Exchange

Participants:

cat_icon.gif elias_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif helena_icon.gif munin_icon.gif owen_icon.gif trask_icon.gif wu-long_icon.gif

Scene Title Exchange
Synopsis Phoenix and Vanguard meet face-to-face for the first time, and prisoners are exchanged.
Date December 12, 2008

Chinatown

Though it's less than two miles square, Chinatown is home to some quarter of a million residents. Cramped, ancient tenements are the norm, though the fourty-four story Confucious Plaza standing at the corner of Bowery and Division does boast luxurious accommodations by comparison. Mulberry Street, Canal Street, and East Broadway are home to streetside green grocers and fishmongers, and Canal Street also boasts an impressive array of Chinese jewelry shops.


For some, the afternoon comes early on this day. Perhaps it is because the sheer lack of sleep surrounding those involved with hostage situations. But sure enough the sun rises, and noon comes… Then a half hour passes, and then another.

People are swarming the streets right now, whether it is for lunch or whatever reason people have to move about in Chinatown at this hour. At 1:00, a phone rang…

"Good afternoon." The Cockney accent that Helena and her people would be all too familiar with by now. "Just assume there is someone watching you at all times. It would also be safe for you to assume that someone is watching you through the sights of a rifle. Now, if you don't want anything to go wrong, I suggest you hurry down the street, two blocks. There are two parking garages on either side of the intersection. Enter the one on the east side. I will call you once you're there."

Click.

Ethan stands on the third level of the parking garage on the west side, watching the street below quietly. A white van is behind him. A van that contains Cat. The man finally had the two hooded and separated. Though now, Cat has been tended to somewhat, to try and conceal the fact that she has been kidnapped and held prisoner for the last couple of days… For now, Ethan waits.

Helena is clad in the white hoodie, the body armor worn underneath fit semi-comfortably to her torso. Owen (in blue) and Sergei (scarfed and in Commie-red) are likewise with her, and of course, Munin is present. She listens to the instructions on the phone, her expression carefully neutral. She relays the instructions to the others, and off they troup. It seems she has intentions of staying compliant.

Trask walks next to Munin, when he has given her any directions, it has been in a heavy Russian accent. They follow about 10 feet behind the other two. His eyes scan all the possible ambush points, putting his training to good use.

It's disorienting, the way she and Dani had been moved over the time of their captivity and kept in mostly dark rooms. She doesn't know what time it is, or even that she'd been separated from her partner to be handed over. Cat's thinking is this may just be another move, one where they've for whatever reason decided to separate the pair. She hadn't resisted, but she also hadn't cooperated. Inside that van she waits, hood still in place, and keeps her mind occupied with journeys down memory lane calling up happier times with crystal clarity.

Ethan warned them about rifle sights, but it's only a half-true threat. The sights of the rifle that Elias carries are nowhere near the group of Phoenixes, but that doesn't mean they won't be at some point in the near future. And unlike what some may be expecting, 'sights' really does mean 'sights'; the layout of the area means that the optimal location for shooting, if the need should arise, is moving constantly and almost unpredictably, like a dried leaf floating on the wind. The rifle has a scope, but its power is so low it may as well not be there, and Elias prefers to rely on his own eye as he flits from rooftop to rooftop, the snow crunching under his boots an inaudible whisper to those on the street below.

He hopes, very strongly, that things go smoothly; he has no intention of actually using that rifle, and is, in fact, figuring out ways that he might insert himself in the situation should it start getting out of hand. Given what he knows about Munin's condition, it almost certainly will once his comrades see her.

When made noises were to the effect that there would be snipers monitoring the progress of the Phoenix contingent, the tall, skinny kid in the blue hoodie started walking funny. In fits and starts, as if reluctant to proceed with the others, Owen tries to keep himself rooted in step with Helena and within reasonable proximity of Sergei-obviously not too close, or this undertaking would be much easier. He hasn't got training to help him spot imaginary snipers—and in fact probably wouldn't see them if the rooftops were bristling with hidden weaponry simply because he has only television to tell him what to look for. But Owen keeps speeding himself up-trying not to actually go anywhere, so as to try his best to see anything that might pose a threat. He trusts his people to know what the hitch in his giddy-up is all about, but to an unenlightened eye he could pass for nervous and scared.

Placing a gloved hand on the ledge, Ethan leans out slightly, watching the Phoenix contingent make their way towards the parking garage on the other side of the street. "Take her hood off, make sure you keep one of her hairs." Ethan commands to the man behind him. The man that lurks around the van. Once the garage is reached, Ethan takes the cellphone out again.

Ring, ring.

In the parking lot, and feeling like a million bugs are crawling on her - Helena knows they're more or less sitting ducks and how she hates it, she picks up the phone, holds it to ear and mouth. "We're here." Her tone is still carefully neutral, even as her eyes begin flicking around, taking in all the potential places that a bullet could come from. Her voice sounds hollow from the parking lot's echo chamber. "How is this going to work?"

A moment after she hears those words, a callused hand closes on Cat's head, doffing her her hood in a deft swipe. When the world reemerges in the static from sensory-deprivation, she can see the Chinese man that had been described to her days ago. Body armor and trenchcoat show black-on-black, his hair bound back ropey but for an errant curl that falls against his temple. Wu-Long's face is the stoic mask that typefies his cultural archetype; a faithful soldier buried at behest of his dead emperor, the stony-eyed serenity of a bodhisattva. His fingers run the folds inside the hood and, upon locating what he wanted, he balls up the cloth in his hand and jams it into a pocket.

Trask is not rough with his own prisoner, in fact he has been a bit supportive in the walk, letting her lean on him, and putting a hand around to make sure she is getting by okay. He keeps his gun on the far side from her.

Munin assumes the hand is there to prevent her from bolting, should she summon a sudden surge of strength and attempt to tear away from him. She's dressed in the same clothes she was taken in — heavy winter peacoat, bloodied cashmere scarf, oversized wool sweater and thick black leggings that lead into a pair of knee-high leather boots, scuffed from excessive weather and wear — and keeps her gaze fixed straight ahead, watching the empty parking lot unfold in front of them from beneath her lashes. Only a small portion of her attention is devoted to Helena's half of the conversation with Ethan; the rest she directs inward, inhaling sharply to prevent short hisses of pain from escaping through her nostrils. On the bright side, she's too preoccupied with remaining upright to worry too much about the situation going sideways.

When the hood is removed, Cat doesn't react save to blink from the light which reaches her eyes and adjusting to it, this end of darkness. She doesn't even move to look at the man, simply registering his features from where she sits, and in truth not needing to. The woman's breathing is calm and even, her features much like a poker face.

"You go to the third level. Once I see you there, you have one of yours accompany Eileen to the bottom level. We will have Catherine escorted to the bottom level. They will both be freed and allowed to cross the intersection by themselves. Once the girls have crossed the street, you and yours leave through the back exit of the parking garage." Comes the Brit's words, cool and calm. As if setting up when they would be meeting for coffee.

"Nothing stupid, remember. This will all be over soon if you just stick to the plan." Pushing off of the side, Ethan walks back towards the van. Opening the front door he reaches inside and draws out a capsule, a foot long, with a strap on it. Closing the door behind him, "Put this on 'er." He calls out to his associate, setting the thing on the hood of the van, before returning to his perch.

"What about Dani?" Helena inquires. It's a fair question. Not that there's much fair about this. She holds a finger up to Trask, indicating she'll have instructions soon. A look over at Owen as well - she expects him to process all the potential spots for bullets to come flying, because he can, and quickly.

Wu-Long shoves the doors open, closes a hand on the edge of the roof and pulls himself out with the van with sinewy grace of a cat out of a cramped space. He stops just outside to guide Cat out after him with a firm grip on her arm, meets neither an overabundance of cooperation nor particular resistance. He takes her around to the hood of the vehicle where the capsule waits to be accessorized. This, he takes by the strap and slings it over her slender shoulders. His lips are sealed, no translucency of breath permitted to escape in even the smallest wisp. She may well glimpse the flesh-colored commpiece in his ear as he glances back at Ethan.

Trask nods to Helena, waiting, watching.

Her absence of cooperation and resistance means she finds herself pulled around to the front of the van, clothing sliding along the pavement under her, Cat having not made effort to stand on her own once out of the transport. Her eyes register the item being placed around her shoulders, and offer scant reaction due to it at least seeming innocuous. It soon also registers she's in a parking garage. Not a word is spoken, she simply sits there unless pulled to her feet.

Elias finds himself unable to resist a look. Just a small, tiny look at Munin, just so he knows how badly Ethan will react (or overreact). The rifle scope obviously isn't any good for this, too big and too threatening. But the electro-optical monocle he frequently carries? Perfect for this sort of thing, and selecting a vantage point a safe distance from the Phoenix group, he fishes it out from his coat pocket and raises it up to his eye. He can't say to himself that he's happy with what he sees, even disregarding the blood. "Good grief." He's the only one around to hear what he says, and it's all for the better. He's going to have to put effort into keeping this transaction smooth, although hopefully not much; Wu-Long is a soldier. He knows not to disobey orders, right? Right??

His brief glimpse completed, Elias puts the monocle back into his pocket and retakes a vantage point closer to the group. This could get messy.

When his well-intentioned vigilance fails to turn up any evidence of danger beyond the voices on the other end of Helena's phone call, Owen signals as much with a glance, a slight shake of his head, and a shrug. This does not stop him from keeping a watch for trouble, merely represents a break in the jittery movements with which he accompanies her. He has a rather good mental map of the area though, having plotted out what he imagines to be good escape routes if things go badly. There are a host of unasked questions scrambling over each other behind his eyes, which are wide and alert and darting about quickly.

"Wouldn't that be quite the deal? A two for one. Everything has a price 'elena. The instructions to get Danielle's return will be brought to you by Catherine." Ethan informs looking over his shoulder to Wu-Long.

The Wolf gives a bit of a nod to the man, his free hand waving dismissively. "Your girl is on her way to the entrance of the Parking Garage." He murmurs back into the phone. "Ours best be doing the same, love."

Helena scowls, and then looks over at Trask. "Take her to the bottom floor. Escort her to the edge of the lot, and then let her walk across the street on her own. Cat should be heading toward you from the opposite lot at the same time." She'll let Ethan hear her giving her instructions - pretty much to the letter of what he instructed her to do. She says nothing else for the present into the phone, but the gritting of her teeth when Ethan calls her love is almost audible.

Trask nods to Helena, he then turns and begins walking down the ramp, heading toward the bottom level, he sets the pace at a slow one, one that Munin can keep up with without a problem. He continues to allow her to lean on him as he does. His eyes scan the area, watching for Cat or any threats.

The grip on Cat's arm adjusts slightly as Wu-Long moves her back onto her feet and begins to pull her toward the third floor's exit. He would appear to be melodramatically unarmed, which is probably what is making his comrade teleporter so nervous up there. Boot-clad, his footfalls drub the concrete with a steady beat, as even as the breaths his lungs are timing against the fierce bite of the cold. He isn't blinking enough; doesn't want to miss a single fucking frame that he doesn't have to, when Eileen rounds that corner. He's been waiting.

Being outside the van and close to where Ethan speaks with Helena and finalizes the instructions for this exchange, Cat still intends to continue her passivity. Little reaction is shown to hearing him say she's carrying the terms for Dani's release. It's only when she's being pulled toward the exit on her backside because she didn't stand up to move that her course is altered. Practicality rules, she realizes she can't stop him from taking her to the bottom level, there's no chance of being left where she is and inspiring Helena to walk away with the captive she has.

Cat allows herself to be pulled upright and walks under escort.

So far, so good. Elias sticks his right hand into his coat pocket; the trigger guard on the rifle is not modified for winter use, and as such, the glove on his right hand has nothing to cover the index finger. He hates the cold with the furious rage of a thousand dying suns, but that doesn't stop him from paying attention to the situation. It doesn't stop him from paying attention to the fact that, aside from Munin's face and the blood (or what looks like blood) on her scarf, her treatment doesn't appear to be that bad. Luckily, he's had the chance to get his apartment ready for just such an occasion.

When Phoenix reaches the intersection, play time is over, and Elias screws a suppressor onto the rifle's barrel and sets up its bipod, emplacing it on the edge of the roof he's on. It's not a bad location: he can cover the entire intersection from where he is, but still swing the barrel around easily enough to meet other threats. It reminds him of the old days in Chi-town to an extent. Hopefully, it won't be quite as noisy as those days.

By the time Owen's attempts to scout out the area at hyperspeed finally bear mentionable fruit he's just doing it out of habit and primarily focused on refining the art of making his movements natural. He looks up from an attempt to match Sergei's (to Owen's perception) much slower footfalls and takes note of the unhealthy (for he and his) preparations taking place on the rooftop Elias presently occupies. He conveys his findings through clenched teeth to Helena while looking somewhere else, so as to lend the impression of having not seen anything amiss.

"Stay here with me, Zippy." Helena instructs, letting Trask proceed with Munin on his own. She looks out into the street to try and spot Cat while waiting.

Trask makes it to the bottom of the structure. He is still giving Munin his support, and whispers to her, the Russian accent still present, "Do you think you can make it across the street?"

"I'll be fine," Munin reassures Trask, her voice soft — if a little hoarse. She's still leaning against him by the time they reach the ground level, but as they near the intersection she tries to ease off, shifting her weight forward and gathering momentum. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. The distance spanning between the two garages isn't far, and her condition would have to be much worse than it actually is for her to need Sergei's assistance crossing the street.

In the distant corner of the car park, the Vanguard's prisoner and escort appear, two small silhouettes against the bleak sunshine that whites out the buildings some distance behind. Wu-Long's expression continues to be quiescent, his frame coiled with a livewire tension that is easily concealed by the panels of his clothes and four decades of phasing tells out of the vocabulary of his body language.

He sees Eileen at the same time as Eileen sees him, probably: his abilities give him the edge in creating blindness, not in achieving perception. Were Cat paying attention, she could probably see his pupils dilate, eating up every detail that distance and light will cede to him. His lip curls, faintly. He walks Cat to the first yellow arrow painted on the asphalt before releasing her without hesitation.

His arms fall to his sides, hands deliberately empty, his face — a little less so. "You know who to go to," he says, flatly, his accent drying out where consonants and vowels meet.

Facing the intersection when they reach the lower level exit, Cat keeps her eyes straight ahead. The darkness created around her allows for seeing little beyond that. Feet move her forward and across at a calm pace. The hands, presumably still bound behind her, are hidden by the hem of the shirt she's wearing, adding to the illusion of someone who wasn't held captive. At one temple there's a healing mark from having been slammed against Ethan's chair, this being the only evidence of injury left, and that only visible when she's at close range.

"I'm officially in the club now," Owen muses happily. "I have a nickname." He obediently waits with Helena, doing his best to suppress the urge to fidget. He seems oddly at ease, perhaps even detached from what's going on, but also restless, as he waits for the completion of the exchange. He maintains his vigil for any sign of mischief, which makes everything seem to take -that much longer-! It's maddening.

Click.

Black dress shoes tap quickly and purposefully against the ground as Ethan makes his way to the van. Once in the ignition fires up, and the Wolf puts the vehicle in reverse. "Elias. We're done here." Backing it up, Ethan then drives down to the bottom level. Ethan guides the vehicle calmly, navigating down the levels until he reaches the bottom his eyes gazing out the window to Munin calmly. "Get her in here now." Ethan murmurs, most likely to Wu-Long.

Munin has been anticipating this moment for the past ten days — Trask releases his hold on her and, just like that, she's free. Untethered. Disenthralled. Absolved. She crosses the street at a pace that's both brisk and comfortable, her gloved hands tucked under her arms. This, she reasons, must be how game birds feel, crouched in the tall grass with their wings hugged tightly against their bodies, pressing against their basest urge: flight.

She does not run.

Reaching Wu-Long around the same time Cat arrives at Trask, Munin keeps walking until her arms leave her sides and, in a jerky but autonomous motion, encircle his waist. She bumps up against him, buries her face in his chest. This is as far as she goes.

When Cat reaches him, "Sergei" moves to remove her "package" in low tones with his accent he says, "Upstairs, get to Hel fast" as soon as she begins to move, he checks the item to make sure there aren't any nasty surprises in it.

To the relief of probably somebody, probably, no Uzi is forthcoming. As Eileen comes to him, Wu-Long reaches an arm out. This time, his hand doesn't find some girl's elbow, of course, but Eileen's shoulders instead, hiding her hollow shoulders in the crook of his taller frame. He should perhaps warn against this — the nonverbal disclosure of her relationship with the Vanguard, lest it undermine them in some strange way, but he ultimately discovers he has nothing to say and no more to do.

The man's brow draws low for a moment, sparing only the seconds required to take hold of her in order to study her face, thin and white underneath the purpling he had caught on first pass. Tsk, he clucks once, quiet, empty or rancor. A twitch in his nervous system, and their interpolated silhouette unravels, man and girl turning to what seems like strandy columns of airborne ink. Twinned in darkness, they coil, turn and lunge back across the tarmac the way that Cat and Wu-Long had come from, serpentine, swift, utterly soundless.

When they reemerge at the van, Wu-Long returns them to flesh and his arm tightens to rescue the girl from the transitional disorientation in an almost simultaneous synapse of thought.

She can feel it, as soon as she closes within ten feet of Sergei. Cat would avoid him, but he blocks her path and makes avoidance impossible. Her memory clouds instantly, and she doesn't need to be told twice to get upstairs. It's not that she would obey orders from him, one telling her to get out of his proximity is always a good thing. She doesn't even take time objecting to his taking the tube from her; her opinion on that is stated as she walks away. "I want to read whatever's in there first."

Trask checks the tube, as soon as he is sure it's nothing dangerous, he gives Helena the all clear, and then fades back into the shadows, watching the "bad guys" leave he heads to hook back up with them at ease and hand off the package.

As promised, the only item that the capsule contains is a sheet of paper. A paper with instructions. The instructions are rather simple:

For Danielle's release, we require you hand over your technopath to us. Instructions on delivery are below. Failure to hand over the technopath will result in immediate murder of Danielle. Love, Ethan.

The van pulls up alongside Wu-Long and Munin, Ethan quickly opening the door and sliding out. Munin is almost instantly grabbed, as soon as she is separated from Wu-Long, and brought close to Ethan. A kiss planted firmly on the top of her head. No words are spoken. And then she's released, the Wolf motions with his head to the van before sliding back into the drivers seat.

"Copy," is the response that Elias offers over the radio link, "I'll cover your exit. See you at the rendezvous." And that is exactly, and all, that he says. From this point on, radio silence. And as soon as the van is clear of the area, Elias will be clear of the area, deftly sliding through the fabric of space with no one to care or see him.

When Cat initially appears, Helena holds her hand up to belay her from further approach. "What's my name? The name you gave me." Because one never knows when it's really a Magical Sylar who's decided to star in this act as Cat. But once she receives the apellation Stormy, she is all cleared. As to the message…well. Cat will have to be satisfied with reading it at the same time as Hel. The young blonde blanches, and looks at Cat. She can't bring herself to say what has to be said - that Danielle is very likely going to be a sacrifice in the War of Evolved.

She's stoic again, now that's she's out of range of Sergei. She remains out of his range when he brings the tube and her eyes read the message it contained simultaneous with Helena, who she does indeed address as Stormy. The message itself isn't replied to, Cat doesn't need words. Her face and her eyes say it all. The jaw sets, her eyes show a cold murderous expression such as never has been in them before.

There will be a reckoning.


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December 12th: Been A While, Sailor?
Previously in this storyline…
Thirty Minutes or Less

Next in this storyline…
Put Your Foot Down

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December 12th: After Exchange
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