Breakdown Lane


erin_icon.gif felix_icon.gif kaylee5_icon.gif

Scene Title Breakdown Lane
Synopsis In the New York City Safe Zone this is the new normal.
Date August 16, 2019

In the month since the reformation of the NYPD, SCOUT has been assisting the ordinary beat cops with patrol duties. Given the small number of officers and the generally large space of the Safe Zone, such eventualities aren’t a surprise.

In the late evening, when the sun is dark and orange where it hangs heavy over the ruins of Manhattan across the river, one such patrol is ending. Inside the climate-controlled cabin of a brand new Yamagato Lapis patrol SUV, Detective Erin Gordon maintains only the most passive eye on the road as she fidgets settings on the bluetooth radio. “I still haven’t figured out how this fucking thing pairs with my phone,” she grumbles, pressing button after button.

The Lapis is a remarkable vehicle, fully electric with a silent ride accented only by mandatory artificial engine noises to help alert traffic. It’s user interface on its device pairing systems could be better. Detective Gordon’s passenger, Felix Ivanov, has driven worse vehicles in worse situations. A lack of music is the least of the creature comforts he’s gone without before. As Erin merges onto the highrise Gowanus Expressway without so much as using her directional, she looks into the rear view mirror at the blonde in the back seat.

Gowanus Expressway

Leaving Bay Ridge

August 16

6:37 pm

Sumter,” Erin says with a motion of her chin in the direction of Kaylee’s reflection. “You any good with this shit? Your brother owns like a big Radio Shack or something, right?” She brandishes her phone over her shoulder at Kaylee.

For Detective Kaylee Sumter, this is a learning experience. Or that’s the intention. Recently-minted officers are to perform ride-alongs with seasoned detectives, among which Erin and Felix count. But this is Kaylee’s last ride along, and as they hop onto the highway out of Bay Ridge she knows they’re only a few minutes from the office and the end of their day.

Kaylee shifts forward, reaching between the seat for the stubborn device. “Technically, I still own it, too,” amusement filtering into her tone. Just cause she was there, doesn’t mean she still isn’t a Ray. “In fact, there are four Ray kids that own it, no just my brother. So, I think I know a thing or two. Consider this a gift for letting me ride along.” The telepath motions at the road, before retreating to the backseat again. “Just watch the road, last thing we need is people complaining that the cops don’t follow the rules.”

Fingers tap over the screen, with a strangely practiced ease. “That we think we are above the law.” That last said in a mock Stallone voice, that really sounds nothing like him. Still, she can’t help but smile a little at her own joke, while she works on connecting the phone.

“Okay, Ivanov,” Kaylee draws out the other occupants name. “Click on that gear and look for the bluetooth symbol and click that, pretty please.” She can’t exactly do that from where she is at.

Fel’s preserving that pokerface. He has any number of masks for a given day as a cop, the default being a kind of faintly amused reserve. He’s definitely driven worse, both as NYPD and Fed….but if he has any virtues, one of them numbers a staunch refusal to launch into any ‘back in my day’ stories unless he’s directly asked. So he simply touches the indicated button, scrolls through the options, touches the weird little bindrune that is the Bluetooth symbol.

“I always think that symbol looks like it was designed by one of Tolkien’s dwarves,” he comments, mildly. “But let us take care of it - eyes on the road.”

The look Erin gives Kaylee in the rear-view mirror is nothing short of incredulous. “So wait a minute,” she says with one hand coming off the wheel for emphasis, “you’re telling me your a 1/4th owner of some huge fucking company, and you’re here,” she looks over at Felix, then back into the rear-view at Kaylee, “pulling salary and getting in the line of fire, rather than heels up on a beach sucking down margaritas like it was your fucking job?

Erin stares at Kaylee in the rear-view, then looks over to Felix and brandishes a hand in his direction. “Ivanov, is she actually saying this or’m I having a stroke here?”

“Yup,” Kaylee offers in response, leaning forward in her seat. “What can I say, I watched Bad Boys at a young age. Mike Lowery is my hero.” The words hold absolutely no sincerity and are flat as hell. So who knows if she is even being truthful. At least, Erin gets a mildly amused look in return as the phone is passed back up, fully connected to the car.

“You’re connected.”

Kaylee flops back again once the phone is handed off, turning her attention to the world outside the vehicle. After a moment, fingers flip her sunglasses back down to help her blue eyes with the bright light. “Some of us have a higher calling.” Is the explanation she is willing to offer.

“Besides,” Kaylee quips after a moment, “sitting on a beach doing nothing sounds really boring, especially since I’m pretty much allergic to almost everything that would make it fun.”

Somehow he didn’t know this about her. He didn’t. Or he knew and forgot, or had the memory blown out of him by some explosion or other.

Because Kaylee gets that lips-parted, eyes-squinted expression of incredulity. “What the actual fuck?” he says.

He really shouldn’t be outraged. Because even if he had that as an option….yeah, he’d be here, too. He faces front again, shaking his head.

“Well, it is a vocation,” he concedes, with a sigh. “Which is why I’m here, too. I made enough money in Wolfhound to go sit on my ass upstate and dig potatoes at my dacha, if I really wanted to. And I will eventually.”

He doesn’t believe it for a moment. New York killed him once, it will again. But the interim will be a hell of a ride.

“Potatoes.” Erin says staring straight ahead with both hands suddenly — but briefly — coming off the wheel to express her exasperation. “Jesus Christ you're both…” she shakes her head and reaches down to the stereo and taps a button to switch its input to her mobile device. “I'm just gonna drown you both out before I drive us off this overpass.”

Briefly looking up from her phone when she should be watching the road zero. Asks “You all like Scandinavian Black Metal?” She looks back to Kaylee in the rear view. “You strike me as the type.” But when Erin keys in music from her phone, it is absolutely not that. Because that probably wouldn't have nearly as much saxophone as what does come on.


I want a new drug, one that won't make me sick

One that won't make me crash my car

Or make me feel feet, feet, feet thick

Erin raises her brow to Kaylee in the rear view again, then side-eyes Felix. “C’mon who doesn't like Huey?”

“God, this song is older then me… my mom had this album,” Kaylee comments with a chuckle. “Played it all the time, far back as I can remember.” Which she doesn’t remember a lot. However, by the way the telepath bops, Erin isn’t far off on her choice of music. The telepath loves a good song with a beat.

Kaylee has no problem letting the music drown out the conversation or the beat tone down the mental humming of the two sitting up front. Mostly, she is very relieved that it wasn’t Scandinavian Black Metal….

Kaylee is so very much not the type.

I want a new drug, one that won't hurt my head

One that won't make my mouth too dry

Or make my eyes too red

“I was joking about the potatoes. I didn’t mind gardening when I lived in Florida, it was pretty easy and I got stuff I’d actually wanna eat, like oranges,” Fel says. “Never had any urge to grow potatoes.”

He’s relaxed, arm resting on the door. “Black metal’s not so bad, though if we’re going for loud and obnoxious, my suggestion is KMFDM. Or maybe Ministry. New World Order would be appropriate, considering that we’re the cops in our future dystopia here.”

But he grins at the song. “I remember when this was new. American pop music was such a revelation when I got here.”

Erin casts a side-eye over at Felix with a lopsided smile, “Man, you really are like some ex-KGB spook straight out’f fucking movie, aren’t you?” It isn’t that she believes it, but the way Felix talks about coming to America from Russia elicits those kind of knee-jerk reactions from her. “In Sovi— fuck!

The scream comes a split second before Erin jerks the wheel to the left, rapidly crossing two lanes to avoid a sedan that comes up on the passenger side so fast and so close it clips the mirror off that side of the SUV. Not only that, but the entire sedan is on fire. The whole thing. It’s just a rolling bonfire with molten rubber wheels.

Erin’s scream turns into a fountain of profanity as she tries to regain control of the SUV. Out the windshield Felix and Kaylee can see the sedan slam against the overpass guardrail. Not hard enough to break through, but enough to bring the vehicle to a violent stop. Thankfully there’s hardly any vehicle traffic in the Safe Zone compared to any other city it’s size. Erin is able to regain control of the SUV after they’ve driven a hundred yards past the wreck. The smell of burning rubber clings heavily to the air and in the moment Erin does nothing but breathe heavily and grip the steering wheel with a two-handed white-knuckle grip, stationary in the middle traffic lane.

Out the middle rear-view mirror, Kaylee can see the passenger’s side door of the car fling open and a human being fully engulfed in fire stagger out. Whoever they are they’re so ablaze that there isn’t anything that isn’t fire. But they’re not flailing, they’re not dropping. They’re walking a few steps down the breakdown lane and… climbing over the guard rail.

There isn’t even enough time for Kaylee to react, before they are sitting there. After some reflection, she might have screamed too, especially at the blast of heat through the window as they passed by the burning vehicle.

There is a blink when the telepath snaps out of it. “Holy shit…” Kaylee says out loud before shifting forward to check on the other two.

“Oh god, youuu… what the hell?!” Kaylee tries to lean further in the seat to look at the flaming figure in the mirror, only to be stopped by her seatbelt and the realization it was behind her. Twisting in the back seat, Kaylee blindly tries to disengage the seat belt with trembling fingers. “Guys!” If they hadn’t seen it yet, she was drawing their attention to it now. “Look!”

When they start crawling over the overpass rail, Kaylee gets a bit more frantic. “What… wait! No!” Whoever it is can’t hear her, at least not until she pushes the door open. “Hey! Stop! It’s okay!” A glance at the other two in the car, especially, “Felix?” He was faster than her, of course. Not that he could do more than get closer, faster.

"That's my mother," he says, serenely. "No shit, she straight up bought instant citizenship for herself, my dad, and me by walking out with shorthand notes covering twenty years of KGB ops in the Americas. She was only an agent when she was very young, and then got herself transferred to Archives. Every day she summed up what she'd read of the communications, wrote it down on a little strip of paper and hid it in the cuff of her coat. When she realized they'd be coming for me, she pulled the ripcord and bailed. With suitcases full of this stuff. I got to see, when I was in the FBI, the Bureau's file on her. Impressive stuff - the Bureau's Soviet counter-intel guys basically collectively pissed themselves when they realized what she'd handed them."

That scream is like a switch flipped. Hyperadrenaline straight into the bloodstream, which means Erin's maneuvers are Inception-slow in terms of his perceived speed. The SUV gliiiiiiides to a stop, and Felix is out of their SUV like a shot. Have either of them seen him in full flight before? He's a blur.

Fel's at the burning sedan in a heartbeat. His ability doesn't confer super-strength: he can't just Winter Soldier rip the doors off to yank anyone else in there out. But he can do something…..try and put them out. Even in this brave new world, cop cars carry fire extinguishers, and he's brought the Lapis’s.

“Fuck, fuck!” Erin is shouting as she stays in the Lapis and pulls it over to the side of the road ahead of the burning car and throws on the blue lights. Felix’s spray of the fire suppressant begins to douse the burning car at the same time, and he can already tell by the shape the foam is taking when it settles on solid objects to suffocate the flame that there was someone in the driver's seat.

The incendiary man, in response to Kaylee, turns around. She can see a solid figure beneath the flames, consumed by the fire from head to toe but not completely made from it. He screams in reaction to sight of the wrecked car, an anguished and horrible scream that doesn't sound like it could come from a person. It isn't one of pain, but a scream of horror. The burning figure, standing on the other side of the overpass rail, clutches his head in his hands and begins sobbing uncontrollably.

He sounds young. Maybe no older than what the Lighthouse Kids have grown up into. A young teenager. An incandescent pillar of flame and heat.

Fuck!” Erin is still shouting as she emerges from the lapis, holding the receiver of the vehicle’s radio. “This is Detective Gordon, we’re on the Gowanus Expressway. Ivanov and Sumter are with me. Possible 10-23 in progress.”

It is the youthfulness to that anguish and it tugs at something in the core of her. It is the terror of a child. She is familiar with it. “I… I think a possible manifest,” Kaylee calls back to Erin, before turning back to the burning person. She had been about the same age when she had manifested. She remembers that feeling.

So, despite the twist of fear in her stomach, she keeps her hands where they can be seen, and the telepath slowly approaches. She needed to get a bit closer, so that her ability could stealthily touch the young mind, listening to the tone of her mind. Looking for the cues that could spell disaster. Kaylee keeps it at just there. The woman didn’t want to invade the young person’s mind… Saving it as a last resort.

“Hey, hey… sweetie. Please come back over the railing,” Kaylee tries to keep her voice calm and soothing, hand lifting against the light and blistering heat rolling of them. It takes work to keep the tremble from her voice. “Talk to me. Tell me what happened. Let’s figure this out.”

There is in Fel’s mind a kind of library of terrible incidents. Between varying careers in law enforcement and his efforts in the civil war….he’s seen a lot. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t be shocked or dismayed or sickened, and now he’s all three. There’s the WHOOSH of suppressant, filling the car….and then he’s working it over as much of the vehicle as he can.

But he’s listening to Kaylee’s conversation, and he looks back over his shoulder. Oh, fuck. What a difference from his own first manifestation. Please let the driver have been a villain, someone kidnapping this poor little pyrokine. Then back to the figure in the car, and he asks, softly, over his radio, “… one left alive?” Maybe she can sense a mind in here, some life fluttering in a burned husk.

As Erin takes in the full length and breadth of what’s happening and recognizes that the pillar of fire is a person endangering themselves as much as the officers on scene, she hangs back. Short, tempered breaths escape her as she stays tethered to the vehicle’s radio, momentarily paralyzed by the intensity of events.

The pyrokinetic, standing on the other side of the railing brings one incendiary hand to his head. There’s absolutely a solid body in there, and he exhales a ragged and shaking breath of thermal distortions. Kaylee can see his molten blue pools of fire that are his eyes focused on the car, on the charred husk of a person partly fused to the steering wheel. There’s a keening sound in the back of his throat, and he turns to look at the roughly four story drop from the high interstate overpass to the street below.

Kaylee can feel it in him, that fear. That doubt. That anguish. That guilt. He isn’t talking, just stammering half-words and confused sounds. He looks at Kaylee again, then the car. “Dad,” is the only thing he says that crushes Felix’s hopes of what might have been transpiring.

The inquiry from Felix, pulls Kaylee’s attention long enough to glance at the car and give the slightest shake of her head in the negative, since most of her ability was wrapped up on the kid.

When she looks back, she sees the kid looking too, “Hey.. hey… «look at me».” A gentle coaxing with just enough of a push of Kaylee’s ability. “No matter what happened, what was said or done, he wouldn’t want you to do what you’re thinking of doing. So please come back over. We want to help you. Let us help you.” The woman watches for cues.

God, he can’t be that much older then Em. is her own prominent thought in this.

Maybe that thought was driving her forward, has her taking a step closer. “Take a deep breath, I know it hurts. It will. When I was your age, I did something like this, too.” Her trauma wasn’t nearly the same. She hadn’t killed her father. “I didn’t mean too, I was just so angry at them and.. and scared.”

Fel breathes something in Russian, a sigh more than a curse. Back on the job, you’re back on the job, you signed up for this. Kaylee gets an upnod, as he finishes putting out the car. Now it’s a smoking husk with that figure curled in the front seat, like the ghostly casts of those buried under ash in Pompeii.

Then he sets down the extinguisher and turns to the figure still burning. The mask is gone….or else one is stripped off and the one beneath that exposed: anguished sympathy. Fel comes pacing over. The emergency vehicles will be here soon enough, they can deal with that ashen wreck. For now, it’s the life before them. Kaylee’s doing what she can, and that’s far more than he can himself….but maybe he can get her out of the way, if need be. Or keep that kid from leaping. Though how bad will he be burned if he tries?

The anguished pillar of fire that was once a teenage boy screams, one hand at his head. “No— no— no, I— I didn’t mean to— oh my god no, I didn’t mean to!” Kaylee can feel his confusion, his anger at himself, his horror and revulsion. She can also feel the loop of fear, anger, frustration that’s feeding his ability. His thoughts are a jumble of broken things, half-formed ideas, memories, and pain. When Felix approaches, the young man takes a further step back, burning heels hanging over the edge of the concrete lip that is all that stands between him and the ground three stories below.

Stop! I didn’t do anything! I didn’t mean to!” The boy continues, panicking. “Please don’t lock me up underground— please— help my dad. He’s all I have left! Please go— go help him! He’s hurt!”

It’s heartbreaking.

A hand goes up to stall Felix from comings closer, “I-I got this,” she assures him with a nervous smile. Kaylee only thinks she might, but is unsure.

Attention to the boy again, Kaylee’s heart is just breaking. She knows that pain. Hands still out in a reassuring manner. She has nothing on her. “I won’t let anyone be locked in a hole. Never again.” She says with conviction, while her ability sinks into his mind, following the loop. “I was a part of the Ferrymen. We fought so that you wouldn’t have to worry about being stuck in a hole.” Latching on to her past and holding fast, using it as a shield. “ You’re not in trouble, I want to help you.”

Her ability slips into that self-hating loop and starts to add thoughts.

«Trust her.»
«She’ll help. The Ferrymen helped people.»

Any thoughts to look at his dad are routed and adjusted so that he looks towards Kaylee instead. Good memories are strengthened to drown out the horror. “What’s your name? Mine’s Kaylee… Kaylee Thatcher.” It was the name from the history books and so she uses it.

Ooh, a fresh addition to Felix’s stock of nightmare fuel. This kid… Kaylee can do her trick and it'll help. It might keep the tally of deaths here down to one. But he's eventually going to have to face what happened.

Fel does listen, though. He stops, hands out. He doesn't speak, though. That might be one interruption too many….and he doesn't know how hard it is for Kaylee to do her thing. For his part, his own ability…..he can maybe keep the kid from jumping. Maybe.

Telepathy is a powerful thing. So powerful that the government is cautious with application of telepathic abilities in the public sphere. Search warrants required before telepathic scanning, assault charges for uses of power much in the way Kaylee just did here.


Who would know?

In a sudden rush of thermal wind, the young man on the edge of the bridge is snuffed out. The flames around his body dissipate when reassurance is given, when Kaylee tricks his mind into thinking that she can be trusted, even if the implications used are true. His clothes are blackened, demolished things. The nylon/polyester blend of his clothes have turned into a black, plastic like webbing over his body but are not burnt away entirely.

You promise?” The teen, who when the flames die down is clearly no older than sixteen or seventeen, says with a shaky voice. Two hands clap onto the side of the guardrail and he leans forward, unsure of whether or not he should cross that divide and move toward the police. Standing by the Lapis, Erin watches with wide-eyed silence, her hand on the holster of her Banshee and brows so furrowed the grooves between them might as well be canyons.

“M-My name’s Dylan.” The pyrokinetic says, only then remembering that he was asked.

“It’s nice to meet you, Dylan.” Kaylee offers with a comforting smile.

“There are no more government black holes,” Kaylee says, holding tight to the relief that the flames were gone. “No more secret organizations to spirit you away. My friends and I fought to make sure that it never happened again. So that kids like you and my own, could be without fear.”

Taking another step forward, Kaylee holds out her hand to him, to help him back over. An act of trust to show that she is confident he won’t burn her despite the condition of the boy’s father. “Come on. Let’s take you to the hospital, get you checked out, and talk about things. I’ll stick with you the whole way, if you want.”

«Be ready just in case.»

It is soft, but Kaylee’s voice suddenly echoed through Felix’s mind, as the closest to her. What she doesn’t show on the outside, echoes between them in the tone of her mental voice. Despite everything, the telepath was terrified of a misstep, she didn’t want to fail this kid.

Terrified of a misstep? She’s not the only one. Fel’s heartbeat is in his throat, frantic as a trapped hummingbird, as that thought sinks into his mind, like feeling a stone dropped into a jar of honey - slow and slow and slow, until comprehension catches up. There’s wordless assent in the link, hopefully she feels it.

But he doesn’t move an inch closer. Not until he’s sure the situation is under control. No blundering in and getting Kaylee lit up like some kind of nightmare barbecue, or sending this kid literally off the rail, so to speak.

The entire situation has been hard for Erin to grapple with. The immediacy of it all, the sudden turn, the boy’s about-face from suicidal to trusting. Somewhere deep down inside, Erin knows what happened here and how, but there’s a part of her that doesn’t want to confront the reality of telepathy and what it means for free will. Instead, she leaves the driver’s side door to the Lapis open and treks across the overpass to the burned-out wreck of the car.

Looking inside, Erin’s jaw flexes and she quickly looks away from the melting foam over blackened flesh. One hand comes up to cup her mouth and nose as she takes several long strides past Felix, not even watching as Kaylee escorts Dylan toward the Lapis. Once she catches sight of their backs in her peripheral vision she calls out, “I’ll stay here,” in a strangled voice, “for emergency and fire. You and Ivanov take him.”

There’s a fear, somewhere deep down inside, that maybe it wasn’t what she wanted to do? Maybe she wanted Ivanov to stay? Maybe Kaylee had changed her mind? Erin’s eyes flick from side to side rapidly, wondering how she’d ever know. How could she trust any decision she’d made in her entire life? What ones were manipulated by someone else? Outwardly, the existential crisis is invisible. She stands up slowly, swear on her brow and color drained from her cheeks.

In the distance, the sound of fire truck sirens blare under the hot summer sun.

In New York City this is the new normal.

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