Flowers of War



Scene Title Flowers of War
Synopsis Praxis Heavy Industries strikes back against an extant threat.
Date June 5, 2019

If an assassin falls from the sky, but no one is around, does she make a sound?

No, she doesn't.

Lanhua Chen touches down from the starless, overcast night sky without so much as a noise. Her telekinetically projected leap is slowed by the same ability that allows her to rip doors off of vehicles and choke people from a distance. Her soft-soled boots brush against cracked asphalt, wet with a recent rain storm. Behind her, heat lightning flashes in the distance beyond the tall cranes and construction sites of Brighton Beach. Under the dim glow of old street lights, Lanhua dusts herself off and rakes damp hair back from her face and carries on as if she'd just gotten out of a taxi, approaching a four story brick warehouse with boarded up windows and chain-barred doors. There are no vehicles parked along the street here, no signs of habitation save for the nearby purple and teal glow of neon lights spilling through the chain-link fence to Yamagato Park.

Approaching one of the chain-laden doors, Lanhua stops and looks down at the lock, then holds out a hand and shatters it off of the chain with a sudden burst of kinetic force, sending twisted pieces of broken metal clattering to the ground. The door is dented from the impact too, and Lanhua is quick to push the doors open and slip inside the warehouse before anyone is the wiser. Across the street, the security camera in an ATM focuses on the door, then resumes normal function.

Inside the warehouse, Lanhua looks around the darkened, high-ceilinged building. The old concrete floor has split and sagged in the middle, likely due to a structural collapse in the basement. It isn't enough to render an entire hole in the floor, but enough to keep prospective tenants away.

And yet

Someone's run power cables from the junction box across the floor and up a flight of metal stairs. Following the cables, Lanhua shakes her right hand, dismissing a low sonorous hum emanating from her fingertips. The cables snake their way in a circuitous path through the warehouse, then up that flight of metal stairs. She comes to a stop, exhaling a sharp breath through her nose, squinting into the dark at the distant blue glow of computer screens. Then, looking down to the winding path of cables, she continues to advance.

There's graffiti on the walls in the hallway, poorly done tags by numerous vandals over the last decade. This warehouse hasn't seen proper use since the bomb, and it shows in the fissures in the brick wall, the rat shit on the floor, and the smell of mildew clinging to the air. As Lanhua passes a pair of empty, suffocatingly dark rooms she keeps one of her hands up and fingers spread, like a gun held at the ready. The doors pass without harm, though she can't see the night vision baby monitor cameras in them. Their unblinking eyes recording her passage through the corridor.

Past an old, faded piece of graffiti depicting a fiery bird with wings outstretched, Lanhua finds pause. There's a mirror hanging on the wall, cracked down the middle. In the dark, she can just barely make out her own reflection, illuminated by the encroaching glow of computer monitors from whatever room rests at the end of the hall. She's momentarily transfixed, looking into her own dark eyes and the sliver of light reflected in them. Her face doesn't feel like her own, and the dysphoria turns her stomach into knots. By the time Lanhua looks away from the mirror, her jaw is unsteady and tears well up in her eyes.

To push away the intrusive thoughts, Lanhua flexes her hands open and closed, clenched her jaw and breathes in deep through her nose. Anger wells up where doubt and loneliness once took root, and she marches ahead past two more empty rooms to the door at the end of the hall. All of the power cables snake into that room and the sound of computer equipment hums and clicks through the partly open door. There's a biohazard sign spraypainted on the door, a large red FUCK YOU writ large beneath it. Lanhua can see the shadows cast by something in the room, she can hear something — someone moving around on the other side, a chair scuffing.

They're here.

Steeling herself, Lanhua bursts into the room and throws one of her hands out, unleashing a shockwave of kinetic energy that sends a wheeled office chair, three laptops, and a roomba scattering up against the wall. Plastic snaps, glass shatters, brick cracks, and everything in the room lands in a noisy clatter at the furthest extent of her kinetic shockwave. The room goes dark without the laptops running, and the roomba — a casualty in all of this — has an even larger FUCK YOU spraypainted on its back.

Lanhua's chest tightens when her eyes square on a wall-mounted home security camera with a green light showing that it has power. She rips it off the wall with a telekinetic tug, her eyes flashing gold at that use of her power. But it's already too late.

It was too late the moment she walked in the door.

«This is the 91st Military Battalion!» A voice on a bullhorn roars from out in the street. Lannhua can hear the roar of engines approaching from down the street; louder, closer. «Exit the building and surrender yourself or we will use force to detain you!»

It was a trap.

Miles Away

A Panel Van

Somewhere Near Elmhurst

"Gotcha, bitch."

Sitting cross-legged in the back of a van, a woman with teal-dyed hair cracks a mean smile as she watches her camera feed cut to black. Picking up a ceramic mug stolen from the Nite Owl restaurant, she sips a room temperature swig of coffee, then angles a look over at another laptop sitting nearby showing a rainy Safe Zone street rapidly filling with military police vehicles. Snorting to herself, she moves one laptop out of her lap and scoots over to the other, angrily keying in a few commands and then presses her palm to the laptop, eyes fluttering shut.

Windows rapidly open and close on the laptop, screens quickly change. Login credentials are provided, entire blocks of text are composed in the blink of an eye, while the young woman's flick back and forth slowly behind her eyelids. As the process goes on, as video footage is cut and reassembled, as email applications are opened and email addresses of media offices around the country are populated into BCC fields, her smile is only getting bigger.

On the video feed showing the street, the side of the warehouse explodes open in a shower of bricks. Gunfire flashes bright in the night, and a woman dressed in black erupts into the sky, weaving around gunfire. The teal-haired young woman barks out a laugh, as if she had seen the footage with eyes closed, grabbing the entire sequence and adding it to what she was already building. The video is formatted, saved, uploaded to her email server and blasted out to anyone in the media that will listen.

"K thx bai," she says with a crooked smile, right before the driver's and passenger's side doors of the van open. She quickly slaps her laptop shut and spins around, brows raised and smile wide. "Gummi worms?" She asks in a playful demand, and the bearded man who slouches into the driver's seat lobs them over his shoulder into her waiting arms.


Cyrus Karr catches a look at the technopath in his rear view mirror, adjusting it just so. "Did you ring the bell?" He asks her, and she nods while tearing into the bag.

"Oh, she rang it alright," comes the voice of a teenager sliding into the passenger seat, setting a crinkling shopping bag full of cell phones down onto the center console. "There's a bunch of tired journalists who're waking up right now wondering who the fuck they're seeing."

"Language," Cyrus says with a finger pointing to the boy at his side who promptly rolls his eyes so hard they might pop out of his skull. "And buckle up, we've got a long fucking drive ahead of us and I'm not stopping for anything."

"Language." The girl says, tauntingly, and Cyrus looks back at her in the rear view mirror again.

"Hull," Cyrus says to her, "I can dump you and Reed off at the nearest dumpster any time you'd like," Cyrus says with both brows raised. "So you can be with your people?"

Hull, mouth full of gummi bears, just smiles a toothy smile mashed with colorful jelly bears. Reed, confidently, reclines his seat as far back as it will go and nabs a handful of gummi bears out of Heather's pack.

"Drive, chauffeur," Reed says with a wave of one hand and an awkward laugh.

Cyrus Karr has never felt older in his entire life, and he doesn't have time to feel old.

They need to put distance between themselves and New York.

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