More Karma Than Anything


eileen2_icon.gif magnes_icon.gif

Scene Title More Karma Than Anything
Synopsis Magnes makes his move.
Date March 13, 2019

Jackson Heights

Snow and sleet have given way to rain with the coming of spring. It baptizes the Safe Zone in a heavy drizzle, making the pavement shine under the glow of the street lights, which intermittently blink in and out of existence at times that correspond to scheduled brownouts.

Electricity is a commodity, even here.

Eileen uses this cover of darkness to safely navigate the streets at night, keeping to the narrowest of alleys on the off chance she encounters a well-intentioned soldier who might flag her down — or, worse, ask her to produce her papers.

She has papers, of course. The forgeries are tucked into the inside pocket of the wool coat where they're kept safe and dry against the steady drub of her heart.

It's been beating faster than usual for the last few minutes, although the individual dogging her steps would never know it. She gives no outward indication that she's being followed, except perhaps that her path has diverged from its usual route and branched off in the direction of one of the Safe Zone's least populated neighborhoods: Jackson Heights.

She might lose her pursuer somewhere in the abundance of half-finished construction sites that litters the landscape. Or maybe she'll slip into one of its many tunnels and never come out the other side.

She has not yet decided, but her eyes in the sky provide her with the visuals she needs to make an informed decision.

Her figure skirts along an old, crumbling canal that has yet to be repaired or reinforced. The entrance to a forgotten sewer line lies some two hundred feet ahead, and Eileen firmly believes that Magnes Varlane is not foolish enough to pursue her below ground.

The Magnes Varlane that this Eileen knew was foolish enough to do a large number of things that he didn't entirely think through.

But he knows the perils of pursuing Eileen. It's much like pursuing Batman, you can cover your tracks as much as you want, but she probably knows. No matter how silent he makes his steps, how cautious he is about avoiding her vision.

Something that it took a pair of garden shears to learn was that giving Eileen time to think, giving her time to tactically consider a situation, it's a fatal flaw for someone who didn't grow up like her to do.

So as he continues to pursue, as he steps onto the edge of yet another building, he makes the connection in his head, about where she's going, and makes a decision.

He doesn't move in the way that a normal person would move in this situation, with the normal tells of movement. he instead thrusts himself forward like someone who's just been pushed off a building with a gust of wind. He's not flying, not propelling himelf, he's reoriented his gravity so that he's falling horizontally.

Then, just as he's within around thirty feet of her, he suddenly tethers his gravitational field to her body and bolts into the air.

It feels a hell of a lot like being strapped to a rollercoaster, especially considering how fast and how sudden he starts flying directly upward.

Once they're high enough in the air, high enough to see a good portion of the city, she can freely move her body. It's much like one would be able to move in zero gravity, and he draws her in a bit closer, eye level, keeping a good twenty feet between them.

Hands in his long coat's pockets, he stares at her. "We have a lot to discuss. I don't advise pulling out a gun or trying to stab me this high up."

Blue eyes flash accusingly at Magnes in the dark. He's only seen Eileen angry a handful of times, including the incident with the garden shears, but he recognizes white-knuckled fury when confronted with it.

She hangs there, soaked and suspended, rainwater dripping from her hair and the dense material of her own coat.

For the moment, she takes his advice about leaving her gun where it is: holstered and beneath at least one layer of sodden clothing.

"I see you're upset."

"I know that what happened wasn't your fault, but I've heard things, things that I have trouble excusing." Magnes' tone is certainly grim, but it's very contained, like he hasn't decided entirely what to feel yet. "But I'm not here to punish, capture, or judge you. I'm here to ask you about my daughter. And due to your tendency to stab and lock me in incinerators, this is how we have to have a conversation.

"Okay, I guess I'm allowed at least that one judgement."

"The night's still young," Eileen suggests, tone wry. Her hand goes to the topmost button of her coat without unfastening it. It hovers there, an unspoken threat in spite of his warning.

What's he going to do? Drop her?

The stabbing she knew about. This delightful anecdote about locking him in an incinerator is news to her, but also sounds very much in character.

She'd like to lock him in an incinerator right now.

"I think I have the most confused feelings about you, things that no one really understood. They said to forget, because they didn't really understand how much you… the you of this world, meant. I recently learned that she died years ago, which means that you're another person that I'm mourning twice." Magnes certainly didn't just want to talk about his daughter, but he gets back on track. "You're not either of those, you're not my friend EIleen, and you aren't Munin.

"So… tell me about my daughter. Tell me how she is." He suddenly moves, and she can feel herself shift slightly when he does, due to being within his field. She stays eye level as a result.

When he sits on basically the air, space bends slightly under his butt. So his makeshift sitting on the fabric of space probably suggests that he plans to stay up here for a while.

Let it never be said that Eileen isn’t patient. She listens to Magnes without interrupting, but takes the opportunity to open her coat while he speaks at her and of her. Unlike the gravikinetic, she lacks the luxury of being able to orient herself in the air. For once.

Being up this high in her own body, unassisted by open wings, makes her feel strange and vulnerable in ways the emotionally charged conversations she’s had with other people over the past few days did not.

It’s uncomfortable. She doesn’t like it.

"She's getting tall," she says of Addie.

"Is she happy, is she healthy? Can I trust you to bring her back to me?" Magnes' questions are in quick succession, a bit of anxiousness starting to enter his tone.

"I wanted Eileen, any Eileen, to be happy," he suddenly says, not giving her a chance to answer his questions yet. "I couldn't save them, and I couldn't stay away from you…"

There it is. The persistent crack in the facade Magnes always puts on. His weakness: sentimentality. Eileen focuses her attention on that, seeking out his dark eyes with her paler ones. Their blue is not so far removed from the seafoam gray-green that he remembers.

Her gloved hand slips under the lapel of her coat. Fingers curl around the grip of the handgun nestled safely in its holster.

"Why?" she asks, offering him a distraction from his other line of questioning. "It's certainly not because of my glowing charisma."

"I don't think most people get it. Most people see her as just… I don't know, this soldier, this person who is forever in Kazimir's shadow." Magnes stares at her hand, then stares into her eyes. He doesn't say anything, he just continues to talk. "I see her compassion. She could have had all kinds of motivations, but I saw her compassion. I cared about her, in my own stupid immature way I probably even loved her."

"Munin… Munin was different from the Eileen here. She was wild, she instantly sensed my attraction to her and fake seduced me into an incinerator. But she was also full of, I don't know, something, this heavy weight." He motions a hand, figuring she'd probably know herself. "She showed me compassion too. It was difficult, but we got to that point. No matter what version of you I meet, you're full of love and compassion deep down inside of you."

He's making it very difficult to shoot him. Maybe that's the point of this.

Eileen frees the handgun from its holster regardless, not yet drawing it out into the open. Stranger than this freeform sensation of floating is being talked about in the third person when she's barely twenty feet away from him.

Lightning flickers somewhere in the distance and illuminates her face's less flattering angles. He can see that she's tired. Whatever that weight is, it burdens this version of her too.

"I think you'll find that's true of most people," she tells him, given enough space in the conversation to do so, "if you're motivated to look."

"I don't disagree. But I always felt something, like this bond, a most likely one sided bond, but still a bond. I was motivated to look, she motivated me to look." Magnes says very firmly, his tone sounding almost defensive, like he's defending an Eileen against a perhaps perceived attack.

"I'm haunted by Munin's final moments. It haunts me much like Elaine's final moments. But the difference is that I know I couldn't have saved Elaine…" He tries to breathe, and she can feel his gravity shifting with his mood. Her floating starting to slow a bit, stabilizing as it feels almost like his weight has pulled her a few inches closer. "But I thought I could stop Kazimir, I thought I could free that world for her… for all of them… and instead all I have is the image of Kazimir holding her skull burned into my mind."

He hasn't changed much. The years have added crow's feet to the corners of his eyes and filled out his frame with muscle and scar tissue, but beneath it all Magnes is still the same earnest little boy Eileen saw him as when they first met.

Still: The shift in his physicality puts her on edge. She'd wanted to be closer to Iago just the other night, and had even entertained the idea of testing Byron's boundaries on account of his apparent similarities to Gabriel — but this is a very different situation.

"I'm sorry," because surely she must have misheard that last part, “my what?"

"Kazimir's ability, it… you know what it does. It was the most jarring thing I'd ever seen at the time. I didn't see when it happened, the process, but… I knew. I've experienced so much more since then, but to have the death of someone I cared so much about just… viscerally in my face. Someone who was alive just moments before…" Magnes has to breathe again, as this is clearly very difficult to talk about.

"It never got easier, the more I saw things like that, the more I had to experience and walk through death. It never got easier. But in that world, when Munin died, it ripped a hole open that I could never close. And now…" He stands up, the area under his feet slightly bending space, suggesting that he's more standing rather than floating. "Now you're all that's left. An Eileen who hates me because of how profoundly you were hurt by me even being there. I never even got to say goodbye to the Eileen who was born here.

"Looking at your face, it doesn't make me angry, it fills me with grief, it makes me think of how much I failed you, how much I failed so many of you. When I get my daughter back, I'll disappear from your life forever." Now his feet start to hang, as if he is floating now, and he begins to gradually descend with her. "But if you decide to shoot me, I guess that'll be more karma than anything."

An Eileen who hates me, Magnes says. And Eileen remembers.

She has a cover she needs to maintain.

Her mind splits off in half a dozen different directions on their way back down to earth. There are plenty of options available to her, but most of them arrive at the same unfortunate conclusion. As before, she allows him to speak without interruption, absorbing his stories— his perspective like her clothes soak up the rainwater.

Everything has a point of saturation, however.

Her feet touch down on the pavement, and she lets out the breath she'd been holding through her nose.

His gentle conviction makes her want to be able to walk away from this confrontation with the full clip — all fifteen bullets — that she started with. Unfortunately for Magnes, it's also the thing that makes her realize she can't.

He'll talk. And when he tells this story, it needs to have an ending that fits the narrative Eileen Gray created.

"All right," she says, leveling the handgun with Magnes' center of mass. Her finger contracts around the trigger twice.

The first shot punches through his chest but misses his heart. The second catches his shoulder when the force of the impact spins him sideways.

It could be said that Magnes has entirely forgotten how many times he's been shot at this point.

But he falls to one knee, because one doesn't generally develop a resistance to bullet point, but blood doesn't spill out, gravitational field generally keeping his blood in.

Still, he's on one knee, then two, and he stares up at her. "I'm sorry." he says with a genuinely sincere level of sadness and guilt laced around every word.

He holds his chest, consciousness wavering from the abnormal flow of blood. Then he holds his head up, closing his eyes, clearly waiting for the final bullet.

It never comes.

When Magnes opens his eyes again, Eileen is gone. Rainwater washes over his face, gathers in his lashes and in the corners of his mouth. He's alone in the middle of a road not yet built — and if that isn't a metaphor for his life, then what is?

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