Burning At Both Ends


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Burning At Both Ends
Synopsis Adam Monroe's vengeance against the Company founders continues.
Date September 2, 2009

Library Surpluss Bookstore

Seattle, Washington

There's subtle nuances about the city of Seattle that most people are never aware of; the charm of the open-air grocery markets down by the harbor, the smell of the fresh cut grass out in the coastal parks. But there's one thing most people associate with the cityof Seattle, perhaps unfairly, and that's rain.

Fair or not, it's pouring by the time Adam Monroe has the expressed displeasure of enjoying the city.

Tucked away on the outskirts of Seattle's coastal region, the humble Library Surpluss Bookstore is just one marquee sign amongst many in a quiet shopping district. The windows storefront rests below three floors of apartments set along a one-way street flanked on either side by a barber shop and a nail salon. In the late afternoon, with the clouds dark from rain and the glassy streets empty, the interior windows of the shop shine a soft golden, and one very unassuming woman parades beyond, carrying an armfull of books.

Thirty years has — from Adam's perspective — ravaged the woman he knew as Paula Gramble. Her face sags, bags under her eyes, the skin under her chin is loose and hanging. Pushing sixty is never a pretty sight for an average woman, nor is it for one who's lived a high-stress and guilt-ridden life.

It's no surprise she still jumps when the bell of the front door rings, one of those subtle tells of a twitch in her face and the rise of one shoulder, hugging those books she carries to her chest just a touch closer. Looking towards the two men coming in through the door, her smile tries to hide a lifetime of paranoia that the Company hammered into her. It tries to play up the face of "Sarah Barton", the average and clearly mundane woman who will die of old age, knowing these books as her friends.

In a way, it's a saddening mirror into the life of Samuel Book. Though perhaps fortunately for her, an increasingly short mirror.

That bell rings and in walks Sam Book, along with his new 'friend'. He looks immaculate in his tailored suit, complimented with a felt trilby hat, pulled low. The fact that Sam Book does not know Paul Gramble does not mean that Paul Gramble may not know Elijah Buchmann, so Sam is playing it close to the vest, so to speak. In one hand he carries a light satchel, the same as one anyone in the tech-oriented city of Seattle might be carrying, and in the other a small paper bag of popcorn. Popcorn is tasty and healthy. Though it's now a bit damp. Speaking to Ash, he says, "…a fascinating book. He also wrote Proust Was a Neuroscientist, which builds on the ideas in How We Decide. It's an alarming read. They must have a copy here."

Ash moves in throug the door next ot the well dressed Sam. He himself moves with a slow and heavy gait, not unexpected for a man of his size and body structure. His eyes scan around the book store slowly upon entering, his hand lifting to scratch lightly at the stubble on his chin before his eyes turn on Sam as he speaks about books. Yeah, Ash, is so not an actor. He blinks at the man's rambling about the book and an author, all of it just seeming to confuse him. "What would I want a book on science for?" he asks as he moves towards what he thinks might be the Science Fiction section, if there is one.

Just too long enough to be polite curiosity, the old bookseller's eyes wander over the pair coming into the store, her neck muscles visibly tightening as she swallows awkwardly and eventually turns her back on them, trying to dismiss decades of training and anxiety in order to slip back in to her every-day life. Leaning over to one of the shelves, she begins to lay out softcover books in the fiction section, catching a side-long glimpse of Ash and Samuel as they pass by the mouth of the aisle.

When she finishes, Paula's dark hair bobs back up into their view, and she moves towards the back end of the store where a curving faux-wood counter beneath rows of fluorescent lights has the cash register and a stack of unopened cardboard boxes; two registers, in fact. "Mom," comes the call from inside of the stock room, "I can't find the new nonfiction box, did you— " stumbling out from the back room, a girl just past twenty and sharing those same deep-set and dark eyes as Paula Gramble emerges with a hardcover cookbook brandished in one hand. She hesitates, seeing customers, and offers a crooked smile before winding her way through the aisles. "Did you bring those boxes out here? I can't find anything."

Feigning a smile, Pauls sets down her empty box on the counter top and looks over at her daughter, then glances up towards Ash and Samuel before her attention returns to the person angling for her attention. "Yeah they're…" she rubs at her forehead with one tired hand, "they're behind the counter." But as her daughter nopds and starts to move, Paula side-steps to intercept her. "Could— could you head down the street and grab me a coffee?"

The question is met by an askance stare from her child, head quirked to one side. "Yeah… I guess. Lemmie go get your umbrella." Paula's smile tightens, watching as her daughter backpedals and sets down the cookbook, then begins meandering her way back towards the stock room. Something in Paula's eyes betrays her reasoning for a sudden caffene fix; paranoia.

"Education. It doens't have to stop just because you dropped out of…" Sam eyes Ash for a moment and finishes, "…elementary school." He pours some popcorn into his mouth and wanders over to look over the selection of non-fiction books on science. "Oh, see, now Oliver Sacks, he's readable. Informational. Or Daniel Dennett." He gives Ash a look, though when the girl comes out from the stock room he pauses, expression hardening slightly. "…though I suppose Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained aren't quite up your alley when you have neither ideas nor consciousness." Composure regained, Sam gives the girl a tight smile, then moves past the books toward the fiction section. "More from Dan Brown. Lord."

Ash looks over at Sam, the large man's eyes narrowing at him as he ribs him. "I graduated from high school thank you. I rather enjoyed school, was an escape from a shitty ass world." He shrugs his broad shoulders and begins to look through some books, eyeing a couple of titles with interest, but for the most part his attention is on Sam, and as well on the two women in the shop. If either of them meet his gaze he'll offer them a friendly smile as he plucks books down off of the shelves and takes a peek at the backs, looking through a few books here, a couple there, just passing time mostly. "Well tell me when you're done looking through your geek stuff over there, and just stop talking, cause it's all going over my head." He rolls his eyes and then finds a book that he seems interested in, opening to the front page and skimming over it.

When Paula's daughter emerges from the stock room, the periwinkle blue folding umbrella in her hands is clutched tightly, walking with a backpedal as she turns to address her mother. "I'll be right back, doy ou want anything to eat? I was going to stop by Spinoza's first." It only takes a moment to see the weary expression on her mother's face, and the knitting of her daughter's brows shows momentary uncertainty, but for all that the opening of her mouth might indicate she wants to say something— she doesn't. There's just a forced smile of someone who's dealt her whole life with a neurotic parent. "I'll— be right back."

Behind the front counter, Paula rests her elbows on the countertop and runs her fingers thorugh her hair, shoulders rolling as she breathes out a sigh. Her dark eyes alight just long enough to watch her daughter move towards the front door, listening to the digital chime of the electronic bell when the door opens, angling to the side to see that blue umbrella fold open. On the stoop, her daughter steps off and into the rain, the bobbing of her blue umbrella carrying her past the front windows and eventually out of sight.

Once she's gone, Paula's jaw visibly tenses, and her brows furrow when her eyes settle first on Ash, then on Samuel. But just when it looks like she's going to call the bluff, her hand comes up and rubs at her forehead, back turning on the pair as she shakes her head from side to side with a very strained self chastisment.

There's a quartet of people in an suv, quietly waiting for a signal. Adam rests his forehead against the window while he waits. His eyes follow the little droplets of rain that hit against the window and slide down in sinewy and curving lines. It's during this time, he notes the girl leaving. He frowns, disconcerted for a moment because she looks so much like Paula and then he quickly realizes who she must be. He turns to Michcael in the driver's seat and says, "Stay here, keep the engine on." then he turns to Grim, "I need you to make an illusion of that girl, that one right there. Make it real. Make it scared." he says, "I'm calling an audible." if anyone looks, they'll see he's looking quite smug, he can get this American football after all.

The only hint that something is amiss in the back room is the slight waft of chilly, wet air from the back door somehow being open. Perhaps it was the wind, or perhaps the miniature Paula simply forgot to shut it the entire way. Or perhaps there is an intruder, though as soundless as that very breeze. The rattle of rain on the back steps echoes into the doorway, and alerts the shopkeeper in the further room.

A shadow slips around the stock, idling behind tall shelves before shifting onward. All ways to hunt; the next few moments will tell how effective the chosen strategy will be.

Ash turns his eyes towards Sam as the girl exits, then his eyes fall on Paula. He catches the sound of the back door, that brush of cooler air, the sound of rain on the back porch, and he reaches down into his pockets, his hands tucking away, one hand gripping the large knife he keeps in there, the other is clicking the button on the walkie talkie that he turned on, signalling Adam and crew that they should make thier entrance. he moves along through the books still, his body no longer moving with that heavy gate, now he moves gracefully, belying his size he holds a liquid economy of motion, a predator's grace in all aspects as he slips amongst the book shelves.

"One scared girl coming right up." Grim says reasonably, looking at the girl for a long moment before he turns back to look at Adam. He closes his eyes for only a moment and he then disappears from view altogether, the girl sitting next to where Grim had been seated only moments before. She is whimpering and slowly beginning to sob. "Please, God… why are you doing this?" she asks in a very shaky voice. "We'll give you the money! It's behind the counter in the safe! Just don't hurt us!" but its obviously too little, too late as the girl has obviously been scuffed up and her clothing and hair are already damp. She breaks character though for a moment and smirks at Adam. "Too much or does it need more, boss?" she asks, chuckling a tad sinisterly.

"I guess it wouldn't be a stretch to assume you don't listen to a lot of NPR." After some looking Sam gives a start when he sees a copy of an old James Morrow book in with the standard sci-fi pap. Pulling it out, he wanders over toward the counter and sets it down. "Coffee's a good idea. Weather like this can really set into the bones as you get on in years. Once the chill settles in, there's no getting it out. How much for this old hardback?" He gives her a smile. Sam may not be an actor, but years with the Marshals and the Company have left him capable of turning on the folksy charm and playing dumb at the drop of a hat.

Distracted from organizing a stack of recepits behind the counter, Paula turns to glance over her shoulder with furrowed brows. For a moment, her expression looks as if Sam was just speaking in tongues, no recognition on her face. But it's fleeting, turning from nervous anxiety back towards something — unfortunately for her — more relaxed. As she breaks away from the shelf, there's a hesitant smile afforded to Samuel. "Wh— Oh ah— all of the used hardcovers over there are ten dollars." Her dark eyes flick down to the book, then up to Sam.

Smiling away her nervousness, Paula's hand moves out to rest on the book and draws it back towards herself, opening it up and turning it over before reaching out towards the register. "Only Begotten Daughter," she quotes the title of the book, eyes lifting up from it towards Sam. "You'd think working in a bookstore, I'd have more time to read," her brows knit together, fingers punching at the registers keys. "Your friend getting anything?" Her brows go up, a thinly veiled smile insinuating a glance towards the Children's section.

Adam considers Grim's transformation. He pauses for a couple seconds and then says, "It'll do." he opens the door and gets out, opening the door for Grim. To get in character, he pulls him by the arm and takes out a gun, holding it under his chin and then leads him towards the bookstore. Once the actual girl is well out of sight, he says to Grim, "No hard feelings, we've all got a part to play." at that point, he opens the door holding the girl. He walks in calmly with the gun with the gun under the girl's chin, "Hello, Paula. Looks like we have a bit of a situation here."

"Oh, no. The Man in the Yellow Hat gives him nightmares." Sam pauses and glances over when the girl is brought in at gunpoint. There's a brief hardness in his expression, but trusting (or hoping) in Adam's sincerity during their previous meeting, Sam turns back to the woman and says, "Looks like you have pressing business. I'll make it cash." He sets a Hamilton down on the counter, scoops up his book and takes a long step to the side.

Ash turns his head, peering off into the room, hearing Paula's comment brings a light growl from the man, and he's just about to head over there and give her, and Sam a piece of his mind. Hey, no one ever accused Ash of being patient, or a spy, or an actor. He's a killer. He moves out from behind a book shelf, just in time to see Huruma, lurking back there, and to watch Adam come inside of the room. He blinks at the girl that's held there, but it's just surprise, he doesn't seem to have a problem with the girl being held hostage. He doesn't move towards Adam, instead he loops around a few shelves, putting him between Huruma and Adam, forming a half circle around the woman.

"Mom!" The girl shouts, trying to lunge forward away from Adam's grasp to go to her mother but is obviously held fast, only managing to jerk her neck back and give a piteous cry of pain. She takes a moment to flick her gaze around the seemingly familiar shop at the unfamiliar people occupying it. "Mom! What's going on? Who are these people?" she asks as she tries to move her head to the side to move her skin away from the gun barrel but it only follows her. "Just give them what they want, mom, and maybe they'll go away!"

When the front door bursts open and what at first is little more than a rain-dappled stranger with a gun and her daughter. There's a hiss of breath, a sharp spike of fear as her hands recoil from the register like one might the hot coils of a stovetop. When she backpedals away from the counter, her eyes grow wide until the dissonant sensation of serenity and calm washes over her like a warm blanket. Inwardly, she's thanking decades of Company training keeping her calm, unaware of the looming figure behind her until—

Bumping back into Huruma, Paula startles and turns, eyes still wide but that tightness in her chest and rpaidity of her heartrate causes her to lose some of that edge, some of that fight or flight that might otherwise convince her to incinerate the occupants of the room. Swallowing dryly, she presses her back up against the counter, then turns around and finally makes out the man standing there with a gun to her daughter.

"Adam." It's hissed out in the way someone might spit a curse after stubbing their toe, lacking the necessary vitriol for the situation thanks to the emotional manipulation of Huruma. "It— it's okay baby, everything's gonna be alright." She's regretting stopping, regretting the moment she decided to settle down, to think that when you cut ties with the Company, that it means life can be normal again. "Let her go." It's not a demand, "please." not in this mindset, it's a plea for her daughter's life. "Let her go, she doesn't have anything to do with— " her neck tenses, shoulders hunching forward, "with this."

Paula's dark eyes flit from side to side from Adam to Ash to her daughter and them finally Adam. "You— you killed Harry didn't you?" For once, the accusation of murder rolls off Adam like rainwater off of an umbrella, last he recalls he hasn't killed anyone named Harry. But positioning about revenge is forsaken, especially when her little girl's life is — presumably — on the line. "She's not like us, Adam. Just— just let her go."

The man forgotten in all of this winds up being Sam, somehow in her own state of induced calm the man's sly disappearance does little to jostle her away from the pressing focus of her daughter's life in a lunatic's hands. But in the back of Samuel Book's mind, there's another name, another voice — Elijah Buchmann. The situation might not be quite the same, but there's a certain resonance here; someone who was trying to hide away from the life that was given to them, and their past coming back with violent reminiscence. In a way, when his eyes scan over the bookstore, there's only subtle differences between Anna and Hillary being here, and Paula with her daughter.

It seems Adam shares one mindset of the Company that Samuel can distinctly categorize in his mind; there's no room for loose ends.

Adam considers Paula quietly and smiles. It's not the smile that he gave Kaito, Paula was never quite that intregal. But she was responsible and says, "I suppose.." he says, "That you're right." his head tilts to the side, "She had nothing to do with this. She had nothing to do keeping me locked up for thirty years, yeah?" he pauses, "Nothing to do with taking me away from my wife, yeah? Nothing to do with helping the Company become the abomination it is, yeah?" he pauses for a few moments, "I'm not here because you were part of the Company, Paula." he says, "I'm here because you helped lock me up and throw away the key. You /turned/ on me, Paula." his eyes narrow, "And I've never taken well to treachery." to get his point across, he pushes the gun further into the girl's chin.

When Paula initially backs into Huruma, it is one of those bristling bumps that not only leaves a feeling of having skipped a beat, but also the feel of someone much bigger than you intent on something that you do not want to give them. The feel of wrongness- something too amiss. Like bumping into the man about to rob you, or turning the corner and finding yourself nose-to-nose with a dog attached to a broken chain.

She allows Adam his spotlight, for now. The soft sound of an intake of breath through the nose can be heard; Huruma's influence does not wane, but she takes in Paula's additionally reeling emotions like a perfume.

Ash stands where he's at, his eyes glancing from person to person, but mostly keeping focused upon the woman that Adam is here to kill. He reaches into one of the pockets on his woolen coat, slipping out a simple .45 and waiting, not doing anything without the bosses go ahead. He smiles, a feral, cold smile that speaks of promised pain and agony if he were to get a hold of Paula.

"Mom…? You /know/ these people?" The girl asks, shock and disbelief in her expression and even a look of momentary betrayal that accuses Paula of withholding information. It all clouds over though as tears well up in those eyes and she begins to sob quietly. "Please, let us go, okay? My mom and I are good /people/." she says, trying in vain to convince the strangers to just go away. "Mom… I love you mom…" she whimpers and as the gun is shoved up into her chin further she gives a panicked little cry. "Oh God, don't hurt us!" - And the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress…er, Actor goes to…?

Sam snaps up his book and opens his satchel, sliding the book down the back. As he does this, the left side of his jacket opens and strips of silk come loose from the interior of his suit, carefully lifting a SIG Sauer P226 out from a shoulder holster down to his free hand. The sounds of the 'girl' pleading for her life and that of her mother leave him shaken, though rather than let it show, he forces his expression to retain a neutral blankness. To Paula he says, "Tell her to be quiet. Crying won't help. You should know that."

"I'm— I'm not— " With the Company, Paula might have been trying to say, but it only takes her long enough to splutter out those aborted words to realize that Adam Monroe doesn't care. Swallowing back the fear that boils in her stomach, she looks anxiously over her shoulder to Huruma, then back towards Adam. "You— You tried to kill us all," she practically spits the words out. "You— Victoria told me what you wanted to do! Do they know?" She tenses up, suddenly biting off her words as she sees just how hard that gun is pressed against her jaw, and hears the pleading words of her daughter.

"Christ, Adam, what— what do you want?" Her jaw trembles, hands shaking. "Just— just let her go for God's sake Adam, she— she doesn't need to— " Huruma can feel the swell of emotions rising back up in Paula again, it's like putting a bare hand over a hole in a dam, the pressure is immense, but so is the fear. Managing these complex and instinctual emotions of parental urgency takes much of the woman's focus, making sure that one does not become dominant over the other — this night doesn't have to end in fireworks.

"It's okay sweetie it— it'll be alright." There's no way for Paula to sound convincing for Sam's demand, and her accusatory stare up at Adam is tempered by a mother's perrogative to protect her offspring. "P— Please be quiet sweetie…" The pleading look on her face, all she wants is for Adam to let her daughter go. His plan, remarkably, is working perfectly.

"Victoria?" he snorts, "You believed her?" he shakes his head and then considers the daughter. "Well, Paula. You have your own sins to make up for. But you're right, sins of the father and all that." so then he turns to Paula and says, "So I'll make this simple." he removes the gun from the girl's chin and points it towards Paula, "You or her, Paula? You took a life from me." although he has plenty to give. "So, you owe me one. Who's will it be?"

Strange enough, Huruma does not attempt to keep a lid on the maternal emotions that are welling up. She does make a careful move to at least keep them barebones, though for the most part the taller woman's concentration is on keeping Paula reasonably calm- perhaps she will make this easy and choose herself.

"Don't make us wait…" Huruma's voice drips down at her back, the smooth sound lingering softly in Paula's ears.

Ash doesn't move from wher e he's at, he's not recieved an order to do so, so he just sits there, standing rather, bouncing slowly from foot to foot, dancing a bit, his eyes on Paula utterly now with everyone there, standiing around and well… looking intimidating? Rawr! Grrrr, I are scary….

The girl tries to remain quiet, unable to help the occasional whimper or sob, trying to do what her mother has told her. Those eyes plead with her mother for so many things. Help most of all though. When the gun is taken from under her chin, she gives a gasp and tries to run forward again though she is still no doubt held fast. "Mom! No!" she cries out, now seeming desperate to reach the woman. - It's been too long. How long does it take to get coffee and a sandwich? To those outside the store, the lights inside begin to go out one by one and the sign on the door is turned from open to close, the door locked and unable to open. Even keys sticking and not being able to unlock the shop.

Sam gives Adam a look. Like he's trying to find the same thing Paula's probably looking for. Finally he looks back to the old woman, holds up his pistol and pulls back on the slide repeatedly, ejecting a number of rounds from the side. When there's a small pile of unspent ammo at his feet Sam leans forward and sets the pistol down on the counter. "I know that you know that there is only one choice here. This isn't binary." He then slides the pistol down toward her.

"I said let her go," Paula hisses out as her teeth clench together, eyes wrenched shut just after catching sight of Ash's .45 gripped in one hand. She swallows, painfully, and opens her eyes only to look up at what she can only believe is her daughter, then down to the gun offered by Samuel, fear immediately becoming stronger than anything in her mind until the paradigm changes. "Just let her— "


The sound is almost profane as the front door to the bookstore opens and a blue umbrella folds shut. "Hey mom I forgot my— " The young girl's breath catches in her throat as she sees first several people crowding the store, then a man with a gun holding it to her own chin. There's a look of confused disbelief flashing across her face, eyes wide and mouth hanging open as the umbrella falls out of her hands and clatters to the floor.

It only takes a moment for Paula to realize what's going on. "Sophie run!" Her voice rings out across the shop as Huruma feels those pangs of maternal instrict tug tightly at the forefront of her mind and the rage building up inside of her — while managed — simmering beneath her surface. But emotions alone do not entirely control the powers of a seasoned agent of the Company, and while Huruma has done an admirable job of keeping the knee-jerk reaction of Paula's ability under control so far, this is the breaking point.

Flames erupt over Paula's body in a flash of rippling heat that drives Huruma back away from the sudden bright fire. Her body glows, skin turning the hot orange color of molten steel, eyes glowing white hot as tongues of flame rise up off of her and blacken the ceiling tiles directly above her. Perhaps it would be less disconcerting if she were screaming in a panic, but Paula is steely in her calm, surging tides of flame burning away the vestigial need for clothes as the glow of orange and blue flames masks her old form.

Sophie's eyes snap wide seeing her mother erupt into flames, and just as quickly as she arrived, the girl seems to wink out of existence, turning into hissing tendrils of smoke along with everything she wears that swarms like a vapor past Adam and her illusory double towards the back door. The clinging smoky form of her daughter matches the rolling clouds of black that char the ceiling where heat rises off of her body and causes the tiles to catch alight. The sudden heat, smoke and flames causes the sprinkler system to kick on and the fire alarm to begin ringing loudly.

The gun Samuel had only moments ago offered her in kind decision is awash in the orange glow of crackling fire as Paula curls her fingers into fists, water from the sprinklers raining down from above, wetting books and causing popping, sizzling hisses to erupt over her living conflagration. She swings out a hand, sending an erupted cone of flame roiling past Samuel and down one of the aisles, blackening books as the fire lunges outwards towards Adam and the illusion he threatens.

Adam sucks in some air between his teeth, "Three more minutes." and shakes his head. He lets 'the girl' go as he looks at the smoke floating past him and then the fireball moving towards him. "I wondered if your body was still vulnerable." and just starts walking towards Paula, shooting towards the fiery form before his body is enveloped in fire. His body is washed and it is painful, but Adam has experienced many pains before. For the others, it must be quite a sight, entire portions of his body burning, then reforming, then burning again. There's no more gunfire, the gun is melted away. Also, he has no clothes anymore, but all the same, he keeps making his way towards Paula.

Huruma knows enough to stay away from heat and flame, reeling back as Paula first warms up and stepping back into the doorframe while watching the blaze that was once a woman- in the shape of one- and then the wisp that used to be her daughter. She stays as eerily calm as Adam does, even while flame licks at his skin and muscle. The sprinkler alarm goes off, drenching everything with a layer of mist, and in some cases, steam. Huruma's eyes remain on Paula, and after a moment of watching the mesmerizing fire, there comes a new wash of emotion. The calm that had been put there slips away.

It is replaced in tune and en masse with a downpour of what makes up sadness- despair, hopelessness, depression, with just the most skeletal hints of dread. But for all the world, Huruma only looks like she is standing there in the median.

Ash moves after the smoke, heading out through the bookstore and following that trail of smoke that is the woman's daughter, his movements quick as he sprints through the shelves. He leaves Adam to do his thing, he's seen the man in action and knows this bitch can't kill him, at lest in his mind. He stalks that smoke, his eyes trying to pick it out amongst the water spilling from the sprinklers.

Sam seems to have the same idea as Ash. It's clear that Paula's fire is far too intense for his backup plan, so he abandons it, instead grabbing ahold of his satchel and moving off into the smoke. Two strips of silk peel away from his shoulders to slide up and around his mouth, offering some protection against inhalation, as he looks for the woman's daughter.

The false-daughter looks back towards the door as the bell is heard and flinches. "Oh shit…" The illusion promptly disappears from view, Grim nowhere to be seen though he stands by the door, watching as the scene unfolds, watching to see where he can help and knowing that he is already cut off from helping Ash with the pursuit. He turns and goes out the front, making his way around the side of the building at a jog.

Adam's hypothesis proves right as he fearless approaches the erratic woman, gunfire popping off as bursts of golden-white mercurial fluid burst forth from where the ammunition pierces her. No more indestructible than she was moments ago, while the quality of her blood has changed to something that melts its way down through the tile floor in a smoking dollop like liquid steel, the gunfire from Adam sends Paula crumpling with a fire-crackling scream to the ground.

Laying in the puddle of sprinkler water, Paula's body sizzles and pops, legs curling up into a fetal position as molten hot blood pulses out of an abdominal wound that her fingers cradle. Hearing the footsteps from Adam's approach, her eyes grow wide and she offers up a fearful hand alight with blue and white fire as the crushing despair wrought from Huruma's psychic onslaught takes hold of her mind.

The fire rises up off of her hand in an arcing blast of flame that scalds and blisters away the flesh from Adam's chest, a horrible stench of burning flesh filling the room as fat bubbles and melts away, muscle blackens and pops and bone darkens and becomes brittle. But even as that intense heat and flame seems to boil away everything Adam is, the moment the gout of fire stops, his flesh is sewing itself back, bone taking on a wetter color as muscle slides over it and fat cells blossom back before skin slithers over.

Despair, hopelessness, depression— it's what Huruma was aiming for, and exactly what she gets as an overwrought and choked noise that gurgles at the back of her throat, some of that orange-white glowing fluid dribbling down a burning lip.

With Adam handling Gramble, Samuel can see Ash dart off through the sprinklers, booted feet squeaking across the tile floor as he makes his way after the wisping trail of smoke. Sam's able to follow them with just a slight shift of his weight to view inside of the storage room, watching as the smoke futily tries to push open the back door, then coalesces into the form of a young girl unaware of Ash being hot on her heels. Right when she pushes the release bar for the back door open, she catches sight of his silhouette dark against the door's paint — but by then it's too late.

Outside on the street, Grim's hurried pace carries him through the pouring rain down the narrow alley between the buildings, and outside he has benefit to hear the sound of sirens in the distance, sirens likely responding to the fire alarm chiming loudly inside of the bookstore. Halfway down the alley, he can hear the back door push open and hear the sirens behind him.

Adam doesn't suffer his pain without reaction. But he's had years of this, decades, centuries. And it's as he always says, pain is temporary. It's not that he doesn't feel pain, it's that he's become somewhat used to handling it. Paula's last ditch effort to burn him just brings a grimace from him. And now he stands on top of her, naked and covered in soot from the fire, but other than that, no worse for the wear. He kneels down next to Paula and whispers gently in her ear, "All the old knives that have rusted in my back, I drive into yours." and with that, he closes her eyes and applies pressure to her mouth and nose. Either she dies of blood loss or she dies of suffocation. Either way, she dies.

Huruma practically sinks into the dark of the wall, slipping out of the empty frame and into the bookstore proper yet again. Men breeze past her in various stages of pursuit, yet she remains looming, stock still against the background, water dripping down over her features and eyes shaking into place as Adam goes to Paula.

The emotions that Huruma has since planted begin to fade, leaving the targeted woman to Adam's machinations and her own wallowing feelings.

Ash has a single spark of regret ping through him at the unnecessary death of Paula's daughter. Well, unnecessary until she saw them, saw thier faces. At that point, she cannot be allowed to live. Ash pounds through the book store after her, his boots sliding through the water, several times threatening to slip him up, but he manages to keep his balance with quick adjustments, a show of his physical power that keeps him going. He moves into the backroom, watching as the smoke tries to open the door, then coalesce into the shape of the daughter again. Ash whispers a single word as the knife that was in his pocket is pulled free in his right hand, handle pointing down from his hand.

Not looking back since he already knows what will be arriving shortly, Grim comes around to stand by the back door of the establishment, waiting to cover the group's escape as best he is able to because surely these is no walking out the front door at this point.

"Goodbye." Is uttered to the girl, right before the point of that combat knife drives through her temple, shattering bone as it drives into the girl's brain with the savage thrust from the incredibly strong, and fast man. He reaches an arm around her waist to catch her body before it can tumble to the floor. The knife is pulled free and wiped off on her clothing before it's returned to it's sheath in his pocket. He scoops her up, tossing her body over his shoulder like nothing more than a sack of potatoes. He moves out into the main room, passing Sam on the way, offering the man a nod before he moves over to where Paula's crumpled form rests.

The body of her daughter is tossed down at her feet, dumped like yesterdays garbage, the empty look in her eyes, and the blood leaking out of her skull simple and clear evidence of the girl's death. Ash looks over to Adam watching the man's wounds stitch back together with a grunt. "Damned useful ability." He shrugs a little bit and then turns, heading for the back door again, listening to the Boss speak to the woman on the floor as he moves along, heading right back the way he just came. He looks down at his sleeve and sighs in irritation as he notices some blood on his clothing. "Shit is so hard to get out." he mutters as he pushes the back door open and makes his way towards the van.

Back arching and fingers clawing at Adam's hands, Paula kicks and scrambles like a trapped animal on the floor, pulses of flame leaping out and off of her body in wild eruptions that jet outwards towards the ceiling and over to the now waterlogged books. Her heels scape and kick against the floor, and in some way there's a macabre art to their two forms entangled together, one soaked in flames and the other bathed in ash. Her screams, muffled behind ever burning palms that continually boil away flesh and reconstitute come with the sizzling drizzle of tears welling up in her eyes.

It's Ash's exit that ultimately changes Paula's reactions, the way he so casually carries Paula's daughter's body out and drops it like a sack of dead weight. There, everything lost and so much despair hammering down from Huruma that crushes her will to fight back, crushes her spirit to nothing. The fighting stops, the kicking and screaming stops, there's just Huruma's overwhelming emotional manipulation of despair. His eyes grow wide, teeth showing white and fingers curl around the woman's mouth until the fire dies down, until the flames stop licking and the fire of vengeance burning in his heart quells to a coal of something more smouldering — much like the now lifeless body of Paula Gramble laying covered in soot and ash.

With his breathing slowing, with the pain of fire no longer present and only the ever-ready hiss of his own anger throbbing at the back of his head, Adam is left to be able to see Ash's departure from the building, hear the dull report of Samuel's words on his ears as the other man turns sharply to head out. Grim is nowhere in sight, and one girl's death seems to have stirred up dissent within the ranks.

But it's not just for those reasons that, despite the necessary deed being done, despite one more founder laying dead on the floor of the building, there is one constant that Adam Monroe and the Company still have in common, the unifying thread that still makes one like the other.

There's no room for loose ends.

Adam doesn't stop suffocating after Paula is dead. He has thirty years of frustration to work out, he barely hears what goes on around him, but eventually he stands, breathing heavily, which is odd because he rarely seems winded. And that's when the dull thunk of the body of Sophie hits the floor. He looks up at the last sniping comments of Sam and then Ash. There is a frown on his face, an odd look like something isn't quite /right/. He doesn't admonish Ash, he nods to him, because to a certain extent, he did the right thing.

But Adam has gone through some changes. He's thought a lot about the bonds of family, of /children/. He thinks of his own children or grand children, or great grandchildren and so on and how he lost contact with them. He thinks of Kaylee, who stands in best as a child as he can have now and says softly, "Mr. Book, before you leave, I need you to tell Michael to get the medical kit.." he pauses, "And pants. I need pants." Sam hesitates for a moment and nods relunctantly, leaving the store and returning a moment later with Michael who carries a pair of slacks and, well, what looks more or less like a first aid kit. He places it on the counter.

Adam opens the kit slowly and says, "It was neither messy, nor stupid, Mr. Book." he doesn't comment on whether it was necessary. He looks to Ash as he takes out a needle and says to him, "You did what you had to do, but I don't want to hear an argument from either of you about this." and with that, sticks the needle in his arm and begins to withdraw his blood. He continues to look at Ash, "I wouldn't have done it, but I don't blame you for it, do you understand?"

And with that, he turns to Sam as he walks closer to Sophie. By all rights, she should be dead, or if she isn't, then only the basest function of her body may be keeping her shell alive, "But Mr. Book, we are killers. We are monsters. We do not reap joy for our work, though there might be satisfaction." he kneels down next to Sophie and unceremoniously jams the needle in her arm, pushing the plunger down and injecting her with his blood. "We don't /seek/ collateral damage. I tried to keep the girl out of this. But collateral damage does and will happen." after he's done, he stands and walks away from the body, moving to get into the pants as Michael puts the needle away and closes the box. He continues to look at Sam, "You need to decide if you have the stomach for this, Mr. Book. Because revenge always comes at a price, even to your own soul. Your friend Bob? I'm going to kill his daughter. Though, she has her own sins to pay for with her Company work. And there will be innocent people who end up in the wrong place at the wrong time." it's during this time Sophie begins to jerk about as if seizing. And it's in that seizing, that her wounds begin to close. "This work, Mr. Book, makes you a monster." he leans in, "/Revenge/ makes you a monster, even if your cause is righteous." there are groans now coming from Sophie and Adam says, "We get in our good deeds where we can, few and far between they may be. We do what we can to look ourselves in the mirror." Sophie actually sits up, but she's groggy, as if terribly drugged, "Whe-…who am I?"

It's at this point, Adam says to Ash, "Well, the brain healed, but apparently without memories. Can't rewrite those." he's quiet before he nods to Sam, "If you want out, at least take the girl somewhere. Leave her with some money if you want." At which point, he says to Ash and Grim, who he can barely see in the back, "Torch the place. Paula Gramble or…whatever her new name was, died in a horrible accident." and with that, he and Michael collect the case, presumably followed by Huruma, as he passes Sam, "We /choose/ to be monsters, Mr. Book. But we don't always choose evil."

And with that, the Monster leaves the bookstore.

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