In The Company Of Wolves, Part II


ash_icon.gif curtis_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

dearing_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Scene Title In The Company Of Wolves, Part II
Synopsis A lifetime of psychic torment comes to an end.
Date January 30, 2020

Detroit, Michigan

January 30th

Ash's mind is fractured. Broken in a way that's new even to him. The rents in his psyche letting memories bleed over from personality to personality. Ash bleeding into Curtis and Curtis bleeding into Ash. A confused and muddled soup that leaves him unsure from one moment to the next who he even is, where he's at or what he's doing. But through it all like a sonar pulse through the murky water is a guiding beacon. The mission. The mission is why he's here. It's what he's doing. Curtis doesn't know why. Ash does but his control and the walls are crumbling, a suffocating feeling within the confines of his own mind. Like a drowning man that breaches the surface and can only get half a gasp of air before he's plunged back below. Enough air to live, but not enough to ease the ache in his lungs or let him get his bearings. There's a slow rumble in the background of it all, a storm approaching? No. The elevator. A large freight elevator built for things much heavier than him.

Retrieve the guidance system. Destroy any means of reproducing it. Destroy the guidance system. Destroy any means of reproducing it. The mission rings through his head like the peals of a bell. They resonate through his whole being, holding his fractured psyche together just a little longer. Giving him purpose and reason. Retrieve the guidance system. Destroy any means of reproducing it. And then use the guidance system as leverage to get help. Help before both Curtis and Ash are gone. They finally have their freedom. They are not ready to give it up again.

His hands move automatically, running over his equipment. Checking the knife in its sheath, then running over both hand guns in the holsters he's wearing, the spare clips, then the shotgun and the extra rounds for it as well. A deep breath, trying to focus, trying to center. One more gasp of air before he vanishes beneath the waves again. The elevator comes to a smooth stop and cold eyes flicker upwards from the floor to the faces of the surprised guards as they turn and see the new arrival. They never stood a chance.

One Hour and Sixteen Minutes Later

Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
4:30 am

A freezing cold rain falls from pitch black skies. This far outside of the city, only intermittent street lights illuminate the gloom, and much of their light is swallowed by the haze of falling rain. Standing in the middle of the partly-flooded parking lot, a lone silhouette soaked head-to-toe stands against the torrential downpour. Blood streaks down his clothes, swirls in eddies and currents at his feet, commingling with the freezing rain.

It isn’t clear whether the bearded man is Ashley Williams or Curtis Autumn. The knife in his hand doesn’t hold the answer, for all that the blood on it tells a story of its own. His grip on it is slacked, loose enough that a delicate touch could take it away from him, were anyone able to get close enough. Nearby, the three-story aerospace engineering building is completely set ablaze. Whirling tendrils of fire pour out of the windows, explosions sound off deeper inside the structure and embers dance in the air, sizzling out when they hit a droplet of rain.

Across the parking lot, James Dearing and Huruma Dunsimi stand in languid silence at the scene before them. Dearing turns his attention to the burning building, then to the man that walked out of it. Huruma can feel the confliction of uncertainty and determination churning inside of Dearing, but also the hesitation. He looks over to Huruma, brows furrowed and freezing rain running down his face, as if wondering how best to approach a wild animal.

From the tempest inside of the man they have here to find, the analogy is not an inappropriate one.

"You're fidgeting." A whisper.

Dearing's look to her gets him a view of her profile first, then the slow turn of her head. Huruma breathes out through her nose, slowly looking back to the glow of the fire that coats both of them through the rain. Her hood is up, fitted coat slick, water shining her boots. Considerations of Dearing's degree of readiness end, and her labor of study moves more clearly onto the brawny silhouette they've come to find. Time to play consciousness roulette; Curtis, or Ash?

Huruma assumes that Dearing will either follow or keep in the wings when she glides forward to cross the lot. Her steps are muted as it is, and the crackle and thunder of fire replacing any notion of stormclouds, masking the approach of the empath.

Water washes blood from Ash's hair down over his face, going from red to pink as the blood runs thin, streaking down his face. His head lifts, eyes blank, seeing Huruma and Dearing but not truly seeing. They're just two more obstacles between him and his objective. Fingers curl in slowly around the handle of the knife, the leather grip on it creaking softly under the mounting pressure of his fingers. Some pink still leaks from his clothes as the rain washes him clean of the blood, or mostly clean. The white undershirt will probably never be quite white again. His eyes track from Dearing to Huruma as his feet start to move.

It's a slow dragging step at first before it grows more confident as whoever is in control comes to a greater alertness. There's a predatory look in his eyes that doesn't just border on feral, it is feral. He's operating on nearly pure instinct. But the man is still in there. One of them, both of them, or at least some semblance of one of them. "Move." He calls out in a booming tone meant to be heard above the rain and the explosions behind him. The building burns hot, and a series of secondary explosions goes off within the structure, causing an alarming chunk of it to drop down into the subterranean levels below.

Ash isn't waiting for Huruma and Dearing to move though, he's advancing steadily, though not at a run, his paces are a measured stalk, ready to spring towards either of them should they move to stop him, or fail to get out of his way. "Neither of you need to get hurt." He calls out once more, an almost pleading tone to his voice. There's a metal case in his other hand, sturdy, the kind of thing you store something very important in. Use the prototype to get help. Use the prototype to get help. He retrieved it, and destroyed further means of production. Now he needs to get help. It still rings through his head, his guiding force even if he's not consciously aware of where he's going.

One Hour and Thirteen Minutes Earlier

Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
3:34 am

Cage doors slide open on the elevator to the dimly lit interior of the production facility, three floors below street level. Catwalks wind up above, three stories of them, leaving the building open like a massive hangar. Rows of automated assembly machines create blind spots and cover, huge mechanical arms hang suspended on runners, cabling and cords spooled up to sockets in the ceiling where power conduits run. Some lights are on, just enough to illuminate the corners of the cavernous space in a bloom of yellow light.

But Ash isn’t alone. Two surprised security guards stand directly at the mouth of the elevator, staring into the dark within, momentarily frozen in shock. A three-walled open-concept desk space is set just past them, right within Ash’s line of sight. The office’ open side reveals a lone security guard sitting on a wheeled chair, hunched over his desk listening to his headphones, head bobbing up and down to an unheard beat. There’s a wrapped from a sandwich spread out across his desk, a hand radio within arm’s reach. His music is loud enough that he didn’t hear the elevator. He has no idea what’s come down into the production floor.

The two closest guards don’t even get a chance to scream.

Two bodies are set down inside the freight elevator, tucked out of sight so that a casual observer might not notice them. Anyone coming close will still spot the bodies, but it’s the best he can do under the circumstances. Both were quick clean kills. Almost silent and without blood getting everywhere. He steps back out of the elevator, closing the cage door behind him, though he slips one of the guard’s discarded radios in between the cage doors so they can’t shut fully, stopping the elevator from being recalled to the top. Can’t have his ride leaving without him.

He turns to observe his surroundings again, eyes moving over the machinery as his steps carry him quietly towards the counter and the doomed guard therein. His eyes flicker up and around looking for other guards within eyesight before his fist lashes out in a snap punch to the back of the poor guard’s head, enough to make him black out, and probably enough to fracture his skull, though that point becomes moot only half a second later when a quick twist of Ash’s hands ends the man’s life with a snap of bone and cartilage. Ash leans him forwards, resting his head on the desk. Should someone come by and see him ‘sleeping’ it’ll be a lot less suspicious than him not being there at all. “Sorry.” A soft whisper, possibly Ash, but more likely Curtis as the two bleed together one moment, then separate again the next, the fractured mindscape at least united in purpose. Get the prototype, destroy means of production, use the prototype to get help.

His hands pat the guard down, looking for security cards and keys like he’d already done to the first two guards. Hard to know what he’ll need and when. And then he’s off and moving, slipping towards the production machinery, staying in the shadows as much as possible, using the equipment for cover as he makes his way towards what should be the holding area for the explosive elements for the missiles.


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
4:36 am

“You know we can’t do that, big guy.” Dearing says with one hand gingerly held out toward Ash — or is it Curtis? — the way one might try to show an unfamiliar dog they don’t have any ill-intent. “We just wanna’ talk, ‘cause I don’t know if you know, but there’s a whole building on fire behind you and…” Dearing looks over his shoulder to Huruma, pleadingly. This isn’t his forte.

She can hear him. Past wind and rain and the crumbling fire that lights her face. Dearing's heart is in the right place. Huruma can smell the single-mindedness on the man moving towards them, and her snaking touch dives just deep enough to figure out who is hogging the pilot seat. It becomes less distinct, sometimes. The drive is in both of them. The drive to go onward. Whatever it takes.

Huruma's hand alights on Dearing's arm, a subtle nudge for him to put his hand back.

"He's on a mission. Don't bother." Her eyes remain on Curtis, pale and algow under flame. As he nears she slips lazily out of his path, elbowing James along with her. It's not giving up. Once Curtis passes her by, she pivots slightly and strolls casually after him. Her words are better heard the further the fire gets, of course. She speaks with a fresh little purr, lips twitching in a smirk. "Sooo… just what is the prize for all of this?"

Ash is muttering the entire time he's moving, as he draws closer to Huruma and Dearing the things he's saying become clearer though the rain tries it's best to drown out the noise. "-ill rise up. Every prophet in his house. -ill rise up. Every prophet in his house. Move Spalding. I don't want to have to kill you again. Curtis didn't like it last time he won't like it again." There's a crack in his voice as he says it, his voice shifting between a New York accented tone and the crisp clean speech of Curtis. His head twists to the side, muscles in his neck straining.

"RuuuUUUN!" Is strained out through clenched teeth. "Dearing. Huruma. Run. He WILL kill you if you try to stop him. I can't… it's… I tried to warn people. I tried to tell everyone how broken I was." There's regret in Curtis's eyes but then quick as that it's gone, back to the half dazed and all crazed look of Ash. "Blew it up. Had to. Adam wanted it. Virus bomb." Ash glances to the case in his hand, his stride carrying him onwards his shoulders hunched and ready, very much the dog with it's hackles up. No, not a dog. A wolf. But then Huruma is getting them out of the way. Ash's head dips to her as he passes. A nod. But it's crisp, clean. Not Ash. Curtis, at least in that moment. There's a thanks in it. "Freedom." The accent is all Ash though, that born and raised New York accent. He's not unaware of Huruma and Dearing following behind him, he's alert, but there is a dogged determination to his stride and his objective. The van.

"Need to pick up… pick up… the dog… name…" Ash’s head shakes as if doing so will knock answers loose for him. "Freedom. Peace. Every Prophet in his house. Every prophet in his house. GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Ash screams it into the night even as he walks swiftly forwards, his feet never stopping, but he throws his head back when he screams, pent up fury, frustration and no small amount of anguish bellowed into the night air. "Get the prototype. Stop the means of production. Use the prototype to get help. Get the prototype. Stop the means of production. Use the prototype to get help.”

"If you vilify us, we will become your villains. If you demonize us, we will become your demons. If you martyr us, we will rise up. Every prophet in his house."

“Aw— fuck,” Dearing sputters, following along behind Huruma at Curtis’ back, one hand hovering at the Banshee clipped to his belt. “He’s off his fucking chair, it’s scrambled eggs up there! There isn’t any getting through to him.” Dearing is the least optimistic, but Huruma can still feel the battle of wills, the confusion and the pain inside of Curtis-come-Ash’s mind.

Dearing briefly looks back at the burning factory. “How the fuck did that happen?” He whispers to himself.


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
3:34 am


A light turns green on a magnetic lock, opening a barred partition from the entrance floor of the factory to the manufacturing floor. Curtis tracks blood across the concrete as he walks, moving between assembly line rows with partially completed turbine engines. There’s a throbbing ache at the back of Ash’s skull, worse now than it was a couple hours ago. He can feel it moving behind his eyes, a radiating pain that

She’s at peace when it happens, when collagen breaks down and tendons disconnect like plucked strings. When the light fades from her eyes and her bones turn to spongy gel. Curtis is forced to watch Claire dissolve in his arms, unable to

feels like it’s going to crack his head open at any moment. The bottle of aspirin in a pouch usually reserved for ammunition at his chest is empty now, long since drained on the way here. Though he doesn’t remember taking any of them. When his vision stops being blurry he

Michael's head turns as Ash rushes towards him, the man pivoting on his foot to take the charge, a hand going out in a straight punch to Ash's floating ribs. The punch lands, hard, causing Ash to lurch to the side, but advantage is taken of the position, and the tip of the knife is driven full force through the elbow joint of Michael's armor, blood immediately welling up around

stumbles forward, one hand at his forehead.

Curtis doesn't recognize the mess of a person laying on the floor in front of him, blood pooling beneath them, then running off into the grooves in the floor, and the cracks between the concrete slabs. Curtis doesn't remember killing the person, but they died bad, and the blood dripping down his fingers and from Ash's knife tells him who did the killing.

The ball lands squarely in his hands as Curtis spins around, new sneakers skidding on the thick grass as he pivots to throw the football back towards his grandfather. "Good throw!" He calls out in a voice not yet deepend by puberty, the shoes on his feet lighting up with strobing red lights as his feet impact on the ground with him racing back towards the man he's named after. The football sails again and Curtis dives to catch it


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
4:37 am

"They're all gone. They're all gone!" Ash screams into the night his voice breaking on the last word, cracking and coming apart in mirror of his unraveling mind. All the while he trudges forwards, a man with a singular goal. Dearing's assessment isn't far off. "Everyone is gone." This time it's a hoarse cry from a broken man but it doesn't slow or stop his steps, each foot leaving behind clear tracks in the mud. "The pain never stops. Don't ever let them tell you otherwise." Was that to Dearing and Huruma? Was it to someone they can't even see? Maybe even from Ash to Curtis or vice versa. He starts to laugh as he walks though, lifting a hand to sketch what is actually a picture perfect salute even if he's not standing at attention. "Do your duty son! Join the Marines! You've got a big future ahead of you!" There's a bark of sound that could be laughter though the noise is quickly lost amidst a peal of thunder.

Ash looks up at the concrete ceiling above him, tossing the ball he's made out of his sheet up into the air, hand snatching it before it drops onto his chest, then back up into the air again, then catches it once more. There's a long sigh from the new prisoner. His head tilts to look down at the jumpsuit he's wearing, and the black MOAB stamp on the breast of the uniform. "Orange level. I should not have assaulted that guard." He looks longingly into the corner where a closed circuit TV sat in his last cell. The ball goes up, and then gets snatched out of the air again.


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
3:36 am

Ash lowers the body of one of the security personnel, this one killed quick and silent, their life slicking the concrete underfoot quickly. He's woven a quick and silent trail of death through the facility, bodies lowered out of sight before he moves on to the next soon to be corpse. Better they die this way than in the explosion, or in the subsequent inferno. This is a mercy, or so Curtis tells himself as he extinguishes yet another soul. "They all have to die. Any of them could have knowledge of the guidance system." There's a quick breath in before he moves further into the maze of the production floor.

The map for the facility is covered in Scotch tape, affixed to his sleeve. Blood wipes away easily from the glossy surface. Leaves fingerprints behind. But he has a map, a route, he isn’t sure if he drew it or Espenosa did. But he can follow it, he can always follow instructions…

…it’s all he’s ever done.


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
4:37 am

Huruma,” Dearing says in a quieter voice, his pace slowing. Empathy isn’t his strong suit, but even he’s starting to feel this pain.

Huruma doesn't run, no matter how much Curtis tries to say it through clenched teeth. She knows him. She knows Ash. Her steps do not falter, save a short pause for when Dearing looks to her with a very real apprehension in his eyes. Her own glance up to the firelight of the inferno, then back, wordlessly assuring.

Stop the means of production. Get help. Prototype. The insistent words are something Dearing certainly doesn't understand- - She does, to a degree. This is where Huruma leaves Dearing in her wake, the cloak of her empathic field curling its way over the bloodied Hound. Unfelt, like smoke. Turning heavy and thick as it touches the pain and despair.

"Ash." Huruma's voice is close enough to be heard above the rain. "Curtis." Her whispers reach out to both of them at the same time her influence does; plucking at the strings of his hopelessness, pulling up a well of sorrow to smear over Curtis' despair. Shades of the same thing, but different. A yearning darkness- - a sadness seeking shelter, rather than the violence of frustrated powerlessness.

The empath is a lighthouse against the storm, when it comes to it.

"It doesn't. It won't." Huruma strides ahead though remains to the side,, turning to fix blue eyes with paler ones, shimmering in the light. "What happens when the house is burnt and every prophet gone? What will you have then? Why listen to that directive? We are here. Those you have lost are here. I see you."

"They don't. You are simply meat to them." Only two people looking out for him in this very place and time- - and it isn't that command in his head.

Dearing’s distance behind Huruma comes with a pointed choice. His hand comes off of his Banshee. He’d seen Curtis in action enough times to know that the sonic weapon wouldn’t slow him down. Instead, he reaches down and gently unsnaps the flap on his thigh holster, holding his sidearm. Dearing is mindful not to draw it, and uses the distance and the rain and Huruma’s silhouette to occlude his movements as best as he can.

If push comes to shove, Dearing will do what has to be done.

Curtis is like a raw open wound for the Empath. Huruma would be able to feel the sheer level of pain and anguish the man is in. There are no attempts right now to guard his feelings or keep himself under control. Everything that has happened to the man is racing through his mind. Everything that has happened to him, and to Ash. Whether the memories are real or fake the pain is real. Trauma and paranoia pulse from him like a beacon in the night. He's enraged, and he's terrified. And he is not taking their inaction as him being safe. He is keeping a very close eye on where they're at, how fast they're walking. Despite all the anguish he is alert, that killer instinct also at the forefront of his mind. Curtis's mind and emotions are a hurricane, but at the eye of it is his alertness, and his drive, keeping that hurricane on track. Or well somewhat of a track. Moving forwards at least.

"Maybe it all goes quiet then." Ash responds back to Huruma with a tight, sad smile on his face. "Peace. Peace sounds nice doesn't it? A little quiet. The world standing still even if just for a moment." His feet walk on, drawing ever closer to his goal, to where the van is parked. To safety. Or at least what he perceives as safety. As he walks though, Huruma's presence starts to… soothe him. Like a soothing balm against a terrible burn. Does it fix it? No. But it makes it feel a little better, and even just that little bit can be a lot. Enough to give the battered soldier a moment to gather his fractured wind swept thoughts.

"It's Adam, Huruma. He's behind… I think everything that's going on. I was told he has a virus, and I was given the mission to retrieve this guidance system for him. It is supposed to be able to get past NORAD's missile defence systems. I think he's trying to kick off a genocide to start another war. He's going to wipe out a large portion of our kind to make it seem like a government attack. I'm not taking this to him. I broke his chains. Or at least… I thought I did. I can't take this to the government. They'll put me away. Going to take it to someone who can actually help. And who understands being played like a puppet. But he has a virus. He'll find some other way to deliver it. You need… to…" His brow furrows as his speech slows to a stop. It was getting halting and stuttered towards the end, but then it stops all together as he loses focus, pain blasting out from him at a particularly harrowing memory. "All gone." He whispers it again, the sound sad, defeated and so very tired. "All gone.”

The salt of exposed nerves is bitter, like coppery blood, or the tang of tonic water at the back of the throat. Huruma stays with him in his tracks, Dearing's presence not forgotten; she can see his readiness, of course, a coil of wire held fast by force of habit. Like everything in intervening years, things change, and Curtis no different. His pain twists at her as well, absorbing the ripple.

"Quiet sounds lovely, bingwa." Her first words are not of Adam, or the mission, the contents, the virus. Curtis and Ash come before it; even though his information is coloured by his experience, she knows the rest. What they'll do about Adam's plan from here is something that they can talk about away from Now. Only when they all reach the vicinity of the van does Huruma move into the other Hound's path.

With her, a cloud of reassurance, a haze of calm, the press of comfort- - from the imprint of firm hands into something vast and soft.

Unseen hands around his core, the contact stripping back his fear and despair. The pain hovers there, just out of his reach, replaced by a cool breeze against sunburn. Huruma lifts a hand to him- - not to take, but to offer. Palm angled open, fingers a loose curl in the periphery of his vision. The lingering nearness of her hand. The planes of Huruma's face are familiar, her voice heavy and safe, like the velveteen of a fur coat.

"Where do you want to take it?"


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
3:44 am

A security guard collapses to the floor, blood pulsing out of a wide gash in his throat. He writhes like a fish out of water on the ground, gasping for air and finding only blood. Ash steps over him, through a deactivated metal detector arch and into a storage room filled with tall metal racks. Completed missile components line the shelves, gleaming chrome under fluorescent lights.

Ash strides past rows of labeled and locked cases to a steel security door with a thumb-print reader. A thumb presses against the sensor, and a light turns green. Ash drops the security guard’s severed hand to the floor with a slap. Inside the large locker, recessed into the wall, is a single black case the size of a cooler. It is labeled KX-11308.

On the map taped to Ash’s forearm, there is a single line of handwritten text:

Experimental adaptive missile guidance system: KX-11308

This is it.

Curtis reaches out to take the case, his hand hesitating just before wrapping around the handle, smearing the collective blood of a dozen security guards over it as his fingers curl to grip and he lifts the case. It's not a heavy thing, but it still feels like the weight of the world in his left hand. He has the case. He has the guidance system. There's a pause from him, his eyes looking at the case before his fingers move to open the case to check and make sure the system is in there. That would be a cruel jest of fate. To go through all this to retrieve it and have it not even be in the case.

"I don't think I can do it Mike. It's… it's too much." Curtis looks up from the beer and burger in front of him, the beer half drank and the burger half eaten, looking into the face of the man who is probably his best friend, and who is definitely his mentor. The face of Michael Spalding. Michael cracks a smile, then shakes his head and laughs to himself.

"Things are… good with Harmony. We've got FRONTLINE coming up. You and me side by side again. I don't… I don't want anything to go wrong you know?"

Ash’ hands move without his understanding, it feels like he’s a spectator in his own body. Or maybe it’s Curtis who feels that way. Gates are opened, doors unlocked, somewhere along the way another man dies and his neck is snapped like a bundle of sticks. Ash is shot somewhere in the interim, point-blank in the ribs, but his AEGIS absorbs most of the blow. The broken ribs are just pain.

He dismantles something, hands working at gaskets and seals. There’s strategic movements, deployment of C4 bricks, remote detonators pressed into soft clay like a knife into someone’s belly.

Curtis's fists hammer against the wall, leaving behind bloody marks on the concrete of his room. Or are they Ash's fists? He's having such a hard time adjusting. The Institute finally retrieved him. Finally pulled him out. But too late. Much much too late. And too late to save his best friend. And all Curtis can think about is Michael's face as he lay there dying on the street at the hands of his friend.

But there was no reasoning with Ash. Curtis's hands beat against the wall, leaving behind bloody smears from split knuckles. Another scream of pain and anger echoes around the cell. Not a prison cell, but a cell nonetheless. And he vents his rage impotently against the concrete wall. All the lives he took. All the damage he did. This is why he didn't want to go under.

"Do your duty son." A bitter laugh from the Marine as he remembers his Grandfather's words. "Well I did my duty. Where are you now to congratulate me on a job well done?" He turns and slumps, sliding down the wall to sit on the cold stone floor, his head hanging forwards nearly between his knees. Rivulets of crimson running down his fingers to drip onto the floor in a soft tap tap tap, staining the concrete.

A zipper slides shut, a duffel bag is lifted over one shoulder. Fuel lines are cut, leaking gasoline onto the warehouse floor. It’s time to go back up. Time to


Detroit, Michigan
January 30th
4:41 am


Ash actually stumbles as Huruma steps in front of him and pushes against his emotions like that. He physically stumbles, though he doesn't relax, his body still wire tight, ready to spring, like a beast in a cage waiting for it's opportunity. But for the first time in what feels like a lifetime it's all pushed back, and his mind is… clear.

Well, relatively clear.

There's still the jumbled mess that is Ash and Curtis all half mixed and half divided, like paint that's been dumped onto the floor and has blended into a new color in some places, and stayed separate in others.

"Cardinal. I mean Ray. Richard." Curtis doesn't seem entirely with it. The absence of all the negative emotion has thrown him off balance. "He's the only one with the resources to help us. And the contacts to put this to use." His left hand shifts, raising the case a little bit. "Dearing. If you use that on us, you better make sure it's a single shot kill." There is an easy threat in his voice, but it's also a warning to someone he considers a comrade. Dearing is strong. Insanely strong. But Ash is fast.

"Now what?" He asks, looking up at Huruma. It's not often Curtis has to look up. But with Hooms he does. His eyes lift to meet hers. "If you attack me I'll fight back. And I don't think the two of you can take me." There's a sad sound in his voice, almost like he wishes he believed otherwise. "You've given me a moment of peace, but my mind is fractured. Probably beyond repair. Richard is probably the only one who has the resources to even try to piece it back together.”

“So where do we go from here?” He asks, looking at Huruma. Actually looking at her. Not through her or past her. His mind is focused, at least for the moment.

Having a quarry stumble, even if tense, is a sign that any good predator can see. Huruma manages to hide it, for now, the hand between the two of them moving to rest light on the divided man's shoulder. Her touch is grounding to the electric in his head, quieting as far as it can. Rage feels uncomfortable, stifling, and the peace the empath offers is cooling.

"You'd be surprised, darling." Huruma's retort lacks sharpness, though her lip twitches in a faint touch of a smile. "Where we go from here depends entirely on you. You and that case." She tips her head towards the aforementioned, "What Richard could do with it I don't know, but given the lack of options left…" Her pale eyes focus on his in return, smooth voice almost a distant sound in itself, masked by the rumble of what's outside of them. "I will not take it from you. If you are intent on placing it in the hands of an ally, however, I will help you."

She doesn't look to Dearing. Or ask. She simply makes the decision.

"Curtis… you are less fractured than you fear." Huruma believes this much. "Repair is relative…" Tongue runs over the edge of her teeth. "I once thought much the same of myself- - I still struggle- - and it will never go away." Ash met her in an era of constructed chaos, and it wasn't the same as the person staring into his eyes now. "Once you are unburdened of your task, perhaps then we might move onto self. Onto what really happens next. We are not your enemy. Do not make one of us."

Dearing is quiet in the rain, a black silhouette at Huruma’s back, watching the exchange with all the tension of a man who isn’t sure how the next five minutes are going to go.

For Ash/Curtis, it feels like the first moment of clarity in a long number of however-long’s. It feels like letting go, or perhaps more like hanging on. By his fingertips, on a rooftop, holding on to the slightest and most tenuous grip on sanity.

When Huruma feels Dearing making a slow advance forward, he has another option than the gun. A gun he holsters at his side, in exchange for a black leather case from one pocket of his tactical vest. Dearing flips it open, slowly, and reveals a pair of small syringes.

“Negation drug,” Dearing says, forsaking the technical name adynomine. “Other one is fentanyl. Enough to knock out a horse.” His jaw sets, eyes angle on Huruma, and he offers it out to Ash/Curtis in the pouring rain.

“We can get you out of here.” Dearing says, “Or it can go the other way.”

Ash and Curtis both calm more moment by moment, clarity returning in more than just a flash, genuine calm, or as close to it as he can get in his current state, descending upon him. His eyes don't close, but there is a distinct weariness to him that Huruma can feel. Past all the pain and anger and every other raging emotion within him, she can feel his sheer exhaustion. He's so incredibly tired.

There's a wary smile from him at Huruma. "I know you didn't miss that stumble. You're a hunter. Like me. But I hope you're right. I really do. Because I don’t think I can live like this any longer." His voice is solemn and serious, and she can feel him relaxing every moment more and more. Until that is, Dearing steps forwards and offers him an ultimatum.

The gun being put away was good. Telling him he needs to choose between negation or being put under has his tension rising again all anew. Ash doesn't look over at the man, no he looks at Huruma. "Your word you won't try anything. You we trust. You we know. Well…" There's a slight tilt of Curtis's head back and forth, one side to the other. "Better than we know most." Curtis’ eyes finally shift to Dearing, then narrow. "But you we don't know, not well. Not as well as we would like." Huruma can feel the deadly calm in Ash's mind at that moment.

"Know this." Curtis’ eyes are locked on Dearing as he speaks. "If you fuck us over on this? We will make it our life's mission to hunt you down and make you wish we had killed you here and now." Huruma can feel the cold determination in him at that promise. He means it. Every word of it. He doesn't trust Dearing. He hasn't seen enough action alongside the man to do so.

Eyes turn back to regard Huruma, Curtis again, sort of. It's not distinctly either of them at all anymore. More one than the other, but a good mix of both. There's a difference. Ash has rage, but also hope. Curtis is just angry, tired and sad. She can feel his emotions shifting from line to line as he speaks. "I need to get my dog." Is what he says instead of anything further in threats, no questions about the how of it all, the logistics, what comes next. He needs to get his dog.

Dearing's approach gets the silent reach of a hand to stay his shoulder, Huruma casually keeping him from moving any further than he already has. Offering more than he already has.

"You have my word. Nothing that you do not want. You will keep your agency." There is no longer a drive in her words with the intent to break through to him; she has him now, a mind cradled in the hammock of her ability. That Curtis and Ash are lessening in the contrast of oil and water… she says nothing to him nor Dearing, though she absolutely keeps it at the back of her mind. Huruma's eyes close for the length of a breath, the sound of it flitting from relief to sympathy and back again.

"Utazurura mto kwa amani…" Huruma's words are said with a note of recital behind them, as if read from paper. She chances the tiniest curve of a smile for his one need. "Man's best friend. We can see to that much." She sees the leap from note to note where the men can't. The sheet music of an exhausted soul.

If one more thing were to help him, it would be unconditional love- - and Huruma knows where to fetch it.

An easy step closer, an extension of dark hand to rest on the soaked plane of Curtis' arm. "But first… we need to go…"

Dearing watches Huruma carefully, brows pinched together, he squints against the falling rain and listens to the distant rumble of thunder in the city beyond. Approaching curtis, Dearing puts one hand cautiously on his arm, syringe in the other hand. He plucks the cap off with his teeth, “for our safety, and yours.” He says with a slow nod, hesitating until he gets the clear from Curtis, then slowly injects one syringe into his arm. The adynomine will take a few minutes to really kick in, and hopefully Huruma can keep him under control until then.

“Easy,” Dearing says like he would to a bull rhinoceros as he pulls the syringe out, tucking the unused syringe in the case and slides it into his tactical vest. He angles a look at Huruma, wryly. “We aren’t taking him to the feds, are we?”

Dearing doesn’t get an answer, nor does he need one. As another peal of thunder rumbles in the distance, he considers what happened here, he considers the man with his mind scrambled like eggs and the life he could have lived if that hadn’t happened. Dearing’s attention turns to the burning aerospace building, then quietly sweeps up the duffel bag in his free hand.

“Let’s go.” Dearing says quietly. He’s going to let Huruma explain this one to Avi. Though this hadn’t ended the way Dearing expected, nor given him the answers about what happened to Curtis that his curiosity demands, he’s sure of one thing.

Whatever his fate will wind up being, Curtis is better off in the hands of the hounds…

…than in the company of wolves.

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