Truth And Punishment, Part V


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Truth and Punishment, Part V
Synopsis A volunteer group of Company officials lead by Gael Cruz's fiancée Bianca investigate the Hartsdale facility in search of Akado, and find themselves lured into his trap.
Date May 20, 2010

Hartsdale New York

Primatech Paper

It's hard to imagine the Hartsdale New York compound was a fully operational Company facility just a year ago. With the abandonment of the Primatech Paper cover, however, the lion's share of these old Primatech buildings were decomissioned and personnel moved to Fort Hero, consolidating the Company's power in New York in one singular location to better utilize its assets. Here though, in the drifting white plains of snow, with temperatures nearing minus one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the Company is faced with ghosts hiding in the residences of its past.

The situation involving Akado Ichihara and the security threat he poses to the Company is so grim that a great many number of agents have offered their services to this volunteer assignment of investigating the Hartsdale facility, in the hopes that the snow has given Akado Ichihara few other alternatives on where to conduct his business now that his hideout in Midtown was discovered.

It is five agents that have arrived on the rooftop of the Primatech Paper facility in Hartsdale New York, lowered on suspension cables from the circling chopper, unable to land directly due to the snow. Signs of foot traffic on the roof is non-existant, but it is highly likely that Akado Ichihara may well have used another entrance to the compound if he is present.

Leading the intrusion into the building through its roof access, team leader Bianca Karina — both wife and assigned partner to Gael Cruz — brings her team down through the central stairwell to the fourth floor of the facility. Flashlight in hand, pistol in the other, the chatter over her earpiece headset covers the movements of the secondary team in another portion of the compound and the status of the helicopters that have dropped off the teams to find clear landing sites.

"O'Niel, you're up front. Ryans I want you with me, Sawyer you're covering the rear." Only twenty-six years old, Bianca is suspected to be one of the youngest promotions to senior agent since Noah Bennet, a title and merit both respected and scrutinized due to Noah's defection three years ago.

"We're in the administration level right now," Bianca notes with the certainty of someone who'd spent years working here under Bob Bishop. "We've come in on the east side, we'll be able to sweep room to room on our way across, then take the west stairwell down. O'Niel," Bianca offers a look over to the blonde, her dark brows furrowed, reaching down to her side to remove a large and clumbsy looking pistol from where it is holstered at her waist.

"This is a single shot dart dun, it fires a pneumatic syringe filled with ability negating neurotoxin. We couldn't risk taking the Haitian off of Akado's remaining High Value Targets, so this is the best we've got. You've got one shot with that, we're nearly out of the neurotoxin, don't take the shot unless you're absolutely certain."

There's a clinking at Bianca's waist as she steps out into the hall, shining her flashlight down the white and green painted corridor, tear-gas canisters clunking off of a loop on her belt. "Remember— the rest of you— shoot to kill. No questions, no negotiations." It's a point of considerably adamant stance with Gael where Akado is concerned.

Being told to pull the trigger and actually pulling it are two wholly different situations.

Rain takes the syringe that's handed out towards him, a slow nod of his head at the offer. That syringe, at least in his mind, is for Paulson. Ichihara can meet his fate as far as Rain is concerned. Normally he is against violence, against unecessary killings. But after the things Ichihara has brought about… even Rain feels no compunction to preserve the man's life.

He nods his ehad, slowly, and takes the gun, holding it close to him, though keeping his finger away from teh trigger so there's no accidents. He slips to the forefront of the group, pulling in a slow breath, then exhaling before he rolls his head around and his shoulders, and advances. Kind of amusing really, the hippy kid always out in front in these kinds of situations, though it appeals to him, since he can help preserve the lives of his team mates this way.

"No hesitation. The moment you hesitate, we've lost," Sawyer says in a voice raspier than usual, as the agent is apparently fighting a cold and laryngitis. She lost a target last night, not through any hesitation or fault of her own, but because Gabriel Gray had used the face of a NYPD police man, who should have followed her orders, but instead sent her kill shot into the foam ceiling titles. She's determined tonight not to let something like that happen again. Even if it means killing Paulson, who just days ago, she had finally forgiven.

"How long before the negation sets in, anyway?" she asks Bianca. "Is it possible for Ichihara to jump targets in the seconds after being hit?"

There is a single nod to Bianca at her instructions, Ryans' is already unzipping his cold weather jacket so that it will be easier to reach his weapons under the black sports jacket he wore today. One is extracted, clip checked and safety flicked off. Blue eyes are shadowed by the brim of the fedora that seems almost signature for him in this cold wasteland. The newest edition to his look however, is a track of four scratches over one side of his face.

A glance goes to Rain and Veronica in turn, expression as unreadable as ever. Shoot to kill has never been an issue for the Senior Agent. Yesterday, pretty good proof of that. "Shoot first… sort it out later." He says to Veronica, a ghost of a smile on his lips as he glances at her from under the brim of his hat. He's worked under that motto for sometime. Though with only the one shot for Rain, doesn't work as well.

Veronica's question, gets a nod and Ryans turns to the other Senior Agent fr the answers.

"The effect of the neurotoxin is entirely dependant on where the target is struck. The faster the neurotoxin gets into his system, the faster it will take effect. It could be anywhere up to ten minutes if you hit him on an extremity like an arm or a leg, or seconds if it hits a major artery. Once he's negated whoever he has control over will be freed." Bianca looks ahead to Rain, and while she was addressing Veronica's query, she makes certain with eye contact that the young blonde got that as well. Moving out of the stairwell, Bianca follows behind the forcefield generator's slow movement down the hall, keeping herself staggered to Rain's left side to have a clear line of fire should the need arise.

Room by room, this team checks three empty offices in a row. Most of them stripped completely bare of furnishings, one having an old folding chair still standing, situated squarely in the middle of the room below an old light fixture. So far the building seems empty, and that coincides with what an aerial assessment by agent Deckard had revealed, no skeletal structures on the top floor.

It's only when Bianca's team draws nearer to the western stairwell that they begin finding oddities. At first a room with rumples blankets, which could have been passed off for Akado's sleeping quarters, but one room after another room, signs of recent habitation. There's old and empty canned food laid out near kerosene burners and battery powered hot-plates, pillows, sleeping bags, some rooms divided by clotheslines and sheets.

Vagrants were living here.

It reminds Veronica immediately of the Slice of Heaven Meat Processing Plant, the place she'd first heard the name "Batsu" when searching for Luke Campbell. According to reports there, Batsu traveled among homeless populations, and with the weather growing as dire as it is, it's no surprise that vagrants moved in to this unoccupied building. The problem is…

…none of them appear to be here.

"Where… did all these people go?" Bianca asks to herself, head shaking slowly as her flashlight sweeps a large empty conference room converted into a communal living area. Childrens toys lay near one collection of blankets, old scarves and gloves near another. It's like everyone just got up and disappeared.

He sees the blankets and everything, but doesn't slow as he advances, left hand up as if that's going to help him flash a barrier into existence quicker. He advances, then glances back to Bianca. "Oh I don't know, the sound of a helicopter above the roof didn't scare them off did it?" Yeah, he's being snarky, but he's also serious as well. That helicopter if anything would have announced thier presence to anyone inside of this facility.

Walking at the rear, keeping an eye on where they've been as they move forward, Veronica glances around and shakes her head. "According to Daselles, he was genuinely upset about the fake Refrain sales — I think maybe he sees himself as some sort of protector for the people he took shelter with. Maybe he got a hold of a teleportation puppet and moved them somewhere away from the storm?" she muses. "I don't think he would harm homeless people taking shelter here."

She glances at Rain's comment and nods to a plate of old food. "Yeah, they were about to eat that, right? These people have been gone a while."

Standing to the right of Bianca, Ryans moves with cautious steps. Brows furrow at the empty lodging, the circle of light flows across the suspended blankets. His own flashlight held in one hand, the butt of his firearm resting on the the back of that hand, so that where he moves the beam of light, the gun goes too.

"Rain." Ryans growls out the warning, head turning to add a glare to that look, but then Veronica is making a comment and he goes silent again. "She's right… it's been awhile." He comments blandly, the light falling on the food watching as things scurry away from it. "Hopefully, it's simply a case of them moving to better shelter."

"Come on," Bianca insists, motioning out of the room with her gun as she backs out and re-checks the hall behind them, then shoulders open the west stairwell door, looking down the winding staircase to the landing below, then the one below that. "O'Niel, you're going down first…" there's a look over Bianca's shoulder to Ryans, then past him to the corridor beyond them, "same marching order, single file on these stairs." Holding the door open with her shoulder, Bianca offers a look over the railing again before leveling her eyes back up to Veronica.

"I never got a look at Ichihara's personnel file, I don't know what— emotionally— he's capable of." Furrowing her brows, Bianca gives a small shake of her head. "All I know is that between just he and Paulson, we're under-manned for this assignment. What I wouldn't give for a fresh supply of neurotoxin and some heavier ordinance. To hell with this storm."

Rain rolls his eyes as the reprimands fly at him, the young agent seeming to brush them right off and keep on going, a smirk on his lips at Ryans' tone. He strolls along, coming to the stairs with Bianca before he offers her a curt nod, and then begins to descend, his shoes scuffing on the stairs as he walks downwards. He's got the neurotoxin ready in his hand to be used, just waiting for the shot, though he prays that the situation lets him use it on Paulson rather than Ichihara. He murmurs softly to himself, muttering actually, most of it incoherent, but some of it is quite obviously complaints about old codgers and thier lack of a sense of humor.

"Under-manned is right," is all Sawyer can say with a shake of her head and a conspiratorial smirk that shows her rarely-seen dimples to the Senior Agent giving orders.

"Typical righteous revenge sort of mentality. Trying to make things right for all the wrong he's done, but doesn't care if that means taking out innocent people or ruining the lives of people like Campbell," she offers in her hoarse voice the psychology profile in a nutshell. She nods to indicate she has the rear; once everyone else is descending, she begins to move as well, in a sideways motion so she can watch their back and yet not topple down the stairs.

His eyes meet Bianca's briefly, his head giving a slow nod, moving to follow. "What he is now… it is not in those files." Ryans words are soft, but bounce off the walls of the stairwell with ease. "Those files have not been updated since he was considered dead. This is not the same Akado from then."

He turns his head slightly, to catch a glance of Veronica out of the corner of his eyes, his head moves slowly in a nod at her assessment. "In short… He's a man who has lost everything and nothing to live for." Of course, the man he lost last night was in the same position… both coping in different ways. Ryans prefers Jimmy Alton's way.

No comment is given about being undermanned, they are simply running on fumes at this point. When he rejoined, it was already undermanned, all of them running around almost non-stop to pick up the slack.

Rounding the stairs, Bianca offers a look out one of the frozen windows rising tall along the side of the stairwell, unable to make out anything but white outside. As Rain rounds his way down to the first landing, there's a door propped open and a cinderblock in front of it. The floor below — the ground floor — is completely inundated with snow, likely having forced its way in through now shattered windows. On seeing the snow filling the ground floor, Bianca shakes her head and huffs out a breath, reaching down to pick up the tear gas canister from her waist, looping her thumb through one ring as she motions for Rain to go through the open door.

There's an unsettling stillness in the air here, a feverish sensation of claustopphobia with the snow pressing down on the windows here,b locking out all but the faintest amounts of gray light, save for the blue-white beam of Bianca's flashlight sweeping up and down the hall, creating long, dark shadows.

She nearly screams when her flashlight passes over the shape of a twelve-year old girl standing in the middle of the hallway, her hands folded behind her back, oversized winter jacket wrapped snugly around her shoulders, curly red hair in unkempt locks framing her freckled face. "Bianca," the little girl offers in a chirpingly young tone, "you're all grown up now, are you?" One of her fiery red brows lifts, blue eyes settled on Rain with a look of unfamiliarity. "Are you going to shoot?"

"Jesus Christ," Bianca hisses as she trains her gun on the little girl, but— can't— pull the trigger. "Akado." He's chosen the most innocent of proxies, a homeless child.

Rain sees the young girl and his head gives a slow nodding motion. "This is what you've sunk to is it Ichihara? Using the innocent and teh helpless as your messengers? Tell me how that makes you any better than us? Having this poor little girl out here in this cold. She will probably die from this cold before any help can get to her." Yeah, he should probably keep quiet, but Rain isn't known for being quiet, especially when he sees injustice going on. He keeps his finger off of the trigger on his litle one shot gun, just continues to slip forwards down the hallway in the direction of the little girl, eyes casting over his shoulder to the other agents.

Of course, for once Sawyer didn't already have out her tranq gun, given the shoot to kill orders, but now it's a twelve-year-old kid looking like something from a Twilight Zone episode meets The Shining staring them down. "Injuring Campbell shook him out of it. Do it now before he seizes one of us through line of sight," she breathes quietly for her team to hear alone; her gun too trains on the child while she reaches into her jacket with her free hand for the tranquilizer gun. Sawyer knows the longer they wait, the chances of Akado seizing one of them goes up exponentially — she just doesn't want to shoot past three agents between herself and the red-headed puppet. She also keeps an eye on the stairs above.

Ryans eyes widen slightly as well, his breath catching in the back of his throat as he stares at the little red haired girl. Red haired like Delia. It's enough that even he is frozen there, unable to just shoot. Not enough that he can't recognize the fact the kids got hands behind her back. His eyes dart to the youngest agent as he keeps moving.

"Rain… stop…" He whispers fiercely. "Shield now."

His gun trained on the little girl, but he can't seem to get past how she looks like his youngest, and it doesn't help that he just yesterday had to rescue his girls. Ryans actually hesitates.

Akado's gambit on Benjamin being unable to fire on a girl of this likeness paid off, and his reward is a moment in which to deliver a modicum of civility to this admittedly hostile meeting.

"You're awfully young to be pretending like you know everything," says the twelve year old to Rain. "Millia was dying before I found her, she lost her family in this storm, and I rescued her and the rest of her people from the shanty town they had been living in and brought them here. There's heat," the girl motions a hand to one of the doors to her side, then back to Rain, "there's food and there's shelter. The three necessities of life. What have you offered her? What good have you done for anyone?"

Millia's blue eyes divert to Veronica, red brows furrowed, then finally to Ryans. "Ben…" there's a remorseful tone in her voice, "I'm sorry I had to go through these levels of duplicity to get you all out here. Millia volunteered to be my voice to you, in the hopes that you still had what little left of your humanity the Company did not bleach from you in order to see reason."

Taking a step forward, Millia raises open hands in a more symbolic gesture of good will. "I needed to get you away from Gael, from Dalton and Bishop and the other poisons you've been exposed to." Bianca's brows furrow at that, upper lip pulling back into a snarl as she stares down her iron-sights at the young girl.

"All I ask is that you listen to me, to what I have to say, and have what the Company never offered me, choice." Chin tilting up, Millia offers a look to Ryans again, her youthful eyes betraying Akado's age behind them. "Ben, you knew me well enough to know that I am a man of my word. You've likely already intuited that what I'm doing isn't just random revenge for my girl. All I ask is that you listen…"

Rain continues to move forwards, despite Ryan's statement, he knwos his barriers, and he knows that the closer he is to the target, the less area they have to fire at. It's easier to target spots around a barrier further away than it is one that's close up, less firing oppurtunities. So, Rain continues to walk forwards at a slow pace, his eyes never breaking from the little girl. "I am young, but everyone under estimates me due to my age. It's an advantage as well as a curse." He creeps forwards as far as he feels safe doing so, a good dozen paces past when Ryans told him to stop before a watery shield springs into being in front of him, reality beyond it distorted like water running down a pane of glass during a rain storm.

"Levels of duplicity? You killed people. Men and women who were just doing thier jobs. Bad things happen, it's a fact of life, and when you're trying to protect the entire world from people like… well, what you've become, sometimes people get killed, it's a sacrafice." His voice is a voice of experience on that one, and his eyes hold the stories of what happened to him even if Ichihara doesn't have a file on him. With his barrier up he glances back to the rest of the agents, no apology on his face for continuing to speak, but making sure they're all there before his head turns back to settle his eyes on the girl. His left hand takes the syringe gun, and his right hand pulls his tranquilizer gun, though he doesn't put finger to trigger, he holds for the moment.

"Rain. Be quiet or I will tranq you myself," Veronica snaps as the young man engages the child. Her focus is split between the top of the stairwell and what amounts to Akado Ichihara in the child's form, a strange parody of story hour but with the child talking to the adults. "We'd be more willing to listen, Batsu, if you weren't attacking our people and turning us against one another." She isn't sure how much of her story he knows, if Paulson is among his willing ranks. "Keep that shield up," she says under her breath. "Problem is we don't know what the kid's power is, if she has one. Shield's may not do shit against it."

"Rain… shutup." Barks the oldest of the agents there at the youngest, a glare is sent to the kid, his anger for once plainly written on his features. Ryans glances at Bianca, before turning slightly to look at Veronica, she gets a look of approval.

His head turns to the child then, eyes narrowing at her. "I knew you, Akado." Rynas starts quietly, tone sharp, fingers curls around the handle of his weapon. "This is not the man I remember. Those people did not have to die." Swallowing, the Senior Agent states simply. "You know me as well… You are one of the dangerous ones now." It actually hurts to say those words, to condemn a man who was once a friend to a level of some of the people they hunted. "You want me to listen… you should have come to me." The words are fiercely spoken, brows tilting upward with the twist of betrayal he feels.

"Three years I was retired… mourning Mary's death.. mourning your's and all the other agents lost that day." The words are spoken through clenched teeth, Ryans takes a step forward stopping himself, shoes scuffing on the floor. "You should have talked to me, before you killed all those people."

"You lost your chance to get me to listen. There are better ways to get my attention." His mouth snaps shut, his eyes snapping to the side. "Tranq her." He says to the other two agents back behind Rain, cause he knows he can't do it, he simply steps out of the way.

Rain glances over his shoulder at Veronic as she tells him to shut up, then repeats some of what he said. "Shut yourself up Veronica." He snaps back in her direction, apparently tired of being told to be quiet by his fellow agents. Ryans earns a glare from him as well before he turns his eyes back towards the figure before them all. With his barrier in the way, none of them will have a clean shot, and Rain's barrier remains up. "If this was about pure petty revenge, he'd have taken it. It's pretty obvious that it's not. If it was, he'd have just killed everyone he wanted to.

The man has been through a hell of a lot for the Company, why not let him speak his peace? YOu really think if he wanted us dead we wouldn't be dead right now? Men wouldn't have dropped through the cieling to wipe us out? He's being honest there, he brought us here to listen to him, so what is the harm in hearing him out? I agree he's become am onster, but maybe through learning why and how, we could prevent this from happening again. Go go rainbow hippy power! Tryign to find understanding with the bad guy and trying to end things without more bloodshed.

With Rain's barried preventing anyone from firing on Millia, the blue-eyed girl offers a smile to Rain, and then a stern stare through the watery shield to Ryans and Veronica, especially at Bianca. The stare looks to rattle her just a little, her throat working up and down nervously. "I empathize with your desire to help others, to sculpt and shape a better world for our kind, but you are not operating with the full intelligence about the very organization you have been serving," Millia offers with a stoic look to Rain, her blue eyes halfway lidded.

"You think the Company is noble— altruistic? Your delusions about their intentions are as thickly woven as mine were, but I ensure you that the people I killed deserved to die. Each and every one of them had more blood on their hands, more responsibility to the lives of so many ruined families that I cannot even begin to shed a light to their torch."

Bianca is stiff and tense as she listens to Akado through his mouthpiece of Millia, her gun trembling from the tension in both her arms. "The Company was involved with research in the seventies and eighties called Project Icarus, a research that Pinehearst Company carried over in their rebirth, research into how to develop a synthetically produced superhuman. When research into this project was cancelled abruptly in 1989, the scientists involved were executed by Company order. Young— brilliant— men and women were marched into the laboratory your other comrades are present in right now, and were burned alive. Their children, the test-subjects they experimented on were given out to other Company agents to raise as their own, never knowing the truth. Memories manipulated, lives lost."

Millia's brows furrow and her pale blue eyes narrow. "I was ordered to lead these scientists to their murder, because I was told I was protecting the world, that I was saving lives by preventing the Formula from ever getting out. I was you."

Swallowing noisily, Millia takes a step closer to Rain, her eyes trained on his guns. "My own daughter was given an ability she could not control, one that led her to kill as a child with her mind. The Company covered it up, hid the truth from her, and it was a lie I suffered through my entire life. I did not deserve to be her father."

Akado's proxy looks to Bianca, red hair waving as she shakes her head from side to side. "Your Gael," there's a vitriolic tone there, "he, Angela Petrelli and the others are worse than anyone else. Worse than I ever could be. Did he tell you, Bianca, why you both were not in New York City on the day of the explosion in Midtown? He knew it was coming."

Rain gets a scathing glance from Veronica, but she ignores him otherwise. "Don't listen to it," Veronica says under her breath to Bianca, eyes on Millia as she shakes her head. "What we do and what they did are two different things. The Company has reinvented itself, and it's not the same. We're the Company now — we can shape where it goes from here. We've saved lives and helped people. We've shown mercy to people who might have been killed otherwise."

The words tug at her as well — she knows at least two people whose lives were sculpted as infants by the Company, and her own life's path was laid in place before her by Company's hands as well.

"Batsu," she addresses the child, calling him by his "chosen" name. "None of us are disputing that the Company has done bad things in the past, but taking them out one by one isn't going to change the past. The Company's changed since then, and I can only speak for those I work with, but we really are trying to keep everyone in this city safe. Evolved, Un-Evolved. If you take us out, the alternative is worse."

Ryans is silent as the young girl tells some of the Company's darkest secrets to the youngest team member. His head tilts down, eyes falling to the floor as memories of the past flicker through his mind. He has no delusions of what the organization has done. "That is the past, Akado." He echo's Veronica's words.

Blue eye shift from the floor to the child standing beyond the watery barrier. "You forget I was around for just about all of it. I know what happened and I can see some of what is going on now." Ryans head finally lifts, his chin tilting up ever so slightly in defiance. "And I'm still here."

"When you find corruption in a police department, you don't shut it down… there is still work that needs to be done." Ryans studies the child, firearm held at his side. "Just cause there was corruption, doesn't mean we're all corrupt. Some of us are still trying to do what this organization was founded to do. Protection… Midtown only changed the rules on the how."

"Ben… I had hoped you'd changed. Hoped you'd learned…" There's a tension in Millia's voice as she looks to address Veronica. "If I wanted to take you all out, I would have done it two days ago. I am nothing, if not a capable planner, agent. I knew that the Company would send only its best and brightest after me, I knew that Benjamin and Corbin would come to settle the past where it belongs." Millia's small blue eyes track from Veronica to Ryans, then to Rain, then back to Veronica again. "I have no intention of letting any of you come to harm. I'm giving you an offer… a choice."

Jaw squaring, Millia straightens her back and offers out one small, gloved hand. "Join me, in this punishment, and together we can ensure that every guilty member of the Company pays for the sins they have distributed on this world in the name of what is right. We can rebuild the Company into what it was intended to be, free of the corrupt roots of a dying tree. Help me bring about their end and their rebirth, in the name of all those who have suffered and cannot deliver justice themselves."

Millia's blue eyes narrow, her gloved fingers curling in a beckoning gesture. "Work with me, togeth— "

"No!" Bianca hisses out, gesturing with her gun towards Millia, "I— You're a murderer! You're a psychopath! I'll— I will never work with you…" Eyes tearing up, jaw trembling, something that was said has delivered an emotional blow to the brunette agent. "I'll— never work with you. Ever."

Rain gives his head a slow shaking to the little girl… Ichihara's question. "I don't think it's nobble. I think it's necessary. I've seen the evils that our kind can bring Akado. And I've suffered greatly because of them. I am fully dedicated to this Company after my experiences. I was tortured, by us… our kind… to learn how my ability ticked. Experimented on, cut apart, healed, cut apart some more, healed up again, strung up in a damn shooting gallery to be shot at to see how long I could keep my barriers up and whether different kidns of ammo might be able to pucnh through it. No, I don't think the Company is noble, or altruistic. I think it's necessary, and it was doing a damn good job before the bomb. Otherwise we'd have known wholesale about the evolved."

"They may have had blood on their hands, but it was necessary blood almost completely. Things must be done to protect people, and sometimes those things are not savory. YOu think I actually like the necessity of the Company? I hate it. I hate everything it /has/ to stand for, and everything it does. But, I know just how necessary it is, and that means I will serve it to the best of my ability to try to help keep others safe, to keep things like the bomb from happening again, so more kids don't have to lose thier parents." Rain's head tilts in a slow manner to the mention of Project Icarus. "I was under cover at Pinehearst. I know the basics. It couldn't be risked, though it makes me sick to say that. Those men and women could not live. Thier memory could be wiped, but it could then be healed by someone else, that knowledge taken from them. They… had… to die." Rain's face screws up, looking sick to his stomach at saying that.

Though the statement that the Company knew about the bomb hits his mind like a hammer blow, Rain doesn't falter. He absorbs it, and grits his teeth, unable to speak for a few moments. At this point in time he goes quiet, his throat working hard to swallow, his eyes pulling away fromt he little girl. With an abrupt clarity the barrier drops, allowing the agents to do as they will at this point. He… just stands there, looking sick to his stomach, but… accepting of it all.

Rain's head shakes slowly at everything that comes from the little girl's mouth. "That's the thing Akado. You will do no better. There will be corruption in your orginizationa s well, and in the end, it's better the devil you know, than the one you don't Ichihara." With that, the man lets his shield drop, and he raises his tranq gun, firing a shot down range at the poor girl's thigh.

"Why can't you do that without bloodshed? Why can't you rebuild without punishing — you're playing judge and jury, when you used to be one of the criminals," Veronica begins, glancing over to Bianca as the agent begins to grow more emotional. Not a good sign.

But then suddenly the shield drops and O'Niel is shooting. "Shit O'Niel, warning next time," Sawyer hisses, bringing up both guns, tranq and firearm, to back up the spontaneous decision; her finger on the tranq gun pulses to send a dart toward the girl's neck, the firearm training on the girl's leg to shoot and injure if need be as well, though she waits for the darts to hit and take hold.

"Oh… I've changed, Akado, but so have you." The Senior Agent says matter of factly, but the words sound almost sad. It's evident that the agent doesn't think it was a positive change. "The Company is flawed… it's also broken and less then it was and at this point… it is the lesser evil." He admits softly. "It can be fixed… "

Slowly Ryans' head shakes side to side, brows furrow. "But not by you."

When the shield goes down, Ryans other hand moves to grab for the tranq gun at his back, while his handgun is lifted back up at the same time. By dropping the shield like that… it could be a very bad thing in it's own right.

There's a yelp when the tranq gun hits Millia in the leg, a strangled sound of pain as she drops to one knee, looking down at the tasseled dart sticking out of her thigh, She moves her hand down, to try and pull it out, looking stunned by the response of violence. The stunned look only lasts until Veronica puts a dart in the girl's neck as well, sending her toppling backwards to the floor motionless. Akado had thought it might have worked, the talk, but fortunately there is a contingency plan in effect in case it did not.

With Millia down and the agents' allegiances clearly chosen, there's a familiar sonorous hum that builds up in the room, and from the lightless office adjacent to Rain, a man who had been waiting to make his move strikes. Paulson's telekinetic assault is brutal and swift, lifting Rain clear off of his feet just as he had done at Fort Hero, sending him slamming into the wall once, twice— and in that second slams something breaks with a muffled snap— and then throws him down the hall, slamming squarely into Bianca and kncokign her clear off of her feet.

Bianca crashes to the floor with a whimper of pain as Rain lands atop her, and Paulson is forced to step out into the room, both hands raised and dark eyes trained on the other agents. "You should've taken his offer," Paulson snarls as he yanks Veronica and Ryans' guns from their hands, sending them flying behind where he stands, skidding across the floor. Then clamps his hands down like a vice, squeezing around both of the agents' necks simultaneously and lifting them off of their feet.

Knowing what Ryans did last time, Paulson twists his fingers, and Ryans' arm bends in a direction it's not supposed to, a meaty snap coming as the bones in his right forearm break and a reflexive scream rises up from the back of his throat

"You have no idea what kind of monsters you still work for! Or maybe you do, maybe you don't care!" The rumble comes again, a sonorous vibration in walls and floor. "They took me from my family, they— they threw me out into this world to do their work— Veronica they killed your father! They manipulated you every step of the way, they brainwahsed agent Winters, they're the whole reason this city is in ruins! Martin is an idiot, a blind— a blind moron! He's a puppet!"

Squeezing tighter with the telekinetis, Paulson swings Ryans and Veronica through the air, slamming each one onto opposite walls from each other in the hallway. "I thought you'd understand Veronica. I— I thought you of all people would see what heartless bastards the Company is, I thought— I thought you understood." Looking like he doesn't want to do what he's about to do, Paulson's brows furrow as he levels his eyes to Veronica squarely.

"I'm sorry." When Paulson's building up telekinetic force reaches a quaking rumble, he thrusts out a hand to deliver a fatal crushing blow to Veronica, a quick death that he did not afford the others he killed.

"I — just don't know what to think if you're working literally against us— against me. But the Lighthouse, that's… okay. Good even." Veronica's never been asked to bag and tag a little kid, though it's happened of course within the Company's history. She seems to relax against him, her breathing deepening. "You'd be good at it. Taking care of kids. Taking care of anyone…" Her voice is soft, sleepy. Her sleep deprivation stands no chance in the warm and safe embrace.

"I'm never against you, Vee. Never against you." Brian whispers, letting his lips brush against her ear. He smiles as she compliments his caretaking skills. His arms lock up against her, resting on her stomach. Tilting his head back against the couch he melts under her weight starting to doze off himself, his arms still wrapped up around her.

The memory of what Veronica is about to lose, that flash of a bright moment in her troubled life before her eyes comes with a redoubling of that sonorous humming noise and a crack that splits the tile of the floor. Paulson's eyes go wide as he feels a telekinetic shockwave just like the one he was about to deliver collide with him, blasting him off of his feet and throwing him backwards from Veronica hard enough to propell him through the open doorway into one of the offices he'd come from, smashing into and over a table before colliding with a wall at the back of the office.

In that instant, Ryans and Veronica are dropped, Veronica to her feet and one knee, Ryans simply down on both knees and then to his side, cradling his broken arm.

From his vantage point on the ground, Rain can blearily see what just happened, he could feel the telekinetic power that exploded from Veronica in response to Paulson's threatened coup-de-grace, and yet all of that telekinesis has subsided, the rumbling has stopped, right up until there is another low, thrumming rumble from that office, the sound of a desk skidding away, and Veronica can see Paulson pulling himself back up.

Rain grunts at the first time he's slammed against the wall, and the second time. The moment that the explosion went off though, Rain hid the syringe gun from sight, not sure what was happening. But, when Paulson comes in screaming like a maniac, and throwing people about, Rain's heart sinks. H ekeeps the gun hidden, his tranq hitting the floor.

He grunts at the first two impacts, then screams as pain rips through his slim body from his now shattered ribs, the rib bones along his spine breaking and snapping at the impact. He slumps to the floor, but begins to try to crawl, crying out in pain at every turn. He looks for Ryans, for Veronica, looking, the syringe gun in hand, ready to be thrown to anyone that might be able to take it, to anyone he could throw it to so they can do what he can't right now and syringe Paulson to put the maniac down.

Giving a growl of pain, that ends in a cough from having been force choked, Ryans rolls over to his back, left arm clutching at his broken right. His head smacks against the tile floor, dislodging his fedora from his head, eyes screwing shut, teeth clenched tight as he gives a small hiss of pain.

"Sawyer… O'Niel…" Even his voice is filled with pain, as he exhales out their names, trying to find out how other team members are faring. His broken arm lays limp across his middle, while his left hand fumbles with his jacket in search for his other hand gun. His head moves to find Veronica, relieved to at least find her on her feet, a sigh escaping him. She's one of the few, the old man trusts with his life.

His left hand slides into the jacket and wraps around the grip, fingers tightening, but he doesn't pull it yet. He may be familiar with shooting with both hands, but he wasn't as good a shot with his left. Ryans' head comes off the ground again and he waits for the chance to try.

On one knee, coughing and gasping for breath now that invisible pressure is no longer choking her, Veronica's dark eyes are wide — there is no doubt that whatever just threw Paulson across the room and split the was impossibly her. "Damn it, Paulson, don't … killing us doesn't bring those people back — it won't bring my father back. It won't make anything right… I do understand — what you don't get, what you and Ichihara don't get is that we're trying to make things better…" Her poor voice is ragged — already afflicted with laryngitis, now near asphyxiation makes it all the rougher.

"I forgave you. I forgive you. Don't… Montgomery," she whispers this, his real name, "Don't make me kill you now." She swallows, gun steady in her hand despite the twitching of muscles in her jaw as she stares him down.

She has a kill order, which she should be following. Instead it is her tranq gun's trigger she depresses, without warning.

Battered, broken and bleeding, Paulson's ragged form has one mangled arm, bones broken all the way up to his shoulder from the telekinetic assault rebounded on him. Blood runs from the side of his face where he is cut open from hairline down his cheek to his jaw from the impact with the desk, and yet despite all these injuries, Paulson still has the control over his ability to stop a dart in the air, like trying to catch a bullet in your teeth. The sedation dart hangs languidly in midair, then drops to a clatter on the ground.

Limping forward, Paulson is just barely silhouetted by the doorway, just out of Rain's line of sight as he talks. "Mont— gomery…" there's a hitch in Paulson's voice when he says that name, his name, then shakes his head and goes to yank Veronica's tranq gun out of her hand. Instead, Paulson finds his own broken hand twisted furster, causing him to stumble out of the doorway and release a ragged howl of pain before collapsing onto both knees, blood running down his forehead, black eyes up at Veronica, wide and confused.

"You know— what— what's waiting for me at Fort Hero…" Paulson's voice is a keening sound, tears welling in his eyes from the agonizing pain of his injuries. "A midn wipe? The Institute? A bullet?" His jaw trembles, teeth clenched. "I will never— ever go back to them."

Wobbling forward, Paulson swallows dryly, looking to Rain but not actually attacking him. Instead, he just looks back to Veronica, lips downturned into a frown. "I've been ready," he intones, "since the day I met you…" there's a hiccuped sound of pain and emotion in the back of Paulson's voice, "…for you to kill me."

His eyes echo his words; do it.

Rain lifts his hand up, the syringe gun there. "Sawyer!" He cries out in an agony laced voice, the young man's mind flashing back to a time laying in a hospital bed dying after the bomb, his body mangled then as well. He takes the syringe gun and flings it towards teh woman, an accurate throw though it rips another scream of pain from him and he collapses onto the floor sobbing in agony, hos body convulsing and twitching from it all.

He rolls off of his sid eand onto his stomach now, trying to take pressure off of his broken ribs, tears running down his face and dripping onto the floor beneath him. The young agent goes still at this point. Either they will get Paulson, or he will get them, either way there's nothing more Rain can do.

"I'm not going to kill you, damn it," Veronica shouts, as much as her ravaged voice will allow. She glances to see the gun with the syringe getting thrown to her, and she reaches out to catch it. "You might call it mercy, but there are other ways. A wipe — it's not the worst thing is it? To forget a life like yours? What's worth remembering?" She knows that it's a fallacious argument — it certainly wouldn't work on her, though she has a few bright moments — her childhood and Brian — worth holding on to.

She shakes her head. "Where's Akado? Tell me that and maybe we can arrange for your retirement." She glances over at Ryans, wondering what reaction that will get.

Blue eyes watch the interaction between Veronica and Paulson with that fairly neutral expression, only ruined by the occasional grimace from twitching his arm just right. The mention of a retirement, has his eyes cutting over to her to give her a surprised look. An expression that clearly states, Are you crazy?

But then slowly his eyes move to Paulson, watching him, hand tightening around grip of the gun, under the jacket. Eyes narrow, one false move and the Senior Agent will react.

Paulson stares up at Veronica, down the barrel of her gun with no fear in his eyes. There's a tension in his throat, a twitch of his fingers and a look in his eyes that implies both desperation and disbelief that now — after all this time — Veronica is presented with the chance to kill him and has forsaken it, to try and do something as noble as save him. Tears well up where fear isn't in his eyes, dribble down his cheeks and he looks down to the floor in shame.

"Ichihara is beneath the bio lab… he's waiting for— well— since Ben is here, Ayers. He's — hhh— going to make them the same offer." There's a look up to Veronica, pain both physical and emotional in his eyes. "Do— Do you think they'll turn him down? That Ayers will turn him down? I— "

An explosion of red comes from the side of Paulson's head as his body jerks to the side and collapses to the floor following a cacophonous gunshot. Laying on her side on the floor, blood running from her forehead where skin is split in a vicious cut and Company-issue .45 raised in both hands, agent Bianca Karina affixed a furious stare on where Paulson was, brows lowered and forehead creased, panting heavily before she drops her gun and lays down on her back.

"We had our orders," she breathes out to the ceiling, closing her eyes and trying to stop the throbbing in her head.

Rain watches the blood blossom from the side of Paulson's head, and it sends a sick jolt through him.

"No," Veronica begins to answer, head shaking solemnly, to the question Paulson poses, but then it is echoed when the crimson spray of the man's head being shot fills her vision with red: "No!"

It's too late. Her broken voice breaks into a ragged sob as she lurches forward a step, then falls to her knees, shoulders shaking as her small form is racked with sobs. Paulson took a path that she could have easily taken. Part of her, the part of her that questions every day the ethics of the Company and her superiors, part of her wanted to accept the job. But she is not a murderer.

The fact she tried to allow Montgomery Biard — Albert Paulson — to live proves it. For all her efforts are worth now.

Heading whipping around, Ryans looks at Bianca, he gives her a firm nod of thanks, if she hadn't he would have had too. His hand slides off the gun and out of his jacket to clutch at his right arm, which is starting to throb.

Rolling to his side, Ryans struggles to sit up without jarring his arm. Finally, he lets go of his damaged arm, long enough to press a hand to the floor get feet under him and to his feet. He sways and leans back against the wall.

Bending down he snatches up his fedora, giving it a once over, frowning at a bit of dust, but unable to brush it off. The hat is put firmly on his head, before he takes the few steps to Veronica. A glance goes to Rain to make sure the kid is still breathing before he turns his attention back to the other agent.

Crouching down isn't easy, but he does it, reaching over he rests a hand on her shoulder. "Sawyer…" He takes a deep breath… "Veronica?" Her name is spoken gently, concern in his voice, fingers squeezing gently, blue eyes search her face. Last thign he needs is to have another good agent crack on him.

"Don't worry we're fine," Bianca hisses from the floor, eyes closed in reference to her own bloody injuries and those belonging to Rain's battered and crumpled form. Just laying her gun on the ground, she breathes in deeply then exhales a slow, shuddering sigh before rolling onto her side. "We had our orders…" the brunette grumbles, holding her side with one hand as she scoots over to where Rain is laying a few feet away.

"Christ," she murmurs, "we're going to need a backboard down here for him…" Bianca looks across the hall, to Sawyer and Ryans, her throat tightening into a painful swallow and one hand lifting to wipe blood from her face. That bloodied hand moves down to Rain's shoulder, delicately, not sure where he's broken.

"If you can move, you need to go topside and call for help," Bianca explains, reaching up to feel at her ear, noticing her earpiece is gone, "I don't know where my radio went in the fight." Mostly her instructions are going to Ryans, and even he's brutally injured.

Rain is breathing, if only barely, his body shaking in shock as broken ribs shift around, poking things that should not be poked inside of him, his entire body one flaming mass of pain, but through it all, he stares at Ryans in stark dissaproval. He saw the man's nod to the bitch behind him, and knows what it meant, and while he breaths, with great difficulty, he just… glares at the older agent. Rain tries to pick himself up, but with so many of his ribs broken along the back, his shoulders simply can't support the weight, he starts to collapose forwards, but pops a barrier up beneath him, which cushions his fall, as he only lets it stay there a moment, then he ends up back on the floor.

He looks around, eyeing his tranq gun on the floor, but stops, a fresh scream of pain ripping from his lips as Bianca touches his shoulder. A barrier pops up next to the tranq gun, popping it across the floor to Rain, who promptly lifts it, aims it at his thigh, and fires to escape the pain.

With a final sob, Veronica's bowed head comes up and she nods, standing with a wince — she may not have broken limbs or ribs, but every inch of her body hurts from being slammed against the wall. "I'll go," she murmurs, voice no more than a whisper as she heads to the stairs, before pausing to look over her shoulder, whiskey-brown eyes weary.

"Ryans, that little kid took two darts — she should be out for a while. I don't know if the link is broken or not, but keep an eye on her in case she comes to." She probably should know but she's too emotionally exhausted, confused, and hurt to remember the ins and outs of Ichihara's power. She heads to the stairwell they descended to go to the roof to call for help.

Hand pressing to his knee, Ryans rises to his feet, watching Veronica for a moment longer. He gives a slow nod, his arm's broken so watching a kid sleep isn't that hard of a thing to do. "Go on. I am pretty sure I can do that at least."

The sound of the tranq gun makes Ryans jump, and he turns to glance at the kid, brows lifting at the dark sticking out of Rain's leg. There is a shake of his head, before with one more glance at Veronica's retreating form, he moves over to check on that little kid, fingers working to gently dislodge darts.

He's really not looking forward to writing this report.

Startled at Rain's condition and his sudden desire to put himself out of his suffering with a tranquilizer dart, Bianca offers up a wide-eyed stare to Veronica, then a look down to the young agent laying on the floor. There's a hiss of breath in the back of her throat, one hand coming up to her forehead as she watches Rain collapse down to lay limp after the tranquilizer kicks in. When Veronica passes her, the brunette agent exits out the open doors from the hall, headed up the stairwell with tired, aching legs and sore knees from her impact against the floor. She can still feel Paulson's telekinetic chokehold around her throat.

Still hear his voice in her mind…

"I was at the hospital your father worked at, running my first assignment as part of a recovery of a former bag and tag recipient. We were there for Ted Sprague, radiological manipulator…" Paulson's eyes close, brows furrow and his head shakes slowly. "Sprague's wife was being treated for cancer by an oncologist named Robert Fresco. It was supposed to be a simple in and out assignment, bag him in the hospital room with his wife, wipe her memory and pull him out. Bennet and Rene," Paulson nods down to the man Veronica is beside, "were with me."

Only making it up halfway from the landing when she recalls being trapped in the train with Paulson, Veronica can hear the sound of Bianca's gunshot playing out over and over in her mind. Here on the landing between the second and third floor, no one will hear the noise in the back of her throat, or the sound of her breathing trying to get back in order.

Walking a few steps away, Paulson's shoulders hunch forward, chin tilts down and eyes focus on his reflection in cracked glass at his feet. "Sprague… I don't know, we spooked him. Sprague attacked us, I— tried to stop him…" Paulson's mouth presses down, lips work from side to side and it's clear he doesn't like the way the story tastes on his lips.

What did Akado tell Paulson that made him turn on the Company so willingly? Was it that they were somehow responsible for the bomb? Was it just that one monumental conspiracy that had Paulson turning against everyone and everything he's known for his entire life? Was it as simple as hearing that the guilt he carried all his life about failing was part of some arranged catastrophe?

"I missed." Paulson admits wearily, "I missed and I— " his voice hitches in the back of his throat, "I killed an innocent man, I— had never— do you have any idea what it's like living with that? Knowing that his family was never going to know what actually happened to him?" When Paulson turns around, Veronica can see that guilt hanging on his face, in the tightness of his throat and the way his brows furrow together. "The— Company protected me. I was the one at fault, not… " one hand goes up, moving bloody fingertips to pinch at the bridge of Paulson's nose. "I've— been with the Company since I was six years old. The only reason they gave two shits about me, was because I was an investment."

Or was it simply because the Company was all he'd ever known.

And he never really knew the Company at all.

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