Buyer's Remorse


chess3_icon.gif ryans4_icon.gif

Scene Title Buyer's Remorse
Synopsis Chess meets Ben Ryans as he struggles to learn how to use his old? new? ability.
Date October 14, 2019

Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone


The memory of the transfer was still fresh in his mind, the excruciating pain that came with it made sure he wouldn’t forget. He still felt raw and his emotions a tangle, which was causing a bit of havok in his room. How many things had been knocked off their perches in a surge of guilt and anger at what he had done.

Still the ability was out of his reach when he wanted to use it. He had his old memories… or most of them. He remembers what he did to make things lift before, but… this wasn’t his ability. While it felt so similar, familiar, but it didn’t work quite the same and his old knowledge wasn’t helping him gain control.

An apple is an apple, but no two were shaped alike or fit in your hand the same.

His mind was having a hard time grasping this.

Speaking of apples…

“Come on.”

The words are growled between gritted teeth, as blue eyes stare at an apple sitting in the center of the table. Brows furrowed in concentration as it shakes and shudders, but eventually starts to lift. Almost as soon as it starts to lift, the apple drops suddenly and tumbles across the table. It comes to a stop at the edge, as an explosive sigh of frustration leaves the man sitting before it.

It was a common area, filled with seating for those who want to socialize. He was perched at the edge of one of the many couches, the apple sitting on the coffee table in front of him.

Socializing is not something Chess really ever seeks to do, which might be why she hasn’t met Ryans — or most of the people in Praxia — yet. If she’s been seen, it’s probably been at a distance. Maybe on a jog or throwing knives at a target outside. She wears her lone wolf status like a badge on a jacket, except that sometimes she’s with Alix.

She peers into the room, clearly looking for something — someone — and Ryans isn’t it. Still, she lingers for a moment, watching him have the staring contest with the apple.

“If you’re trying to have a staring contest, try a potato. They have eyes,” Chess suggests, wryly. “They don’t blink, though, so you’ll lose every time.”

It isn’t easy to startle a man like Ben, but Chess manages it only because his full attention is on getting his ability to work. There is such a ruckus, as suddenly the table and various pieces of furniture move around him. The sudden movement pushes the apple to finish it’s journey to the floor, where is rests rather pitifully.

Ryans casts a look of irritation as the offending furniture, before pushing to stand and retrieve the apple. “Maybe it would be less stubborn about cooperating.” The apple is set on the coffee table again, but he doesn’t sit just yet. “I forgot how frustrating learning an ability could be.” Literally forgot, he doesn’t say out loud. “Lanhua, right?”

Chess blinks as things rattle and roll, including the apple. Her eyes rest on that for a moment, mind turning over that whisper she got that pushed her into deciding to join Adam out here far from friends and one family member. She’s of course surrounded by more family members, all strangers but for Alix.

She looks like she might make another quip when he says the name Lanhua and her mouth closes again. She shakes her head, a strand of blond hair (that might serve to help differentiate herself from the other clone) falling into her eyes. An impatient hand pushes it back.

“No. I’m Chess. I haven’t seen Lanhua much since I got here,” she says instead. “You drank some of the Kool-Aid, did you? Hopefully you won’t grow a second head or a tail or something.” Apparently she’s not too keen on this mad science.

“Chess. Right.” Ryans repeats the name with a nod, a touch distracted by the apple and it’s placement. “Ben Ryans,” He offers in return, moving to nudge a chair back into place.

The comment about the Kool-aid gets a rough laugh that lacks all the humor. “I’m sure there are plenty back home who think that.” Benjamin is pretty sure his family is wondering what Adam did to make the old man leave.

Ryans moves to settle on the couch again, but he doesn’t try to lift it again. Not yet. “Well, Chess, not everything is what it seems,” he offers freely with a shrug. “He and I go back a long ways. Vietnam war actually… or what I remember.” He motions to his head, with a smirk. “There are still blanks, but it’s coming back.”

Her brows draw together, perhaps doing a little bit of mental math to try to match Ryan’s appearance up with the dates of the Vietnam War. But then Joy looks her age, so appearances are deceiving.

“I meant more with the power stuff than falling into the cult of Adam’s personality. If you’re learning a new ability,” she explains. “Bad metaphor, probably.”

She enters the room far enough to perch on the edge of a sofa arm.Talking from the doorway is probably impolite. “Nothing’s ever as it seems, so no surprise there. But yeah, I left a few folks behind to come here who would rather see him dead than not.”

Chess nods to the apple. “So, telekinetic? I”m just kinetic kinetic,” she quips, regarding her own power.
There is a soft ‘Ah’ from Ryans as she explains her meaning, studying the young woman as she moves further into the room.

“Telekinesis,” Ben affirms quickly enough. “And I admit it might have been a snap judgement.” He sounds a bit sheepish about it, but at least he’s being honest. “I was telekinetic before it was ripped from me a long time ago.” He lifts a hand and concentrates on the apple, brows furrowing. It doesn’t last long, before he signs again and lets the hand drop. “But this one is different then my old one.”

Picking up the apple he studies it, before adding, “It’s like losing your limb and having to learn to use a prosthetic..” He should know. He tosses the apple up. Just before it comes down, it stops. It doesn’t last longer than a second or two, just enough time to be noticeable. Then it drops again, caught easily enough by the old man. “There’s a steep learning curve. What I know about telekinesis doesn’t exactly match up to what is happening.”

“Buyer’s remorse, hm?” Chess asks, watching the apple as he manipulates it.

“I’ve only been very briefly without my power. Don’t like that much, feels too… “ one hand comes out of her leather jacket to gesture vaguely before settling on the word “hollow.” There’s a shrug — it’ll do but might not be quite what she means.

“Kind of funny, given it pretty much ruined my life.” The words are said matter-of-factly, clearly not spoken in any sort of attempt to wrangle any sympathy or pity from the man she’s speaking with. “I guess it could’ve been worse.”

The jury’s still out on that one, her expression seems to say.

There is an actual chuckle from the old man. “Buyer’s remorse?” A look is cut her direction and Ben turns thoughtful. “Not sure, yet. I thought I’d feel more myself.” There is clearly a ‘but’ in there, however, he doesn’t share.

“But, hollow is a good word for it,” Ben agrees.

He studies the young woman for a moment, the apple twirled between the palms of his hand. A bit of a fidget. “I think a lot of people share that sentiment about their ability. It ruined their lives, yet they couldn't imagine life without it. I knew many of those types on Pollepel Island. They fought and died for their rights to be who they are.”

There is a pause, before Ryans bluntly asks, “So I can’t help but notice, you may be having your own remorse for ‘drinking the Kool Aid’… as you said. Why did you come to Praxia, Chess? Searching for something?” Something says that was probably his motivator.

She watches the apple rather than his eyes while he studies her. Brows draw together at the mention of people fighting, dying, for the right to exist.

His question to her draws her eyes back to him, and she lifts a shoulder. “I haven’t drank the Kool-Aid,” she says. “But… well. You thought I was Lanhua. That’s a part of it. There’s more to it, but I’m not sure how much of it’s mine to tell.”

Her mouth twists a little. Not being straight forward doesn’t come naturally to her, no matter how terse she is. “No offense. It’s… complicated. I think things with Adam are always complicated, from what I understand.”

Chess juts her chin at him. “You’re not immortal too, are you? You look pretty good for being … what, at least 70 or so?”

“Complicated?” That brings about a flicker of amusement. “Alright. I understand complicated.” His entire life revolves around complicated. “Especially, when it comes to Adam.”

Of course, the idea of him as an immortal gets a chuckle out of Ryans. “But no, I’m not immortal. Though they retested me for the Suresh gene, cause no human could survive half the things I did.” The smile slides away as the guilt settles in. “When I worked for a group called the Company I helped a target get away. His idea of payment was turning back the clock.” His tone says he might not have been given a choice and wasn’t thrilled with it.

“I still feel every one of those years, though. It changes the body, but not the mind,” Benjamin continues a bit contrite.

The word Company earns him another rise of one brow. Clearly Chess is familiar with the name. “Yeah, I remember them. I’d’ve been in Level 3 if it weren’t for Praxis or maybe Yamagato. Which of the two is responsible for what aspects of my life I’m a bit hazy on.”

She doesn’t sound particularly thankful to either.

“So why are you here now? Just to get some mojo back?” she asks, in her usual terse manner — not that he knows what’s the usual for the young woman. “What’s the cost of that, do you think?”

“Answers,” Benjamin offers gruffly, looking back to the apple. “Same people wiped out a significant number of years from my memories and gave me false ones.” Simple right? Maybe. “While many of them are coming back, Adam has the answers I need to who I really was. The rest is a bonus.”

Benjamin is quiet, considering the rest of Chess’ questions, his gaze on the fruit. “I don’t know the cost, yet,” he says finally, blue flicks her way briefly. It wasn’t something that was setting well with him, but… he tolerates it. Or he wouldn’t be there.

The apple starts to slowly lift upwards again, dipping once. The trajectory is a hand that reaches out to snag it. The apple safe in his hands, a breath leaves him in a rush of relief. And for a moment, Ben starts to feel the first glimmer of hope. “Adam was my best friend once, they made me see him as a monster. Made him a monster.” He turns and offers her a bit of a smile. “I see the old him in there. I trust him.”

Chess reaches for her own preferred worry stone of sorts, pulling out the baseball she keeps tucked in one of her jacket pockets. She rolls it in her palm as she listens, her gaze canted off toward the middle of the room, though clearly her focus and part of her mind are not in that direction.

His final words draw her attention back to him, and there’s something in her that resembles a recalcitrant teenager being given a lecture. “Yeah? Did he send anyone to murder you?” she asks, the implication that he’s done just that to her.

But she lifts a hand as if to wave away her remark. “Sorry. Trust is a tough one. I’m working on it,” she says wryly.

“Did he now?” Benjamin asks curiously. That, admittedly, wasn’t what he expected from her in return. “And yet here you are,” Ryans finally points out. “Giving him every opportunity to take you out, just for answers.” Brave girl. “Good first step.”

His gaze drops to the ball in her hand, watching her fidget with it thoughtfully. Curiosity wins over finally and he asks a question he’s been wanting to ask. “You said that you were a kinetic? How so?”

“Brave or stupid. I get those two mixed up a lot, I’ve been told,” Chess says wryly.

“Kinetic Kinetic. Just a joke,” she says, putting the ball back in her pocket. “They called it kinetic manipulation when they registered me.”

She looks around, catching sight of a trash can and going to it, picking up a balled-up piece of paper from the top, tossing it a couple of times in her hand, as if to test the heft of it — not that it has much. The third time it goes up, she lofts it a few feet higher in the air where it explodes. The bits of burning paper curl and turn to ash before they fall to the floor.

“Can’t do it with just my mind, though,” she says with a nod to his apple.

There is a way that the old man studies her actions, a slight narrowing of eyes and a tilt to his head. Eyes watch the ball of paper, uncertain of her plans for it, which means he’s caught off guard by the small explosion. There is a moment of silence where he watched the pieces float down in stunned silence, before Ben lets out a low whistle. It was pretty impressive.

“That is some ability.” Motioning to the space the ball of paper once occupied, Ryans asks, “Are you building up the kinetic energy within the object before you can set it off?”

She nods. “That’s what they told me, anyway. All I know is I can make objects go faster or explode, depending on how long I charge them, what I want them to do.”

Chess pats the pocket where she slid the baseball. “I tend to always carry a few tricks up my sleeve. Or in my bag. I, um,” she smiles a little wryly, “blew up a car with a hubcap once. But they were human traffickers, so it’s fine, right?”

Possibly it would have been better to let the police arrest them. She doesn’t seem to feel too much remorse.

“I don’t know if it helps,” she says, with another jut of her chin in his direction, “but I sort of imagine what I want to happen while I’m charging them… or at least I did when I was still learning how to use it. Visualization helps, until it becomes second nature, anyway.”

Sinking back in the chair, Ryans gives a low chuckle at the mention of the traffickers. “You won’t find any judgement here,” he rumbled out amused, “I would’ve done the same thing if I had your ability.” He’s done far worse without.

When it comes to the advice on his ability, Benjamin is quiet for a moment, “That may be something to try. When I had telekinesis back in the eighties, it felt like just another limb, it just worked. Felt natural.” What did that say about now? Fingers drum across the arm of the chair he is sitting at, attention shifting to the apple again.

Chess doesn’t say the obvious — that it probably doesn’t feel natural because it isn’t. She watches for a moment, before straightening out of her lean and tucking her hands into her pockets.

“I don’t know what learning a different power — or a different version of the same power — is like,” she admits with a shrug of her shoulders. “But maybe it’s trying to use it in the same way that’s making it hard. It’s like… well, apples and oranges. You’re trying to use the apple when you now have an orange.”

She juts her chin at him. “How is it different? And how might the differences change how you have to control it?” It’s not rhetorical.

Slowly, Benjamin shifts forward on the chair again, arms resting on his knees and hands clasped between them. Thoughts turn inward as he tries visualizing, instead of trying to grasp the apple. However, it doesn’t move. The old man’s head shakes. “I use to just… do it.” He sounds frustrated. “I just think about lifting it and it would. This is just… I don’t know.” Eyes narrow slightly as he tries to grasp how to explain it.

“Fuzzy? Like I can’t quite focus on what I’m doing, no matter how I try.” Ryans throws up a hand, as he finds what he is trying to say. “It feels unfocused.” Though as he says it he wonders if that is right. “My old ability was, literally, like I had a third arm. Unless…” Something occurs to him and his attention falls back on the apple. “When I had to lift something heavier…” Ben trails off, fingers curling and uncurling.

A hand is slowly extended, palm turned upward. Benjamin’s brows furrow as he focuses on the apple. When his hand rises so does the apple. It doesn’t drop, it doesn’t wobble. It simply rises. When it reaches a point above the old man’s head, he lets the hand drop. In response, the apple wobbles and drops… forcing Ben to throw his hand out and bring it to a halt again midair. The old man looks surprised and purplexed all at once, the apple continues to hang there oblivious.

Ben had definitely been looking at it all wrong.

Chess is about to say something, but she sees that something has clicked into place for him, and watches, one brow lifted curiously to see what happens.

“I was going to say, stop thinking about it as if you had a third arm and maybe think about moving the space around the apple, but whatever you’re doing, looks like you got it figured out,” she says with amusement.

“Sometimes to make things work, you gotta think of why they don’t. You know the keyboard is deliberately inefficient? When they laid it out like alphabetical, the typists were too fast for it and all the hammers stuck together. So they had to come up with the QWERTY configuration to slow them down a little,” she says, finding her baseball again and holding it in her hand for a few seconds before throwing it — straight out and away from herself.

Halfway across the room, it does a U-turn and comes back to her, caught in her hand with a satisfying thwack.

“It’s a little obsolete now, because of computers, but I guess it’d be weird to change it now.” She glances at him, brow lifting again. “You probably actually used a typewriter at some point, huh?”

There is a way in how Ben watches Chess show off her ability, studying her use of the baseball, watching it boomerang back. He had to admit it was impressive to watch and coupled with the ability to explode things. Of course, she has to mention typewriters.

Laugh lines deepen as Ryans’ smile pulls to one side in amusement, “I remember typewriters.” He assures, recognizing the fact that he is indeed old. “You’re not wrong either. It’s like the keys are all mixed up and I have to learn to find them again.”

Looking at the bruised and battered apple in his hand, Benjamin turns thoughtful, “Instead of another limb,” fingers loosen from around the apple, as his other hand comes up with fingers slightly curled. When the hand drops away from the apple, it floats there. “I have to imagine it as an actual extension of my own hand.” As that hand moves, so does the apple.

After a moment longer, the apple wobbles and dips before dropping again. A sigh escapes from the old man’s nose. “Well, it’s a start anyhow. Thank you.” A glance shifts to the young woman. “Sometimes, two heads are better than one.”

“Hm,” Chess says, watching his demonstration, then lifting a shoulder at his thanks.

She rolls the baseball against the outer seam of her pant leg. “I sometimes wonder if I could eventually use mine without having to touch it, but I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet, if so. I need the connection to be able to manipulate the energy… but I’m not sure why.”

She shrugs again, then tilts her head thoughtfully. “I’d maybe see if thinking of it as an extension of your body in general would work… that way if you’re stuck without the use of your hands, you’re not screwed, yeah? What happens if you’re tied up, you know?”

Her free hand makes a gesture. “Prestidigitation,” she says, pronouncing the word slowly. “I think that’s what it’s called… I think it’s kinda like training wheels. You probably don’t have to do the motions to get it to work, but it’s easier with them.”

Her head tips in the direction of the door. “I should find Alix. It was nice to meet you, Ben Ryans.”

What if he was tied up?

That was a very good question and one worth thinking on, Ryans head nods slowly in recognition of its importance. “You have a point.” She really did. Still determined to solidify his grasp on his newish ability, he leans forward to right the apple again, clearly intent on practice.

Pausing mid hand lift, Ben offers the young woman a small smile, “It was a pleasure to meet you Chess. I’ll see you around.”

When she slips out of the common room in search of her sister, the apple is already making its way back into the air, with a bit more confidence then when she first stepped in.

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