No Easy Answers


elisabeth_icon.gif mack_icon.gif

cameo by cardinal_icon.gif

Scene Title No Easy Answers
Synopsis Waffling about how to handle an IA investigation, there really is no fix — just consequences. Or forgetting about it for a while.
Date Oct 13, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

The sun has already risen as high as its going to get and the fall air feels as if its bringing in some of the cold from the midwest. It is the perfect weather to give off an eerie feeling of seclusion and solitude amidst the ruins of Midtown, already empty and desolate without any help from the elements. The breeze kicks up concrete dust and whispers in the crumbling architechture.

As for Mack, he's taken ownership of a prime piece of real estate. The former office of some sort is just a concrete and metal shell, for the most part, but the second story doesn't look as if its going to collapse any time soon and the west facing wall is in tact- keeping much of the breeze, and by extension the dust, out of the room. Well, except the dust in the room, but at least that isn't blowing around and getting in your nose and what not.

The north wall isn't as well perserved, however, and its a perfect seat for Mack. His legs are thrown out over the wall, dangling freely over the street below. He's taken to wearing his hoodie again, given the weather, but its unzipped and flaps gently in the breeze. A cigarette is pressed between his lips and a can of Bud Lite is in his right hand; nearby is a box with several more.

Meeting up in the ruins might be considered a stupid plan at the moment, but Elisabeth was heading for the Library anyway — she wants to take a look at Edward Ray's string map. There's someone else hanging out in the general vicinity who might be of more help, though, and she makes the phone call to Gabriel MacNamara to ask him to talk to her. Catching sight of him up on his perch, Elisabeth rolled her eyes and waved as she headed into the building itself. Stepping into the office he's apparently made himself at home in, Elisabeth glances around. "Nice place," she says drily, walking over to plunk herself down in his window seat with him. "Christ, Mack… you ever going to come back in from going native?" she asks mildly as she dangles her feet out his window.

Mack unabashedly blows smoke into the ruins, further adding to the pollution it suffers. Bastard. Before speaking he leans back and grabs one of the beers, handing it over to Liz. She's going to take that beer, damn it. "You gonna try and tell me this isn't relaxing? Really? Just listen to the silence… where else in the city can you find silence? Its like nature said 'fuck you New York, I'm taking this little bit back.' And New York just shrugged and figured that was a better plan than trying to clean it up and rebuild it." With that, he turns to look at Liz, offering her a sideways smile beneath the black mirrors of his sunglasses.

Actually she is going to take the beer. Elisabeth pops it open and takes a long swallow, merely listening. "It always sounds sort of haunted to me," she admits quietly. "When I was a kid, I spent hours in that library. It's always just…. weird. To be out here when I come now." To know that her mother's ashes coat the place. She shrugs a bit. "I need your advice on something. Not …. " She glances at him. "Not the don't-give-a-shit attitude, Mack. I really… need some help with this one."

"Guess we met in the right place, then." Mack takes a drink of his own beer followed by a drag on his cigarette, letting his eyes roll back out to the ruins, floating over the ghosts of the past. "Shoot."

"Back when the Narrows bridge came down…. I was involved in all of that. Through some of the people you've met already and some others you haven't, I had a lot of intel on the viral attack that the Vanguard was planning to launch." It was all the catalyst for Mack's stint on Staten. "I gave all the intel I had… including Vanguard names and faces that these people out here came up with… to Will. He said it wasn't enough. They were nameless, faceless contacts and he didn't think we had enough to even begin investigating. So…. that's pretty much when I totally went off the reservation."

Elisabeth nibbles her lip and takes another swallow of the beer. "I don't know if you remember but just before the bridge came down, I helped coordinate a huge operation to remove and defuse like 50 bombs off all the bridges. Commissioner Lau seems to have decided she wants some answers about how I knew what I knew… and I've been approached by an IA rep to tell the story." She glances at him, her brow furrowed. "Only he's approaching me on the down-low, not bringing me into his office to explain myself or anything. Says he's offering me a 'reprieve' if I tell him everything. And I…. honestly, Mack… I got no fucking clue what to do here."

Mack drains the rest of his beer, crushes it, and drops it near the box. From which he retrieves another. "Call your rep, get a lawyer. Do that first things first. Don't even fuck around, Liz. Affairs fuckers will fuck you six ways from backwards and they won't even blink when they burn your ass to make you look good. They're slimey little fuckin' bastards." Then he flicks his smoke off into the distance. "Unless somebody's trying to broadside you. Got any enemies left? Whoever tried to take a shot at you in the precinct a couple months back, maybe?"

There's a grimace. Elisabeth says quietly, "If I take my rep and a lawyer in there…. I'm going to jail, Mack." She kicks her feet a bit and looks out over the desolate landscape as they sit in their hollowed-out shell of a window. "Not that I wasn't prepped for that in the first place, but… I don't think I can just brazen this one out. I don't think I covered my own tracks that well." She sighs. "Shit…. I think no matter which way I do this, I'm fucked. And not in the fun, stress-relieving way, either." There's a faint grin as she sips from the beer again. "Ah well… tanking my career saving 95 percent of the planet? Guess that's not a bad legacy," she says ruefully.

One can notice some movement over at the library from where the pair are perched, talking, as Cardinal steps over the debris and police tape to come out onto the steps of the building. A pack of cigarettes is drawn out from inside his jacket as he pauses at the top of that broken stair, slapped against his hand a few times before he pulls out one of the cancer-sticks, tucking it into his mouth and lighting it, hands cupped to protect against the wind.

"Yeah, that kind of fucking rarely takes place when too many badges get involved." Mack pops open another beer and lets a healthy portion of it flow down his throat. "I don't know. I was never any good at political manuevering bullshit, Lizzy. But if they tried to come at me when I hadn't done anything wrong, you can bet your ass I'd be taking a peek inside their closets."

There's a brief flash of surprise on Elisabeth's face as she turns to look at him. "You don't think I've done anything wrong?" she asks him. "Christ…. maybe I've covered my ass better than I thought if you think that," she sighs. "Mack…. I was part of that offensive at Sea View, I was fucking SHOOTING people out there. I was part of the group that went into Pinehearst and took it down. And I got taken hostage by Humanis First while I was sitting in a fucking sniper's nest taking POTSHOTS at them." Shaking her head, Elisabeth finally gets some of it off her chest. "You think you've gone off the reservation? Fuck me to tears, man…. I don't even know where the goddamn reservation is anymore." She drains the can in her hands, shaking her head. "And there's a shitload more that needs to be done out here."

Spotting the form stepping out of the library way the hell over there, Elisabeth is forced to smirk faintly, jerking her chin in that direction. "You two will get along famously. I think maybe you could both use a good friend." She glances at Mack. "When this all comes down around my head, would you do me a favor please, and look out for my friends?"

"You keep talking like giving up is the right thing to do and I'll bitchslap you right off this building." Mack takes a cue from Cardinal's playbook and reaches into a pocket to draw out another smoke. "I don't know because for most of the past few months I've been oblivious. After Staten I crawled into a bottle and stayed there until I started working with you and Card's little group of vigalantes. Sounds like you were having as much fun as I was, though probably to more effect. I'm not sure what to tell you." Mack takes another hit of his smoke, beer, smoke. "I'm about the wrong person to be giving advice. The truth is, I don't tend to make wise career choices. If it were me, I'd disappear. Go off the grid. Take on alias and start over; you've burned yourself right out of the NYPD with all the wet work. Whatever advantage you used to get in gathering info got twisted the second you started doing the kind of work we do out here for yourself. An informant can't attract attention; you've got a lotta eyes on you. Even if you manage to outplay them and keep your job — and out of jail — you're not gonna be able to play both sides anymore. But like I said, I'm not exactly a bastion of wisdom these days."

Elisabeth shoves Mack sideways, hard enough to rock him but certainly not hard enough to knock him off their perch. "Who said anything about giving up?" she grouses. "I've spent a couple days working out the angles. I asked your advice cuz you've got years on me in the uniform. But hell, you're just as much a clueless jerk as I am," she grins faintly. "And I'm finally figuring out that we're all a buncha clueless fucks. Will put his career on the line to cover my ass for the bridge thing. And Shelby and O'Shea have put their careers and their asses on the line to cover my absence while Humanis tortured me." She's talking about it more easily these days, she has a moment to note absently. Maybe just because the meds are kicked in but good right now. And mabe because Bella Sheridan helped immensely.

"I'm gonna take a risk on this guy. I'm going to tell him what I can… without naming names. If it looks like I gotta go underground, I guess I will. I still have the GPS panic button for the teleporter to home in on me." There's a faint smirk. "And worst case, I guess I can always go to work for The Company. Got offered a job with them recently too. So…. " She looks at Mack. "I gotta have a little faith that there are more people out there who just plain get that the right thing to do isn't always legal." Liz does reach out now and take that cigarette away from him. "I swear to God, I hang out with you guys and your smokes much more, and I'm gonna be hooked. And then I'm gonna be pissed."

The cigarette's flicked from Cardinal's hand after a bit, burnt down to the stub, and he makes his way down along the steps of the library, darkness shadowing him briefly before he bleeds away into mere shadow stretched across the steps as if the sun had burnt it there. Then it's gone, flickering off through the ruins en route to somewhere else, one presumes.

"Its all about peer pressure, man." Mack. The kid that wanted to party instead of do homework, go skate instead of study, sneak out of the house and get wasted instead of sleep. The ultimate example of irresponsibility; talking about saving the world. Dear God, someone better find a better play hero. "But you take it easy with your cigarette thievery, I'm not quitting. I don't really fear cancer." Of course, then he has to start humming 'Don't Fear the Reaper'. What a silly fucker. "But you're right. I was clueless, in a way. S'why Will lead SCOUT, and I was his partner, not the other way around. Kid had a strategic mind. I'm more of a tactical type of dude. And hanging out with me will lead you to all sorts of bad habits, Liz. Drinking, smoking, tattoos; next thing you know you'll be up against a wall of a little club fucking somebody fifteen feet away from a mosh pit at an In Flames show. I'm like a disease; I spread bad decisions." As for Cardinal, when he turns into Shadow Man, Mack loses him all together. Fucking cool power. Bastard.

There's a soft snort. "Well, shit…. I don't want to smoke. Ruins the voice," Elisabeth tells him with a brief grin, a waggle of her brows at him. "But drinking and tats I already got covered. The fucking up against the wall thing? Could be fun, but not fond of mosh pits." She then chuckles at him. "I'm not giving up on you, you know. It's a failing and you'll break my heart, I'm sure. But I won't do it, Mack. No matter what the hell you do." She owes it to Will, if for no other reason.

Mack grins at the words around finishing his beer. Of course, he just gets another one. "I'm not a little girl out turning tricks, Liz. You don't think I'm a little girl, do you?" He lets his gaze turn to her for a few moments before looking back out at the city. "I'm sure I'll cause you some discomfort. Maybe even annoy the hell outta you. But I doubt I'll break your heart." He waggles the beer can then to bring her attention to it. "I know I drink a lot, but the part you might not be aware of is, I could drink beer all day and never feel it. Its kind of weird, but handy. When everyone thinks you're drunk all the time they tend to assume you're not paying attention."

Elisabeth tilts her head and considers that. "Actually I didn't realize that was a side effect of your ability," she acknowledges easily. "Handy." There's a grin. "And no. I definitely don't think you're a little girl. You've proven that quite handily in the past, thanks." She's referring to being freakin' tackled in the middle of the street not too far down the block from here. "I do wonder whether you've decided you've got nothing left to lose. If that's why you threw in here… in the hopes of …. I don't know. Going out in a blaze of not-so-much-the-glory just so you don't have to deal with this bullshit anymore," she admits.

"Don't get me wrong. I can still get drunk. Just not from sipping beers and babysitting. Like a girl." Liz gets a pointed look at this point for emphasis, but Mack doesn't dwell on that subject. "In some ways… in some ways I do. I can't fall much farther; I can't fabricate a much shittier existence. But I don't sit around and cry about it, either. It just is what it is. Its been this way since the bomb, I just finally accepted it." He shrugs, kicking his legs up against the building, the words forming in his mind even as they exit his lips. "But I'm not trying to get myself killed. Don't worry about that. If I get to that point, I'm not going to let anyone around to bring down with me."

"All right," Elisabeth acquiesces, leaning over to set her empty can next to his box and fish out another. She doens't open that one, though, just sitting there with her feet still swinging. And then there's a smirk. "You know, if you're going to gimme shit for worrying about my friends or whatever the hell it is you think you're doing when you keep commenting on my girliness … shit, you don't think it in any way offends me that I'm acting like a girl, do you?" She shakes her head and rolls her eyes at him. "News flash, handsome. I am a girl."

Mack laughs somewhere down in his throat, though he doesn't open his mouth. Its a quiet thing, but sincere. He looks over at her, eyes hidden behind his sunglasses, the framework somehow emphasizing the faded grid on his otherwise tan skin. "Huh. Well, I'll be damned. I hadn't noticed. I just thought you were a really skinny dude." The grin is just as real as the laugh.

Elisabeth hehs. "I can understand the mistake," she quips. "The rack's a bit lacking." Popping open the second beer to take a long sip of it, she listens to the silence out there. And then says finally, "I miss the old days. Thought they sucked at the time. Hindsight's always 20/20, I guess."

"The old days? Before the bomb?" Mack drops his newest empty beer can. He reaches into the back of his pants and pulls out his weapon, setting it on top of his stomach, and leans back. His hoodie falls open, forming little pools to either side of his torso, even as he interlaces his fingers behind his head. "Me too."

"And, for the record, your rack is officially just fine."

"Yeah. Before the Bomb," Elisabeth says. She glances at him and laughs. "I wasn't fishing for compliments." She studies him for a long moment and starts to ask something, then bites it back and looks back out. "What do you do when you want to forget it all? Just… ignore it and make it go away?"

"Really, Liz. Really." His sarcastic tone matches the look he levels at her. Mack pulls back one leg far enough to kick one of the beer cans over in her direction. "What were you gonna ask me?"

The sarcasm draws a bit of a smile from her, and Elisabeth lightly bats the can away. She swallows another drink from hers and then moves to climb to her feet. "I was going to ask you if you'd be interested in getting laid," she admits easily. "And then I thought better of it because I remembered that you lost someone important out here and that you come to remember."

"I come out here because its quiet, Liz. Its peaceful." With that Mack sits up and pulls off his hoodie, whereupon he looks over the ink that crawls along his skin. "I have tattoos to remember things. All sorts of things, not just that." He looks up at her, "Unless you're not offering. I mean, I was beginning to wonder if you were never gonna make a move. Thought I'd lost my boyish charm or some shit."

Elisabeth tilts her head, watching him strip off the hoodie, and just laughs quietly as she pads over to squat down next to him, one elbow on her knee. Her other hand reaches out to lightly trace the marks on his arm curiously. "Nah. When I realized I was thinking about it, I got cold feet," she admits. "Didn't feel like making an ass of myself."

That arm has a black tribal sun dominating the upper bicep, the outreaching tendrils wavering as if in the heat of a desert. Clouds hang underneath, with small black birds flying up as if to break through them, with smoke from farther down is arm coming up to dance around the birds and mingle with the clouds. Not white puffy clouds; dark, ominous storm clouds. Of course, Mack uses that arm to reach out and attempt a daring little manuver — he tries to wrap his arm around her waist and pull her into his lap. Of course, unlike when she was having a breakdown and running away from him, she wouldn't find it too difficult to escape. "Ah, well, we both know I'm always up for making an ass out of myself."

Her fingers were stroking the spot her teeth sank into him. Liz doesn't play coy with him, shifting her weight to accomodate the movement that draws her down to him. Sliding easily into his lap, she hesitates a brief moment. A cheeky grin quirks the corner of her mouth. "I'm sorry I bit you," she tells him with a twinkle as she brushes his lips with hers.

Mack lets a little smile form on his lips when hers touch his, his hands sliding easily into place; one on her leg and the other on her back. "Guess I better return the favor…" True to his word, he kisses her again- though this time he bites her lower lip. Not hard; he's not trying to draw blood or anything, but he's not the gentlest man in the world either.

Elisabeth sucks in a quick, sharp breath when he does it; she didn't ask for gentle from him, nor does she seem to want it. She only pulls her mouth from his long enough for each of them at random moments to yank clothes off and leave them strewn about in the dusty, chilly office. Only it won't stay chilly for too long. There's a moment of laughter in there when the distinct sound of ripping can be heard and he's left with a very fragile, very lacy thong in one hand. Liz's husky voice comments around a chuckle, "Guess I'm goin' home commando!" They're both going to be a dusty mess by the end, but at least it's a fun way to get dirty.

Some time later, through the magic of adults doing things that most people from 'polite' society would never talk about, Mack finds himself not only having to -find- his pants to put them on, but dust off his ass beforehand. As for the rest of his clothes, he is apparently not cold enough to need them immediately. At some point during the festivities it would seem his sunglasses fell off. Wonder of wonders, he doesn't immediately put them back on, though the odd, vague, milkiness is disconcerting rather than comforting for most. Shirtless and shoeless he steps his way back over to the open wall. Yes, he lights a cigarette, as cliche as it might seem. Fun fact! The tattoos on his arms and shoulders are matched by more on his back, chest, and stomach. Not fully covered, but there's a decent amount on this one. With the sun on its downward descent the light hits his face and he winces, but the pain apparently isn't bad enough to make him get his glasses yet.

Elisabeth lazily dusts off her body and moves to pull on clothes over top of it. She finally locates her bra kicked under the edge of a piece of rubble and being as she's already yanked on a shirt, she merely shoves it into the pocket of her jeans. While he lights up, she perches her butt on the edge of the window and leans back against the frame on the other side. Studying with a faint smile, she notes the wince… she's far too used to looking for it and seeing it. She rummages around and brings the glasses over, holding them out by one arm. "You get headaches with the light?" she asks him.

Mack looks over when she comes, possibly seeming a bit distracted beforehand. Those glassed over eyes examine her face for a moment before he takes the glasses. He still doesn't put them on right away. The wince doesn't go away; less a gesture and more a reaction. "Yeah. Well, it hurts. If I go too long it'll turn into a headache." Puff. A little smile touches his lips, though, when he goes back to examining the waste. "I guess when they first found me — I was a little out of it, mind you — I guess my eyeballs were… like… gooey? I watched it, you know. I saw it but I couldn't make myself look away." He shrugs. "Still nice to see the world without a lens every once in a while though." With that he flicks the cigarette butt off into the distance and starts throwing on the rest of his clothes, including sliding the glasses back into place. "Anyway, I've got some shit to do. People to find, rules to break, all that shit. I'll see you around."

Elisabeth nods to the information, merely filing it away. She slips her shoes on and shrugs into her jacket. "See ya," she says with an easy grin. And she goes her separate ways to handle what she was doing out here to start with.

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