Begins And Ends


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Scene Title Begins And Ends
Synopsis Someone takes an axe to the root of a problem, and this time, it's Richard Cardinal that finds himself on the sharp end.
Date April 9, 2011

New York Public Library

The best way to stalk someone, is to be there ahead of them.

Somewhere, in another part of the city, flames are being doused from where they were roaring out the windows of the Redbird Security building, the heat and concussive blast of the explosion taking out the glass to sugar the pavement. Two firetrucks crowding the street, dotting police units, and any moment now, Jane Pak or Audrey Hanson will be stepping out of a car and demanding hell be paid for what just happened, if they weren't already there in response to gunfire. Smoke winds high, and it's already beginning to rain. The water begins to whistle through the broken windows, the front of abandonment, and bounce silver explosions off the sloping rooftop of the majestic ruinous Library.

Richard Cardinal, for all intents and purposes, appears to have the place to himself. There are no police cars here, no black vans with Institute jumpsuits, no helicopters in the sky. Just the rain, and the mice, and his own thoughts.

A series of long, coloured strings crosses one of the rooms, with sticky notes dangling here and there from it. It's a future that never was and never will be, Richard Cardinal's attempt at designing a plan for the future of his own. In the midst of the room, a table sits where a helmet is set down heavily, and the man himself sprawls back in his chair, still mostly in his armour since he hasn't had time to change out of it. The helmet's uncomfortable at the best of times, though.

A sigh, and then he leans forward to flip open a laptop, fiddling with a plug between it and his phone. There's no wireless node anywhere near the library, or working cable, but the phone works for it. If one doesn't mind low bandwidth. He's wondering what the news will be saying.

For a while, he has the company of the occasional click-click of his own typing, and the whine of the laptop's fan as it works to do as he commands. Light emits from the squarish screen.

And then it rattles in response to a deep seated vibration that Cardinal can feel under his feet, pulsing through the ground. It could almost be an earthquake, the force of sound making the earth creak, but it's too small for that, too minor. It lasts a few seconds before dulling, and then— noise echoes out, seemingly, from the surfaces of things. The ground, the walls— if they could talk, what would they say— and maybe his own bones, from the way they all seem to ache under a strange kind of pressure.

CNN headlines read, hero saves the day, is a strange voice that emits, lacking human quality.

"…the fuck?" Cardinal's hand braces against the table's edge and he shoves himself up to his feet, turning around to look for the sound of the voice, the source of the vibrations. Assuming, perhaps, that whatever it is is from outside, he starts towards the door, slowed a bit by the necessity to pick his feet up and move over strings and duck under other ones. Stupid map.

Crawling through his own mapped future in ducks and steps, Cardinal is close to the door that in the split second before he's stepping out of it—

A black clad elbow, armored, is suddenly snapping up and into his face by the time an apparition is swiveling around the corner in swift confrontation, his feet making no sound upon the ground. A boot coming up to deliver a hard and committed kick for the other man's stomach to drive him back inside to the room of strings — that's assuming this is male, anyway. Burly shoulders and a similar height to Cardinal's seem to suggest it, but specifics are lost beneath a smooth black visor set into helmet. Horizon armor, or that's what it can be identified as, conforms to an athletic build.

But it's different to what Cardinal knows. All over, in fact, even the helmet design. Everything a little sleeker, a little lighter, but perhaps equally effective. It's also notably old, frayed fabric where there is fabric, black scuffed to grey, the seams and edges where mud has never been cleaned out from it.

Armed, too, with pistols and knives and even a slender, swinging canister pinned to a utility belt.

And to think, all this time it was Richard telling Elisabeth that she shouldn't take her damn helmet off.

The impact of an elbow driven by the armour's power into his nose breaks it instantly; he can feel that, hear that as it happens, and even though the follow-up kick does little more than send him stumbling back rather than any actual damage, there's been damage done. Strings are jerked loose from their moorings, strands tumbling to the floor weighed down by notes whose markings no longer matter save for as an exercise in what might have been.

Blood spills down over his lips and chin, and he tastes iron on his tongue as he lets himself tumble back, eyes closed momentarily for the pain as his body goes into an instinctual dive for cover until he can recover from the sudden, agonizing shock.

Sorry. Dick move.

Maybe the vocal mechanism in the helmet is broken. Maybe the man behind the helmet is mute. Either way, he chooses to speak through the walls and the concrete, vibration with each monotonous syllable, a whine in the midst of the deep, deep baritone that seems designed to frazzle nerves, like the growl of a wolf or the rumble of an earthquake. But honour-fights get you killed. I'd say my old man taught me that, but… He steps into the room, but does not lose his position at the door heading out, not right away. A hand goes to his own wrist, and sharp, red light springs from some simple modification — a laser.

Be prepared. My name's Cameron. Do you know what that means? The question is too dully delivered to bring about emphasis and tone that would make its meaning clearer — as it stands, the nature of the question and the answer sought is up for interpretation.

As there's no immediate retaliation, Richard's back on his feet; wiping the blood off on one gauntleted hand, the other reaching out for the helmet where it rests on the table. He doesn't take his gaze off the figure in the doorway, and as he speaks his name in that reverberation of sound, he freezes. It's a very familiar sort of reverberation, humming along with the man's anger as he speaks. Of course, it would be. The world tends to hum and rattle and rumble when his mother's angry too.

"I'd take it up with your old man," he replies flatly, "Last I heard, the old sonuvabitch was either in Boston, or possibly Alaska. You get lost on the way there?"

There's another deep rattle of pure anger — no words manifested this time, sort of like a growl made audible through his power — and this time, it drives a sudden crack through the concrete, rippling out from where boots set against the ground. I'm exactly where I need to be, is warning only in that Cameron only begins to move at a midpoint in his sentence in response to Cardinal's reaching for the helmet, red lasers harmless on Cardinal's armor and skin if it happens to connect there, but perhaps one indication that he's probably— being honest.

There's skill in movements, aiming a driving kick for a leg, turning to fling a punch for Cardinal's already bloodied face.

A lunge for the table grabs hold of the helmet, but Cardinal doesn't have time to put it on; he's never been the best unarmed combatant in the world, his training more through experience than practice, but he is a master of the 'falling over things to get out of the goddamn way' manuever, which is what sends him tumbling over the table with the helmet and out of the way of that kick. The table, unbalanced by the weight of the armoured man, crashes over with him as he rolls away from it and under several more lengths of string. The laptop goes flying, crashing into the wall with a sharp crack of the screen and tumbling to the floor.

"Christ," he shouts back, "Obviously he didn't raise you, because if you seriously think killing me is going to change one goddamn thing— "

A silver pistol is extracted from a holster clasping it tight to the small of his back, and flung around to aim.

Blam. Wood chips fly as the round takes an edge off the table and cuts off the end of Cardinal's assessment, piercing the floor just near Cardinal's shoulder. There's a muffled voice, hidden in the helmet, something along the lines of you bet your ass he didn't before the table is kicked out of the way. It starts with you, growls that voice through the ground, making Cardinal's bones ache in a way that's almost familiar, the same pressure before he'd had his wrist snapped back in the—

And ends with him. Laser and gun pointed both. Stand up. Stand up. The building almost shakes.

It's an odd connection to make, but pain is sometimes the best thing to bring back a memory. A number of things clatter into place. Edward Ray's disciple has learned to put jigsaw puzzles together, but this one may have come together far too late for it to be any good. The edge of the helmet curls in Cardinal's hand as he braces a hand against the floor and slowly pushes himself up to his feet, his eyes narrowing, "…your mother's the same way. Give her two choices and she'll kick in the door. Impulsive and driven by the heart. S'why I love her, you know…"

Dark eyes regard the other's helmet, and he states flatly, "Take it off. I deserve to see my son's face before he kills me, don't I? I didn't get a very good look last time."

There's a long moment's hesitation. It's tempting to just pull the trigger.

But the gun is left steady in right hand, laser spilling out beyond tense knuckles, as left comes up to do as asked, because maybe the same thing is mutually desired. Fastenings are unclipped, and the thing is shucked off. Familiar in passing, strong bones like both his parents, but hazel eyes that match the look he's getting down to the same tone and subtlety. Similar height, similar stances, and the same continued tension that the young man had carried with him into the Centre Stage ring where it had ended in a draw.

A rare event, where no one loses. "What he did to her, I ain't gonna let you do," he says. "And maybe you'd change everything, if you knew, because that was the whole fuckin' idea, but you know what? I don't think you'd risk it either." Aim steady, he breathes in, and squeezes the trigger on the exhale.

The bullet should slam into Cardinal's skull and blow back out the other side, pulverizing the gray matter contained within and reducing trillions of synapses to a texture of something you spread on toast at breakfast. His legs should go out from under him and his body should crumple to the floor, dead before what's left of his head strikes it and spills its contents like egg yolk out of the shell.

But that's not what happens.

The bullet stops a few inches away from Cardinal's face, suspended in mid-air and gleaming hot metallic. In his peripheral vision, he sees another young man who wasn't there before, one hand outstretched with long fingers splayed and face pinched into a frustrated expression with deep lines around his mouth.

Stopping time is difficult for Walter Trafford, but not impossible. "Joshua," he presses out through his teeth around a snarl, "what the fuck."

To Cardinal's credit, he barely flinches. It won't hurt, after all, and possibly somewhere deep down he feels that it's an ironic enough death to actually accept.

It doesn't come, though, as much as it might be arguably deserved, depending on what point one is arguing from.

A breath's caught, exhaled, and his shoulders sink a bit, head shaking slowly. "I think Cameron figures that if he kills me now," he observes rather flatly, "I won't become the man who doesn't deserve to call himself a father." He turns his head to regard the newcomer sidelong — keeping one eye on 'Joshua'. It's nobody he recognizes.

Joshua— Cameron— whoever he is, stands very still. Barely breathes. Shock defines his features, but it's not loose, jaw tight like a steel trap and his stare unbreaking from his father or the man who would be his father or— there are a lot of masks, in this play. Sometimes, the redhead over there calls himself Reynard. Disbelief maintains, that he brought himself to pull the trigger, and the bullet hovers there, incomplete in its trajectory. "You're fucking right," is snarled harsh from his throat.

It's a misplaced anger, the kind that young fighters live on, all adrenaline and physicality as opposed to— logic. A sense of justice. He needs to get angry to do some things, sometimes. Like kill your dad. Unmake yourself. "Get the fuck out, Walter, or you're fuckin' dead." And as if in warning, Joshua swings the gun around, and sends a bullet in the rough direction of Trafford's chest with an echoing blam.

Swings it back, fires again for Cardinal, teeth bared, laser in a glinting red arc of light.

It all happens so fast that even a speedster might have difficulty keeping track — Walter's focus is on holding the bullet Joshua already fired, and when the second shot rings out he lacks the mental dexterity to respond with the swiftness required. There's a high, shrill yelp that sounds like it shouldn't come from someone of Walter's size and a misting splash of blood that scatters across the floor where the temporal manipulator had been standing but isn't anymore.

In the time it takes Joshua to blink and squeeze the trigger one last time, Walter disappears, then blinks back into existence at Cardinal's side, one hand at his shoulder, the other stained vibrant red and clutching his own.

This is what someone with more intelligence and tact might call a compromise. He won't let Joshua kill his father, but it's clear that Cardinal can't stay here in this time. Not anymore. Defiance flashes behind blue eyes, and then he and Edward Ray's protege are simply gone.


The gun is expensive, hard to come by, and it simply shatters under the force of Joshua's power lashing out of control in a fit of red rage. The shards and pieces are flung where Cardinal and Walter had been standing, the table kicked hard enough for it to go plummeting across the room and tearing down last strings before shattering against the wall, and cracks run through the floor in seismic blasts of audio power vibrating through the solid material. Rage has no words, a young man's roars echoing off the walls, making them shake as the room is laid out in his wrath until he exhausts himself.

But the Library does not come down. It stands solemn, impassive, to a young man's violence, and the disappearance of the man who'd given it new life and purpose in the first place.

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