alix_icon.gif chess3_icon.gif eve_icon.gif kimberly_icon.gif luther_icon.gif monica_icon.gif tae_icon.gif

Scene Title Apotheosis
Synopsis n. the elevation of someone to divine status; deification.
Date July 12, 2019

From the ridgeline trail crossing Mount Kiso Ontake, much of Japan’s verdant countryside sprawls in rambling hills of dense forests broken up by blotches of urbanized and uniform gray where cities and towns cut into the natural wonder. The wind that blows across the ridge is as soothing as it is strong and gusts send unpinned hair lashing around like tiny whips. In the summer months, especially in the late evening hours, the cool temperatures on the ridge trail are welcome reprieve from the sweltering heat of the day. Cicadas buzz in steady intervals, nestled out of sight in woodlines and tall grass.

The crunch of just over a half dozen shoes breaks up the silence that has fallen between the people walking across the ridge. Their shadows are cast down the westerly side of the mountain, exaggerated and long like mighty giants trekking across Japan. In a way, the length of their shadows matches with the tall nature of the tales they’d been spinning since they reached the base of Mount Kiso some two and a half hours ago. Or at least, they seem tall to Tae-hwan Ko, who is left to come to terms with the enormity — and contradictory — nature of the things that have been explained to him.

“So…” Tae isn’t sure he even wants to ask. It’s the third time he’s started a sentence like this, only to stop and go silent again. Several paces behind him, Kimberly and Alix walk side by side just a little bit behind Chess, quietly talking with one-another when the volley of proper nouns and excited flailing hands from Eve became too much to follow. “So you think Takezo— nnAdam… is connected to this…” he makes a vague, analogous blob shape with his hands, “this…”


Mount Kiso Ontake

Otaki, Kiso District, Nagano


July 12th

7:46 pm Local Time

"Not just think… know! He, The Dragon and Joy/Yaeko are all connected, buddies through time and space. Or lovers. Or enemies. Mmmm. In any case! I met all three remember, when myself and my cousin Dorothy traveled through time!" The former seer in question pats her belly and leans in with a devilish grin on her face as she nods excitedly towards the man. "Entity or Dragon, let's speak less on that and more on Adam." It had been mentioned more than once bout how it gained it's power the more they spoke of it but she couldn't just not explain it a little! She's dressed in a black dress of light material, the sleeves long and two holes for her thumbs are been worn in over time. Her feet are clad in black running shoes, nothing she's wearing is that precious. She does carry a small pack with a couple of her sketchbooks but she's ready to toss that towards any of her friends the moment she becomes too excited to hold her corporeal form.

She's already had to clamp down hard on her new, volatile ability as they made their way. Eve was practically buzzing. Being proved right didn't give her as much pleasure as it does now. They were nearing the answers that she had sought for the better part of a decade. There was a real feeling of things coming full circle but also as always, Eve felt like she was missing something.

She almost always felt that way and she never got cocky that she really saw it all because even when she use to be potentially be able to see it all… she didn't. "In essence, Adam was given his gift by it and then it was locked out of this world for generations until just this past year when a group of interdimensional travelers came through a riftgate/portal/Void and set it free and so you see Ko-Ko this is why I came all the way here." AMIRIGHT OR AMIRIGHT.

"Word is that Adam is the only one who knows how to handle it, the Dragon. We thought we might glean something of what he knew by studying his past here in Japan." Monica has done her best to try to make any of this make sense— it isn't Eve's fault really, when the subject at hand is living legends and beings from outside of time itself.

She is dressed for a hike, complete with pack and necessities, and honestly seems to be enjoying it. The others have rarely seen her this calm, lacking her usual ticks and fidgets that she can't quite seem to shake. There have even been pauses while she captures some view or plant that she finds interesting. Getting the tourist parts in while she can. She also can't help a chuckle at Eve's explanation. "SESA never did pin you down to sign all those NDAs, huh Eve?" She turns to look at Tae, her smile crooked. "Those travelers are supposed to be a secret. Probably the Dragon, too. But who can keep track anymore, right?" She also slipped through the cracks, since SESA didn't know that she knew. But that works for her.

As usual, Chess seems content to let the others do the talking, and Eve’s the walking Encyclopedia on all things Adam. She glances back at her sisters over a shoulder, then looks back up to where Monica and Eve fill Tae in.

“It’s pretty much the worst kept secret, I think,” she says with a small smirk. Of course, she was let in on it due to having an emotional breakdown in front of the Benchmark, but if she knows, she’s pretty sure a lot of people who aren’t supposed to know know. “The dimension traveling thing, I mean.”

She too seems in better spirits away from the city. It’s easier to breathe in the vastness of the mountains, even if the air is thinner.

Luther covers his main bit of silence with focusing on the trek. Someone's not as built for the hike, although he looks the part of a mountain man. Stuffed in the middle of the pack, Luther appears to be shielding himself by surrounding his tall frame with the pedestrian caravan. Or, some might argue, he's acting security lookout and has placed himself within a few paces' reach of any one party member.

"It's said to be memetic," he says of the Entity. "And, more than a few people have had their run-in with it. Or, something correlated to it. If it's supposed to be the stuff of legend or the stuff of truth, we don't know as much or can't exactly prove. Mostly, it holds a great power, and for reasons we don't know yet, it's gone through a lot of trouble to come out now."

He quiets as the topic shifts to that worst-kept secret, given the memory he has of the events of that day. Eve might not have signed the NDA, but he did. Even if he did discuss with the core of his fellow Boom teammates.

None of this is a comfort to Tae. His pace has slowed the more he's walked, but it isn't so much from fatigue as it is the weight of the things he's been told. But as much as the world of wonders laid out before Tae appears tantalizing, he has asked little in the way of actual questions regarding the events. Perhaps because it is, by and large overwhelming and more than one person can and should be expected to process in any given lifetime. Mimetic thoughtform entities, parallel universes, immortals; it’s all the stuff of fantasy and fiction.

But then, so were people like Tae, once.

“Adam,” Tae says with noticeable strain on the name, his head angling toward Eve as he says it, “I don't understand his… anything to do with this. I— understand that he has some past connections to things hundreds of years ago.” He can barely believe he's saying that. “But, you came here looking for answers to his current actions. Experimentation, spying, yes?” Tae nearly comes to a stop, but seems to reconsider when he sees how far the sun has dipped toward the western horizon.

“How is this all connected?” Tae asks, his upper lip curled into a sneer at the tangle of interpersonal connections that meet at this particular conversational crossroads. “What does the events of the 1670s,” he points toward the nearby summit, “have to do with today?”

For all her quiet, Alix would greatly like to know the answer to that too. Given everything she's learned about herself — her parentage, her entire life being a tremendous lie — some sense of understanding feels owed that this point. Perhaps that's what draws her eyes from Tae to Chess, worried that the answers will deprive her of the only family she's truly ever had.

"All we know of The Plague," a nickname Eve has referred to Adam by a bunch by now "Are the myths and lies he spins of his backstory. Know thy enemy." Fingergunning and clicking her tongue audibly. "When I was here way back when, I guess 1670s! There was a great battle, lots of bodies. Blood blood. Blood. The Plague, standing atop of them. Katana bleeding. Scary scary. And right there, like a vision. Yaeko possessed with golden eyes. " Eve flinches at the thought of when she was beheaded but giggles at the thought of how the Dragon put her head back on.

"Something happened back then! A trauma. Something that we need to know. Maybe it can help us stop it, him. All of them. There are so many." Obstacles, "bad guys." Misguided assholes. "It's better than being in the dark." Which is something they all as a whole have been in. A stray strand of lightning flints from her chin to her chest and then off her shoulder, finally leaping harmlessly in the air. Eve shakes her right arm as a fine blood red mist wafts off of her. There's a rub of her belly which use to signify she had the munchies, now it's usually an indication that she's feeling the pain of keeping herself corporeal.

"There's a secret he doesn't want anyone finding out. All of what he's been doing, everything single thing spun off into this gigantic spidey web that we're in now. And the origin point? Well that's here. This meeting, between Adam and The Dragon." Eve smiles her off kilter smile, "Find this nugget, maybe find the whole fucking pot." Ha HA!

"He has a solve for the Dragon," Monica says, to be more to the point than Eve tends to be. "We know both he and it were here at the same time, so whatever he learned, we're hoping there's some record of it. I think he doesn't want anyone to know so he can hold all the cards and make people have to go through him to take care of this." She looks over at Tae, giving him a dry smile, "We don't particularly like him holding all the cards. And like Eve says. We need to know all we can about him, especially the stuff he doesn't want anyone to know."

There's a lot they don't know about him, more than Monica likes to think about, and they need to fix that as soon as possible.

If possible.

Chess’ dark eyes meet Alix’s and she offers a grim smile of sorts, before returning her gaze to the path beneath her feet, watching it more carefully than she needs to for a few moments.

“What if there’s something about being able to handle the Dragon — or hell, if Yaeko was possessed by it — that’s genetic. Or epigenetic,” Chess muses in a quiet voice, half distracted by winding a hair band around a blond ponytail to get her hair off the back of her neck.

“Definitely worth having our side ‘see’ what happened to even the playing field,” Chess adds. They are still outnumbered in the number of chesstras if that’s the case. “A little.”

Too little.

Luther continues to look unconvinced of posited connections as well, but there's a certain foundation of belief he has in his teammates that doesn't shake. Eve's conviction of her experience, Monica's search for the solution, Chess' strategizing of the role the clones play, all sink into the man and his discomfited inner musings.

"And to find out what's the point of it all," he grumbles under breath. "He's playing a game with this thing, but using our lives as the stakes? That's some comic book villain type bullshit." And he'll have no problem telling as much to their target face to face.

There’s a worried look in Tae’s eyes as he motions up to the plateau of the ridgeline, behind which the roof of a mountaintop lodge can just barely be seen. “We’re not far now,” he says cautiously, keeping further comments to himself. Kimberly, however, seems disinclined to do anything of the sort.

“What’s it even matter what he’s doing?” Kimberly asks aloud. “He’s clearly a fucking psychopath murderer, he blew up half of that building in New York, killed a bunch of people, raised poor Alix like some sort of child soldier. Ya’ll are overthinking this. It doesn’t matter what his game is, he dies, it’s over.”

Kimberly’s brusque attitude toward Adam elicits a side-eye from Alix, but also no disagreement. She too seems disinclined after everything they’ve learned here to want to dig any deeper, especially when it concerns her own origins. The facts of her birth, of the parentage of her sisters, all of it has been too much for her to handle. So she’s packed it away in a dark corner of her mind, pressed under the weight of present problems.

Tae leads the procession up to the ridgeline along a steeply sloping trail bordered by wooden posts with nothing but lengths of rope between them as hand guides. Once Tae reaches the top of the ridge, he steps aside to allow the others to view the overlook. From here, the ground slopes back down into a gentle bowl depression a few hundred feet across, filled with still water that reflects the evening sun. The air is crisp and cold here, and the wooden shelter of a mountainside lodge that looks to be in states of repair with plastic sheeting covering windows and building materials scattered around it the only real shelter.

“Kiso Ontake,” Tae says, looking down to the small crater pond, then turns to the others. He doesn’t really move into action, doesn’t seem propelled to dig into the past immediately. “This is supposedly where, in myth, Kensei and the Dragon first met and he swore himself to its service. I’m not…” he shakes his head. “I’m honestly not sure what we’ll find here. In the past, at any rate.”

"Ah it's always good to know those sorts of things Kimbo Slice, what if he had… more accomplices back then that are walking the earth today? Wanting to take him down? You miss things sometimes. I have, plenty." When shooting first, "And if nothing else, I didn't lose my eyesight, my ability or half of my dignity over this last ten years to just off with his head." It's not enough for Eve, "He can answers as he's dying." There's a shrug and the urge for Eve to throw off the corporeal form that everyone there knows her as is strong.

She's anxious now and falls silent. Head down and scratching at the back of her midnight mane every so often. There's a hum and then she leans back and looks up to the sky before the crater pond. Eve is thinking.

"Brother Seer, whatever you find. We will be grateful." She's ready.

"What matters is that plenty people have tried to kill him before, and not a one of them have managed to make it stick," Luther replies to Kimberly, his head shaking slowly. "And like Eve says, we gotta be smart about it. He could have eyes and ears on us already." For a moment of hanging back, Luther has a look around their surroundings as he wipes off beading sweat from his brow. The shadows between the trees are playing tricks on the man's natural suspicions, tweaking his wariness.

Tae's words only seem to firm up his determination. "We got time, right? Doesn't seem like anybody's out here or knows we're here yet." He looks around at the others, and then back to the archaeologist.

"Let's do this in shifts. I don't know how strong your rewind goes, Tae, or even if you can control your power that way. But we need to go as close to what you had gotten back at the caves. Maybe try an' focus on that feeling you had when you were channeling what you saw back there."

As if to reassure the man, he adds, "We'll be here. Don't worry."

Chess too grows quiet, letting other people answer Kimberly’s questions. She’s not sure how useful it will be either, but they are here for intelligence and they have this man with the gift who might be able to give them some.

Her thoughts on her heritage, she muses to Alix and Kimberly, “You ever hear of those websites where you spit into a thing and send it in, and it tells you your ancestry and even lets you know if you have relatives out there in the world?” She gazes out at the horizon that stretches out before them. “I wonder how many relatives we’d have. Besides the three sets of clones.”

Her baseball comes out of her pocket to roll in her palm — serving both as a worry stone and a weapon should she need it.

"I've been studying iaijutsu and kendo during the trip, all the same," Monica says as Eve and Luther try to explain why they're not gunning straight for the man in question. "I'm pretty sure a beheading would work. You know, just in case."

It occurs to her a beat later that they're in mixed company and maybe being casual about taking someone's head off isn't normal. So she gives Tae an apologetic look and turns her attention to the pond sharply.

"What she said," she says, nodding toward Eve, "any information might be that one missing piece we need to undermine him. Which would be great. Can you imagine his face?" She turns back to Eve with a smirk. Their history with PARIAH and Adam has been full of mixed signals, she'd be the first to admit.

Tae has been quiet, listening to the others even if only in part. There's some piece of him that seems remarkably distracted, but there's also an undeniable sense of excitement that carries him forward. It's as though he's both eager and dreading looking into the past of this place. “I won't be able to control what happens,” he says with a motion around himself with both hands. “There's some recent emotional static here, from when the neighboring peak erupted a few years back. I… should be able to go past it, but trauma like that can be difficult to see around when it's so close.”

Stepping toward the shallow lake on top of the mountain, Tae rubs his palms together and draws in a deep breath. Still up on the ridge line, Alix watches Tae’s nervous anticipation with her own equal measures of uncertainty and reservation. As she starts to descent into the depression, Kimberly follows along a few steps behind her, firing a wary look over at Chess as she does. Tae no longer notices the movements of the others. Luther can feel the growing static charge around the paleontologist's hands, intensifying as Tae closes his eyes and focuses on the emotional resonance of past moments.

“Please,” Tae says with a gasping breath, “someone make sure I don't walk off the side of the— the side of the mountain?” There's a hint of levity in Tae’s voice, behind the obvious anxiety, but his concern is real. He does seem to lose himself acting out these memories of the past.

“Sun’s going down…” Alix says softly to Kimberly, looking to the west where the dark orange sunset dips down toward the horizon, setting the clouds aflame in fiery shades of red and pink. Kimberly merely nods in response, not taking her eyes away from Tae as the retricognitive begins moving in more intense and purposeful spasms.

“«Empty,»” Tae says in a stilted and forceful Japanese, as if forcing the words out of his mouth in distaste. Tae swings one arm around, angrily, and takes his fingers through his hair. “«There's no one here!»” His voice calls hollow, ringing out across the top of the mountain and carrying beyond in echo. “«Show yourself, Dragon! If you are real, I demand you show yourself to me!»

Tae is silent, one hand held out in front of himself as though he were brandishing something. “<<I will not give you what you want! You will not have her!»”

While Tae is shouting, while eyes are on the spectacle, Luther’s attentiveness picks up something else. Crunching gravel under boots. But he turns toward the sound at the same moment a new voice adds to the experience.

“This is a bit rude, isn't it?”

Alix’s expression sinks, color drains from her face, and as she turns to see a lone figure silhouette by the setting sun on the ridge line, neither she nor Eve need to be able to see his face to know who he is.


"If you did, I promise to paint an accurate depiction. But maybe burn the body asap Hot Hands!" A snicker from the mad woman who looks from Luther to Monica, Eve's own grin growing even wider. "I can. Imagine that strong jawed face dropping, imagine! The drop on the man with eyes and ears everywhere!" Sometimes, though it surely wasn't a game. It did seem like one with Adam since she and Monica's run in with him in Level Five.

"Surely Hot Hands can keep a firm hand at your back Brother Seer." Eve assures Tae and volunteers Luther for the task all in the same breath… just after saying those hands could incinerate someone or something, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes before Tae in the "doing of his thing" causes her attention to be nabbed like a child enamored with a new cartoon show on a Saturday afternoon. Trying to stay as still as possible while also leaning in as far as she can makes for a perplexing sight of the former seer but she doesn't speak a word. "Oh! Did someone bring the recorder?!" Frantically Eve looks between her companions, she rarely carried any electronics with her now given her physical state of being.

It's not another second before she's riveted at Tae's ability on display, it makes her miss that familiar chorus of whispers in her head, not the ones that were still there today but the Echoes. It's during that standing in the bittersweet feeling that a new voice slides into her ears, a familiar voice.


The ghostly pale woman pauses and snaps her head back sharply. Her eyebrows raise before lowering again, thoughts whirling in her head and her expression directly conveying all the emotions on her face for her friends in front of her. Shock, anger and a twist of excitement and drops of dread. Tiny jolts of bloodred lightning dance along her limbs and fizzle and pop along with her moods. She'd have to keep a handle on herself lest she blow apart. Eve finds herself wheeling around and facing away from Tae to look upwards with bright, red glowing eyes. "…Rude.." A slow, erratic cackle escapes her and the raven haired woman wraps her arms around her middle. "Rude?!"

Eve hoots with laughter before her mouth snaps shut, very briefly. "Rude would be leaving a half empty bottle of sake and nothing else for a certain someone in a hotel room in Australia! Ding Dong!" She laughs and looks over to Alix, "Or most rude sir," Her eyes narrowing with an off kilter smile now aimed above them, "Would be coming to speak through some.. other. Clone, doppelganger, evil sextuplet. Hydra." Waving her hand up and down in a jerky way. The roiling storm of emotions and her own unique sense of thinking are not doing wonders for her physical state. A faint trail of mist seeps out from under her clothes. "Which head are you?"

There's a flick of eye movement as she tries to gauge her friends reactions.

"If there's anything that I've learned, it's that family's what you make, not what your spit says about you," Luther says with a look to the trio of Chesstras. The man shifts his shoulders with visible stiffness from underlying tension, worry serving to ratchet up his awareness. Monica's beheading talk doesn't even bother him that much.

"I can," rumbles Luther in answer not only to her question of imagining Adam's face, but also Tae's request to make sure he doesn't walk off a cliff. And he does, especially as the static charge picks up around the other man. Eve's request about recording shifts his attention to Monica and Chess. He honestly hadn't thought about recording devices, but now that it's mentioned…

Luther's in the middle of digging out a phone when that sound of approach turns him. With the low utterance of a grunted "motherfucker" under his breath, he takes a solid step to come between Adam, the girls, and Tae. His hand that was reaching for a phone instead rests on a handle of a gun tucked away.

Tensed like a baited dog, Luther presses back against his initial urges. "Pretty bold of you to come alone," he rumbles darkly with his eyes searching for an ambush in the woods around the new arrival.

“Can he regenerate from being blown up? Asking for a friend,” mutters Chess after Monica mentions beheadings. It’s rhetorical — at the moment, she’s still unaware that he’s creeping up somewhere behind them.

Quieting to watch Tae, Chess’ eyes widen a little as he begins to reenact whatever it is he sees in his trip down memory lane — she hadn’t seen his ability in action before. She glances over at her sisters, about to speak

…when Adam Monroe interrupts.

Swiveling Chess turns in his direction, her omnipresent baseball suddenly held in a fastball grip in her deft fingers. Dark eyes seek those of her progenitor. She doesn’t throw anything — yet but she too steps in front of Alix protectively, given her lack of a more aggressive ability.

Chess gestures to herself, Kimberly, Alix. “Do we call you Dad or do you prefer Asshole?”

Monica tilts her head as Tae starts to retell the past, glance moving over to Chess at her comment. Maybe one day they'll find out the limits of regeneration.

Maybe sooner rather than later.

She pivots to bring Adam into her field of vision when he speaks up. "We're Americans, we live for being rude," she says. When Eve speaks up, she looks her way with a crooked smile. "Eve, priorities." Sake seems to not be one of them, according to Monica. But her attention shifts back to Adam after a moment— and after noting that Luther is on the lookout for more visitors.

"So what's up, Monroe? Come to reminisce?"

It’s a lot all at once, especially Eve, but Adam manages to take in the deluge of confrontational comments in stride. He looks down to the ground, slowly descending the ridgeline into the depression at the top of the mountain, coming up slow on the group. Tae takes a few steps back, eyes cast aside and roused from his postcognitive reverie by the voice. He doesn’t seem surprised by Adam’s presence, and Alix notices. Color flushes her face red with anger, and for a moment she nearly barks something at the researcher, but Kimberly takes her by the wrist and offers a wary look back in Adam’s direction. Not now, it says patiently.

“I’m not the one digging up the past,” Adam answers Monica with a slow spread of his hands, tucking them in the pockets of his slacks after the gesture. Adam exchanges a brief look with Tae, who avoids the eye-contact, before looking back to the others assembled. Pointedly so, Chess, Kimberly, and Alix. As he breathes in deeply, Adam is notably quiet, especially for a man that Eve knows loves the sound of his own voice.

It’s only then that Adam’s attention settles on Eve, pale eyes tracking the pop and snap of red sparks, the energized vapor that is her true form. He seems to be both unfamiliar with her transformation and at the same time visibly concerned by it, even if he doesn’t outwardly say so. “And, I didn’t exactly come alone… no.”

The second pair of footsteps up over the ridge come from a dark-haired woman dressed primarily in black, that urban military chic of body armor and cargo pants, high-laced boots, though none of the firearm accessorizing so common among military fetishists. But, it’s also Chess’ eyes staring back at them from that soldier’s face, or rather — based on recent photos Asi and Monica had uncovered — Lanhua Chen. She doesn’t descend the ridgeline, rather waits there with her hands on her hips and the wind tossing her dark locks, watching Chess and Kimberly with furrowed brows, as if looking at unfamiliar reflections of herself in a funhouse mirror and becoming transfixed by it.


“But I’m not here to posture. I’m here to talk,” Adam draws attention back to himself, stopping a conversational distance from the others. “Because I feel like, we’re at the point where I either do that, or you’ll keep swatting at the hornets nest, too busy fighting off the bees to mind the bears.”

"There'd be no need to dig if you talked before." Eve twitches as she waits for her friends to speaks, noticing how Tae reacts. She tilts her head but no no can't be distracted.

But there's another face and it's just as familiar as Adam's. "Oh mia cara ragazza." Eve says in a whisper to the other girls long lost sister. "Your family has been searching for you." She looks so much like Chess and Kimberly, she had grown use to this but it was still a powerful moment to witness the four of them together. Adam has said his peace so far and Eve's eyes flick back towards him. She's close enough to hear clearly as well, those snaps and flashes of red energy even more pronounced.

Whistling with a mild (mild for Eve) grin, the pale woman wiggles her fingers. "You want to talk and I have questions. We … all have them, excellent! Perfecto! Bingo! …Eureka!"

There were so many things she wanted to ask: "No, we can't start with how you knew my parents. Why you brought me back… no no…" rubbing her forehead, "We could start with why you're such an absentee father to my friends!" Eve doesn't think he wants to do that in front of the rest of Boom though and there's a chuckle to signify she knows and is just kidding. "What about… oh oh!'" Eve snaps her fingers as a lightbulb comes alive in her mind's eye. "Why did It take Yaeko? When we first met after you had slaughtered all those men on the battlefield. When Odessa and I popped out of the future! (The Present)," Eve echoes the last bit as soft as a whisper. "Landed in Japan, ancient Japan. You beheaded me. She. Yaeko was the Host. She put my head back on, fortunately for all of us, didn't tighten any screws." Snort. Right to the point.

…or something like that.

Luther glances over his shoulder at Chess' remark. Dad? He furrows his brow, knowing which term he prefers she call Adam Monroe for sure. The displeased expression deepens as he catches Tae's peculiarly avoidant look. Realizations strike belatedly, and Luther levels a wide-eyed stare at the retrocog. His fist clenches around the handle of his pistol, now drawn but not yet raised. He also takes a pointed step closer towards Adam and Lanhua's position, lining up with Monica.

He doesn’t leave his focus off of Adam for long, especially when Adam notes he’s not alone. Eyes lift to spot Lanhua on the ridge. "That metaphor wouldn't hold up in an 8th grade science class," grunts the man, continuing to search the growing shadows in his periphery.

"Where're the triplets?" The question is loosed, arrowed at Adam.

As Eve tries to prioritize her questions, Chess looks to where her sister — clone — stands in the distance, dark eyes finding their mirror there. She’s used to looking at Kimberly at this point so it’s not as jarring as it would have been before… as it is most likely for Lanhua staring at them. The wind drags a blond strand of hair across Chess’ face, and she tugs it back and behind one ear. The same hand opens, empty, five fingers splayed into a small, innocuous wave.

Luther’s query draws Chess’ attention back to Adam and the group around her. She casts a quick glance at Alix and Kimberly, a visual check on their emotional states, before letting her gaze snap back to Adam.

“I hate to say it, but we came to find out how it was defeated before by watching this guy,” she says with a glance at Tae, “put on a bunch of charades or whatever,” Her eyes fall back on Adam and she tips her head, eyes narrowing slightly as she appraises him. “But we have the primary source here. If they wanted to blow us up, they could have, yeah? We can listen.”

Her expression is dubious as to what good that may do.

"They could have tried," Monica says to Chess' point, because she knows there's always room for a little posturing. "But I do want to point out, Monroe, you started this by going after our friend. But if you wanna make nice now, she says we can listen. So we'll listen."

She looks over at Luther, because she knows he's the most likely to react to a threat to the sisters. But rather than ease him back, Monica wants to make sure he's ready if this goes sideways. Tae doesn't get too much of her attention at the moment. Bigger fish and all that, although it's hard to say if she'll stay calm about it.

But that's an issue for later. For now, she gestures to Adam, giving him the floor.

Adam narrows his eyes at Monica, not entirely sure of what it is she means. His head tilts subtly to the side, lingering on that uncertainty, but his pale eyes are drawn away from the former Yamagato employee to Chess. He sighs, softly, patiently, and brings one hand up to splay fingers at the side of his head as his brows furrow. “It wasn’t— ” he cuts himself off. Silence lingers in the air, and in that silent interstitial moment Tae fixes Luther with an apologetic expression and a slack of his shoulders. He doesn’t spare any words, doesn’t think they’d make a difference right now. Instead, he’s forced to be party to this tense meeting the way someone might during a sleepover when their friend starts arguing with their parents.

“You don’t even know the right questions to ask,” Adam says as he frustratedly pulls his hand away from his head, “and that’s only half the problem. If you’re here to put a shovel in a cold grave and dig up the past you might as well lie down in it and bury yourself. If you’ve seen even a corner of the truth, if you’re looking into— this place— invoking that time,” his eyes flick to Eve, “then you’ve rightly loaded five bullets into a revolver and pressed the muzzle to your head. As much as I’d love to let you pull the trigger, it isn’t just yourself you’d be killing.”

“What the fuck’re y’all on about?” Kimberly interjects, hands in the air. “Not a single bit of that made a damn bit of sense t’me.”

“Yeah, I’m not surprised,” Lanhua quips, earning an icy stare from Adam over his shoulder. She mildly rolls her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest, looking down at the rough mountainside underfoot.

“Go home. Go anywhere other than here. Go live your lives because there may not be another tomorrow if you keep digging our graves.” Adam finally chimes back in. “I didn’t create you,” he says to Chess, “I was locked up in Level 5 when you were born.” Briefly, Adam flicks a look at Eve, as if to remind her of her role in that liberation. When he looks back to Chess, his frustration has turned into something more like guilt. “I’d say ask Kaito Nakamura about it, but… if I knew then what I know now, I suppose history would be different. But it wouldn’t have wanted that.”

With the topic shifted away from whatever half-worded warning Adam was trying to give to the clones, Alix steps forward challengingly. She doesn’t say anything, just swallows tensely and watches Adam through tear-rimmed eyes. Emotions, conflicting and powerful, unsteady her hands and her jaw. Adam’s attention is fixed on her for a moment, then averts to the ground, then back up again.

“You want to find out about yourselves, ask Kimiko.” Adam lobs at Chess. “Ask her about Kaito’s Vault.” Then, turning his attention to Eve, Adam exhales a sigh through his nose. “You and I haven’t ever really met. Not truly. Not the real me, and I’m not talking about some body-double nonsense. I’m talking about identity, Eve. If you want answers about why I saved your life, while I’ve done what I’ve done, that man is dead. He wasn’t ever real. He was a fabrication of the Company, a puppet pariah dancing on Charles Deveaux’s strings.” Then, with more resolution, Adam places a hand at his chest. “I remember, now. That’s how I’m going to save all your ungrateful lives.”

"We are not going to go back and forth about who is killing people, my sweet Blondie." No no no, then he's going on about things… that just make no sense! That makes her shake her head hard and close her eyes, "Wrong questions, digging in the past." Eve shakes and her whole body seems to quake down to the fiber of her core. Cracks that flare a violent crimson spider down her arms. "This is not just your world to save. You may be the oldest brain in the room but you have failed. Twice, in making this problem go away. Over 300 years to make sure it was indeed squashed like a bug. Once as yourself. Now you stand here… as if we should be grateful for your attitude and failures?" An erratic cackle follows after.

Eve takes a step forward as her fingers begin to disintegrate and her teeth grit in pain. A fine red mist dances and swirls in place of two of her digits while lightning crackles in and around her. Her pale body twitches and she snorts with a roll of her eyes.

"Why would we just lay back and leave it to you? That would be- why that would be crazy! Hoopla! Nonsense! You've shown us nothing but lies, murder, discord, experiments and killing his own and driving wedges between people! Both you and our parents, failures. And if you fail again.. It's over." Eve cracks a laugh and shakes her head, "No, together it might be possible to weather the storm. New minds, new combinations of abilities. Possibilities endless." Her grin is wicked, "But noooo noooo Sally Sam, instead of innovation we get a preacher of our superiority from a narcissist. No collaboration, no golden nuggets of intel. Empty words." Standing on her tip toes before she almost topples over as her leg begins to break down as well.

"If you won't tell us what we need to know to stop this and are hellbent on making the same mistakes you've been making all this time." Allowing herself to trail off, her facial expressions a mix of wild anger, excitement and then pain. Her body snapping back together and fizzing apart in rapid succession. "You should go home, get to know your children. All of them. You've been at this a longgggg time Old One and have gotten no closer to succeeding. Only closer to starting wars. Do you even know, who the current Host is?" Her suspicions are just that but unlike many in today's world, Eve feels that Adam would hold more stock in her visions, maybe as much as her friends with her today do.

Luther hardly blinks while his steely gaze takes in the back and forth. Gradually his focus moves to Lanhua rather than Adam, studying the young woman standing behind the Brit. That shifts back to including the others, particularly when Alix steps forward. "Alix," he rumbles faintly, letting her know he's there, present and supporting in what surely is a heavy moment for her.

But then it's back to Adam. Luther straightens in stance, once again pinning his stare at the blonde. "Whatever it is you're doing to 'save our ungrateful lives', you've sure got a fucked up way of going about it, trying to send sisters to kill one of their own." He doesn't gesture to Chess. He also doesn't disregard Lanhua, the hardened stare softening for seconds when he focuses on her once more.

"All this shit with clones, power-stealing, human experimentation. For what, to not fight some memetic monster wanting to fuck-up something about this timeline?" He snorts heavily. It's been a bit of a ride for him. For them all. "You can do all the saving of ungrateful lives you want. But these girls," he says, "don't deserve getting dragged through your shit."

"What's the hell's your angle, Monroe?" demands Luther as he bristles at the clones' genetic father.

Chess’ dark eyes flit from Adam to Eve to Luther, to her sisters — all three of them, lingering the longest on Lanhua, before she returns that guarded, narrowed-eyed gaze on Adam. If she’s heard any of the questions from the others, it’s unclear.

“You didn’t create us, but you used them,” she says softly, a jerk of her head indicating first Alix and then Lanhua. “And you sent the others to kill me. Why?

Chess seems like she might let Adam answer, but her eyes drift back to Lanhua, then back to Adam. There’s hurt behind them, but also worry.

“Does she know?” she asks, louder. “About Gemini? That you’re using her like a guinea pig to see how many powers you can pack into one body? That our sisters died having the same thing done to them? Like we’re not human beings, but lab rats?”

The breath Chess takes is dangerously close to a sob and she turns to Lanhua, brows lifting for her sister’s answers to the questions she’s directed to Adam. “You’re more than that to us,” she adds. “I’m sorry that we got separated. We’ve been hoping to find you.”

"What is wrong with you?" Monica says, her hand coming up to run down her face. "You haven't saved anyone from the Dragon. It was shut into a box and never spoken of again. And what? You hoped it would stay there. But it didn't. For years there's been all these timeline slipping whatevers going on and you're the only one who knew what it meant. You've known about the Dragon for centuries and you don't have an answer for how to really defeat it. But there are millions of Evolved with who knows what powers and people with who knows what resources and ideas that could help you. You want to save us? We want to save ourselves, too." She waves at herself and the others with her, "We all know. Secret's out. Memetic damage done. And if you're not actually the boogie man we think we know, why can't we all do this together?"

She looks over at Eve, a silent plea for her to go along with this instead of blowing everything up— literally or figuratively. But her attention swings back over to Adam, her hand moving to prop on her hip.

No one knows how!” Adam shouts, his casual composure breaking under a deluge of biting words. His raised voice kills whatever it was Lanhua was about to say, causes her to swallow it back and square her shoulders reflexively. It’s the exact same motion in Alix, coupled with a furrow of her brows. “You can’t do this together because the more you know the more it knows!” Which seems contradictory to his insistence that he somehow, alone, holds the keys to this particular puzzle.

“Did you ever stop to think that for one moment every piece of information you’ve been uncovering, every mystery you’ve patted yourself on the back for solving, every door that you people have wedged open have been in service to something that sees you as little more than a curious bundle of cells?” Though Adam’s tone hasn’t improved, his raised voice has tempered down into a knife’s edge. “You think you’re here because of free will? You’re not.”

Adam swallows something down; visibly, palpably, fearfully. He looks askance at Lanhua, who has all this time remained transfixed not on the group of people who came to this mountaintop looking for answers, but Adam. She looks away when their eyes meet, and that in itself makes Adam’s shoulders slack and the tension drain out of his expression. When he finally looks back, it’s to Luther, of all people. Perhaps his words, most of all, struck a chord with Adam.

“This isn’t about what any of us deserve, Luther.” Adam’s tone has calmed, his eyes lost that fire they had a moment before. “This is about what has to be done, and the people who are uniquely equipped to do it.” Chess notices a subtle twinge of regret in Adam’s expression when he says that, as if he let on more than he’d intended. “But don’t take my word for it.”

At that, Lanhua takes a few more steps down the sloping sides of the mountain toward the others. “You were deceived,” Lanhua says first to Alix, “Ivy was, Violet, all of you. Your orders haven’t been coming from Adam for over a year. Someone within Praxis is trying to destroy us, subvert Adam’s authority.” Then, as if following that same thread, she looks to Chess. “We never intended to kill you,” she says with one rise of a brow, “but that doesn’t mean elements within Praxis don’t want you all,” Lanhua quickly looks at Kimberly, then back to Chess, “dead.”

“I’m making you the offer now,” Adam steps back into the conversation, “you can leave with us. I promise I’ll tell you everything, and I mean everything, but you can’t bring them,” and Adam gestures to the lot of the group save for Alix, Kimberly, and Chess, “with you.”

Lanhua glances at Adam, then looks back to Chess. “You found me,” she asserts. “Come home. I promise, it will make sense. But now isn’t the time or the place.”

"Oh for the love of the goddess above you are so dramatic! Yes we know of being tainted by the knowledge, of the strength it gains the more we speak of it." Waving her hand around her, Eve's condition gets no better or no worse. She just… stands there a half glowing mass of mist crackling with wild, chaotic energy. "It tricks, deceives and it did indeed use me and others to gain access to our plane." Eve straightens her shoulders, she's not ashamed. She would never leave the alternate Otter Eyes or Liz and Magnes to the fate of being locked out of this world. Nobody wanted too.

Plus she intends on fixing it, whatever way she can.

"But how else do you stop such a thing? Nobody knew to contact you, seek out our shining blonde savior. I had to take steps, alert my friends to a new threat while you ran around kidnapping geneticists and the like." But again Monica is asking that they all cooperate even though Adam is clearly here just to tell them off. "At one point," Eve ventures with a low lidded gaze at the older man and the sister of Chess before her. "Nobody knew how to remove the Dark One. Kazimir, but we did. There is always a way Old One, listen to us. Cooperate with her as Moni asks. The Children of the Eclipse who are inheriting this world aren't as weak willed as you think. Together we can put a stop to this, for good." For all the awkward/bad blood between the immortal and the former seeress she speaks earnestly now.

But there are other matters that need to be addressed and for Chess she is getting to explore her past. It makes Eve uncomfortable to witness but parents are parents. "You choose what you have to Boomer. We love you. I support you no matter who your family is. They would be oh so lucky to know someone like you." And it's for this reason that Eve tries harder to get Adam to see reason. Maybe Chess wouldn't have to choose. The emotionally charged woman looks to her younger friend with sadness in luminous crimson eyes. "Or maybe you won't need to choose." Giving Adam a look and then Luther, the War Dad. Best dad.

The sudden shout doesn't do Luther's inner tension any favors. His gun hand twitches, vision threatening to tunnel in its focus. He blinks rapidly, staring at the fear he sees emerge from the other man. His short huffed laugh of disbelief for the concepts Adam throws their way about the unknown forces controlling their every move is audible in its skepticism.

And while Adam may grow calm and release the tension, Luther continues to glower, ears burning with hearing his name, being addressed. "Bullshit," he snarls back, his free hand clenching as he feels the energy around Eve building. "Why should we believe anything you've said so far? How would we even know you're not just another Institute stooge in disguise?" An accusatory look is leveled back at Tae, lumping the quiet man in with the remark.

As Lanhua approaches closer, Luther shifts his stance, moving so that he can take all the clone sisters in to his periphery on either side. Her voice snags his attention; it's hard to ignore when she sounds the same as Chess, as Kimberly. But when Adam and Lanhua to plead to the sisters (to Chess) to join them… Luther protests. He protests by raising his gun and pointing it at Adam full bore.

"No. You want to tell her your stories, you can tell 'em here," Luther growls deeply. He must insist.

Chess’ eyes, dark and guarded, flicker from Adam to Lanhua, the same furrow marring her features as her clone’s. The offer is met with a look of confusion. She remains perfectly still as Eve and Luther speak. Then, her lips move, a breath below a whisper at first, before she repeats herself.

His apple, when he offers it, is rotten,” she murmurs, before whirling around to look at those closest to her. Her family, chosen and found. “That’s what it told me, the Entity, I think, right? The whispers were in its voice?” This is asked of Eve, who had encountered the thing they all fear.

Even Adam.

“If it doesn’t want me to go… maybe that means I should.” Even as she says it, Chess’ eyes well up as she looks to Luther, knowing it isn’t what he wants. “For science,” she adds, a small quip that cracks her voice instead of making her laugh.

Her eyes seek their mirror in Kimberly’s, then Alix’s. “You don’t have to go,” she tells them quickly, reaching for Alix’s hand to squeeze, knowing it’s like asking her to go back into a fire she barely escaped from.

She turns back, not quite ready to give her assent. “Are we free to leave when we want? I’m not signing any contracts. We’re not property.”

"We can't just do nothing," Monica says, her head shaking at Adam's explanation. "And there are more people than just us working on this. So maybe think about it before you decide no one can be any help. We don't usually like sitting around and waiting for someone else to save us. And usually the people who have claimed to be trying to save us are lying."

She isn't surprised when Adam makes his offer to the sisters. She is surprised at Chess' response. Just for a moment. But once Chess starts to talk like she might accept, Monica reaches over to put a hand on Luther's arm to try to lower the gun. "Unfortunately, we don't know if either of them are trustworthy. Or what either of them are after." She's not certain there's a 'good guy' in the clash between Dragon and Adam. "But like Eve says, it's up to you. And we support you."

She glances to Adam, then back to Chess again.

"And you know we'll come get you out if it goes sideways."

No need to hide that fact. Adam should have been able to work that much out already.

“Kazimir Volken,” Adam says raising his thumb, “Arthur Petrelli,” then index finger, “Edward Ray,” middle finger, “the Institute,” ring finger, “and the entire fucking United States Government,” pinkie finger last. “That’s the list of people you all have flattened under a fucking boot for so much as looking at one of your friends the wrong way. I’ve been around for long enough to know where to sit on the sides of history, and that also means I know precisely what you’re all capable of. You’re not children, you’re not incompetent, you’re not idiots most of the time.” Adam lowers his hand, exhaling a sigh through his nose. “And I’m telling you, for your own safety, to stay out of this.”

“That’s why I came here under a white flag,” Adam says with a struggle to remain from sounding flippant. “That’s why, once I realized you’d made contact with Tae, I instructed him to lead you to me. Tae worked for the Institute as a contractor, a long, long time ago. He was an outside consultant, unaware of their doings. When I inherited their knowledge, I inherited a contact for Tae. He doesn’t know anything, and that’s kept him safe.” There’s apology in Tae’s eyes as he looks up to Luther, especially, unable to put voice to it.

“We’ve all been played for fools,” Adam says with a broad gesture to the others. “The Company’s solution to a generations-old problem was to remove all memory of it and paint me as a conspirator, to manipulate me into believing I was the villain of my own story. Your grandmother,” he says with a look to Monica, “lost decades of her real life fighting this fight. But it isn’t me you should blame for that, it’s Charles Deveaux. The man who cut your grandmother out of everything and the organization that cut you out of your inheritance.

Blinking a look over to Chess, Adam’s expression softens some. “I don’t think you’re property, Yīngsù, but the Praxis board does. I can only play my hand so much, in spite of what some people may’ve assumed, I’m not completely in control of the company. I have a controlling share, but the board could have me ousted. They’re not loyalists, they’re not idiots, and like you they’re not weak. I have to play my hand carefully, delicately, and sometimes I need to go along with what they want.” He looks to Alix, then back to Chess. “And I’m not a good person. Worse, even, before I… “ he searches for a good explanation. A short one. “Before someone offered me a penny for my thoughts.”

Releasing Kimberly’s hand, Alix slips ahead and moves to Chess side, cold fingers finding Chess’ and squeezing them tightly. It is her wordless show of sisterly bond, that if Chess goes with Adam, Alix will follow her. She owes Chess her life, and she will always and forever be willing to repay that kindness. Kimberly, however, looks ashamed. She starts to take a step forward and then hesitates and exhales a sharp huff of a sigh and crosses her arms over her chest. She won’t — can’t — make herself take that leap.

Adam levels a firm look at Chess. “Take some time to think about this,” he says in a considerate tone. Adam nods to Lanhua, who reaches inside of her jacket and produces a business card and floats it over to Chess with what must be some sort of telekinesis. “That’s the address of a shipping company we use for asset movement. You show up there, someone will take you to me…” and with a purse of his lips, Adam bites back the period on the end of the sentence, “…and your mother.”

They’d come here to learn about where and how Adam began, but the apple Adam has offered chess isn’t knowledge of his origins, but hers. Somehow, this journey had become about Chess’ own apotheosis.

Eve sits or damn near floats in silence as Adam continues to speak but Luther's outright refusal has the pale woman rounding on him. "We do not take each other's choice away." Her whole form flickers in that moment from the pale, red lightning tinged figure they knew to a mist like version of herself. Flickering up to Luther as she shifts back with a ragged breath. Eve lays a hand on Luther's arm, the lightning running along it jolting into Luther but being absorbed. She's more stable when she's near him, when they touch.

"No matter where she goes, she is still ours. Our Boomer. Remember that," Chess' reasoning has Eve nodding as well. "It doesn't want you near him, best to do what it doesn't want us too Boomer you're right! Defiance!" Monica's omission that they would indeed come for their friend is given a nod, without a doubt. Though the shocking revelations has an effect on Eve as she tries to piece together what that means…. mostly she understands… inheritance equals money.. "Oh Moni think of all the swords…"

Though Adam is not extending the olive branch to Eve and the others. It doesn't sting as much as she thought it would, she more so becomes resigned to the fact that she and her friends would have to do this without the immortal whose help the former seer couldn't help but think… they needed. Her whole body shakes and were it not for Luther she might literally explode then and there.

But this wouldn't be the time, or the place.


Catching herself and making herself turn slightly to catch Adam in the corner of buzzing eyes. "You have until the end of Autumn. When the winter's chill settles all around and the snow begins to fall." Rubbing her forehead, not listening to the voices telling her to attack, to refuse, to goad. Now isn't the time. Eve thinks to herself. "Find the solution, redeem your failures. Or I will be forced to interfere and end it for you." It's the best she's got, under the circumstances without sounding like too much of an asshole. Looking to her friends, smiling towards Chess. Her expression is open with her back mostly turned towards Chen and Adam. What do we say?

"I can't speak for my family, but this is what I promise. On my honor," eyeing Tae, "As a former seer." Something Eve seems to cling too, a former identity. The new her was an adjustment still, "I wish we could catch up, there's so much to talk-" Stopping herself with head bowed and violent shake of her body she pulls away from Luther and stability. "Deliver a bottle of sake to my place, you owe me!" Crossing her arms and not looking his way, Eve walks fast past the others and disperses into that violent cloud of red mist and light with a violent scream that echoes around the cave. Hovering just out of reach there's no telling if she's facing away from them or not.

This feels better.

Luther's upraised gun hand shivers with tension in his grip, barrel pointed at Adam's face. He almost throws off Monica's hand, but when it's joined by Eve's, he finally jerks his arm down. It takes several breaths, several forced blinks, before he stops turning the latent energy siphoning off of Eve into transparent, dancing heat waves rolling off his shoulders and down his arms. Luther swallows thickly, bearded jaw working slowly.

But Eve is right. Luther tears his gaze away from Adam and looks back to the others, to Chess, to Alix when she steps up and to Kimberly who lingers back. "It's your choice," he rumbles tightly. He thumbs the safety of his pistol, and exhales roughly. "You girls are my family too. All of you." Grey eyes flick to Lanhua, including her in the statement. "When you're ready to come home. I'll be there."

But it's all he can do to contain and pull back on the urge to turn the floating business card into a puff of ash. Eve's transformation provides a moment's distraction enough that he doesn't actually give in to the urge. Luther takes a deep breath, steadying himself.

Gaze turning back on Adam, Luther narrows his eyes at the man that, in his mind thus far, still carries the lion's share of blame. Decisions churn inside, as does the swirling well of anger. "We'll leave you alone," he finally says, "But. We're not leaving here empty-handed." He then turns his focus upon Tae, and motions with his gun-holding hand in indication. "'Til the girls come back, you're coming with us." Hope Tae didn't have any other dinner plans. Or any future plans at all.

The card plucked out of thin air, Chess looks at it, studying it more intently than she needs to, perhaps to hide the tears that glitter in her eyes as Luther speaks of family. But two words have her looking up again.

Your mother.

Whatever Adam is, or was, she knows that Joy, if it was the same woman who she remembered on that terrifying jaunt down her memory on Refrain, did not want to harm her. She tried to save her and Lanhua.

Her lips press together and she nods, sliding the card into her back pocket. Her hand squeezes Alix’s, and she glances over her shoulder at Kimberly, to give her a nod of understanding. ‘This is not betrayal. There is nothing to be sorry for,’ that look says in silence.

“If there’s an answer, it’s there,” Chess murmurs quietly to the others, perhaps a little defensively, like she has to plead her case still, despite the fact they’re not holding her back.

“Asset movement’s quite the euphemism.” she says lightly. “We’ll see you soon. Or not.”

Monica lifts a hand at Eve before she gets too far into imagining what she might spend an inheritance on. Don't is given in a look.

"I know who's to blame for what happened to my grandmother. For what's happening to her." There's a lot of things Adam might have to answer for, but that's not one of them. Not at present, anyway. "And we know that The Company was capable of a lot of horrors. You don't need to convince us of that." It's almost friendly, but for a wariness she can't quite keep out of her voice. She might believe The Company would screw him over to save themselves, but that doesn't mean she can jump straight to trusting him, either. "How much danger are Chess and Alix going to be in? You can't push too much with Praxis, but can you keep them safe while they're with you? If they choose to go."

She turns back to Chess, giving her a nod. She doesn't need to defend her choices, not to them, but the reason is a sound one. "Chess and Alix can find out what they need to and the rest of us can do our own investigating."

There's still a lot to dig into.

“It’s not Praxis that any of you have to worry about,” is how Adam chooses to explain it. “I keep my own safe, but if it comes calling? There will not be a place in heaven or earth that will be safe. The more you dig, the more you learn, the more it realizes people are aware of it. You know this.” He motions with his chin to Eve. “All you’ve done is make it stronger,” he says in a hushed tone of voice, then takes a step back from the others without so much as a look to Tae.

Tae, on the other hand, looks like someone would when they’re told that they’ll be the hostage du jour of this trip. He starts to word a rebuttal, but makes eye contact with Luther, then his gun, and thinks better of it. Lanhua steps up beside Adam in the meanwhile, offering a look over to Chess, Alix, and Kimberly. For a moment, four of the sisters are together in the same place, in the same moment. But then, Lanhua looks up to Luther.

“I am home,” Lanhua says flatly and sharply, contesting any claims of adoptive paternity Luther may attempt to lay on her. She looks to Adam next, who draws in a slow breath through his nose and nods, eliciting Lanhua to lay a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t come looking for me, Eve,” is Adam’s final words to her, “or you’ll get people you care about killed.” Adam and Lanhua vanish in an instant, the sudden rush of air from the formation of a vacuum at their position creating an audible huff that feels like a period on the end of his sentence. In the absence of Adam’s presence, Tae’s shoulders slack and he brings a hand up and into his hair. Dread fills Tae’s expression.

Kimberly looks away once Adam is gone, scrubbing a hand over her mouth and looking sick to her stomach. She angrily kicks a rock across the mountaintop, then looks over to Alix who stays fast by Chess’ side. In spite of Chess’ words to Kimberly she looks ashamed of herself. Alix starts to say something, to quell Kimberly’s concern, but Kimberly cuts her off.

“I want to go home,” is all Kimberly says, a hitch in her throat at those words.

That Adam takes the risk to invoke it's nature is interesting to Eve, not that she has anything to say as a roiling nimbus of blood red mist and lightning.

She hovers there for a few moments after Adam and Lanhua are gone, contemplating. A truce. Winter. First snow fall. Eve buzzes in an erratic circle before she lowers herself to Tae's eye level. He's stuck with them.

She wonders if he likes American food.

"The fuck is that supposed to mean," Luther growls out at Adam's warnings not just to them but to Eve, "Some unnamed source of infinite trouble for the whole fuckin' world and he wants us to step away." Frustration and Discontent, Luther embodies it.

But when Lanhua speaks, Luther turns to her, and her words spear him through. Anger deflates, replaced with hurt. Worse still, she sounds like and looks like Chess. He works his jaw, unable to find a verbal retort to lob back. And then just like that, the pair are gone. Luther goes still, staring at the empty space in the air.

Kimberly's voice jostles him back into the present. He turns, blinking several times and squinting into the fading light at the sight of the three sisters. "Yeah," Luther rumbles with a shove of his gun back behind him. He won't need it to corral Tae. "Let's get the fuck out of here and go home."

Chess stands still for a long moment after Lanhua and Adam disappear. Her brows are drawn together, and the expression is a mix of confusion and anger.

“I’m sorry,” she manages to murmur, a glance to Luther and then to Kimberly, and finally to Alix — each she feels she’s let down in different ways.

This time she doesn’t try to defend the decision. She turns to start the descent, wind and tears stinging her eyes.

When the pair disappears, Monica lets out a frustrated sigh. There's a lot she could say, wants to say, but with a glance toward Chess she decides to keep her thoughts to herself. Adam's claims and warnings demand attention, though, and circle her thoughts whether she wants them to or not.

"I'm with Kim, too. Let's go home. I've had enough of this mountain." This mountain and more. She steps over to drape an arm around Tae's shoulders, turning him back the way they came. "Don't worry, Tae. You're gonna love New York."

Tae’s mouth opens to protest, that he has a job, that he doesn’t have a US Visa, that he doesn’t want to go. But none of those things go voiced, he swallows deeply, looking down to his feet and nodding in such a way that anyone held hostage might. They would need to split duty watching him, two rooms now instead of one. But with what Tae might know, leaving him behind wasn’t a possibility.

Some questions demand answering.

Some knowledge too valuable.

Four Hours Later


Mazdak Caliphate, Iraq

A single shaft of sunlight spills down through the circular opening in a domed ceiling nearly one hundred feet high. The contrast of light in the stone-walled palace casts much of the rest of the chamber in shadow, leaving only the polished marble floor to reflect the near midday sun’s light. Kneeling in the middle of that glow, a single figure rests in silence, hands upon his lap and head bowed to the sunlight.

A sudden rush of displaced air accompanies the arrival of an intruder into this silent sanctum. The bald-headed figure pulls a cane from across his lap, a ring-laden hand gripping the snarling wolf’s head at its end. The metal tip of the cane strikes the floor, and the penitent man rises to meet the woman striding into the sunlight.

“It’s done,” Lanhua says as she runs a hand through her hair. “They’re on their way out of Japan.” The man holding the wolf’s head cane turns incandescent blue eyes down to the floor in thought, brows furrowed. The silence is great, especially in a cathedralesque chamber that amplifies even the slightest sound.

“Adam?” He asks Lanhua, expectantly.

“Distracted with personal matters, Mas is out for blood. It’ll only be a matter of time, she just needs a little push.” Lanhua’s brows rise, her attention directed to the way sunlight glints off the wolf’s head. “What’s next?”

With a resounding tap of the cane against the marble floor, the blue-eyed man offers Lanhua that striking sound and a smile as an answer.

“Let’s figure out where the last surviving host went,” is offered as a suggestion, but intended as an order. Lanhua nods, tearing her attention away from the glint of sunlight on the wolf’s scarred.

“I just need a name,” Lanhua suggests. To which he nods, and looks up to the sun with those unblinking blue eyes. “Do you have one?”

Barudi Naidu knows many names.


Especially this one…


Washington State

11:22 pm Local Time

Dishes softly clink and clatter in a sink, water brought in from the pump out back frothing with soap bubbles. His hands are tired, not just from washing the dishes but also time, age, and the day’s work. There’s a splinter in his palm that won’t quite work its way out, but such is life.

As he adds the last dish to the strainer at the side of the porcelain sink, he pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and looks to the ceiling. They could wait until morning, but he’d much rather get one last talk in with her before bed. Things had never been easy, not in all these years, but now




It felt like home again.

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