In Darkness


colette2_icon.gif conrad_icon.gif

Scene Title In Darkness
Synopsis Day One of training doesn't quite go how anyone expects when Colette disappears.
Date January 9, 2008

Ruins of Midtown, Abandoned Subway Platform

Conrad walks down the steps into the dark of the disused subway in midtown. It's both out of the way and sturdy down here. And it's hard to think of how enough damage could be done to anything here that anybody would care about. He has a gym bag slung over his shoulder. "I know it's dark down here. Don't worry about it." He's opening the gym bag and pulling out a handful of glow sticks, unwrapping them and cracking them in two, then shaking and tossing them here and there. It'll provide enough ambient light (though green) to see by. And he's got a couple of big flashlights, though he did tell Colette on the phone she should bring such a thing too.

"This is stupid." The girl huffs the moment they begin the descent into the subway station, "I — How'm I gonna' do anything down here, my stuff doesn't work in the dark!" The whining complaint echoes in the abandoned tunnel, even though she continues to follow Conrad down inside of the broken stairwell, past dislodged ceiling tiles and a pair of mangled shopping carts at the bottom of the steps.

In the glow of Conrad's glowsticks, the girl wrinkles her nose, looking a bit more fae than usual due to the haunting emerald glow cast about the very picture of urban decay.

"Aren't we gonna' get sick?" She asks with one black brow raising over her blinded eye, disappearing up into the ragged black fringe of her bangs. "That's what the TV says; don't go into the ruins, you'll get sick. I mean, what kind've spooky spy stuff is this, sneaking through back alleys to get into Midtown. We're not supposed t'be here, right?" She's full of complaints, some justified, all loud.

"I tell you I'm about to get sick of your bitchin." says Conrad casually, kneeling to go through his bag. He pulls out a battery-powered spotlight, one of those six-volt deals. They make really good lights these days. "That whole sick thing? It's a lie, kid. This place got blasted by force, not contaminated. And anyway it'll be dark outside soon so fuck where we are. AND you don't even know how your shit works yet so how do you know it won't work?"

"It doesn't work in a closet." Colette retorts with a bit of sass, her nose wrinkled as she folds her arms across her chest. But the spotlight, that changes things when it comes on. Her eyes narrow to a squint, turning away from the light as she begins noticing more of the crumbling decay of the subway tunnel; the old and nwspaper crusted bench pushed up against one wall, a ransacked soda vending machine torn open next to it, devoid of cans, save for the empties scattered around in front of it.

It isn't so much the ruined look of the subway tunnel that makees Colette anxious, but rather the darkness at the far edge of light beyond the platform that drops down to rails. The teen gives a tug at her lower lip with her teeth, wrapping the sueve sleeves of her winter coat around herself as she turns in place to regard Conrad again. "S-so… um, what's the plan?"

"Show me what you can do. Here." Conrad hands the spotlight to Colette and says, "Work the beam. See if you can intensify it, whatever. There's ambient light everywhere. That's how night vision goggles work. See, down here nobody's gonna see what you do. And you can try your hardest with the light sources we have and I don't think you'll damage anything. Anymore smartass remarks or am I still stupid?" He asks that last part with a grin just barely visible in the gloom, his own flashlight illuminating a nice circle at his feet.

The way Coleette grows quiet and the sheepish look she gives in indication that she feels the mantle of stupid has fallen aquarely on her shoulders. "Uh, work the…" She stares down at the spotlight for a moment, brow furrowing together. "I — I'm not sure how…" She scrunches up her nose, starting with the basics as she turns the light a bit away from herself. Her free hand raises to cradle that delicate disc of light between her fingers, and there's clearly an effort — likely subconscious — to try and influence the lens' shape, flexing from concave to convex like a belly dancer. "I — All I know how to do is this." She flexes her fingers, putting pressure on the luminous lens, and upwards from her palm springs a gradually tapering beam of light, focusing to a point some ten feet above her, long before it can reach the ceiling. The beam sheds light like a flashlight, and little more. When she turns the spotlight towards in, in some measure of curiosity, the beam intensifies some, now resembling sunlight filtered through a magnifying glass. "I um — I think I can uh…"

Fumbling with the hovering disc, Colette flexes it in its inverse, spreading the focul point of the beam out to a cone of light, like a spot lantern, brighter at her palm before it fades down to dim illumination at that same ten foot range. "T-that's all I can do, I— I think." She seems visibly afraid, but it isn't of her surroundings, or the foul-mouthed stranger tutoring her. She seems to be afraid of her own ability.

It's pretty obvious to Con anyway that she's holding back. Not that he blames her. But there's gonna have to be some kind of dam breaking or else there'll be no progress. He says, "Well that's really sweet. But you said before that you burned stuff with this ability. So when you do that, are you taking ambient light and channelling it, or are you intensifying stuff that's already there?" He shines his own flashlight down into the dark and says, "Make my light stronger. Try it. Or do it with yours. I don't care which."

"I — I don't know if — " Colette grimaces at the mention of burning things, looking away from her hand as she shakes the disc into so many fireflies of rainbow hued light that swirl around her open palm. "I never do it on purpose. I — I don't…" Theere's one thought that rattles around in her head as she proceeds to be piteous and whiny, and it's Grace's rough-hewn voice telling her to stand on her own two feet, to make a change herself. She's failed that time and time again. But she can't keep failing, she can't keep disappointing herself, not to mention those around her.

"A-alright. I — Don't expect miracles." She snorts out those words, looking from her light to Conrads, furrowing her brow as she closes her eyes, moving her palm to rest in the warm beam of her spotlight, feeling for the first time just how hot those lenses get on them. The thought occurs to her about the temperature of the ones she makes, and there's some measure of curiosity — however restrained.

The young girl's face contorts into something strained, tilting her head to the side as she tries her best to manipulate the bam of the spotlight with her lens. It appears in her hand, gathering the radiance of the beam, and then fades in a wavering flicker like a guttering candle. "I — I can't do this, I don't know what I'm doing." She was close, even if she couldn't see it.

Right in the middle of that effort, Conrad says, "BOO!" just to see if the sudden panic will get a reaction.

There is a reaction, the loud — and Conrad had a way with sound — shout of the Voice of God echoing down the subway tunnel is enough to cause the girl to yelp in fright, drop the spotlight to the ground and cover her face with her arms as she crouches. It's not the most brave gesture in the world, but whatever uncontrolled reaction she gives seems to have done something, because the light beam from the spotlight is bending at a ninety degre angle towards Conrad, while a pair of those radiant lenses hover gently above her outstretched palms. It's an amusing look for the girl, like a cat that bared its claws, a natural reflex to create whatever those are when she's frightened.

"Well fuck me running." says Conrad with a grin after the echoes of his booming voice die away. "You see what you did, right?" Probably a good thing this wasn't attempted in broad daylight. Somebody might've been fried. Yes, Con had reasons for taking the light-girl into the dark tunnel to test her out. "Hold onto it. Don't let it fade…"

"H-hold o-on t-to what!?" Colette shrieks out, cracking her green eye open to peer at Conrad. It's only after a moment that her eyes follow the beam of light on its wayward course back to its source. Both of her eyes open wide as she spots the way the beam has bent, and her lips part slightly. For a moment it flickers back and forth, like she's losing whatever focus there was in the beam, but with a furrowing of her brow it manages to stay in a single, crooked arc, defying physics.

"H-Holy shit." The foul-mouthed teenager — only further made fouler-mouthd by Conrad's proximity — exclaims as she sees exactly what her power wrought. "H-how howthefuck am I doing that?" Her voice is a ragged whisper, and she looks up from the bent beam to Conrad, "Don't scare me like that again!" The girl shouts, throwing her arms down to her side, causing the bent beam of light to straighten out as those lenses flicker and fade away to motes of rainbow hued light around her fingertips.

"You're already scared!" counters Conrad, though in a normal voice instead of the world-shattering one. "You're just not scared the right way. You're scared of finding out what you can do so until you learn to get past that, you're always gonna be doing it in kneejerks. When something startles you or freaks you out." He nudges Colette's foot with the toe of his shoe for emphasis. "Stop. Being. A pussy. Now try to do that again without me having to yell at you. Bend the light."

The girl whimpers when he nudges her foot, an overdramatic plea for sympathy that is soon swallowed by a meager look of determination and uncertainty as she focuses on the discarded spotlight on the floor. "I — " She wants to say she can't, that she doesn't know how. But she's lying, and she'd be lying more to Conrad, and worse of all wasting his time. That reproachful look that Grace had given her the last time they saw one another, the way she tried to let herself be coddled like a child.

Looking at the light, Colette creeps forward towards it, holding out one hand as she flexes her forearm, conjuring forth from a swirl of multicolored light one of those gleaming lenses. Her brow furrows together, head tilting to one side as she tires to conscious do what fear motivates her to.

"Mistakes are like fear," Grace remarks. The rasping burr of her voice completely fails at softness — yet the quietness of the words, the somber mien with which they are spoken, implies something. Regret, perhaps; some memory, some chord. "The very worst thing you can do is let them stop you. You keep going. Keep moving. Right or wrong. It's like walking on those cracked blocks in what's-it, Mario. You stop, you fall." The woman shrugs. "Maybe you fall so far you'll never get back up. You won't always have someone to haul you kicking and screaming back out of the hole." She cants her head slightly, regarding Colette. "People die. You'll never forget them. Not the ones who matter to you, and not any you feel responsible for."

Colette's brow furrows a bit further, thoughts in her head echo her own internal conflict, memories of Grace chastising her for being a child when she should be an adult, memories of someone she trusts and respects. "I — " Her brow tenses, fingers straining on the edge of the lens as it bends and flexes inwards, gathering luminescense at the center like a small ball, "Bend the light, bend it…"

Ygraine cautiously reaches out, now attempting to take Colette's hand, to deliver a fingers-only version of a hug. "I'm still learning. I'm terrified that I don't know anywhere near enough about what's going on in my life, even without considering any of the… broader events of our times. You're young, Colette. At your age, you should still be in full time schooling, shouldn't you? The person putting most pressure on you to be an adult is you yourself. And you're always likely to be your worst and harshest critic. What you _need_ to do is take some time to learn. Train. Study. With control and knowledge'll come the ability to make a difference. And that's what you really want to do, isn't it?"

As Colette strains against her own self-loathing about what she's become, she struggles with the desire to find approval in the eyes of the people she cares about, to find some measure of happiness in the life she's been given. But at the same time she's fighting against the fear of what she's become, what she could do, and what she did in Chinatown. The battle is one of fear, and one that has great strength on each side. The glow of the spotlight does nothing, it doesn't flicker, it doesn't even so much as dim, "Bend it… bend it… c'mon…" Her whispered mantra becomes a growl as she strains to focus.

"You knew enough." Tamara looks over at her friend for a long moment; it's not that she hesitates, but there's a peculiar sadness to her expression as she regards Colette. A wistful regret, a shade of melancholy in the teen's blue eyes. "Why are we weird?" she asks, voice as soft as the snow that once fell here and will fall again. "Why must we be scary?" The tone might sound like a child's, spoken by someone at the age to ask why, why, why; but the expression that accompanies those words is anything but.

Silence again, but brief; a pause counted in mere heartbeats, before Tamara closes the distance between them, leaning in to speak directly at Colette's ear. "Kitty… learn to hear the music. See the flowers in the snow. There is always light in the shadows." She straightens then, giving Colette a bittersweet but ever-hopeful smile, before her feet again find the path and the precog starts for the main entrance of the pocket-sized park.

Tamara. The last words she heard the other girl say, her motivation, her reason for being in the here and now. It all makes things piece together, and in a moment of startled confusion, Colette lets out a whimpering sound of fear and disbelief as the world around her goes pitch black. "O-Oh god! W-what! I can't see!"

But Conrad can just fine. He can see the floodlight's straight beam, he can see the subway, and everything in it.

Except Colette.

And Conrad's voice somehow comes across as unimpressed. "Okay. Not what I meant. But it's good. In fact that's real good." He steps back. "You can't see because you bent the light around you, kid. You're invisible. You need light to see so when you bend it around yourself you're in the dark, but nobody else can see you either." His tone may not be one of approval, but he's trying here. "How long can you keep that up?"

"I'm what!?" Invisible, or she was. A moment after her exasperated remark, the girl fades into reality like a heat mirage where she was standing, and looks a bit fatigued for all her work. She sways briefly, coming up lean up against one of the square, tiled columns that support the cracked and damp concrete ceiling overhead. "O-Oh my god," Her eyes drift down to look at her hands, now that she can see them, focusing back up at Conrad with a look of disbelief on her face.

"I — I was invisible!?" There's no fear there, there's awe. invisibly is a lot less harmful than blinding bolts of light, even if they're both useful. "I — T-that's — " Curling and uncurling her fingers, Colette seems to strain, trying to replicate the effect, immediately. This isn't what she expected, but it's a fascinating turn of events regardless. The girl, with her back up against the column, tenses her brow again in an attempt to mimic the thoughts she had when she vanished from sight.

There's no effect she can see, nothing goes dark, her hands stay in plain sight. There's just the little issue of the pillar her back is pressed up against, slowly changing colors in the ambient light of the glowsticks. First a shade of emerald green, then a rich hue of royal blue. The light reflects all wrong off of the pillar, creating improper effects of shadow and a distortion of the colors in a six foot spread around her, the blue is even seeping into the concrete at her feet. None of which she notices.

Conrad sighs though his nose and steps forward, gently takes Colette by the shoulder and turns her, pointing at the pillar behind her. "I think your problem is you're so blocked up about even being Evolved it's like everything you do is intentionally done where you can't see it. Or else by accident." Once he thinks she's seen at least part of what she's doing, Conrad lets go of the girl and says, "Relax. Take a break. I want you to tell me what it is you think you're doing when you make these things happen."

When Conrad turns her around, shows her the strange sapphire hue the column turned, her expression screws up into a look of confusion. She doesn't seem to understand that color is the reflection of light. When Conrad gives her a bit of a chastising, the girl's shoulders roll forward, and she nods to herself, looking askance at the column as its natural gray shades filter back in and the shadows become right again.

A few meandering steps allows Colette to wander around the subway platform, coming to settle down on one of the benches covered in old, crusted newspapers from two years back. She brings both of her hands up to cover her face, leeaning back on the bench, letting herself hang over thee back of it for a moment as she pushes a sigh out through her fingers. It, incidentally, makes something of a farting sound against her palms.

"I… I don' really think." Colette's words are shared as a mumble against her palms, something Conrad has no trouble hearing. "It's like, um…" Her nose scrunches up as she tries to search for the right words, hands moving away from her face to come down to the fur-trimmed collar of her jacket. "Like, um, when you do stuff without thinking about it?" Eloquence isn't her best trait, "You know, uh, like, reflexes? I — It's like getting sick, I guess. You don't try to, but all of a sudden your body is like, huuurk." Classy, Colette.

Con switches his flashlight off and puts it in his jacket pocket, then crosses his arms. He asks then, "What do you know about light? About how it works, and what it can do?" Simple question really, but profound. He just stands there in the soft green glow of chemlights, eyes closed and using his own senses to do a brief sweep of the tunnels. Like a bat, he can read echoes, but unlike a bat he doesn't really process it into mental pictures. It takes a little more concentration since his brain isn't wired that way.

The question strikes Colette as a bit odd, and the girl furrows her brows as she focuses more directly on Conrad with her mis-matched eyes. "Um, I… I'm…" Turning her focus down to her lap, she rocks from side to side on the bench awkwardly, hands folded in her lap. "I kinda' dropped out of highschool, um, the bomb thing…" There's a disquiet in her tone, and she doesn't let the explanation lie there. "I livd, like, not far from here. On east forty-second street, and… I guess I was pretty effed up by everything. I was in a coma for a while, had to, um… there was this therapy I had to go through, for radiation poisoning?" She looks down at her lap, turning a statement into an uncertain question. "After I got out, I… I was too afraid to go back to school. So, I… I was a freshman when I stopped going, n'kinda sucked at science too."

The tone of voice Con uses is significantly more gentle. "Oh yeah? Well I'm not gonna judge you, kid. It doesn't bother me you dropped out, and it's not your fault the explosion fucked up your life." He opens his eyes after being adequately sure they're alone down here to add, "Doesn't matter what you were like at science. You got every reason to learn everything you can about light. I'll tell you what I know. Light is basically radiation you can see. But it's a lot like sound in some ways. It operates in wavelengths and frequencies, only when you change the wavelength and frequency of light you see that as a change in color, not tone or pitch like with sound. There's this thing called the visible spectrum, you see. It goes from reds on the low wavelengths to blues and purples on the high wavelengths. So I dunno…you might find out that if you think of what the light is doing it can give your brain a tool for how to work the effect. That make sense to you?"

"Thanks…" Conrad is one of the first adults she's run into who isn't judgemental of her situation, isn't forcing her to consider secondary or even primary education. It's relieving. Tilting her head to the side, Colette furrows her brows again and looks at Conrad like a confused puppy for just a moment, before finally letting out a mildly amused smile. "So, like, I can make stuff purple?" Her nose wrinkles at the notion, hands folding and unfolding uncomfortably in her lap. "So, okay, it's like… I kinda' get it?" As one brow raises, her tone of voice indicates a bit the opposite of her words. "So, I guess… you're saying our stuff is kinda' similar? Cause you're all like, Mister Megaphone n'stuff, and I'm — what? A flashlight?" Not quite, but it does for comparison.

"It's kinda' over my head, n'stuff." N'stuff. "So like, it's all waves then… how to I make stuff all weird? Like, those round light things, and the beams?" Complicated questions phrased with little eloquence.

There's a silence during which Con is mentally sifting through the teenspeak this girl is belching at him. "Yes, you can probably make stuff purple." he finally says, figuring that'll do for a good start. "And yes, sound and light are pretty similar. But the difference is what you do is based on radiation and what I do is based on kinetic force." Conrad shakes hsi head and waves impatiently with a hand, catching himself getting off-topic, "But you don't really need to wrap your head around I can do just yet. Okay, I got it. I know what you need to do next. I can already see some of what's going on here, and I got some news for you. Are you ready for it?"

That question is always one that brings nervous anticipation, and the dry swallow Colette gives as a response is accompanied by a shallow nod of her head, and a squeaked-out "Mnhmm." For better or worse, this foul-mouthed Con-Man is what Colette has to work with, and to his credit he's already started to peel back the layers of whatever weird talent the girl has.

"All right. First off. You're powerful. You're damn powerful. I'm glad we started down here." Con gestures around at the gloom, noting the lack of light. "I have a feeling the more you learn how to use this shit, the more potentially dangerous you'll be. So be ready for that. You're gonna have to come to terms with the fact that compared to most people you have a lot of power at your fingertips. Now, there's no NOT learning this shit. If you don't learn how to control it, you're just gonna fuck things up by accident. The only way you'll be able to have some kind of normal existence is if you put a handle on it. Okay?"

There's a bit of a whimper that slips out as Conrad explains in some detail how dangerous Colette can be. The girl's shoulders hunch forward, hands pressed together at her knees as she stares up to her intructor. With an awkward angling of her brows, Colette lets her head sulk back down again, teeth toying with her lower lip in a pensive expression. Powerful. Accident. Dangerous. All the words that remind her of the one Evolved she hates the most, the one who ruined the world, and ruined her life.

"Okay." It's a mousey tone of voice to use, even if there's some measure of determination behind it. "I — I don't, I can't be like that." Her head tilts a bit more to the side, letting her bangs swish down to cover her blind eye. "I want t'be in control." When she looks back up from her feet, those mis-matched eyes are settled squarely on Conrad's in the eerie gren glow of the chemlights. "I'll do whatever it takes."

Conrad nods at that, sighing deeply. "Good. I know you don't like hearing this shit but the sooner you think about it the sooner you can get past it. I'm always gonna be straight with you, got that?" The question must be rhetorical because he only pauses a second before continuing, "The other thing is, because of how much potential you got, you need to think hard about ever letting anybody else know what you can do. Or how much you can do, rather. It's okay to let people you trust know you're Evolved, or that you can control light. But when you start figuring out how to make laser beams or microwave things by thinking about it, you probably oughta keep that shit to yourself. Even among other Evolved."

That's a notion Colette hadn't considered, having to keep secrets from the people around her. But on the inverse, do the people she knows hide the same things? Are thre aspects of Ygraine's, Tamara's, or even Felix's power that they didn't speak of? The thought sends her head spinning, though in reality all the girl does is a nod softly. "I — Okay." There's a wry smile that forms on her lips, a catlike expression of amusement tinged with uncertainty and anxiety. "You know, I… I really appreciate this. You know, what you're doin' for me. I — I didn't think any of your people wanted me for anything other than maybe a body in a ditch or somethin'…" Her voice trails off a bit there as her words become somewhat grim.

"You're…" Her head tilts to the other side, "Not as much of an asshole as I first thought, either." The candid statment is met with a lopsided smile, as Colette emulates Conrad's honesty and frankness. Of all the people to be a role-model to her, Conrad may not have been the best coice.

There's kind of a snort about that and a wry grin. And Conrad allows, "Yeah well I'm gonna HAVE to be an asshole to you sometimes. Because you're gonna need asshole things done to you, for your own good." Then he points at her and makes eye contact with the girl. "But I won't hurt you, or try to. I promise you that." He sighs and then walks toward Colette and sits down on the bench next to her in the soft green glow of the tunnel, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. "There's more. I'm giving you some homework. Real simple. And you'll probably even like it. But I want you to get your hands on any books, any videos, any TV shows, documentary, anything that teaches you about light. Scientifically. You need to learn about it now the same way you need to learn about drugs or sex or how to wear clothes. Think of it as a part of your normal body function."

Colette scoots a bit away as Conrad moves over to sit down, it's an odd, jitterly little shuffle until she has a little elbow room between the two. There's a bit of a smile at what he says, at the earnest nature of it, but the idea of homework does make a distasteful expression come over her for just a moment. Colette looks to Conrad like he has five heads, three of which are on fire, "Homework?" Her nose wrinkles in distaste, but the disapproval only lasts as long as it takes for Conrad to explain the nature of said homework.

"Oh, so like… yeah, I get it." Managing a faint smile, there's a distant, thoughtful look in her eyes. "I'll… swing by the library or something. There's a friend of mine that lives in Queens, she's a librarian. Might be able t'hook me up with stuff, plus I've totally got the internet." Her brows waggle at the notion, "So… I really am different." It finally starts to sink in, past all of the denial, past all of the disbelief. "I'm… having a hard time with it." The words are sighed out, like it took a great effort for her to be honest with herself. But Colette turns, looking to the man seated beside her witha thankful expression. "I'll deal." She's so tough.

Conrad chuckles a little, shaking his head. He says with exaggerated patience, "Yes, yes you're different." Then he looks at the girl and says, "Of course you'll deal. You have to. The good news is it won't be so hard. A few months from now it'll probably all seem normal. But you'll be discovering new shit for years. Hell I know a woman that has my same ability and found out she can do a few things I never even thought of. So I'm still learning too." He leans back on the bench and asks, "Welp. About ready to call it a night?"

With a curious glance at the mention of a woman who shares Conrad's powers, Colette nods her head again, a bit more enthusiastically. It's cold down here. Now able to see her breath from the chill in the air, the young girl rises up off of the bench and looks around at the green ambience one last time. Her eyes close, and she nods with something resembling a serene expression, turning towards the stairwell with a series of bouncing steps before looking over her shoulder, "Next time, m'bringin' my dog." There's a sense of affirmation there, strong and sure, and as Colette looks back to the stairs leding up towards the street level of the ruins, there's just a bit more confidence in each bouncing step.

She may be a freak, but at last she isn't alone.

January 9th: Malaise
January 9th: You Seem Familiar
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