Survival Of The Fittest


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Scene Title Survival of the Fittest
Synopsis A Company agent is given the choice between abandoning her comrades in need or saving her own life and her choice sets into motion an impossible to consider series of events…
Date August 31, 2010

Company Training Center

When evolution selects its agents, it does so at a cost.

One hundred feet below street level, concrete walls, floor and ceiling look uniformly drab and confusingly labyrinthine. For all that the world has changed around the Company, the Company itself has wavered very little from its original design. Below the bustling streets of Chicago Illinois, the Company Training Center is a hive of activity for an organization designed to protect and serve the world that has come to view the Evolved with open eyes, but not always open minds.

It makes demands in exchange for singularity…

Down on D-Level, the firing range is a noisy place to be most of the day, though in the early morning hours just before dawn, agents in training have yet to make the rounds down to the lanes and retrieve their weapons. It's here where in the early hours of morning, Director Frank Skinner spends his time remembering what it is like to first experience the Company, to first experience the organization and its secrets. When Skinner first found out he was Evolved, when he realized that he was gifted with a superhuman memory to recall past events he'd experienced with crystal clarity, the world suddenly became a terrifying place.

…and you may be asked to do something against your very nature.

Firing down one lane towards a hanging paper target, Director Skinner stares thorugh the yellow-tinted lenses of his safety goggles, headphones blocking out the sound of the gun report and the clinking of shell casings hitting the floor at his feet. Skinner may be firing downrange, but his mind is somewhere else, his memory is elsewheres, reliving the glory days of the Company, reliving an age when the supernatural was still mysterious, before the evening news was saturated with stories of the superhuman. This is the world the Company was trying to prevent.

Suddenly, the change in your life that should have been wonderful comes as a betrayal.

Those headphones Skinner wears and the blinders of the past that he wears makes him oblivious to the sound of heeled boots clicking on the concrete in approach to the shooting range. The shadow cast along the wall of an approaching agent goes unseen and that the rhythm of her footsteps is incongruent to the stacatto rhythm of his firearm discharging goes unheeded. Brown hair is caught in a breeze from an overhead air vent, disturbed from the agent's shoulders, rustling pages in a bright red folder she carries in one hand.

It may seem cruel, but the goal is nothing short of self-preservation…

A laminated badge flaps against the female agent's chest as she walks, Agent Candice Wilmer is boldly printed across the front, overlaid with a pidture of her brunette self and the acronym DHS faded in the back with a seal emblem. It isn't business of the Department of Homeland Security that has Candice coming to see Director Skinner today, however, it's that this folder was sent from the New York offices, care of one Sabra Dalton. Flagged: Urgent.

…nothing short of survival.

Though Candice clearly thinks that she has better things to do than play messenger girl, she didn't argue too much at being asked to deliver the folder. She does, however, wait until Skinner has to reload before she actually approaches him. It's easier on her ears that way. "Director Skinner? This was sent for you," she calls to him, voice a little louder than usual, so he can hear it with the headphones on. "It's from Sabra Dalton in New York. Supposedly it's urgent," she says, with just a little sneer in her voice. It had better be urgent for her to be sent down here with it, rather than some lackey.

Flashing a look of surprise over his shoulder, Director Skinner offers a huffed sigh and a shake of his head on spotting Candice. Sliding his headphones off and laying them down on a shelf, Skinner turns his attention down to the folder. "You sure know how to spook a man, Wilmer." Holstering his gun under his arm and using his other hand to slide off his tinted protective goggles, Skinner steps out of the firing booth and towards the brunette agent.

"If Director Dalton saw fit to send this in, it's probably about whatever nonsense she's been doing to the archives. I've had sixteen requests for information from the New York branch be denied this month alone due to restructuring, I don't think she entirely realizes how hard this is making it to do our jobs." Taking the folder, Skinner narrows his eyes and reaches up to adjust his wire-framed glasses, his head canting to the side as he starts paging through the folder.

"Oh," is interjected as if he'd forgotten something, closing the folder shut before reading word one, "that reminds me. Have you seen DHS liaison Lemay anywhere this morning? I tried calling his cell phone and it went straight to voicemail, we're supposed to discuss the end of the month budget allocations for the new wing of the training center."

More errands, of course this is one Candice can fulfill easily enough, she passed Howard Lemay upstairs not more than ten minutes ago.

Spook a man? That has Candice grinning, a mischievous look to go with the evil thoughts in her mind. "That wasn't spooky. I could show you spooky," she offers. Then the grin fades and she sighs. "He was upstairs when I was heading down this way. Guess you want me to go find him and tell him to come down to talk to you?" she asks dryly, arms folding over her chest, head cocking.

Looking past Candice, Skinner offers a frown to the corridor. "No that- won't be necessary," and on those words his stare flicks back to the illusionist, "at all." The latter part of Skinner's words seems to be relegated to a topic other than that of Howard Lemay. "Really, it won't be," is more softly delivered, "I'll head upstairs and talk to him myself, I already wasted too much time down here as it is." Forgetting to even look at the urgent file, Skinner slaps the folder against one of Candice's arms lightly, offering a lopsided smile to her.

"You know, your seven-year aniverssary of being a full-fledged Company agent is coming up in three months." Skinner offers an arch of one brow at that notion, a smile creeping up on the corner of his lips. "I know nobody else here really says word-one to you, but I was thinking that maybe you'd like to go out and get a drink? Celebrate seven years of bagging and tagging?" Skinner offers a laugh, sweeping one hand over his balding head, "You know, for old time's sake? It's not like this job is what it used to be."

Though Candice brightens when he assures her that she doesn't have to play messenger girl again, she only brightens further when he gives her recognition. True it's just for time spent rather than any specific task, but recognition is good! She grins and nods, letting her arms fall to her sides. "That sounds like fun. Glad someone remembered that it's been seven years. That's a hell of a lot of years to be in this job without being killed or Haitianed."

She glances towards the door, then back to Skinner, frowning a little. "What is going to happen to the Company? I don't like all the Homeland security people getting involved. It's one thing for us to use them as a cover, but for them to be poking their nose around so much." She shakes her head and repeats, "I don't like it."

"You know," Skinner notes with a sharply exhaled sigh, rubbing one hand over his mouth, "I really don't know. We're getting more and omre government oversight. I had to sign off on sixteen new security passes for DHS affiliated representatives who will be coming through here and assessing our training protocols after some unfortunate complaints were filed about agent behavior back out in New York. I swear if Bishop doesn't put a boot in Elle's ass, I'll do it myself."

Exhaling an exasperated laugh at the notion, Skinner shakes his head. "No, but— seriously, I don't know. I just know us old-dog agents are a dying breed, and the kind of people we're entrusting to do our work now, I just don't know if the Company's ever going to be quite the same afterward. We've lost a lot of good— "

The lights flicker in the ceiling in time with a sudden — but distant — blast of an explosion, strong enough to settle dust from cracks in the ceiling. "H— holy shit," Skinner exhales the words breathlessly, "what— the hell was th— " a moment later the power cuts out, throwing the shooting range into darkness.

When the lights kick back on, everything is tinted red, a hue of crimson from emergency lights, and the alarm of a klaxon blaring in slow, steady rhythm confirms what Director Skinner is shakily trying to tell Candice. "Holy— shit that's— that's the security alarm."

While Candice may not know Elle personally, she's heard of the agent and just shakes her head. Her mouth opens to reply, but the explosion has her head jerking towards the sound, brows shooting up. "The security alarm? We're being attacked? Dammit. Okay, I'll keep us from being seen. Tell me there's some sort of emergency exit for instances like this? A teleporter kept locked away or something? Though I'd be happy to give whoever's attacking nightmares for the rest of their life."

"We have two short-range teleportation agents in training, but they're up in the dorms." Withdrawing his gun from the underarm holster, Skinner looks up to the ceiling and throws the red file down onto one of the tables at the mouth of the firing range alley he'd been standing in with a slap of paper on formica. A photograph of Howard Lemay slides out, only partly visible as Skinner turns his back to it. "Dan's is personal— his ability. We can't just run though, Wilmer." That much is a little tersely offered.

Reaching into this slacks, Skinner whips out his cell phone and presses the first speed dial number, looking down the hall towards the elevator, then back over his shoulder towards Candice. There's a brief look of confusion, and as Skinner pulls the phone away from his ear, he sees the antenna symbol has a red circle with a line through it imposed over the icon.

No Service

"We're being jammed," Skinner grouses looking back to the elevator, "Alright, we need to get up topside and see what the hell is going on. If we can get in touch with Kent we can get everyone out of here, but we need to know what the hell we're dealing with." Motioning towards the stairs with his gun, Skinner offers an askance look to Candice, "Cover us, just in case, whatever you need to use until we get topside and figure out what the hell is going on."

"I wasn't suggesting running through. But they can't hit what they don't know is there." Candice glances to the folder, stilling as she sees that photo. "Skinner…Maybe you should've looked at that folder," she offers, tugging the picture out and looking to him, brow arched. "But yeah, I'll cover us. Just stay close," she says, grabbing the folder then moving back to stand beside him. A moment of concentration, a bit of shimmer in the air, and voila, they're invisible. "You'll need to stay quiet though," she murmurs to him, motioning for him to lead the way. He is the one with the gun.

Clearing his throat, Skinner offers an awkward nod before stepping ahead of Candice, looking back to her only when he realizes that she isn't carrying a gun. Exasperatedly huffing, Skinner turns his back to the illusionist and starts making his way towards the elevators and the stairwell access door. "We can't take the elevators up during an emergency, the power to them probably was cut by whatever blacked out the facility… at least we have a backup generator to run on."

Moving to the door to the stairwell, Skinner pushes it open with his shoulder and steps inside the concrete-walled stairwell, sweeping his gun in a slow arc across the landing, then down to the lower flights of stairs headed to deeper sub-basement levels, then up to the direction he and Candice will be headed in.

"Alright," Skinner offers, looking to Candice, "we've got two floors to go up, we'll hopefully meet up with the agents on the administration level and…" letting his voice trail off, Skinner takes a step further into the doorway, listening to the distant sounds of popping coming from above. "Jesus Christ, that's… automatic weapons fire." Glasses reflecting the red security lights, Skinner looks back over his shoulder to Candice. "Come on, we're going up."

Though Candice manages to remain silent until they get to the stairwell, Skinner's comment about not using the elevators has her mouthing "Duh" at the back of his head. Such a sweet girl. She pauses at the doorway as well, grimacing and shaking her head at the gunfire. "I'm going to break someone's brain if I get shot," she mutters, before following after Skinner.

"Make sure it's not mine," Skinner grates thorugh his teeth as he starts to make his way up the stairs, gun gripped in both hands as he winds up the stairwell, the noise of automatic gunfire and louder, slower single-action and semi-automatic gunfire pounding in the same battlefield beat. "Jesus Christ it sounds like a goddamned war up there," the director hisses those words as he rounds the stairwell, then looks back to Candice to make sure she's still there— or at least it looks like she is.

As he gets to the landing for the next floor, Skinner keeps his gun trained on the door as he unhooks a jingling key ring from his belt, unlocking the stairwell access door to the supervisors office floor, though as he pushes the door open, the raucous pop of gunfire has him jumping back as a bullet slams into the open door when he pushes it open into the hall.

The noise is deafening as it roars through the stairwell, the clatter of bullets punching through the door, ricocheting off of concrete and Skinner recoiling with one hand raised in front of himself. Gunfire is thrown in both directions down the hall, and Skinner looks like he's going to give up even trying to get onto that floor, rushing towards the stairs despite the firefight going on down there. "We— we have to get to the administration level and not get shot in the process, never— nevermind stopping, just— " pausing on the stairs, Skinner furrows his brows. "Candice, can you do anything to get us in there without getting our asses shot off?"

"All I do is illusions. I can make us not be seen, but I can't change the direction of bullets," Candice grumps at him, ducking at the burst of fire, then taking off after him, keeping part of her mind focused on ensuring that they remain invisible. "Just keep going up, if I see anyone not on our side, I'll give them something to shoot at that's not in the direction we're in. And it's your best bet for not having a broken brain."

Reluctance crosses Skinner's expression as he watches that door and hears the gunfire, the shouts and screams, then steels himself and practically charges up the stairs. His hard-soled shoes clack against each step on the way up, a muted sound compared to the gunfire as he and Candice ascend the stairwell. "I can't believe this is happening, I— how the hell did they get down here so fast!?"

By the time that Skinner and Candice reach the administration floor, there's a more hesitant pause near the doorway when Skinner reaches it, rubbing his forefingers and thumb together before reaching down and taking his keys, unlocking the door with a slow, steady series of clicks, then swings the door open into the hall, waiting for the hail of gunfire like before. There's nothing, silence, distant pops of small arms fire.

"Okay," Skinner breathes out the word, stepping through the doorway and sweeping both sides of the hall, "stay close to me, if everyone's followed protocol then the agents on this floor should have congregated in the administration wing, after what happened to the Bronx facility in New York we had to instate all of these administrative changes for the possibility of attack."

There's a sharpness in Skinner's voice as he charges down the corridor towards a T-junction down the hall. "Can you believe that? Someone attacking the Company," his shoes slide as he skids to a stop, but not without the slicked assistance of a few small pools of blood. When Skinner comes to a stop, it's only because he's bumped into the wall at the end of the hall, left facing a Company agent laying on his back, blood pooling out from beneath one of his legs, gasping for breath, looking delirious from the pain. He's lost a lot of blood.

"Believe me, if I knew, I'd be breaking the brain of the one responsible right now," Candice retorts to his question. But she does stay close when they enter the hall, glancing up and down the hall cautiously, though she knows they can't be seen. She's confident enough in her ability for that, anyway.

When they come upon the fallen agent, she doesn't look too concerned with the man. Instead she shakes her head and looks irritated. "I don't think everyone had the chance to follow protocol," she says dryly as she bends down to pick up the agent's weapon.

Staring down at the agent on the floor, Skinner is frozen in hesitation before he finally takes a knee beside the fallen agent, checking the leg wound that punches through somewhere by the hip and exits at the inner thigh, pulsing blood everywhere. "J— Jesus, Wilmer— take off your sweater, I need something to tie off his injury." Claping his hands down on the gunshot wound, Skinner's emergency care elicits a howl of pain from the agent.

"Patrick," Skinner addresses the young man, "Patrick look at me, who shot you? Where did they go? Is Lemay still up— "

"Lemay," the young agent whines, his eyes wrenched shut and hands pawing at where Skinner squeezes his leg. The answer has Skinner's brows furrowing as he looks up to Candice, then back down to the agent. "Lemay."

"What do you mean, Lemay. Lemay shot you?" The disbelief in Skinner's tone has the balding agent looking up and around frantically, then back down to Patrick. "Patrick— Patrick— did Howard Lemay do this?" Drifting in and out of consciousness, Patrick's only response is a throaty groan of pain.

"Skinner? It would explain Lemay's picture in the file," Candice says, holding up the folder and giving it a little wave. "They must have been trying to warn you." Though with her tone, she may as well have said "You should've read the file, idiot". The request for clothes has her shaking her head. "Sorry, no can do. I'm an illusionist. You really think I'm wearing what you see? Or look like this?" She shakes her head again. "No sweater."

A moment of vacant staring is what Skinner affords himself at both the revelation of Lemay's possible treachery, when he looks back down to the wounded agent, Skinner is trying to process betrayal coming from the government and what implications that could mean for the Company as a whole. "Okay, okay we— we have to— " noise ahead down the hall has Skinner looking up towards the sound of approaching footsteps. Cutting off what he was saying, one of the Director's bloody hands slaps down over Patrick's mouth.

There at the end of the hall stand three men, each in white plastic hazardous material suits, black visored masks covering their faces, respirators clicking and hissing as they breathe. One has blood spattered across part of the white material, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder by a strap, held at waist level.

«C-Level dorms are clear. We're moving on to the administrative offices.» The crackle of voices coming through those respirators sounds so mechanical, and Skinner's stare up at Candice has a wide-eyed and fearful look to it. Do something it implies, make them go away.

There's a quick roll of Candice's eyes, and the thought Do I have to do everything? clearly crosses her mind. But she does as silently asked. The trio are invisibled without much effort, then her brow furrows as she focuses down the hall. Splitting her attention makes it a wee bit harder to do, but this is a doable task.

Behind the trio of bad guys, at the end of the hall, she makes it look like someone — no, that's Skinner! — is coming out of one of the rooms and trying to sneak further down the hall to freedom. And of course the door just happens to shut with just enough noise to hopefully attract the white-suited men's attention. Surely if they go after anyone, they'll want to go after Skinner, right?

«We've spotted Skinner!» One of the Retrievers shouts, breaking off from the group and heading down the hall and around the corner that Skinner's illusory self just ran down. The two other Retrievers rush to follow, though one skids to a halt, looking down towards the blood smear on the floor and where Patrick writhes around. His head tilts to the side, Skinner tenses, back muscles tighten, and when there's a distinct rippling that hazes over Patrick, Skinner moves his hand away from the fallen agent's mouth and lifts his gun up.

«They're back here! They're back here!» Gunfire rings out, five quickly placed shots, one busting out the Retriever's knee and sending him to the ground, the others peppering body armor on the way down. There's a crackling scream, then a shout from down the hall, Retrievers turning around.

"Wilmer," Skinner hisses, realizing that whatever that fallen Retriever did had resulted in peeling back a layer of illusion, or just seeing that something was wrong, "we need to take Patrick out of here." Turning his gun around and offering it out to the illusionist, Skinner stares intently. "I'll get him up, but you have to cover us. We can't risk sticking around here any longer, we have to ensure continuity of leadership and get out while we can."

As he looks up to Candice and then down to the gun, Skinner is almost afraid to ask, "You can shoot one of these, right?"

Her illusion failed? Her illusions don't fail! Candice looks more than simply irritated now, which isn't helped at Skinner's question. "I point that end at the bad guys right?" she asks sarcastically, even as she's ducking down to avoid gunfire. "Broken brains. Lots of broken brains," she mutters, before she sticks out her arm and blindly fires a few shots towards the Retrievers.

She's hoping to gain a few moments to focus, doing her best to cover the three of them in an illusion of invisibility again. But doing illusion after illusion, and complicated ones like this, it's starting to take a toll on the brunette. Not much of one just yet, but it's a start. "Go," she says, before she fires off another few shots.

Swinging Patrick's arm around his shoulders, Skinner pushes himself up to his feet with a groan of effort. "Come on, Pat, come on I'm not letting you die here on the floor." Awakened by shooting pain in his leg, Patrick pulls himself up to his feet, shoes slipping wetly through blood on the tile. The report of the gun Candice has been given firing off makes Patrick wince against the sound and the hail of bullets is keeping the Retrievers down the hall behind cover.

"This way, this way!" Skinner is doing an about-face, turning back towards the way he'd lead Candice into the administrative floor, practically dragging Patrick with him. "Patrick come on, stick with me here I need to know what's going on. Where are the trainees, where's the assistant director?"

Wheezing a pained breath, Patrick starts to get his footing as he's pulled along and when he, Candice and Skinner round the corner towards the stairs access, lucidity is starting to take place mixed with a liberal dosage of shock. "I— I was— I was with Howard. He was talking to me about the armory and then— then he just lagged behind me, I turned around and— and hehad his gun out. Jesus Christ I tried to run, I tried, he just— he shot me in the leg, apologized and just headed towards the networking center."

Getting to the stairwell door, Skinner slams his shoulder up against the door, then jiggles the handle with one free hand. "Alright, we can assume the entire information network is compromised, they've got a signal scrambler up— " Skinner looks askance to Candice. "If we can get down to the generators, I might be able to whip up a signal booster from the tools down there, maybe get out a call. If there's armed men inside the facility they likely have the ground access cut off. If we can at least get out a warning or a call for help…"

Booted feet sound off around the corner, dark shadows cast on the red-tinted walls and the Retrievers are carefully making their approach. "Wilmer, if Lemay was in on this than there's no telling who else is. We need to get a warning message out. When I open this door, I'm going to need you to project an image of us stepping out into the hall to see if there's anyone who can draw fire. The odds of them having more than one person who can see through what it is you do is slim, so let's hope that advantage of ours stays."

"I'm just glad the Haitian is on our side," is Candice's response to Skinner's last comment. "But yeah, open the door and I'll do my job. I'd just like to get the hell out of this building in one piece with my personality intact. Do you know how long it takes to achieve this perfection?"

She presses against the wall beside the doorway opposite Skinner, keeping an eye out for Retrievers while mentally preparing for the illusion to come. "Do it," she tells him, nodding and turning her gaze and focus to the door, the image she'll project in mind. Skinner, Patrick and herself, trying to sneak through the door.

"I'd be happier if he were here," Skinner grouses as he pushes the door open and then steps back, pulling Patrick against his chest as the illusion skirts out the door and onto the stairwell. The approaching sound of footsteps closer to the corner along with the hiss and click of respirators has Skinner unable to delay any longer. He steps out into the hall following the lack of gunfire from Candice's illusion, swinging Patrick with him as he looks up to the higher stairs, then down to—


The sound comes from the hallway on the administration level, back where Candice still is. A metallic clink, clank rebounds off of one of the walls, followed almost immediately by a pressurized hiss as a metal canister spewing yellow gas comes cork-screwing into view, bouncing around the corner of the hall and then rebounding onto the floor at Candice's feet, spraying a filmy and damp coating of chemicals that stings the eyes and lungs all over the illusionist. Through the mustard-gas haze, Skinner shouts for Candice. "Wilmer! Wilmer get out here it's clear!"

That there is a silhouette in that smoke that does not match Candice Wilmer is unrecognized by Skinner.

Candice notices it perfectly well.

Horrifyingly well.

"Goddammit," Candice tries to get out as the gas makes her start coughing. But that's before she notices that she's not her carefully crafted, thin, beautiful self. Instead she's her natural, horribly but comfortably dressed self. From slender wearing stylish clothes, now she's overweight, with black hair showing much lighter roots, and wearing an old tee-shirt and sweats. If you have to wear something and can make it look like anything, may as well go for comfort.

Realizing that, Candice looks horrified. Horrified. Like her puppy got killed by her kitten horrified. She shakes her head, not wanting to believe it. And if it weren't for Skinner's shouting, her coughing and the gunfire, she may have just stood there until the Institute nabbed her. But self-preservation kicks in, and she's moving through the doorway, unable to look directly at Skinner. "Just…go. Not a word," she mumbles.

Confusion sets in when Skinner sees Candice's real self lumbering out of the doorway, brows twitching and lips parting in abject confusion. It takes a moment later for him to realize that the negation gas has dropped all of the illusions and that the woman he is staring at is the true face of Candice Wilmer— though he's now suspecting that may not even be her real name.

"A— Alright come— come on, hurry!" As Skinner turns to move towards the descending stairs, the sound of footsteps coming from the stairway above sound heavy, the clomp of booted feet joined by an odd whining hiss of hydraulics. At the top of the stairs, outside of Skinner's peripheral vision stands a black-armored figure in scuffed ceramic and abalative plating, helmet covering any glimpse of identity, save for a vague suggestion of a face behind an orange-tinted visor.

That this armored intruder is leveling a high-caliber handgun towards Skinner's back is among the many unfortunate things happening in Candice Wilmer's life all at once.

A glare is given to Skinner, but she does follow him. Or starts to anyway. Until she notes the figure on the stairs and his gun. "Watch out!" she shouts at Skinner, even as she's lifting the gun she's already fired, and pulling the trigger until the slide clicks back, the clip emptied. All the while she's doing her best to throw up some sort of illusion, but even 'Candice', the face she's worn for seven years, refuses to cooperate. "Run!"

Skinner turns at the shout and the sounds of gunfire, each round from the .45 hammering against the armored figure and making it duck back behind the cover of the stairwell, impacts leaving dents in the armor but not even coming close to penetrating through. Skinner staggers back as he sees the FRONTLINE-styled soldier moving out of sight, then looks to his right and spots the silhouettes of figures moving through the cloud of negation gas that is billowing out of the doorway.

"Candice!" The scream comes just as she hears the hiss-click of Retrievers moving out of the smoke in their biohazard suits, automatic rifles raised. Candice can hear the sound of gunfire, see the muzzle-flash, see her life about to come to an end from the gunfire exploding into the stairwell.

But that doesn't come. None of that comes.

With one hand on her shoulder, Candice can feel the presence of another person in the hallway. Light blossoms at the front of one of the Retriever's automatic rifles, a bullet hangs motionless in the air, smoke is still like swaths of cotton suspended in midair and there is someone holding her shoulder.

"Betty," isn't a name that she wants to hear, especially not when delivered by an unfamiliar Japanese man. Staring down Candice — staring down Betty — is a short man with a severe ponytail tied back behind his head, dark eyes narrowed and black clothing looking ragged and well-worn. The sword sheathed on his back bears a familiar symbol in gold on the hilt, one she's seen in the Linderman Archives. In fact— she's seen that sword in the Linderman Archives.

"My name is Hiro Nakamura," the time-traveler notes with a furrow of his brows, "come with me if you want to live."

He's always wanted to say that.

Betty? Oh god. She's died and gone to hell. The bullets really hit her, and now she's going to be stuck as Betty for the rest of eternity. This is what she gets for being a sadistic bitch, she knows it. But then the rest of what Hiro says, along with the sight of him, starts to sink in.

"Wait, Hiro? Well shit. That sword. Actually, fuck it. Get me the hell out of here before I start doing something drastic. Like turning bulimic," she says, hurrying towards him and holding a hand out. The hand not holding the now useless pistol. "Can you take me to Linderman? I am so not going to any of the Company members right now."

"Linderman?" Hiro arches one brow inquisitively, looking at the gunmen frozen in time. "Daniel Linderman is— " realizing something, Hiro cuts himself off and furrows his brows, "No, not Linderman. It isn't safe. You have to go somewhere that these men cannot find you at, it is imperative that you remain safe, I cannot allow the government to get their hands on you or your ability, too many lives would be lost."

Even as he says that, Hiro is removing his hand from Candice's shoulder, stepping around her and looking at the hazy yellow gas hanging in the air with narrowed eyes. There's a scowl that crosses Hiro's lips, pre-empting his slow turn around as he looks back to the true form of Candice Wilmer with furrowed brows.

There's a moment, or maybe several moments, where Hiro stands there amidst the frozen time, watching Betty in silence until he finally figures out what else to say. "What do you think that Daniel Linderman could do for you, what do you think he could protect you from that the Company couldn't? This is the end of an era, the pillars are all falling."

That cut off statement has Candice frowning at Hiro, eyeing him warily. "Linderman is what? And why is it imperative that I remain safe? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm one hell of an illusionist, but I'm hardly the only one out there." Her head tilts and she considers Hiro. "Linderman's helped me a hell of a lot of times. And he's one rich son of a bitch. I'm sure he can find some place to hide me from the government. Unless you have a better suggestion?"

"You are not one hell of an illusionist," Hiro snaps as he looks back from the smoke to the unmasked woman standing before him, "you are the best that I have ever heard of the world over. Grigori, Xiao-Han, Stallman… you have the broadest capabilities, the most dangerous applications. Do not sell yourself short."

Approaching Candice again, Hiro looks her up and down, a frown darkening his expression. "I will only take you from this place, I cannot ensure the safety of the others without taking too many risks. But something tells me that you are not hurt by the notion of abandoning your comrades to their fate." Admittedly, Hiro's askance look to Skinner seems to imply that he isn't exactly put-off by the notion of one less Company agent in the world either.

"I have an alternative," Hiro offers with one brow raised as he watches Candice. "But I wish to posit this question to you… if I take you to Daniel Linderman, will you relay a message to him for me?"

While Candice may have continued to argue, being told that she was the best certainly took the wind of her anger based sails. "Well. When you put it that way, you're absolutely right. I am the best." And she seems to have forgotten about the reasons why that shouldn't matter.

She glances to Skinner and shrugs a little. "He should've read the file." The one she still has, in fact. And that seems to be sufficient reason to abandon the poor guy to the Institute. Looking back to Hiro, her eyes narrow slightly. "Yeah, I'll relay a message. If you swear that you will never tell anyone what I look like without my illusions. I appreciate the rescue, I do, but if you get all gossipy about this, I'll have to go over how much I appreciate it and weigh it against the joy of breaking your brain for spilling this."

The threat out of the way, she smiles brightly at him, though the effect isn't quite as good as she's used to with her illusions. "But I'm sure that won't be necessary. So give me the message to pass on, then get me the hell out of here."

This force, evolution, is not sentimental.

Squaring a look at Candice, Hiro furrows his brows and takes a step towards her, head slowly canting to the side as if assessing the woman on his approach. "Your secret is safe with me," Hiro explains quietly, "as for the message…" the time-traveler's words trail off, dark eyes scan the floor and then back up again towards the maskless illusionist, "I would like you to tell him that it is never too late to try and make amends for the misdeeds of the past, no matter how justified that they may have seemed at the time. Even if history will remember him as a tyrant, there is no harm in knowing yourself that you tried to be something better., even if you must be remembered as a villain to do so."

Like the earth itself, it knows only the hard facts of life's struggle with death.

Resting his hand on Candice's shoulder, Hiro offers her another steady look. "The same goes for you, Candice. When you are done speaking to Daniel Linderman, I need to take you to someone, and I need you to cooperate. Because what is going to be coming for all of us is bigger than you, bigger than your past, bigger than your grudges."

All you can do is hope and trust that when you've served its needs faithfully…

Eyes closed, Hiro's brows pinch together and lips downturn to a frown. "Noah Bennet has a very important job to perform, and he will need your help to do it." With those words, Hiro Nakamura and Candice Wilmer disappear from the stream of time, hopscotching across history. He said he would take Candice Wilmer to Daniel Linderman…

there may still remain some glimmer of the life you once knew.

But Hiro Nakamura never said when.

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