Like A Hero


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Scene Title Like A Hero
Synopsis Ravaged by the H5N10 virus, Monica Dawson is forced to try and perform a rescue for her family members after a reprisal on "Saint Joan" hits home.
Date May 23, 2010

Flames rise to the ceiling, licking tongues of fire that blacken and char the rafters and belch up choking black smoke carried aloft on thermal winds. This hellish backdrop, where flakes of ash fall like snow and wood glows orange from combustion might well be the last thing that Monica Dawson ever sees in her life.

There's a loud pop as one of the windows nearby shatteres from the heat, just before clomping and heavy footfalls come around one of the burning and collapsed beams in front of her. "Girl…" growls a man clutching his side where a deep gash has been cut in his abdomen, "you ain't got no idea who you be messin' with." It's not so much the darkly dressed thug between Monica and the blown out window that worries her, but the gun he has trained on her.

It's hard to move, here, where Monica lays bleeding on the floor. Blood pulses through her fingers at her shoulder, thick and tacky crimson warm on her skin and hard to see on the black fabric of her hooded sweatshirt. "You thought you was gonna be a hero?" Hype Wilson's voice carries out noisily over the crackling pop of the burning building, fire reflecting on the chromed barrel of his gun. "You know what happens to heroes in the real world?"

There's a click as Hype pulls back the hammer on the gun, wide eyes staring down at Monica's bloodied form leaning up against the wall. "They end up dead…"

"Just like you."

Thirty Minutes Earlier

Duzac's Diner Rooftop

New Orleans, Louisianna

Sneakers land with a soft thump against the tar-paper covered rooftop amidst the backdrop of a nearly cloudless night's sky. An old television antenna rises up behind the darkly clad figure crouched on the roof with the full moon silhouette at her back.

Under the dark hood, shadows hide the look of fatigue and sickness on Monica Dawson's face; on the face of a costumed vigilante that has been keeping the streets of New Orleans safe. The people of New Orleans know her only as Saint Joan, know her as a protector and soldier of the people, know her as a hero. But this isn't Gotham City, and Monica Dawson isn't Bruce Wayne. In reality, heroes have critical flaws, glaring weaknesses, and family to lose.

Somewhere below this rooftop in the abandoned storefront of Duzac's Diner, those two tenuous links to the family of Saint Joan's true identity are suffering because of her actions; a woman too old to defend herself and a boy too young to take a stand. She brought this on them by fighting a war on organized crime on the streets and thinking no one would ever figure out who Saint Joan was.

Now she not only has to save them from becoming casualties of her own personal crusade, but do it without one of the most vital weapons in Saint Joan's arsenal: her power.

The H5N10 virus is the closest thing to a nemesis she's ever had.

There's a first time for everything.

It's moments like this, you start to wonder if all those comic books and movies and TV shows were a really bad idea.

Smack in the middle of her own heroic tale of derring do, Saint Joan faces her greatest challenge yet; proving that the hero is in the person, not the powers. Of course, for Monica Dawson, it's a simple matter of family. Nobody messes with her family. She hasn't come empty handed; a handy knife is tucked into her boot and there's a baseball in hand. Plus a little knowledge from scoping out the place. She tosses that baseball up a little, catching it in her other hand before she moves toward the front of the building. The plan is simple. Make a distraction out front, then sneak in through the back.

Quick and dirty right? Right… Climbing down as quietly as she can manage, Monica sticks to the side of the building as she scoots toward the front. She takes a moment to breathe, gathering herself, maybe giving an little internal pep-talk, reminding herself not to get Nana and Damon killed and /then/ she steps out just enough to toss that baseball at the front window before slipping back into the shadows and booking it toward the back of the diner.

It's a clever enough plan, and the moment that front window makes a noisy shatter from the baseball thrown through plate glass Monica can see a flashlight sweeping around inside the darkened diner as she's breaking into that sprint. The alleyway is clear as she darts down it, sneakers clapping on the ground when she leaps over a puddle so as to not splash through it. Her heart races, adrenaline pumps and feet carry her as fast as she can while shouts echo out front of the building.

When Monica comes around the back of the diner by the loading docks her chest is rattlign with wheezing breaths and feels tight. Her heart pounds against the inside of her chest and blood pulses noisy in her ears. Her hands are shaking from just the short run and sweat glistens on her brow, running down the bridge of her nose to drip off and to the asphalt below.

Up concrete steps and towards the diner's back door, Monica makes her way to the matte green metal door, yanking it open before ducking inside the unlit storage room in the back of the diner. Cardboard boxes are piled high in here, some on metal shelves and others freestanding, while through a doorway opposite of where she came in there's the sound of a distant argument, likely whoever kidnapped Nana and Damon.

Looking around in the dark of the storage room, there's no sign of either of her family members, just boxes and shipping packages, and over by the bay doors where shipping trucks would come to the diner matte black plastic cases spraypainted with the word MUNITIONS along one side, open to reveal a molded foam padding in the shape of — now absent — assault rifles.

These thugs are being armed by someone.

Pausing for just a moment, Monica tries to fight back the feeling of exhaustion and steady her hands, with little success. Get it together, girl. Letting out a heavy breath, she steps away from the door to walk through the room, looking around for evidence of her family and finding evidence of something else entirely. She runs a gloved finger along that empty foam, worry creasing her brow. It's the argument that pulls her attention away from the armory and back to the task at hand. She pulls the knife out of her boot to grip it in a tight fist as she makes her way toward the voices, keeping quiet this time.

Heart still racing in her chest, when Monica creeps over to the doorway that leads out front, she can hear the argument a little better. "…ain't nobody out there, man!" One of the thugs shouts, walking back in through the front door, waggling his Glock around like it were a conductor's baton. The other thug standing out of Monica's eyeshot grumbles something under his breath, boots treading across the tile floor, close and closer to the doorway she's ducked behind.

"Whatever," he finally grunts out, his shadow cast across the open space of the doorway. "Man, when that bitch shows up Hype's gonna smack her shit so hard she ain't gonna' know what hits her. Just keep a fuckin' eye out, man, I ain't wantin' his ass bitchin' at me."

"Fuck you, man. Why we gotta' sit down here in'is shit when Hype gets to play babysitter upstairs with the old bitch and that fat kit? Man you saw what she did to Jamal and Ben, bitch fucked up their shit. Why ain't we got like an army down here?"

"Man, quit yo' bitch-ass whinin'!" The other thug blurts out, finally stepping into the doorway, his back to where Monica is crouched. It's that hair-splitting moment where she can both see the stairs leading up to the second floor where Nana and Damon are, but also has to consider leaving two armed men at her back. This would be eaiser if she still had her power, and if her chest would stop feeling so tight.

Now would be a good time to be Jackie Chan.

Gaze flicking toward those stairs, and then to that man's back in the doorway… and Monica with only her less-than-sound mind and body. Well, do or die. Or… do and die. Semantics. Launching upward, Monica grabs the thug's head from behind him and slams his head into the door frame with what strength she does have. And then, successful or not, she bolts toward the stairs.

Surprise and blunt force are two things that go hand in hand, and when that young man's head impacts with the corner of the door casing the resounding crack his body goes limp and he collapses to the floor. Monica doesn't have the time to see how his friend reacts, but she can hear him shouting the moment she breaks into the sprint for the stairs. It's a warning, a hollar up that Saint Joan is here, followed by the squeak of his own shoes on the tile as he hurries to follow behind Monica.

Chest aching from breathing, Monica thunders up the narrow and steep staircase, feels the tickle of sweat rolling down her forehead and cheek, feels the pins and needles tingling in her fingertips. By the time she's rounding a landing on her way up to the second floor, she can hear the noisy pop of gunshots behind her and the sound of bullets punching into drywall right behind where she was.

As she rounds the corner and heads up the next part of the staircase she can see the door at the top fling open and a young man in a thick, puffy jacket step forward, gun raised and brows lowered. It's in that moment that Monica feels her heart sink down into her stomach, the feeling of mortality creeping in as she stares down the barrel of a gun in a narrow staircase.

It's about then she feels like she can do anything.

Pausing with a gasp of breath as she's suddenly face to face with a gun barrel, Monica grasps for ideas for about two seconds before that feeling sinks in. And then, she leaps up, pushing off the right wall with one foot, then higher up the left wall with the other before she uses that momentum to aim a kick for the gunman's face. When she lands, she reaches for his gun, twisting it enough to break his trigger finger before she turns to aim it at the man coming up the stairs. "Drop it," she says in a firm, almost growling tone.

The gunshot from the bottom of the stairs comes in the same moment that Monica's disarmed opponent hits the floor face-first. Muzzle flash lights up the bottom of the stairwell and a sudden lancing of heat and pain explodes through Monica's left shoulder with the penetration of a bullet into her sweater. There's a muffled scream from somewhere upstairs at the sound, and the force of the gunshot sends Monica spinning back and away from the door, then down onto the wood floorboards, her stolen gun skidding from her hand to disappear under a table nearby.

Booted feet clomp up the stairs and the thug that shot up at Monica comes rushing into the second floor, lips downturned into a scowl and pistol trained on the injured woman on the floor. In the monents she has to think thorugh the blinding pain, Monica can see her surroundings, see a door with a chair wedged under the handle, see a pair of old oil camping lanterns hanging from the exposed rafters to light the second floor, see a barstool standing in the middle of the floor in reach of her legs.

Now would be a good time to be Jackie Chan.

Yeah, that hurts everytime. Monica hits the floor with a groan, her hand coming to cover that wound on instinct as she shakes her head to try to clear it enough to think. The scream does cut through the haze, and the hooded heroin takes in the situation with a grimace. A foot reaches out to hook a foot on the bar stool's lower rung and yanks it up toward her, grabbing it with her good side to jab it into the thug's gut before she scrambles up to her feet to snatch up the discarded gun and this time to fire without warning. But at least she's aiming to neutralize, not kill?

Muscles scream and tendons howl as Monica's injured shoulder pulses fresh blood inside of her sweatshirt. The jabbed stool disorients the gunman long enough for Monica to reclaim her gun from under the table and open fire. The gun goes off noisily and it's hard to tell exactly where she shot the young man, save that he clutches his midsection before dropping his gun and stumbling backwards into the doorway and falling down the stairs, crashing head over heels before stopping at the corner of the stairwell.

The upstairs is quiet for a moment, extremely quiet. Monica can hear her own breathing, hastened and hsallow, rattling wetly from the fluid in her lungs. She breaks into a fitful cough after a moment, one that sends shooting pains thorugh the bullet hole in her shoulder, an ache that spreads with familiar fiery sensation down her entire side and up her neck.

There's three doors that branch off from this spacious second floor loft, one blocked by a chair where she'd heard a yelp of fright come from before the gunfire started.

That silence is a little eerie, but Monica takes it as a chance to recover from her coughing fit, jaw tense and a wince on her face. It takes a few moments, moments that feel like forever, but she moves over to that blocked door, still gripping the gun as she kicks away the chair and pushes the door open to look around.

The moment she steps into the room it's a baseball bat to the stomach as a reward, followed by a smack to her gun hand, sending that Glock falling to the floor. She can just barely catch a glimpse of Nana and Damon tied back to back in chairs with cloth gags tied around their mouths before the man responsible for all of this blocks her line of sight. "Gotcha."

There's a kick delivered to Monica's midsection, one she could've avoided if she could only remember how to do anything. Her muscles fail to respond, fail to reflexively catch that foot or do anything other than ache as she goes stumbling back out of the doorway. "You fucked up," Hype hisses, his black-clad form broken up only by the gleam of silver around his collar in the form of a chain necklace, "you thought you were the top dog, girl. You ain't had no idea you was runnin' with wolves."

Unable to catch her breath, Monica finds herself helpless as she receives a sound boot the the stomach, flipping her over and sending her toppling into the side of the table her gun had slid under earlier, now across the room from her. "You got any idea how much your head's gon' be worth to Gideon?" Dark eyes narrow and when Hype winds up wth the baseball bat, Monica feels a sudden surge washing down her body, a fast twitch of her prickling fingertips.

For those first hits, Monica finds herself unable to do anything but stumble around. And when she hits that table, she seems to have trouble even staying on her feet. Her good arm holds her up as she looks over at Hype, eyes narrowed in both pain and ire as he talks. But, when that tingle comes back, she steps in, and given that her arm is pretty useless at the moment, she jumps up some and spins a kick to his face. And then, she lands, and delivers another to his chest. "You talk too much," she notes, gearing up for another.

The kick sends Hype crashing down to the ground with a split at his cheek and blood on the toe of Monica's sneaker. He lands with a crash against the floor, chest rising and falling rapidly and head cocked to the side from the force of the blow. It only takes a moment for his eyes to focus on the gleam of the gun beside him and reach out to snatch the firearm. Hype rolls onto his back, gun held in both hands and squeezes off a spray of gunfire as Monica's reflexes kick in, sending her rolling across her injures shoulder out of the way, leaving a spot of blood on the floor and sending a shooting pain up her side and down her injured arm.

Hype's gunshots perforate the wall and shatter one of the oil lanterns, sending ignited fuel down onto the wooden floor along with a shower of glass. "You bitch!" Hype hisses, struggling up to his feet one hand gingerly touching the split at his cheek as he looks up to where Monica scrambled away.

She's coughing, crouched behind an old broken ceiling beam and pieces of crumbled drywall. The flames catch the wood she uses as cover and the coughing fit doesn't stop. It's not from anything like the minimal amount of smoke but rather from the virus that has ravaged her body and ravaged her ability. Hype stalks towards the corner towards where Monica fled from the gunfire, flames rising at his back as plastic canisters of kerosene ignite, melt and spill liquid fire all along the floor. The old building catches fast, flames crawling up the old wallpaper on the walls, smoke billowing in sheets up from the burning wallpaper sending flaky ashes into the air.

Flames rise to the ceiling, licking tongues of fire that blacken and char the rafters and belch up choking black smoke carried aloft on thermal winds. This hellish backdrop, where flakes of ash fall like snow and wood glows orange from combustion might well be the last thing that Monica Dawson ever sees in her life.

There's a loud pop as one of the windows nearby shatteres from the heat, just before clomping and heavy footfalls come around one of the burning and collapsed beams in front of her. "Girl…" growls a man clutching his side where a deep gash has been cut in his abdomen, "you ain't got no idea who you be messin' with." It's not so much the darkly dressed thug between Monica and the blown out window that worries her, but the gun he has trained on her.

It's hard to move, here, where Monica lays bleeding on the floor. Blood pulses through her fingers at her shoulder, thick and tacky crimson warm on her skin and hard to see on the black fabric of her hooded sweatshirt. "You thought you was gonna be a hero?" Hype Wilson's voice carries out noisily over the crackling pop of the burning building, fire reflecting on the chromed barrel of his gun. "You know what happens to heroes in the real world?"

There's a click as Hype pulls back the hammer on the gun, wide eyes staring down at Monica's bloodied form leaning up against the wall. "They end up dead…"

"Just like you."

And Now…

Coughing fits don't do much for stealth, and as the virus reasserts her general illness and lack of ability and the fire roars behind Hype and she's looking at another gun barrel (god, what a day), Monica pulls herself up to standing, her hands lifting in a placating manner. "Just let my family go. They didn't have nothing to do with this. This is you and me and I get that you're-" Coughcoughshudder -"you're pissed. Now, you've got me, just let them go." She maaay take a slow step toward him, just a teeny one.

Fire reflects in Hype's eyes, smoke winds in fingers at his back. "You don't get it do you?" There's a motion of his gun up and down as if motioning to Monica's figure. "This ain't 'bout me bein' pissed, this is about you pissin' on the big boy who'se gon' run the show here in N'awlins." The scowl that Hype offers Monica comes with a slow back and forth shake of his head, brows lowered.

"You pissed on mister d'Sarthe, an' now you an' your family are gonna' pay for it." The gun is lifted again, chime glowing orange with all of the firelight raging around it, and Monica finds herself trapped behind the barrel of a gun for the third and possibly last time today. "I'll make sure they go qu— "

Hype lets go of the gun, sends it tumbling from his fingers to hit the floor as his eyes begin to turn bloodshot. A trickling stream of blood runs out of both of his nostrils, his ears and bubbles up from his mouth. He twitches, spasming where he stands before a whining gurgle croaks out of the back of his throat and he falls forward to land at Monica's feet.

Standing there, silhouette by the fire and breathing heavily, shoulders rising and falling is a man that Monica hasn't seen since she was a little girl. Back then, Daniel Lawrence Hawkins didn't have blood on his hands, but he certainly does now. Blood that matches the gaping hole in the back of Hype's head and the small of his back.

"You alright?" D.L. asks in a hushed tone of voice, his hands shaking where he keeps them held out in the air, the same spots they had invaded Hype's body just a moment ago.

Monica watches the thug as he speaks, half listening and half waiting for an opening to enact her master plan.

As soon as she thinks of one.

Imagine the shock when Hype stops to convulse and then fall at her feet. She stares for a moment, chest heaving with deep breaths. Wide eyes lift to take in her rescuer, and she lets out a relieved sigh before she steps over the body to lean against D.L.'s chest both for a grateful hug and, well, support. "Oh god, D.L. Oh god," she starts just sort of babbling, but his question does manage to give her some direction and she leans back to look up at him. "Not really, but we've got to get them out of here," she says before she insistently tugs the man toward the room where Nana and the younger Damon were last seen.

There's a tension in D.L's features as he watches Monica and a look of surprise on his face when she tugs him away. One hand comes up to rest on Monica's shoulder and D.L. isn't going anywhere near that fire now consuming the second floor. Instead he yanks Monica towards a wall, pulling her through it as if the surface were nothing more solid than a sheet of water. Both D.L. and Monica emerge into the room Nana Dawson and Monica's little brother are bound up to the chairs, and as D.L. lifts his hand off of Monica's shoulder, he's moving to his aunt hastily, tugging down her gag and smiling up both guiltily and reassuringly towards her, he's leaving Damon for Monica.

"Oh— Oh God baby— Daniel how— why're you… I thought you were— " Dead is the word she's looking for, but Nana's voice cracks as she stares up at her nephew with wide eyes. Tear-stained cheeks break. D.L.'s heart, but he doesn't give her much room to speak, lifting up a hand towards her mouth and shaking his head.

"Not now," D.L. insists, "please not now."

"Whoa-okay," Monica says as she's pulled through a wall suddenly, "That… was awesome." Of course, no time to dwell now, as she rushes over to her brother, pulling off his gag and untying his restraints with her one hand. "Nana, rescue first, questions later," she says, given that they've just caught The World's Biggest Break just now, she's not going to waste time.

"Sis," Damon breathlessly states, trying to hide the fact that he was crying a moment ago — big tough men do not cry. "You— I knew you'd come an' save us, I knew it!" When his hands are untied, Damon leaps up to his feet and throws his arms around Monica's waist, about to lay his head down on her shoulder when he realizes she's been shot. Eyes go wide, and Damon lurches back some, jaw trembling as he stares up at his sister with a guilty expression, like somehow this was all his fault.

"Nana," D.L. murmurs, settling a hand on her shoulder, "Nana you go with Monica a'right?" Brows lift, and D.L. offers a look over to his wounded cousin and furrows his brows before turning attention back to Nana, squeezing her shoulder gently and nodding his head once. There's a wordless exchange between the two, before D.L. makes his way over to Monica.

"I dunno what happened…" is D.L.'s less than friendly introduction, "or how you got wrapped up in this or why they're here," his voice drops to a sharp murmur, "but you need to get Nana and Damon outta' here right now." Which is to say, he's not going with them. "You need to get them out've here and get out of town."

Damon is staring up at D.L., eyes wide from the fact that he had just been staring at the blood on D.L.'s hands, the same blood that left a damp crimson mark on his aunt's shoulder. "There's a fire-escape out this window," he nods his head to the side, then looks out the door to the smoke pouring in and the roaring flames. "Go on."

"Of course," Monica says to Damon, a crooked, if shaky smile on her face, "You still owe me my ten bucks for sending you to the movies." When he hugs her, she puts her hand on the back of his head, "It's gonna be okay now, promise." seeing that guilt there, she crouches down to ruffle his hair, "It's looks worse than it is. Honest!" She smiles again before she stands back up, her expression evening out as D.L. addresses her.

"It's a… long story," she says, a bit sheepish sounding. "I'll get them out, D.L.," she says those words like an oath, but her brow furrows as she looks over at her cousin. "But I'm not leaving you behind. Don't make me leave you behind…" But, she does turn, picking up a chair to break the window and knocking out the glass before she gestures for Damon first, helping him out before she does the same for Nana. "You hit the ground running. Don't go home. I'll catch up."

For a woman as old as she is, Nana Dawson doesn't do much to let on about her age. Despite the slowness of her movement out the window, her hand stays wound around Monica's, a warning stare in her eyes before she squeezes her hand and leans away, swallowing noisily before wrapping her arm around Damon's shoulders. "Come on, you've gotta' help your ol' Nana get down this rickety thing… I've gotta have one strong man in my life," she comments with a veil of humor, offering a look past Monica to D.L.

Inside the burning building, D.L. watches Monica help them out the window, though he's already approaching the source of the fire when she turns to look back at him. "Monica," he murmurs, shaking his head as droplets of blood fall from his fingertips. "You need t'go with Nana and Damon," he admits once they start moving from the window, looking back over his hsoulder at the fire spreading thorugh the second floor, then back to his cousin. "I wasn't here because I heard you or them were in trouble, you— " his brows crease together, "you need to get outta' here before some've Gideon's people show up." There's a look to Monica's shoulder, and D.L. slowly and cautiously takes a step towards Monica, motioning for her to step closer.

Monica returns that squeeze and she leans in to say to Nana, "I will be right behind you." But when she turns to D.L., her good hand rests firmly on her hip and she's all full of stubborn spitfire, "You're in some kinda trouble, aren't you? Come on, doesn't matter, we're all gonna get out of here and we never have to see none of them again. D.L." She does step closer as he beckons, and her hand moves to hang onto his arm. "We're gonna need you."

One quick motion of D.L.'s hand brushes Monica's hand away, and his head shakes slowly. "Stay still," he insists, reaching up to bring two fingers to her shoulder, watching quietly as they turn ghostly and transparent and sink without sensation into Monica's gunshot wound. A moment later D.L.'s fingers draw back, pinching a bullet between them. He lets it fall to the floor with a tiny clatter that barely registers over the crackle and pop of flame.

"You don't know me, I ain't the boy you knew growin' up." Furrowing his brows, D.L. squares his jaw and takes a step back from Monica, watching her carefully, guiltily. "I had no idea what they were doin', or I would've stopped them sooner…" brown eyes angle towards the borken window, then back to Monica slowly. "Somebody's gotta be here to tell the people who come where you went…" and the mplication is that the answer will be a lie.

But it also implies that whoever comes will listen to D.L.

Neither notion is a happily revealed one.

At least she can follow directions. Monica stays as still as her sickness will let her, letting him pull out the bullet without a fuss. When he speaks, though, she just stares at him for a long moment as the realization hits her. Bam. Shaking her head, she takes a step back toward the window. "Get out of this, D.L. I don't know how you got mixed up in it, but get out of this. Because this ain't the end of me and them." And that's not happily revealed, either, the girl's hands spreading helplessly. "I'll see ya, Cuz," she says, in lieu of goodbye before she slips out the window to follow the others.

When Monica climbs out the window, D.L. stares silently at the empty space she once occupied, then looks down to the flattened bullet on the floor, lips downturning into a frown. Brown eyes close, and D.L. curls his fingers against his palms into fists, turn turns to look over his shoulder towards the roaring flames now coming in thorugh the door. He turns, body turning intangible as he steps into the fire, letting it swallow him whole.

Outside, there's a metal clanging when Monica comes down the fire escape and the ladder dangling below it to where Damon and Nana wait on the curb, watching flames and cinders rise up out of the windows of the Diner. Nana silently takes Damon's hand, and at the sound of sirens blaring down the empty street, starts to hustle with her grandson across the asphalt and away from the burning building, making sure that Monica is keeping pace with them.

There's a saying, that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. It's hard to tell what D.L. Hawkins intentions were here, but the woman who calls herself Saint Joan knows that it was her good intentions on ridding the streets of her hometown of crime and becoming a hero that led to this moment, led to the tongues of fire flicking up at the sky and the blood running warm across the skin of her shoulder.

This may not be Hell, but it's too close for comfort.

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