Batten Upon Lambs


eileen_icon.gif magnes_icon.gif

Scene Title Batten Upon Lambs
Synopsis "Wolves which batten upon lambs, lambs consumed by wolves, the strong who immolate the weak, the weak victims of the strong: there you have Nature, there you have her intentions, there you have her scheme: a perpetual action and reaction, a host of vices, a host of virtues, in one word, a perfect equilibrium resulting from the equality of good and evil on earth." — Marquis de Sade
Date December 30, 2008


Brooklyn is located on the westernmost point of Long Island and shares its only land boundary with Queens. The East river borders and defines the borough's northern coast, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan beach are to the south, and the Narrows separate it from Staten Island to the southwest.

Downtown Brooklyn is one of the NYC's largest business districts. Between the Bridge and Prospect Park, brownstones, townhouses, and high-end restaurants are dominant. The culturally diverse communities of Williamsburg and Greenpoint are snugged against the East River to the far north. Close by are far more criminally active neighborhoods such as Brownsville, Crown Heights, and Bushwick. Regardless of the social situation, the so-called Borough of Neighborhoods is packed to the gills in post-bomb NYC.

Brooklyn is one of the most crowded boroughs in New York City. Even at night, when the ebb and flow of pedestrian foot traffic thins out to a trickle, there are always people on the streets, though most of them are huddled around burning oil drums and braving the frostbitten air because they have no place else to go. Eileen Ruskin, the dark-haired slip of a girl formerly known as Munin, is one of these individuals, her face made recognizable by the firelight playing off her features, making her skin appear inhumanly pale, her pallor flat and sick. She stands in the mouth of an alley several blocks away from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, warming her small, bare hands by the flames as she listens to the other drifters and vagrants converse in quiet tones around her, their voices drifting in and out like the water lapping up against the shore not far away. In the company of other people is a safe place to be.

Often spending much of his time getting to know every crack of the city, and going through 'superhero training', Magnes has been jumping from alley to alley for hours, just looking down into them to see if anyone's getting mugged… so he can call the police! But one particular alley, more specifically, person in the alley, catches his attention. He looks down, spotting Eileen, what was her name again? All he can ever remember is that it started with an M.

He's wearing clear contacts and his red Robin hoody with the yellow R, and before he jumps down into the alley next to her, he pulls his large hood up to cover everything above his nose. "Does your name begin with an M?" he asks, not exactly Batman, that's the only ominously intimidating thing he could think of. Also, he just learned that it's much easier to talk to girls with a hood on!

It takes Eileen a moment or two to realize she's being spoken to, but when she does she turns her head just enough to get a quick glimpse of Magnes in her peripheral vision. There's something familiar about his voice, something she can't quite put her finger on, and her bewilderment appears in the form of fine creases on her forehead as she raises both her eyebrows at him. Her gaze, pale green and bloodshot from exhaustion, wanders from what little she can see of his face all the way down his chest, through his midsection and legs until it reaches the very bottom of his feet. Then it's on its way back up again, finally settling on the R.

"No," she croaks, sounding as irritated as she does tired, though she's gracious enough to make room for him by the fire. Either she's mistaken him for another homeless youth like herself, or she's simply too strung out to care who he is or what he wants. "It begins with an E."

"Well, you look a lot like a girl who knows Sylar, how about we go up on the roof and talk?" Magnes asks, immediately reaching out to grab her arm so he can jump up and take her with him. He doesn't want her running away if she has reason to.

Dropping the name 'Sylar' gives Eileen a pretty good reason to run, but Magnes moves faster than her brain. His hand has found her arm before she finishes processing this new piece of information, and when she abruptly tries to pull away it's because of the physical contact rather than the implications of it. By the time she does realize the weight of the situation, it's probably too late. She swings around with her free arm, bony elbow aimed for the side of Magnes' head, hoping to dislodge him with a blow to the temple.

Magnes jumps, pulling her with him as he does, but as soon as he's barely an inch off the ground, she slams an elbow into his temple. This doesn't bode well for his control, and it only causes him to grip her tighter as suddenly the world seems to shift and up becomes down, they start falling up, but when he realizes what's happening, he tries to regain control, but this only causes them to fall to the left, then forward, then up again. He's become so disoriented, the only thing consistant about his movements is the fact that he's grasping her arm, and he's yelling, loudly.

Tomorrow morning, when the other men and women gathered around the drum try to tell others what they saw, very few will believe them. One of the last things Eileen sees before the world becomes a tumultuous whorl of darkness and noise is their startled faces peering up at her as she and Magnes plunge into the air. The wind whips through her hair, roars in her ears, so loud she can't differentiate it from Magnes' screaming. It isn't long before she's doing the same.

Finally, after a while, they gradually slow down, until they're beginning to descend down toward a fairly large building, at least larger than the ones inbetween the alleys. They're still whirling around, but at least they're doing so at a much slower pace. Now it's more like they're just floating through space. "I just wanted to talk, you didn't have to hit me!" he complains, hood actually down now in the midst of all the tumbling. "Just calm down, we'll be on the roof soon, and don't try to struggle or you'll fall." he warns, still firmly grasping her arm.

She'll notice that her body feels very light, and this barely feels like a fall anymore, though they're high above the streets, so that might be a bit freaky.

It takes every last ounce of Eileen's willpower not to thrash and kick, twist and squirm. As disoriented and panicked as she is, she's still lucid enough to comprehend the warning even if she can't feel his hand on her arm anymore. There's so much adrenaline surging through her body that she's trembling like brittle leaf as it slowly spirals earthward on the breeze — her breaths come hard and fast, and each shuddering intake produces an attenuated wheezing sound, her face contorted into a scrunched expression that borders between terror and pain. It sounds as though she's trying to breathe, but the air isn't being pulled all the way into her lungs.

"Calm down." Magnes repeats, as they very gently finally land on a roof overlooking some of the smaller buildings. He releases her arms, then backs up a bit on his skates, he doesn't wanna get punched again like with Deckard. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do all that, I just sorta lost control. Do you remember my face?"

The moment that Eileen feels something solid beneath her feet and Magnes is no longer touching her, she pitches forward and crumples to the ground, arms thrust out in front of her to break her fall. It works insofar as she doesn't land on her face, though it does little to protect the skin of her palms. Long, curly strings of grease-slicked hair form a curtain across her eyes, wide with fright, partly obscuring her vision. Fortunately, she doesn't need to get a good look at Magnes to place his face. The sound of his voice, combined with the display of his ability, provides her with more than enough to make the connection between the figure standing in front of her now and the frightened kid in the church. Gulping down air, shoulders heaving, she forces herself to nod. That's a yes.

"Guess we're makin' progress, though I sorta hate that I scared a girl so badly, um, here…" Magnes reaches deep into his hoody pocket, then pulls out a rolled up 4th issue of 9th Wonders. "You can have this, I just sorta don't want you to be pissed at me for all this. I'm um, trying to figure out where Sylar is… I'm not supposed to be looking for him now, but when I saw you I had to find out."

Eileen holds up a hand, palm flat, waving the comic book away. What she wants is oxygen, not a peace offering. "Sylar-" she starts, struggling to form words. "What do you want- what do you want with Sylar?" She has to stop then, one arm curling around her stomach as she doubles over the rest of the way and spits out a mouthful of saliva onto the ground in front of her so she can better speak around the rising urge to vomit.

Magnes frowns, stuffing the comic back into his pocket, not sure what else to do but answer her. "Sylar tried to kill my friend, I wanna find out where he is, then tell the government. I think I might be able to follow him around and learn his routine and write it all down."

An incredulous snarl choked out through Eileen's nostrils is the answer Magnes receives. She shakes her head, chin tucked against her chest, eyes squeezed shut — her asthma is beginning to clear up, receding along with her fear. "Hnn," she grunts, still not quite as articulate as she probably wishes she was, "no. Stupid. Bad idea."

"How's that a bad idea? I'm not gonna fight the guy, I'm just gonna follow him, from rooftops and stuff." Magnes reaches into his pocket again, pulling out a very small bottle of water and holding it out to her. "Here."

"Government already knows." Although Eileen accepts the bottle of water, she does not drink it. Instead, she twists off the cap with a wince and pours the liquid over her hands, washing away the dirt and gravel out of the places where the topmost layers of her skin have peeled back, leaving everything underneath red and raw. She flexes her fingers experimentally, lets out a shaky hiss when it stings. There's no blood, but it still hurts. "Government won't do anything. Can't."

"So the government is helpless against him?" Magnes wonders, standing on the edge of the roof and looking down at the streets. "If so, then it really is up to us. If he's like a big deal super villain, like Doomsday or Gorilla Grodd, I'm gonna need to put together a team or something."

Eileen wipes off her hands on the front of her coat before running her fingers through her hair and picking the thicker, oilier strands away from her eyes. 'Super villain' definitely isn't a phrase she'd use to describe the man they're discussing, and her contempt shows in the way she lifts her head to look at Magnes, watching him from beneath her wet lashes, eyes dark with a mix of emotions. "You're serious." It isn't a question.

"Well yeah, why wouldn't I be? I have to put together a team, we don't have a Superman." Magnes assumes, since he's yet to see anyone invulnerable, well, except maybe Abby. "When all of the Justice League first fought Doomsday, he beat all of them because they were underestimating him, they didn't get together all at once to try, and eventually it came down to Superman doing it on his own, and dying in the process. But we're not underestimating Sylar, we can get together and do this all at once."

Magnes may as well be blathering at Eileen in a language she doesn't understand. Justice League. Doomsday. It's all gibberish to her. What little she's able to glean from his explanation doesn't assuage her concerns — it only irritates her further, forcing her shakily to her feet. "Who is we?"

"The evolved, the superheroes. If we had a group of heroes, we could protect the city, maybe one day even the world. Nathan Petrelli may have screwed things up for us, but we can change how the world sees us, we can make them not afraid anymore, ya know?" Magnes asks in his highly idealistic tone, but he truly believes every word of what he says. "No more terrorist groups, no more Sylar and all the other villains roaming out there, if I can find the others who think like me, we can do it."

No more terrorists groups. That's an idea Eileen can get behind. No more Sylar, on the other hand, leavelas her with an empty feeling in her chest. "Nobody's all darkness and shadows," she points out, trying to keep her tone mild and failing utterly. "Nobody's all goodness and light either. Heroes. Villains. This isn't a comic book. Sylar isn't just a name, dots of ink arranged on a page. He's a person, same as me, same as you, and there are worse 'out there' than him."

"Sylar's a person, yeah, and if I ever got the chance to talk to him, I'd try my hardest to get him to change, but all I know about him is that he tried to kill my friend, and he blew up a huge chunk of Manhattan." Magnes says as honestly as possible, not sugar coating his motives or reasons for wanting to stop Sylar. "Everyone may have a dark and a light side, but what could possibly justify murdering people for their powers? I'm honestly asking, if you know, then tell me."

"Sylar isn't responsible for what happened to New York City." Eileen wants to get that out of the way before she even thinks about tackling the other, more damning accusation. "Peter Petrelli. Nathan Petrelli's kid brother. He's the one who killed all those people, and if you don't believe me you can go poke around Midtown and ask him yourself — he won't deny it." Quietly seething, she turns away from Magnes and takes a seat on the edge of the roof, resting her weight against a concrete lip that juts out into space. "There's no justification," she says, finally. "I know why he does it, I can even understand how it feels, but that doesn't excuse him."

"Peter Petrelli, wait, that makes perfect sense. I heard of him a while back, the day I met you, this cop guy in the church said he got beat up by a telekinetic named Peter Petrelli. How the hell do you blow up Manhattan with telekinesis though?" Magnes asks, though quickly goes into why this makes so much sense. "Nathan Petrelli said Sylar did it to protect his brother, that's it, right? Nathan Petrelli is such a bastard, I'd totally believe it."

He doesn't say anything more about justifications, he simply nods in agreement and moves to sit a few feet away from her on the edge. "Be careful, I never tried to save someone falling from a building before."

"I'm sorry about what happened to your friend," Eileen says, confident the ledge won't crumble under her weight. She's safe from falling, at least for now. "Shepherds shoot wolves that take lambs to protect their flock, but the wolf doesn't kill because it's malicious by nature — it eats because it's hungry. Can you imagine what would happen if we took all the wolves out of the world? What a disaster it would be? You can't go after Sylar. Whether you like it or not, he's the only thing standing between the sheep and the bigger, meaner predators hiding out in the forest. Kill him and you'll regret it."

Magnes takes a moment to contemplate this, swinging his legs over the edge. "Are you trying to tell me that Sylar would do good things, even though he can be so bad out of compulsion? Like Lobo?" he wonders, not quite sure how else to put it. "But, if you know so much about Sylar, that means you've been around him a while, and if he has this big hunger thing, why didn't he kill you?"

"I'm not a lamb," Eileen says, tempted to leave it at that. She gazes out over the cityscape, breeze ruffling through her hair and the lapels of her coat. "He already has my ability, so there's no use cracking my skull open to get at it. Otherwise he probably would've. Eventually."

"Alright, so, he only kills people with abilities? I wonder if he has mine…" Magnes hunches over, Eileen giving him so much to think about, he barely has time to think about some things before new information comes along. "Alright, you seem to know him, so what are some good ways to avoid getting killed? And don't say 'Stay away from him'. I'd rather help him be better than hurt him, so it's not like I'm gonna go trying to assassinate him."

"Don't let him know that you have an ability." That seems, to Eileen, the most logical piece of advice. "Beyond that, I don't think there's anything else I can tell you. I can't predict what he's going to do, or if what I say might set him off — if you won't stay away, then keep a respectful distance. He's more likely to do you harm if he feels threatened."

"So he can't tell if you have an ability or not?" Magnes asks in an 'that's good to know' kind of way. "I don't think most people feel threatened by me, I mean, it's not like I'm some guy with a bunch of complicated motives, I just want world peace and videogames, ya know?"

It suddenly occurs to Eileen that there is one more piece of advice she can offer Magnes, and given the context of their conversation it is perhaps more important than the last. "Try not to annoy him, either."

"I'll try, but there is something else I wanna know…" Magnes looks over at her, though since everything is calm, the realization that she is, indeed, female, sets in, so he averts his eyes to the streets again. "What's he like? I mean, what's his personality like?"

Sylar's personality is entirely dependent on who he's around and what he's trying to achieve, but Eileen finds that she has difficulty putting this into words. "He can be gentle," she says, rolling her left shoulder up into a half-shrug as Magnes moves his eyes away, "if he wants to. Mellow. Quiet. Being around him, knowing he wouldn't hurt me — he made me feel safe, like there was nothing else that could touch me as long as he was there. Not because he wouldn't let it — he would — but because all the bad things were wiser than to get anywhere near us."

"Strange, it almost sounds like sleeping next to a volcano." Magnes adds, with a hint of fascination in his tone. "I can't forget that he tried to kill Abby, but I'll try to give him a chance, if this really isn't his fault. I mean, I know what it's like to have powers that you can't control and don't understand. Maybe he can't help what he does no more than I can help it when I wake up and fall on the bed every morning. I'll have to meet the guy myself, if I ever wanna know anything for sure."

"Abby?" If Magnes didn't have Eileen's full attention before, he does now. She straightens in her seat and swivels to face Magnes, searching his expression for answers before she has the opportunity to ask the questions that are paired with them. "Abby as in Abigail? Doe-eyed girl from the deep south? About my age? A little clueless?"

"Yeah, she's pretty… I mean, pretty smart, ya know? She's smart. But yeah, that Abby." Magnes confirms, almost burying his face in his hands in embarrassment. "Sylar tried to kill her on Christmas Eve, he did this thing where he tried to cut her skull off."

Eileen's eyes narrow just a fraction. She's trying to piece Magnes' story together in her head, but the most important part is missing. Not the when, not the who and not the where — that last part doesn't matter. What has her mentally reeling is the why. "What does Abby do? What's her— gift?"

"Ah shit, I accidentally said it, but I don't think it's a secret anyway, I mean, she sorta announces it in the bar." Magnes rationalizes, before he can start feeling guilty about spilling a secret. "She heals people, she healed me once, when the Asian guy shot me."

It doesn't make sense to Eileen. The ability to heal other people doesn't seem like something that would be at the top of the wish list belonging to a man who is inherently selfish. "Be careful around her," she says as she rises from the ledge and dusts off a light sprinkling of snow from her back and the seat of her pants. "She hangs around with the type of people you're better off not getting involved with. If I see Sylar-" And that's a pretty big if, given where their relationship presently stands. "-I'll talk to him about Abby. He probably won't listen to me, but I'll try if you promise not to do anything stupid."

"I won't do anything stupid, and I'd be grateful if you spoke to him about Abby, but there's one more thing…" Magnes stands and pulls some blank receipt paper from his pocket, and a pen, then writes a number down on it and holds it out to her. "I noticed you were homeless, or I'm assuming you are. Give me a call if you need somewhere to stay, I'm sure Mister Panucci wont mind since I'm the only one who lives in the room."

Eileen doesn't thank Magnes, but she does reach out and take the piece of paper, folding it in half between her fingers and tucking it into the front pocket of her coat. Phone numbers are always useful things to have. "I don't think I caught your name."

"Magnes, Delivery Boy," he introduces with a bow of his head, then rolls over to her (as best he can in the snow), holding his hand out. "You ready to get down from here? And um, is there anywhere in particular you wanna go?"

"Nowhere in particular," Eileen says, reaching out to take the offered hand, her touch wary, tentative. "Just down."

Magnes jumps, easily lifting the now-lightweight girl with him, then they slowly begin to descend down to a small street, no spinning and flailing this time. "I never thought to ask, what's your ability?"

While she isn't able to shake her anxiety during the descent, the floating sensation is pleasant in comparison to what Eileen experienced on the way up to the rooftop, so she can't really complain. "Can't tell you," she murmurs, a wry note entering her voice for the first time, "but I'm sure Abby will, the next time you see her."

"Why don't you mind if Abby tells me, if you can't tell me?" Magnes asks with a slightly perplexed look, their feet only inches from the ground now.

Eileen's reply is short, succinct, one crisply-spoken word: "Principle."

Magnes laughs when they land, quickly releasing her hand and looking back at her. "It's funny, you remind me of like, a princess or something. I wonder if that's where that word comes from…" He shrugs, still smiling, then he just pulls his hood back up, and jumps back towards a building, high. "I'll see you around, and remember, you can call me whenever!" he yells back down.

Unsure whether to take that as a compliment or something else, Eileen resolves to simply raise one skinned hand by way of farewell, waiting until Magnes is out of sight before she too disappears into the night. She might call, she might not — for now, she's content to keep the number pressed against her chest, trapped between the folds of her pocket where it won't blow away in blustery wind or get wet the next time the skies open up and pelt the streets with sheets of ice-cold rain.

She has some ruminating to do.

December 30th: The Training Begins
December 30th: Swimming With Sharks
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