Evening Workout



Scene Title Evening Workout
Synopsis Cardinal does some pull-ups, and listens to the radio. And to himself.
Date March 18, 2009

Cardinal's Nest

An old bomb shelter constructed during the height of the Cold War, nobody ever really expected it to be used. If the building's inhabitants had survived the 'Bomb' they might have been surprised to learn that it worked just about perfectly.

Now buried beneath the corpse of an apartment building, only shadows can slip through the cracks into it, and one has. The concrete-walled shelter is loaded with the souveniers of a thousand thefts, rare ceramics and glittering jewels sitting incongruously beside cans of campbell's soup and baked beans. A bunkbed's pushed up against one wall, scattered with mismatched pillows and blankets. Expensive paintings hand on bare concrete, beside a simple wooden cross hung on a single nail. A gasoline-powered generator sits in a corner, powering the dim lights and the radio in this forsaken place. A gas can and siphon hose rest beside it. It's an eclectic dwelling, to be certain.

On one wall, beneath a pull-up bar anchored into the concrete, has been painted the words: “The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them. - W. Shakespeare"

A callused hand slaps against the cold metal of the pull up bar, supporting the weight of the ex-convict for a long moment in a dead hang. A heave of his shoulder upward brings the other hand to clasping it, the dim lighting of the shelter playing over the tattoos that mark bare skin. He hangs there, his head dropped forward, eyes closed as he breathes, steadily. In the background, music sings tinny from a radio to the background of the generator's rattling growl.

Why the fuck am I doing this? I'm not a freedom fighter. Not a terrorist. I don't give a shit about society being oppressed, or any of that idealistic bullshit. I'm a predator. A parasite. A thief. I'm a fucking crook.

His eyes still closed, no distractions but the thoughts hammering against the inside of his skull, he lets his head drop backwards, tendons straining visibly against his arms as he pulls himself up to bring his chin up past the bar.


Down again, slowly lowering himself to a free hang once more, arms fully extended.

Look at this shit I've gotten into. Terrorist organizations that don't know whether they're coming or going. Crazy African bitches who can hurt me. Fucking… russian military weapons being stockpiled by this batshit motherfucker, and I'm working for that guy. Girl. Whatever he is. This isn't me. I'm a crook. Nobody wants an asshole like me changing the world.

A deep breath is drawn in, and then slowly exhaled as he pulls himself back up, chin lifting over the bar, then back down. Then again, and again.

Two. Three. Four.

I could just vanish, I know that. Just fade into the shadows, and nobody'd ever see me again. They can't track me. I don't have any… loved ones, any real or stake in all of this. Even if these guys succeeded I'd still be a criminal. They'd praise me then toss me in prison. No question there.

It's a familiar routine, and one that he falls into easily. The toned muscles of the criminal's arms, of his back, tighten and relax beneath the fair-hued skin with every pull up, with every slow descent. The messy scar tissue where a bullet passed through his shoulder gleams in the guttering light.

Fifteen. Sixteen.

A song's end segues into a newscaster's voice, and with his arms half-extended he stops, hanging, although he's heard this same story before. Hazel eyes crack open, his head turning just a bit as if to look back to the radio, his belly as full of lead as it had been since he first heard a similar broadcast.

"…tragedy since our own city had its heart torn out by a nuclear explosion, since the Towers fell. According to a recording that was put out on the Internet, it was intended as a political message…"

Muscles slither beneath sweat-glistening skin like serpents in their proper manner as he hauls himself up once more, eyes closing as his chin raises up above the bar.

Twenty-three. Twenty-four.

"…recording, which we will for you now." Another voice, younger, serious, replaces the newscaster's measured and practiced tones. Frightened. Determined.

…turn it off. Just drop down, reach over… just turn it off. Don't listen to this again. Why am I doing this? The feds have my scent, I should be long gone by now. Not working with Fedor, with Laudani, with Liz. This isn't who I am.

"Uhm… yeah… hi. Is it on?" A pause. "Oh… okay. So… this video is probably never going to make it past the cops, and we kinda figured someone would squash it. So it's also been uploaded digitally to the Internet."

Twenty-six. Twenty-seven.

"…were all pretty scared and freaked out. Most of us got pretty decent homes and families… some would have supported us, some not. But we been watching the soldiers, and hearing all this stuff on the street…. and we know two kids in the senior class who went to go Register powers — they were part of our after school group — and they disappeared. Never came back again…"

What the hell can I do, anyway? And why would I want to? I'm not… nobody gave a shit about me when I needed somebody, why the hell should I start caring about them? I can't… throw fire, or listen to their thoughts from miles away, or turn people into stone or whatever the fuck that one guy did to Liz. A bullet'll kill me as easily as it will anybody else… but, hell, what can anyone do? I know Fedor's got his plan - and Laudani, and god knows who else. Everyone's got plans. Government always finds out eventually, though. And then… damn it. Run. Hide. That's what I do. It's what I've always done. I don't…

"So now, we're going to go ahead and do this. Because if we have to go, we want it to be together…"

Thirty-one. …I don't know what else to do. Thirty-two.

"…are too scared to go back to school anymore…"

Thirty-three. They were just kids.

"We love you."

Thirty-four. What kind of fucked up world…

"We didn't do this to hurt you."

Thirty-five. Not one I want to live in.

"We just… don't know what else to do."

A moment of silence. Cardinal hangs from the steel bar, his knuckles whitened from their death grip on the ridged metal that was cutting patterns into his fingers, teeth gritted so hard his jaw was beginning to hurt. Slowly, every so slowly, his elbows push outwards, pulling his head up towards the bar.

Then I'll have to find a way to change it. If this isn't who I am, then I'll just have to be somebody else.

His chin clears the bar, and he lets his arms go slack to drop him back. Fingers release the bar, dropping him into freefall for a fraction of a second, until bare feet slam into cold concrete, and he turns to walk away from the wall with new determination.


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