Duty Never Sleeps


elaine_icon.gif magnes_icon.gif rickham2_icon.gif

Scene Title Duty Never Sleeps
Synopsis Despite having said he's out of the organization, Magnes Varlane finds himself dragged back into Messiah by an unexpected visitor.
Date June 30, 2010

Gun Hill

Someone is knocking just after one in the morning.

Far beyond the dimly lit night-time rooms of apartment 505 in Gun Hill, just on the other side of the wooden door leading out into the more brightly lit lobby, there is a steady hammering of a closed fist. It sounds more like literal hammering though, lacking the softness that knuckles or the side of a fist can manage. But here in the darkened apartment it's all the same, someone has decided to come and knock on the door at too-late in the morning.

By the time the steady rhythm of the knocking settles on the ears of the apartment's residents, it finds itself drowned out — if only in small part — by the noise of falling rain pattering on bedroom windows, a summer downpour accompanied by the rumble of distant thunder and flashes of lightning visible through partly drawn blinds.

Were it not for the distinctive voice that calls through the door, Magnes would've had no forewarning about who might be calling at this hour of night. But, "Varlane," sounding like it's spoken through the hollow of a tin can implies one man of living metal that is the least likely person to be knocking on this very door.

Duty, it seems, does not rest. Even when that duty has been largely shirked.

Magnes grabs Elaine's arm before she can get up, having felt much better through the day. It's still not a hundred percent, but he's still feeling somewhat fatigued. He rolls out of bed, pulls his jeans on, then quickly slips on his sneakers and ties his shoes. He doesn't bother with a shirt, he heads out, starts unlocking things, then swings the door open. "What is this?"

It isn't the fact that someone's knocking at 1am that bothers Elaine, it's the fact that Magnes is getting up and dealing with it. She frowns a bit as he exits the bedroom, moving to pull on jeans and a shirt as well, moving to stand in the bedroom doorway, peering over to where Magnes is answering the front door. Yeah, she's curious.

Tall, rainsoaked and shadowed by the light behind him, Allen Rickham looks like something out of a sci-fi movie more so than reality. Shrouded in a heavy broan trehcncoat soaked with rain, a matching fedora set atop his head, brim dripping with water, much of his features are hidden. Nearly all of his face is concealed by the red cloth scarf wound around the lower part of his mouth and throat beneath his nose, with coal-black hematite eyes staring down at Magnes.

"We need to talk," comes in a hollowly reverberating tone as he looks past Magnes into the apartment. "I should come in," seems to be a statement unconcerned with Elaine's proximity to the conversation, "it isn't secure to talk out in the hall." Distorted as his voice is, there is something familiar to Elaine about him, about the way he sounds that seems to imply some semblance of recognition, like she's heard him somewhere before.

But that can't be right.

Magnes motions the older man in, then locks the doors and points to the television at the mention of it being insecure. He's not sure if Rickham means Rebel or not, but, televisions are digital! "So what is this about? The message I sent?"

Elaine leans against the doorframe, focusing on the figure for a long moment before looking towards Magnes for a brief second. That… voice? She furrows her brow, trying to place it. She makes no move from her place in the doorway, nor a sound. She doesn't want to disturb, after all, just listen.

Stepping into the apartment, Elaine can hear the floorboards creaking beneath Rickham's weight, she can see that way the dim light on in the apartment reflects shiny off of his gray, pitted skin. Featureless black eyes show no pupils, no sign of attention. But that Rickham is facing Elaine for a prolonged moment with a slow crane of his head indicates that he's at least considering her presence in the apartment.

Leavng a drizzled trail of water in his wake, Rickham moves only a few more steps away from the door before turning to look over his shoulder at Magnes. When he does, there's a grinding creak of metal on metal from the motion of his own body, a veritable tin-man brought to life. "I don't know anything about a message," Rickham attests in that hollow voice, at having been able to see what little of him that she has and study the voice — which is a notable subtle Midwestern American accent to Elaine's keen ears — she comes to a dawning realization that makes absolutely no sense.

He sounds just like Allen Rickham, the man who should have been President of the United States, the man who stepped down before his swearing in and disappeared from public view.

"Your assignment has come in, I came here to deliver it to you." Apparently, also, in front of Magnes' girlfriend? That seems like an odd security choice.

"I told Rebel, because I assumed he was listening, that I'm going to take a neutral stance. I can't do this, it's not me, people could get hurt, and I couldn't live with that. Back in Argentina, in Antarctica… I can't let myself be that person again, I'm not a soldier." Magnes is taking note of Rickham's weight, his gravitational field already existed just in case. He's barely used his ability in days, he's been conserving his energy in case of an emergency while he's weak. But his field doesn't actually change anything yet.

"I'm not betraying you or anyone else, that's not what I'm trying to say. What I mean is…" He takes a deep breath, then lets out a light sigh. "My life is too complicated to make enemies out of certain people, I can't just throw it all away. I'd rather protect the public, the people, and fight criminals, but I can't do what you're all going to do. I can promise I won't go against you, as long as no one innocent gets hurt, I fully intend to be neutral. I'm on the side of the public, they're my concern, can you understand that?"

Elaine chewed lightly on her bottom lip as she watched, brow still furrowed. Sure, the facts don't make sense, no matter how she puts them together, but given all of the strange stuff that crops up around Magnes, she would seriously not be surprised if the man gave Magnes a self-destructing piece of paper and then rode off on a unicorn. She watches Magnes as he explains his position, then her eyes flicker back to the mystery man, searching for a response.

Black eyes narrow slowly and Rickham looks at Magnes as though he just threw up all over his shoes. "You're young, so I'll consider this my responsibility to educate you." Rickham glances over to Elaine, then looks back to Magnes with creased metal brows traced with narrow scars in the form of grooves in the metal. "You talk big about wanting to protect the little people, protect citizens, wanting ot fight villains. But I don't think you know who they are. I don't think you know who you are, and I don't think that any amount of self-searching is going to help you with that."

The deep, bass-filled metallic voice rumbles thorugh the apartment as Rickham takes a heavy step towards Magnes. "The assignment sent for you is a rescue mission. There's a man named Niklaus Zimmerman, Evolved like you and I, captured by the Company two years ago and currently held by corrupt members of the Government so that he can be hooked up to machines and used as a human experiment for the remainder of his life."

Tilting his chin up, Rickham's dark eyes seem hard to discern what they're focusing on. "Gray is going on this mission, and our boss trusted you to be able to come through and help. Because there's going to be soldiers from the Institute where they're going. People are relying on you, Magnes, to pull through here and not back out at the last minute. You want to duck your head in the sand, fine. Maybe Gabriel gets captured, or killed, or worse. You want to let Niklaus stay a prisoner, be experimented on and tortured for the rest of his life so you can sit here and pretend to be a hero? Fine."

Rickham takes a step back, looking across the apartment to Elaine, then back to Magnes again. "But don't go to sleep at night pretending that you're ever going to be a hero, Magnes. Real heroes make sacrifices, real heroes fight when it's necessary, and real heroes know the responsibility that comes with having their abilities."

Magnes is quiet the entire time, not looking the man in the eye as he stares at his shoes, hands in his pockets like a chastised child. He lets it all soak in for a few seconds after Rickham's done talking, then finally asks, "What are the details of the mission, and my function in the group?"

It's hard to tell by Elaine's face if she approves or disapproves of the decision, but she remains in the doorway, glancing between the two figures before she slowly moves back into the bedroom, out of sight. Maybe she's still listening, but at the very least, she no longer wants to be seen.

Were Rickham capable of releasing the tension in his rigid metallic posture he would, but only the subtle change of expression in his dark eyes shows any sign of recognition from Magnes' slouched posture. "Thursday afternoon, there is a freight truck leaving from the Howland Hook facility. Four hour drive to Washington D.C. There you, Gray and Lacombe will meet up with Rosen. Rosen's scouted out the facility where Niklaus is being held, a six story DHS operations center codenamed Building 26."

Rickham turns his head just enough to eye the door that Elaine was standing in, then looks back to Magnes. "There are an estimated fifteen to sixteen other Evolved prisoners potentially held at Building 26, but priority goes to Niklaus. If you can save the others, all the better. Operation is scheduled to begin late at night to minimize security presence. You'll be combat support and extraction. Both you and Rosen can fly and Gray said he has 'other means' of travel. It'll be your responsibility to help prisoners escape and ensure Niklaus' safety and the safety of your team mates."

Rickham's metallic lips downturn into a frown briefly behind his scarf, the creaking groan of metal the only cue, before he glances back to the door Elaine was in and then Magnes again. "Do you have questions?"

"How do we know some of these prisoners didn't do something to be there? Are you saying they're all people who were simply picked up for no reason?" Magnes asks, his primary concern, as usual, being a moral dilemma. "And I have zero intention of killing anyone unnecessarily, I have my own ways of doing things. I'm trusting that the rest of the time are going to work to minimize unnecessary death too, right?"

"That's up to them." Rickham intones obliquely about the risks of death and dismemberment. "Do whatever you want as long as you complete your assignment. As for why these people are there, maybe they did, maybe they didn't. I don't have the specifics, but if they had comitted a crime they would've gone to trial, seen a court. None of these people faced due process, they were unlawfully imprisoned by a corrupt government. I don't think I need to tell you how wrong that is. This isn't quite like the Moab Federal Penitentiary, but it's close enough."

Looking towards the bedroom door, Rickham's attention seems divided. A moment afterward though, he looks back to Magnes intently. "If she asks about this, we can arrange a meeting. If she's like us and wants to help the cause, I'm sure a place could be found for her. If that would help you… having her closer. Not needing to hide everything. I can sympathize with you on that, Varlane. What it feels like to hide the truth from someone you care about…"

"Yeah, I understand, I can do this." Magnes quickly turns his head to the bedroom door, and immediately shakes his head. "No! Claire's already involved, I can't deal with seeing someone else I love leading this kind of life. She knows I do things, I know I can't tell her everything, but, she understands. I don't want Elaine involved in this, at all, I want her to have as normal a life as possible."

Looking to the bedroom door, Rickham's metallic brows crease together and his jaw sets squarely behind his red cloth scarf. "For her sake…" Rickham intones gravely, "I hope that this is all done and behind us soon. If what I saw on June 10th comes to pass, there won't be a place in this world left for people like you and I, Magnes. Not unless you count behind a barbed-wire fence to be a place…" Taking a step away from Magnes, Rickham looks back to the bedroom door Elaine disappeared through one last time, then nods his head slowly.

"Protect her," the grumbling old man of iron comments absently, "protect her and keep her close, Magnes. If she matters that much to you, then you know the lengths a man would be willing to go through to protect the people he loves." There's something telling in that sentiment, and as Rickham starts to turn he hesitates, considering something before looking back over his shoulder to Magnes again.

"Thank you for agreeing to help. Doing the right thing… is never easy. But duty waits for no man, and duty never sleeps."

"Choosing sides is hard, I can never say I've chosen a side, I can always see the good and bad of them all. So this is me, making the hard choice, to choose, at least for now." Magnes gives Rickham a nod, then turns the knob. "I'll rest up tomorrow, I should only need one more day to shake this fatigue."

"If you need more help, serious help, get in touch with Peter. I hear he can fix people up…" Rickham quietly comments, looking at Magnes with those featureless black eyes. Attention is paid one last time to the bedroom door, and then Rickham nods with creaking motion of his head and turns towards the apartment door. His footsteps creak the wooden floorboards again as he walks, each footfall tremendously heavy.

Showing himself out, Rickham's tall frame is silhouette in the doorway only briefly, before he closes the apartment door behind himself with a click, leaving the sound of the rain hammering down outside and the roll of thunder to accompany his departure down the hall, and to accompany the growing silence left between Magnes and Elaine in the apartment.

There may be some explaining needed, after that.

Magnes places the locks back on to the door, then starts heading back to the bedroom. "Elaine?" he calls out, pushing the bedroom door. "Are you alright? I'm sorry about that, just…"

But it seems the redhead's already back in bed, covers and all. Elaine looks up just enough to see him as he enters and she waves a hand at him. "Turn out the light. You'll need to rest."

"You're not freaked out or anything?" Magnes asks as he closes the door behind him, stripping back down to boxers as he slides into bed and under the covers again. "Nothing you want to ask me? I just wanna make sure we're fine."

"What would I have to ask you? I think it was all pretty straight forward back there." Elaine comments, turning over a bit. "You need to get your rest. You don't have your full energy and if you're going to do something dangerous you'd better get as much as you possibly can before that. Besides, you have your secrets."

Magnes turns over to wrap his arms around her waist. "I'm more stressed than sleepy, come on, let's…" Then, before he can even really finish, his weight suddenly diminishes, and he's once again sound asleep.

A peal of thunder rumbles outside, and as Allen Rickham steps out the front doors of Gun Hill and into the falling rain, he retrieves a cell phone from the inside of his jacket. Standing under the edge of the roof, just barely out of the downpour. Pressing one button on the phone with the touch of a gloved finger, he lifts it up to his eat, watching the way the rain falls on the street in silence.

"Rupert," Rickham requests over the line, then waits in silence until a voice picks up on the other end. There's a crease of Rickham's brows, a nod of his head, and one very simple line of information. "You were right, Magnes is back in. We're green for the mission."

"What's next?"

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