A Crowd of Twisted Things


adel_icon.gif alvin_icon.gif caspian_icon.gif cesar_icon.gif elaine_icon.gif eve2_icon.gif jonathan_icon.gif kay_icon.gif lance_icon.gif robyn_icon.gif tania_icon.gif

Scene Title A Crowd of Twisted Things
Synopsis A peaceful afternoon is fragmented by memory.
Date March 19, 2018

Yamagato Park

While there’s still an hour or so before “happy hour” — that magical time so many nine-to-fivers get off of work and can shed their ties and jackets, heels and briefcases — the late afternoon in this corner of Yamagato Park still finds many of the residents, employees, and visitors out and about. The three food trucks have parked along the curb here might have something to do with the hubbub of the day: a taco truck, a yakitori truck, and an ice cream sandwich truck have propped up their awnings and set out their blackboard menus to grab the attention of the pre-dinner crowd.

Savory scents from the taco and yakitori trucks, coupled with the smell of fresh baked cookies, don’t seem to compete at all, but instead meld together in a tantalizing aroma that has drawn lines a couple of dozen deep. Construction workers in yellow and orange vests and hardhats from a nearby site jostle one another’s elbows in cheerful camaraderie, while the more sedately-dressed and mild-mannered businessmen and women take their spots amongst them; teens and tweens just out of school crowd the ice cream truck, mentally picking out the toppings from the colorful photographs on the side of the truck.

The trucks are merely a sidewalks width from that fifteen-foot-wall dividing the haves in Yamagato Park from the have-nots in Sheepshead Bay to the north. Nearby, a checkpoint allows the visitors and residents to come and go, though many of the visitors make their way to the trucks before leaving — after all, there’s a food shortage in the safe zone; they may not be able to get a fresh meal once they leave the gates.

Robyn Quinn hadn't originally planned on being in New York today. She was pretty certain she was going to get reprimanded at this point for not being in Rochester enough - but that's always a tough habit to break when one has to uproot their life and move for work. At least it's only a few hours away - and an even shorter flight, though she shouldn’t make that expense too common.

For now, though…

Yamagato Park is a strange place to her, walking down the street with her eye cast around her. It feels like a part of a whole other world, compared to the rest of the NYSZ. Fitting, in a lot of ways. She hadn't told anyone she was coming, not even the woman that she was coming here to see. She'd only made her way over after she'd made sure to do her share of chores at the apartment as well as pick up a change clothes.

She wears an outfit similar to what she wore to the Memorial Library opening - a black suit with a slightly ruffled white button up shirt under the jacket, black band pulled across her eye as usual. This time, without Dirk's influence, the tie tied around her neck is white, rather than red. Lace accents flare out from the ends of the sleeves, Robyn taking a moment to adjust her gloves as she stops, and looks around.

She was here. She hadn't given much notice, and for that she was apologetic. Now all she needed was to try and remember the right address - she didn't want to give away the surprise by texting her. It felt weird to be doing this, but… she's trying to be less of a phantom these days. To figure some things out.

Making her way along the sidewalk, Elaine seems fairly content, almost at peace. She's dressed in a pair of white leggings and a peachy-pink dress with little sun-umbrellas along the hemline—something playful and fun which is what she was trying to be at the moment. Still, with the weather she wears an off-white coat over the whole thing. Playful, but practical.

Moving towards the yakitori stand, she stops nearby. She doesn’t go get yakitori, that can come later, for now she’s just using the stand as a good waypoint as she waits for someone. Adel would get here soon, Elaine’s certain of that.

Do you know how hard it is to get GOOD Yakitori? Everyone thinks they can just stick meat on a stick and baste in soy sauce and grill it. Alvin has gotten his Yakitori after standing in line for hours. Well maybe not hours but it probably felt that way. Now he's standing off to the side with a few skewers of grilled chicken, taking little bites off the skewer here and there as he watches the lines grow and grow. If you feed them they will come.

Alvin is dressed in his normal plain grey suit, just a few shades shy of black, and a black tie over a white dress shirt. There's a Yamagato security badge visible somewhere on his person. (Player has no clue what they look like or how they're being denoted yet.) He doesn't have his phone out, he's just standing and enjoying the hot meal in the still pretty cold in the 40's weather that New York is "enjoying".

“I am telling you, I have heard that they have the best tacos here,” says a bespeckled man, with enthusiasm, gesturing at the truck with a tall cup of coffee in his hand. Jonathan Smith, member of the Citizen’s Watch, walks with his lovely companion, Kay, towards the cart in question, a familiar bright smile on his lips. His black peacoat is closed against the evening chill, a yellow and black striped scarf wound around his neck. He looks completely like the school teacher he is for his day job.

And yes, he drug Kay all the way out here for a taco. But not just any… the supposed ‘best’ tacos.

Giving a shrug, he flashes her a bright smile that creases the outer corners of his green eyes, “So I told myself, Jonathan… you needed to check this out yourself… but,” he adds with a shake of his finger, “No judging can be complete without a second opinion.” He motions to her with a bit of a flourish.

Tania always seems to have business in the area of Yamagato Park, although she rarely comes to enjoy the park itself. But the smell of the food trucks and their promise of something good has made her drift over this way after a meeting. She's just stepping away from the taco truck, a small box in one hand and a drink in the other. She isn't here with a friend or texting a anyone. In fact, she looks very much like she might not notice the others around her, especially once she's away from the trucks and finding herself a place to sit. But the park is beautiful and the afternoon is crisp, so perhaps she's just trying to enjoy their surroundings.

Caspian doesn’t normally make it out to Yamagato park. Dressed in his nicer clothes with an overcoat over it all to keep the warmth his cup of coffee has fostered from escaping into the cool afternoon, he’s even polished his steel-toed boots to look a little more classy after a day of repairing air conditioners and rewiring junction boxes. His clientele mostly lives in the safe zone and the surrounding areas, but as a businessman, finding new sources of revenue is always a good thing to search out. Checking his phone (which has full bars, thanks to being in Yamagato territory with excellent cell service), the man starts to walk towards one of the many buildings ringing the park where a potential client works, a quick consultation scheduled for an hour from now about installing solar panels on the roof of his house to prevent brown out problems. That’s the goal, at least. The upsell. The goal for right now, though? The food trucks near the buildings. A good Carne Molida taco on a fresh tortilla, some onion and cilantro, topped with a squeeze of lime? Perfection.

Every once and awhile, Lance tries to make it out to the park - if nothing else, they have food shipments that aren’t suffering from the Safe Zone’s loss, which means he can pick up something from the food trucks without worrying too much about depleting the stores of food at the apartment.

That’s what finds him perched on the back of a bench like some sort of demented crow, hoodie’s hood draped back over his shoulders as he savours a taco, eyes closed as he contentedly crunches away. Only there’s no crunching sounds, because he’s silenced himself. Food noises are embarrassing.

Ok, but. There's an ice cream sandwich truck here, too, and the line for that is shorter than the taco and yakitori truck. That's where Cesar finds himself ordering a neopolitan sandwiched between a couple chocolate chip cookies. The agent's not dressed in any flashy sense, but in a rather sensible outfit befitting of the man's line of business. Federal business. He doesn't have to wait long to receive his order, albeit he looks slightly disappointed by the size of it compared to the price paid. He shrugs, and takes a bite of that delicious, creamy dessert.

Apparently, Robyn isn’t the only one from Rochester who road tripped down for a quick vacation. Ran by Hana, of course. The second lieutenant of Wendigo had a small lead to follow that acted as the primary excuse, for which she intended to return from tomorrow, but no, it was actually the fact that Adel wanted to see her mom that mostly led to her coming down. Main Mom. Bio Mom. First of the Moms. The one who’d been there with her the most after Alaska and before she opted to run off to war. They’d stayed in contact, even when the girl started to train to jump out of planes. No planes today. No armor. No weapons strapped to her waist. She’s not here to hunt a wolf. And she’s not sure Yamagato Park would even allow such a thing.

But this is where her mom lives, with the cutest little squishface cat in the whole world.

“Mom!” she calls out with an excited sound, running to clear the distance between them now that she’s spotted her. She’ll have that warning of ‘mom’ to intercept the hug that she’s about to endure. “I missed you! How are you!? Is squishface doing okay? Are you okay?” Yes, she’s rambling. They might have been talking on phone whenever service managed to go through, but it’s not the same as in person.

“Are these vegan? Asking for a friend.” She doesn't seem to get the answers she's looking for and so Eve Mas walks off with a grunt, eyes shifting around the place. She.. likes Yamagato. She likes.. the trees. And the seer dressed in a long flowing lavender color dress billowing out behind her.

Light gray eyes survey the immediate area and she hums a little tune before.. “AHA.” She jumps up behind Robyn’s back and peers down at her before leaning in to whisper at her back. “Redrum redrum redrum.” There's a snicker and Eve is spreading her hands out in front of her.

The oracle looks.. like she hasn't been sleeping. And many people who know her would know she didn't usually have sleepless nights anymore not since the advancement of her ability. But today.. Eve looks exhausted. But that twinkle and shine is still in her eyes albeit faintly.

“The best tacos, huh?” Kay gives her companion a skeptical look, eyes narrowed critically. “All right. I’m game to find out if there’s any validity to this claim.” Then she grins broadly. She wears a red wool coat over a white pantsuit, a black scarf wrapped loosely around her neck. She’s been working, so she’s glad to have the distraction with her friend. “Tacos really should have margaritas to go with ‘em, though.” Her southern drawl lowers almost to a grumble, but teasing. There’s not going to be any margaritas today.

For those who don’t live or work in Yamagato Park, it’s a respite from the dirt, grime, and noise that are so abundant, even in the Safe Zone. For the time being, there’s no sounds of construction work within the walled city, perhaps because all of the construction workers seem to be in line for tacos or chicken skewers. The sun is out, though the temperature is dropping; it’s about as perfect as it can get for a New York March afternoon.

The food servers shake their heads at Eve’s questions. Nothing’s vegan, not even the ice cream or the cookies, but she can get a taco without the meat and just enjoy the tortilla stuffed with the condiments and vegetables.

In the ice cream line, a group of teenage girls, most of them Japanese and residents of the Park, giggle behind their hands as they watch Lance enjoy his tacos. One of them who seems to be the leader of the pack looks down at her pocket at the sound of a chime, before she pulls out a phone. She murmurs something to one of the others, a farewell of sorts, as she leaves the group to head for the checkpoint behind the food trucks.

The phone gives her friend an idea, though, and out comes her own in a fuchsia and glittery Hello Kitty case. She tugs a smaller girl with her and they approach Lance. “Selfie with us?” says the taller girl, giggling a little as she lifts her phone and points to him and then herself. Apparently the “all-American” looking adolescent is intriguing to the Japanese immigrants.

The way Robyn turns around, visible eye wide, is that of a woman not at all prepared for what's just happened, somewhere between stumbling away awkwardly, and trying to read herself. As her eye lands on Eve, she stars at the seer. She doesn't want to seem annoying, but she almost definitely seems annoyed.

Robyn stares at her for a long moment, before shaking her head. "Stop doing that." The words are plain, but forceful, and she lets out a long sigh. "Someone is going to get hurt doing that." Her posture straightens, the rie adjusted as she squares her gaze with Eve.

Finally, though, she smallest hint of a smile. "Hello, Eve." A normal greeting. "I- wasn't expecting to find anyone else here today." Well, not besides Elaine. "What brings you to Yamagato?"

There’s a bright smile from Elaine at being called “mom”. It’s not something she ever thought she’d be used to and no one else had better dare to call her it. But she’s gotten used to it from Adel and might even, secretly, like it a little bit. Not that she’d tell. Throwing her arms around the shorter woman, she hugs back tightly. “I missed you too.” And then she answers the rattling off of questions from Adel.

“Inger’s fine, cute little squishface is spoiled rotten. Me, I’m doing alright, just been busy. I promise I’m okay, maybe a little lonely from time to time, but okay. You should keep visiting whenever you can. I like to have company. Everyone’s so busy these days. But I manage to see people from time to time. I even saw Robyn a few times, if you can believe it.”

Alvin can't help but chuckle at the question Eve throws at the food truck workers. Vegan food trucks in a city mired in a food shortage? Not terribly likely. "A tofu yakitori might not be a terrible idea though." The suit dressed Alvin comments in the direction of Eve and the yakitori truck. "Baste in miso and then grill it up. Would be pretty good." He takes another bite off his chicken on it's skewer though, an amused glance given to the Japanese girls taking pictures of Lance. Eyes track around the crowd, keeping a constant watch to make sure everyone is being civil with each other. There is a raised brow at Eve's antics with Robyn, a slight shake of his head as meanders a few steps further from the crowd as the lines grow longer.

“Excellent. I am pleased to know that I was correct to choose you for this very important task.” Course, she is probably the only person he’d pick. Moving into the appropriate line, Jonathan rubs his hands together, or as best his can with a cup of coffee in it. Anticipation of good food maybe? “I love a good Carne Asada.”

Jonathan takes a sip of the coffee in his hand, “I tell you.. Eleanor is really becoming quite the expert on making a good mocha.” He tosses the nearly empty cup in a nearby trash can. “Always worth a side trip to the market.”

A bench is taken up, at least partly, as Tania finds room for herself and her meal. She pulls out her phone, eyebrow lifting at whatever she sees on the screen before she unlocks it to send a text. But she slides it back into a pocket and turns her attention out at the others. People watching. She didn't bring popcorn, but tacos are just as good. Better, even. The girls approaching Lance is enough to get a hint of a smile from her. And a bite. Because it's bound to be entertaining.

The line moves rather quickly, considering the efficiency of the woman behind the counter at the taco truck. Orders are placed, tortillas are tossed on the flat top to heat while the meat is fished out of its respective stainless steel container and placed haphazardly into said tortilla, now heated through. Onion, cheese, and cilantro are added and then, with a Florida, the tacos are wrapped, bagged, and slid across the counter. Within minutes, people have their food, wrapped in paper that's quickly going clear from the grease.

Or flavor, if you're correct and brave.

Caspian, now with his food, catches sight of Lance on his bench and wanders that direction, stopping when the sound does and taking a step back, leaning over into his field of vision and waving to the kid. Nothing like a little conversation over dinner and, judging from the wrappers stacked by Lance’s side, he's still got some eating to do.

“Hey, Cas,” Lance calls back over to the man as he notices the hand upraised in his direction, and then he’s being approached without even realizing it. Sneaking up on him with a knife, sure, he’d be totally aware of that. Walking up giggling about selfies? No clue.

A broad grin curves to the teenager’s lips as he pushes himself up to his full height, balancing on the back of the bench on the balls of his feet, and then hops down deftly all the way to the ground in a single movement. Yes, he’s showing off. “Sure,” he allows with a grin. Then he’s ‘surreptitiously’ wiping his mouth and chin in case some taco was lingering.

Oh god he’d just die.

It takes him just three bites, but Cesar finishes the ice cream dessert in about the same time as others can finish their tacos. It’s no less satisfying though, and the man takes a deep breath and lets out a satisfied sigh… before eyeing the lines to the other pair of trucks and debating inwardly if it’s worth the wait. In the sweep of his gaze, he watches the girls that flock over to Lance with a chuckle to himself. Then it isn’t long before he spots some familiar faces as well. One, a coworker, one, a particularly memorable woman from the Elmhurst hospital. He starts towards Robyn and Eve’s direction, lifting a hand to wave at the women.

“Really? I’ve seen her too, Robyn. She’s the Agent they assigned to us, to watch us. I don’t think they knew she was my mom.” Adel shakes her head, but doesn’t stop giving her mom a hug for a few seconds longer, bouncing on her toes as she looks at the woman who— well— is actually younger than her. And still her mom despite that. Always her mom. “I’ve been calling her Agent Mom in my head,” she responds as if finding this fact to be quite humorous. And she’s currently so focused on the first of the moms that she doesn’t even notice other mom in the background as of yet.

“This place is really nice. Inger’s probably the most spoiled cat in the whole world.” Living in this posh place would spoil any cat who’s no longer a kitten at all. “I’m working on my pilot’s license. Do you have any idea how hard those are to get? Man, it’s going to take months. Maybe even years.” A few years ago, years felt like a lifetime. Now it doesn’t seem quite as bad. “But one day I’ll be backup pilot.” One day.

Getting paratrooper training had required less time. But it helped she had already had a good background with physics, especially gravity, inertia and aerodynamics.

The wicked crazy lady snickers as Robyn tells her off and she waves a hand, “Nobody dying today. The food is not vegan Red.” Eve looks serious as she grabs at her friend’s hand. “I thought the rich liked fancy food.” in a loud whisper, not that Eve does particularly but she came here with expectations.

Her light gray eyes take in her friend and she smiles. “I'm just.. here.. exploring!” Yea that's it.

The seeress looks over and around as she leans in real close and starts: “Ohmygod Quinnie,” the use of her old nickname slips out. “I had a trip. I time traveled! It was like.. didn't you do it?? I got my head cut off.” This all said in an elaborate whisper to her now fellow time traveler.

When Cesar arrives waving, Eve squeezes Robyn’s hand as if to say Girl I Just Spilled Some Tea. More later. Eye to eye.

“Oh oh he’s a Knight Red! Hey hey Fair Cesar do you know my friend Red?” Probably.

“Carne asada does sound good,” Kay has to admit. “I appreciate that you thought of me for this very important mission.” She nudges Jonathan’s arm gently with her elbow, now that he doesn’t have a coffee to spill. It isn’t as though Kay never smiles. She’s in PR, after all. She’s perfected the art of the charming smile. But they come a little more easily when she’s with him. It’s not something she has to force.

Not like at some of the PTA meetings. Yikes. “Well, we’re going to have to get coffee more often, then. I have to try this for myself.” She usually gets her coffee in-house, but supporting the Co-op businesses is on Kay’s list of priorities.

The two teenagers pose with Lance, the smaller of them putting up her hand in a peace sign and the taller girl pointing to Lance as if he’s some celebrity as she holds out the phone for the selfie. She’s a pro — it’s set to a 3-second timer, and all three of them make it into the frame on the first try. Once it’s taken, the two Yamagato teens dip their heads in thanks to him before running off giggling to their packs of friends, who have gotten their ice cream and are wandering away.

The sky blue but for a couple of puffy white clouds, the laughter of friends meeting, the scent of savory meat and sweet cookies — it may not be idyllic, but for the moment, everything seems pleasant, innocent and safe within the walled comforts of Yamagato Park.

And then all of that changes.

Memories come unbidden, uninvited, unconnected. Some people react only slightly, shaking their head as if to clear them, or blinking in confusion. The man at the pick-up window of the taco truck pauses in calling out the order, simply holding out the cardboard basket of street tacos out in silent offering, as he stares into space. One of the pedestrians, a suited businessman, stops walking, standing in the middle of the sidewalk.

Others react more visibly, more dramatically. The petite teenager who had taken the selfie with Lance gasps, her eyes widening as she clutches her friend’s arm. The taller friend closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and then whispers something in the other’s ear, patting her on the shoulder consolingly.

It’s hard to tell if anyone doesn’t see something in that moment, but it’s clear that many people do.

Robyn stares at Eve, frowning. "Don't call me-"

Bullets wizz past. All Robyn Quinn can hear is the ringing in her as she stands up, coughing. The smoke in her lungs is for once not the smoke she wants. Her sunglasses are God knows where, lost as she draws herself up to her feet. This was supposed to be a simple extraction across the border - what had gone wrong? Staggering to her feet, she look around. The van was in shambles. She could barely move one of her arms. Barely open her eyes.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" This is what she gets for tempting fate. For talking about how she's never gotten stopped getting people the hell out of Dodge. Squinting, she scans the ruins of the vehicle she'd been thrown clear from. Flames and twisted metal rise up from a broken heap, seemingly not care given for the who had once been inside.

The sound of crying snaps her out of her daze. Someone besides her survived that. Panic fills her, and then horror. They probably hadn't known who she was transporting, why. Simply that someone was trying to move a bunch of Evos across the border. They probably hadn't bothered to dig deeper.

To realise they were just kids.

She sees a young girl pulling herself to her feet, tears streaming down her dirty face. Zeroing on the sound, eyes closed, she remembers what it was like to be invisible, and while she's not now, it helps her navigate her way without too much problem, save for almost stumbling over debris. As she reaches the source, she opens her eyes half lidded, the young girl pulled up to her knees, her jeans and sleeves ripped and a trickle of blood down her cheek - but otherwise, alive and as fine as she could be.

"Circle around," comes a male voice from nearby. Quinn swallows hard, breathing as fast as she wishes her feet would move. Bending down, she hoists the girl up her feet, and looks her in the eyes.

"Maddie." She recognised the girl. She would've recognised any of them. "Don't think. Run." There was only so much she could do now, for anyone. Pulling the girl up into her arms, she rises to her feet, and takes off towards the nearby forest. More bullets wizz through the air. She fires back. She doesn't look to see if she hit anything, anyone.

The treeline is all she cares about right now.

Robyn Quinn stands still, visible eye wide, hand over mouth. Silent and motionless, save for the tear sliding down her cheek. She doesn't even seem to remember that Eve and Cesar are there for the moment.

“Well, Robyn didn’t want me mentioning her too much, she—” That’s as far as Elaine gets before it strikes her, a vivid memory of something she remembers far too well.

An energetic Elaine scurries across the floor to answer the door of a small, dingy apartment. When the door opens, it’s Royce, who doesn’t enter but instead lingers in the doorway as he passes her a manilla envelope with her name on it. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” he says. Instead, she’s focused on the envelope. She opens it.

A ring falls onto the carpet. It’s a familiar ring.

She picks it up, clutching it tightly in one fist as she reads the letter. She has a sinking feeling she knows what it says. Maybe she does, but the words still strike like daggers. As she scans the page phrases stick out. “I’m so sorry”, “You’ll hate me for this”, “I never deserved you”…

“She just…” Elaine starts, pausing and failing in speech before she starts again. “What… the fuck.” There’s a look of extreme frustration on her face as she experiences a flurry of emotions—she’s stunned, then angry, then upset, then crying, back to anger again. “How the fuck does she think this is okay? This is just so fucked! She promised we’d have years together. We’d be together, no matter what. I trusted her.” The anger fades back to desperate weeping as she hugs her arms, the ring still clutched in her hand so hard it made an imprint on the flesh. She clutches it for a while until she finally lets go, still sobbing.

The ring falls onto the carpet again.

Elaine’s eyes well up with tears and she moves to abruptly hug Adel again.

Alvin is watching people, amusement still showing at the whole picture taking thing with Lance, watching others interactions, and eating his lunch when-

Alvin pants hard as he runs down an alley, blood trailing behind him dripping from his pants as he half staggers and half runs, turning it into a stuttering sort of hop. He hears a shout back on the street near the mouth of the alley, and he turns, looking for something to hide behind. There, a dumpster. He drops to his knees and then to his stomach and scoots his way underneath it. The blood trail will lead to it, but if he can eke out just a few more moments from his nearly burned out ability he'll be fine.

Footsteps approach, low voices as they find they blood trail leading to the dumpster and approach it, slowly. There's the cocking of guns as two men drop to the ground, guns ready and… nothing. They find nothing. They see blank concrete beneath the dumpster, a smear of blood on the ground. They can't see the man that lays there, blood trickling from his nose as he strains himself past the point of safety with his ability. They also don't see the gun that he's got cocked and ready. They don't have a chance to hear the twin deafening bangs of noise as Alvin pulls the trigger on his pistol twice.

A few moments later a shakey Alvin crawls out from under the dumpster, still bleeding, and now shaking, unsteady on his feet, and also half deaf from the gunshots going off under the dumpster in such close confines. But he can't rest, they're hunting him. He doens't know who they are, or why they're after him, but they want him dead. Alvin turns and lips off into the streets of Berlin, trying to blend with the crowd and escape the hunters.

Alvin staggers a few steps, his yakitori dropping from his hands onto the grass. He blinks a few times, head turning, eyes taking in the reactions around him. He bends down to pick up his fallen food as his other hand fishes his phone out of his pocket and he immediately puts in a call to one Eizen Erezawa.

“So what… 6 Carne Asada Tacos? How many you….” Jonathan’s eyes widen as suddenly a memory he’s tried to forget hits him like a ton of bricks, his back straightening.

His world had gone bright, with intense pain.

Then darkness.

He awakens coughing and gasping for air. It takes work to breathe the air full of smoke and dust. Disoriented, he barely notices the smoldering glow of flames and wreckage all around him. And something else, though his mind does not want to process it… or maybe it’s because without his glasses he is pretty much blind.

Pushing himself to his hands and knees bricks clatter away from him, relieving a steady weight he hadn’t noticed right away. He doesn’t hear the sound, though, his ears ring loudly with a shrill tone. Placing a hand to his knee, he pushes to his feet, his whole body aches as if he had been caught in…. an…. explosion? Brows furrow with confusion as he tries to remember. Crouching down, he searches for his glasses. Fingers bump against one of the arms, lifting them to check, he finds the lenses cracked, still he pushes them on and stands.

The world comes into view and he gives a strangled cry. A soot covered hand clamps over his mouth as he feels a wave of nausea.

Around him the world is on fire, smoke billowing and rolling towards the ceiling, charred and burning bodies lay around him. Tiny bodies fallen from desks, laying atop each other. Futures just beginning, snuffed out in a single moment. His own clothing smoldering in places, he can feel the sharp bite of the embers, but they do not boil or blister his skin. In fact, in spite of everything, his body is unscathed. Not even a bruise darkens his skin, even though his whole body feels like it is on fire.

The outside wall of his classroom is simply gone… Careful not to step on small fallen limbs, he makes his way to the edge. He stumbles and slips a few times on debris — or is that blood? He tries not to think about it. He carefully scuffs his way to the edge, glancing down, before he looks out…. he pushes his glasses up further on his nose, squinting past the thick cracks. What he sees has green eyes widening and fear gripping his stomach in it’s tight vice-like grip. “Oh god…” He tries whispers softly, but the smoke in his lungs causes them to seize up… sending him into a coughing fit. What he saw? The destruction and fires continue beyond the school room. The city is on fire, buildings crumble. In the distance, sirens cut sharp through the crackling of flames.

He remembers this day… November 8th, 2006. The day the Midtown man exploded.

Jonathan’s whole body trembles from the memory, pale against the fresh feeling of horror… He looks like he wants to be sick, jaw clenching. For a moment the normally jovial and carefree guy looks like he is in shock.
The war hit their position like a strike of lightning. It was supposed to be clear. Clear enough to run communications in and back out. But instead, Tania finds herself running through an active warzone. Through bullets. Through soldiers. Over soldiers. Dizziness makes her steps unsteady. Panic makes them frantic. Her mother used to tell her don't run. Doctors impressed upon her how dangerous her condition was and had always been.

The pain ratcheting up her legs was a better reminder. It reached out through her muscles, into her bones and by the time she hit the ground, the seizure was already underway.

A grenade exploded before she could get clear. The force of it pushed her over onto her face. Fire caught her clothes. The last thing she could feel before everything went black was the fire making her skin bubble and the certainty that her brother would never even know what happened to her.

And the she woke up.

In a med tent. Not dead. Not burned. Not shaking and weak. She had not spent one day of her life without pervasive fatigue, without struggling to breathe. But now she felt… fine.
Tania grips onto the glass bottle of her drink and onto the edge of the bench she sits on, reminding herself to breathe.

Caspian can't help but smile at the sight of Lance taking pictures with the girls, even daring to lean in to see if he can't get in too. “Hey lance, why don’t you……”

A blaze of silver surging against the waves, a flight to freedom, of hope, dashed in the opening days of the war.

Caspian was standing on a bluff overlooking the bay. A familiar shape, a damaged sailboat with a sky blue sail was tacking against the wind, being herded by a military patrol boat toward another massive ship. It was his boat….well, hers, but he and Tibs had lived there since the war started, so it was understandable that he was a little possessive. It was their own palace on the water, and it was now concealed by smoke to where it was like watching it on an 1950’s television. Light moves faster than sound, so Caspian could only watch as strings of gunfire started to strafe the much smaller boat, splinters flying, the mast chopped in half from one of the more accurate bursts, a tiny blonde figure scurrying belowdecks to fruitlessly find some sort of cover before the staccato thud of a .50 echoed over the bay again.

The helicopter came next, the sailboat charging forward without someone at the rudder, thenfigure apparently using the controls inside the boat to try to do anything to escape. To do something in the face of impending death, the sailboat aimlessly spinning in lazy circles like a child's toy caught in a drain with the engine running at full throttle. ”No! Tibs, just….get out! Do something!” Caspian helped until his voice was hoarse. He was helpless, just as she was, watching things unfold. His yelling might as well have been a handful of confetti and balloons, for all the good it did. Caspian could only stand astride his motorcycle and watch helplessly as the woman he loved and the boat that he had spent so much time preparing to escape Los Angeles for the safety of Mexico was systematically chopped to pieces.

The beating of rotors through the air passed overhead, the chopper circling the target like a vulture, it's pincer-like cannon swiveling and then barking six times, Caspian falling forward over the handlebars after the first, barely able to remain upright. The first two 30mm rounds simply punched dinner-plate sized holes in the bow, foundering the boat. The third hit the engine midships, stopping it dead and starting a fire as fuel met heated exhaust manifolds, but the remaining salvo was concentrated on the passenger cabin, and even from the distance Caspian was and through the smoke, he could see a massive splatter as something substantial was struck. The boat slowly stopped, listing heavily to the right before it slipped into the bay as he watched, helpless to save her. It was like a boat had never been there. The helicopter flew back to its base on the ship, and the patrol boat continued on its way through the spreading slick of oil and blood floating just on the surface of the water, a few splinters of wood and things that the wildlife in the bay would be happy to quickly devour sinking in its wake.

“…..”. The words die on Caspian’s lips as he struggles to remain upright, swallowing, his skin clammy, his breathing coming quickly now. It's not every day you watch the woman you love get killed a second time.
As the teenagers walk off, Lance grins after them in the goofy way that teenagers do when they're feeling awkward and complimented all at once. Then he's laughing, turning a bit to Caspian, "Hey, do you think I'd have a chance if I— "

"Get— get offa me, you freak— " The older man's voice a rough snarl as he reached back, pawing at the twelve-year old boy that'd crept up on him and leapt on his back, the rifle that he'd been taking aim with clattering to the ground. Better there than in the man's hands, better there than the barrel aiming towards the windows of the safehouse.

Whose silhouette was that in the window? Samara? Brynn? Hailey? If Lance hadn't spotted the man slipping past their perimeter, that trigger would've gotten pulled, and there'd be another grave on the grounds. Maybe more than one.

Rough fingers clawed at Lance's back, gripping his shirt, and the boy brought his other hand around the man's neck — combat knife kissing the side of an unshaven throat and pulling across it without hesitation and without resistance. He felt every tendon and vein give way, felt the blade's edge rasp against bone as the Humanis hunter dropped forward with a gurgling rasp, surrendering his grip on the boy to grab for his throat in disbelief.

Lance's numb fingers dropped the knife, and he stumbled back, dropping to the dirt and grass. Knees drawn in, arms wrapping around them, tear-brimmed eyes wide with horror as he watched the man's life bleed out between his fingers.

The smile dies from Lance's lips, his skin blanching as he stumbles backwards from the memory, knees hitting the edge of the bench and making him dropping down to sit on it hard.

In one moment, he’s jogging to catch up to the SESA liaison and seer. Then Cesar’s hand drops in his waving gesture to the pair of women, caught in a moment of surprise. His heartbeat quickens at the flash of the memory.
“Suspect headed south on 10th! He’s headed towards Hells Kitchen,” he calls into his shoulder radio. Somewhere, Cesar knows if he can’t take him down by that time, he’ll have to call off the chase rather than enter the area of Midtown. Captain’s orders. But he’s close. Willing his legs to pump faster, everything on Cesar’s NYPD uniform slows him down. He’s lost his hat somewhere and will have to backtrace his steps to find it.

Then, he realizes why he’s catching up - the man he’s chasing has stopped running and turned to face him. The face of the suspect is half-shadowed in the hood, or so his memory assumes. Cesar balks a step, hand on his gun still holstered but quickly drawn. He looks for cover, finding none near enough to scoot behind.
“Just you and me, buddy,” he calls out between breaths, trying to will calm back into fast beating heart. “You going to keep running? Because I could do this all day.”

The suspect’s hand lifts, and Cesar’s muscle memory flips the latch and pulls the pistol at his side up in a smooth ready-to-fire motion. “Don’t!” the officer commands. He’s not sure if the suspect has a gun or weapon of some kind. But then, out of the periphery of his tunneling vision, he sees them. Monstrous black dogs with glowing, golden eyes stalk out of the ruined alleys then charge. Cesar barely has a moment to turn and fires his gun into the face of one of the shadow canines, but the bullet sails right through. They’re on him in seconds, sinking fangs into him, tearing at cloth and flesh. He can feel the jaws close around his throat. Cesar opens his mouth in a strangled attempt to scream.

A gun shot barks out, and suddenly the pain dissipates as quickly as the black dogs had attacked. “Suspect is down! Repeat, suspect is down!” His partner’s face appears over him, white as a ghost, grim as the reaper. “Hey man! You OK? Diaz!? Yo Diaz! Snap out of it!”

And snap out of it he does, at least when the memory leaves him. But like many others, the man appears stunned, confused by what triggered that reaction. He stares down at a midpoint in the air, his mind churning with the sudden, vivid recollection.

While her mom talks, Adel just has a smile on her face, listening right up to the point where her mother just freezes, mid sentence. That smile freezes as well, because when she looks at her mom, she suddenly doesn’t see her mom. Not really.

It’s the jaws of a beast. Made of metal. It should have grabbed her, clamped down on her to drag her away, but that isn’t what happened. Something stopped it. A ripple in the air that pushed it back, held the jaws spread, unable to close.

And she felt weightless. Like being lifted up by the wind, the air, by nothing. Her body supported on all sides, held aloft.

And then she heard the yells. His voice, the voice of someone as close as a brother growing into the awkwardness of something else. “‘del!!!” The voice was already further away, the sound of metal scraping against metal, of hydraulics filling the air around her.

“Let go of him!” she cried out, looking through the metal that tried to hold her to where he’d been. “Howard!!” She tried to push back, but couldn’t even touch the edge of what protected her from the grasping claws and teeth. Her arms didn’t reach the edge, her legs didn’t. It fell backwards, out of the grasp, releasing a spray of orange gasses out of a hole in the middle of the mouth.

She knew what that did. It had never meant anything to her. Not until then. But the gas didn’t pierce the barrier that protected her anymore than the claws did.

Howard!” Adel screamed again, feeling small and helpless, even if that ball of whatever it was seemed to protect her. She wanted it to drop, she wanted to beat against it. Because it was keeping her from moving, keeping her from helping. Keeping her from saving Howard.

The mechanical eyes flickered, a machine processing data. And then it turned and followed the previous one. Leaving her behind. Even as she floated and screamed, unable to move.

Gravity came back with force as her mom suddenly wrapped arms around her. Everything fell back into place. But Adel could still hear herself crying, screaming. Still hear the machines as they moved away.

Even having experienced dreams and getting visions before while waking Eve isn't prepared to be plunged into the depths of her past.

A loud crash rattled the very foundation of the structure that Eve is hunkered down in. She knew this scenario, this was a dream she had on repeat. She counted the steps, she shot the shots. She even took a bullet in the side. But the body slowly draining of life in her arms was shaking, not just from the last twitches of life but because the seer’s body is shaking violently.

”Oh no no no I thought.. you weren't over there. Not in my dream,” Eve looks frantic there's crocodile sized tears falling down her face and she sees that the woman’s hazel eyes are fading, “Beck.. no.. no.. wait!!” But she's gone. Dust and debris from the fragile ceiling above.

There’s another rumble and Eve is slowly climbing to her feet. She does remember this part accurately, the ceiling starts to collapse and she backs away in time with the debris a piece falling after each step right where she had been. The Oracle's eyes are wide as she leaves her comrade to be buried by stone.

The sounds of footsteps rushing up behind her is heard and she stiffens her face growing hard. There's a dark look in her eyes and then she's grabbing both Desert Eagles and pulling them out. There isn't a moment of hesitation as she sends bullets flying towards the soldiers.

There's a light gasp at the memory. Eve can't comprehend. “Beck..”

“Six sounds like a good num—” At first, Kay feels concern for her friend when he falls silent and gets that look on his face. She almost doesn’t realize that something’s happening to her as well. She’s played this scenario over and over in her head so many times it’s almost as natural as breathing.

Something about this time, though, is more vivid. It’s not twisted in the way she tends to make it.

Tears have rolled down past Kain's lashes, across his cheeks and into his beard. "Ah' tol' you 'cause you deserved t'know, an' you deserved t'take out a holy goddamned wrath on that white-bearded fucker for what he's gone an' done." Swallowing tensely, Kain looks over his shoulder, then back to Kay. "Me'n you ruin lives. Ah' ain't lettin' that happen t'nobody else no more. Ah'm done."

Sliding his tongue over his lips, the spite in Kain's voice is evident. "Ah'm done bein' everybody else's hit man. Startin' here, s'time t'turn over a new leaf. If you let me walk out that door, that is."

"Ah shouldn't." Kaydence looks down at her hands now, trembling and bloody where her knuckles have split. Finally, she too begins to cry. "Ah'm no better'n you." Her voice is quiet, defeated.

"Ah' came here t'give mahself some closure, give you closure, truth, an' t'give you a head start." Kain's cold, blue eyes narrow. "Get out while th' gettin's good. An' don't look back."

Suddenly… things begin to fall into place. "That was… decent of you." As furious as she is, Kaydence just can't quite bring herself to hate the man in her living room. Perhaps because she's gone so far down that dark path herself. Even if he did shove her those first few steps, the decisions from there were her own. She could have tried to turn back.

Instead of never looking back.

Kay splays her fingers again, peering down at the split skin. That's going to hurt a lot more later, she's sure of it. "You'd… probably better…" Go? Her head tips downward, eyes tracing a path over the blue carpet toward to the doorway.

"Ain't no happy endings fer people like us, though…" His voice hangs at the end, silence filling the long breath between words. "Jus' what we deserve."


Kaydence is the one that crosses the room and rather than deliver a fist to the cajun's jaw, she pulls him into a tight hug. For all that came before, so much as passed between them since. Her head nestles against his shoulder, nose nudging against neck, inhaling his scent for what could be the last time with what's to come.

Lips press a kiss to the skin of his throat, trail up to jaw, taste tears on chin and cheeks, touch temple. "I forgive you," is whispered into his hair. Not just for him, but for Kaydence as well.

Surprise flashes across Kain's face, acceptance, then immediate regret. He lurches, in the way someone might when something bitter is swallowed down reluctantly. Kain breaks away from the kiss, eyes watering and one hand gently pushing Kaydence away with a touch to her collarbones. "Don't say that," is Kain's murmured response, his brows furrowed and frown so deeply cut across his lips.

"Ah' ain't th' type what gets forgived," and his voice hitches on that very notion. "You take care'a yourself an' your little one, make sure she gets t'grow up knowin' her momma'. Ain't— ain't nothin' worse than a kid havin' t'grow up not knowing who their folks are." One calloused hand comes up to brush at the side of Kaydence's cheek, stroking dark locks of hair from her face.

"Y'make a better blonde," the Cajun jokingly admits, his laugh bittersweet.

When he comments on her hair, Kay does finally manage a genuine, if shaky smile, reaching up to cover the back of his hand with her own. "Blonde was always mah Vice look…" She tips her face further against his touch. "And you were always mah vice." The smile fades, and she swallows a lump forming in her throat. "Can ya promise me jus' one thing?"

"Name it."

"If we're both still alive, and not in prison in a year… We meet in Niagara." It's a big if. But maybe that's what makes this a safe request. "Ah mean, 'less you wanted to grab hands an' start runnin' now." It's a joke. See, it's funny. She's— Okay, well, Kaydence Lee meant to laugh at it. It just didn't quite happen. Died in her throat.

"Always wanted t'go t'Niagra," Kain laments as he takes a step back from Kaydence, his throat tight and expression serious despite her attempt at a joke.

"Ah' got a feelin," Kain appends, turning for the door, "if Ah' ever make it t'Niagara, it'll be goin' over the falls.

"Head first."

Kay is surprised to find tears streaming down her face. She thought she’d long since gotten over crying about this. In her waking hours, at least. She usually has more control than that. Shaking hands reach up and wipe the little rivers from her face, taking a deep breath to steady herself.

The memories fade and those in the vicinity come back to their present lives — the feelings of peace and security fractured for most. Some look at one another with embarrassment, apologizing for their sudden lapses in conversation, the appearance of tears, the sudden shaking that accompany some of the memories.

It takes a moment, but the realization that they weren’t alone brings new questions, new conversations, the ones of a moment before slipping away.

“Did you see-?”

“That was weird.”

“Are you okay?”

The questions come in different languages, but have the same tone of curiosity and sympathy. The laughter and merriment have faded; the day seems a bit darker despite the bright sunshine.

Like a deer in headlights, Robyn is frozen in place, hand still over her mouth as she vacantly stares out into the distance. She doesn't acknowledge Eve or Cesar again. She only barely registers the sight of Elaine and Adel, not far down the street - a reason she should always, always call reach out before showing up somewhere unannounced. Instead, she trembles.

"Have to-" She stops mid sentence, not able to muster up anything further. A glance over at Eve, and then at Cesar. She stares for a moment.

She turns the other way.

And she gets the hell out of there as fast as she can, towards the nearest public transportation station. This, like so many other things, was a bad idea. She has learned one important thing, though.

She probably won't be visiting Yamagato Park again.

The vision, the flashback, whatever it had been had caused a rush of emotion in Elaine that she thought she had buried in a deep, comfortable place. Feeling it again left her emotionally raw so, for a moment, she remained with her arms around Adel. But the tone of the hug changed when she realized she wasn’t the only one who saw something. There were others, as she glanced around, others who were upset or shaken. And so Adel’s hug became much more of a mother-daughter hug, Elaine instinctively there to offer comfort to whatever Adel experienced.

“You too? Are you okay? I saw…” She trails off, not ready to go down that road. “… nothing important.”

Alvin waits only a few moments before he speaks. "Let Mister Erezawa know there's been an incident." He leaves the location and some basic details. "Looks to be everyone or near everyone in the area, 30+ people. Some kind of psychic phenomenon, potential memory recall. Don't know if it was the same for everyone." After a few more moments Alvin hangs up his phone and takes a little look around. "Is anyone physically hurt? If so Yamagato's medical facilities are at your disposal." Alvin projecting to make sure his voice is heard above the din of the crowd. Trying to play a little crowd control after the incident. He starts to look around himself, trying to find other Yamagato employees to help him out. He's not a people person. He's security dangit.

“I… ah…” Jonathan starts softly, voiced strained. It’s like he can remember the smell of the children’s chard bodies again and feel the acidic sting of the smoke in his lungs . “I… think I lost my appetite.” Hands curl into fists, as he tries to get the trembling to stop.

Then he has an armful of Kay…. What?!

Completely, taken by surprise, his arms do not wind around her right away. He leans back a little to see her face. He latches on to the fact that he sees tears, even palms them away carefully. ”Hey, whoa. It’s okay, Kay.” It allows him to push back at that memory again, focus on something else, like wrapping his friend in a hug. “You, too?” He asks, having glanced around any seen the variety of reactions. This wasn’t normal.

Tania blinks as she looks around and notices all the others reacting strangely as well. She might stick out in that she doesn't. Her food is abandoned as she stands up from the bench, smoothing her blouse before she makes her way through the crowd. To Alvin. She's not a Yamagato employee, but she can still help keep things calm. She gives him a nod before she steps beyond him to help some of the more frantic people regain themselves. She's good at that, keeping steady, keeping from panic. And she'll do what she can for the others. If only to avoid some sort of wild stampede away from the park.

It’s not that Caspian doesn’t notice - he can’t. Having one of the most traumatizing moments of his life replayed for him, triggered, if you will, was not something that one could really prepare for. Swallowing while trying to keep his carne molida taco down, he quickly spins and finds the bench that Lance was balancing on before the girls showed up, taking deep breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth, trying his best to /not/ hyperventilate. He leans down to get his head below his heart, big droplets of cold sweat appearing on his forehead. He fights back and stills, taking one deep breath before sitting up and pushing that emotion down, locking it in a little ball in the middle of his chest where it beats against the bars of his ribcage in an effort to get free. He’ll deal with the pain later.

Pushing himself to his feet, Caspian looks around, offering a hand to help someone to their feet that might need it. “Is…is everyone okay?” he asks no-one in particular. In uncertain situations, being mobile is often the best plan if getting away becomes necessary.

The remnants of the taco that Lance was eating are on the ground where they’ll feed nobody else but ants and perhaps pigeons as he pulls his knees up onto the bench he’s dropped onto, arms wrapping about them and head tilting forward; closing tear-dampened eyes as he tries to calm his breathing, rocking ever so slightly in his curled-up position. Utterly silent, his ability a comforting blanket of inaudibility as he works through the emotions that memory tore painfully up and through him.

In the seconds that pass, Cesar sucks in a steadying breath like the rest of him has caught up and remembered to breathe. His hands turn palm up, checked first, then he's patting his body and lastly his throat. He swallows thickly, the sour mental 'taste' of that memory conflicting with the sweet lingerings of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry ice cream. A quiet swear que pinga rolls out of the man as he manages to refocus now that he's sure he's still alive, to look around at the various equally confused or shocked or disturbed parties. And then, also remembering that he was going to meet up with Robyn and Eve. Except that Robyn suddenly turns and is taking off. "Quinn! Wait a sec!" he calls out after her, following it with a much more clipped "fuck" under his breath. He starts after her, but lurches when he gets to Eve, if only for a cursory examination to make sure the other woman is okay.

From the way she’s shaking, Adel definitely saw something. For a moment she feels like her throat should be raw from yelling, but it’s not. No, she’d yelled and cried and banged against the air so long ago. For an minutes, many minutes more than she could ever figure out, until he ability finally turned itself off. It had felt like hours. It hadn’t been nearly that long, though. “I— that was— “ She doesn’t finish, because she can’t find the words to explain it. Primal it definitely was not.

Closing her eyes, she leans into her mom, trying to forget the sounds of that boy’s voice. Trying to forget the way her tears had floated in the air in front of her. It had been so very long ago, and so very far away. Even if it happened in the far future. “Maybe you should… show me that apartment of yours.” Cause she’s shaking, cause she wants to start crying, and because… whatever had happened here had happened here. Maybe if they left it wouldn’t happen again.

The seer is quiet as the vision fades and she closes her eyes a tear sliding down the side of her face, grief climbs up the back of her throat and causes her to choke on chill air. Eve shakes at the memory. “Beck..” eyebrows raise and she whirls around trying to find the source of this phenomenon. She knows she won't find them though so she's left with the sense of loss all over again. Cesar’s approach is noted and the Oracle lays a hand on his arm gently.

“I.. what a day. What a day.”

Her pale hand resting on his arm trembles.

Kay holds to Jonathan tightly. It helps to distract her from the pain in her chest. “Yeah,” she says quietly. “Me too. Let’s go find some place to sit down, huh? We can try the tacos another day.” But she’s not withdrawing just yet. She needs a few extra moments of reassuring contact with his solid frame.

Though she swears she can still smell Kain Zarek’s cologne.

“This fuckin’ city.”

It takes a few minutes to recover, but the food truck vendors return to work. The taco vendor who had been holding out the basket in silence clears his throat and checks the number on the ticket, before calling it out. “Seventy-two! Your order’s ready.”

His partner at the order window looks down with a quavering smile to ask the next customer what they’d like to order. The yakitori and ice cream vendors begin to move again, a little slowly, their efficient, allegro tempo now dulled to something slower, more sedate and somber. But they’ll recover within a few minutes.

The past is the past.

Nearby, one of the men in business suits taps the com in his ear and murmurs into it. At the checkpoint, a few yards away, the guards murmur back. One reaches for the ID of the first person to make it to the gate, offering a sympathetic smile.

She felt it, too.

No one is kept from exiting, but the exiting process is slower than usual. The guards check identification a little more thoroughly and key notes into the computer system, flagging the visitors as present for the strange incident before allowing them on their way, out of the safe and secure walls of Yamagato Park.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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