All Too Late


aislinn_icon.gif alice_icon.gif isis_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

adam_icon.gif claudia_icon.gif val_icon.gif

Scene Title All Too Late
Synopsis Sometimes you realize the truth early, other times…
Date February 11, 2020

Ten years ago, Isis O’Conner and Aislinn Graves would have driven over the Queensboro Bridge to get to Brooklyn. There were bus routes, taxis, people on bicycles. Now, the broken span of the bridge is a shadow of what it once was. Even with large swaths of the bridge covered in construction scaffolding and billowing with tarps, there is no sense of normalcy yet. With the sun setting behind the jagged silhouette of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone, it is hard to imagine that there ever was a normal.

From the back of an SUV with tinted windows, Isis and Aislinn find themselves in a new normal that may be taking them away from New York forever. Isis lays slouched to one side, unconscious with her head against the window of the SUV, mouth slack, drooling on herself. But it isn’t Isis trapped inside the prison of that unconscious mind. Just as the old blonde woman sitting across from her isn’t Claudia Zimmerman behind her eyes. The world is rapidly changing.

There is no way back to normal.

There is no undoing this.

Jackson Heights
NYC Safe Zone

February 11th
4:33 pm

“Do you have a rendezvous location?”

Alice Shaw asks from the driver’s seat, taking the lead on putting some distance between the kidnapping and the Clocktower Building. “While it may seem like I have prescient knowledge of your endeavor, I will admit my knowledge stopped once we made it out the threshold.”

New normals are the least of things on Aislinn's mind - a constant concern, sure, but the way her arms are cross and the smug, self satisfied smirk she wears on her face say that her mind is clearly focused elsewhere right now. She sits next the unconscious body of Isis just in case the poisons she's introduced into the other woman's bloodstream wear off sooner than expected.

"North end a' Jackson Heights, near the water on th' Queens side, back a' Grace street I think. Right, Isis? Assumin' they're already waitin'. This whole thing took a bit of a turn a' finishin' faster than was planned. I thought we'd get through half a meetin' before everythin' went all t'pot." A finger taps at her elbows, gaze swiveling over to "Isis". "Dunno exactly how long what I put t'gether'll last, though. I didn't plan on usin' two syringes before we left the building."

She maybe got a little stab happy.

A hand dips into her purse and pulls out her lip blam, applying another layer of it before she smacks her lips. "Not that I'm not prepared in the even she starts t' wake up." She stares at the unconscious woman for a long moment before chuckling. "You're lucky y'r still cute when y'r asleep, Isis."

Immediately, “I’m not cute, I’m-” … “badass.” The instinctual retort ends on a quieter note than it began but nonetheless sneered. A chord has been struck and it hums with a deep reverberating energy from where the elder blonde body sits in the front passenger seat. Isis-in-Claudia presses the tip of three fingers to the cheekbone of the borrowed visage. She flips the visor mirror down and stares.

Not borrowed. Stolen. Body thief. When was it that her thefts began to outnumber her mishap exchanges, anyway? Thud. The visor snaps back up as Isis-in-Claudia looks back over her shoulder, the limp figure of her proper body a blurry phantom in her periphery as she considers Aislinn. “I trust there aren’t going to be any lasting effects…” she comments cooly, but without certainty.

To their impromptu getaway chauffer, Isis comments, “Interesting that you weren’t given the rendezvous point. Is he expecting you?” Perhaps it was an incentive to keep the pair of kidnappers alive, but there’s always the possibility that this tag-along was never intended… A thought that quirks her lips— Claudia’s lips —so subtly on the left. These are the dangers of only ever being half-informed.

“My return has been anticipated,” is the vague way in which Alice frames her answer to Isis’ question. “I’ve been loyal to this cause since I was a child, since I was left to die under a shack in Coyote Sands, since my own flesh and blood abandoned me.” Her jaw sets, shoulders square, and a light rain starts to fall. Grimacing, Alice switches on the windshield wipers.

“The when and how,” Alice says with a rise of one of her manicured brows, “was never solid. But this feels like the opportune time. Everything is coming together, and it’s time for the Deveaux Society to die. By now the team infiltrating the archive in Kansas City has the Society’s secrets. There is nothing of value left. It’s time to move on.”

Familiar with New York’s layout, Alice navigates westward toward the river. A police cruiser drives past the SUV going the opposite direction, and Alice makes no hint that she’s distressed or tense. “The question now falls on what to expect from you,” she says with a look over to Isis in Claudia’s body, then into the rear-view at Aislinn. “You were on the security cameras both downstairs and in the penthouse, Ms. Baumgartner saw you, once the powers-that-be recognize something is amiss…” Alice shakes her head.

“There is no going back to your normal lives,” Alice reminds, turning down a side street and headed north in the direction of the RayTech building. “Perhaps not ever.”

Looking at her nails, Aislinn offers a nonchalant shrug. "Richard's loss." At least in terms of going back to their normal lives. "I'm sure I could concoct a story an' somethin' using plant pheromones t' make people more open to suggestion if I put m'mind to it, but-" Her eyes angle up, thumb running across the tips of her fingers. "Why?"

Looking up, she drapes one arm over the back of the seat, fingers drumming on the Isis's body's shoulder.' "I'm here t' make change no one else seems t'be willing t'do. I didn't spent years writing rejected papers an' thesis t'give up here." It's never been a question that she buys into Shedda's mission, but it bears emphasis here she seems to think. "Can't go back t'old lives? Wouldn't be the first time. I'll build somethin' new again." A sharkish grin forms on her face. "Maybe do some head huntin' t'get the things I wanted to do done."

The matter of the Deveaux Society again seems a bit lost on her; though not ignorant of it's importance it's history is lost on her to a degree. A finger raches up, poking at Claudia-in-Isis's cheek. "Look, everyone's cute when they sleep. I can share some other thoughts when we're outta the fire if y'want, Isis."

Whatever that means.

Isis follows the passing of the police cruiser through borrowed eyes. “My life hasn’t been normal since 2006,” she whispers— hisses, really. Startled from her watch, she jerks away from Aislinn’s fingertip in a way she hasn’t done in many years. Her hand comes up instinctively, backhanding at the intrusive touch, only to hurry the gesture into some motion to rearrange Claudia’s expertly highlight tresses.

The body thief clears her throat quietly and turns to consider Aislinn over a shoulder. “People snore, drool, and fart in their sleep. Cute? Not so much so.” There’s a blip of a pandering smile before Isis-in-Claudia considers Alice anew. “He has a habit of taking in strays, huh? Expert cult leader or softy on the inside, you think?” It’s clearly rhetorical, as she crosses her arms and does one last double-take to make sure the officer hasn’t blown a uey to tail them. “Technically, I always have one ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card, if you think about it. But, only the one. So, instead, I’ll have to tie up some loose ends…” she mutters, trailing off with a somber expression.

“Loose ends…” Alice says with a look into the rear view mirror before turning her attention back to the road.

“Yes, I suppose we all have some of those.”

Twenty Minutes Later

Astoria Park
Jackson Heights

Headlights shine across asphalt as Alice brings the SUV around through the untended paths of Astoria Park. Trees are down as much as they stand, grass is overgrown and pavement is cracked and split. Burned cars still occupy the parking spaces they were torched in a decade ago. Little has changed here, though signage from Yamagato Industries propped up at the park entrance implies they want to revitalize the area.

Alice turns off the engine, the headlights go out a moment later. Alice steps out of the SUV and shuts the door casually, watching as Aislinn and Isis make their way out. The unconscious Claudia in Isis’ body remains behind, laid out across the back seat. The small group does not have to wait long for a figure to emerge from the treeline, a lone young woman with cotton-candy pink hair in an oversized rainbow-colored wool sweater with sleeves so long they hide her hands.

Val offers a dark-eyed stare at Claudia, brows scrunching together. But Claudia replies with, “Godsend.” For a moment, Val is confused by the passphrase, then seems to recall something and a soft gasp escapes her.

“You work for the Director?” Val asks, to which Alice offers a slow nod in recognition. Val’s attention shifts to Isis and Aislinn, who she was prepared to receive. “Okay nnn,” Val sidesteps and peers into the SUV, then does a quick headcount. “Four plus myself? I— that should be fine,” she says more to herself than the others.

“Okay,” Val adds softly, then finds her voice. “The Director has instructed me to bring you all to him once this assignment is complete, you won’t be going back to um, whoever it is that assigned this task to you. So, if you’ll gather ‘round,” she says, sliding her hands out of their sleeves and extending them out, “and take my hands, we can make this quick.”

Aislinn's been quiet ever since her near argument with Isis, and it's only once they're out of the vehicle that she shifts the mild glare on her face from her to someone else. In this case, Val. The look of mild annoyance fades quickly as the agrokinetic lets out a low chuckle. "The Director? Fancy. I like it," she remarks with a nonchalant shrug.

She is unburdened, having left Isis to handle her own body, hands slipped into pockets as she looks over at Alice, and then over to Isis. "Well, this is it," she offers with a one handed flourish over to "Claudia". She steps close as instructed, and then turns back to the others with a raised eyebrow - clearly she has no desire to stick around.

The elderly blonder figure tips her head, considering the My Little Pony-themes woman with obvious interest, and then Alice. Godsend? Is that what it’s come to, Adam? After a moment, Isis-in-Claudia straightens and draws on a practiced smile, the effect a bit purced and uppity on the unfamiliar visage. “Should be fine…” she parrots in a simple deadpan. Because, should always inspires confidence. Again, the unfamiliar voice sounds haughtier than she had anticipated. “Sorry, I’m just… not feeling myself.” The snort-laugh that follows is entirely Isis. The body thief gives a little nudge of her head towards the unconscious figure and reaches into the SUV. She grabs the redhead’s wrist firmly, likely enough to live bruising beneath the freckling, and reaches out the other towards the small group to take Val’s outstretched hand.

Alice is the last to place a hand on Val, lifting her chin up and looking to Isis-in-Claudia in a way that seems to be staring through her. And in no time, the world turns to a blur around them

and they are gone.

Three Thousand of Miles Away
…and an instant later.

Alameda Point Airfield
Praxia, California Safe Zone

1:47 pm Local Time

When the world comes back into focus after a brief sensation of falling the temperature has risen by fourteen degrees, near seventy degrees. Val arrives with her precious cargo in tow within the cavernous confines of an aircraft hangar. An enormous quad-rotor helicopter is parked inside the hangar nearby, though there are no technicians or staff working. The bay doors are open to the bright sunshine of an early afternoon and silhouette by the light spilling through those doors is someone that Isis is very familiar with, but remains a cipher to Aislinn:

Adam Monroe.

Adam looks nervous, more so than Isis has ever seen before as he stands with his hands folded behind his back. There’s a woman with him, tall and dark haired with hawkish features. Sabine Hazel is someone Isis is only tangentially familiar with from her last stay here in Praxia, something of a steward to Adam. It is Alice who speaks up first as she steps away from Val and the others.

“Adam,” Alice says with a broad smile, the only time she has truly smiled in either Isis or Aislinn’s company. “It’s hard to imagine we’re finally at this moment.”

Adam is quick to move in to Alice, placing one hand on her shoulder and another gently to her cheek. It is a paternal gesture, though one that is fleeting. “Later,” he insists, directing his attention past her to Isis and Aislinn. Val takes a step back, seeing that look, and folds her hands behind her back patiently.

“Isis,” Adam says with relief, gingerly stepping around Claudia and over to his old friend. “Ms. Graves, it’s good to make your acquaintance finally.” He then looks back to Isis, then Claudia, figuring out from posture alone who is truly in charge. “You can return to your body if you’d like, or I can have Val bring it somewhere safe.”

"Can't recommend that just yet," Aislinn remarks, holding up a finger. She's quick to speak, mostly to hide her disorientation following the teleport as her stomach crawls back into place. "It'll take a bit longer f'r th' toxins in her system t' run their course, and…" She motions to Isis' body. "Well, it might be hard t' hold a conversation right now." Her eyes flit to Isis, and then to Claudia. With a small shrug, she turns her attention back to Adam.

"Should wear off soon, but-" She claps her hands together as she steps forward. "It's a pleasure t'finally meet you, Mr. Monroe. Heard a lot, but seen so little until now. I consider it a treat." She extends a hand to him, the most overly confident smirk she can muster plastered across her face.

“Adam.” Isis-through-Claudia replies simply. Her posture relaxes as the man seems to consider the discomfort of her predicament more than most. “I think I-…” But, Aislinn’s point rings annoyingly true as Isis-in-Claudia turns to consider the redheaded body - one hand held in her own, the arm an awkward tether that leads down to where rest of the body is slumped unceremoniously on the ground without the escape vehicle to support it any longer.

At least the current vessel is conscious.

The older blonde’s sigh drips with equal measures of annoyance and resignment. “Val?” Isis-in-Claudia looks back over a shoulder to the quiet, pink-haired woman. “I’m going to be needing this back.” She kneels down and rolls the body upright, gently folding the hands over the stomach. Isis shudders. She just as quickly unfolds them, letting them fall limply to either side before turning Claudia’s borrowed face up to Adam. “And answers. I’ll be needing those too,” she comments, more gently than some might expect of either herself or Claudia’s voice.

Val quietly walks over to Isis’ body and puts a hand on her arm. “I’ll take her up to the helipad and then down into one of the unoccupied guest suites,” she says dutifully. “When you’re ready to swap back just let me know.” And just like that, the cotton-candy haired teleporter vanishes in a shimmering hue of rainbow-colored light along with Isis’ body. It’s in that moment that she feels more vulnerable and isolated than ever.

“Answers,” Adam says with an incline of his head in immediate follow-up, “are an understandable request.” There’s something about seeing Claudia, even if it isn’t Claudia inside that makes Adam unable to look her in the eye. “But let’s give you time to get back into a more comfortable and familiar skin, and then we can reconvene up at my office. You both deserve some answers.”

“Alice,” Adam says over to her. “Why don’t you join us, we can all discuss things together. For now, I’ll show you all to your private quarters.”

** Later**

Director’s Office, Conference Room, Praxis Ziggurat
Praxia, California Safe Zone

3:26 pm Local Time

The Praxis Ziggurat is a marvel of engineering; an arcology, a city contained within four walls. It is over forty stories tall and spreads out over four city blocks at its base. It is surrounded by refineries, factories, and an airfield full of military aircraft. For Aislinn and Isis, being escorted into the Ziggurat is like walking into another world decades down the line. Thousands of Praxis Heavy Industries employees live within the arcology structure and the footprint is massive enough that it has its own dedicated rail system to get around quickly.

Both Aislin and Isis are given an hour’s time to acclimate themselves, given private quarters up on the 38th floor. Isis is given back her body with the assistance of a physician who is able to mitigate the toxins in her system, and Claudia is remanded to a room before she too rouses from medically-induced unconsciousness.

It is perhaps no surprise that by the time Adam calls Isis and Aislin up to his office, they are directed to the adjacent conference room where boxes of Chinese takeout are laid out across the table. Adam sits, feet kicked up on the table, box of lo-mein in his lap, quietly eating when the two women arrive. Alice Shaw is nowhere to be seen. It appears the two are intended to have a private audience.

“Feel free t’help yourselves,” Adam says with a motion of his chopsticks to the table, “I realized it was bloody 6 pm where you’re from by now an’ dinner’s an important meal. But whenever you want to get down to the Q and A portion of our meeting…” he digs back into the box of takeout, “I’m here.”

Maybe it's a tad stereotypical of her, but Aislinn had spent most of her time looking for, well, plants. A garden. Anything she can forge a connection to while she's here. She'd had just enough time to abscond with a small potted plant the size of a decent water bottle with no mind paid to whomever it actually belonged to, but not enough time to take it back to her new quarters. It had been looking for an adventure anyway, and it's just happy to be here at the moment.

So here she was, carrying a plant in her arms with a coo as she moves to take one of the seats at the table. With a smile she sets it down and slides it closer to the middle of the table as though it were their new centerpiece.

Picking up a pair of chopsticks, she scans the table for some General Tso's Chicken before she sets about making a plating of it and some rice. "I have been lookin' forward t'food ever since we landed, s'thanks." But she doesn't start digging in immediately, instead she offers a glance over towards Isis, then back to Adam.

"So why now?"


Both of Isis’s proper hands are wound around a bottle of water, a grip that is just a hair too tight causing the flimsy plastic to pop inward some places and snap outward in others. She looks down and aside to where Aislinn has taken a seat, giving a cursory nod but ultimately choosing a seat that puts the large conference table between herself and the poke-happy woman.

The slender redhead clears her throat and sets down the bottle with a deliberate motion as she claims a spot at the table. She listens, rubbing the soft flesh bend in her arm through a thin sleeve. “Good question. Why us? Why this… test?” Her query is nonchalant, though - her attention elsewhere. Her nose twitches once-or-twice as she considers the containers and finally draws one nearer. She looks into the container and gives a breathy snort at some undisclosed joke inside before taking up and egg roll and biting in.

“Garza spoke highly of you Aislinn,” is Adam’s first answer, choosing to focus on Isis’ question first. “I wanted to see if you were reliable in high-pressure, high-stakes situations.” Then, turning his attention to Isis herself he adds, “You I know and trust. But I didn’t know how invested you were in the cause, especially not after how dangerous your first assignment was.” Retrieving Gorgon.

“Individually, you both seemed like good candidates to bring into the inner circle. Trustworthiness mixed with a certain level of ruthlessness that is… respectable.” Adam opines, fishing around with his chopsticks in his takeout box. “Provided you’re interested in expanding your horizons, there’s two rather important tasks I’d like to see if you’re interested in pursuing. It would, of course, leave you set up here for the foreseeable future.”

Reliable is not how Aislinn would describe her actions in the Clocktower penthouse, not with how hard she'd pushed let bygones be bygones. She's sure as shit going to keep that to herself though, at least for the moment. "Garza's got a good eye f'r talent," Aislinn notes, and her tone says that she genuinely means that beyond the self aggrandizing compliment it implies.

Awkwardly manipulating her chopsticks, Aislinn takes to eating some of chicken… rather messily. "Wouldn't be here if I wasn't interested in it," she notes very matter of factly. "Could'a just stayed with ol' Dick Ray. We had a nice project lined up an' everythin'." Pausing to shove food into her face, she holds up one finger to indicate she's not done with her thought.

"But there's time f'r all that later, right?" Angling a pointed look at Adam. "Once we get th' whole damn world sorted out." There's an implied questioning in her tone - Right, Adam?. Setting her chopsticks across the top of the box, she crosses her arms and leans back a bit. "Don't doubt that I'm in f'r th' long haul. There's still so much left t'do, t'figure out."

A pale hand brushes a curtain of garnet coils away from her neck. Let’s be real. It’s a flip. A hair flip. She’s preening. She flashes Aislinn a brief smile. Ruthless? Trustworthy? High-pressure? High-stakes? Adam might have as well spouted poetry, for he sings all the praise that Isis could ever want. Isis, not Joanne. When did Jo become a whole persona, with a whole set of different morals and direction? The thought gives her enough pause to lower her hand and gaze, a wrinkle forming in the pale little space between her brows.

“It was a doozy, that first one.” Gorgon. Was a doozy? Is a doozy? She adjusts herself in her seat and draws her golden-fleck gaze back to Adam. “But, perhaps not as dangerous as some. Which, in fact, leads me to my next question.” But it’s not a question. It’s not even a statement. It’s a single syllable. “Ash.” She tips her head gently to one side, ignoring a coil of silky hair against her cheek, gaze searching. “I can’t be in the dark in all things, Adam. It doesn’t sit well with me. Curiosity and all that. Give me something. Give me Ash.”

Adam looks up at Isis pointedly, then sets down his takeout. His appetite for it is suddenly gone. “Sometimes you need the dark,” he says, picking up a paper napkin to dab his mouth with. “Fixing the world isn’t something you do out in the open, especially when you’re surrounded on all sides by the enemy. Look how the Ferrymen succeeded in waging a war against the US government, it wasn’t because they were well organized,” he says with a laugh. “It’s because they managed to keep the government guessing.” Adam’s point is reductionist, but he’s also quick to let it go.

“Ash is… another story entirely.” Adam says as he sets his napkin aside. “You may have been aware that Ash had a handler in Shedda Dinu, a telepath named Espenosa. We found Espenosa’s body a few weeks ago outside of a safehouse he was supposed to meet Ash in. Killed by from a point-blank gunshot wound.”

Adam shakes his head. “Espenosa’s mission briefing he was supposed to deliver to Ash was missing from his person. We only started looking for him when the location we’d sent Ash to went up in fucking flames and he vanished off the grid.” Looking down at the table, Adam’s brows furrow. “Trust me, if there’s anyone he could use right now, it’s probably you, Isis… but I don’t know where he is, or if he’s even alive.”

Aislinn, meanwhile, continues eating like it would take the end of the world to dissuade her from doing so. Which, arguably, is exactly what they could be discussing right now were it not for the veer into what is clearly a more personal topic. "Sounds like none a' my business," she remarks in a low voice between pieces of chicken. "I can step out if y'need me to."

It's a strange sort of novel to her, being seated in a room with a man regarded as a terrorist - herself one as well - about to discuss changing the world, only to be so caught up in personal privacy. Still, it seems to be an earnest gesture, pulling a box closer as if she means to slip away with it.

And let's not forget her new friend, the centerpiece, it's pot awkwardly pulled closer as well. She leans forward and whispers something to it before leaning back in her chair and waiting to see where the conversation goes.

Isis gives a singular nod. “Don’t get me wrong I understand the necessity of… it.” She makes a nonchalant swirling gesture that spins the nothingness, the unknown, the secrets that cling all around Adam and everything he touches. She bites her lip as he continues though, a quick side-eye given across to Aislinn. She swallows the last bite, a bit more roughly than expected, and rubs her fingers to sprinkle the crumbs back into the container.

“Then let me find him?” Isis clears her throat at the query hitch tugging on the end of what was clearly meant to be a statement. She continues, voice lightened by a fear she hadn’t realized until now. “Give me his file, his whole file - including any of this bogus Curtis business. I’m only asking for the tools I can to make him right. He’s been so loyal to you. If he’s out there alone now…” The fear grows stronger, strangling the last of her word. The fear of being denied.

Isis shakes her head, as much for nothing else to do as to gentle toss back her mane of red curls and recollect herself. She inclines her chin at Aislinn. “That would be necessary, but.. uh… Do you two need some privacy?” A warm-gold brow pops incredulously as she lets her eyes sift from Aislinn to plant and back again.

“Isis,” Adam sets down his box of takeout, “I don’t even know if Curtis is alive. His file is going to be worthless, based on what Espenosa told me about his last interaction with him, the damage that had been done to Curtis’ mind over the years was becoming… I don’t know if there was any coming back from it. Espenosa was the only thing keeping him together with the switches, like… relieving a pressure valve.”

Leaning back in his chair, Adam shakes his head and rests his head against his hand. “With Espenosa dead, Curtis is either dead too or in government custody somewhere so deep I can’t begin to find the start of the trail. Or, worse, he went so far off the grid none of us will find him. I… know how much he meant to you, as a person, but…”

Adam picks up a napkin and wipes his mouth. “The fact of the matter is neither of you are leaving the Ziggurat any time soon. Ms. Graves, once my pending affairs are completed, I’m going to need your assistance in analyzing some botanical samples taken from the American southwest. There’s a long-term project that will become our next priority once more immediate matters are done, and I feel like your unique perspective may hold some key to unraveling it’s mysteries.”

Setting down his napkin, Adam looks over to Isis. “I know you’re focused on Curtis. But I’m going to need you for a more long-term matter of greater importance. There’s an operative in the Human Intelligence division of the CIA, Farah Nazan-Gutierrez. I need you to infiltrate the life of her husband, Carlos Gutierrez. I need eyes on Farah and you’re the most likely to be able to pull that switch off long-term.”

"Aislinn's fine." Ms. Graves rubs her the wrong way. Aislinn quirks her eyebrow as she listens. "Well, that's certainly in my wheelhouse." Smirking, she leans forward and peers at Adam. "Alright, the southwest. If it's anything as interesting as the sample that was brought back from Antarctica, then I can't wait to run tests." Not even that she can't wait to see it. She can't wait to run tests. "Consider me on st-"

She stops, tilting her head as she looks at the potted plant. With a chuckle she shakes her head and sighs. "Consider me on standby," she repeats, crossing her arms and leaning back in her seat. "I'm curious to see what you've got in store."

Stop!” A sharp slap of a small, pale hand on the table undercuts the broiling atmosphere around the singular word. A carry-out container hops from the force and topples onto its side on the conference table, spilling grains of fried rice and vegetables. Isis’s head gives a little tick to the side, her gaze trained on her own hand as one finger after another curls inward until there is a small, slightly shaken fist. It has been a long time since she has let her emotions overrule her so and it… feels amazing. Her lips part slowly around a quiet calculated breath, the tip of her tongue set pointedly to the bridge of her pearly teeth.

“Stop,” she insists hushedly this time - the kind of repose that is not at all peaceful, but like the muffled quiet of being beneath the ocean with a barracuda lurking in the beautiful corral nearby.

“His name is Ash.” Without lifting her head her gaze cuts sharply to Adam, hazel flecked with gold sparkling beneath kohl-lined lashes. “And with all due respect, if he’s dead then the file is of no consequence to you.” She rises smoothly from her seat. So careful - measuring and directing the power of her anger as it burns through every muscle. Her fingers betray her, though, stretching and coiling in restless ripples in a dance they had thought gone, but clearly not forgotten. She casts a glance at Aislinn and an even sharper one at her foliage friend.

“Secrets don’t make friends,” Isis nags and begins to move down the length of the conference table, away from Adam. “I won’t be taking any long-term assignments, thank you.” Clipped. Without explanation. About as much as she owes him now, it would seem.

Exhaling a sigh through his nose, Adam’s patience dwindles. He flicks a blue-eyed stare over to Aislinn, briefly and wordlessly apologetic in context, before he turns a look more paternal back to Isis.

“Ash was a lie, drilled into his head by telepaths and federal agents,” Adam explains, since Isis wants to do this here and now. “You might think that’s a real person, but it’s not. It’s a thin coat of paint over the real man, and for all that you might be attached to him there’s nothing. Curtis Sebastian Autumn is a GI Joe who’s fallen apart because someone played with him too rough.”

Sitting forward, Adam folds his hands in front of himself on the table. “All you’ll find in his file is Curtis. The man you’re looking for is a fabrication that doesn’t exist on paper and you’re obsessing over a ghost.” One whom Adam, at the moment, has a low opinion of.

“You need to think very hard about your future, Isis. If you want me to cooperate, to give you something, you need to give back. Or do I need to remind you how small of a jar your entire body would fit into if it wasn’t for me?” Adam’s tone becomes icy, sharpened like jagged feathers of hoarfrost.

“Take the job,” Adam says flatly, “and we can discuss other things when there’s a later. Otherwise…” he lifts his hands up in a fraught gesture. “Otherwise I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”

Oh, now it's a show. Aislinn seems like she's flippantly rolling her eyes at the conversation between Isis and Adam, taking another bite of her take out as she returns to leaning back in her chair casually, but she's paying keen attention. A point is made of crunching into a slightly soggy eggroll as she watches this unfold in front of her. Eyes flick over to Adam, and then back to Isis.

"Ghosts exist to haunt. To remind. To hold back," she offers unprompted, kicking her feet up so that her heels test at the very edge of the table. It's less a moment casualness and more a show of disaffected power as she looks directly at Isis, arms crossed. "Trust me. It's not worth letting your ghosts keep you down."

It sounds like she's speaking from experience at least. She glances back to Adam, offering her own apologetic nod. "Not that it's any of my business."

A lie! Click. Obsessing? Click. … how many times can he pull the trigger before the chamber hammer hits on a full chamber. Give back?! Boom.

Outwardly it isn't as explosive as all that. Not at first. It's a bitter puff of air out her nostrils, a sarcastic huff of a near laugh. "Give back? Because what I've done so far has clearly been of great benefit to me? What have I done if not give, Adam? Hm? To you and your cause - if it is as you even say." So what if her motives had been… muddled. She has still come away empty handed thus far.

Her ire takes a break from the cooly dangerous man at the opposite end of the long conference table. As she rounds to the other side, her sights set on Aislinn. "Oh, stuff it Poison Ivy. Better yet, take that plant and literally stuff it." She makes a crude display of shoving one closed fist and the following forearm through the semi-circle of her opposite hand. "Ghosts are there to make sure we don't repeat our mistakes. Forgetting is a greater curse than the haunting…"

Her boots beat for the door. "Better start plotting 'what to do with me' then." A last golden-hael glance over her shoulder. "Just another pawn, eh? Keep it up and your side of the board will be too empty, Adam." Her eyes narrow before a snap sets crimson locks in an undulating wave and the door clicks behind her.

Adam’s jaw works from side to side, blue eyes wide and pupils narrow. “Yes,” he says with a tightness in his throat, then lifts his hand and launches a bolt of lightning across the table that knocks Isis out of her chair and sends her skidding back across the floor with a smoking burn through her clothes. “I suppose you’re right.”

Adam lowers his hand, little crackles of electricity still dancing around his fingertips. He turns to Aislinn. Waiting for her to offer up any side-commentary. When none comes, Adam roughly pushes his chair back and rises to his feet.

Get to the lab,” he snaps at Aislinn, his attention turning to Isis. The redhead rolls onto her side on the floor, groaning and writhing.

“Isis is grounded.”

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