Broken Steel


knox_icon.gif rajas_icon.gif rickham_icon.gif

Scene Title Broken Steel
Synopsis On a long and lonesome highway, two disparate souls converge under the guidance of an angel of the modern age.
Date May 13, 2009

Interstate 35, 18 miles outside Des Moines Iowa

I'd give anything for my motorcycle.

The thought keeps rattling around inside of Benjamin Washington's head as his worn and scuffed work boots carry him down the dusty side of Interstate 35. The whir and rumble of cars roaring past fills him with a sense of wistful optimism. It wasn't that long ago that the idea of going for a long walk was a pipe dream. There's no bars around him here, no cages, no guards, for all of the many ways he might be lost right now, the one thing the man who earned the nickname "Knox" cherishes more than anything, is the freedom to be lost.

Rolling his shoulder to adjust the duffel bag slung over it, Knox's eyes track up from the old and worn highway towards a truck stop at the roadside with a flickering neon sign set above an old style diner. Hot Coffee, Fresh Pies, Cheap Gas the sign proclaims. It's an odd juxtaposition of food and fossil fuels, but the prospect of actually stopping for a little while is too enticing.

Turning off of the road, Knox strolls through the parking lot, legs aching as he carries himself past parked pickup trucks refueling around the old, vintage gas pumps. A few side-long and lingering stares from the men fueling up their vehicles is one of the first signs that not everything is exactly as it should be. A quick scan through the plate glass windows of the diner makes a knot of anxiety flutter up in Benjamin's stomach — it is Iowa after all. This demographic divide shouldn't be surprising, and he does look suspicious.

In that moment of debate, the pay phone near the entrance of the diner starts ringing. Knox's brows furrow, eyes darting towards it, then over towards the people standing by their trucks. He cranes his head to one side, then gives a quiet sigh before pushing his way into the diner, boots clomping down on the tile floor. Most of the conversations either stop or die down as Knox walks in, and a sour look crossing his face from the greeting probably doesn't make it much easier.

After a moment though, most everyone returns to their business and it's something of a relief when a chipper waitress comes sauntering over, noticing Knox staring blank-eyed around at the booth seats. "Welcome t'Lucky's, why don't you go on and take a seat over there, I'll swing on over with a menu." She cracks a smile, taking a few steps back to wave over by one of the booth seats in the front of the diner by the windows.

"Oh uh— " Knox looks her up and down for a moment, then nods, "yeah sure— thanks." As he turns to head towards the booth, the waitress slips back to the bar, shouldering past another waitress as she picks up a menu, turning to a weathered-looking man in a black baseball cap nursing the same cup of coffee he's had for an hour.

"You sure you're all set, Sir?" She leans forward onto the bar, folding her arms as she tires to look up at him under the brim of his cap. The man shakes his head, pushing the empty cup of coffee forward on its saucer towards her. "No," he says in a rough voice, "no I'm all set now, actually." His other hand opens, wrinkled fingers unwrapping from around a few dollars he leaves on the bar, rising up from his stool to stretch his legs.

The waitress gives him a long stare, then just smiles awkwardly, snatching up a menu and making her way briskly over to where Knox is seated. "Well hey there stranger," she says with a good-natured smile, nudging the corner of Knox's duffel bag under the table with the toe of her shoe so it isn't leaning out into the aisle. "You look like you might need a tall stack of pancakes, mmn?" Whipping out her pen, the waitress clicks the end a few times, making the tip click in and out. "Or are you more of an apple pie kinda' guy?" There's a crooked smile as she lays the menu down, going to reach for her notepad to take an order.

"I uh— " Knox's focus is drawn away from the payphone he saw out front, looking up distractedly to the waitress with a blank stare for a long while. "I— you ah," he notices the menu, one hand slowly drawing it closed along the table. "I— "

"You didn't hear a word I said, did you?" The waitress chirps with a smirk, wagging her pen back and forth in the air in a jokingly chastising manner. "It's alright I— " She gives a sudden, very abrupt squeak as something begins ringing and vibrating in her apron. One hand moves down to a pouch on the front of the apron, removing a small cell phone. Without thinking, she just flips it open and presses it to her ear.

"Tommy, I told you not to call me at wo— " It's not Tommy. The waitress' brow furrows, and her nose wrinkles, "Ben who? No I— no you've got the wrong number." Knox;s eyes lift up to the waitress, breathing in a long and deep breath as his eyes wander her phone. It's only then he notices the tall and lanky stranger in a brown leather jacket and a black baseball cap looming behind her, tired eyes settled down on Knox.

"Benjamin Washington?" The waitress yelps and sidesteps when that gravelly voice calls out behind her. Blue eyes wide, she stares up at the old man and then looks down to Knox at the table. "Are you Benjamin Washington?" The man in the hat grumbles, taking a few steps to fill the space the waitress vacated.

Her eyes dart back and forth between the two, and she stammeringly interjects, "Uh— wait— your name's— I just got a phone call for— " The old man raises a hand, waving at the waitress, even as Knox is beginning to look sick to his stomach. For the first time in a long time, he's the one feeling all of the fear and confusion. It's not a flattering side of his power to be on.

"Yeah," he finally says, jumping in over the waitress, "you got a problem, old man?" One leg slides out from the booth, a hand settled on the back of the bench seat, and Knox begins to rise up to his feet, not nearly as tall as the lanker old man. He takes a step closer to him, staring him down. Why isn't he even a little bit scared?

The waitress is though, and that's what counts.

"You have to come with me." The old man says flatly, "right now." It's not the first time Knox has heard these lines, and the old man carries himself like a cop, with all that cocksure swagger. Maybe his past finally caught up with him, maybe the government finally started looking for the other escapees — he's been off of the radar though, how'd he—

—the waitresses cell phone rings again.

"I said come with me." The old man reaches out to put a hand on Knox's shoulder, even as the waitress answers the phone again, taking a few shaking steps backwards. Her face contorts from fear to confusion, eyes wandering Knox and the old man's forms, her words back to whoever's on the other end lost over the sound of Benjamin's protests.

"No," he swats the hand off of his shoulder, "I ain't comin' with you, so maybe you can just go sit back down an' mind your own business an' leave me be." He takes that last step closer, almost chest to chest with the old man, staring up into his tired and world-weary green eyes. Why isn't he afraid?

Reaching up again, the old man grabs a hold of Knox's shoulder, "We don't have time for this they're— " The second grab elicits a frustrated and violent reaction from Benjamin, and he knocks the hand away again, feeling on the waitress' growing fear as eyes all through the diner are back on him. He shoves the old man back with both hands, just enough to make him stumble. "Now get your ass back down in your seat an' leave me alone!"

"God damnit son," The old man takes another step forward, this time his footfall far heavier than when he walked up before, grabbing Knox by the collar of his jacket. "I told you they're almost he— " Three strikes, and the old man is out. Knox balls up a fist and swings a light jab to the old man's midsection, just enough to knock him off of his feet and send him crumpling to the ground — don't want to kill the old coot.

Instead, all Knox finds is a sharp ache all down his forearm as he hits nothing but solid steel with a heavy clunk. Jerking his hand back, Knox's eyes upturn to look at the old man beneath his hat, and where there was once wrinkled skin, there's now nothing but pitted and folded iron, and dark hematite-colored eyes peering sightlessly down at the shorter man.

"Allen Rickham!" The voice cries out from the waitress, holding the phone up to her ear. The name cried out causes Rickham to turn a creaking iron head towards her with eyes wide. Even Knox, clutching one hand, looks to her with a somewhat dumbfounded and blindsided expression, "He— he says they're here." There's a fear in her voice, a palpable fear that Knox can feel washing over him. But now, as she says that, it isn't the only fear he can feel.

The back door to the diner bursts open as a dark shadow begins to pass over the gas station from overhead. The sudden eruption of thundering helicopter rotors fills the business as men in black uniforms begin storming the restaurant, shotguns raised, goggles on over their balaclava masks, thick tactical vests providing relef from bullets, but…

"Stay behind me." Rickham growls out in a hollow, metallic voice. It sounds like someone playing his voice on a synthesizer inside of a gigantic oil drum. His hand unwinds from Knox's collar as he reaches up to take off his hat, throwing it to the ground as he takes a few steps forward towards the black-uniformed officers. Knox looks at the thin strands of living iron that make up the man's hair, still reeling from the name the waitress called him.

Knox moves quickly, not really listening to Rickham as he grabs the waitress by the wrist and drags her down to the floor as Allen continues to approach the police. "Get down on the ground now, Federal Agents!" One of the men shouts, but as Allen keeps walking, the sudden eruption of gunfire fills the diner. Patrons stay cowering on the floor as shotgun shells fly, accompanied by the pinging sounds of deflecting rounds and orange sparks.

Allen moves like an old tank, slow and heavy footfalls as he advances on the first Homeland Security agent, reaching out to grab the barrel of his gun and twist it up, soon snapping it right off. The DHS agent staggers back, and Allen levels a narrow stare at him, followed by a metallic growl. More gunshots strike him in the back, causing Allen to turn in the direction of two agents emerging from the kitchen.

"Hey— hey!" Over the sound of insanity, Knox tries to get the waitress to come to her senses. "Hey!" His eyes wander down to her nametag, then back up to her eyes, "Hey, Wendy." Both hands grip either side of her face as he stays ducked under his table, "You gotta' tell me who's on the phone, girl. Tell me who knows I'm out here?" Tell me why the former president is here and made of iron is also high on his list.

"I— I don't— " She's panicked, crying, clutching the phone to her ear. The fear washes over Knox, causing heightened chemical reactions inside of his body, releasing endorphins and adrenaline, it gives him a stunning high and makes his muscles twitch beneath his skin, fingers tapping reflexively on the side of his jeans.

More gunshots, followed by a scream as body armor proves ineffectual against a solid iron fist to the side of the head. Two DHS agents go flying over the bar, glass shatters, windows are blown out, people are scattering in every direction with their heads down. "He— here— " She chokes out, "take it— " the phone is thrust into Knox's hand, and on the screen he can see the display reads, incoming Call: R.Ajas.

"Who th' fuck is this!?" Knox shouts, watching from beneath the table as Rickham picks up a DHS agent, turns him sideways, and throws him linto two other incoming agents. The old man's a whole lot stronger than he looks.

"My name is R.Ajas." comes the youthful voice over the phone, "Two Homeland Security Helicopters have converged on your position, Benjamin. You and Allen need to head northwest into the field behind the diner while I disable the helicopters." Knox's eyes go wide as he looks up to the metal man, then back to a blank stare as he listens to the phone.

"Who the fuck are you?" Knox blurts out into the cell phone, glancing to the waitress who just stares wide-eyed and confused. The response that comes back is nearly drowned out by the sound of automatic gunfire as one of the helicopters lowers itself down, a machine gun mounted on the front opening fire onto the front of the diner, blowing out what remains of the front, the caliber high enough the stagger Rickham as he stumbles back from the hits, sparks showering off of where they impact his body, clothing torn away like paper.

"A friend. Can't this wait, really?" Taking a tone with Knox, R.Ajas seems a bit impatient. "Now get up and move towards the back door. You have sixteen seconds to get through the kitchen." Knox's mouth opens to form a response, but the whine of the machine gun firing, and Rickham staggering to try and get towards the helicopter makes him reconsider. Maybe it really can wait.

Snatching the waitress' hand by the wrist, Knox bolts up from under the table, using his other hand to grab it by the middle column and just rip it out from the floor like it was made of cardboard. He swings the table around like a shield, for all the good it does as the machine gun's rounds rip through the formica top. Knox quickly releases it, pushing Wendy ahead towards the back door. "Go! Go! Go!" He shouts, phone clutched in one hand.

Wendy crashes through the door into the back of the kitchen, tumbling down to her hands and knees from how fast she's trying to move. Knox hurries in behind her, yanking her up to her feet with one hand as he ducks his head down, bullets perforating the wall, sending a shower of shattered tiles powdering into the air. "Hey! Hey! Ra-man, you still there!?"

"I am, and you're not out back yet."

"Smart-assed son of of a— " Pulling the phone away from his ear, Knox barrels through the kitchen like a bull in a china shop. Uprooting tables, knocking over counters and crashing into carts, sending steel appliances and furniture flying like they all weighed as much as paper, leaving hand-prints and fist-dents in the metal surfaces. All the while Wendy's eyes are wide in shock as she's dragged along, trying to keep her head down from the bullets.

Charging out the back door with Wendy in tow, Knox is immediately buffeted by a strong downdraft caused by the other black helicopter hovering at the back entrance. A man hanging out of the side door levels an automatic weapon across his hip, pointing down to Knox. "Shit— " Knox hisses, "shit, phone boy you better work your— "

A sudden shower of sparks come from the helicopter's controls, followed by an uneven warbling sound of the engine powering down. "Tuck and roll." comes over the phone, and Knox rolls his eyes, sweeping Wendy up into his arms as he rushes by the side of the diner's back lot as the helicopter pitches and yaws, DHS agents hanging on for dear life as the helicopter's electronics all fail, causing the vehicle to tilt towards the ground.

Rotors strike dirt, kicking up a shower of rocks and soil, sending shards of high-velocity metal whirling through the air. Knox leaps up and runs over the hood of a parked car out back, dropping down on the other side of it as he presses his back up against the wheel well, pulling Wendy close to his chest as he wraps his arms around her.

Pieces of the helicopter explode and fly around the car, a piece of the rotor chopping down into the hood, sending a line of steam spraying up into the air from the punctured radiator. Eventually, the debris has settled, the sound of collision and explosion on the other side of the diner doesn't drown out the sound of heavy footfalls crunching down on concrete though. Each thundering step draws closer to where Knox protects Wendy, and as they get too close for Comfort, Knox pushes her away and springs up from the ground to interpose himself between the waitress and—


Knox strtles, faltering as his balled up fist is slowly lowered. Rickham looks like he had been run through a shredder, his clothing tattered and torn, but his body only covered with tiny dents and pockmarks from the gunfire. "Put that down." the old man grumbles, motioning to the fist. Knox swallows a bit awkwardly, letting his hand lower as he looks back to Wendy.

"Hey I— " but she's already running, running as fast as she can away from the diner, and away from the two Evolved that will inevitably be blamed for what happened. He wants to go after her, explain, but what's the use? His head hangs, shaking side to side before his eyes lift up to Allen. "You wanna' tell me what the fuck is going on, President-Man?"

"If you'd pick me up, I could explain." The cell phone politely interjects, eliciting both Allen and Knox's focus towards it. Helicopters just fell out of the sky, a man made of iron just ripped government agents limb from limb. Yeah, sure, what's the harm in picking up a phone?

"Alright, Ra-man," Knox barks into the phone, "you have a whole lot of god-damned explaining to do. How the hell do you know who I am, who were those guys— were they after— "

"Benjamin Washington, born April 18th, 1981. Your phone number was listed in Cameron Spaulding's cell phone directory when I searched it, and your name is on a Federal wanted list as a prison escapee. I'm working on attempting to clear that for you." Knox jerks his head away from the phone, as if the young voice on the other end were suddenly speaking in tongues. He gives Rickham a square look, staring up at him expectantly.

"Just listen." The man of iron grumbles, looking around the field behind the diner. "Talk while you walk," he adds, giving a tug on Benjamin's jacket as he starts to move towards the edge of the parking lot and the empty field beyond, eyes lingering on the treeline in the distance for cover.

"As I said before, my name is Rajas. I'm here to help you, Knox, and in return I'm going to need your help. Allen was supposed to get you out of the diner before the DHS team arrived. That— didn't quite go like I planned." Knox's brows furrow together as he listens to the voice, taking Rickham's lead as he starts to walk across the parking lot past the flaming wreckage of the helicopter, somewhat shell-shocked. It's understandable.

"You were imprisoned until recently in the Moab Federal Penitentiary, and if what we have learned is correct, you may have lost several hours in the escape." Allen glances down to Knox, noticing the look of blank confusion on his face, then slowly back up to where he's walking. "I'm willing to help make all of that go away. But in return I need you to head to New York City, something very big is going on, Knox, and I need you to find Catherine Chesterfield."

Now everything is starting to make sense. The Lioness of Phoenix. Knox relaxes some, looking up to Rickham. It figures, after all, no matter how hard he tries to pull away from Cameron's legacy, it just keeps on drawing him back in. "What's the Tin Man got goin' on about this? An' is he really the ex-almost-president?"

"That's a long story, Knox." The answer is a snarky one, as if the technopath on the other end doesn't have the time. Knox frowns, rolling his eyes again as he looks up to Allen, then down to the parking lot moving by underfoot. "But I guess we'll have a while to acquaint ourselves."

"Yeah…" Knox mumbles, looking over his shoulder to where Wendy ran, sitting her pink apron still retreating down the highway, watching her trying to flag down trucks passing by on the road for help. "Alright, Ra-man, let's hear what's goin' on. How's about you start at the beginning."

"As you wish…" The voice on the other end of the phone responds. "Tell me, have you ever heard of something called the Shanti Virus?"

It's going to be a long walk.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License