Mens Rea


munin_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif

Scene Title Mens Rea
Synopsis A gift to tell the future leads to conversations about the bleak tomorrows.
Date November 11, 2008

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City at the Narrows, the reach connecting the relatively protected upper bay with the larger lower bay. Before the bomb, this vehicle-only suspension bridge spanned the divide between two boroughs as one of the major through-ways, but shortly after the bomb, this bridge, like many others were blockaded by Homeland Security and used as a Government-Personnel direct access route into the city. Only authorized emergency vehicles and government agencies were allowed passage across from Staten Island, as a measure of keeping emergency traffic flow free.

In the months following, the blockade remained despite the lack of necessity in the matter. By the beginning of 2007 it was deemed that the bridge would remain restricted to government vehicles indefinately until the majority of repair to Manhattan was completed. Currently both levels of the bridge are blocked on all but one lane by concrete dividers that, without the assistance of heavy lifting equipment, cannot be bypassed by vehicles. The bridge remains reserved for emergency use only, though in the beginning of 200, pedestrian traffic was authorized on the upper deck of the bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn. Tresspassers on the lower deck could be detained by Homeland Security indefinately.

Still maintained and kept in solid working order for emergency use, the bridge is now one of the best ways in and out of Staten Island since the Staten Island Railway ceased operations shortly after the Bomb.

It's too cold for this, but at least the night is dry as it is chilly. Not quite nearing the center of the bridge, Sylar leans against the railing of the upper level of the bridge. He knows that below him, Homeland Security guards roam the lower level, ready to catch anyone who tries to trespass, much like the troll in that old fable. No name really given, just 'the troll', and it makes you wonder if every monster in every story was exactly the same. Monsters all, regardless of names and the lack thereof.

Night has fallen already, but Sylar hasn't moved from this spot in a little while now. A pale, water-resistant trenchcoat hangs halfway down his legs, covering up the jeans and the shirt, which in turn is covered by a dark blue sweater vest to combat the cold. His chin is tucked down a little as if to protect his throat from the cold wind that blows briskly across the bridge, and in his hands is a text book, one with a mark indicating it to be property of the Brooklyn Library. Now that it's dark, he can't continue to read it, but he can remember the information he's read. It's a medical book, and it might come in handy to put names to parts for once.

When you have ears like Sylar does, it's almost impossible for someone — or something — to sneak up on you. But almost is the key word here, and without warning a large black bird swoops down and lights on the railing beside him. It's impossible to determine the bird's species in the darkness, for it blends in with its inky surroundings so well, but its croaking vocalizations are some that Sylar should know well; either a crow or a raven, it tips its angular head to one side, ruffles its feathers and lets out a series of hoarse caws.

Here he is! Here he is! Here he is!

Sylar's arms come off the railing as his back straightens, stepping back from the large bird and staring at it, book still held loosely in his hand. The frantic caws almost sound like a warning, like they might attract needless attention, and for this reason, he steps further back from the railing. He's pretty sure that's not normal bird behaviour, and it's almost disturbing to watch— but logic clicks into place and he looks down the bridge in one direction, then the other, looking, perhaps, for someone. Finally, his gaze rests back onto the creature, raising an eyebrow. "What's the little bird trying to tell me?" he muses out loud. Maybe Munin fell down a well.

"He's telling you that you're damned near impossible to find." Munin's voice, followed by the soft sound of her footsteps on the cement beneath her ballet flats, should allow Sylar to pinpoint the young woman's location as she approaches him from the Brooklyn side of the bridge, her slim silhouette illuminated by the distant glow of the city's lights. The closer she gets, the more details he'll be able to pick out; under her arm is a box-shaped parcel wrapped in what looks like plain brown paper, not the sort of thing one carries around in such a fashion unless it's meant for somebody else.

There we go. As Munin's shape comes into view, Sylar narrows his eyes in her direction - tapping into a little used ability and picking out those details before she'd come within distance to view them. As she nears, his blinks once to escape that telescopic mode of vision, and shifts to lean against the railing, the wind still tugging at his hair and clothes, flapping the lapels of his coat, and he holds his book tight for this reason. "Good," he says when she comes within her own range of hearing, because talking to her through a bird isn't something he's completely accustomed to. "I was in the library."

"Could have used you back at Ethan's earlier tonight," Munin says, and though her tone is light it also lacks its usual mirth. "Odessa decided she'd prance around the kitchen in one of his shirts and little else — I can't say Dina and Amato are taking to her too well. Wu-Long didn't seem entirely unhappy, though." As she comes up beside Sylar, the bird shuffles several feet away, making room for her at the railing. Pale green eyes, appearing almost gold under the moon, shift from the man's face to the book he holds in his large hands. She doesn't bother squinting in an attempt to get a look at the title — it's much too dark to be reading, which makes her wonder why he's really out here. "I brought you something."

The news of Odessa is quick to gain the killer's interest - and his expression promptly darkens in the half light, when Munin describes the scene, after a hint of confusion flickers past. Slowly and casually, deliberately so, he turns back towards the railing to assume his prior position. "Sounds like a laugh riot," he says, tone bone dry. "Maybe I should have been there. What do you think of her?" His brown eyes almost look black in this lighting when he glances at her, then down towards the package in the girl's hands. "What did you bring me?"

"She seems nice," Munin says with a slight shrug of her shoulders. "A little clueless, maybe. But nice." Whether these are her true feelings on the subject or something closer to the surface of her emotions, Sylar may never know — not unless he finds some way to get inside her head without cleaving it open and picking apart her psyche. She offers him the package, her reply a succinct, "Unwrap it and find out."

Sylar readily extends out a hand to take the item, passing her the book to hold for him. A small gesture, but not so long ago, he was on guard with almost everyone within the group, Munin included. Perhaps trust is slowly starting to settle into place, or at least familiarity. "Yes. She is clueless," Sylar says, as his fingernails find the crevices of the folded brown paper to tear it apart, to let pieces flutter over the side of the railing as the wind catches them. "She was brought up in captivity so you could say we've released her into the wild, and doesn't know yet how to fend for herself. And we're not the kindest of wolf packs."

Munin trades Sylar the package for the book and cradles it in the nook of her arm, one small hand — fingers splayed — resting on the cover, just in case. The paper tears away to reveal a wooden box with glass cover and a brass latch to hold it in place. Beneath that, neatly arranged in rows by size and shape, are several dozen paintbrushes of varying design — all with simple wooden handles and stiff clusters of sable fur at their tips. "Kazimir's decided I'm not fit for active duty," she explains. "So I figure I ought to make myself useful some other way. You said you could paint the future."

Sylar wasn't really thinking of what the nature of the item was - so he hadn't thought so far ahead as to expect a gift of any kind. Once the last of the brown paper has fluttered away, Sylar finds himself holding the wooden box in his hands, angling it so that the few lights above them would allow him to see through the glass rather than flare against it. Despite the wind that might threaten to tamper with the things inside, he undoes the brass latch to lift it up, observing the brushes inside, before closing it again. He doesn't say anything for a moment, before he says, "If you knew the kind of futures I painted, maybe you wouldn't have done this." It's not guilt in his tone, though the words are designed for it.

Munin allows herself a small, rueful sort of smile at Sylar's words, shaking her dark-haired head. "What happens, happens — whether you splash it across a canvas or not. The way I see it," she adds, looking down at his reflection in the glass, "that's your free will in there, your moral agency, your mens rea." You don't hang around Amato and Kazimir as long as Munin has without picking up a few phrases in Latin. "We all do bad things. Kazimir thinks he's doing them for the greater good, but Kazimir doesn't have the talent you do. He doesn't have your insight, either."

Free will. Morals. A criminal mind. It had only been today that he handed Kazimir the future, that he'd seen the smile on his face. "What do you believe?" Sylar asks, finally looking up - relatively up, she's not exactly tall and he's not exactly short - from the box, to her. "If he's not doing it for the greater good, what's the point in all of this?" He says this blandly, the words speaking of a moral dilemma that perhaps someone else is having rather than him personally, but then again, he's never really given his true opinion on any of this. Tools like hammers and saws aren't call on for their insight.

"I want to believe the best of people," Munin says, her free arm now resting on the railing as she leans against it and turns her face into the breeze, "but it's hard, seeing what I do when I look at him. Ethan and Amato are polar opposites, but they both follow Kazimir blindly — their loyalty, absolute. Nobody ever asks questions. Nobody ever asks what's going to happen when the work is done we're standing at the end of the world, or if we'll be standing at all. I'm Evolved, and so are you, so I assume he must hate us too."

"They don't ask questions because they know," Sylar says, resuming his position against the railing. His hands hold the box tightly, no chance of it slipping out of his grip though it dangles over water. "At least, they know something. Some kind of truth." Or lie, take your pick. "I've been chosen to stay standing when the world ends." But he's seen. Seen that particular apocalypse. What can he do now… other than be allowed to live? To survive? "I don't think you're meant to question destiny, Eileen."

"They know what Kazimir's told them," Munin corrects Sylar gently. "Who's to say he's not lying?" The thought has crossed Munin's mind as well, more than once. "Before you came to us, before he brought you into our fold, he gathered us all together and introduced us to a man named Adam Monroe. The things he said that night— If you'd heard— " She shakes her head, coming to an abrupt halt the instant she feels a hitch in her breath. "He's insane. He isn't interested in saving the world. He's going to destroy it so he can start over and rebuild it in his own image. He wants to play God."

Sylar's reaction is immediate, but not visibly, unless you can see his knuckles go a little white around the paintbrush set box, his jaw clench. Then, it's a flipped switch, turning towards Munin and reaching out to grip her arm. "Adam Monroe," he repeats, gaze sharp. "He has Adam Monroe with him? Where, do you know?" For all the loyalty he's given to Vanguard so far, it seems all but thrown out the window when it comes to this topic of conversation.

Munin looks from Sylar to the hand on her arm and then back to his face, the corners of her mouth pulling down into a slight frown. She's not as startled as she might have been a few weeks ago, but she does tense when she realizes she probably couldn't get away if she needed to. "I don't know where Monroe is," she murmurs, working hard to keep her voice steady, "if I did, I might tell you. Why? What can he do that's so important to you?" It isn't difficult to put two and two together, after all. She remembers what he did to Madeline.

Sylar's gaze burns into her for a moment, as if trying to use his ability to see whether she's lying, but of course… it doesn't work that way. His grip on her arm, needless as it is, relaxes when she fairly calls him on exactly what he wants from Monroe. "He doesn't die," he says, flatly, bitterly, and leans back against the railing. "I guess it's easy to talk about the end of the world when you know you can live through it. I wonder…" He relaxes a little more, that colder stoic mask melting into something softer as his mind leaps ahead to conclusions. "Maybe he's for me."

"I knew about Monroe before Kazimir knew about you. Don't you think he'd have given you him already, if that's what he intended?" Munin won't discount the possibility, though. Uncertainty is written all over her features. There's something familiar about what she sees in his eyes — in a way, it's like looking in a mirror and through time. A small part of her recognizes the hunger in his voice, the frustration when he talks about something he wants but cannot have. "What's it like?" she asks. "How does it feel, taking somebody else's ability and making it your own?"

He wants, badly, to believe that this is Kazimir's plan. That Adam is intended for Sylar's use, because he can't imagine - or simply doesn't know - what more use the man could be to their fearless leader. He feels anxious, antsy - he wants to storm all the way back to Queens and demand answers and confirmation. For a moment, he almost looks prepared to do that, but Munin's question catches him off guard, looking back at her. Despite this particular topic - or rather, due to it - he gives her the smallest of smiles. A hyena smile rather than something deliberate. "It feels great," he says. "It feels right. Sometimes it feels so great and right that I don't know if I could stop myself if I tried. Like Madeline… Ethan would have had to shoot me first." That doesn't sound figurative, either.

Oh Sylar, you poor, sweet addict. Munin reaches up and, if Sylar will let her, touches her hand to his cheek and holds it there. There's nothing suggestive about the gesture, and even if there was it wouldn't be likely to have its intended affect. For one thing, she isn't wearing gloves and her fingertips are so cold it's almost painful. For another, this is Eileen — Sylar was right when he told her there was something wrong with all of them. For whatever reason, her brain just doesn't function that way anymore.

"You can't confront Kazimir about any of this," she whispers. "He can't know I told you about Adam Monroe."

He allows the touch, even if it's bewildering for a moment - and then quite suddenly, he steps back, away from the icy brush of her fingertips to his cheek. Not due to her words that come next. It's a recognition of pity, even if that's not where her heart was, and his smile vanishes in a second. This topic, however, gives Sylar something to latch on to. "I have to," he says. "I have to know if that's what he wants. And if it's not, I have to know why he'd deny me this. What he really wants from me."

"He'll kill you, Sylar." And her, but Munin isn't worried about that right this minute. The man standing in front of her is primary concern, if only because it's obvious he can't help himself. Her arm drops back to her side, fingers curling into a tight fist. "The only way you can stay one step ahead of Kazimir is to pretend to know less than you really do. The minute he perceives you as a threat, it's over — you're dust."

Sylar's head shakes once, in denial. "No," he says, firmly, voice raising in volume. "He won't kill me. He needs me. He needs me more than he needs any of you." His hand goes out, as if with the intent to hold her in place with his most favoured ability, to punish, but he… hesitates. And stops, arm folding back towards himself. "If you tell me where Adam is," he says, trying a new tactic, "then I won't have to go to Kazimir, and he— if he wanted to, he wouldn't be able to kill me."

The instant that Sylar raises his hand, Munin recoils, fully expecting to feel the full brunt of a telekinetic blow hitting her head-on. When it never comes, she lets out a shaky sigh through her nose, wraps her arms around herself, hugging the book to her chest, and looks away from him. His request — or his demand, depending on how you want to look at it — isn't impossible, not with an entire city of birds at her beck and call. If anyone among the Vanguard stands a chance at finding Adam Monroe with only a name and a face to go on, it's Munin.

In the silence than elapses between them, the young woman stares out over the water, saying nothing. A contemplative expression settles over her face as she mentally weighs the pros and cons of Sylar's proposal. In the end, though, she nods. Once. "I'll find him for you," she promises, "I don't know how long it'll take— but I'll do it. Because of what you did for me."

The silence that descends between the two is one of unwinding tension - at least, for Sylar. Holding back on an impulse like flinging someone away with his ability is a bit like forcing a boxer to not make a blow when his arm is cocked. Sylar tilts his head a little to loosen the muscles in his neck, and he glances down at the paintbrush box still in his hand. He swallows, once, then holds out his other hand - not an attack, but one to accept the other item she's holding for him. "Thanks for the paint brushes. My book?" he says, quietly.

There's a moment of hesitation in which Munin doesn't look like she's sure she wants to approach him, but it quickly passes. If he intended to hurt her, really hurt her, he would have done it already. She takes a step forward, closing the distance between them, and holds out her arm, wordlessly offering him the book.

It's taken from her and tucked under his arm, and as if they were merely two strangers passing each other on the bridge, Sylar moves to do just that, just in the opposite direction. Swiveling around, he moves away from the girl. Maybe other Vanguard would make sure she got home safely - for Sylar, his thinking never does extend that far. His coat flaps without rhythm as the wind continues to claw at them both, as if in weak, futile attempts to toss them over the edge.

Contrary to the belief shared by Amato and Ethan (one of few), Munin doesn't need an escort to get from Point A to Point B. She's savvy in subtle ways — if she found Sylar with the help of one big, black bird, surely she find her way home without encountering any trouble along the way. For now, she watches him depart, not through her eyes but the eyes of the corvid that was sitting on the railing up until a few moments ago. With a few powerful thrusts of its wings, it rises into the night sky, disappearing against its starry expanse like a drop of water in the mighty sea.

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