Off the Wall


faulkner_icon.gif nova2_icon.gif

Scene Title Off the Wall
Synopsis Two near strangers nearly collide and then discuss the strangeness of their situations.
Date October 1, 2020

Sheepshead Bay

It seemed like just last week, the sunset was an hour later, Nova thinks to herself But now, as the year stumbles into autumn, the darkness falls much more suddenly, more absolutely so that once the sun dips behind the highest building, it’s not just evening, but night.

Strictly speaking, she muses, as she rides her skateboard through an alley that would have seemed only sketchy in the late afternoon sun but downright frightening in the dark, it’s probably only a matter of minutes — maybe ten or fifteen.

The brick buildings she rides between are old, classic Brooklyn buildings that have seen better days. She’s not in the cool part of Sheepshead but the rougher part, making her way back to the college and annoyed with herself for having misjudged the time.

For all that he's lost, the night is still the time that Isaac Faulkner feels most comfortable.

Maybe it shouldn't be — now, he has no creeping shadows to act as feelers, to compensate for the darkness's effect on his vision — but it is. A night owl is a night owl, clipped wings or no.

And so Isaac Faulkner runs. No rooftops this time — not now, not yet. No elation at soaring so high above the ground… but high ground or low, the thrill of running is still the same.

Not just running, either. Freerunning — legs pistoning, heart beating hard and steady as a drum, blood singing through veins, muscles firing, nerves alight, wind whistling past, flowing over and around any obstacles. Down the sidewalk, around a corner, into a shady alley. A garbage can lays tipped over in the middle of the alley. Leaping over it would be easy…

…but easy's not good enough. He wants to get better; the plane crash had taken his ability from him, but he's not going to let it take away this, too.

So he shifts course slightly, putting on a little more speed as he angles towards one of the walls and launches himself at it. His foot hits the wall at thigh height; immediately, he pushes off of it, launching himself up and away, twisting in midair to face forward again. He clears the garbage easily —

— and is still sailing through the air when a girl on a skateboard rounds the corner ahead, coming straight at him. Shit!

There's not enough time for him to kill his considerable forward momentum; trying to stop would just result in a collision. So instead, he hits the ground running.

Rather than correcting his angle, though, he instead retains the angled trajectory of his leap, driving himself towards the opposite wall… and Faulkner leaps again, this time putting his all into it.

His foot strikes the wall at waist height this time, and again he kicks off of it. But this time, instead of trying to retain his forward momentum, his focus is on converting as much of that momentum as he can into pushing himself upwards and away — as high as he can get on the opposite wall. Walljumps are tricky business, but he's done them before; he can hopefully get at least two bounces in before gravity claims its due.

“Oh, shit!” Nova’s mouth moves silently but even a person who can’t read lips would see that same sentiment etched across her face, as her eyes widen. She’s hardly an X-games-calibre skater, but she’s experienced enough to know there’s no way to stop in time or bail out without possibly making things worse — most likely for herself.

Instead she crouches, dropping down to get herself — and mainly her head — lower than where his Isaac’s feet seem to be aiming, even as he changes his path to go above and beyond. The change in balance causes her longboard to drift to the other side of the alley, further away from where he aims his second jump.

Between the two of them, the collision is averted, but Nova’s head whips around to check on Faulkner’s progress. She misses in the darkness the pothole that upends her entirely, spilling her across the pavement, though low as she is, and slowing down, it’s the lesser of two collisions.

She’s already scrambling to her feet as she turns to see where he landed.

There's no sensation of him colliding with the skateboarder's head, which suggests to Faulkner that he'd managed to get enough height to clear her. The noise from a bit further down the alley suggests that she'd not managed to handle the sudden near miss perfectly, but Isaac has his own impending collision to deal with — with the wall he'd kicked towards. His legs hit a moment before his hands do, helping to absorb the momentum of his explosive push off, then his arms; for a moment, momentum holds him against the wall… then he pushes off lightly, this time just hard enough to push him a bit away from the wall for his landing. He lands on the balls of his feet, bending at the knees to absorb the impact, then straightens… only then does he turn to look towards the girl.

"You alright?" he calls, sounding only slightly winded. He moves closer, taking up a position leaning against an alley wall.

Nova glances down at herself as if to verify she is, in fact, all right, opening her hands palms up — a little grimy from the grease and oil of the alley and a little sore where they broke her fall, but otherwise fine.

She crouches down to grab the skateboard, holding it in front of herself with both hands as she faces him. It could make for a weapon, if need be. Of course, people trying to hurt her probably wouldn’t avoid hurting her.

“Yeah, think so. That was pretty impressive,” she says, gesturing to the wall, before face and voice click in with her memories. “Oh — Isaac, yeah?” she says, tentatively, head tipping as she steps a little closer — there’s not enough light in the alley to be sure.

As he studies her, Faulkner is struck by the feeling that there's something that seems familiar about the girl… a feeling that intensifies when she speaks.

"Thanks," he replies. "I'm just glad I pulled it off and didn't faceplant," he admits, the wry smirk he's wearing clear in his voice even if she can't see it very well on his face. When she calls him by name, though, the smirk fades, replaced by a thoughtful frown as he tries to figure out exactly who she is and how she knows him.

"Last time I checked," he agrees, a hint of amusement in his voice. Luckily, it doesn't take long for it to click with him, as well. "And you're… Nova, was it?" he asks, peering at her. There may be an opportunity here — a chance to find out a bit more about one of the other crash victims. But… maybe not here, in a creepy dark alleyway.

"You going somewhere? Maybe we can walk and talk for a bit — if you wouldn't mind, that is," he says with a grin. "I don't mind running down creepy alleyways, but… this doesn't seem like a great place to linger," he observes, still affecting that tone of wry amusement… though it's perhaps spoiled a bit when he grimaces and murmurs under his breath, "Especially not now."

She nods at first her name, and then the question. “I was just getting back to the college,” Nova replies, a jut of her chin in the direction of the institute some mile or so up the road, and takes a step in that direction, waiting to see if he’ll go her way rather than the way he had been going.

“Thanks for trying to keep from kicking me in the head. It’s very appreciated. I kinda like it on my shoulders,” she quips, one hand coming up to touch the top of her head, as if to check it’s still on straight. “I’ve never actually seen anyone do that except on like television and in YouTube videos. Pretty impressive. How many bones have you broken?”

The last question is said with the certainty that he has broken bones, to get to the skill level she just witnessed.

Faulkner nods and falls in beside her; one way's as good as another, for him. "You're welcome," he says, trying to sound prim, but there's a hint of laughter in his tone.

At her question about broken bones he actually does laugh. "Only one," he says, and for a moment there's a hint of smugness in his voice… though that fades quickly. "That's partly due to good instruction and partly dumb luck, though," he admits. Partly due to something else, too; that thought makes his smile tighten a bit.


He'd pulled off that wall jump, hadn't he? No shadow to help him, either, if he'd botched it; he'd done it with flesh and blood and reflexes and nerve alone, and he'd not only done it without injuring himself, he'd managed not to injure Nova, either. That's something he can be proud of. "What about you? You ever have any nasty wipeouts?" he asks, raising an eyebrow… then he grins a bit. "Ever have any wipeouts nastier than that one would've been?"

“Only one? That’s impressive. I think I’d end up balking at the last minute if I tried to fling myself straight at a wall like that,” Nova says with another shake of her head. “Like Spider-Man without any nets to help you.”

She holds her finger and thumb a little apart. “Slightly smaller scale.” Just slightly.

At the question of wipeouts, Nova shakes her head. “Not on the skateboard, nothing more than some road rash, but I don’t really do trick riding. It’s mostly transportation for me. I did dislocate a shoulder snowboarding, which is why I knew how to help Yi-Min that day.”

That day — the only shared experience the two have, besides this one, needs no explanation.

“So were you going anywhere or just getting in your exercise?” she asks curiously.

"Most people would balk," Faulkner says. "It's basic human instinct to try to evade when you see something coming at you. And that's why most people wouldn't be able to do it," he says; there's no hint of boasting in his voice, just a simple explanation. Being compared to Spider-Man does draw a grin to his face… though it's one that fades quickly when she mentions that day.

"Exercising," he says with a shrug. "I was heading home, but I'm not in any particular rush." He walks in silence for a moment, considering what to say. "How have you been holding up?"

Nova points at him. “That is because,” she says, “most people are not insane.” He is, through the powers of deduction. But it’s said with a bit of respect.

She reaches out as they walk to trail her fingertips lightly along the wall of the building, glancing up now and then at a light in a window or a bit of graffiti. At his question, she draws a shoulder up.

“I wasn’t really hurt, and I didn’t really lose anything like the rest of you. And like some of them.” She grimaces, thinking of those who had been impacted the worst — Daphne, Nicole and Zachery, Shaw, Kaylee. “So complaining seems, I dunno. Ungrateful. You know?”

The you know? is rhetorical, it seems, as she nods to him. “You?”

Isaac gives her something that is almost an eye-roll at her implication, but it's tempered with a bit of amusement. "Sanity is in the eye of the beholder… and besides. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," he retorts, glancing her way with a smirk.

He is silent at her response to his question, though. "That is… compassionate of you," he says carefully. It is also not really an actual answer… but then, she doesn't owe him one, does she? The only bond they share is shared misery; if he wants anything more, he'll have to work to build it.

He is silent for a moment longer, considering his words before he speaks. "If you don't want to talk about yourself, or your perspective on all of this… I won't pry further; just say the word," he says, glancing over to her. "But. If you do… I'd definitely be interested to hear it. I don't think you'd be ungrateful to speak about it; just because your loss hasn't been as obvious doesn't mean it's not a loss, and I believe that everyone's perspective is important in this. The more points of view we have, the more likely we are to be able to spot the thread that unravels this… mess," Faulkner says, gesturing expansively.

With that, he sighs. "As to me…"

There is another moment of silence before he speaks. "It's been hard," he admits. "'Spider-Man without nets', you said… you weren't far off. It used to be I always had a net, as close as my own shadow, but now?" He shakes his head. "No nets, no webbing. I fell off a building awhile back, trying to do something I could've done without breaking a sweat in June, because I was used to working with my ability, and now I don't have it to fall back on. So I'm having to relearn from the ground up," he says glumly.

Her hand drops back down and into her pocket as they walk, the other holding the skateboard against her side. “Fair enough, Emerson,” Nova says lightly. “Not sure if I should be offended by the way you say ‘compassionate.’ I can’t tell if you mean it as a compliment or like ‘ugh, this goody-good.’”

Whichever it is, she’s not offended, smirking a bit as well. “But, yeah, I guess that’s what I mean. You don’t seem as bad off as others, either, maybe, but you definitely lost something tangible, something you can name. Something that not having creates a lack that wasn’t there before. That has to be frustrating,” she says, glancing up at him with a sympathetic look.

An empty beer can is sent a few yards further down the alley by the toe of her Vans sneakers.

“I guess… people who have abilities say you can feel when it’s not there, even if you’re not actively using it. I don’t have that, because I wasn’t manifested,” Nova says, shaking her head. “It isn’t the same. So I won’t pretend it is, but I guess the lack for me is the potential. I guess…” she shrugs. “I guess I mourn that.”

Faulkner smirks back; several points in her favor there, not least of them picking up the Emerson quote. The smirk fades as Nova goes on, though, replaced by a thoughtful expression.

"Frustrating… yeah," he says quietly. "It's like… I had a niche carved out for myself, you know? I knew who I was. Now? Now I'm not so sure…"

He doesn't look back to Nova, but he's still listening as she speaks of mourning her potential. He thinks back to when he hadn't known about his power, and nods slowly. "We'll figure it out. What they did to us," he says, after a moment. "We have to…" he murmurs, more quietly still.

Then Faulkner pulls himself back to the here and now, glancing over at Nova; something's occurred to him. "Hey. Have you had any visits? A 'wellness check' or whatever?"

Her brows furrow again, and she looks up at him. “I wish I could give you advice regarding niches, but,” she shrugs, “I didn’t even have one yet. I’m sort of … okay at a lot of things without being amazing at any one thing, you know? I wanted to maybe study abilities, but now that I don’t have one…”

Nova shrugs, and glances back down. “I’m not a big enough person I guess, to want to study someone else’s power that makes them unique and rare, without also being unique and rare myself,” she says. “I want to be a unicorn, I guess. That’s super embarrassing to say, but it’s the truth.” Her cheeks flush a little, and she reaches up to push a strand of dark hair behind her ear.

“Wellness visit? No… from SESA?”

Nova's confession elicits a grin of genuine humor from Faulkner. "Everyone wants to be a unicorn," he says dryly. Then he lets out a sardonic chuckle. "You could even say that, for us, that wish has come true. We're most definitely unique and rare…"

The sardonic humor fades from his voice and his face towards the end, though, leaving behind a tired, sour look. "It's just we got it in a Monkey's Paw sort of way."

At Nova's question, though, a more serious expression crosses his face. "No. Not SESA. Apparently there's another agency looking into this — the Department of the Exterior." Faulkner frowns, considering. Did the lack of contact mean they simply hadn't gotten around to Nova yet? Or was there something else at play? "Mine was conducted by an Agent Castle. Seemed a little… unorthodox, maybe? Interesting, though."

Her cheeks color a little at his teasing, and she lifts her shoulder. “It sounds stupid and immature to admit it, you know? Plenty of people lead perfectly happy lives being ordinary. It’s pretty arrogant to think I was going to be any different.”

That he’d had a visit from an agency and she didn’t doesn’t do much to soothe those feelings of inferiority. Nova’s forehead furrows and she shakes her head again.

“Maybe because I never manifested, they don’t need to check on me,” she muses. “Less to worry about, maybe. If your ability was what was keeping you healthy or sane or off drugs or something, you know? Not the case for me.”

She turns at the mouth of the alley to the left, in the direction of the college a few blocks away yet. “What did they ask you? Did they know anything?”

"Arrogant?" Faulkner echoes, and for a moment he seems almost taken aback. "Not at all."

He shrugs. "Or maybe it is… but then, couldn't you say the same for anyone who ever achieved anything great? Was it arrogant for the Wright brothers to dream of flight? For the Curies to try to prove the existence of radium?" He turns to look directly at Nova, his expression intent. "You might say it's a sort of arrogance to try for anything at all, really; in a world of however many billion people we're up to now, what makes any single one of us more special than all the rest?"

Faulkner grins. "But that means that none of is any less special, either; not really. Some of us have gifts that others don't; so what? The Wrights didn't need the Suresh Linkage Complex; neither did the Curies. It just comes down to finding an opportunity, grabbing it, and running with it as far and fast as you can. Maybe kicking off a wall or two along the way…"

Faulkner trails off, letting out a sharp huff of an exhale that's almost a laugh. "That's my two cents, anyway," he says, grinning wryly at Nova for a second or two before his gaze slips away. He can say things like that, sure. In his better moments — like now — he can even believe them. In the dead of night, though, when he's all alone, the nothing he feels when he reaches for the shadows makes a different argument.

Nova's question about the interview draws his attention back from the dark path it had started down; he grabs onto it gratefully. "Some of their questions were fairly normal," Faulkner says, frowning thoughtfully. "Is your appetite normal, are you sleeping well, any feelings of depression. Things like that," he explains. "Yes to all three, in my case," he admits, glancing briefly to Nova with a wry grin. The thoughtful frown returns quickly, though. "And then some of them were… less so. They were asking about deja vu. And…" he trails off. Castle's other question still strikes him as weird.

The street means there’s a few more things to pay attention to as they walk, like poles and news kiosks, closed for the night, along with a fellow pedestrian once in a while. Nova keeps her eyes forward most of the time to avoid running into any of those things, but now and then she glances up at Faulkner with a nod.

“We don’t know that for sure,” she points out about the Wrights and the Curies. “They could have been.”

But when he’s through she smiles. “It’s a good two cents. Maybe even worth five,” she quips. “I’m usually a little more optimistic myself, but I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself a bit today.”

Nova watches him for a moment, looking back to the path ahead just in time to avoid running into a trash can. “And?” she prods.

Faulkner offers a smirk to Nova. "Happens to the best of us. Once in awhile, anyway. I know I have my moments," he says, his gaze turning ahead again. He doesn't answer Nova's prompt right away, though; he considers Castle's words once more, mulling them over.

An upcoming pole provides another distraction; Faulkner angles away from Nova for a moment to bypass it, before falling in beside her again. "They asked me… hypothetically speaking, if you could meet the version of yourself from before the crash, do you think you'd be friends with them?" After a moment he glances over to Nova, curious as to their answer.

She squints at the question, and for a moment, brow furrowing as she looks down at the sidewalk like it might provide the answer for herself, but after a moment, Nova shakes her head slightly.

“I don’t think I’m different than I was before the crash, except a little more forlorn sometimes,” she says softly. “And I guess I try to cover that up a bit, so…” she shrugs. “I think I’d want to be friends with the other me, but maybe she wouldn’t want to be friends with me. Like maybe I’d come off as fake to her. I think she’d see through me a little more than most people.”

Nova looks up at him, blue eyes sad and solemn. “Quid pro quo, Clarisse.”

Isaac raises an eyebrow. "Interesting point of view," he says, glancing over to Nova. "But come on. Think of the pranks you could play. You'd have your own identical twin sister," he says, offering a smirk.

The smirk fades quickly, though, leaving behind a serious expression on his face; he spends a moment in silence, then another, before he speaks again. "No two people are the same, of course… but my answer was yes. Am I different than I was before the crash? Yes. But I don't think I've changed enough that the differences between us outweigh what we share in common. Not in so short a time."

Her face takes on a thoughtful expression as if she’s already dreaming up a few pranks. “Did you ever see the video of the girl dressed up like a Japanese ghost — you know, dark hair, white faces — in the public bathroom mirror at a Halloween party or something, but then she leaves and there’s still her reflection because it’s really just glass? Priceless.”

But she smiles at his resounding yes to the answer. “That’s a good answer. It is a weird question. Sort of implying we are different people than we were then, and not in a metaphysical sort of way, right? And what happens if you answer in a way that’s weird to them? Any of the questions, really.”

Nova glances over her shoulder, like the mysterious agents might be following them even now. “Do you have deja vu? Because honestly…” Her brows knit together and she shakes her head. “I feel like I used to get it more often. Like kinda all the time. And I don’t remember having it since the crash.”

Isaac smirks at her prank recollection, though his expression grows more solemn at her analysis of the questioning.

Her question about deja vu draws a suddenly more intent look from him. "Deja vu was also something they asked about." He frowns. "Though what they asked was whether I'd been experiencing it, not whether it had stopped. So I told them no." He frowns thoughtfully, considering.

Her eyes widen a little at his so-serious frowns, and she reaches out to lightly punch his arm. “Don’t look so worried. It’s probably fine. Has it stopped? I mean I don’t really think about deja vu until it happens, do you? But I do think I had it a lot more than some people, and I can’t remember the last time that was. It’s probably nothing. Or I’m imagining things. Or maybe I just have so much going on I’m missing the moments that I’d normally think of as deja vu, because my mind is on a gazillion other things. Like if I’m a unicorn or not and whether we got abducted by aliens, because I’m up to about 99.5 percent sure it was aliens.”

Nova’s brows lift and she snaps her fingers, as if she’s onto an idea. “Were the people who talked to you in black suits? Did they only call each other by an initial?” She seems very solemn until one corner of her lip tics up in a traitorous smirk.

Isaac gives Nova a slightly flat look… but when she smirks, he chuckles despite himself. "No," he says, a faint smirk of his own on his lips for a moment. "But they only had one name. Even on their ID. 'Castle'. They seemed… about as far away from the Men in Black as you could get." He considers. "More of an Agent J than an Agent K, in any case."

He's silent for a moment. "Could I ask you a favor, though? If you get a visit from someone — a wellness check or whatever — let me know how it goes. I'm a little curious as to what your impression will be."

“Agent J wouldn’t be awful, at least,” Nova says. As the shapes of Boston College’s buildings take shape in the distance, she drops her skateboard to the ground, putting one foot on it.

“I can, sure. If I’m, you know. Important enough for one.” There’s a small, sort-of-sad smile at that, and she tips her head in the direction of the school. “I should let you get back in the direction you were originally pointed before our near-crash experience. It was nice not running into you.”

"We'll see if they show up," he offers… then grins, bright and toothy. "My money's on yes, though."

He takes a step back into the deepening dark, that bright grin returning; there's something Cheshire-like about it, the way his grin gleams from the shadows. "Nice not running into you, too; maybe we'll not run into each other again sometime." He takes one more step back, raising a hand in a jaunty wave. "See ya then," he says, and turns to walk away.

A few steps later, he's jogging; he's running a few after that. Soon enough, he rounds a corner and is gone, vanished away into the night.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License