Popcorn and Parkour


faulkner_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title Popcorn and Parkour
Synopsis There's abilities, and there's abilities.
Date March 31, 2019

Phoenix Heights

Phoenix Heights is the single largest residential neighborhood in the Safe Zone, sprawling more than six miles east to west through the city, but is also the least-dense in population. The neighborhood comprises many once-smaller districts, collectively renamed in memorial to the freedom-fighting organization Phoenix that prevented a biological weapon attack on New York City in 2009, an event that went widely unknown for nearly a decade. Now, Phoenix Heights is planned to be the residential heart of the Safe Zone. Though many of its buildings are brownstones and tenements in varying degrees of repair, Phoenix Heights also houses many small bodega-style businesses. It also features small parks that have overgrown more abandoned portions of the neighborhood. There is still considerable work to be done repairing the crumbling buildings, dilapidated roads, and heavily damaged power grid in Phoenix Heights, and this area also suffers from the greatest number of scheduled brown-outs and blackouts.

Isaac Faulkner walks down a darkened street, between empty, crumbling buildings, staring morosely out into the night. He has a problem. Well, several problems, actually, but the particularly pressing ones at the moment all come down to the fact that he's an awful cook.

You'd think that microwave popcorn would be impossible to screw up, but Isaac, ever the innovator, has found a way! Of course, his place doesn't actually have much in the way of electricity, so he'd had to do it with a frying pan and a mini propane stove, instead. But still! It's microwave popcorn, for God's sake! It shouldn't be possible to screw it up so badly that your entire townhouse stinks like a cross between something dead and an electrical fire!

Faulkner sighs to himself and morosely takes another mouthful of his burned popcorn out of the bag as he walks down the darkened street. One day he'll figure this cooking thing out. It can't really be that hard, surely.

"That smells nice."

Surely Isaac is hearing things.

But no — there's a slender young m… wo… person he's just walked past that's addressing him. A tattoo in elegant script covers the side of the neck he now sees, their gray eyes drawn up toward a beautiful, restored building before them. Restored-ish? It looks far more put together than any other buildings in the neighborhood, yet there's something odd about the facade. Curving, even in the stonework — more swirls than hard angles in the reconstruction.

Seren Evans considers the building thoughtfully. It's their work, after all. The edges of their gray eyes glimmer silver as a window on the front of the building moves two feet to the right.

They're dressed in dark colors, hands in the pockets of their faded jeans, arms covered by the long gray sleeves sticking out from the otherwise black tee clinging to their shoulders and torso. One hand comes free to run their fingers through their short-shorn hair, fingers not so much as disappearing into the dark fuzz due to the lack of length required for that. Seren turns back to Isaac with a faint grin, assuming he's still standing there. "Decided on takeout tonight?" they ask with faint amusement.

Okay, so maybe they did smell the burnt popcorn.

Well. That's lovely.

On the other hand, he did make a hash out of microwave popcorn, so a bit of light mockery is probably not uncalled for. "Ha. I wish," is his response, delivered with a slightly sardonic chuckle.

That question, in fact, ties neatly into some of Isaac's other problems, namely hyperinflation and a surfeit of demands on his funds… which is part of the reason he's attempting (and failing) to make a meal out of microwave popcorn. "No. Just trying to get some fresh air. As lovely as this carbon corn smells here, imagine being stuck in a room with it," he observes drily, suffering through another bite of his popcorn. Ugh.

"What about you?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. "Taking in the architecture?" He glances over to the building they'd been looking at, arching an eyebrow as he takes it in. "Hm. This one does look a little… unusual." He'd think it was a lot more unusual if he'd seen the windows moving, but he'd missed that particular feature.

"Doesn't it though?" Seren remarks, positively charmed with the way the building looks. Their hand swings by their side as their arm falls away, and they smile faintly up at it. "Maybe someday something like it could be."

And just like that, the building changes. From Something artistic, dappled with stained glass windows, to something boarded over at every opening, with the same angular aspect as every other building on the block. Slowly, Seren lifts their hand to their face, the side of their thumb pressed to the bottom of their nose. They sniff, but when their hand lowers again, there's a spot of red on the side of it.

"C'mon, Baird, let's be moving on," they call out, and from one of the windows leaps a small creature that at first appears to be a cat. That is… until wings unfold from its back and it soars like an eagle toward the young person. A tiny eagle, hardly a babe, but it's rear paws even appear to have the claws of it.

To top it all off, the whole beast is a motley of darker blues — the deepest of which are around its face.

Seren lifts their arm to allow the creature to alight there, which it does with a few powerful pumps of its wings so it comes to a halt. They stagger for a moment before grinning at their 'Baird.' "There we are," they announce airily, turning back toward Isaac. "We were just imagining what this place could be. What we hope it will be some day. Maybe with luck, it'll be sooner rather than later."

With an overexaggerated growl of a stomach — one so well-timed and loud it couldn't possibly be real — Seren meekly notes, "But there's more immediate things to worry about. Like dinner."

Isaac blinks as the building… changes. He looks back to Seren as they speak, his expression neutral as he studies them; he doesn't miss their trick with the red spot on the side of their nose, either. He's certain that hadn't been there before, either.

The creature — 'Baird' — elicits a raised eyebrow, but he doesn't say anything yet, just watches them, frowning slightly.

Finally, at their talk of imagining how things could be, his stoic expression cracks, his lips turning up into a barely visible smile; despite himself, he lets out a soft chuckle. "That's… amazing," he murmurs, barely audible. Awe isn't something that Faulkner feels very often, but that trick, combined with that little speech, has actually managed to slip past his native cynicism.

The stomach growl breaks the spell, though, and Isaac laughs a bit more audibly. He raises his hands and claps slowly. "Bravo. Bravo. You're an illusionist, then?"

Their talk of getting something to eat draws a sigh from Isaac, though. "Wish I could join you, but the wallet's a bit light at the moment. Hence the carbon-corn," he says drily, raising the bag of badly burnt popcorn. He hesitates, though, eying Seren appraisingly. "But… if you happen to know a good place to get a bite to eat around here, I could walk you there, perhaps? I'm new in town myself."

"The name is Isaac, by the way. Isaac Faulkner."

At the clapping, Seren's cheeks brighten with color. They shake their head sheepishly. "I… um, something like that, sure." they say of their own ability, lifting a hand to stroke the back of their fantastic creature. Little Baird looks and feels real enough to them. Don't worry, little guy, someone still believes in you.

Eyes going to the popcorn bag, Seren's brow knits for just a moment before they look back to Isaac, smiling. "I'm Seren — Evans — and this is Baird," they introduce the creature who tilts its head back to croon proudly at the sky, an odd chattery mewl. "He's my best friend, we're like two peas in a pod." Their hand drifts to their shoulder, letting Baird swap perching points.

"We're new too. I'd an happy to show you someplace nearby with good eats, if you like. I still think Yamagato Park has some good food stands too, lanaguage barrier aside."

"Nice to meet you then, Seren," Isaac says, offering a nod. Yamagato, though… that, he's less thrilled about. "Mmm. Yamagato, huh?" Isaac asks, lips curling a bit in a sour expression. "That might be a problem; my ID isn't local." Along with several other things wrong with it, such as it showing him non-Evolved.

He shrugs. "I can walk you to the gates, at least, if that's the way you're headed. It's going to be awhile before my place airs out enough to be compatible with carbon life, anyway," he says with a smirk.

"Oh, well — then we won't go there," Seren decides. We. They tilt their head thoughtfully, thinking to sites they've visited previously, stops they've seen just on the walk through the long neighborhood. Baird crawls across the back of its human's neck, swapping from one shoulder to the other to be ever-closer to the new person, the slender face of the cat peering forward with curiosity as it lets out a telltale purr, pale yellow eyes like the moon flashing against the night sky of its face.

"There's, uh, something local nearby. It looked Italian from the outside. We could give that a shot?" Seren perks up at the suggestion, seeking Isaac's buy-in.

Isaac gives a small smile at their usage of the word 'we'. "Local and Italian? Sounds like a win to me." At the purr, he arches an eyebrow, his attention shifting to the… cat? … on Seren's shoulders.

Is it actually a cat, or just an illusion? The coloration is certainly not natural — striking, yes, but not natural. And he saw it sprout wings earlier… but on the other hand, Seren introduced it, and odd or no it certainly seems to be expressing interest; probably best to roll with it. "Heh. And nice to meet you as well, Baird," he says with a smile and a slight nod, extending a hand for Baird to examine his fingertips, if so inclined.

"Off we go, then." Seren is all cheer, turning off in that direction. Baird clings onto their shoulder with a clawgrip that certainly must be uncomfortable, but they show no sign of distress, however small. The creature leans its head forward, catching a quick sniff of the offered hand. With a purr, it bumps its head lightly against Isaac's hand, warmth and sleek fur, pulling back to not lose its balance as they go.

"So you're new around here, too?" Small-talk was never much of a challenge for Seren, who walks with their hands in the pocket of their jeans. "I'm from out of town too. Well, more 'out of the country' than out of town, but new to New York all the same." they relate with an easy smile. After saying as much, their brow lifts, eyes sparkling with a hint of amusement. "You want any help finishing your appetizer, there?" Brave soul as they are, who even knows if they know what they're getting into.

Well. Baird feels real enough. Either Seren's an exceptional illusionist, or something more is at play here. To be fair, they've already demonstrated that their ability is pretty exceptional, what with the building stunt and all… but if they're able to create something that feels that realistic, they're clearly top class. Interesting.

"Heh. I lived here for awhile, but I moved to Montana for awhile. Right before things started getting bad, as it happens," he shrugs. "Now… well. Might as well be new to New York," he says wryly. "Everything's changed." Seren's question about the popcorn prompts a raised eyebrow… but after a moment he shrugs again, holding out the bag with a small smile. "You're welcome to it if you want some."

"Might as well." Hand in the bag, they fuss with it for a moment before pulling back a palm's worth of popped kernels that are half-normal, half-blackened, all smelly. "What do you think, Baird?" They toss one of the blackened kernels back for the creature to try. It chomps down, the sound of popcorn being chewed easily heard as it taste-tests for Seren.

Silently, the thrown kernel hits the ground behind them.

"Can't be too bad," Seren deduces. Baird doesn't seem to hate it, even if the creature isn't keen on a second bite. Bravely, they pop the handful into their mouth, chewing.



If Baird actually had taste buds, it probably would have warned them.

Seren tries their best to keep a straight face as they work through the bite, expression becoming somewhat sour. Finally, it seems to reach a point of decision, and it's one that brings them to reach out to snatch the rest of the popcorn bag right from Faulkner's hands. "Let me just — take that off your hands for you," they cough.

Really though, they just couldn't bear to let him keep eating the nearly inedible snack.

Isaac also tries to keep a straight face. He really does. But it's hard to stop the smile that creeps onto his face as Seren's own expression grudgingly twists into a look that he can only describe as bewildered disbelief. As Seren offers to take the carbon-corn off his hands, he chuckles. "Cooking is… not where my talents lie," he admits with a chuckle, holding out the bag.

To their credit, they don't break down entirely into hacks or spit their bite out. Seren takes it like a champ, and merely throws the bag away in the first trash bin they see out on the street.

So long, inedible substance that was once popcorn.

"So what are you doing these days?" they ask casually, turning at a corner to keep them on course for the restaurant.

Isaac is amused to see that Seren doesn't cast aside his cooking efforts lightly; they hurl them with great force. Exactly as it should be.

He grins at their question. "Courier work. Mostly cycling, though I'm pretty quick at getting from point A to point B on foot, too," he says, giving a roguish grin. Oh yes he is, and he's not a little proud of his skills; it would not take a lot to get him to demo them, because parkour is awesome and his version is more awesome. "It pays the bills… or will, anyway. Haven't been there long enough to get the first paycheck."

He shrugs at that, glancing to Seren. "What about you?"

Hands swiping palm against palm to get rid of any remaining residue from the popcorn, Seren looks thoughtful as they consider the concept of courier work. "Pretty quick?" they ask curiously, assuming it's ability-related. Unlike some, they more often than not assume someone is Evolved on first meeting. New York was abound with Evolved! It's a refreshing way of thinking, and they rather like it. It's a new world, and they're embracing it.

"Bills being paid are a great, great thing…" Seren remarks in mild agreement, their tone measured as they try to keep their balance while Baird scurries across their form, interest piqued at something behind them. For their part, Seren keeps their calm as the creature acts on its curiosity, trying to keep their focus on where they're going and not lose course. "Oh, me?" they ask rhetorically. Of course Isaac was referring to them! "I started a little while ago with Raytech. They've got their New York facilities … I'm working with them as an architect."

A proud smile accompanies the statement, tinged with wryness after a moment. "It's an interesting job, that's for sure. But it definitely pays the bills, as it were."

Isaac's response to Seren's query is to grin even wider. "Pretty quick, yes. Parkour!" he reveals, with such a dramatic tone you'd think he was revealing he was a sorcerer. Then he shrugs. "Something I picked up in Montana." He turns his attention to their surroundings, looking for something that he could use for a demo. He could talk about parkour for awhile, given the chance… but Seren says something that catches his attention. "An architect?" he asks, looking sharply to them in surprise. "Huh. I'll just bet it does," he chuckles in response to their comment about it paying the bills.

He is silent for a moment, thinking. "So. You're out here looking for inspiration, then?" he asks, arching an eyebrow and giving them a faint grin.

"Parkour." Seren echoes back with a fraction of the enthusiasm Isaac has. The rest is replaced with appreciation and laughter. "Better than the guys from that Office episode, I'd hope." Though they weren't quite sure about Montana's ability to offer places to better one's parkour. Were there large enough cities for it? Wasn't Montana flat? (Who knew, really.)

But like the guys from the television show, he looks ready to show off. Seren starts to slide back away to give him space if he takes off, Baird giving a tiny, excited crow like it might follow. Parkour! But alas, not yet.

"Something like that," they concede with a grin. "All these old buildings look like they could just grow and grow until they're whole again, all the old missing pieces filled with branches and green." Seren's eyes are sparkling brightly with that thought.

"The Office, huh?" Faulkner smirks; seems he has a willing audience, and after a call-out like that, well, it'd be a shame not to show off just a little bit. He listens as Seren talks, chuckling appreciatively as they speak of the buildings growing until they're whole again… but he doesn't offer a response. Not just yet.

He's studying their surroundings, looking for something he can offer a demo on; his gaze has settled on a lamppost up ahead. It'll do. "I like to think…" Faulkner begins, only to suddenly break into a sprint. He reaches the lamppost, places a foot on it, and kicks himself up, translating horizontal momentum into vertical. His other foot hits the lamppost, and this is typically where vertical momentum would start to flag in the face of gravity's relentless pull… but Faulkner cheats. The curvature of the post means he can't get a perfect seal between his shoe and the surface of the post, but there's enough shadow there for him to get some grip, to get enough traction that he can power himself another step up through sheer conditioning, and then another. He could go further… but at that point it'd be relying entirely on his power to maintain his grip rather than his skills, and it's his skills he's demonstrating.

So instead he kicks off, pushing away from the post. He doesn't go for a backflip or anything — that's a little bit too try-hard, and besides, this isn't The Matrix. Instead, he simply lets himself fall… then, as his feet touch the ground, he sinks into a partial crouch, springing back up in a little hop.

He turns and glances to Seren, a small grin on his lips. "…that I'm at least a little better than The Office," he finishes.

Then he shrugs. "Montana wasn't exactly an ideal playground, but… parkour's more a way of looking at the world than anything else. Obstacles aren't really stopping points, they're just… either things to move around, or they're stepping stones, just waiting for you to figure out how to use them. A felled tree… a rock. An old fence. A wall. Granted, parkour's a lot more horizontal than vertical out there." He chuckles again, eying Seren. "The start's always visualization, though… which sounds like something you're pretty good at yourself," he observes wryly. Then his stomach growls, eliciting a grimace. "Ugh."

Seren was prepared — but they still flinch anyway when Isaac takes off in a run for the lamppost, hands lifting slightly away from their sides as they try to bite back any worried exclamations. Baird has no such restraint, chirping as they see the young man go flying, and then taking off of Seren's shoulder. The dark blue creature spreads its broad, sturdy wings, circling around Isaac as he falls back down to the ground and bounces back up. He might be fine, but Baird is there just for support! It circles several times overhead, wings beating.

They grin sheepishly at the suggestion they're good at visualisation, attempting to rein in their ability to avoid doing what they'd consider to be showing off. Seren's ability disagrees, and a ghostlike projection of Isaac can be felt moving around himself before he takes off again, the sound of sneakers slapping pavement heard in its wake, gray and yellow strips of light behind the ghostlike form of him that sprints down the street. His ghost barrels quickly toward the wall, running along the side and up before jumping up to hold onto a window's ledge, swinging from fingertips. Seren suddenly remembers that would be painful, the scuff of concrete under fingertips, tries to rationalize it and create a reaction, to figure out what comes next besides… and the illusion of the run stutters and then disappears entirely.

They look a little distressed when it's done, trying to hide their frustration at themselves. Rationalizing was silly, and not just letting their mind go lead to those hiccups and dissolutions in their ability. Seren blinks in a daze as they look down the street, eyes seeking out familiarity. The sound of Isaac's hunger is a good enough thing to help them bring back their focus, and they gesture down the block at a building with a red neon sign hanging in its main window. "We're just down there, now." Seren inputs cheerily, trying to move on from the disorienting moment. "But yes, definitely better than the guys from the TV."

Baird's circling feels a lot like flying with a fighter escort; it makes Isaac grin a bit more widely…

… and then… something happens.

He feels it before he sees it, a faint wind stirred to life by the abrupt presence of his phantom. Startled, he reaches out to the gathering gloom of the evening; Seren and Baird might feel it as the faint whisper of a phantom wind, an ever-so-slight thickening of the air as he lays the lightest touch of his ability upon the gloom around them, just enough for him to be able to feel.

Then, as his phantom double takes off, he lets it go. He can see the phantom clearly now, sprinting towards a wall… although, strangely enough, he hadn't actually been able to feel its presence within his shadows. Hm. Interesting. Still… illusion, projection, or whatever it is, he has to admit: the phantom does a pretty credible impression. Isaac nods appreciatively; he could do the fingertip hang, though that's some definite cheating there. He chuckles as his doppelganger dissipates; an early end to the show, perhaps, but impressive nevertheless.

He's in the process of turning to Seren to say so, but… they don't look too enthused. If anything, they seem embarrassed. Isaac's eyebrows rise slightly; seems like maybe someone's a little too good at visualization… not that he's one to cast any stones about reflexive ability use. So instead, he grins. "Glad to hear it," is his response to both of Seren's comments. "Let's see how good this place is."

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