Exercises In Apolitical Prejudice



Scene Title Exercises In Apolitical Prejudice
Synopsis Work, work, work.
Date November 4, 2008

A Kitchen

Incapable of hearing him, the cat smells him coming. Liquid hand soap and crisply laundered clothes, a moment before a tendril wraps around the bottom edge of the front door, pulling a skein of black on dark into the living room. It pools across the floor like a cloud of dry ice, inversed and negative, coils and eddies around the kitty's diminutive white feet. He turns around once or twice. The pet's-eye-view of the world shows two dim dustbunnies under the peg-legged chair and a roach on the secondhand baby pen, a glossy black bead against the vibrancy of letter blocks and the one cotton-tummied bear.

The little feline queen cranes her head, tail high, flashes her fangs in a hiss that's silenced before it exits her diaphgram. Equally squelched, the incessant murmur of pre-dawn traffic crawling the tarmac outside and below, the strobe flash of an NYPD squad car coming then fading without audible remark, the driver and partner limited despite their Election Week vigilance. Disconcerted by the silence whining in her inner-ear, the cat leaps out of him and snags a halt on the edge of an endtable with her claws — and that, too, makes no noise. She watches as he coalesces into a crouch on the carpet. Not tall, not large, black hair pulled into a ponytail that bulges out the back of his ski mask.

Soundless, soundless. His footfalls roll across the floor, centered perfectly across the balls of his feet. He lopes into the kitchen and squats in front of the dishwasher, pulls it open.

Organic moisture slops out. Meatloaf crumbs, cereal cling-filth, stale dishwater and congealed saliva. As expected, rising electricity costs preclude doing the dishes every damn night. He appreciates the obligation to pragmatism, though he'd expected as much; the judiciary parole process tends to invoke prejudices, a fact which the convicted perpetrator of a violent hate crime may or may not appreciate for its hilarious and blackly ironic value after she's worked minimum wage for eight months, struggling to support her infant without assistance from its deadbeat father.

Wu-Long pulls out the wire-lattice shelf to select a knife. A sharp one. He takes the handle in a gloved hand, knees the washer shut.

Oddly domestic, he leans over the counter and turns on the faucet. The water bubbles, hits the bottom of the sink without a murmur. He takes a sponge and washes the steel clean, then holds it up against the window to admire the point where the edges meet, lays it across the top of his finger to check its balance. Gorgeous.

This is the best of the four blades he's collected over the past eight hours, though they all have a few similarities. Decent tang, paroled or at least arrested owners. He tucks the thing into his wrist sheathe and slinks back into the living room.

He kicks the cat out, of course: that wouldn't do at all. Re-locks the door, and slips out the same way he'd come in, chases the hapless feline out into the streets, run, run, her horrified caterwauling long out of earshot by the time he drops the dead-zone and sprints through the alleyways. Half-tangible, his footsteps don't crease newspaper or penetrate the scummy meniscus of the gutter puddles; a poor man's version of walking on water. A car swerves, narrowly avoids separating miniature rug from puffed-out kitty.


Morningside Heights was and is still known for its high density of educational institutions. Most of the neighborhood is owned by Columbia University; the rest is shared with Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, the Teachers College, Columbia Greenhouse nursery school, and a variety of religious seminaries.

In addition to places like the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Morningside Park, the neighborhood boasts a variety of restaurants and clubs, excellent bookstores, and Mondel Chocolates, selling handmade chocolate candies even today.

Before the bomb, Morningside Heights was dominated by students. That is still the case today, but their majority is now far smaller — with Morningside being one of the neighborhoods least affected by the explosion, it has become a very popular place to live. Housing is extremely expensive, but people are willing to pay through the nose for a place they know is safe and sound — at least in structural terms. Population density is high; like everywhere else in the city, so is crime, although Morningside's biggest problems are theft and embezzlement. Along with the consequences of college parties and/or pranks.

Partly, she'd caught his eye because she looked like Jennifer Childs. The other exclusion criteria included the predictable things: Evolved, vocally so, Tier 2 if the scorched remains of her Registration card were no lie, a studio address on the edge of Harlem. There had been a fair number of scorched card remains and other obvious markers besides. He'd had to pick one somehow.

He breaks down her door with an axe-kick that leaves splinters chewed out from the frame, hinges turned up, twisted, protruding of metal bent to snapping, the sheet of wood toppled on the floor like a sole fish belly-up. A pleasant surprise: she's awake. She has her back turned, Barnard written across the back of her sweater, composing a breakfast that appears to consist conscientiously of grapefruit and Sweet 'n' Low, her hair dyke-short, an otherwise nondescript white girl whose housekeeping shows all signs of fastidious neatness underneath the lingering traces of a Halloween house party. She doesn't hear him coming until she hears nothing at all.

And wheels around on her slippers, instantly wary. Either she reads the papers or understands that flaunting her membership with various social minorities comes with certain risks. She's educated enough for either to be true. Fear registers; eyes ringed with white, she falls back and watches him as he phases and bounces off her bookshelf, comes at her from the right. Her mouth moves around a multi-syllabic curse; she narrows her eyes and they shoot lasers. Scores the wall, troughing up plaster which showers down, frothy and bright, early snow on her dark hair. He yanks his body into being and cuts her arm. Phases again. Her heart bleats staccato and wretched sweat pops out of her pores. From her left—

—No! Her right—

Her cheek is laid open, from a different angle and with another knife, dovetailed into her little mouth.

She finds her rhythm abruptly and aptly timed. Catches the next incoming weapon with a blink of brown eyes. Blows it out of his hand, sends it flying, spinning, handle over the molten stub left of its blade: a flawless riposte. She doesn't smile back at him: he isn't giving her plight the proper recognition, after all, but the way she's been cut she's almost smirking.

Hurls a vicious beam of light instead, her face contorted around a glare of desperate, impotent rage and unfamiliar effort. She hasn't practiced. Or at least, not for this. Wu-Long jerks aside, and finalizes it through her ribs, grinding it in, up, until she's retching, howling seismic, heaving in agony, her eyes gone black with screwed-tight eyelids and distended pupil. The blade snaps inside her, barely corking up her visceral membranes from sloughing out between her gripping fingers in the liquid mess of this and that. Reeling, she squashes one half of her grapefruit under one bared foot. A hickey shows on the line of her long neck.

He tags her back a few times for good measure, reimagining a little cowardice and vastly superior numbers, a certain lack of expertise to go with the odd evidence, the flawlessly awkward frame job. She falls down stumbling, her face crusted with spittle, gravity nailing her to floor tiles slashed with her own blood. Systemic failure is gradual but total. He takes all of the knives but the one and leans over the sink, takes a sponge — pink — turns on the faucet, and mentally plots out the course to the next one. A young man who, at least to this particular Chinese man, physically resembles Sylar. A photonic manipulator: merely Tier 1. But we can't have those.

The mark after that, he selected with a far less precise algorithm. She transmutes fruit into other kinds of fruit. That is just silly.

Seizing her by the collar of her shirt, he levers her into the air. a sloppy armload, and puts her head on the stove. He turns the dial, hears the promising click click click a moment before blue flame coruscates around the guard before her hair melts, abruptly, brown locks liquefying, wilting into a commensurate volume of puddled, reeking chemistry.


Harlem stretches from the East River all the way to the Hudson, miles of tpacked residential districts filled with refugees and vagrants, a neighborhood stricken with crime and poverty. Harlem was, and has been for generations, one of the urban hearts of New York City. Before the bomb, this borough of Manhattan was the center of the Afircan American community in New York City. Now after the destruction of Midtown and the wake of social devastation brought in by the bomb, the borough has seen better days. Much of Harlem suffers from the same plight as much of New York — Overpopulation and crime in the wake of the collapse of infrastructure in 2006. With major traffic arteries cut off, power and water only recently restored, the area was in chaos for those first few terrifying weeks after the blast.

Before the bomb, Harlem had been shaping up, cleaning up its crime rate and working towards becoming a safe place for its residents. All of that hard work was laid to waste in a single night. Many of the buildings on the southern side of the neighrhood bordering on Central Park were gutted by arson in the chaotic weeks following the bomb, and the vast majority of them haven't been torn down yet, leaving the southern edge of the neighborhood a burned out and dangerous ruin. Even if it wasn't for the fires, the looting, vandalism and crime that spiked shortly after the bomb only made things worse for the Harlem residents, followed by the electricity and water stoppage from the damage done to the city's infrastructure.

With the major highways mostly repaired, Harlem is in a process of reconstruction and revitalization. Most of the neighborhood's historic landmarks still remain, and the region surrounding 125th street continues to be the urban pulse of Harlem as a whole, and from that street it's hard to tell anything has changes. It is the center of the reconstruction movement, constantly packed with repair crews, construction workers and maintence teams.

He has two knives left by the end. He wipes the handles on his pant leg, smearing fingerprints: a layman's effort at covering his tracks. He throws them into the dumpster, overhand, hears them clatter until they land among fetid newspaper and yesterday's lunchmeat. Seeped into the weave of his clothes, he's carrying some blood that needs to be left places. Discriminately. He'll head out when the eight-hour workday has started, he decides. Those citizens now conspicuously missing knives will have embarked on their daily commitment to corporate slavery then.

Pulling himself into the alleyway corner, he dissipates into a seam of shadow between crate and mortar, leaving only his phone tangible and switched to Light Only facedown on the concrete. He can hear the traffic choking on gear changes, the drone of a bi-plane lettering smoke signals in the sky, and a television going too loud through an open window. Tragedies, as miniaturized as the caricatures he's carving: PD on high alert and riot patrol for a fortnight, the polls, the latest newsline inquest into Mitchell's personal affairs or — apparently synonymous — political biases, a disasterous loss for the Patriots, grade school teacher rescues nine-year-old from swallowing a duckling, no bill of health forthcoming on the avian victim, and someone memorable was raped.

Democratic, Republican; animal, human; female, male. Politics. Wu Long is trained too well not to automatically organize the continuous static of the world into individual strains and origins. Occasionally, he wishes he no longer bothered. Lids his eyes and thinks, Words, words, words.

November 4th: Signal to Noise
November 4th: One Of Us, Two Of Them
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