March 13, 2018 14:40 GMT+9<Hope> How long had it been that they sat there in silence? Hope had no real way to tell the time. It could have been hours or minutes. She didn't know. She ran her fingers through her hair, leaving both hands on the side of her head. She could feel Shinobi. Barely, but she could. Whatever they had injected her with was wearing off.
<Hope> She had tried to tap into Shinobi's power, but it failed. Still wasn't strong enough yet. She looked over at David, who still looked pissed off at her. Right. She'd do better. Name, rank, serial number.
<Shinobi> A door clanked open at the end of the hall and a masked guard started down the hall, closely followed by his two companions. They half dragged, half carried a man.
<Hope> Glancing up, Hope realized they were headed their way. She gave David a glance. Name, rank, serial number. She stood up, keeping her back against the bars of the cage.
<Shinobi> Shinobi was conscious, but uncoordinated. He stumbled in an attempt to find his feet and pull away from the men who held him.
<Hope> The two other prisoners realized who it was being dragged in their direction at the same time. "Shinobi!" Hope gasped. She could definitely feel him and she really wished she couldn't. Her feet wouldn't move. Her brain wouldn't move. She was suddenly in a nightmare that she couldn't wake up from.
<Shinobi> The brief struggle stopped when he heard her voice. Shinobi's head snapped up and he jerked his arm back, attempting to straighten up. No. Nonononono...
<David> Well this just got infinitely worse. David swore again. What were they going to do to the rest of them if he looked that bad?
<David> He also realized that Stark was an idiot and would do something stupid. "No." He told her firmly, casting his gaze to her. "No."
<Hope> She heard David, the same word bouncing around in her head in Obi's voice. Everyone telling her no. She straightened herself up, crossing her arms over her chest. Patience. The serum was wearing off. She'd be out soon.
<Shinobi> The guard struggled with the old lock, glancing at the redhead inside from time to time. Shinobi stared at Hope, feeling sick. Once the gate creaked open, the man to his left shifted his hold and gave him a shove, the other aiming a kick at the back of his knee.
<David> "No." He told Hope, knowing she'd immediately go to him. Like hell was he letting them get their hands on her if he could help it.
<Hope> Hope had to stop mid-step, gritting her teeth as she held her position. What had they done to him!? Oh, she could feel it too! Oh, it was awful! She went to him.
<Shinobi> The gate clanked shut and he pushed himself up with a groan, turning toward her.
<Hope> She fell to the floor beside him, honestly afraid to touch him. "Oh, Obi..." she started softly.
<Shinobi> "You're okay?" His voice sounded strange to his own ears and he winced, shifting to wrap his arms around her waist. After a moment, he realized he could feel her again. I'm so sorry...
<Hope> The touch overwhelmed her, pushing all his pain and emotions through their link. She winced, but pulled him against her, resting her head against him. "I'm so sorry. This is all my fault."
<Shinobi> "How? No... no, it's not..." He bit down on his lip and hissed, trying to push the old man's words from his mind.
<Hope> "If we had stayed home..." she closed her eyes hiding her face against him.
<Shinobi> "I think he would have found me anyway..." Tightening his arms around her, he laid his pounding head in her lap and squeezed his eyes closed.
<Hope> She shifted to get more comfortable, stroking his hair ever so gently. "Maybe..." the club was supposed to be safe. She felt a tear drop down onto him. She had to get them out of this. Alive.
<Shinobi> He felt the drop, raising his hand to her face but stopping himself when he saw the blood on his skin. Pushing himself up, he realized how he must look to her.
<Hope> She took that hand anyway and pressed it to her face. She didn't care how he looked. That was her Shinobi.
<Shinobi> Smiling hurt, but he did it anyway, brushing his thumb over her cheek. Noticing the dried blood on her neck, he turned her head and gently touched below the puncture. "I'll get you out of here... whatever it takes," he vowed, catching her eyes.
<David> "I told her if she got a chance, she was to take it and not look back." David spoke up.
<Hope> Hope looked back into Shinobi's eyes. I can't leave without you.. even if I got a chance.
<Shinobi> David's voice made him jump slightly, looking over at the man chained to the bars. "He's right." The sudden movement made his already reduced vision swim a little, but he looked back at Hope. "He's right... you get a chance you have to go."
<Hope> She pleaded with him with her look. "I can't... Obi, you know I can't."
<David> "She tried to trade herself for you too."
<Shinobi> The look he gave her was incredulous. "Hope..." He pressed his lips together, a lump rising in his throat.
<Hope> She pressed her forehead against his. "I'll be fine... but I can't... I can't live without you."
<Shinobi> He was dead anyway. "I can't... if you're hurt...or..." He shook his head, his hands cupping her face. "They wanted me anyway. Surely they know they can't keep you." Closing his eyes, he swallowed. "...they wanted me."
<Hope> "He knows that. He is using me against Tony." She moved her hands to his face, stroking it softly. "I know they wanted you... he told me that too. I was an accident."
<Shinobi> A mistake. He covered her hand with his own. "He told me..." It was ridiculous, but... "He said I was a failed experiment."
<Hope> She looked at him quickly, confused. "A what?"
<Shinobi> "He said Doctor Essex made me..." Opening his eyes, he shook his head. "And they needed DNA samples to find out how Essex did it..."
<Hope> "Essex used two donors to stabilize the DNA..." Horror. The horror and reality of what she had just admitted sent her stomach sinking like a rock to the pit of her stomach. Well. So much for that secret. "Obi... I... I'm so sorry."
<Shinobi> Shinobi reeled back from her, one good eye widening as he searched her face. He felt his heart stop, painfully. "W-what?"
<David> "Good job, Stark. What part of name, rank, serial number did you miss?!" He banged his head back on the bars.
<Hope> She couldn't look at Shinobi. "I'm so sorry," was all she could say, trying to force her gaze up at him. "We wanted to tell you together. All of us. The people who you knew cared about you."
<Shinobi> "Sorry?" he whispered, unable to stop his voice from cracking. "What..." The look on her face didn't lie, and the shame he felt through the wavering link... "You knew... you all knew..." Shinobi closed his eyes. "...cared about me..."
<Hope> She reached for him. She had to. "I was on him constantly to tell you. That you deserved to know. That you needed to know. Obi, please..." she felt desperation rising. I love you, Obi.
<Shinobi> He jerked away from the touch, falling back on his ass and hissing in pain. "But you knew and... what?" A horrible thought formed. "And what? He asked you to keep me in line? Was that what all this was?"
<David> David reacted before Hope could, laughing heartily. "Goh you are a fucking idiot. You offered yourself up for this, Stark!?"
<Hope> Hope jerked her hand back, getting to her feet. The thought of punching both of them in the face occurred to her. "If that's what you really think, then we have nothing more to discuss." She stormed off to a corner, pissed, hurt, betrayed, and unable to control any of the emotions.
<Shinobi> Confused and hurt, he shot a glare at the bodyguard and then back at Hope. "What the fuck am I supposed to think?!" Righting himself, he pressed his back against the bars. "What the fuck am I?!"
<Hope> "You've been in my fucking mind for weeks! You're supposed to know! I just told a fucking madman I'd take your place if he just let you go. Yeah I was totally doing it just to keep you in line. You caught me!" She turned away from him, staring at the wall as she leaned against it.
<Hope> "You are a person. That's who you are. Essex took DNA from Sebastian and Oyama's granddaughter, mixed it up... and OH MY GOD." She turned back to face them. "They're going to clone me!"
<Shinobi> He touched his tongue to the split in his lip again, tasting blood. "You've been in mine for weeks and you've been hiding this from me!" Drawing his legs up, he curled into a ball, only looking up at her shout. No...
<Hope> "It wasn't my choice," she told him more gently. "At all. But we can deal with that if we make it out of this alive. My GOD. Why didn't I see this sooner?!"
<David> "And what could you have done!? Nothing. Stop panicking and focus. What do you have? What can you work with?"
<Hope> She ran her hands over her face. She was the best weapon Tony ever created. Now... now she was being cloned. Into another weapon. No hair pins, no tools. Her eyes darted for a tool, any tool, she could lockpick with.
<Shinobi> It wasn't her choice. Did he believe that? "I won't let them do this to you," he said, slowly dragging himself to his feet. Running his hands through his hair and finding more dried blood, he stared at the bandages on his arm. "Not you..."
<Shinobi> They'd taken everything, of course. His phone, watch, wallet, even his belt. He noticed her searching the room and looked between her and David, then touched his own throat. "No collar..."
<David> David sucked in a breath. That was coming. "Try now. It may be your one shot."
<Hope> Hope crossed back to Shinobi, taking his hands in her own, ready to hold on tight if he tried to jerk away again. "I love you. I knew what you were and I still love you. I didn't tell you because I love you and out of respect for Sebastian. It nearly killed me to keep that from you, and I will not be doing that again."
<Shinobi> This time, he didn't pull away, but he couldn't meet her eyes. "I love you," he said with a heavy swallow. "Take my powers and go." He closed his eyes, resisting his desire to hold her, if only one last time. "Please."
<Hope> "I can't..." She tightened her hold on him. "Could you? If it was swapped, could you?" Not that it mattered. She couldn't make her power attach to his anyway. But she could sense it now.
<Shinobi> He could feel her again and he knew she had to know the answer to that question. "But you have to... they can't do this to you..." Not what they'd done to him. Please, not that. Giving in, he freed his hands and slid his arms around her. "You have to go, Hope."
<Hope> "I can't!" She bit back her tears, holding him tightly. "I can't." Then she saw. She saw through his eyes flashes of what they had done to him, causing her to shudder. She had to get out of there.
<Shinobi> Sucking in a surprised breath, he realized what she'd seen and pulled back to meet her eyes. "See? You have to go."
<Shinobi> Down the hall, the door clanged open again. "Shit." Shinobi caught her arms and gave her a shake. "Now!"
<Hope> "I can't!” she emphasized, clinging to him. I lose the power as soon as I stop touching you.
<Shinobi> This time, there were more guards. He gave her a stricken look, trying to think. If we both go through the bars, then you can drop it and run. He'd just slow her down, but... I can keep them busy.
<Hope> They would catch me before I could make it out. She could hear the guards. It was her or David they would be after, and neither choice was desirable. She felt sick. They were going to clone her and kill all of them. She tried. She activated the power, but it did nothing. Even touching him, nothing.
<Shinobi> "Okay..." He didn't know what to do, but shoved her behind him anyway, moving over closer to David and operating on pure adrenaline now. The smallest guard was still on gate duty, wrestling with the lock, but the others were armed this time. "The fuck are those..."
<David> David got to his feet, tugging at his cuffs. Well. He still had his feet!
<Hope> Hope tightened her grip, peering out at the guards. They moved into the cell once the door was open, one of them laughing at the sight before them, taunting them in Japanese.
<Shinobi> An electric crackle filled the air and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Now he knew what those weapons were, and why they looked like cattle prods. Shinobi put his hands up when one was leveled at him, still working out how he could help Hope escape.
<David> Oh hell no! David was quick, using his feet to knock the first guard down to the ground before his body was filled with electricity. He fell, writhing from the volts, amplified by the handcuffs and the metal cage. He was out.
<Hope> Oh hell no! Hope screamed as David went down, keeping herself away from the metal bars. Still touching Shinobi she tried to think with him. She didn't have many options. She wouldn't get far, but maybe trying was good enough. Maybe... she tried to move with him and circle to get herself closer to the gate.
<Shinobi> Their thoughts were in synch, and he kept himself between Hope and the nearest guard, edging along past David. The guard he'd incapacitated was still groggy and Shinobi took the opportunity, though he had to let go of Hope to do it.
<Shinobi> Kicking the fallen prod toward Hope, he tackled the injured guard and caught him by the throat, using the last of his energy to hoist him up as a shield.
<Hope> Armed, Hope had to keep going toward the door, though it killed her to move away from him. She'd be back. She would.
<Shinobi> The jolt hit the second he tightened his grip on the man's throat. The guard's mask fell, clattering to the floor, with both men following.
<Hope> Hope could freak out later, she told herself. Later. Now, she had to survive. She was smaller and faster than they were. When the next guard came at her, she was able to strike, sending jolts down his body and continuing to the door.
<Shinobi> The man at the door dropped the keys, fumbling for his weapon while the remaining men in the cell closed in on her from behind.
<Hope> She ran for it, shooting at the man with the keys once she was close enough. That failing, she whacked him on the head and closed the gate behind her, dropping the useless weapon and running as fast as she could.
<Deathstrike> When the door creaked open again, it was a very different opponent she faced. He drew his katana, striding toward her confidently.
<Hope> Ah fuck no! A sword?! "You have a fucking sword?!" Forward was no good. Backward was no good. Shit! She backed up, and gave an exasperated sigh, holding her hands up. Damnit!
<Deathstrike> Ordering the guards in rapid Japanese, he closed the distance, flicking his blade once and bringing it to rest at her throat. "Hope Stark," he said, in a soft, accented voice. "I do have a fucking sword."
<Hope> Oh she knew that voice. She knew that voice well. He was the one who had bumped her at the ceremony. She snorted at him, looking him up and down. He wasn't going to do shit. What the hell was this place!? "You will burn for this. You know that right?"
<Shinobi> Inside the cell, the guards hoisted David and Shinobi both to their feet, dragging the clone to the opposite wall. One man held David against the bars while another produced a scanner.
<Deathstrike> He laughed, turning the blade just enough to let the edge bite. "What makes you so sure?" His free hand, still clad in a white glove, stole up to caress her face.
<Hope> She grit her teeth, not giving him the satisfaction of more of a reaction... though she thought about biting him. "You do know my father is the commander and chief of the most powerful army in the world, yes?"
<Deathstrike> "I'm very impressed." Behind his mask, he smiled, tracing a fingertip over the arch of her brow.
<Shinobi> The jostling brought Shinobi back to his senses enough to listen, still slumping most of his weight on the guard that held him up against the bars. He heard a high-pitched whine from across the cell as they scanned David, and his heart sank when he heard Hope's voice... and that masked lunatic.
<Hope> "Impressed with what?" It took every ounce of that stubborn will power that she had not to move, not to flinch. Moving into his blade would be deadly, and moving into his sickening touch unthinkable.
<Deathstrike> "So much hair..." He touched a curl, hooking it with two fingers to feel the weight, and watched her face. "You need a man."
<Shinobi> He prayed the guard didn't notice his breathing speed up.
<Hope> "How thoughtful of you. I already have one, thanks." Her eyes shifted to his wrist. She could break it. Easily. But could she do it fast enough to stop the blade?
<Shinobi> The scanner beeped and the guard called out, again in Japanese.
<Deathstrike> "That abomination is not a man, Stark." He kept his eyes on her as he issued another order to the guards. "Your turn," he said as two approached.
<Shinobi> Taking this opportunity, Shinobi sprang to life with a snarl, hooking his arm around the guard's neck. With a jerk and a crack the man fell.
<Hope> Hope took the chance, leaning back and ducking quickly, she went for his sword hand.
<Deathstrike> His density shifted the moment she moved and Yusei laughed when her hand passed through his hand.
<Shinobi> Shinobi sidestepped the weapon of the guard who turned back for him, moving in close and striking his wrist. Hearing another crack, he caught the weapon and quickly turned it on the guard.
<Hope> In one smooth movement, Hope ran for it. Through him.
<Shinobi> The guard went down and he spared a moment to look for Hope. Good. He could buy her time.
<Deathstrike> Pressing a button embedded in his glove, Yusei blinked out of existence, then reappeared in front of the door. His blade flashed.
<Hope> "Son of a bitch!" She skidded to a stop, backing up toward Shinobi again.
<Shinobi> The distraction cost him when the guard David had dispatched minutes ago recovered enough to scramble forward on the floor and catch his ankle.
<Deathstrike> He closed in again, this time not stopping until her back was to a wall. Bringing the blade back to her throat, this time he pressed his full body weight against her, pinning her.
<Hope> It was difficult to breathe with him pressing on her chest. She brought her hands up, trying to push him off of her. She tried very hard to ignore something that was poking her.
<Deathstrike> Teeth bared in a feral grin, he tilted his head and raised the blade to force her head back. He blew a hot breath over her throat.
<Shinobi> His training had taken over and he spun, kicking the man in the teeth and following it with another jolt from the weapon as he pulled free. Turning back to the remaining guard, he leveled the prod in a face off.
<Deathstrike> "Tell your pet to drop his weapon," he said, voice soft.
<Hope> "My pet is a fish." She stared up at the ceiling, thankful for one small moment where she didn't have to look at him.
<Shinobi> Shinobi stopped at the sight of her, of them, and felt his heart stop for the second time today. He couldn't get to her, and she had a blade to her throat. "Let her go - I give up." He extended both arms, letting the weapon drop.
<Hope> Her heart sank. "Just let him go already. I can be much more... cooperative. But only if I know he's gone with no further harm."
<Deathstrike> "I don't need your cooperation." He rolled his hips against her.
<Shinobi> "Hope- just... don't." He swallowed, rage building even as he let the guards take him again.
<David> David was just coming too, groaning and unable to really move.
<Hope> She tried to look around her captor to see Shinobi. Let the sword cut her. She dared him.
<Deathstrike> Clucking his tongue at her wriggling, he smirked and called an order to the guards.
<Shinobi> He didn't struggle as they held him against the bars, though he noticed this time there were two and they made a wide berth around the dead guard.
<Shinobi> Nursing his wrist, one of the guards hobbled down the hall and produced a scanner, the high-pitched whine starting again.
<Hope> Hope's hands went to her ears immediately. Ugh! If anyone was getting punched, it'd be that guy! She had no idea if her powers had reactivated enough for him to receive a message but she sent an I love you to Shinobi... in case it was the last time. "Too bad that even with you here, I'd still need a man."
<David> David sat up a bit, just in time to hear that. Name. Rank. Serial number!
<Shinobi> He looked over at David, relieved the man was at least alive, but his attention shot back to Hope when the whine increased.
<Deathstrike> Unmoved by her words, he watched the guard scan the area again and caught her arm with one hand, stepping back and jerking her elbow straight. The scanner whined. "Aha... the little Stark has a surprise..."
<Hope> What in the... oh right. Well shit! She tried to jerk her arm back quickly.
<Deathstrike> After he issued another order, the guard pocketed the scanner and grabbed the girl's shoulder. He stretched out her arm and ripped the sleeve of her shirt off in one violent motion.
<Shinobi> Fuck. They found the inhibitor. He squeezed his eyes closed, but not for long. Exchanging a helpless look with David, he tried to think.
<Hope> Hope flailed, struggling against him to get her arm free. She brought her knee up to knee Deathstrike, desperate to keep them away from her arm. It was her one chance!
<David> Dazed and badly burnt, David tried to get to his feet. "Let her go!"
<Shinobi> Can you hear me? He phases too - take his power! Shinobi could only watch as they manhandled her.
<Deathstrike> He blocked her kick, bringing his boot down on on her instep. "You only make this more difficult." Roughly pinching her arm to locate the spot, he hissed and shook off his glove to get a better feel, then called out over his shoulder in Japanese.
<Hope> It was now or never. "I offered you cooperation." She phased through him, but again lost the power as soon as his hand wasn't on her. She debated on another attack, but instead ran for the door, this time waiting for the teleport in front of her.
<Zola> A small Westerner in a blood-spattered white coat followed two guards into the hall. He carried a steel tray.
<Hope> Guards she could handle. She was on him like she had been Rott that day. He went down easily enough, just as the second guard was coming at her. She caught his arm, using his momentum to shove him at the doctor with the tray.
<Deathstrike> He reappeared behind her, striking her on the back of the head with the hilt of his katana.
<Shinobi> "Hope!" It wasn't smart, but he struggled against the men who held him again.
<Hope> She went down, landing hard on the floor. Her head throbbed from the blow, reaching back to see if he had drawn blood.
<Deathstrike> Flipping her onto her back, he straddled her hips, pinning her to the floor and grabbing her arm again. Sheathing his sword in one quick motion, he drew a smaller knife from his belt and sliced into her skin.
<Hope> Unable to help herself, she screamed, squirming beneath him.
<Shinobi> He jerked an arm free and slammed his elbow into a guard's face, dislodging his mask.
<Deathstrike> "I would have let Dr. Zola handle this, but you're so insistent..." Calmly he dug through the skin near her elbow, searching and ignoring her cries and blood. With a sound of triumph he picked the small lump of scar tissue out with the point of his knife and whistled for the doctor.
<Zola> With a grimace, he stepped up and held out the tray, unable to stop himself from watching as the object was dropped onto the gauze.
<Hope> She sobbed as she squirmed, using her non bleeding hand to swing at Deathstrike again.
<Shinobi> His other guard retaliated, using the handle of his weapon to strike Shinobi in the temple. He crumpled, stunned, her name on his lips.
<Deathstrike> Ripping her sleeve free, he bound the wound roughly and pushed himself off of her, gesturing for his guards to take her.
<Hope> She cradled her arm until she felt hands on her, hauling her up. She kicked and screamed, resisting them as much as she could.
<Deathstrike> Amused, he watched her fight as they carried her through the door, then turned back to look at the cage. The clone was insensible, so he smirked at her bodyguard behind his mask, then followed Zola through the door.
<David> "I'm going to kill that cocky bastard."