Truth And Punishment, Part VI


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Scene Title Truth and Punishment, Part VI
Synopsis When Company agents explore the ruins of the burned down biochemistry lab at the Hartsdale facility, they have a meeting of the minds with Akado Ichihara and unexpected help comes from an unlikely source…
Date May 20, 2010

Hartsdale New York

Primatech Biotech Facility Ruins

On the outside, Hartsdale New York's Primatech Paper offices look like a pair of rectangular lumps in a field of white. The two facilities on the now abandoned Primatech Paper campus are both buried up to their second story windows by the snow, in some spots the drifts are high enough to blow onto the roof of the three story office building that still remains intact.

Having arrived by helicopter, the Company has spared no expenses in the dispatching of two joint-operation teams to put a swift and final end to the security breach and threat that Akado Ichihara and his conspirators represent. One team is headed into the still-standing but otherwise abandoned administrative building, where the Company's founders first laid the groundwork for their organization. Ostentably, this Hartsdale facility was the first building run by the Company, the keystone of their operations, and one left to the wear of time just a year ago when the Primatech Paper front was abandoned.

Bianca Karina's team, dropped on the roof of that facility is squared to investigate a still standing structure. However, the Company's secondary team has a more harrowing and equally dangerous task, the investigation of ruins dating back to a fire in 1989 that destroyed the Hartsdale research labs; famous laboratories worked by the likes of Zimmerman and Pratt, names on plaques now at Fort Hero, Founders and respected colleagues long since departed from the organization.

There isn't much, on the ground, left of the biology lab. A skeletal shell of concrete and brick that has barely kept out the drifting snow over this harrowing winter. Once dropped on site on suspension cables from the hovering DHS helicopter, the team sent to investigate this mausoleum of Company history assembles in temperatures nearing minus one hundred degrees. However, it feels much like a balmy thirty due to the presence of one Evolved agent.

Silver-haired, wiry and bookish looking, Albert Rossling is classified as an atmokinetic; a weather manipulator. However the powers at Rossling's command are nothing like the fantastical abilities demonstrated by some atmosphere manipulators, but more subtle manipulations of breeze, wind, temperature and precipitation. Several hundred feet around him, the ambient temperature raises by seventy degrees — the upper maximum of his power — and somehow thirty fahrenheit feels warm in comparison to the real cold.

Over the roar of the helicopter, agent Rossling checks his hear-piece headset, one afforded to each of the other agents, then offers a grimace as he looks up to the departing helicopter, gone to find a clear landing spot. "Agents, re— remember that the temperature difference you're experiencing is only effective whilst I remain conscious." There's a lift of his chin up at that, one brow raised. "I'd take kindly to insurance that I remain, ah, more or less intact."

Checking a PDA held in one hand, Rossling scrolls his thumb across the device, then looks over the frames of his fogged up glasses. "There," he points towars a visibly closed iron bulkhead protruding from the snow, looking to have been purposefully cleared away recent enough that there's only a thin dusting of fresh snow on the doors. "That should, ah, lead to the auxilery stairwell and take us down to the remains of the lab. I request you all maintain caution and be aware of where you step. There's no telling how structurally sound it is after all this time…"

In a bubble where the snow does not whirl or blow, Agent Rossling is addressing a carefully chosen group from the volunteers; Allison Richards, for her capacity to potentially disarm explosive situations by way of her soothing voice, Maria Delgado for her mobility in potentially dangerous footing, Flint Deckard for his capability to see through solid walls and obstructions and get a better assessment of threats before they arrive, and… why Corbin ayers?

That answer is a bit more person to Ayers, and Ichihara.

"Also, remember… this assignment is strictly kill on sight, orders directly from Gael Cruz." Rossling's tired gray eyes wearily sweep over his team, "Paulson or Ichihara. Neither of them, if encountered, should walk away from this. Not after what they did."

Allison is dressed both with thought to the weather and mobility, though her gloves are thin enough to allow her to hold or shoot her gun, which is, of course, out. But of course, she's staying well within range of Rossling, preferring 30 to -95. "Not sure why I'm here, then. If we're taking them down, there's little point in me being here," she murmurs, even as she wonders if Ichihara has some poor puppet in here somewhere. Or more.

She scans the area, keeping her pistol more at ready than she did during the last incidient involving Ichihara, even as she frowns in thought. "We have any intel on who else might be in there?"

Cables. How quaint. Maria eschewed hers, opting instead to float toward ground at a speed matching the others. She came by helicopter simply because the weather has affected her supply of power bars. Energy food is at a premium, she's adopted a habit of conserving them. But at present, in keeping with her advantage regarding potentially dangerous footing, she's about two inches from solid surface. The rifle is kept slung over her shoulder, extra ammo stashed in pockets. No movement yet, waiting for the word to move forward.

Even more oblivious to the personal nature of their current directive than — most everyone else here, there or anywhere, Flint may or may not have gotten all of that. Well within the warmth(?) provided by Rossling's commanding(??) presence and more robust than usual with cold weather gear to mitigate his height, he's much closer to the edge of the bubble that's keeping out the ice and snow. A sideways glance back at the others later, he pokes a pair of gloved fingers out into the toothy gnash of white and grey aaand… jerks his hand back into himself as if bitten.

Holy shit.

Silent shock spent out at a harsh scoff of foggy air, he blinks hard and edges back to loom somewhere around Corbin's shoulder, long face too long and blue eyes too blue and beard growth a little too homeless with a borrowed shotgun slung over his shoulder and a .45 strapped to his side. One of these things is not like the other. :(

"There's a possibility Ichihara might have multiple people under his command. Just because we think Paulson was helping him of his own volition, it doesn't mean they all are. We don't have orders to kill them. And if we run into either of them, you might be able to disarm the situation to allow one of us a clean shot, or knock them out if it comes to that," Ayers says quietly, wanting that option to be the one they end up using. "It's always good to have back up plans," he says, squinting at the sight of the room, grateful to be able to pull the goggles off his eyes and look around as normal, with his weapon drawn. The one he has such a difficult time using.

A blue eyed gaze goes to Deckard, and there's an unfamiliar tension there for an instant, before he moves forward, not waiting for further orders and in fact seeming to expect people to follow him for a change. "I went through the old blue prints before we left, as well as anything I could find on the labs. Doesn't factor in the structural damage from the fire, beyond the preliminary reports, but it should get us in there." Mostly.

That's his hope as he takes the lead in the front, using maps and other things as his main advantage here. But he's not at all the one who would usually take point. Then again, this is the father of a woman he'd spent years in love with, and held in his arms while the life bled out of her…

"That…" Rossling mumbles in agreement to Corbin's sentiments to Allison, "And you volunteered." That he makes the recognition with his usual droll tone is no surprise, and while angling his eyes over to Allison like a parent tired of listening to a child in the back seat whine, Rossling makes a motion to Deckard and the metal bulkhead doors.

"Flint, if you'd be so kind as to make sure that there's no mole men on the other side of that bulkhead door I'd greatly appreciate it. If, ah, you can do that, I'll admit I didn't get a chance to look at your dossier before this assignment…" there's a squinting look to Corbin, "mostly because apparently I don't have the clearance to."

Huffing out an exasperated sigh because clearly Rossling has a higher opinion of himself than Crowley or Dalton do, the agent makes a motion with his PDA towards the bulkhead again. "If Deckard says it's clear, Ayers I want you to open it, Delgado you can just keep an eye on it in case anything unforseen leaps out at us?" Rossling hasn't even so much as taken his gun out, he knows his place in this team and it's — in his own somewhat conceited opinion — the brains.

Allison looks to Corbin, one brow arching slightly. Might? She seems to take some minor personal offense at that. But then she brushes it off and moves to follow the leader, keeping an eye out. "I did," is all she says to Rossling, quickly moving on and shutting up, not so much as giving him a second glance.

"Aye aye, sir," Maria answers as she moves. Feet still don't touch solidity, she's chosen instead to go the other direction. Up. The goal is to occupy a position where she can see what or who might come out through that bulkhead without being seen. The rifle is moved from her shoulder, safety switched off, and held in position for ready fire.

"Looks okay."

There's a beat of silence after Flint's to-the-point analysis that suggests he assumes that's enough information, which probably seems like a bad sign at this point, all told. It takes him another haggard breath or two of looking around at the others to realize that he's expected to elaborate, narrow nose snuffed thickly against the cold.

"I don't see anyone just past the door. The floor and walls are passable. Might be someone downstairs somewhere. Multiple someones." A swallow to go with his snuff bobs slow at his throat, unsure if he owes them still more information after he's glanced down between his boots. "I dunno what they're doing."

The holster over his warm winter gear suddenly gets the gun placed back in it. With the flying sniper on trigger, Corbin doesn't need to keep his gun out while he gets the bulkhead doors open. Life would be so much easier if they didn't have to do this. What would Hokuto think of him arranging for the man who killed her to become an Agent, and then allowed him to come along on what's becoming a 'shoot to kill' for her father?

"Multiple someone's. Feel better about coming along now?" he shoots toward the hypnotherapist he's narrowly avoided seeing for, as he reaches to open the bulkhead doors. Only to pull his too thin gloved hands back and shake them. "Ow." Tugging on his coat, he uses that to put extra protection between him and cold metal to get said bulkhead doors to open.

Those double metal doors open down to an emergency access, lit conspicuously, by hanging oil lanterns whose glass bulbs are caked with grime. Whoever's been down there, they've been there for a while. Rossling furrows his brows, shoulders squared as he looks at his PDA, scrolling over the structural notes for the facility's basement. "Alright, what we have directly beneath us is the primary research wing. We'll be descending parallel to an elevator shaft that," he looks up to the skeletal fire-gutted walls around them, "is no longer in service."

Taking a few crunching steps thorugh the snow, Rossling bends forward and peers down the concrete stairs. "Most of this level of the lab was constructed of reinforced concrete, it should be structurally sound, but there was an explosion here that originated on the opposite side of the labs," he waves flippantly over his shoulder to the other, more crumbled and dilapidated, portion of these roofless ruins.

"Agent Deckard, if you'll do the honors…" Rossling notes with a wave of one hand to the stairs. The silver-haired agent steps aside as he allows Flint past, then follows in behind him, allowing Ayers and Delgado to take up the rear on his way down. "The… area below us was storage and freight, there was a subway access to this area until the facility was shut down, they had the whole thing sealed off. But the floor below…" Rossling waits until he's descended the concrete stairs, hee's clicking on the stone floor, "this floor, is roughly two stories tall."

Looking back over his shoulder, briefly, to Ayers and Delgado, Rossling's brows lift and his voice is noticably more quiet. "We need to… head down that corridor," there's a motion towards a narrow, intermittantly lantern-lit hallway ahead of them. "There'll be another set of stairs on the opposite end that will take us down to the freight storage… and— " Agent Rossling grimaces as he tucks his PDA into his coat pocket, trading it out for his clunky Company-issue .45 out of his underarm holster, "do be careful."

Allison looks at Deckard with some measure of curiosity, but nods at his information. She eyes the walls, then the stairs, and finally the other doors or anything else that could be an exit. Paranoid? You betcha.

Bringing up the rear, Maria holds herself close to the ceiling and keeps watch from above. She's found this in the recent past to be the best positioning, and thus continues with it. Not only does she scan for people ahead, she's also watching the team members for signs of being possessed.

Having seen enough movies to know that the guy that goes first and the guy that goes last are the ones most likely to step into a booby trap or get pulled into the ceiling and devoured by evil children, Deckard hesitates. It's not a subtle kind of stay, either: the way he seems to draw up a little taller than 6'2" or the grit in his spectral glare before he shrugs the twelve-gauge down into his hands and shoulders clankity-clank-rustle through the door past Rossling.

He's quiet on the stairs, heavy boots scuffing soft at a practiced slant, one across the other until they're down. His breath hangs heavy around his overlarge ears and his eyes stand out cold in the dim, raking briefly past Allison once he's caught her eye sockets dished emptily in his direction. Then he troops onward, not quite lumbering under the weight of his gear at the lead.

"I'm right behind you," Corbin says to Deckard, though that also means everyone else is behind him too. It may not be the researcher is the best person to have at your back— especially when your back is the only back he's ever shot… But better that no one really remembers that, except the guy who pulls out his Company Issue gun from the holster, knowing he needs to be ready to fire at the first sign of two faces. Needing to be ready and actually being ready? Two different things.

This place is something of a tomb, all things considered. Most agents know the cover-story for what happened here, how the Hartsdale laboratory was destroyed in a catastrophic accident that killed dozens of agents and researchers. Corbin knows more of the truth, having read Akado's file, knows that this place was purposefully destroyed by Arthur Petrelli after research on the Formula was abruptly cancelled, and that it was Akado Ichihara that brought the agents into this kill-box to die in a fiery conflagration.

Rossling seems nervous in his movements, slowing pace enough to allow Corbin to catch up to Deckard and put the archivist between himself and presumed danger. On their sweep down the corridor, past rooms with heat-warped metal desks and filing cabinets, through fields of shattered glass from blown out windows, and by melted plastic monitors and charred examination tables Deckard is the first to notice a semblance of order within the chaos coming up.

It's not that the room is occupied, but that it's furnished. Through his haze of radioactive blue he can make out the shape of a note board hung on a wall, pinned with documents or something else likely to be pinned to what is presumably a cork-board. There's candles affixed around the scavenged furniture, boxes filled with paperwork, probably belonging to Akado.

Below them, Deckard can see dozens of shapes in clusters. Three or four here, two more there, gathered around steel barrels and vague suggestions of furniture. There's also a long silhouette of a subway car below, likely used as some kind of shelter. It has all the trappings of a den of homeless people, though the devil is, admittedly, in the details he's missing.

When Deckard looks in her direction Allison arches a brow, giving him a questioning look, but it passes quickly. There are more important things right now than idle curiosity. Instead she frowns as she moves and sees what's left in the building. "Why would anyone choose this place?" she murmurs, shaking her head.

"Oh yeah? How's the view?" Boots acrunch against distorted glass, Deckard's voice falls behind him at a hoarse hush, unaware of the potentially deadly irony. He looks more brutish than usual with his scruffy jaw ajut from the base of a knit cap, shotgun turned to steer cleer of a frame skewed off the wall he's flanking. Occasionally the neon rings of his irises fall flat and dark when he turns his head after a molten monitor or steps on something that feels soft or wet, but for the most part he does his thing as ordered and without conversation.

"There's an office space up ahead. Looks like it's been remodeled recently." Allison's question is bluntly ignored despite the creep of answers in the back of his head. Where beds could go in better weather. Where to store propane or linens or ammunition. All irrelevant. He grits his teeth instead, tension shaken off like an itch he can't afford to scratch. "There's a bus or something like one below us. People around. Maybe vagrants, I dunno. I dunno how they'd get supplies in; I haven't seen anything shored up."

"This is a time when people will be hiding just about anywhere that might have heat," Corbin says, frowning as he looks around the building they walk down, toward the elevator and the stairs, with his weapon handy. "This makes things difficult. We don't know who will be controlled, people might panic and try to defend themselves without realizing who we are or what we're for." They may not even have a chance to flash a badge. "Some of us should switch to non-lethal means, with all these people down here— But I guess that's what her silver tongue is for. Be ready, cause we don't want a lot of blood from scared refugees on our hands."

He certainly doesn't.

"We're almost there, come on." Rossling's persistance comes as much as a verbal goading for Deckard to continue on as he can, his tone nattering. "I didn't bring any nonlethal ordinance, I wasn't expecting this to be crowded with civilians…" There's a look over his shoulder to where Maria hovers by the ceiling, watching as the brunette shoulders her rifle and switches out to the single-action tranquilizer dart gun, her shoulders rolling in a silent offering of I always come prepared.

"Richards," Rossling notes to Allison, "if the natives get restless, try to keep them from spear chucking?" Gray brows lifting, Rossling walks past the doorway Deckard indicates was an office without so much as a passing glance, moving down to the end of the corridor where the stairwell to the freight floor is. He leans in to the stairwell, checking it before nodding that it's clear— an entirely needless act, given that Deckard could've seen anyone coming, but Rossling feels more important for it.

It's only when Corbin comes into line of sight of the doorway to that office that he sees something personally resonant in the room. A distant cork board pinned with photographs, old and grimy, some fire damaged. Most of them have names too small to read written on them, all of the photographs are of smiling parents wit their children. Among them, he immediately recognizes a photograph of Li and Akado Ichihara, and a small blanket-wrapped bundle that can only be Hokuto as an infant.

"Ayers, you coming or are you just going to sit there?" Rossling asks back down the hall while Maria floats silently past Corbin, glancing into the room, impassively, before floating to wait at the ready by the stairwell.

Allison glances at Rossling, shaking her head. "If there are more than just a couple of people in there, I can't controll all of them at once. It doesn't work that way. But I'll do what I can," she promises before she continues on, seeing nothing astounding to her, just checking the room as she has every other room.

Like the ass he occasionally resembles, Deckard has a surly tendency to linger where he feels like it until he's kicked a few times. Head ducked, breath misted thin through his sinuses, he holds out near the aforementioned office long enough for Rossling to pass him. But between a moment's extra inspection that yields nothing of spectacular interest in black and blue and the atmokinetic's prod, he stirs forth without actually going in or hanging out to see what's caught Corbin's eye.

"She'd be a more effective distraction if we just pushed her down there naked."

The photographs gain his attention for a time, just as everyone moves on. Even Rossling's orders don't really gain much of his attention as Corbin pulls the burnt picture down away from the rest and sticks it into his coat. "Just cause you can see her naked any time you want, doesn't mean everyone else needs to— Besides, it's too cold for anyone to go around naked." It's an attempt at humor, when everything is plaguing his mind with darker thoughts.

"Sorry, I saw something. Let's go."

Rossling's look to Corbin is a quiet, though impatient, one. Once the archivist catches up, Rossling offers a nod to Deckard to begin the group's progression down the stairwell. The door to this one has been taken off of its hinges, not even anywhere in sight of the landing they emerge out onto. By the time they're through the door, the murmuring of distant conversation below is evident, the people down below are making no effort to hide themselves.

Nervous in the descent, Rossling curls his fingers one by one around the grip of his pistol again, peering over the metal railing of the staircase as they reach a landing, and then descend down a another less steep set of stairs out onto a large mezzanine overlooking a subterranean rail platform, much like the one beneath Fort Hero. Right out on the mezzanine overlooking the rail station, there's the smell of sweat clinging filthy to the air. Metal drums burn with fire, kerosene space heaters offer negligible warmth given the cavernous space they are trying to heat, and the ragged looking vagrants resting in sleeping bags and curled up on stained mattresses is a sorry sight.

They don't seem very disturbed by the presence of guests, even armed ones. A pair of young boys, probably no older than ten stare up at Deckard's glowing blue eyes from behind their mother who warms her hands over a fire in the barrel. There's, comparably, fresh air coming from somewhere down here, and it's Deckard's X-Ray vision that affords him a look down through the mezzanine and to where the subway tunnels should be blocked off with poured concrete. One tunnel is, the westbound line that should lead out to New Jersey, but the concrete of the heastbound line has been jackhammered through from the looks of it, rebar reinforcement inside bent away from the opening where someone tunneled in from the derelict private line.

It's possible that using this place as a staging ground, Akado was able to slip in to Fort Hero right through those tunnels Deckard had been checking when Luke went to escape. In fact, this shelter of the lost and the wayward was likely his ultimate destination.

"We… don't want no trouble," a grubby looking woman in her late thirties states from where she's seated on a bench bolted to the tiled floor, threadbare blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She looks Flint up and down with blue eyes not quite as clear or pure as his, then Rossling and the others. "We ain't got no drugs…" which is largely a lie, well— entirely a lie, judging from the glowing blue vial laying on the ground beside one of the mattresses on the mezzanine. But, hey, at least they don't ant any trouble.

Below the messanine level, accessible by a pair of defunct escalators that may as well just be called stairs now, more people congregate on the rail platform level, and a blocked in subway car seems to be serving as additional makeshift shelter.

Allison stops dead at Deckard's comment, then her gaze slides over to Corbin. "I'm not going naked. So can we get on with it? I'd like to catch these guys and get somewhere warm," she says in a prim voice before following. Once she sees the people, and the woman speaks, Alli's eyes shift from hazel to mercury, and she responds in a soothing tone. "We're not here to cause any trouble," she says, directing her words - and her power - towards the spokesperson first. "We don't mean you any harm. No one cause us trouble, and we'll leave you alone."

She doesn't speak, holding to her airborne position in observation with the tranq pistol ready instead of the rifle. Maria's eyes roll, however, at the mention of nakedness. The group of people taking shelter here are watched as a group and individually in turns, evidence of trouble or anything not generally visible to the others sought out. Hopefully none of them sight her. It'd give her advantage if trouble happens.

Some sentiments don't require a face to convey. Deckard leers knifishly back over his shoulder at Allison's dead stop, confident enough to risk a step backwards down the first stair before he turns to take the rest with more earnest effort. You know. Like it might be dangerous or something.

That the vagrants are even actually vagrants is a pretty good sign in his book. Just not a good enough sign that he's willing to soften his stare away from its electric blue bore into women, children and subway tunnels alike. "We don't want no drama," echoed back at an unenthusiastic rumble claggy with cold, Deckard continues off at an obtuse tangent, prowling between civilians with his voice dropped to a privately distracted and disconcertingly serious mutter: "…No drama. They say I'm really sexy. The boys they want to sex me."

He might be bobbing his head a little too.

But only a little.

"All the tunnels are filled but one. It's ruptured."

"Yeah, we're not here to cause any trouble with you," Corbin says, glancing down at the Refrain vial for a long moment. They're squaters and drug addicts, and some of them are probably Evolved, if that's down there. It doesn't have the same affects on those who are not. Reaching back into his heavy coat, he pulls the picture he just retrieved out and asks the woman, "Have you seen a man that looks like this? A little older than that." It's worth checking, if they're not here to cause problems, they might as well cooperate.

"And yes, you're completely irrestisable. It's your eyes," he banters back at Deckard, even if he's noticably trying to keep a cool head about him, and it doesn't seem as genuine.

There's— there's admittedly some stares at Deckard's arrythmic lyrical stylings, but the people down here regularly eat food out of a heated can and a handful do lines of coke off of a broken mirror, so it's not exactly like they have any stones to throw at glass houses. Deckard's scan however, while he uses the doddering appearance to dissuade concern, picks up the shantytown below, corrugated sheets of rusted metal framed up into makeshift industrial lean-tos. Most people are at least looking in the direction of the mezzanine since the commotion of new voices and sounds of descent from the stairs is an unusual occurance.

The woman confronted the with photograph offers a squint to Corbin, looking down to the picture of Akado, then smiles and offers a nod. "Yeah, yeah I know him. Chinese guy," nn— not quite, "he's pretty quiet, keeps to himself most of the time. We were all living out on Staten Island at this meat processing plant, waiting for Norman to come back…" there's a furrow of her brows, "he never did. Batsu came along, helped us pack up and had us hide out here from the cold. He should be down in the train," there's a motion to the rail car sitting on the tracks.

At that gesture, Rossling is moving to the edge of the Mezzanine, looking down at the people gathered below. There's plywood and plastic covering the subway car's windows, enough to obscure a view of if Batsu— if Akado— is actually inside.

Deckard though knows the answer. Seated on one of the subway bench seats there are the skeletons of two men, visible in blue and black clarity. One is moving, going to the door of the train car slowly. His frame looks young, like an adolescent. He looks to one of the people by a burning barrel, who in turn looks to someone near the stairs, who in turn like some sort of peek-a-boo chain reaction looks up to Rossling. There's a moment where the silver-haired agent lurches forward, then slowly turns, looking to Corbin.

"I'm right here," Rossling asserts, gray brows furrowed, "it's good to see you again, Corbin. I'm… sorry it has to be like this." One quick glance is offered to Deckard, then to Allison and Maria, then back to Corbin. "I apologize for luring you here under these pretenses, but… I would like to surrender myself to you, under the condition that you listen to what I have to say first. Now that we are not discussing matters in front of Gael."

Allison can't help but look a tad amused at Deckard, but first things first. She straightens a little at hearing that Akado is downstairs, then stiffens further when Rossling is taken over. Her silver eyes move directly towards him and a hand is held out in a 'stop' gesture, though it's not really necessary. "Do not move. Don't try to shoot anyone, or otherwise harm anyone in this building. Tell us where your physical body is."
She bristles, seeing the evidence of a possession taking place, and moves the tranquilizer gun slightly. Maria remains ready to fire it at the stolen agent should he make a move which appears hostile. But as he hasn't done so yet, he remains unsedated.

"Spendin' all your money on me. Up on. …Me."

Like a terrier watching a rat, Deckard stills and tips his head sideways after a span of floor like there's something there for him to see, focus jumping a few feet at a time until Rossling's all like, possessed and stuff. And that's where the trail ends.

Chilly fascination holds Deckard's stare on the older agent like a vice. Jaw gone slack enough to make him look thick in addition to looking kind of like one of the locals. From there his eyes eventually tick to Corbin, awaiting the inevitable stand-down order.

With their senior agent possessed, does that make him in charge?

"No one fire," Corbin says simply, as he steps closer to the man, switching the photograph back under his coat, with his sidearm still in othe other hand. No correction was made to the woman about his ethnicity. It's But now he's not even Asian. He's speaking through a proxy. Allison is giving commands, but they don't know if her ability can work through a proxy in this case, cause that's essentially what the Agent is. And they've lost enough agents the last few months. Too many…

"Mr. Ichihara," he politely says in greeting, voice cautious as he keeps his sidearm low, pointed down in front of him a few feet. He keeps with the illusion of readiness to bring it up. That is all it is, though, an illusion. "Turning yourself in may not do any good at this point. You've caused a lot of damage. You know that… that we're not under orders to take you in." Even if he surrenders. What are they going to do? Hand him over to the black vans and coffins? "But we'll hear what you have to say. It'd be nice if I could talk to you face to face."

The man had always intimidated Corbin, since the first time they really got to meet. The new partner for his daughter.


Something stirs in the back of Corbin's mind, barely a whisper.

Akado's first order of business in Rossling's body is to address the request made by Allison. He indeed comes to an immediate halt when she asks, then in compliance with her request not to shoot anyone carefully and slowly holsters his gun at his hip, clipping the leather strap over it. The latter request, however, is met with a smile.

"I have encountered hypnotists like yourself in the past, agent. You will find that the sobconscious mind of this body may be pliant to your demands, but the dominant mind is not. I needn't tell you that, it is… unimportant."

Rossling's eyes settle on Corbin after that, one brow raised. "I said I surrender to you, I did not mean the Company." Which is an entirely weirder situation there. "I submit to you my case, as it were, and you may make a decision on if you wish to bring me in afterward." There's tension in Rossling, Corbin can see it in his throat muscles, Deckard can see it in his spine and joints, like he's waiting for something; anxious.


"I attempted to reason with your compatriots, unfortunately I fear they were not willing to listen to reason. I emplore you to not make the same mistake." With all of Rossling's sniveling demeanor flooded out of him and replaced by the rigid stiffness of Akado's, he seems almost like a different man.

"The men I have killed were guilty of a conspiracy, a crime that the Company has perpetrated under our noses. Project Icarus, in which you are treading in the ruins of, cost the lives of dozens of Company agents who were brutally murdered in this very spot in the hopes of covering up the creation of a Formula to empower normal humans with Evolved abilities… you can't be blind to that, Corbin, as close to her as you were."

Only Corbin hears that ghost, a voice echoing in the back of his mind like an itch. Akado wastes none of Rossling's breath and continues. "The men on my list either willingly or through willful irnogrance contributed to that calamity, and one further." Rossling's eyes are lighter than Akado's, but still have some of that weight to them. "Elements within the Company knew of the bomb prior to its occurance… were given evacuation notices to prepare. Why do you think none of the head administration were harmed, why they were ready on the day after the explosion to begin their preparations. Why do you think they were so willing to integrate with the Department of Homeland Security as they have? They were a part of it. A bid for power and control or whatever vice motivated them."


Rossling's eyes narrow. "Ben and the others were told, but they refused to listen to reason, and now they are going to come here to finish me. I knew the Company would send you all here, send people they thought would have the capacity to fulfill a mission like this. I'm asking you to make a different choice, to side with me," Rossling intones sharply, "root out the corruption in the Company, cut it out, and begin anew."

Allison shrugs at the words given to her. "So long as the body cooperates, I'm content." Since it means that he can't shoot them. At his next words she glances to Corbin, eyes narrowing as she watches him for his reaction. She shifts her body so that she can easily see both men, and though her gun seems to be forgotten in her hand, her eyes remain that bright silver, and she readies herself to stop Corbin too, if she must. She is nothing if not loyal to the Company.
Not a word is spoken, eyes remaining on the possessed agent and the one he speaks of surrendering to. It's an interesting tale, in Maria's ears, but one lacking proof. She thinks to speak up and demand it, but doesn't, being sure Corbin will get there on his own.

"I dunno." Deckard's saw-edged voice raises up coarse from his post off to the side, loud enough to be heard without any of the exclamation points generally associated with interjection. "I'm not sure Lao Tzu could've hand-picked a better Inaction Squad."

That voice causes Corbin to glance toward his shoulder, almost behind him. Perhaps he's looking at Deckard, or Richards, or Delagado, or something else, but he's looking for something that is simply not there. Project Icarus. As soon as he read the files, he knew that the Company he worked for wasn't the one he signed up to work for, and he doesn't think that Company ever existed. The bomb is new.

His mother died in the bomb. His baby sister. So many people died for— for what? A bid for power? Power they don't even have? Homeland Security handles more than they do. Some mysterious group in black vans handles containment. What did they gain?

Destroying something to fix it. Tearing them down to build them up—

It sounds like what Hokuto's shadow had been doing in people's dreams. What she tried to do to everyone. Tear them down inside to weed out the weak, and make the strong stronger.

Maybe father and daughter had more in common than he'd like to think.

"I can't side with you." he says quietly, looking back at the older Ichihara. The voice in his head— it feels like more than a memory. But it can't be more than that. Can it? "All your doing is what's been done before, again and again… Destroy something to gain something. Maybe things can be fixed without… Without destroying everything that it is."

Like he's trying to fix 'Agent' Deckard?

"Infections must be cut out." Rossling states flatly, unaware of the dramatic irony of the notion with his daughter's killer unwittingly in the very room. Any and all memories of a voice haunting the back of Corbin's mind have fallen silent when Akado speaks through his proxy. There's a look over to Allison, then to Maria, then to Deckard. "Does he speak for all of you in this matter? Do you care so little for the corruption inherent in the system you have found yourselves leashed to?"

Akado's manner of speaking coming from Rossling's warbling and somewhat nasally voice is less than awe inspiring. "Or will you go through your motions? Just like the others, and finish the job that the bomb did not successfully complete on me?" It is an expectant look Rossling's body offers the other agents, one gray brow raised.

"Does Corbin Ayers speak for you all?"

Rather than answer Rossling/Akado, Allison looks to Deckard. "Do you know where he is? His body?" she asks in the tone of one who's getting irritated with bullshit. And considering her views on the Company, she probably views Akado's words as just that.

"I've heard so many wild conspiracy theories," Maria comments boredly. "If you had any proof at all for any of this, why haven't you mailed copies to every media outlet in existence?" The weapon remains poised, but still she doesn't move. Perhaps a partial confirmation to Deckard's claim, born of understanding it would be pointless to tranq the seized body. He'd just take over another, and they don't know where the actual Ichihara is. Seems the only way to learn is by hearing him out.

No matter how much it smells of bovine dung.

"Il y a du monde ici," says Deckard, more at Allison than to her. And in French. Brows at a level and the hard angles of his face roughly inscrutible in dingy lighting and the glow defracted cold through his breath, it can probably safely be supposed that his answer is not actually more helpful to those who can actually understand it.

"Checking in while there's still time, boss — are we planning on shooting back if he gets all fist shakey and tries to kill us?"

What do they do, Hokuto?

Corbin wishes that she could answer that question. This is the father she adored and loved, the man that he feared and respected… If he thought the words were a bullshit lie, it would be easier to hold his ground, but— One truth means all are possible. Even one act of horror commited in this place and kept in closed restricted records by former men of the Company, the husband of one of the Founders might be enough to cause second thoughts. But a more personal one…

He'd often wondered how they could mess up so badly that the bomb would happen. Decades of history with Evolved, keeping them in check, and their biggest mistake lead to the deaths of over a hundred thousand. It makes sense that the biggest Evolved tragedy in their history…

Could have happened because of them.

"I think you, and everyone else, have done enough cutting already. Now it's time to let it heal. To rebuild, and… there's been enough destruction. You've turned yourself into the very things you say you wanted to stop. You wanted to turn yourself in, then turn yourself in. Right now. Stop talking through other people."

A glance is cast toward Deckard. The killer of the man's daughter— who doesn't even know it. A secret he's intending to keep… They have orders to kill… And there's no way he can bypass them… And would Hokuto ever forgive him for what he says next?

"We'll do what we were sent here to do."

All Akado offers is a dissappointed sigh to the direction of the conversation, his brows furrowing and shoulders slacking in Rossling's body. "If you are the best the Company has to offer, then I am truly alone in my task. I commend your conviction… blind though it be." In the moment that they've solidified their stance, Akado does nothing to alleviate the tension of the situation, save for adding, "I am sorry," before releasing Rossling from his control.

The gray-haired agent stumbles back, staring vacantly at Corbin. "Wh— what the— what happened?" Befuddlement crosses his features, and as he looks up to Maria it's with a wary uncertainty, then over to Corbin, then to Allison, trying to figure out where Akado's metal ball in this psychic game of cups went.

Deckard has already decended down from the mezzanine to the rail platform, walking between the huddled and confused riff-raff who're trying to make sense of the conversation they're getting clipped snippets of. One of the people down below, a young man with a razor-shaved head and a neck decorated with the ends of visible tatoos watches Flint's movement across the floor cautiously, jittering one leg up and down where he sits ona pair of old torn-out car seats that have become chairs in this ghetto.

In that moment of guess where the psychic is, Allison nods her head curtly once. "What we came here to do," and walks to the edge of the mezzanine, looking down to the train, then over to Flint. "Excuse me," Allison calls out crisply and clearly to Deckard, "you should shoot me. Repeatedly."

Typically suggestions of that nature don't work, most people's subconscious finds murder an inacceptable suggestion.

Most people.

"As expected," Maria remarks with something of a yawning quality, "he's full of it. Didn't even claim to have proof we could find and read for ourselves." Her eyes track Allison as she shifts in demeanor and walks toward the mezzanine, calling out to Deckard. "Shoot you, repeatedly? It should really only take once. Let's see if he can possess the sedated."

Aim is taken with the tranq pistol, and it's fired at Allison.

"He's downstairs." Mild, flat. Controlled. Deckard thumbs the safety off and shifts his weight, annoyance lined fine through his forehead.

All of his tattoos are done covered up by his BDUs and all associated winter cover, save for some detailing on the point of a cross just visible at the nape of his neck. Not that it really matters. For those who know the business of killing — in Flint, familiarity isn't hard to find. It's in the way he looks at people when they aren't looking at him, the cut of his eyes too stark to be easily diguised without the aid of very dark glasses.

He's oddly still for a beat, not blinking or breathing. Not even looking at Allison. Just enough time for people with secrets here to have room to regret them. Then his eyes roll white at the corners — turning before the rest of him on his way to setting the shotgun to his shoulder and pulling the trigger as suggested.

Kuh-plow up at the soon unconscious one way or another therapist, sparks foaming hot off the rails, buckshot ricochets pitting back into the crowd below.

Allison, or rather, Akado, doesn't seem to notice Maria until the dart hits her in the shoulder. She staggers forward a step, blinking, her eyes sliding back to their normal hazel. Akado has left the building! She has just enough time for her eyes to widen, and try to duck down, when she sees Deckard and his shotgun. "Oh shi…" The words trail off as the tranq hits her blood stream, and her eyes roll back in her head as she starts to fall. At least she won't feel any pain from Deckard's shot, right?

"Get down," Corbin yells, hoping that anyone who can listen does. He's not as persuasive as some, but he can certainly yell loudly when everything goes to hell. Maria chose to tranq Allison, leaving the man who has orders to shoot people, repeatedly, until all his ammo runs out. It will end badly, no matter how it ends.

Sadly, the man who he is supposed to be friends with, also happens to be the one person he would shoot at if he had to. And in this case—

He has to.

For the first time in a long time, he discharges his weapon at someone. Not a tranq gun, or a taser. Live rounds, right at Deckard's chest.

And the only reason he can do that, is because he knows the man's wearing a vest. Just like he was the last time he shot at him.

Gunfire creates chaos and pandemonium, screams rise up like smoke from the burning barrels, and the homeless residents of the subway system become moving targets weaving between one another and ducking for anywhere that isn't within the line of fire. The woman who had been helping the agents earlier quickly scrambles for the stairs, running up and away from the gunfire, nearly tripping over the blanket that had been wrapped around herself.

The two young boys that were by the fire cower by the burning barrel on the mezzanine, while the jittery and tattooed man on the car seats suddenly leaps up to his feet, withdrawing a revolver from the inside of his half unzipped winter jacket. He screams, something it's laced with profanities before firing a few shots in Deckard's direction, then turning and blasting off the remaining four rounds towards Corbin, his shots all going too wide, sparking brightly off of the cement ceiling.

But it's the sudden sound of a bolt-action rifle being locked and loaded and the sound of Maria's pistol dropping from mid-air that catches Rossling's attention. Akado, now in the aerial target of Maria Delgado turns her rifle on Rossling and Rossling — in self defense — aims up at Maria. The bolt-action rifle goes off in the same moment Rossling's .45 goes, and he's struck in the chest, the rifle round hammering against his vent and sending him flipping head over heels over the Mezzanine railing crashing to the ground on his arm with a muffled pop.

Maria is knocked clear out of the air by the .45 caluber round, nearly punching through her vest but instead delivering a kick like a mule that sends her out of flight and down onto her back, all of the air in her lungs vacated by the two rapid successions of impact. She only awakens once she hits the ground, feeling the impact of the concrete beneath her shoulders.

One of the terrified vagrants trying to run for cover suddenly jerks towards Corbin, throwing herself at him unarmed. She leaps atop him, tackling the archivist off of his feet and lays a punch across his jaw that hurts her hand as much as it does the side of Corbin's face. Akado is rapidly switching targets, but when her hand breaks on impact she lets out a pained and confused yelp and seems to awake to the shock of her predicament.

In all the hail of bullets and gunfire, the plastic-flap door to the subway car rises open, and a darkly dressed silhouette of a long-haired man slides out through the doorway. Akado Ichihara looks up to the mezzanine, then around the basement, glancing towards the hole in the concrete wall cautiously, measuring his methods of retreat.

When she hits, the gun is knocked from her hands and skids a few feet away. Maria lies there groaning briefly, working to catch her breath and wincing from the sensations at a now very bruised chest. Were she even to see Ichihara, which she doesn't, there be no action she can take yet.

Flint doesn't have time to do much more than rack another shell into the chamber and take aim before he's in a hailstorm of lead. And hurt.

The first couple are soaked with little give. He's very driven to give dubious credit where it's due, brow hooded into a hard line and eyes blazing. Set to a task. It takes a round pulling fleet through the meat of his arm for him to drop the gun while he staggers off balance from the pummel of a fourth punch at his middle.

Unfortunately, a reflexive lift of his shoulder leaves everything underneath exposed. One of the rounds cracking in from another direction vanishes into the vulnerable space under his arm and he goes kind of dull in the eyes before he falls over.

Here's hoping they find another way out before it's over. That's a lot of Deckard to drag up two flights of stairs.

Shots that go wide still sometimes hit. Corbin's upper arm gets clipped by one, ripping mostly through his thick coat and spraying white, white that gets a tinge of red. Not enough to knock him down, but the woman jumping on him with flying fists takes care of that. From his vantage point of the floor, the chaos grows, and fluctates. Maybe he should have gone along, at least for a minute—

Cause now they're standing in a place, with dozens and dozens of people. Refugees. Children

Rather than start shooting again, he begins to empty his weapon, ejecting the clip, and then reaching to remove the chambered round.

He doesn't want to end up shooting anyone else, even under someone else's control.

With the coast clear Akado begins to move, slipping towards the ruptured tunnel, pausing by the twisted rebar with one hand on the concrete. He looks up, dark eyes narrow and lips downturn into a frown when he sees no sign of movement up on the mezzanine. If there's still one agent left standing, Akado's escape may be ruined, and Lucas is nowhere to be seen. This didn't unfortunately, go entirely to plan, but close enough. Akado hesitates, looking down the tunnel, then looking back to Corbin. He can't leave anyone who knows what's going on alive, and it's with a scowl that he turns his attention on one of the residents cowering on the stairs.

His consciousness jumps into them, and they begins an ascent up the steps while Akado remains braced by the door. She walks up the steps, scanning the mezzanine, seeing Maria breathing in deep, sucking breaths and trying to get herself back in a semblance of physical equilibrium, then spots Corbin emptying out his gun.

Gunfire erupts from the ground floor, and Rossling's .45 explodes from where he lays on the concrete with one broken arm, a few wild shots catching Akado off guard, one clipping him in the shoulder and leaving a hot spray of blood across the wall behind him. The dark-haired ex-agent clutches his shoulder, breathes out a wheezing breath and darts towards the stars when the woman he had control of flees his line of sight.

Running up the steps, Akado slows to a creep, looking to see if Rossling is following, then moves up the rest of the way, dark eyes wide when he spots Corbin having finished depleting his ammunotion.

There's still a rifle between him and Maria, however, and Akado launches himself into Corbin's mind—

—and finds himself standing in a bookstore on a quiet street on Roosevelt Island. Akado's back tenses, he looks down to himself, dressed in the black and white suit he whore during his days in the Company, hands trembling when he sees the crisp contrast. Black shoes scuff across the floor as he moves to try and walk backwards towards the door, only to hear a voice behind him.

"Daddy." Akado's blood runs cold, a chill slides down his spine and he slowly turns to look down wide-eyed at the source of the voice. Standing there, pale as a ghost and dressed in a vibrant crimson dress, Hokuto Ichihara stares up with gold irises towards her father, brush-thin strokes of ink black hair gliding across her brows.

"Ho— Hokuto…" There's a hitch of his breath, a terror in his voice and a shame, "I— I thought— The newspapers— " she lifts a hand up, one finger brushing his lips, head shaking slowly as her dark brows rise in a piteous expression.


Hokuto shakes her head slowly, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around her father's waist, resting her head against his chest and closing her golden eyes. "I am," she offers in a hushed affimation of her death against the soft fabric of his suit jacket, "but I'm here." Akado's arms tremble, eyes sting and his jaw trembles as tears roll down his cheeks. "You have to let go," of the anger, of mother, of me, of this. It could be anything, it could be nothing. Her words have some meaning to him, and that's all that matters, his own inference of the truth.

"I love you," is what they both say—

—Akado is motionless, transfixed and stationary, his arms out as if he is embracing someone but otherwise still. Corbin can see what Akado's doing, but can't quite explain it. All he knows, is that deep down in the pit of his stomach, there's a sensation of bittersweet happiness and greivous loss that he can't explain. Which makes sense, they're not his emotions.

She's always got to be there to back up her partner.

"Do your job, Corbie."

The job they were sent here to do. Corbin reaches for the clip that he ejected and slams it back into place, blue eyes searching out the man who did so much damage to the city. The best of the Company may have never existed in the first place. In his mind, it's already fallen away. But there's one piece behind, whispering in the back of his mind…

And his job happens to be to kill her father.

The round is chambered, the gun readied, and for the second time, he fires it. This time at a man still hugging the air. And as he does, the only thing that he can do is apologize in his mind.

There's a red mark on the concrete wall, wet and running, that is behind where Akado Ichihara once stood. Laid out on the concrete floor, one eye bloodshot and the other closed, there's a thin trickle of blood running from a hole in his head just above that bloodshot eye, black hair wet and sticky at the back of his head.

The homeless people living down here, below the gutted remnants of Primatech's legacy are issuing one by one out from the split in the concrete tunnel. Akado lay dead, all his dreams crushed at his feet in the blood slithering out beside his head, carving a near serpentine trail away from his body.

There are some wounds that time can heal, and the groan of pain elicited by Flint Deckard is assurance that perhaps those wounds can be made whole again. There are other wounds, ones more permanent, that nothing can ever make right again; they fester and sicken, become something that needs be cauterized for the betterment of the body.

Watching the smoke trail up from the barrel of his gun, it's hard to say if Akado Ichihara was the infection, or if the Company is. But with the smoking gun both figuratively and literally in Corbin Ayers' hands, Akado Ichihara has taken his revenge.

After all, he was next on the list, and with the suspicion in the minds of the Company's best agents here tonight…

…the others won't be far behind.

That is his punishment, to himself, and them.

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