but their audible instructions cannot help someone driven to sleep. On the other hand, the resisting vibrations of metal shatter under increasingly desperate force that thumps a staccato battery.

No one is moving at ground level. Lockdown is lockdown, after all. Maybe someone heard on the way up. Maybe they never know.

He's up again, if vague and dazed. And then Buck's slinging the rifle to ready, taking it off safety. The half-demon has the right idea, inasmuch as anything else. He's sighting down on the speakers, trying to shoot them out. "Guys," he says, "Shut the sound system down. That's it."

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d10 for: 8

Teddy glances at the speakers on the poles then nods. "I'll take care of them and then scout around a bit. Put your fingers in your ears or something and wait till the music stops." That being said, he runs for the nearest one with the intention of taking them out one after another.

Cracks break into the dark. Silenced voices crumble away into nothing thanks to a fist or a bullet driven into the casings of cheap metal. Tinny music gutted midbeat allow another word to slip out: "Pech'." One day ask the Soviets why the hell their command words included furnaces. Because really, why bury that in a rising gem of Motown?

With Teddy heading off, and Bucky sighting his rifle, Hellboy is still trying to figure out his role in all this. The Good Samaritan is really worthwhile upclose, and after Bucky warned of his issues, the demon ain't quite ready to leave. Instead, he digs around in his pockets and into a pouch. Pulling out a couple of small bundle, he empties out the contents - saltpeter, and rips the fabric in half before giving it to Bucky. "Stick this in your ears." he says before he starts to move towards that shed he heard the noises from.

The sound comes from a rather large metal building. Whatever it contains hopefully won't ignite. A lack of windows should be no surprise and the tidy front doors are big enough to steer a tractor through. Probably reinforced, too.

He does precisely as Red suggests, and stops his ears with cotton. Someone honestly needs to start carrying earplugs with him, doesn't he? Bucky's working on taking out the speakers as best he can, the rattle of short burst fire loud against the speakers. Because nothing soothes the soul like semiautomatic fire.

Going up to the shed doors, Hellboy frowns as he hears the banging on the otherside. "What ya think?" he asks Bucky. Then pauses. Bucky's ears are plugged. Dammit. Turning towards Bucky, he points at the door and pantomines a punching motion and then shrugs in that 'Ya wanna' type way.

Like any proper partially deaf man, Buck's voice is way, way too loud. "ASK 'EM WHO THEY ARE!" he bellows. And then suits the action to the word by taking one earplug out and shouting the question in Russian.

Banging on the door, Hellboy shouts, "Chinese take out!" And then waits for Bucky to replug his ear and then adds in quite loudly as he prepares to kick in the door if he needs too, "Soldat sputnik!"

The screaming that rattles the dented, extremely mangled chunk of wall within does not mean a good thing for the occupants or any chickens outside. Whatever makes those imperfections is not fighting with more than their fists given the corresponding shapes.

Whether or not they actually sound like him - and he does rememberthe sound of his own voice raised in wordless torment - imagination is painting it that way. Buck's pale again, frantic. "Red," he orders. "Bust it open. I don't know what the fuck's happening in there, but it's gotta stop."

There's a bit of a frown, but Hellboy nods his agreement. "One door opening coming up, get yer punchers ready!" with that, he draws back his much larger right fist to drive the sacred stone into the metal and bend it to his will - or just smash the door open. Knock knock. Who's there? Hell. Hell who? Hello to you too!

|ROLL| Hellboy +rolls 1d20 for: 11

Metal already strained just falls over on the great big man, reinforcements insufficient for holding back the doubled force. Behind that wall is another demolished layer of plaster and insulation, sticking out like the stuffing in a Thanksgiving turkey. Whole pieces are ripped away and the side kicks lashed out against the poor, innocent SHIELD architecture happen from a man with hands pressed to his ears. Behind him is the torn out husk of a door where another figure, slightly younger and certainly hewn from the same physical superiority, shudders violently. Blood trickles from cuts on face and brow and nose, the grim crawl enough to see in the dusty spots.

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d2 for: 2

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d2 for: 1

Buck's darting past Hellboy in a hurry. And the first word out of his mouth is a Russian imperative. «Report!» Thank God he's not in full SHIELD drag to confuse things further. That's enough to throw someone for a loop, if they haven't encountered that spectacle before - there are more Buckies. Paler, shorter hair, less weathering. But very clearly brothers, if not identical twins.

When Bucky goes racing by, Hellboy almost reaches out to stop him - but trusts that he knows what he's doing. His left hand drops to his pistol though just in case, as the large demon remains in the shadow of the opening he created for the moment, his tail idly flipping back in forth in agitation behind him.

The first flinches back at those words, striving to hear through the musical cacophony deeper in the building. Outside might be silent but how many walls are sufficient to blot out the sounds. «I don't want to go back! Don't let it take me, don't let it take me!» The first's haggard face shows torment and grim determination under a mask of blood. Russian crashes off his tongue as he forcibly keeps moving, hell to pistols. They aren't perfectly facsimiles of Bucky, not this one whose eyes are even paler and build obviously absent a giant metal arm.

The other looks up blankly. «The men would not shut up about their ball game. The music played. I must… must… not… not…»

«Don't listen! Go, to live we go!» the first shouts back to the young man on this belly, convulsing and spitting out bile. His body rejects what his mind knows, and that is not a yoke sitting well.

«No one will take you,» Bucky assures them, putting out hands to each of them in turn. But….this'll be the safest thing. «You're not slaves any more.» And he plugs his ears again before trying the shutdown phrase. If they can be made to sleep, they can be bound…..and kept from harming themselves or others. It's already a nightmare scenario - what'll happen if one of them is killed…..

Hellboy is waiting for Bucky to tell him to approach. It's better for him to handle it for now - because no telling what would happen if the big red hellspawn stepped into the room. Though he can't understand what's being said, he's paying attention to tone of voice.

As far as the soldier in front is concerned, he'll damn well run into the arms of Hell to get away. He just about does if Hellboy happens to be in the punch zone where the wall was. He can't really tell. As far as he can tell, freedom lies in the hills over yonder and nothing will stop him from running, staggering there. The other one, less wounded physically but much more to the soul, wrings at his t-shirt and snags Bucky's hand blind. He grabs a wrist and hauls at it, a lifeline.

"Catch him, Red, don't let him hurt himself," Bucky urges, even as he's pulling the other to himself. «Brother, it's going to be all right. I've got you. But you need to help me find the others. I'm okay, see?» And he smiles into the younger man's face. «You're going to be fine. No one's going to hurt you.»

When the man runs into the opening, the arm of a seven foot tall demon reaches out to grab him. "Not so fast, tossabitch." Hellboy is pretty terrible at Russian. "You can't go running away just yet." he mutters, trying to restrain the… "The hell. You got clones, Bucky?"

It may be a terrible idea for Hellboy to try and stop a man determined at all accounts to get out. Especially because he packs a hell of a punch when he wants to, and all the frozen certainty of a Siberian winter rises to the fore. He's fast. Extremely. Pressure points and weak spots at the body are easily enough exploited, struck in rapid force just in case that hope of release is dying on the vine. Better to go down fighting than not.

The man pulled up clamps his hand over his ear, head tilted against the incomplete activation he's trying so hard to throw off. «Don't know, don't — don't. Don't — let him out, let us go. We can't listen to the music, not the music.»

«Help me,» Bucky pleads with the one he's holding. «Help me find the others. We'll stop this. We've already destroyed some of the broadcast speakers. What's your name?"» Surely this kid has one, if he'sbeen in SHIELD's custody. Then the other one's fighting, and he barks the shutdown phrase. If it makes the guy he's got his hands on pass out…..well, they can be revived.

"Hey, settle down, we're trying to help.. oof! Oh for.. stop it!" Hellboy is trying to grab at the man as he hits at pressure points that would take down a normal man but the demon seems to be fairing.. well enough. "Soldat sputnik!" he barks, and then tries to bring his left hand around to just slug the man.

|ROLL| Wanda +rolls 1d100 for: 69

Thin light flares in the bloodied man's eyes. "Don't even try." Is that English? Turns out that yes, yes it is. Very much New York English. The younger version of Bucky may not have the full strength (barely) but he's got another trick up his sleeve, the commensurate agility of a Baryshnikov and a snow tiger. People shouldn't really bend the way he can.

«Stop it,» cries out the other, clearly taking about as well to seeing the other harmed as one member of an elite unit does another. His muscles tense, bulging under the skin, threatening to break free for a tandem assault. Training is training is.. «Don't know where they all go. They don't let us out like that. Their rooms? Adam!»

"Fuck," says James, startled into his native tongue. "Guys, stand down. We're here to help you. So you're Adam?" Then in Russian again. «Jesus Christ, guys, look at me. I'm one of you. Hell, I'm the first of you, you're my kids. I'm James. That big red guy's a friend.» He repeats some of it in ENglish. God, it's encouraging to hear at least one of them speak English. He's had no damn luck with Matvei

"Stop trying to punch me and I will. Fucker's more slippery than Jello! And I hate Jello." Hellboy grumbles, hand resting on his pistol grip, but not pulling it yet.

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