Scene Title Overpass
Synopsis Chess narrowly rescues the victim of an attempted kidnapping.
Date March 12, 2018

Red Hook

Before the war, Red Hook was an industrial neighborhood with little to offer in the way of architectural inspiration. Concrete, brick, and steel covered every surface and the neighborhood’s turn of the century industrial appearance was gradually sliding into urban decay. The war changed much of that, leveled large swaths of the neighborhood and left what stood crumbling and in disrepair. In the years since the war’s end Yamagato Industries pumped millions of dollars into revitalizing and rebuilding Red Hook, maintaining its industrial aesthetic but dragging it kicking and screaming into the new world.

Not all parts of Red Hook are revitalized, however. The far eastern blocks of the neighborhood where the I-478 freeway crosses the Gowanus Canal are still in considerable states of disrepair. Old brick-faced residential buildings are still awaiting repair, streets are crumbling and in decay, and abandoned cars lay scattered on roadsides and in the shadows of the derelict overpass. The I-478 overpass doesn't see any traffic these days, as the tunnel that connected it to Manhattan long ago collapsed.

Under that overpass, adjacent to the old Benson Scrap Metal Yard, a vine-encrusted can with no wheels and grimy windows makes for a nondescript home away from home. Four pigeons sit side by side atop the van’s roof, sheltering from drizzling rain along with the van’s sole occupant. Morning has come to the Safe Zone, filtering through the drawn blinds over the van’s windows, and the smell of wet concrete permeates through the chilly confines of a no longer mobile home.

For Chess Lang, it might as well be the start of any ordinary day.

When she moves, it’s with a bit of a wince and a groan — sleeping for too long in one position in a nearly-freezing cold van has made her muscles stiff and cold. Going to bed on a half a bottle of whiskey means she’s waking with a blinding headache, and even that dim gray light coming through the slats of the blinds is too much.

Still, she pushes herself up and wipes a hand across her face. She glances toward the cab of the van, where a dozen bobbleheads affixed to the dash nod slightly at the slightest motion. A battery-operated alarm clock sits up there as well, giving the time.

Too damn early.

Chess swings her legs off the bed anyway, her feet finding their way into the boots nearby as she reaches for a jacket. She doesn’t have any jobs, legal or otherwise, today, but she does need food and to use a bathroom. She’ll head to the market and find solutions for both. She grabs her bag and opens the sliding door to exit the van.

There's a distant sound of construction work that hammers in the back of Chess’ head. It's a perpetual noise around the Safe Zone, the sound of labor and industry. A concrete saw is buzzing with shrill report several blocks away, but with having lost a battle with a bottle of whiskey Chess feels as though it's cutting through her skull.

One foot on the ground into a shallow puddle, and the day rapidly changes. The pigeons alight from the roof of Chess’ van, go scattering into the air with a few dislodged feathers drifting in their wake. That's when she hears something else, under the sound of the construction equipment, almost missed between the screams of the concrete saw.

Someone screaming for help, further along under the shadow of the overpass. There's a pickup truck idling there that Chess doesn't recognize, and the another half-muted shriek of a woman desperately crying for help, before being drowned out by the heavy equipment further away.

“Jesus,” Chess mutters when the pigeons take flight, making her jump. She runs a hand over her tangled hair, shivering a little under the leather jacket that’s really too light for the chill in the air. She pulls the hood of her sweatshirt up, though it’ll be sodden soon enough in the near-spring rain.

Her brows draw together as she turns at the sound of someone crying, then turns in the direction of the truck. Bending down, she scoops up a large rock, running her fingers over its surface as she begins to move toward the truck, dark eyes searching out the owner of that voice — or whatever’s causing it to scream for help.

Three men in flannel and winter coats are just two hundred feet from where Chess emerged from her van. They were occluded by the enormous concrete supports of the overpass, but the strangled screams of someone calling for help led Chess to them. Two of the men are hauling a mid-twenties brunette by the arms across the street, she’s trying to kick but from her languid movements she might be drunk or drugged. The third man is opening the back doors of a brown van. They look to have been hauling the young woman out from the idling pickup truck.

The brunette spots Chess, pulls her mouth away from the meaty hand clapped over her mouth. Green eyes stare chess down, cheeks streaked with tears and mascara. She screams again, “Help me, please!” Then she’s struck in the head with a balled up fist by one of the men. But they follow her eye line, spot Chess.

The man by the brown van pulls a handgun out of the back of his jeans. “Back off!” He shouts furiously, angling the gun at Chess. The others continue to try and drag the woman to the van. “I said back the fuck off!”

Silently cursing herself for leaving her bow in her other abode, Chess stops, looking like she’s going to do what the man says.

“Oh, sure, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt your attempted rape,” she begins, before hurling the rock at the hand holding the gun, sending what amounts to a grenade in his direction — the projectile is pushed faster and harder, making sure her it reaches its target to explode on impact. And then she’s scooping up another to throw behind the two men carrying the woman, to hit the ground near them so that they’ll let go of the woman.

“This is what I call smashing the patriarchy,” she calls out, as she dodges to duck behind the concrete pillars before she gets shot. “Get the fuck out of here.”

The explosion is considerably horrifying. The man by the van loses his arm and is blown clear out of his shoes and into one of the overpass’s support columns. The second charged stone explodes behind the two men trying to drag the woman off, far enough away not to maim or dismember but enough to knock them off their feet and the air out of their lungs.

The woman crumples after they do, falling into her knees. She tries to stand, one leg gives out and she collapses again. Tears still streaming down her face she tries to pull herself away from them, toward Chess who she readily sees as her savior. The two dazed men roll around on the ground, stunned.

Don’t leave me!” The brunette calls out to Chess with terrified desperation when Chess disappears behind the pillar.

Once her explosions do their damage, Chess darts out from behind the pillar, reaching into her bag at her side to find an apple, rolling it in her hand as she watches for any sign of retaliation from the men.

“Don’t try anything,” Chess growls to them — and even to the woman as well, before reaching for the woman’s hand and pulling her to her feet, offering her shoulder so the woman can lean on her to walk. “Watch our backs, yeah?” she grunts, looking over her shoulder, before moving forward — to get out of this stretch of lonely land.

The men on the ground most assuredly don't try anything, hands up and wide-eyed, still looking stunned from the blast. The woman with her arm around Chess’ shoulder keeps whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again, but it's clear she can't walk properly. She’s limping along with one good leg and the other barely seems able to do much of anything, same with the arm that isn't around Chess’ shoulder.

But then the thanks quickly turn into, “I’m sorry, I'm sorry,” repeated a few times as she's so slow on the escape. Behind Chess, one of the two men is slowly rolling onto his side, reaching for a walkie-talkie in his jacket pocket. Chess can't hear what he's saying but his expression conveys profanity.

“It’s okay,” Chess grunts, all but dragging the other woman along when the other woman’s good leg doesn’t seem to work any better than the injured one.

“How’d you get tangled with those assholes?” she asks, taking a few steps before looking back again, narrowing her eyes as she sees the walkie talkie in one of the men’s hands. Chess looks around for signs of life or another vehicle, the apple in her hand getting rolled between her fingers.

“You know who they’re with, who he’s talking to by any chance?” They’ve gotta have back up nearby,” she mutters. “Keep watching. Anything you notice, tell me.”

The woman is struggling not to sob, not just out of fear but out of anger. Fingers curled into the fabric of Chess’ jacket, she looks back and shakes her head. “It's my fault,” she whispers, apology strong in her tone. “I think— I think they're— human traffickers. I s-saw them scouting out a girl after I got out of classes.” Jaw trembling, face streaked black with her makeup, she explains why she was apologizing. “I tried to scare them off, I— I forgot I can't— ”

Green eyes shut, and the brunette presses her jaw together tightly. In the intervening silence, Chess doesn't see any other vehicles. But the two men she'd stunned get up and run back to their truck. Both throw open the doors and hop inside, one of the men still on his radio.

Assholes,” Chess grunts. “Nothing is your fault.” Her eyes scan the area, settling on a cluster of abandoned buildings on one side of the underpass, moving that way. “That truck’s going to be coming for us in a second, I think — I need to set you down where you have cover so I can throw shit, yeah? Let’s see if I can blow up their fucking truck.” There’s a smirk there — the fact she just blew off the gunman’s hand doesn’t really seem to faze her.

Moving a little quicker, Chess leans the woman against the ivy-encrusted building before reaching down to her own boot and pulling out a knife to press into the other woman’s hands. “Somethin’ somethin’ knife in a firefight, but if they get close enough to grab them, stab the asshole, yeah?” For her own weapon, she pockets the apple before reaching inside the courier bag, pulling out a couple of metal hubcaps. “Stay here, try to stay out of sight,” Chess says, before she moves to a spot she can see the truck, ducking into a crouch.

The brunette takes the knife in her one good hand, slouched against the brick wall with wide eyes and a difficult to read expression that isn't the terror and anger of earlier. “Hey!” The brunette sharply whispers to Chess’ back, then gives her a shaky thumbs-up. It's— the best she can manage at the moment.

As Chess rounds the corner she can see the truck backing up and turning around. The vehicle rapidly speeds out from under the overpass and takes a sharp right, disappearing for a moment behind the crumbling white-washed facade of an old, derelict gas station. When it comes back into view it's heading northwest and away from their location. The area the truck is in looks uninhabited, no pedestrians, no signs of life. If Chess was going to take a shot, it's now or never.

They’re fleeing. They’re not coming back for Chess and the woman she’s trying to help. These thoughts flit through her head at breakneck speed. The devil on her other shoulder refutes those with others: They’ll be back. They’ll take advantage of other helpless people. They’re human traffickers.

The devil wins.

The first of the two hubcaps is spun through the air with a flick of Chess’ wrist, charged with explosive power and moving faster than should be possible, whirring as it speeds toward the truck like a metal frisbee. Without waiting for it to strike, Chess throws the second hubcap to chase the other.

Two massive explosions shake the neighborhood, one after the other. The first flips the truck end over end to crash down on its roof. The second blows the gas tank and creates a black smoke-wreathed fireball that rises up over the tops of buildings. The brunette Chess saved claps a hand over her mouth and watches on with stunned surprise.

That was loud, and not even the Military Police would ignore a fireball of that size. Eventually this place will be crawling with MPs, and potentially SESA as well. The brunette, wildly waving one hand, gestures for Chess to come back to her. She recognizes the same thing Chess does. They have to go.

Chess’ brows go up, a little surprised as well, before running back. “I didn’t mean to hit the gas tank,” she says, but she can’t quite hide the smirk that’s twisting the corner of her mouth up. She looks over her shoulder, and then back at the brunette, and makes a face.

“I know we just met and all, but… piggyback ride?” she says, brows lifting to punctuate the question, before turning and squatting so that the other woman can get on her back. She’ll be able to move faster that way — and time is of the essence. She looks over her shoulder. “Probably should introduce myself — you can call me Chess.” The nickname’s probably a good idea — her witness can honestly say she doesn’t know the walking bomb’s full name, in case anyone asks.

Jesus Christ.” Isn't the brunette’s introduction, but instead is a reaction to the situation and the piggyback ride. After a moment of embarrassment and indignant silence, she draws her arms around Chess’s shoulders. “Jolene,” she murmurs. “Lene,” comes more firm.


As Chess hoists her up, Lene makes a soft squeak of surprise and ducks her face down against the far stronger woman’s shoulders. “Okay you— work out.” A nervous trill of laughter slips out after that. “I'm so sorry you have to carry me. This is— ” she doesn't say anything otherwise, just hides her face at the back of Chess’ shoulder.

“Please just, get us somewhere safe.” Lene embarrassedly mumbles into the fabric of Chess’ jacket.

Chess huffs a short laugh, and shakes her head. “No, I just throw a lot of things and walk everywhere. I probably can’t carry you far so I’ll try to make up for it by moving fast, yeah? Too bad I can’t speed myself up.”

Once Lene is situated, Chess begins to move, darting through alleys and keeping off the main street. It’s only a few minutes jaunt before she needs to rest, but there’s at least some distance between them and the overturned exploded truck. Out of breath, she finds an out-of-the-way spot between two buildings to let Lene slide off her back, then slumps down into a crouch, rocking back on her heels to keep from sitting on the damp ground.

“Are you okay? Did they inject you with something? I can try and get you to the hospital but…” but that might raise a lot of questions, goes unsaid. “I can get you close anyway, or if you have a friend who can pick you up?” Chess grimaces, turning to look at Lene, her expression apologetic. “Sorry, that was… “ she waves a hand. “Overkill?”

“They deserved it,” Lene opines without hesitation. One hand comes up to her neck, paws at her throat, then comes down. “No they— they didn't inject me with anything. I— don't have my crutches. Is all.” It's like this for her all the time.

Further embarrassed, Lene slouches against the building and graces her weight on her one good leg. “I don't think I should… go to a hospital after that. I'm— I don’t think I'm hurt, not badly.” There's a little bit of blood in her hair from where she was punched, but she otherwise seems no worse for wear than what she explained is her normal.

“My mom lives uptown, but I— She could come pick me up. I dropped my phone when they grabbed me.” Hiding her face behind a curtain of dark hair, Lene stares into the distance. “You saved my life.” Green eyes square on Chess. “And— your ability is primal.” There's envy there, but appreciation too.

“Oh.” Chess looks apologetic and embarrassed for making assumptions. “Sorry. I’ll look for them for you… later… if you know where you lost them.” When there aren’t human traffickers looking for her for payback, maybe.

At the talk of saving Lene’s life, Chess lifts a shoulder. “I’m not going to let someone abduct someone when I can stop them, you know?” She huffs a laugh at the compliment. “It’s handy. I should learn to be a little more subtle, maybe.”

Her cheeks flush and she reaches into her pocket for the apple she stowed there earlier, offering it to Lene. Next comes a phone — a cheap one, probably a burner, which is also handed to the young woman next to her. “You can borrow mine.”

“Subtlety’s overrated. Sometimes you've gotta make a scene to make a difference.” Lene takes the apple, scuffing it on her coat and then hands it off to her other hand. She then goes back for the phone, and it's clear she doesn't have full mobility in her right side.

“Thanks,” Lene offers humbly, unlocking the phone and typing in a number from memory with one hand. Then, a text. It takes her a minute to compose it, and she briefly looks up to Chess as she does, before focusing back on the screen.

hey is lene. got mugged and lost my phone. borrowing someone else's. Im ok. Can you come pick me up? lost my crutches too. red hook, corner of smith and 9th

After she sends the text, Lene waits to hand the phone back for a response. “How's it work?” Green eyes find Chess. “Your power.” A topic to pass the time, and one Lene is genuinely interested in. Chess is a hero, to her, and she's always held a fascination with heroes.

Chess watches but stays quiet while Lene composes the text, studying the toes of her boots before Lene asks her about her power.

She lifts a shoulder, glancing down again and looking a little embarrassed at the question. “I joke I’m a kinetic kinetic. Kinetic manipulation, it says on my reg. I basically charge an object with kinetic energy.” Chess glances up and shrugs again. “I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. I was barely a freshman in college when they started relocating people like me, and then the war and everything started, so… Basically I throw things and they blow shit up.”

She reaches up to wipe some raindrops from her face. “So you went after those guys on your own? That takes some balls.”

Lene’s expression twists at bit at the praise. “It was dumb. I should've— called someone or— ” she dithers, teeth worrying at her lower lip. “Not a hero like you,” Lene admits with a lopsided smile. Not anymore goes pointedly unsaid. “Your stuff sounds like a function of…” she trails off a bit, lengthening the of as she does. “Like, Newtonian stuff. Mass and speed and all that. That's really genuinely primal. I've never met someone with your ability before.”

“Did you— ” Lene is interrupted by a chirp from the phone. She checks the message, rolls her eyes and smiles, then erases the messages and hands the phone back to Chess. “She's on her way…” Her green eyes surveil the street beyond, no MPs yet, but response time is notoriously slow even in emergency.

“You… can go, if you want. You already,” Lene rolls her shoulders and takes a turn regarding the toes of her boots. “You've already risked a lot for someone you haven't even met. I— don't want you to get into trouble.” When she looks up, Lene tugs at her bottom lip with her teeth.

“Newtonian,” echoes Chess, lifting a brow. “You definitely got further in school than I did.” It’s said with her own touch of jealousy. She shakes her head at Lene’s offer to let her leave, taking the phone and pocketing it once it’s handed back to her.

“Unless your mom’s a SESA agent or MP, I can hang and make sure you get picked up by the right person. You don’t have your crutches and I’m not gonna let all my hard work go to waste if any other assholes come along,” Chess says, though her eyes scan the distance for any signs of emergency response vehicles. “If anyone official comes along, I’ll beat a hasty retreat, how’s that?”

“Deal.” Lene agrees with a faint smile. Though the praise to her education warrants a sideways look. “I— actually never really had a great education. I only just got my GED and— I'm taking some electives at Brooklyn college. I still suck at math, and…”

Lene closes her eyes and shakes her head, a smile pushing away doubt. “I'm good with figuring out powers is all. I— I just get them.” She looks down at that, quieter. “I've seen a lot of them.” The sound of a car approaching makes her tense, but the Yamagato Industries construction van just rumbles past without slowing or stopping.

“My mom’s a librarian,” Lene finally clarifies, so as to put Chess at ease. “Basically.” Basically.

“Well, you sound smarter than me, but that’s not necessarily a huge compliment,” Chess says with a smirk. She tenses as well at the sound of that vehicle, relaxing when it’s neither SESA nor MP.

“Not sure I could sit in a classroom these days. I get a bit…” she waves a hand in a vague sort of gesture. “I don’t know. Restless. I wouldn’t know what to even study… I was undeclared before everything, and then I fought, and now…” She lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know.”

The basically gets a brow lift, but Chess doesn’t push. As long as she doesn’t get arrested, she doesn’t care what Lene’s mother does.

Thoughtfully, Lene looks away as she listens to Chess. She wraps one arm around herself, paying attention to both Chess’ voice and the distant sound of construction equipment. Her eyes unfocus, lost on a thought for a moment, then turns her attention back to her.

“I'm not sure Brooklyn college offers the course…” Lene begins with eyes sideways cast at Chess. “But I'm fairly certain you could get a PhD in kicking people's asses.” One corner of her mouth creeps up into a smirk at that. A smirk that comes in spite of the mascara streaked down her cheeks, from the ugly puffiness of her eyes, from the fact that they both absolutely watched at least three people die.

That says something about each of them.

The quip makes Chess huff another small laugh, breath lifting like a puff of smoke in the chilly morning. She falls back into silence for a moment, her brows drawing together as she stares down at the rain hitting the puddles in front of them.

“I wish I didn’t have to be, sometimes,” she says quietly, dark eyes glancing in the direction of the smoke pluming into the sky. “And I don’t really know what I’d do if I wasn’t… sometimes I wish I could know what could’ve been. But…”

Her breath is a little shaky as she draws it in and she looks back to Lene, shrugging again. “It’s probably better not to wonder.”

Lene’s brows crease together as she listens to Chess, a subtle frown replacing a look of worry. Scuffing her shoulder against the rough brick wall, she hobbles over to Chess and reaches out to put a hand on her shoulder. The grip is tenuous at best, but the visible concern behind it is stronger.

“It’s never too late,” Lene offers with a vagueness that is intentional. Never too late to… and Chess is left to fill in that ellipsed statement. Quick to not overstay her welcome, Lene lets her hand fall away back to her side. She's silent another moment, just the sound of rainwater running off the building into stagnant puddles.

In the silence, she chooses to adds, “If things were different, though, I probably wouldn't be here right now.” That is Lene’s appreciation, earnest and work on her sleeve. “But nobody knows what the future really holds.” Especially not Jolene Chevalier. Not anymore.

The words, the touch to her shoulder, makes Chess smile, if it’s a little forced, her expression still pensive. Wistful, maybe.

“Maybe,” is murmured — a concession that’s probably more about preserving her newfound acquaintance’s feelings than because Chess agrees.

It’s sometimes too late, the antagonist voice inside of her chimes in.

“Shakespeare once said ‘we know what we are but not what we may become.’ I guess it’s even more true for the what ifs. We don’t know what we might have become, if we weren’t … you know. SLC-E or fill in the blank with whatever thing seems to define us,” Chess says, standing up at the sound of a vehicle in the distance, poised to move.

Lend raises one brow, looks to the sound, then back to Chess. “You can't be all that uneducated,” she admits with a fond half-smile, “quoting stuff like that.” Stuff she's never read. But that car approaching is slowing down. Lene creeps back, braced on the wall, looking down the street around the corner.

“She's here,” sounds both relieved and disappointed as Lene says it. She looks back to Chess, brows furrowed with both regret and things less obvious. “Thank you,” she says emphatically. “I— you're totally a hero today. Totally my hero. Don't ever forget that.”

Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, especially when there's no one to give praise when earned. Looking down at her feet, Jolene let's her words slip away and gives Chess the space to leave.

“My…” Chess swallows and looks away, before continuing, her voice a little rough. “A friend of mine. We used to read things, you know, in the quiet times during the war. Mostly philosophy. Sometimes Shakespeare.” Not that the two are mutually exclusive.

Her gaze flits to the car coming around the corner, and she nods. “Take care of yourself, Lene.” Her cheeks flush at the talk of heroism, and she lifts a shoulder, glancing down. “You have to do what’s right and just if you want others to do the same, you know?”

Somewhere in the distance, sirens begin to sound, and Chess reaches to give Jolene a quick, impulsive hug. “Stay safe, yeah?”

She turns to go, slipping into that gap between the buildings, to stay out of sight.

“You too,” Jolene only has the courage to say once Chess is gone.

You too.

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