Shell Shock

Participants:

alexander_icon.gif verse_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

raj_icon.gif

Scene Title Shell Shock
Synopsis Alexander finds himself facing long repressed memories at the hands of Agent Verse.
Date February 25, 2009

In the deepest reaches of all of us, there lies a beast waiting to be awoken…

Everything hurts, scalding hot pain ripping through throbbing extremities. Heat feels so intense, skin tender from the warmth that pitch blackness refuses to show. Blearily, eyes open, and all that can be seen are blurry, charcoal black clouds and falling snow. The ground is cold beneath his back, his lung ache, his eyes sting, and his ears ring with a tinnitus that may never clear.

A terrible, dark seed that — once awakened — never truly goes away.

The muffled, drowned out sounds of something popping fills the air. A high-pitched shriek, followed by the rumbling of the ground and a flash of light. Slowly, he turns his head, neck tense and eyes half open, staring at a burning jeep just outside of arm's reach. Blackened silhouettes consumed by the flames once had names — Jenkins and Hall. Now they're just bones. Bones with names.

Even when the beast within falls silent, it will always remain there — watching, waiting…

Boots scuffs the sandy concrete at the side of his head, as tan as the buildings surrounding the prone man. More loud popping, slowly coming into clarity, the loud stacco slam of machine-gun fire. Voices now too, as blurry as his vision. More boots, a scream, and something warm, wet and salty sprays across his face. Blood. He tenses, eyes rolling up to look at the black sky again — it's not clouds, and it's not snow. It's smoke and ash from his burning friends.

Waiting for a time when we are at our most vulnerable, our most weak…

His chest aches, spine pops and face burns with hot searing pain as he sits up, hands trembling. Blood covers one side of his gray and tan camouflage uniform, dark and warm — it might be his, he's too numb to tell. The sound of more gunfire comes thorugh the plumes of smoke, whizzing bullets unseen save for where they pop against the pavement in both directions. Desert sunlight catches on nametags dangling around his neck — Knight, Jesse Alexander

…to awaken again.


Fallujiah, Iraq

August 16th, 2004


Of course. Of course. It's as if time rolled back, to one of the worst moments of his life. And sadly, there've been many. September 11, the Bomb, the battle against Kazimir. It doesn't occur to him that years have passed since then. That this is all a dream, a nightmare, a memory. Not when there's that rage at hand, so convenient. And honestly, so enjoyable. There's a terrible sort of exaltation that comes when it's the power driving, making decisions.

Jesse rolls up to his feet. He's aware, distantly that he's bleeding, that it hurts. But the mercy of shock is that pain is somehow far away, in another room with a closed door between them. And the power is right there, like an obedient familiar, begging for attention. The smoke rolls away from him, banished as by a high wind, the better to let him see if there are any of his comrades left alive.

When the smoke blows aside, Alexander sees a flash of red in the plumes of black, a soldier in two halves hurled through the air, one half o fhis body landing on the ground in a dark red smear. His lower body bounces and skids, legs tumbling and keening in different directions before coming to a stop entirely, like a toy soldier split in the middle.

The smoke whirls, bellows and peels away from an enormous figure standing in the midst of the flames. Rich sienna hued skin, head wrapped in a bloodstained tan cloth, a trailing tie dangling down from the side. Shirtless as he is, sweat glistens off of rippling muscles smeared with blood. He turns, looking towards the direction of the telekinetic force. His brown eyes settle on Jesse, even as gunfire rockets past him from approaching Iraqi soldiers.

"Fuck! Fuck he's still alive!" 2nd Lieutenant Abrams, like the tank, screaming out in horror at the seven foot tall Iraqui. "Fall back! Fall back!" The roar of a Hum-V behind Alexander tears across the pavement, followed by a line of smoke from a rocket shot from it.

The RPG round corkscrews through the air, and the enormous soldier raises a hand, redirecting the grenade with an unseen force, sending it veering off into an adjacent building with an eruption of stone debris and smoke. His eyes stay focused on Alexander, head tilting to the side, hand raising, fingers spreading, as a wave of telekinetic force shoots towards the soldier.

Only to stop, somehow. Part around Alexander like a wave, after a moment's struggle. The air between them distorts, wavers, like heat shimmer, even as it passes him. His hair isn't long enough to ruffle. Al's teeth are bared in a rictus that makes no pretense at being a grin, just animal threat. He's a little, spindly figure in the face of that giant, even as he reaches out with his power to try and yank the bigger man off his feet.

Even as he tries, he coughs dust from his throat, and then says, tone oddly amiable, "Salaam alaykum." Ironically enough - 'peace be upon you'. God only knows if it's audible over all the noise going on.

Ripped off of his feet, the soldier is hurled thorugh the air. Pulsing distortions on either side of his body change his direction in mid throw, and he comes back down against the force of Alexander's telekinesis. Weight and his own power drawing him, pulling him to the ground. Alexander dives aside, just as the soldier's boot smashes into the street, preceeded by a shockwave of telekinetic force that shatters the pavement. Dogtags whirl around his neck, a litany of arabic glittering in the sunlight, displaying an Indian name — Raj Singh.

"Ma'a salama!" He brings one hand forward, palm held flat, and a shockwave of telekinesis knocks Alexander off of his feet, sending him spiraling through the air, nearly impacting with the side of the jeep, until he stops abruptly in mid air, a low harmonic rumble accompanying the use of his power as he pivots and lands on one foot, before springing forward again with a burst of dust behind him, rocketed through the air like a human bullet towards Raj Singh.

The soldiers in the Hum-V watch the display with jaws open and eyes wide, the man at the .50 caliber on the back quickly brings the gun around, waiting for a clear shot.

Raj flicks his hand aside, cutting off Alexander's telekinetic charge and sending him flinging to the right, bouncing across the street like a stray tennis ball. The young soldier rolls to a stop, rising up on one knee as the air ripples around him, dust swirling slowly before pieces of broken concrete and jagged rebar rise up from piles near him.

Raj stops, one brow raising, holding one hand forward as he draws in a slow breath.

And now Al is all blind rage, lashing out with raw power, and with whatever he can lay psychic 'hands' upon. Debris, shards of glass, fallen bricks. Even the ornate tiles that remain from the courtyard of a shattered mosque. How long does he have before he bleeds out. "«Not from here, are you?»" he asks, in his accented Arabic, one fraction of his mind working on the puzzle this man represents, despite the blood, despite the pain. He's dizzy, bleeding from a cut lip and a battered nose.

Pieces of rubble whip through the air as fast as bullets, shattering mid-flight against concussive bursts that detonate their fragile forms in popping clouds of dust and stone. A length of rebar manages to get past Raj's defenses, and the massive man steps to the side, the crooked length of metal driving into the burning jeep behind him.

Backlit by the flames, Raj rolls his shoulders, then shoves both hands forwards in some vestigial somatic component from when he was learning how to first control his power, the motions aiding him in visualization. The debris swirling around Alexander is blown back, and as Raj prepares to move his hand in a curling gesture to crush the young man, bullets whip past him with buzzing report following the loud clattering chomp of a fully-automatic .50 caliber gun.

Concentration broken, Raj focuses on the bullets, his hands clenching into fists as his telekinetic force deflects them in lazy arcs around his body, sending the rounds exploding into the street and walls. It gives Alexander the opportunity he was looking for, and the shards of glass and broken ceramic perforate the side of the soldier, sending him tumbling towards the jeep. Raj's feet skid along the ground, and the ground beneath him suddenly cracks and folds in on itself in a concave depression, and Raj rockets up into the air in a telekineticly empowered jump. The man's back arches, flipping head over heels, and drops down atop the Hum-V with both feet.

The roof crumples down in, steel bending and flexing, windows exploding out as he shatters the vehicle's drive shaft and splits the floor with the shearing force of the telekinesis he utilizes. One hand moves to the side then flings upwards, and the gunner is launched into the air like a missile, disappearing through a plume of smoke and cinders.

The other two soldiers leap from the vehicle as it smashes apart, rolling on the ground while diving for cover as the gunfire from the fleeing Iraqi soldiers provides cover to their escape.

Turning his head slowly, Raj focuses back on Alexander, breathing out a deep, gravely exhalation of words, "«No. But their money speaks all languages.»" He steps out of the broken halves of the vehicle, sending them skittering aside with an unseen hand, "«I have never met one like myself,»" his eyes settle on Alexander, "«Pity.»"

"«Mercenary.»" The word isn't usually an insult. But clearly, that's what it is here. If AL had any sense, he'd be fleeing. But there's no turning your back on this. Even as he reaches and flings more debris, he's looking for a rifle, a gun, he can pick up and use. His own is long since gone, strap broken as he was flung around like a toy. "«Who's 'they'?»" he wonders.

The question is answered by an explosion of stone behind Raj, sending the mercenary forward and up close to Alexander, who finds the enormous man's hand palming the top of his head before continuing past the American, picking him up off of the ground before slamming him against the cracked wall of the mosque. The wall explodes inwards, sending the both of them through in a crumbling heap of broken sandstone. Raj lands, having released Alexander's head, sending the young man to the ground at his side.

"«Where is your fallback position?»" Taj asks in a deep, rumbling voice, raising one booted foot to slam down atop Alexander's chest, pressing down with the strong muscles in his legs, leaning in to glower at the redheaded soldier, "«Where is Phoenix hiding?»" Those aren't words that match the surroundings, words asking things about the present — but then, he doesn't recall this confrontation happening in Iraq either. Something feels wrong, everything feels wrong, but the pain is so real, the pressure on his ribs, the sensation of suffocation.

Tell me!»"

That's enough to completely scramble his brain. Not that it wasn't already fried. "What?" he asks, stupidly. And it's in English, this time, as if the concentration required to dredge up that language were driven entirely away. The endorphins that banished pain have already begun to fail him. "Fallback? Forward Operating Base Warhorse." That's no secret, anyone in this damn city knows where the Yankees are holed up. For once, it's ignorance that might save him.

"«No!»" Raj raises his foot, spins around and kicks Alexander in the side, sending him bouncing across the cracked and broken mosque floor, knocking over a folding screen that was dividing a portion of the room. Stalking forward, Raj bellows again, "Where is Phoenix hiding!?" This time it's in English too, his voice practically shaking the walls. But before Alexander can even respond, Raj swings one hand up, two fingers pointed towards the ceiling, and up he flies, shooting the fifteen feet up to the peeling paint of ancient murals on the aging structure. The plaster cracks from the force of Alexander's gravity-defying impact, pinned there by his chest, "Where are the remaining members of Phoenix!"

That has Al coughing up blood. Consciousness is a fragile thing, and his is leaking away. Helena warned him that the incongruities are the key. What the telepath doesn't know. But…..if he's this version of Al, the one before the NYPD, before PARIAH, before Peter ruined his beloved city, those words have no real meaning. "What's Phoenix?" he asks. "The….the thing the Brits use, instead of a Predator? I don't understand what you want."

Eyes full of fury, Raj lets out a loud howl before leaping up towards Alexander with another inhuman burst of telekinetic force. There is a concussion as he shoulders into the soldier, blasting the pair through the roof, sending pieces of stone rocketing up into the air as he grabs Alexander by the throat, fingers pressing into flesh as they continue to — impossibly — soar upwards. Raj's ascension with Alexander is no longer over the brown-tan desert city, but now the charcoal gray ruins of Midtown Manhattan.

Fires burn out of control, buildings engulfed in fires that ascend floor by floor, a column of black smoke rising up from a still glowing crater at the city center. Ashes rain down like snow from the sky, "Phoenix!" Raj hollers, even as his voice contorts, skin lightening as a scar cuts itself across the man's brow. The cloth wrapped around his head unravels, revealing slicked back black hair — Peter.

"Tell me where Phoenix is hiding!" They hang aloft above the burning ruins. Above the city where his grandmother and aunt died in those very fires. Burning below, is the city he once knew, the scar still fresh, the day of the explosion. "Phoenix." His fingers squeeze, and allow, harmonic hum echoes inside of Alexander's mind, searching, probing, "Show me where they are!"

It's like watching a kid frantically try to erase the naughty messages on the blackboard before the teacher can come in and scold, and see. If Al had the sort of focus Helena did, he might be able to wall that out. Deny him access, or compartmentalize it. Instead, Al is frantically jettisoning memories. Forgetting. Slash and burn. Better to lose one's self entirely than betray one's friends. Always just ahead of the seeker. There's the flash of faces, of events. Helena, Teo, Brian, Conrad. Lucrezia. The Bomb. The day he graduated from the academy. Teo, for an instant, in his arms. And then it's gone.

Which is why he can say with complete honesty and a battered but untroubled face to the doppelganger that has him in its grip, "……..I don't know."

Peter's lips downturn into a lopsided frown, his eyes glowing gold-red around his irises for a moment as the bones in his hand shine brightly, skin turning an orange hue as atomic fire is channeled into his palm. Black jacket flaring out, his hand burns at Alexande'rs throat, skin sizzling, smoke rising up from the wound, and Peter pushes Alexander back, sending him away from him towards the burning, charcoal gray wasteland.

Smoke falls past Alexander, swirling in columns that support the slate gray skies on ashen strength. He can see blown out windows rushing past him as his arms go limp, head tilting back, eyes falling shut. The broken concrete and twisted steel flies past, until finally he impacts with the ground in a thunderous crash, sending shockwaves of pain through his body.

The beast is our own anger, our own hatred…

Everything hurts, scalding hot pain ripping through throbbing extremities. Heat feels so intense, skin tender from the warmth that pitch blackness refuses to show. Blearily, eyes open, and all that can be seen are blurry, charcoal black clouds and falling snow. The ground is cold beneath his back, his lung ache, his eyes sting, and his ears ring with a tinnitus that may never clear.

The beast is the primal, uncontrolled desire to survive against all odds.

The muffled, drowned out sounds of something popping fills the air. A high-pitched shriek, followed by the rumbling of the ground and a flash of light. Slowly, he turns his head, neck tense and eyes half open, staring at a burning jeep just outside of arm's reach. Blackened silhouettes consumed by the flames once had names — Jenkins and Hall. Now they're just bones. Bones with names.

Within us all is this capacity for brutality, capacity for unsurpassed cruelty…

Boots scuffs the sandy concrete at the side of his head, as tan as the buildings surrounding the prone man. More loud popping, slowly coming into clarity, the loud stacco slam of machine-gun fire. Voices now too, as blurry as his vision. More boots, a scream, and something warm, wet and salty sprays across his face. Blood. He tenses, eyes rolling up to look at the black sky again — it's not clouds, and it's not snow. It's smoke and ash from his burning friends.

Those of us who answer it's call find it ever easier to touch again…

His chest aches, spine pops and face burns with hot searing pain as he sits up, hands trembling. Blood covers one side of his gray and tan camouflage uniform, dark and warm — it might be his, he's too numb to tell. The sound of more gunfire comes thorugh the plumes of smoke, whizzing bullets unseen save for where they pop against the pavement in both directions. Desert sunlight catches on nametags dangling around his neck — Knight, Jesse Alexander

And it makes it all the more easy for us to find it again…

Agent verse staggers away from the examination table, one hand reaching up to his brow. He swallows, dryly, looking up to the convulsing form restrained to the table by arm and leg restraints. The EEG and EKG hooked up to Alexander's body both spike at erratic intervals, and white-coated doctors beside the telepathic agent look on with surprised expressions. "He— I can't continue." Verse's voice is hoarse, "I've done too much damage to him. It'll kill him if I continue…" Terrified eyes — ones frightened of his own ability — stare blankly at the man twitching on the table. A man locked in a loop of pain and suffering created to break down his defenses.

…and continue falling down that slippery slope of corruption.

"He's gone."


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February 25th: "I'm Sorry"
Previously in this storyline…
Who's Side Are You On?

Next in this storyline…
Monsters

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February 25th: A Storm Is Coming
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