If I Follow Along


deckard_icon.gif niles_icon.gif

Scene Title If I Follow Along
Synopsis After one last hellish night on Staten, Deckard leads Niles out into the pit of Midtown. There a casual exchange uncovers some unexplained holes riddling their current predicament. Crap.
Date May 17, 2009

Hotel California

An hour's walk into the lifeless waste of Midtown's still heart, an eviscerated office building rises dark from the desolation. Blackened steel struts jut from the exposed floor that doubles as a roof like snarled teeth. Rust and mold stain the vacant sockets of blown out windows in long tracks; what little glass that remains caked thick with choking ash.

At ground level, shattered concrete and gnarled rebar forbid passage through the hollow pit where doors once stood. Inside there is no electricity. During the day, anemic light shafts pale through empty windows and broken bricking, occasionally touching upon grey dust stirred free of the sweeping marble lobby, At night, flashlights are needed to navigate ruptured flooring and scattered debris. Vaulted halls track into inoperable elevators and claustrophobic stairwells further in, the latter made treacherous by damp sections of collapsed wall.

The building's skeletal structure creaks, grinds, and groans under its own weight at all hours, further strained by the wind that drags at the upper levels in steep gusts. For the first several stories, jammed doors, sagging floors and dry decay clogged into leaning hallways deter habitation, but somewhere around the twelfth floor, the clutter opens up into a sprawling office.

A dusty row of cubicles hunches blocky and grey across the far wall, affording some privacy to the folding cots stashed within. Decoration is otherwise sparse: limited to a rickety card table, a few wooden chairs and a portable propane stove arranged at the level's open center. Though the floor seems stable, it's littered with broken drywall and bits of ceiling that tend to skitter and tumble one way or the other when the weather picks up. Private offices off to one side keep a more expansive store of canned goods, water, guns and porn sheltered behind closed and padlocked doors.

One discreet boat, a stolen car and several hours of rough hiking through desolated cityscape into the morning, the sun has had plenty of time to rise. It does the best it can to warm what has otherwise been a brutal, cutting breed of damp cold, but here in the desolated office building Deckard's chosen as his Midtown headquarters, the chill isn't so bad. Mostly intact walls keep out the wind, with just enough of a breeze hissing and whistling in through glassless windows to keep air moving inside. It's chilly, but not intolerable, and he's already in the process of dragging out a portable propane heater to hook up to the tank under the table.

How he got all this crap up twelve flights of stairs is anyone's guess, but he doesn't look all that phased by the trek or the climb. He's dusty and hungover, black overcoat faded grey by the particulate kicked up by wind winding through the wreckage. There is gruff grunt of relief once he's flipped the heater on and sunk back into a rickety chair, black sunglasses finally tugged away from his face so that he can rub at tired eyes.

Niles on the other hand, has spent six weeks locked up in a tiny cell. Prior to that, he was a healthy, active young man. But that long with an only minimal ability to move around and no exposure to sunlight means he's out of breath as he tries to keep up with Deckard. He had to ask for several breaks along the way, to his deep chagrin.

When they finally reach their destination, the young man regards the place with suspicion and a touch of distaste. "This…" he picks at a bit of flaking wall. "Well. I suppose it's vastly superior to a cargo container." In that he can actually walk out of here. Right through that big chunk of missing wall. Or through that hole in the floor. "So. What do I do now? Just sit in here all day long until there's some indication that the heat's off me?"

Having gotten an early enough start that there was no real rush to reach their destination once they reached the part with the walking, Deckard used the pauses in their progress to smoke, or drink, or chew on beef jerky, or check his notebook. He's been quiet along the way, disinterested in complaining about delays or the weather. It's a walk he's made numerous times before, more often than not without the benefit of conversation to break up oppressive silence.

"Most of them aren't this bad," confessed without much feeling, Deckard remains hunched over the table for a minute or two more before he finally leans back and gives the place a looking over. "I can take you out with me sometimes, if you want. All the walking might help get you back into shape. Otherwise…" mouth thinned into a flat line, he lifts his brows at a sagging spot in the ceiling. Should probably see about that some time.

Niles tugs the sleeping bag out of his pack and spreads it out near the propane burner. He rolls over and lies on it, one hand hooked behind his head. Lips purse into a thin, thoughtful line. "Somehow I feel as if I've traded one prison for another," he murmurs.

Then he exhales and reaches out to pull the zipper on his jacket up higher. "I wouldn't mind picking up a thermarest from a camping supply store." Whether that means thievery or stealing the money to buy it legit, he doesn't specify. "So. What's your story?"

"I spent…November in safe house. December too. It blows, but it's better than being dead." Or so some might argue. A hand scuffed roughly over the back of his head lets loose a majority of the ash and dust that had settled there along the way. His scruffy head is marginally less grey without it. "I took Brian's phone last night. I can make some calls — see about getting you moved somewhere with windows that close and a TV if things aren't that bad." If. A sideways look there is laced with half-hearted suspicion. Niles's 'situation' has been vague at best so far, and nobody's contacted him to check on the kid yet.

"We can do that." Pick up a thermarest. He doesn't specify how much misdemeanor or felony crime that entails either, just glances at his watch and scrubs at his head again. "I came to New York to make money selling guns and got drawn into a terrorist plot to end the world. What's yours?"

Sure, his situation is suspicious, but Niles really does need help to keep from falling back into the hands of the Company. Edward Ray might have sent him, but he's in legitimate need of Ferrymen help. He knows that everything will probably fall apart once Deckard realizes the Ferrymen didn't actually send him. He's hoping however, that the scruffy man won't kill him for that bit of deception.

"School got blown up in the bomb. Only thing that meant anything to me. Didn't want to go back to my family, so I went to the Farm instead. Made some friends there," there's a pause as he considers how much of the truth to tell. But he's poor at sustaining lies, so, "…got into thieving. Drew the attention of the wrong people. Got locked away. Weird people busted me out, locked me up. Then they told me to come to you. But first I went to my friends. Who beat the shit out of me and told me to leave."

Deckard could probably pass for a murderer as easily as he could someone who doesn't care enough to bother. He's been laid back for the most part, variably surly or sullen as the morning wore on and the amount of booze in his system had time to fluctuate.

Another sigh whistles out through his sinuses at the story of school and bomb and The Wrong People. If nothing else, his own experiences have led him to be more accepting of the unfortunate weirdness other people claim to have been through over the last couple of years. "Nice friends," muttered offhand, he pushes to to his feet with a look that says he'd rather stay sitting. One of his knees pop-pops in its socket. "Most I've met with these people have been accepting to the point of insanity."

"They wouldn't tell me what I'd done to deserve this," Niles motions to his busted up face. "Just that they didn't want me around anymore and that there were people looking for me." He lifts a shoulder and kicks a toe under the edge of his pack to warm it slightly. "One of the guys who busted me out told me to come to you. Didn't look like I had many other options, so."

He shifts up and winces at the pain the movement causes to his face. He grabs a bottle of water from his bag and digs around for a bottle of aspirin. He's already popped a good handful of them today.

"Somebody probably made a point of making sure you couldn't blend back in with them." Dimly certain of the opposition's tactical assholery, he stretches one arm back over his head, then the other on his dragging way over to the nearest open window, where he draws his coat in more stiffly about himself against the wind. Brrrr. "I've been wanted for a slew of murders I didn't commit since mid-December."

Apparently that's his way of saying, 'Could be worse.' Blue eyes skim narrowed over the surrounding landscape, but save for the drag of the breeze at anything not heavy enough to hold its own, there's no organic movement. Everything is dead and grey and dead and even more grey despite late morning's yellow light.

"Play your cards right and the Ferry'll take decent care of you for as long as you can stand to behave yourself."

Niles swallows a few mouthfuls of water, then flops back down onto the sleeping bag. He stares up at a strange spot on the ceiling. He hopes the liquid seeping through from above is just water. Hopes an awful lot. His brows furrow, his lips purse and then, he asks, "What if they can't find the person who sent me to you? What then?"

He doesn't have the best tactics in the world. That's how he ended up in Company custody to begin with. Something about this whole scenario is urging him to be truthful. Even if it ends up damning him.

"New documents, a new name. A new face. Depends on who they are. And who you are." A sliver of broken glass flicked out of the wide open frame, Deckard turns away to pace for the offices at the far wall, keys jangling light out of his pocket along the way. "I don't think they hunt mysterious captors down unless they were already doing that anyway."

Into the padlock a smallish key goes, and with some rattling of chain and clicking and clacking he manages to work the door open. It's pitch black inside, but he doesn't bother flipping on any kind of lamp before he sidesteps in.

"That's not what I meant," says Niles, quietly. His face screws up and he considers backpedalling. But, after a pensive moment and a long stare up at the ceiling, he comes to a decision. "I don't know for sure that the guy who sent me here is really from the Ferrymen."

The lank black shape of Deckard reappears in the doorway of the office after a few seconds' absorbent pause. His eyes are marked by rings of lambent blue, inhuman in their raking, scraping intensity. The ghastly effect is quashed dim when he steps back out into the light, a flashlight in one hand, a semi-automatic in the other.

Neither is held up as a threat, but a gun's a gun and all the slack has gone out of the lines in Flint's hard-edged face and shoulders. "You think this is some kind of setup? How would he even know I'm involved with them?"

It wouldn't have seemed possible for Niles' ghostly pallour to become even moreso, but he blanches at the sight of the gun. He sits up with a start. There's a faint crackle of energy around him and bits of hair start to stand on end. But he holds back the thing inside him. Things. He swallows. "I don't know. Every…everything I've told you is the truth. This man, he didn't say he was with the Ferrymen, he just said to tell you that they sent me. I…suspect…" Ahem. "Look. I need your help. I wanted to come clean with you now so that if your friends hadn't heard of me, you wouldn't think I was setting you up."

The blanch doesn't register, nor does the startled sit. Deckard's grip draws bony and taut around the gun at his side, not quite capable of staving off the tension inherent in a blast of ill-suppressed frustration. There's embarrassment too, more subtle in the tightness around his eyes and the flare of his nostrils when he looks stubbornly down and away. He should have known. So many aspects of this story were disjointed. So many things didn't quite line up with what he knows about how the group operates. How trustworthy is he, really, to have some lost kid dropped in his lap with no one to keep an eye on him?

For too many beats he stands there trying to collect himself, scowling hard at a ragged hole in the floor. "You have no idea who he was?"

Niles slowly gets to his feet. He does so in the least threatening way possible. His hands stay visible, even though Deckard knows he doesn't have a gun. "Look. Everything I've told you has been the truth." Except he's kept the part about how he killed his stepfather to himself. But that little gem requires more explanation. And Mr. X-Ray has a gun.

"These people had me locked away in some kind of facility. They did tests on me and interrogated me. But mostly they just kept me drugged and suppressed. Then one day these people showed up and busted me out. And then promptly locked me up again until the man with the bug eyes let me out. He was being held in the same facility as me."

It's the missing bit about the dead stepfather that probably prompts Deckard to throw the gun down onto the card table, where it's within easy reach of anxious hands not his own. Fuck. A gruff exhalation does little to ease the anger penned up in the flat of his chest, but he hasn't rounded on Niles yet, hollow-jawed displeasure turned everywhere else but there while he tries to think.

"Did he say anything else?" It's hard not to sound pissed. Flint doesn't really try past a rankle at his nose that manages to take the place of some choicier language. "I don't know what this is. We may need to move again."

If Niles wanted to kill Deckard, he would have fried his heart in his chest. Which is the reason the young man felt safe tromping out in the middle of nowhere with a scruffy man who has a house full of guns. Of course, that's assuming that Deckard doesn't have an equally devastating ability, but the fact that he just had a gun in his hand leads the replicator to believe he's got the upper hand, defense wise.

"No. But he knew you. He knew where to find you and sent me to you." He's not really doing much to disprove the whole 'villains always have British accents' trope. "Something very strange is going on here, Mister Deckard. I don't know why I'd be so important to risk breaking out of prison. And then they just let me go without telling me why they set me free in the first place."

Left hand passing rough over the grizzled bristle around his mouth, Deckard plants the flashlight down after the gun with a little more care for its potential to roll off the table's end. He's tired, he's worn down and the last fucking thing he wants to do is suck it up and make a bunch of calls fingering himself as a fuck up (again) but Niles is right. Something strange is going on, and he has not a goddamn clue what it could be.

A pale-eyed glance to the kid later, he turns to return to the office door, this time to relock it. "I need to go up on the roof and see if I can make some calls. I dunno how long I'll be. Stay here, keep the gun. If you need to piss do it out the window."

There's a slightly arrogant tip up of Niles' chin. "I can take care of myself without a gun. Though, I do appreciate the concern." The smile is somewhat sharky and he inclines his head towards the other man. There are moments when the man he is and the man he will become aligns like a solar eclipse. At others, it seems totally incongruous. Like telling Deckard the truth.

He settles back down on the sleeping bag and tugs his pack over to pull out a small bag of potato chips.

Deckard's eyes linger at Niles's reassurance and the accompanying smile, searching out the source of that sharkiness. But he's not a telepath. The nod is returned in warier kind and the older man turns to go, cell phone retrieved from his pocket as he passes out the door in the direction of the stairwell.

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