CHAPTER TWENTY


Any relief that Conrad had felt at returning to the factory had been promptly squashed out by the emptiness of the basement.

After things had finally settled down and plans had been made to rescue Worth, the vampire had retreated to the basement. He wasn't sure if it was because he actually wanted to set things up or if it was because he really wanted to get away from everyone else. Whatever the reason, he was down there now, everyone else gone, left for the mission. The vampire listened silently to their crackling babble coming over the communicators, heard Hanna mutter something in an oddly subdued voice, and remembered the surprising event that had happened soon after their return to the factory.

He'd been in his room, throwing out the ruined shirt and pants he'd been wearing and searching for a clean set of clothes he could throw on, when there'd been a tentative knock on the door. Hanna had entered silently, standing just inside the doorway, his head hanging, unusually still. Conrad had been startled and just a little annoyed at being caught without a shirt on and it had showed in his voice when he'd asked the redhead what he wanted.

"I... I'm sorry." Hanna had kept his eyes on the floor, his voice soft.

"What?"

"I'm sorry," Hanna had repeated. "You got captured because I messed up the mission. You got hurt," The redhead's gaze had flickered up for a second to travel across Conrad's bandages before dropping again, "Because I was an idiot. And I'm sorry. You can hate me, if you want, I wouldn't blame you, but I just wanted you to know that I -"

"Shut up," Conrad had muttered, and he'd met Hanna's blue eyes with his own red ones. "I'm not mad at you, and I certainly don't blame you. I threw you into that air vent so you could escape with the information; it's not like you ran away and abandoned me or anything."

"But what happened to you - !"

"It doesn't matter. It's not your fault." Conrad had turned away, putting his back to Hanna. "If it makes you feel any better, I forgive you."

There had been a long, heavy silence, and when Hanna spoke again, his voice had had a smile in it: "Thanks, Connie. I'm glad you're back. And I'm glad you're okay."

"Yeah," Conrad had mumbled as Hanna had vanished back out the door, shutting it behind him with a loud bang as he went. "Yeah..."

But was he okay?

He didn't think so.

Conrad was scared again; terrified, really.

But it wasn't himself; he was scared for because, even though the thought of Vitra Tower shook him to the core, he had completed the mission, had come back alive. And what was that old saying? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Well, Conrad couldn't deny that he certainly felt that surviving the Tower had made him stronger, in some way or another, but that did little to quell his fear.

Fear for everyone else, fear for his friends. Hanna, Toni, Veser, Eli, Lamont, they were all heading straight into the enemy's territory, straight into Vitra Tower. And the thought terrified Conrad because all he could remember of the place was pain; the cold sting of the serum that had captured him, the harsh light of that single room, the flash of fire from the holy water, the sickening burn of the silver in his system, and the horrible darkness from that substance that had blinded him.

That was all he could think of, and whenever he did think of it, cold shivers of fear sent him trembling; made his knees weak, and his fingers numb.

He hadn't wanted them to leave because he knew it could easily be them in a chair, subject to the whims of Ellis' sick experiments. It could easily be Veser cut open on one of those labs tables, still alive, dying slowly. It could easily be Toni who was lanced with silver and left to be eaten away by the poison. Ot could easily be Hanna who was torn limb from limb just to see what made him tick. And Conrad didn't think he could take that.

Not to mention his own fear. What if those Ahimsa men somehow tracked them back to the factory? What if they found him, all alone and vulnerable, trapped in this basement? The idea left a rock in his already knotted stomach, made him dizzy, made him terrified to close his eyes because if he did he might open them and find a gun pointed at his face.

He was frightened of being alone.

But to get Worth back, he had to be alone. Conrad saw the sense in it and it was a great plan but the nagging memories of what Vitra Tower represented haunted him, even as he pushed them aside. The vampire leaned forward in his seat in the basement, suddenly acutely aware of the lack of smoke and swearing and grime that usually kept house, and rested his arms on the edge of the crowded computer desk in front of him, brow furrowed, unconsciously rubbing the thin, metallic strip that circled his left wrist and disrupted the older computer monitors when he moved too close to them.

Branded, like cattle. Conrad didn't know when they'd done it but at some point during his capture, he'd been registered and marked. Dark lines scored the inside of his wrist like a barcode, the numbers underneath standing out starkly on his pale skin. He couldn't go anywhere now without the Council watching his every move. Even with the metal bracelet covering the mark, even with the magnet inside the band blocking the signal from transmitting, he felt dirty, infected, like every shadow hid a watching enemy waiting to pounce on him.

And it only added to the loneliness and fear that was clawing away at his insides.


It was almost sad, really.

There had been a tense moment after Veser had blown the door open, the poor workers standing there amongst the boxes looking utterly lost. The lighting panels along the ceiling flashed a brilliant red, an alarm ringing through the concrete room as metal gates snapped in place over the exits.

None of them had stood a chance, armed or not. The group had made short work of them, blasts of energy and bombs flying everywhere, bullets piercing flesh. Within minutes Veser was kicking the last guard aside with a bit too much enthusiasm, the shrill shriek of the alarm only seeming to spur the group onward.

"This is easy!" Hanna exclaimed, flexing his fingers, blue energy twirling around his bracers. "We make the most awesome group ever! Hey Connie, where do we go from here?"

"Down," came the reply over the communicators, "to the... to the basement levels. He'll be down there somewhere."

"Time to blow shit up!" Veser spun his harpoon through the air. "Come on, Hot Lips, you and me! Let's go bust some Undesirables out!"

"You got it." Toni's fangs were twisted into a terrible grin, her bright blue fur standing up on end as she made her way toward the glittering red 'exit' sign.

"Is this really the plan? The former agent wondered aloud as they rushed for the stairs. "Just blow things up until we find him?"

"Hell yeah!" Veser said. "Not only does it free all those Undesirables, it's seriously stickin' it to those Council bastards!"

"Come on, Polonius! Don't worry so much!" Hanna urged his partner, racing after Toni and Veser, "We know exactly what we're doing!"

"Only because it's the only thing you know how to do," Lamont said from behind them. "Just nobody get shot, okay?"

That had only gotten breathless, excited sort of laughter from both Hanna and Veser as they burst into the fire escape stairwell. The group rushed down the stairs, a cacophony of thudding boots and paws, punctuated by bursts of energy from Hanna when the redhead got a bit too enthused. Up above them, shouts and banging doors could be heard - evidentially, the guards and Ahimsa were on to them, but this only seemed to excite the group more as they descended.

It took a good seven floors before they were finally interrupted, as a grumbling scientist stumbled out of the fire escape door. "Goddamn fire alarms, why do they always have to test them?" The doctor scowled as he rubbed a hand over his face. "It's not like they -" Here he paused, brown eyes widening in horror as he caught the sight of a glowing boot aiming for his face.

He didn't say much else after that.

"I found the labs, guys!" Hanna shouted, skipping though the door and dancing on the threshold. "Come on, come on, pick up the pace!"

"Not all of us can move at light speed, Hanna," Lamont grumbled, brushing his hair back from his face.

"Move it." Veser shouldered past Hanna and froze. "Holy fuck..." The half-Selkie's eyes widened as he took in the sight of the tortured, starved, and ruined Undesirables.

Really though, the problem wasn't the Undesirables, most of whom were trapped their cells and in varying states of panic due to the whole alarm business. The scientists weren't really of concern either, all of whom had ceased their panicked rushing and spewing of papers when they caught sight of just who was barging through their door.

The real problem was the Ahimsa bursting in from across the room, blurs of dark clothing and gazes as hard as the guns clasped in their gloved hands. The instant Hanna had burst into the room their weapons had come up, preparations made to shoot them down and end the chaos in an instant.

Unfortunately, Hanna was faster.

The redhead leapt forward, cerulean energy boiling out of his heels as he raced across the room, leaping over tables in a blur that was almost too fast to see. He slammed into the Ahimsa agent at the front of the group and knocked him to the floor before leaping off and spinning in mid air to kick aside two more of the Ahimsa. They both dropped to the floor like stones.

"Get the kid!" shouted one of the other agents, who leveled his gun at Hanna as the redhead turned to face him. Hanna grinned and ducked low to the floor, slamming his palm into the polished metal floor. A shock of intense magic and blue energy erupted around him, sending the Ahimsa sprawling. Then Hanna jumped to his feet, chasing down the ones who were still standing with bursts of light and energy, laughing and catcalling as he went.

"Hanna, save your energy!" Toni called after him as she leaped into the fray, going down on top of an unfortunate Ahimsa in a blur of blue fur and snarling teeth.

"She's right," the former agent spoke up as a shot rang through the air, eliciting a cry of pain from a guard who'd been leveling a shot at the redhead. "We have to keep moving, there's going to be more of them. Where's Veser?"

"Trying to free these Undesirables!" The half-Selkie shouted from where he was slamming his fists into the control panel. "Damn it! Forget this! Everyone get down, I'm blowing this thing sky high!" And he pulled one of his powerful, blinking spheres from his pocket, stepping back and aiming it at the blinking, teasing, control panel.

"Wait, what?" Toni sputtered. "VESER, DON'T - !"

Too late. The explosion tore through the lab, a ball of scorching flame that spread in an instant, catching at chemicals and causing smaller, brilliant colored flashes of light and energy. The Ahimsa and scientists caught in the blast let out shouts of agony, glass and metal shrapnel flying everywhere.

Finally, it was over. The room had been plunged into darkness, lit by the flaming remains of the control panels and the glittering, broken blue shards of what had once been holoscreens. The emergency lights flashed an awful, angry red every few seconds, illuminating groaning bodies and shadowy figures as they moved tentatively toward the broken glass that had once made up their prison. The lab was almost strangely quiet for a moment, save for a few groans, and then came the low growl from the corner.

Well, Veser's bombs had certainly worked. Something was loose... and it wanted blood.

One of the Ahimsa agents had stumbled to his feet, clutching at a wound in his side. "Ugh," he groaned. "Who gave the half-breed scum all these bombs? I just don't…" It was then that he froze, face paling as he took in the sight of something very large looming over the threshold of one of the cells, black fur standing on end and eyes glowing red. "….Shit."

That seemed to be the trigger. Suddenly, with a great and terrible roar the creature burst forth, what seemed to be about seven hundred pounds of fur, fangs and claws bearing down on the man. Around the room all sorts of things were rising to their feet and jumping into the fray. There was a fizzling noise and a blur of white bone as a vampire leaped at an unfortunate scientist, a swirling mass of shadows as a headless woman lashed out at a pair of guards with a newly materialized scythe. Flames and magic crackled in the air, the lab exploding into action again as if the entire room were a veritable powder keg.

From somewhere in the mass of flailing bodies, Veser was laughing, horribly laughing, and shouting loudly, "Hell yeah! Take that, you Ahimsa bastards!"

Hanna was howling with laughter too, a wicked sound that sounded far too happy with the situation. Neon blue light spilled from his fingers and he threw handfuls of it into the fray, striking Ahimsa agents with deadly accuracy.

"Hanna!" Lamont ducked an arcing lance of electricity, running up to the redhead and the ex-agent. "We gotta move! Veser was an idiot, but this was exactly what we needed! Eli, grab him and let's go!"

The former agent winced at these words, a hand coming up to clutch at the back of his head. While the others were laughing around him, there was something sharp and painful ringing in right ear, as if he'd been struck from behind with something. He'd probably been too close to the explosion, Veser was infamous for not paying attention to these things. However, the command had been ordered and he knew he had a job to do, so with a shake of his head he cast this pain aside and reached out to grab Hanna.

"Let's go," he said as he tugged Hanna along. His heart was thudding in ears that were still ringing from the explosion; but in spite of this, there was a fire dancing in his eyes, something excited and determined and dangerous igniting from within even with the pain in his head. The scene around them was grisly chaos, Hanna's laughter melding with Veser's was absolutely terrifying and he swore he'd just seen Toni blow past in a blur of animalistic fury... but there was something contagious and fascinating about it all.

It was awful. But when he thought about the creatures exploding from cages and memories of those he'd sent to those cages, it was impossible to deny the surge of sheer, mad rightness about it all.

"Toni and Veser have things under control," he added, a slight smirk flashing across his face.

"If I have to..." Hanna dropped his hands almost reluctantly, the glow on his bracers dropping to their usual, low flicker as he cut off his energy. "Hold on a second, why're you coming? Lamont and I can find Worth. Shouldn't you stay and help out Toni and Veser?"

His partner shook his head. "I'm not leaving you again. Now let's go."'

The three of them dashed across the lab, dodging through the chaos, avoiding the fire, the bullets, the electricity, and the teeth and claws that were flashing through the air. The door across the room was beckoning but as soon as they reached it, an Ahimsa stepped across their path, leveling his weapon at them. Hanna skidded to a halt and brought his hands up, ready to charge his bracers, but Lamont got there first. He lunged past Hanna and grabbed the Ahimsa by the front of his coat, slamming him into the wall beside the door.

"Worth," the dealer snarled in a voice that sounded most un-Lamont-ish, "Where is Worth?"

"Wh-what? Who?" The agent had dropped his gun and was shrinking back from the dark look on the man's face who was pinning him down.

"Dr. Ellis' prisoner! Luce Worth!" Lamont snapped, shaking the Ahimsa agent so that the man's head banged against the wall. "Where is he!"

"T-two floors down!" the agent shouted, "Room 3A! Don't kill me! Please!"

Lamont threw the Ahimsa to the floor in disgust and kicked the door open, running into the stairwell beyond. Hanna stared wide-eyed at his partner and then took off after the dealer.

The former agent was left gaping for a moment, then shook his head as he followed after them, coat flaring out behind him. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised - the whole situation was strange - but there was something downright terrifying about the whole thing. Lamont's gaze had been frigid and determined, the eyes of a man with everything to gain and still so much to lose. It was something awful, something that took the ex-agent out of the chaos and grounded him to reality. The whole thing was exhilarating, yes, but contrary to those eyes, there was still so much to lose and he was sure they all knew that.

They all still knew that, and they were all getting sick of losing.


"Where is security! Where the hell is security! I'm totally unprotected here!" Ellis shouted, his face pale as he scrambled across the floor, trying to find something to hide under, "Oh dear God! I'm gonna die! Security! Security!"

"Doctor Ellis, please, I am trying to give orders!" Anya barked out before turning her attention back to flickering holoscreens before her, her face a blank mask as she tapped her communicator. "Lieutenant? Lieutenant?"

"I do not think he will be answering," Abner said grimly as he stepped past the captain, shotgun in hand. "They've overtaken the labs entirely. They need backup, Captain."

The brunette shook her head as she reached across the council, tapping a few buttons. "Attention all security!" She called out over her communicator. "We have a breach in the labs! All personnel are expected to evacuate immediately, all security is to report to the labs for backup!"

"Report to Doctor Ellis!" came the screech from underneath a wheely-chair. "Anya, what're you doing, send them all up here? We need security! "

Anya's eyes widened and she nearly lost her grip on the communicator. "Wh- no, no, back to the labs!" She snapped before dropping her gaze to glare down at Ellis. "Sir, my troops are needed down there, not up here with you!"

"No! No, we need them up here!" Ellis fidgeted underneath the chair, gripping the legs of the chair in a panic. "They have to protect me! The rebels are after me! Me, you hear me! I need protection!"

The Ahimsa captain shook her head. "No, you don't! They need protection!" She snapped, stabbing an angry finger at the chaos on the screens.

"Captain, I'm going to help," Abner spoke up, ignoring the cowering man on the floor as he strode toward the door.

"No! You can't!" Ellis, moving surprisingly fast for a coward, leapt in front of the door, spreading his arms in front of it as though this would stop the vampire hunter from leaving, "You have to stay here! You have to protect me!"

"…Doctor, your subordinates are dying," the vampire hunter spoke. "Our orders were to protect them."'

"B-but... but..." Ellis glanced around the room frantically and then his face lit up. "My files! My files are in here! See! See!" He dashed across the room again and grabbed the black, metallic looking briefcase sitting on the console, holding it up to show the other two, "These are important! And there's more files in the computer! We can't leave them! They're part of the Firefly Project and they're very important!"

There was a moment of tense silence as cold blue met frantic brown, Anya's jaw locked in a solid, tense line. Her fists clenched at her sides, shaking slightly, as if the captain was fighting to not simply punch her boss in the face. "…But sir," she finally managed to grind out. "What about the prisoner? Isn't he vital to your project?"

Ellis stared at her for a long moment, clutching his briefcase to his chest, and then shook his head, snorting discontentedly, "Leave him, he's not... important."

Anya watched him for another moment. Finally, she shook her head and stalked toward the door without a word.

"Captain -" Abner began, only to be cut off.

"Hunter VanSlyk, you will remain here to guard Doctor Godwin Ellis and his files," the brunette said coolly. "I need to get to the labs."

"Nope!" Ellis threw himself in front of the door again, still clutching the briefcase, "We're getting out of here!"

Again those eyes met his, unflinching even as another explosion made the room shudder. "Doctor Ellis," the Ahimsa Captain murmured. "Didn't you just tell me we couldn't leave this room due to the the information stored on the computers?"

Ellis shrugged, shifting from foot to foot, "Nah, those are just my Minecraft files. Not important. Let's go!" And he motioned for the door, urging them to follow. "Orders, Captain, orders! We're leaving."

The brunette grit her teeth for another moment, then let out a frustrated growl before jerking her head toward the door. "Take the area ahead," she murmured to Abner. Those blue goggles met her eyes for a moment and she shook her head. "The Council's orders hold priority… though how long that will remain the case remains to be seen."

The vampire hunter gazed at her, then nodded and stepped past her and Ellis, somehow able to express his distaste with each heavy, booted step. He paused at the door, however, shoulders squared. "Miss Borokov… I believe the Council is growing tired of chess games."

"I know," Anya murmured in reply, her eyes not leaving Ellis'.

She received a nod in reply before the vampire hunter was gone. The instant he had left the room, a gloved hand suddenly shot out to grab Ellis, abruptly pulling the scientist mere inches from her face.

"Your orders are orders, sir," The Ahimsa Captain hissed out, her eyes alight with blue fire. "But keep this in mind: the lives that are lost today are your responsibility."

Ellis gulped and tugged hesitantly at Anya's grip, "I...I ..." A split second of silence, and then the doctor blinked and that obnoxious look was back on his face, diluted somewhat by fear, "I would very much appreciate it if you let go of my shirt, Captain, so we can get the hell out of here."

She held him there for another moment, then finally let out a low growl and shoved the doctor through the door. "Move," she growled out as she stomped after him.

The three of them rushed down the hallway as the tower gave another shudder. A scream could be heard from her communicator and the captain grit her teeth as she forced herself to keep her eyes on Ellis' retreating back.

It was for Varuna. That was all that mattered in the end.


He wasn't sure how long it had been anymore.

Worth could not remember how long it had been, because, after a while, time had stopped meaning anything. He was pretty sure Hanna's screams had stopped, could remember something of Ellis telling them to drag the kid and Lamont's body away before leaving himself, but that was a hazy thing. It was as vague as the whispers of a drug in his mind, murmurs of whether or not the serum had worn off yet that faded into the depths before Worth could make any sense of them. It was an off memory and the blond could not be sure if that or the images in his mind were reality anymore, if those cries and those bright blue eyes were present or something he was imagining.

How long had it been? Had they taken Hanna away to figure it all out themselves? Ellis wasn't that smart, but it really didn't take a genius to work this stuff out and Worth wasn't kidding himself about that anymore. Eventually they would probably figure it out and then the ache in his bones would be for nothing- except it wasn't for nothing because there were those words, damning and awful and true.

"Do you just want to die, Worth? Is that your Goddamn problem?"

No, 'Mont, the problem was never that. The problem was Worth had never known to quit while he was ahead and all the fistfights and broken bones in the world weren't going to somehow beat that out of him.

Still, those words were in his head, stuck on repeat like the memories in his brain and by this point Worth wasn't sure if he'd been present for all their deaths or not. He wasn't sure if he'd been there but he may as well have been, and now these were mixing with other memories and Worth was not one for mourning but they wouldn't get out of his fucking head.

Veser had been too young. Veser had been young and reckless and fucking stupid at seventeen when Hanna had forcibly dragged him in, and Worth had told him that. Too young, dumbass, I'm not fucking babysitting two of you, but then there had been that mission and Veser went and took down a building and well - fuck, Worth supposed that was useful enough. He'd been something explosive and strangely admirable, but fuck was he reckless, and damnit kid I've told you a million times not to do that because what the fuck am I supposed to do if you blow yourself up under my watch, huh?

Toni was, as they all knew, way too damn pretty to spend her time in the underbelly of the city. She was beautiful, talented, and the thing that had always stuck out for him was the memory of that morning when he'd been awake long before anyone else. He'd been sitting on the roof with his usual cigarette, and then out of nowhere came that piano and her voice - angelic and perfect - and oh Worth had never said anything, but she'd been far too good for the rest of them.

Conrad had surprised him, and Worth had been glad for that. He'd started out as something pathetic and far too easy to bully; but give him the right push and the vampire did so much better than either of them thought he would. Conrad had grown and changed since he'd first shown up and Worth would never admit it but he was so damn proud and fuck Connie I swear you were ready, you were stronger than you thought. You were stronger than you thought and you can blame me if you want but damnit that's not fair, you were better than that, I was fucking right.

As for Hanna's friend, Worth could not say he was surprised to learn that he'd gone down protecting Hanna. The bastard knew nothing, yet he'd thrown away his life for it anyway and in a way that was both admirable and stupid. The former agent was an absolute idiot with a streak of heroism a bit too similar to Hanna's for his own good, and that was stupid, but Worth had been glad for the guy anyway because he couldn't keep watching Hanna forever.

But of course, that hadn't mattered in the end, now had it? Hanna was there and Worth and Lamont had been fighting for so damn long to keep that from happening. They'd fought to change things and fix Worth's stupid mess and grown protective of the stupid redhead who seemed to change the world just by existing and now the whole damn thing had crumbled and Worth wasn't sure what to do. They'd all died for this stupid kid and, fuck, Worth couldn't blame them because that kid was everything, but in the end, everything hadn't mattered and, fuck, Lamont had been right.

It wouldn't be the first time.

"I know that, asshole," Worth found himself muttering through cracked lips. He was speaking to a dead man and that was stupid, but that seemed to be all he had now besides the damn memories. This was all he had now and it shouldn't have mattered, but it did and damn it all…

An explosive bang cut off his thoughts and also sent the door slamming open, two of its hinges shattered, the third just barely hanging on.

"Worth!" Blue light spilled into the room and there, framed in the doorway, was Hanna Cross. His blue eyes were wide and worried, his thin frame tense, energy sparking from his bracers as he stared wide-eyed at the doctor. "Oh hell... Worth! Worth, are you okay! Talk to me! Worth!"

The redhead dashed into the room, followed shortly after by the former Ahimsa agent and a very stressed looking Lamont.

"Worth!" Lamont skidded to a stop beside Hanna, almost slipping a semi-dried pool of a blood, "Aw, shit... Worth, you all right?"

The blond blinked up at them through his one good eye, expression one of bleary confusion as his gaze flicked from Hanna's worried, undamaged face to the equally worried dark gaze of the still living former agent. Then came Lamont and oh fuck this couldn't be right because Lamont looked like he hadn't slept in days and more worried than the doctor had ever seen him in his life and this did not compute with the body burned into the back of his eyelids.

"…Christ, musta lost a lot of blood," Worth finally groaned as he squeezed his eyes shut. "Now I'm seeing things. Stop fucking with me already, 'm not tellin' you shit…"

"Worth, what're you talking about?" Lamont reached out to touch his friend, and then stopped, because there wasn't a place where there wasn't an injury. "Look at me."

"Worth...?" Hanna crouched down, peering at the doctor with worry etched clearly across his face, "What's wrong? Why're you acting so weird...?"

The blond gave a shake of his head, though it was a bare, nearly imperceptible thing. "You're not here. They're not here. Fuck off, Ellis, it ain't gonna work…" He trailed off again, shoulders hunching upward as if he were trying to ward them both off.

"E-Ellis? He's here?" Hanna looked up sharply, turning every which way before relaxing and facing Worth again, "Worth, Ellis isn't here. It's just us. Worth?"

"Damn it, what's wrong with you!" Lamont growled, "Look at us, Luce! We're right here! Luce!" Then, ignoring the blood and numerous injuries covering Worth's frame, Lamont gabbed the doctor's shoulders and shook him. "Luce, whatever they did to you, you're better than them! You're better than them! So look at me, you goddamn pansy!"

The doctor jerked in his seat, as if the touch were like an electric shock. Worth blinked blearily up at his living, breathing, decidedly real best friend."…'Mont?" His breath hitched in his throat, coming out in a gasp like a drowning man coming up for air. "What're you…. you're supposed to be dead."

"Really?" Lamont raised an eyebrow at this, still holding onto Worth's shoulders. "Last I checked my heart was still beating."

"Worth, you're aaallliiiivvvvvee!" Hanna suddenly appeared from underneath Lamont's arms and threw himself into Worth's lap, trying to hug the doctor and really just managing to hug the chair, "Oh God, I was so worried about you! I'm so happy you're okay and you're not dead and you're alive!"

"Augh!" Worth let out a shout of surprise and pain as he abruptly found himself with a lap full of excited, gleeful, and quite un-injured Hanna. "What the fuck! Goddamnit kid, get off of me!" the blond exclaimed as he thrashed in his chair, his actions making it seem like Hanna's hug was the worst torture he'd experienced in the past few days.

"Well," the former agent spoke up as he came up behind Hanna and Lamont. "That was surprisingly normal." There was a smile in his voice, as if Hanna's excitement had lifted a weight from his shoulder.

The blond scowled as he continued to try to shove Hanna aside. "Goddamnit, kid - get off!" He growled before peering over bright red curls at Lamont. "Where's everyone else?"

"Waiting for us!" Hanna said happily, still trying to cling to the remains of Worth's shirt, "For you! We're fighting to free you Worth! Just like in all the old movies!"

For an instant, there was a shadow of relief that seemed to cross Worth's face, a subtle relaxing of limbs. But then he was shaking his head and snorting even as he continued to try to shove Hanna away. "Dumbasses."

Hanna let out a laugh, genuine happiness playing across his face as he slid to the floor, ignoring the blood and dirt that had collected there over the past couple of days, "He's okay! He's alive! Everything's going to be all right!"

"Yeah, yeah." Lamont stepped back, shaking his head and smiling. "Now come on and help me bust our favorite asshole out of here."

"Nngh," Worth let out a grunt as he blinked at them for a moment, as if he were still putting things together. "Thought I told ya not t' save me?"

"Too bad!" Hanna cried and charged energy into his bracers, "Now hold reeeeeal still, Worth, this might sting a bit." The blue light flared, sparks flew, and there was a loud crack.

"Come on, on your feet." Lamont hefted Worth off the chair, steadying him as the doctor swayed on his feet. "All right, we're getting out of here before the Ahimsa catch up to us. Let's go."

The blond gave a low growl as he leaned against the dealer, trying and failing completely at standing upright. "Don't fuckin' need you, I can walk…" He grumbled, though this seemed to be more of a farce than anything.

Beside them, Hanna's partner suddenly blinked and tapped his communicator. "Hm? Yes Conrad, we found him. He's fine."

At these words Worth suddenly looked up from his failed struggle with his legs, brow furrowing. "Hey," he called out, extending his unbroken hand. "Gimme that communicator." Upon receiving a confused stare, the doctor gave another growl and jerked his hand. "Did I stutter, dumbass?" Those words drew a quirk of a brow from the ex-agent, but the communicator was still forked over without another complaint.

"- out of there!" Conrad was shouting nervously, his voice shaking over the crackle of the communicators, "Now. Toni's been hit and she says it's fine but that might mean it's not, and Veser's running out of bombs. You need to get out now!"

"Hey, Connie," Worth suddenly cut in.

"Huh?" The vampire on the other end of the line sounded genuinely startled.

"You all right?"

"...What?"

Worth gave a snort. "Y'know what I mean. Ellis didn't fuck ya up too bad, did he?"

"I... what... no. I... I'm okay. I'm fine, I think. Yeah." Conrad seemed to be having trouble speaking, still startled by Worth's initial question.

"M'kay," the doctor murmured as he reached to take the communicator away. He then paused, brow furrowing. "N' for the record, you're a fag." This task done, he thrust the piece of technology back into the ex-agent's hands, ignoring the snapped reply easily enough.

"Hm?" The former agent hummed as he took the communicator back, seeming rather calm as the four of them made their way for the door. "Yes, I'm sure we got the right one."

"Though he looks a little weird without his coat," Hanna pointed out, sticking close to Worth and Lamont.

This seemed to remind the doctor a bit of the situation, as he tensed slightly against his dealer crutch. "Fuck," he muttered as they paused in what was left of the doorway.

Up ahead, the former agent was nodding as he glanced down the hallway. "Conrad says we need to head back to the stairwell, he's having Veser and Toni move everyone that way. Apparently Veser still has a bomb left and he intends to use it to get back into the tunnels."

"All right," Lamont nodded and turned towards the ex-Ahimsa agent. "Geez, Worth, I know you weigh next to nothing but could you at least try to move your legs?"

The blond shook his head, then weakly jerked it in the opposite direction. "M' coat," he grunted. "Bastard still has my fucking coat."

"No," Lamont said firmly, almost like a mother reprimanding a child, "we're getting out of here. We can't risk getting caught!"

This drew a low growl from the doctor. "Fuck that, 's my coat," he said as he jammed an elbow into the dealer's ribs. "Turn this thing around!"

Hanna's partner shook his head. "No time. Now let's go."

And so with a jerk in the right direction and a laugh from Hanna that was almost manic in it's sheer relief the four were off, rushing through shuddering hallways and banging through doorways, ignoring Worth's howled curses as they stumbled into walls and God-fucking-damnit if you're gonna stage a rescue, do it fucking properly! But still they ran and oh there were Ahimsa but of course they were no match for the former agent's shots, so there was very little resistance between the group and the stairwell.

The stairwell in question was absolute chaos, a terrible mess of flapping wings and snarling jaws, flickering energy and cries of pain as the battle continued. The former agent very nearly had his head taken off by a blur of white that might have been a vampire, a stray gunshot whizzing over Hanna's head in a flash of energy. It was just as this happened that Toni suddenly went speeding by, a blur of blue that slowed only to look at them and let out a gasp.

"Worth!" she gasped as a blue claw shot out to send some poor agent toppling down the stairs.

"'Ey, Furfag," Worth grunted from two flights up.

"What happened!" the werewolf sputtered.

She received a shrug in response. "Fell down some stairs. Shit happens."

"Must have been the stairs from Hell," came Veser's voice, and suddenly those large green eyes and mouthful of sharp teeth were in front of them, the half-Selkie spinning his harpoon and knocking aside an agent who had gotten too close. "Geez, I thought old people were supposed to sit around and watch soap operas and stuff! Not go on adventures and get torn to pieces by gay scientists!"

The blond rolled his eyes. "Christ, I'm fine, you bunch of fucking pussies. Focus on getting out of here already, I didn't leave my Goddamn coat so we could die on this fucking stairwell!"

"I think he's ten times crankier without his coat..." Hanna mumbled, pulling back a fist and punching an Ahimsa out of the way.

"All right, all right," Veser held up his hands defensively. "Sheesh, you don't have to bite my head off, I'm getting there." The teen dug into his pockets, rifled for a bit, and drew out a silver sphere that was glowing a soft, pleasant orange. He grinned, "Strongest one I got. One of these babies blew a hole in the side of the Food Regulation building, 'member that?"

"Reminisce later," Lamont snapped, "get out now!"

Veser rolled his eyes, "God, you guys are whiny." He held up the bomb. "Stand back, this is gonna be nasty!" He thumbed the bomb and the soft orange became a blinding, deadly yellow. Then, with a wordless shout, he threw it at the wall.

This explosion made the previous explosions look like fire crackers. With a terrible burst of brilliant light and a shriek of tearing metal, the wall was simply gone, along with most of the air vents beyond it. The horrifying black singes left behind extended into what was left of the tunnel entrance Hanna had used days earlier, the cobwebs and hidden panels burned away.

One of the Ahimsa agents let out a shout of surprise as he beheld this sight. "What the… what is that doing there!" he sputtered. He then let out a cry as the paranormal creatures began charging past him, making a beeline for the exit. "Wait, stop! By order of the Council you are to -"

He was cut off by a glowing boot slamming into him, followed by a laugh from Hanna. His laughter mixed with Veser's excited cries as the group followed the throng of creatures toward the exit, Toni's howl only adding to the chaotic din. Somewhere in the background, the former agent and Lamont began laughing as well, because it was just so ridiculous.

They weren't out of the woods yet, and the group all knew that. The tunnels had been shaky at best as of late, and there were certainly more Ahimsa in the Inner Circle to come after them. Still, they were fleeing from the dragon's maw together, and Hanna was laughing and smiling for real. There were no guarantees, of course, but this was how they had always been and there was something exhilarating and perfect about that.

Besides, Worth had managed to flip off a security camera on the way out - and somehow that made it seem that things would be all right.