For The Price Of One


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Scene Title For The Price Of One
Synopsis Teo and Gabriel figure out the next move, until fate makes it for them.
Date July 19, 2010

Staten Island: Abandoned School, Formerly St. Joseph Hill Academy

It is hot, some clouds in the sky, making-believe that the weather isn't out to kill them. Seagulls waiting under rafters, Staten's shallow waters reeking stickily of the boom of green algae, beer-tap prices slashed. Promising to be the kind of day that feels like—

You know, a fly trapped in a bottle. Running out of breathable air, and even the not-brain trapped inside its body dawning on some vague and ugly realization of what is happening, as its wings whine faster, then dwindle down whining slower, and the heat trapped in with it extricates water through nonexistant pores, drinking its brittle black body dry through osmosis, and its legs are too short for it to fall to its death when the light finally goes out behind rage-red disco-ball eyes.

The derelict school doesn't have air-conditioning, is all, the cold went out of the cooler's contents seemingly in seconds, and the clone's fear and loathing kind of itches, even with his body locked up (down, technically) with puppetry. Teo is on the phone and frowning a little. "Okay," he says. "Does sound like him. You can put the guy down. Thanks." And he hangs up, looks up, blunt fingers scrawling the ragged thread of his hair. "Apparently, the fucking Doc got his ass arrested last year and winter cleaned out the rest of his hobo buds. Funny how people disappear, sometimes."

Gabriel is over there, becoming a little moody with his impatience, the close confines and the heat of the highschool, ducked into a crouch in the corner with his long gorilla arms limp over jutting knees. Right now, only the knot of his brow betrays any kind of ambient irritation, his gaze lazily resting on the figure fixed supine on the cot — no need for zipties and leashes when, with a thought, Gabriel can force muscles to relax and lie limp on the thin mattress. Resentment could well come off the thing in waves, as it never missing an opportunity to make eye contact.

The tattoo marks at its forearm are still outlined with a sore, angry red, to better reflect his disposition.

Wandering his attention back to Teo, Gabriel doesn't rise from his cornered crouch — leans back into that wedge of walls enough to rest his skull back against it. "Hilarious," he concurs, dryly. "What's your Plan B?"

"Lift Elias' phone number off Abigail and un-arrest him," Teo says, scratching the space between his eyebrows with his thumb. "Or ask the Haitian, Gillian, and Kaylee to help me out. Maybe Parkman instead of Petrelli's girl; he owes Ghost a favor, and resurrecting a guy from death is about as favor as he can get." Technically, the favor is being cashed by someone other than the blithe sociopath in question, but that's a technicality, and one upon which the ghost's return is contingent upon enough that it more or less adds up to the same thing.

By now, the hybrid has ruminated enough over his own selfishness to be at peace with what it is.

"Not that that's a brilliant idea or anything," he remarks, after a moment. He doesn't say, 'Sounds like the makings of a tremendously shitty prime-time television program,' despite that it certainly sounds like one. It isn't a brilliant idea. "There might be others like him, too. I'll have to look. I don't know of anybody else that powerful." His thumbnail streaks a faint glister of moisture and grime down his bearded jaw, and he stares absently at the slow-healing scar on the copy's arm, brow in a furrow.

Gabriel listens, and then rocks forward enough to balance his weight his toes and a hand set against the ground, reaching for where a half-finished bottle of water rests nearby, if not near enough. He remains on his haunches in this manner as he uncaps it, takes a sip, rattles the remaining tepid water inside before flowing up to stand. Approaching the bed, he absently twitches a couple of fingers that has the clone coming up to sit with all the automation and obedience of a robot, a sucking inhale just as involuntarily but nothing to do with Gabriel's actions.

The clone will grip the water bottle like the unfeeling claw hand in those rigged arcade games, probably sputter a quarter of the water it drinks as it's directed to do so. "I have an ability that can give powers, take them away. Because it's a part of me, I could give it tactile telepathy for a while, and— "

And Gabriel makes the mistake of obligingly lowering the bottle, because damply, the clone utters; "It wouldn't work. You can't make me trigger— "

Its jaw snaps closed with a pinch of Gabriel's fingers, emptied water bottle dropping from the clone's puppeted claw, rolling and resting on the bedsheets. "And then I can copy Gillian's power and make it imprint you," Gabriel says, a scathing glance scent the clone's way before he looks at Teo. "It would be temporary and imperfect, but maybe after a while— "

"That would be really great. Fuckin' brilliant," Teo says, obviously impressed, surprised, flattered, among other things that seem too numerous and unwieldy to fit in with the humid compression of the air, and packed deeper, further into the cramped, barely-any elbow-room left by the magnitude of the clone's misery, but Teodoro makes do. He is grateful, anyway. "I'd like to be here a little. If I'm not there enough, I'm sorry to give you another fucking mess to clean up, but," and a shrug rolls through his shoulders. You know.

Justifiable murder still falls close enough into the category of murder for it to be the unifying hobby among the four of them at the old dispensary, and if it's a clone, murder is probably a technical term that barely registers on Gabriel's radar, anyway. He'd called him an 'it.' "Augmented, it could last awhi—"

It's barely there, a ripple in the surface-tension of a scenario and situation that's already partially coagulated in all of the heat and all of the waiting, an instant's wrongness: a flicker of shadow in the hallway's lifting dust that has nothing to do with trapped insects or the grackles complaining to one another absently in Gray's mind's ear.

And then a click, fainter than a gun cocking because they are smart enough to cock their guns outside, of machined metal landing, rolling its neat circumference along the edge of their conversation. Teo is pulling his arm back before he consciously registers why, but it's too late; there's already a—

an ominous hissing sound, innocent in its quiet as murky yellow smoke is ejected into the room in a billowing stream that's startlingly quick to expand, fast and fat like a misshapen balloon, becoming a cloud that grows dangerously hazy dangerously fast. And Gabriel certainly knows what it is, flinging himself back with a ripple of black inkiness crossing over his body as instinct to run surges up from the soles of his feet to dizzied head. Remains solid, however, some animal fear of being unwilling to cross through the cloud of yellow in any form he might take.

He points a finger, and one blast of kinetic energy, silent and subtle, has the canister abruptly hurtling back with a crack of metal, hitting the opposite wall of the corridor and rolling out of sight, trailing yellow in a comical loop of its flying pathway.

The clone, meanwhile, the clone is free of his puppet wires — negation gas is that good, or Gabriel is that startled. He doesn't do much with it, not at first — his slowness in his first few hours sped up into a sharp and frustrated intellect with nowhere to go, but shock is a drug in itself. The clone gasps in, stares at his hands and cringes back in bed, movements pained from this much lying around.

The lingering smoke prickles at eyes and the corners of mouths.

No flashbang. Not a concussion grenade, certainly not a frag, and the gas isn't slaughtering his vision at as alarming a rate as teargas in its various molecular combinations would be, or peeling his lungs bloody from the inside outward, so that leaves a scale of running deductions made even as the Sicilian backstrokes over the dingy, rust-striped cot, scrabbling backward while he gets out his gun and realizes, from the gasp rounded out in the register and cadence of his own voice, that the puppet-strings are cut.

Someone's foot conspires with a wrenching crowbar to burst the window inward, sending balsawood up like confetti, pieces of dirt-scarred glass, and a bulging filtered voice: «Don't move! Don't move!» with radio-chatter ribboning in the background, Unit-alpha confirming Unit-delta, three targets, but maybe it is too blurry in here for them to notice two are identical twins. Maybe. The name 'Teodoro Laudani' is only mentioned once, which is almost, not quite encouraging.

A tazer's leads swizz the air like a forked-tongue at Gabriel's torso.

Punctures cotton and flesh, and a crackle snaps through the audio chaos of the scene in the same rhythm with which Gabriel's back arcs. He'd been running away, for all that something caged has no where to go, and so there's momentum in his twitching crash to the ground, mouth grinning rictus and hands clawing at the ground. Don't move don't move isn't being listened to, unwilling by Gabriel, but—

The clone is moving. The Teo-Twin.

Feet sinking into mattress, the cot almost goes up over its end when his heel comes down on the very edge in a loping step, coming down with a clang as he volts off it and onto the ground. His direction is away from the imploded window, into the doorway concealed with yellow smoke, arm coming up to fold around his face as he powers through aching muscles and stinging air in his retreat, following the haze and hoping for its cover. There are abruptly more people in the room, though, someone all in black and swinging an rifle towards Teo.

«Drop your weapon!» At least they aren't here to kill anybody.


The ghost had had rules about laying down any given weapon before he used it to maim anybody, especially if the only people who might get hurt happen to be Gabriel Gray (can handle it!) and the clone (go back to K-mart, whatever) but the hybrid's only half that man, if man is what you'd describe that behavior as, and stupid gestures of bloody psychopathic machismo don't mean that much to him. His lips twist back, cat-like disgust at this whole situation and the cloying, urine-colored gas it's shaded with. The hole in his cheek roils back with it like the outline of grease boiling at the bottom of a pan.

The .45 flops on the floor like a dead fish, sliding slightly. His eyes cut toward his clone, then back at Gabriel, and his stomach does something funny that has nothing to do with the weird pharmeceuticals poisoning the air; something unaccountably like butterflies. Tamara, she'd said— but there's no way

"I have a green card," he says, about a second before cold metal composite prods into his back, between the shoulderblades.

The clone's freshly tattooed shoulder connects into wall, sparking pain he doesn't register as he bolts down the hallway, coming clear of the room entirely at a wild staggery run. Unseeing and heart pounding, he doesn't see the dark figure that is so abruptly there that maybe it teleported it in, or just came around the corner, or maybe Gabriel made him more retarded than—

Snap. The butt of a rifle goes up and cleanly clocks the clone's chin enough to send his head back on his neck, body falling back in some smooth geometric sweep. Tasting blood and tongue throbbing like it might have gotten severed, he yelps and twitches like a siezure when electrodes pinch into his thigh.

"«I have the target.»"

There's an uncertain beat of hesitation over the radio.

"«Me too?»" says the guy with his gun at Teo.

On the ground, Gabriel groans, back arching in like a bristling cat as smog stings his lungs and clouds his brain, barely remembering what now inaccessible abilities he even has

Teo gets onto his knees and puts his hands on his sweaty-sticky head because that's the next thing that comes crackling out in pointy brackets, while footfalls further through the building echo with the stolid cry: «Clear.» «Clear,» systematic checks of the rooms, low thunder in the locker rooms and then a chittering squawk of some owl roost erupting into a panic. No shots fired. These people are professionals; just not the kind that, apparently, show up with registration and Miranda lines. Not private, either.

They have uniforms.

The next tazer is coming out toward him, grasped in a rubber-insulated hand, no darts ejected for this one, and he makes his move as the gunman behind him shifts backward. Arms out, fast as a snakebite, snatching the approaching glove. Abruptly and absurdly, the full size of the masked operative, adult, male, and physically fit beside, is inverted as easily as a child spinning a rainbow pinwheel on a stick, hefted off the ground and pitched fluidly into the man standing above Gabriel's prone body. Aikido implodes gracelessly into American football the next instant; the Sicilian follows the stranger across the room, arms out, bracketed with the intent of an absurd frat-man tackle.

Gabriel is moving too, now, clambering over the felled operative with little grace and even not that much by the way of enthusiasm, struggling his autorifle out of gloved hands and a knee digging into armored belly. He wins out, in the end, slamming the end of the weapon hard enough into the soldier's face for his mask to twist askew, then down against his throat. The gun's strap is slung up over his shoulder, Gabriel moving for the broken mouth of the kicked in window, arms out as if swimming.

He needs some fucking air, is what he needs, and is selfishly pursuing it even as Teo tackles down the second soldier in the room. And out in the hallway, for the second time in his very short existence, the clone is being sedated for one of those movie scifi coffins they brought special.

On the other hand, European football was not a comparatively elegant sport, outside the actual sport itself. The jumble of limbs, elbows, helmets cracking into his bearded chin— that reminds him of something like childhood, the mess, the rush, the crunch, the stupidity of it. The handgun is waving in the air behind him, but the man doesn't pull the trigger; even with high-quality armor, training dictates an operative does not fire upon one's own people, and that's hard to forget in a textbook combat situation.

Less textbook up-close, and with newer training to go with the non-lethal weaponry. A man with a tazer unknots himself, remembers that they're well-insulated enough to risk a charge going awry, so he twists his arm, pushes button, something like a warcry or a straightforward curse rattling out with a squeaking note of static. Metal prongs find the edge of Teo's pant leg, but that's enough; the discharge sends a bridling yell out of the Sicilian's lungs, electricity snarling knots into his fingers and cutting his knees out from under him, shorting out wherever his hands meet the bulk of their armor.

«Cover the window! Cover the window! Medbay window! Suspect is escaping!»


«No, target is secu—»

There are silhouettes converging like smoke-drunken flies on Gabriel's periphery, anyway, men in dense protective gear thundering toward the window under the smarting glare of sunlight.

Bullets like firework crackers, a wild flare of muzzle flash and tearing projectiles, is enough to stave off the rush of black shadows out the corners of his eye as the autorifle jumps and jerks in his hands when he squeezes the trigger. The ground explodes in plumes of dirt and rubble in an attempt to track his run as Gabriel dives for thicker bramble, heart pounding hard enough to feel its leap in his throat, his temples, as long legs carry him fast down grassy hill and into the thick of rural Staten Island where tree cover is some kind of blessing.

Even more of a blessing is the way an ankle twists beneath him and he tumbles nearly headfirst into the sudden steep of ditch, knotted with branch and twig with a dry bit of summer-starved forest ground to crash into, sharp and crackling like Christmas paper.

Can practically feel through the ground, the thunder of feet, and his clawing scrabble through the brush is as cowardly and efficient as any scurrying roach under a beam of light. Teo and not-Teo are temporarily forgotten, some corner of his mind checking 'come back later' but it's basically a formality in his effort to flee.

Hot summer air feels sharp in his lungs, but blessedly free of smoke. By the time the soldiers are making a far more graceful descent down the ditch, blank ink is winding into the nearest warren.

Mama Duck is spared the potential indignity of a Baby Duck audience because the latter is watching the soupy meniscus of a tranquilizer dose sink under the plunger, a needle in his neck, his view a blurry peripheral slice and growing blurrier by the moment. There is a rolling ache in the wall of his mouth, and he doesn't know whether it's because his scar is being a bitch of Kozlow-ruined nerves on its own, or because his head is being ground into the floorboards under one bastard's big stupid, steel-toed foot. Compared to that, the hypodermic's sting is barely anything.

He tastes sterile dust and sweaty heat, and his other arm, twisted around him, is twitching a vehement grip on something he can't see from here. At least, until someone kicks his elbow in the funny-bone.


After which he has no idea what that hand is doing at all. He snarls something rude, naturally, Excuse me, little prick, I need to escalate to somebody with the authority to smite you, but the truth is, he's glad he's going to be out for this: the box they'd been slinging the nerveless pile of clone into had looked claustraphobically small. So, probably, whatever burlap sack or makeshift crate they'll wind up sticking this unexpected spare target in is going to make that look like a Four Seasons suite.

It takes the Institutional shitbag what feels like a crassly long time to stop standing on his fucking head, and maybe by way of apology, that's the first part of him that they peel off the floor. Checking his eyes. Blah-blah concussion, enunciated in the weird, syllabically-distended garble of a submerged voice distorter, and the visored face peering into his is getting runny waxmelt, too, and the sunshine coming in the broken window is bending concave. Teo can not believe this was Plan B. He should measure situational deterioration on smaller increments next time, he thinks.

It is the last thing he thinks for awhile.

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