erling_icon.gif tavisha2_icon.gif

Scene Title Caged
Synopsis Erling sends his prized trophy out on an errand.
Date July 9, 2017

Staten Island

There are few things in the world more beautiful than a perfect sunset, although that’s something of a subjective term. Most people would agree that the sky is at least pretty this evening, bruised indigo with clouds that seem to glow neon pink at the edges. White fingers of lighting touch down over the stretch of water between Staten Island and the ruins of what was once Manhattan.

The goshawk caged in the rooftop shed, surrounded on all sides by thick mesh wire, can sense the impending storm in the air and smell the distant but distinct scent of rain on wet pavement on the wind, even if it hasn’t reached Staten Island yet. The urge to spread his wings and seek out the summer thermals is overpowering, and it’s a crime that he can do nothing about it.

Well. It’s not really a crime. Not very many things can be considered a crime in this particular corner of New York City. Maybe in the Safe Zone, which Tavisha has only heard stories about, there are laws against imprisoning men in the bodies of birds, and birds in dingy cages lined with straw.

He can only watch as the sun sinks beneath the horizon and the first drops of rain land on the shed’s tin roof, ringing in his ears like a song— or a taunt.

Thunder warns of its approach at the same time the door to the roof booms open and a tall, lithe man dressed in a perfectly-pressed blue suit stalks out into the open. Tavisha knows Erling Olsen well, because it’s Erling Olsen who put him here. “It’s me,” he’s saying into his cell, tone prickling with irritation he couldn’t hide even if he wanted to — and he doesn’t. “Big development. Want to tell you all about it, so maybe you should pick up your fucking phone.”

Erling weaves his way between rows of pigeon coops, kicking at the gravel and downy feathers underfoot. “Asshole,” he mutters within earshot of the shed as he makes his approach.

Tavisha doesn't dream, when he sleeps. Sleep comes with exhaustion only, and it sinks him somewhere deep and black. So he does his dreaming while he's awake, and he dreams of things like flying, and full moon nights on black waters, and cigarette smoke and human flesh, and sinking hard little predator claws into soft eyeballs and tearing.

He stops at the sound of a human voice, and then resumes as Erling comes closer. With his clever little goshawk beak, he continues plucking the weathers from his wing, his breast, his legs, the motions of grooming turned destructive and mindless.

Maybe mindless. He thinks he started doing this for a reason. He'd tried not to eat, but couldn't quite will himself into starvation. So instead, tufts of grey and brown and white feathers litter the space around him. A few longer feathers with thick strong quills lie like fallen leaves in the down.

Erling raises an arm, using it to shield his face and oily, slicked-back hair from the rain. For someone who spends as much time on this roof, tending to his birds, he’s strangely finicky and vain when it comes to the weather and its effect on his appearance.

“Hey, buddy,” he says to the hawk in the cage. He taps the fingers of his opposite hand against the mesh as if trying to get Tavisha’s attention, but the gesture is more a display of power than it is practical; he can already sense that the hawk has taken notice of him, and Tavisha knows it.

“Don’t look so glum. Got a job for you.”

Tavisha stops, turning his fierce glare through the mesh. Wispy pieces of white downy feathers remain caught and pinched in the grey hook of his beak, almost comical. Where his feathers wear thin, pink skin only just shows through. Blood speckled.

It's not the most convincing act of defiance.


“I’ll bet,” says Erling. He curls those fingers into a fist and pounds it against the side of the shed with enough force to rattle Tavisha’s roost. Now you listen, he thinks at the hawk, and Tavisha feels the cold, snakelike touch of the other avian telepath’s ability curl at the edges of his psyche.

The pigeons in their coops feel it, too. Hundreds of little pink feet shuffle, shifting weight from side to side, wings trembling anxiously. Some of the higher-strung birds take flight from inside their cages, bump, and flutter against the mesh walls in a misguided attempt to escape (what is in their tiny minds) the presence of a predator slithering among them.

The thunder doesn’t help.

I need to find someone, Erling directs, and an image of a tall, trim woman with angular features and a mop of dark, tousled hair opens in his mind’s eye like a new flower coming into bloom, but Tavisha knows her name before his captor shares it with him. Colette Demsky. She’ll be here in a few hours, if she isn’t already. Military snagged a friend of hers, goes by Avi Epstein. I know the who and the what, but I want the how and the why. Real big client. Details count.

At the slamming of fist to structure, Tavisha's feathers puffed, head ducking, beak opening in a way that's almost comical, the way fixed bird expressions tend to be. No sound comes from his black little gullet, wings crooking into a warning stance. Doesn't matter.

Posture helps hide some things, like the way he feels like his tiny, hammering heart skips a beat. Memory rises to the surface as if it had been loosened from chains, just visible, and it brings back more than just a name. Memories of light, and water, of hands spread behind yellow discs of light, of motes like fireflies drifting in the air.

Pigeons shuffle with added unease as he automatically stretches his consciousness towards them, the instinct to scatter powerful, but he catches himself in time.

You can’t run, Erling reminds him, sensing Tavisha’s reach expand. He pushes back against it with his own ability — stronger perhaps, if only just, by the virtue of having a human body. I’ll find you, like I always do. Maybe put you in something smaller. Hummingbird could be fun next time.

He unlocks the shed with the set of keys he keeps in his coat pocket and flips the latch. “You know what the lifespan of a wild hawk is?” he asks, out loud even though there’s no one else on the roof to hear him. “Neither do I, but it ain’t shit. I own you. Don’t forget.”

As if he could.

Erling creaks open the shed as the wind picks up, taking some of Tavisha’s discarded feathers with it. “If you’re not back in three days,” he warns, “you won’t like what happens when I come a-lookin’.”

His psychic presence retreats, creeping back into the periphery to join the other minds Tavisha is aware of: pigeons, all. He’s fortunate that his captor lacks the finesse to access his memories; if he did, the door to the shed might still be shut on account of Tavisha’s conflict of interest.

But memories are all he has, and even if Erling Olsen has never shown the ability to do more than control, Tavisha compulsively guards them, kicked back into the shadows whenever he's near. Memories of people, alive and dead, dot the landscape of his mind between the ever increasing amount of memories that involve eating insects out from under tree bark, feasting on steaming roadkill, sleeping in the rain. And more recently: a cage, and a tether of fear that binds him to it.

So he's quiet as Erling reaches towards the flock around him, not trusting his own ability to gather his wits. He hops in his cage, talons gripping mesh, fluttering back down, restless. Strands of hay and feathers shift.

Colette. Would she even remember who he was? He tries to keep nervous anticipation out of his tone when he asks— What do I do?

He thinks he projects his voice in a way that sounds subservient. Maybe bored. Maybe.

Erling glances back down at his phone. The screen is dark, no missed calls, no new messages. Tavisha sees tension in the man’s brow and in the veins of his neck where there wasn’t before. He might even be starting to sweat.

“Fly,” he suggests crisply. “Locate Demsky, tail her. She’ll want to know what stupid stunt Epstein pulled and why flashing his credentials didn’t win him the old Get Out of Jail Free card. Gotta say I’m curious, too.”

He slips his phone back into his coat pocket, along with his keys. “You do it good and you do it quick, I might even let you roam a bit. That you’d like.”

Who wants to know?

It's impulse that has Tavisha asking, clawings dragging through the mess of feather and shit that makes up the surface of his cage floor. Aggression smoothing out, anticipating flight. Beneath the turmoil of recognised names, seething hatred, the prickles of pain where he removed fresh feathers, the desire to launch himself into the sky is familiar and strong. Even if it's at the whims of this man.

He adds, real casual, About some girl.

For a moment, Erling looks like he might try to deflect the question. Maybe it’s the offhanded nature of Tavisha’s tone, or maybe it’s because he knows the truth is more useful for his eyes and ears than a lie. Whatever the reason, Tavisha has no reason to believe he’s lying when he says, “SESA. So don’t fuck it up.”

Erling gets one last, bright yellow glare, cocked upwards and quizzical, before Tavisha hops to the edge of his roost, and launches himself forwards without another word. Pigeons shuffle with reflexive unease at the predator swoop that darts like an arrow off the rooftop, plunging into wide open space.

Yeah, Gabriel Gray, he thinks to himself. Don't fuck it up.

Warm summer air carries Tavisha high into the sky. Erling stands at the edge of the roof, watching him rise up, up, up until his shape is indistinguishable from the dark clouds above. Rain glances off his wings and back, increasing in its weight and intensity the further the wind takes him from Staten Island.

He has no other predators to worry about. There are few birds larger than he is, and none of them are brave enough to take him on or even join him in the open sky during a storm. It’s a little like the way things used to be back when he was a man with the same sort of reputation that hawks have among songbirds — or anything small enough a hawk can catch in its claws.

Below him, the New York Safe Zone glitters in an inky sea of black. Street lights illuminate distinct avenues and boulevards in the districts that are more heavily trafficked than the abandoned sections of the city, which threaten to swallow whole anything that gets to close. There are no lights over Manhattan. Not even a flicker.

It’s been years since anyone spoke Colette’s name to him, and longer since he’s seen the girl— or woman, depending on how much time has actually passed.

Everything bleeds together.

Everything save for the details below him, details he can scope with his impossibly detailed vision, even in the semi-dark of coming nightfall. The image of Colette telegraphed to him through shared telepathy is the one he can cling to while his memories swim around for something more concrete, and sharp predator eyes are quick to identify movement, faces, silhouettes as he looks for someone on the move.

Which doesn't mean he can't enjoy his liberty. He feels weak but ready, brittle bones stretching brittle feathers as he soars, and it's only when he starts looking for something to eat that he snaps himself to attention.


Erling should never have sent him out in a storm. Tavisha’s wings strain against the strengthening wind. The last thing he remembers is the sensation of energy gathering in the air, alive and electric in the gaps between his feathers, followed by a flash — and maybe there’s an instant where a part of him wonders whether this is Midtown all over again.

It isn’t.

The world goes white, then black. He’s falling—



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