Light On Water, Part I



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Scene Title Light on Water, Part I
Synopsis Helena recieves a call from an old friend, asking her out on a very special date. He says the sweetest things.
Date November 29, 2008

New York Public Library

Once upon a time, the New York Public Library was one of the most important libraries in America. The system, of which this branch was the center, was among the foremost lending libraries /and/ research libraries in the world.

The bomb changed that, as it changed so much else.

By virtue of distance, the library building was not demolished entirely, like so many others north of it; however, the walls on its northern side have been badly damaged, and their stability is suspect. The interior is a shambles, tattered books strewn about the chambers and halls, many shelves pulled over. Some have even been pulled apart; piles of char in some corners suggest some of their pieces, as well as some of the books, have been used to fuel fires for people who sought shelter here in the past.

In the two years since the bomb, the library — despite being one of the icons of New York City — has been left to decay. The wind whistles through shattered windows, broken by either the blast-front or subsequent vandals, carrying dust and debris in with it. Rats, cats, and stray dogs often seek shelter within its walls, especially on cold nights. Between the fear of radiation and the lack of funds, recovery of the library is on indefinite hiatus; this place, too, has been forgotten.

There's this sensation that comes with having a life so full that it feels like you can't stop to breathe. It's not really terribly pleasant, but there's very little one can do except take a deep breath and keep on pushing through. And when you are nineteen and female and a bit on edge, you go to your secret subversive group hide out's kitchen and raid the leftover pumpkin pie. Hooray for stress eating! Olive Snook would be proud.

Pumpkin pie on a saturday morning isn't the worst way to start the day, and through the boarded up windows across the room from Helena, she could imagine several worse ways, such as being outside in the cold. While the freezing rain has finally stopped, winter's natural chill hasn't gotten any better, and the wind whips harsh through the buildings amid the ruins of the city's heart. Here in the Library, while drafty, there is some sense of security and shelter from the cold.


The front screen of Helena's cell-phone lights up as it begins vibrating its way across the kitchen countertop, just as she sets the pie down after retrieving it from the refrigerator.


An unfamiliar number pops up on the screen, not one Helena's recalled dialing before. The phone continues to scuttle across the countertop asa the screen flashes slowly from lit to dark, hilighting and unhilighting that number.

Helena is seldom cold. She can make it whatever temperature she wants, at least in her immediate vicinity, though of course the bitter chill outside has been effecting her mood. She pauses mid-bite to stare at the phone a moment, peering with a frown at the lack of ID. And then with a sigh, she puts down her spork, reaches for the phone, and pops it open. Swallowing the last bit of sweet goodness, she says in a voice still somewhat morning dusky, "Hello?"

"Good morning lanbi." The voice coming over the phone speaks with a clearly stilted accent, maybe Chinese or Korean. "Been a long time." There's commotion in the background, loud shouting in a foreign tongue, "It took too long to find one of your naozhong buddies, but this little shit knew your number."

Chinatown. It all starts coming back to Helena, the gang she had pissed off before running into Peter, and again during one of the early PARIAH tagging raids. How did they get her cell phone number, and more importantly why?

"You're going to walk your little ass back down to Chinatown tonight, chou biaozi, or your friend will take the beating that belongs to you." The shouting fills the air in the background, some of it mixed with brief spurts of profanity in english, and presumably mandarin as well. Somewhere in the noise though, there's someone speaking only in english, muffled and pleading.

"Got me?"

"So you kidnapped some schmo off the street and now you want me to believe you've managed to kidnap one of my friends?" Helena sounds skeptical. "Who do you have? Because otherwise, there's a little less crank call action I'm getting here than misdialing a Mongolian barbecue."

For a moment there's just shouting on the other end of the phone, from whoever was on the reciever, screaming in chinese at the others who were hooting and shouting in the background. Then there's a scuffling and rustling noise, things moving around, and finally a distant sound of the man on the phone's voice, "Talk. Tell her who you are, gouzaizi."

More clearly, however, is another shaking voice coming through on the other side of the phone. "Jesus christ, Helena. Don't give these fuckers anyth—" A sharp shout follows from the man on the phone, and shouting in the background grows louder.

"Tell her who you are!" There's a noise somewhere in the static that Helena starts to pick up on in between the shouting, it sounds like machinery of some kind, heavy and industrial.

"T-Trent. Trent Michaels — I — I work for Noah and Grace, I — The place your people were staying last month — Jesus christ Hele — " Another sharp cry, followed by rustling sounds and the phone is yanked away and back to the man who was speaking earlier.

"Is that enough for you guilao?" There's a pause, followed by the faint sound of chains or something metallic jingling, "I'll call you at sundown, and you better be in Chinatown, bitch. Or he's dead."

"I'll be seeing you." Helena hisses. "That's a promise." With that, she hangs up, seething. She knows how helpless Trent is feeling, and revisiting that sensation makes her vaguely sick. Rising, she looks at the digital clock left on the counter - still many, many hours until sundown.

Once the phone is hung up, the wind outside picks up and rattles the boarded up windows. Mood affecting atmosphere, atmosphere effecting mood, a vicious cycle of elemental discord. Now the only sound Helena is left with is the howling of the wind, and the rattling of the boards against the windows. That, and the sound of Trent's pleading voice, and the sharp, bitter resentment in the people she thought were out of her life forever.

It seems that the past has a terrible way of crawling back up and biting at the most unexpected of times.

November 28th: Nightmares And Confessions

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 29th: Lesson To Vanguard
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