ethan_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif wu-long_icon.gif

Scene Title Reversible
Synopsis Wu-Long comes by Ethan's to borrow Odessa. While taking his puppy for a walk, the two run into trouble and Odessa makes a mistake.
Date November 14, 2008

Dorchester Towers: Ethan's Apartment

Dorchester Towers is home to many upper class, or more wealthier inhabitants. This apartment seems to be no exception. First impressions of this place, give a homey, and well furnished feel. Lamps are put in the right place, decorations here and there. The living room consists of a large green sofa facing the wall of windows, which has a large flat screen TV in front of it. Speakers are installed all around for the Surround Sound feel. Next to the TV is a cabinet full of DVDs. Most of these movies include a gun of some sort in each of them. A small coffee table sits in front of the couch, a few magazines spread out on it.

The kitchen is well stocked, with a microwave, coffeemaker, and of course a toaster. There is an overhead pan rack hanging over the stove which has many pots, pans, and other utensils hanging from it for easy access. Three doors lead away from the kitchen and living room. Two are large, comfortable bedrooms, complete with posters on the walls, and one is a room that is furnished with a stand up punching bag, dumb bells, a treadmill, and other types of work out equipment.

For the extremely well trained eye, or for someone who knows what they're looking for it would be apparent that there are little things off about this apartment. Reinstalled panels, etc, that would suggest whoever lives here has done some renovation work. (Note: Ethan has 'toys' hidden throughout his apartment, in case of 'emergencies'.) Overall though, this spacious living area has been well taken care of, and kept very tidy.

The sky is a stony slate shade of blue and empty of birds. There's a solitary airplane straining through the cold strata of atmosphere some hundreds of yards overhead, writing letters with exhaust: some slogan that Wu-Long can't make out, though he can't tell if that's because of a rending wind or a certain lack of talent on the pilot's part. The sun's pupilless eye indicates an hour after lunch time. Or one particularly late such meal, possibly. The military had taught him to keep a stricter schedule than that; it isn't the first thing he thinks of, or even the second.

His last visit to Dorchester Towers had shown him the numerous drawbacks in utilizing 'doors.' Knocking tends to go unnoticed, in favor of greasing stovetops with the melted-off faces of priests, waving guns, and screams deeply reminiscent of domestic abuse. However, that last encounter had also indicated to him on no uncertain terms that his new charge could use somewhat gentler handling, at least in his understanding of the term based on what he knows of veterinary care, shock, and the nebulous but not unfounded theory that not everybody is a psychopathic creep who's immensely fond of dark surprises.

He knocks. Knock-knock-knock. The three reverberations of knuckles against wood echo lightly through the stylishly minimalistic apartment, and then he drops his arm. He has two boxes. One under his arm, the larger, flat, as would contain a garment; the other stuck in the interior of the long, leather panels of his coat.

The dwelling may not be Odessa's, but she's taken the liberty of settling in. She gets up from the couch, where she was watching a movie, and wipes the tears from her eyes before she opens the door a crack to see who's on the other side. "Oh," she murmurs softly, unsurprised. "Come in." At least, she's going to assume it's okay that he come in. He might just let himself in if she doesn't open the door anyway. Once he's inside, she relocks the door securely. She sniffles discretely. "What'cha got there?" It never really occurs to the doctor that it may not be any of her business.

In the kitchen, Ethan has been a busy bee all morning. He would have to decline when Odessa would ask to watch a movie with him, and decline all her other requests of activities through the day. He has work to do. At the kitchen table, Ethan seems to be.. cooking, but the ordinary cooking he does with food. Ethan is cooking up a disaster.

Small parts, trinkets and gadgets are all sprawled out on the table. Some may say making bombs in your kitchen is not the best idea. Ethan is not one of those. He is wearing a plain white t-shirt today that is covered in grease and other black smudgery. When the knock comes, his eyes lift to Odessa to be sure she's answering. He pauses in his work as he watches her go to the door, once she opens it and doesn't scream he assumes it is someone they know. So he returns to his assembling.

Magnetized like so much black iron, Wu-Long's eyes go to her face, studying the salt stains that streak her fair-skinned cheeks and the curvature of her chin for a brief instant before they flash to the right, and the left, guiding his step into the apartment as he casts about for the probable source of her upset. The television isn't something that the Wolf would appreciate being run through very many times with a ceramic knife or steel-tipped boots, so he kindly refrains. There's a crinkling rustle of plastic and adhesive, and then he's holding a square of Kleenex out to her.

"Equipment for you," he replies with a smile, straightforward and blunt as head trauma, despite that the box is held out of her reach until she either accepts or dismisses the napkin. "I think we should take a walk today. There's a fence I need to speak to. I would appreciate it if you came with me. If you're under my charge for the next while," and his wife's respirator function contingent on her not fucking up to catastrophic proportions, "I should make your acquaintance.

"Good afternoon, Ethan," he calls out, craning his head to peer around Odessa's bright little head. He glimpses demolitions materials through the edge of the kitchen doorway and it pulls a quirk into the corner of his mouth that's either nostalgic or malicious, hard to tell. He does proffer Odessa her box, then, its glossy-finish bulging contours slightly around a little overstuffing, though there's a ruffled ream of wrapping itssue inside that covers its contents to any storekeeper's aesthetic satisfaction. Violet.

Odessa takes the tissue gratefully and wipes at her eyes and then politely turns away before blowing her nose softly. The Kleenex is carefully crumpled in a ball before it's shoved in the pocket of her black slacks. She takes the box then and smiles. "Equipment? Oh, excellent." Though she isn't entirely sure she knows what all that's going to entail. It's a gift! Gifts are good, no matter what.

Wu-Long does, however, earn himself a confused and skeptical look. "You… talk to a fence?" And people say she's strange? "Does the fence talk back?" The urge to draw a circle around her ear is difficult to resist, but Odessa manages. Somehow.

Applying puddy to a specific piece, the man inspects the front. It's easy enough to make explosives for him, though it does take extra work to make them look professional. Not just crude explosives but bombs that say, 'We're big timing it'. Though what exactly the point is of making something that explodes look sleek, still is not grasped by his own comprehension. Regardless, he does it anyway.

Glancing up again from his work, "Wu-Long." Is the return of the greeting to the Chinese man. "Takin 'er out for a walk are we?" A classic British ploy that Ethan does not often use. Making the victim believe that they are a team when actually the 'we' all along means 'you'. With that though Odessa begins to speak which brings an inquisitive tilt of the head. "It's another phrase, lovely." The man chimes in from the kitchen. "Unless Wu-Long 'as taken up some new 'abits I don't yet know 'bout?"

"I wouldn't keep secrets," comes the facetious lie, Wu-Long's eyes deepening with commensurate amusement. Relinquishing the gift into Odessa's possession, he steps around the couch, glancing over his shoulder at the television, as if he could possibly divine the nature or title of the film from whatever screen she paused at. Unlikely. He's about as well-versed in cinema as the next guy camping out under a rock. Perhaps it was 'The Notebook.' Or 'When Sally Met Harry.' Or one of those Hepburn things— "A fence is a kind of middleman in business proceedings.

"I'm going to sell him something." He parks his butt on the back of the couch, a casual perch that indicates he won't keep it for long, leaning forward to watch Ethan work.

To his understanding, making something that explodes look sleek is mainly important to keep organized partly while the thing's being built out of its component parts, and partly in the unlikely emergency one would need to defuse it under unfavorable circumstances. It sucks to be disorganized when tha thappens. Really. He's lost a few privates that that sort of clusterfuck. "Is that for next week?" he inquires, even as he listens idly to the package unwrap. Under Odessa's fingers, tearing through or timid, black thread emerges out of the purple folds.

Two items packed into the same box. The first is a coat. On first pass, it's black quilted lambskin, girl-sized, gathered at the waist with a feminine flourish, notch-collar sleeked out by slash pockets and discreetly hidden buttons; on second pass, it's fully reversible. The inside shows an identical cut and figure in a champaigne shade of suede. Flattened underneath the coat lays her desired undergarment: a kevlar vest.

Odessa sets the package on the couch so she can open it neatly, fingers careful not to tear anything that doesn't need to be torn. She gasps with delight when she sees the coat, lifting it up to inspect it. "It's beautiful! Thank you!" She actually hugs the new coat - her first coat - to her chest and then peers down at the kevlar vest. "Ooooooh…" She knows what that's for. The coat is carefully set down on the couch and the vest lifted out now. "I love it." She grins and feels the heavy material between her fingers. "So, what are you selling this guy? Is that what this is for? Because he might think it's cute to start shooting when you tell him how much it's gonna cost him?"

Though the process of building 'splode is pretty interesting to him, Wu-Long knows how that works enough to shift his attention back to the real novelty Ethan's keeping in his house. One Odessa Knutson. Who finds kevlar and reversible coats equally delightful, which is sort of awesome and also leads him to wonder a little. His wife never appreciated reversible clothes. The emphasis on practicality made her give him deadpan looks, and she refused to actually use more than one side of such garments. Of course, she'd never had a part to play in urban warfare, disguises or otherwise, so the case might have been altogether different.

He's smiling before he realizes he is. "Buyao keqi," he says, waving his hand modestly. "It's nothing. I don't expect him to start shooting, but I decided it was important you to have these things for the near future." Partly also because he wanted to see how she'd react, confronted with Kevlar.

She's the weirdest mix of sheltered ignorance and void of conventional naivete, and he isn't sure what to do with it, exactly. He slings his weight onto his feet, straightens, walks around to look at the garment in front of her. "See: when you wear that side out," he points at the leather. "It makes you feel fucking badass." Trust him. He'd know. "The other side," he points at the seam of white wine gold. "Your civilian colors. I'm selling him heroin and diamonds. They're a lot easier to shift than rare strains of cholera, so I don't think it should be bad," he says, squinting critically at the cut. He isn't hopeless at sizing. That's nice to think.

"So what would you like me to be?" Odessa queries with a smile, pulling the vest on over her dress shirt. "Badass or civilian?" She holds up the coat first turned one way, then the other.

Wu-Long tips his head to the right, a fraction of a degree, looking at the coat then the woman, then the woman's throat in a momentary distraction, then the coat again. For the life of him, he can't figure out which 'ruse' would be the actual ruse, or more transparent to anyone who looked closely enough. "Which one do you prefer?" he asks, blinking.

"They're both nice," Odessa muses, running her fingers over the fabric of the coat. "I think I like the champagne today." She flips the coat around and tugs it on to check the size. "Wow. You have a good eye," she murmurs.

Well — an accurate one for most things, at any rate. Wu-Long stares at her for a protracted moment, pupils indiscernibly dark against iris and his pulse beating in his mouth. The next, he breaks a step backward, assenting with a diplomatic nod. "We can go out the window," he says. There's one on the far end of the living room, where it would have been throwing a square of cold sunlight down on the floor if she hadn't shuttered it to avoid an unhelpful glare against the television screen and, perhaps, also out of deference for the explosives constituting the next room over.

Doesn't bother raising the blinds before he flips the catch, he opens it a chink with a rattling jerk of brushed metal on metal, glass on hinges, murmuring a note to the Englishman in the room adjacent. Offers Odessa a hand, something both unobtrusive and yet expectant at the callused palm turned upward. "Do you have your title because you completed a PhD program or because of your trade?"

Odessa stares down at the hand offered to her for a long moment before taking it almost reluctantly. Her grip isn't very strong and the way the muscles in her arm tense, it's like she's just waiting to yank free of his grasp at a moment's notice. "I didn't attend what you'd call a traditional university," she admits quietly. "I'm a physician. A surgeon." She stands firm for the moment, staring at the covered window. "Are we going to be using your ability?" This prospect seems to clear some of the apprehension and she squeezes the hand she holds a little tighter. Excitement and anxiousness overpower trepidation.

Little hands. The disparity of their skin texture is equally tangible to both, her white palm and matchstick fingers seeming softer than the creamy chemical ribbons coiled up in luxury bodywash, his dense, deeply-tanned and sinewy grip feeling hewn of granite the wrong side of room temperature. He considers their handclasp for a moment, as well as the words from her mouth. "We don't need a physician or a surgeon," he notes, after a moment. He doesn't bother to qualify that statement. "I think it's very strange you're here. Yep," matched with a nod. "We're going to be using my ability. Only a little." Word choice implies reassurance; his tone would have been the same if he said, Don't struggle.

Skin ripples. Hairs fray, bones and layered muscle quaking, reverberating, humming until motion becomes stasis and molecules unravel like the pixels of a hologram, preternatural static shocking through the fabric of their image. Their hands are gone. Gone black, almost vaporous, strange contradiction to the lingering sense of proprioception: her body in space, standing, holding on, her bulletproof vest and new coat a fleeting impression against a torso that isn't a torso.

She feels inscrutably light: a sylph of air and darkness. They've written fairytales from the stuff she's become.

The next moment, the two cut through the gapped window like a nicotine cloud through the yellow grille of a smoker's teeth. An arm around her waist keeps her from falling, but they're falling anyway— almost— the soldier's free hand and two feet scaling down ledges, window-frames, air conditioning boxes left carelessly protruding, dripping down the sneering green lip of a flower pot. The sky swoops overhead, convex, and none of Ethan's neighbours think to look out, or up, or scream: New Yorkers.

They coalesce on top of parking lot asphalt, a big yellow arrow converging toward her feet. Just beyond the peripheral of a security camera's monotonous swivel. Wu-Long is wincing on the right side of his face: he half expects her reintroduction to physical matter to be followed by a scream.

When it's over and they're both solid again, Odessa is clinging to Wu-Long tightly with both hands. "I should have warned you," she whimpers. "I'm terrified of heights." She smiles shakily at the shadow. "But that was amazing. Thank you for sharing your ability with me."

When he isn't temporarily deprived of his hearing, Wu-Long is pleased. He likes his hearing well enough, despite the other facets of his ability. He's also faintly amused at her belated disclosure, and reacts to her gratitude the way a China man is wont to: "Buyao keqi," a cavalier wave of his hand. It's nothing. He gives his coat a whack, ridding it of some vestige of wind-rumpling, before making a courteous gesture toward the nearest company car. This one isn't as sleek or generously proportioned as the model Ethan sends out to harass snitches or pay other visits. No; this is the sort you take when you're wearing a trenchcoat to Chinatown. "Do you know what we do?"

"Nobody's seen fit to tell me exactly what it is yet." Odessa approaches and climbs into the passenger seat of the car when directed. "I helped Ethan kill someone last night. I'm sure he told you. Does this mean I get to know what I killed the man for?" She wraps her arms around her slight frame and shudders. "Other than for touching me. That alone was reason enough."

Locating the key, Wu-Long gets the car open. Unworded, the assumption goes that she'll take shotgun; he climbs into the driver's seat, sparing only a moment to remind himself of which side of the road they drive on here. "Shi ma?" The door clunks shut behind him and he starts the engine, glances over his shoulder to guide the vehicle backward out of its parking space. "He left that part out. That Officer James touched you. I hope you aren't traumatized. In the next few weeks, we might not have time for you to take showers every time you brush shoulders with a man, or anything like that." Gears shift; the tarmac murmurs underneath the tires, and they roll out into the street.

"He was awful," Odessa insists. "Disgusting. You would have wanted to shower after having him just look at you, too." She stares out the window with a determined expression, as though taking in her surroundings will chase away the memories. "I will cope," she assures herself more than the man in the driver's seat. "Killing him was easy… It was very, very easy… What was your first like?"

Even to him, that statement sounds slightly deranged. He enjoys that she said it twice. Very, very easy. He sympathizes: "He sounded like an ugly guy." A blink of black shale eyes; it's on the tip of his tongue to ask her where she got that idea, that he'd ever killed before, but it would be farcical to say anything aloud. He smiles. "My first was awful too," he says. "He ran at me while I was playing in the street. I probably would have lost a hand if there wasn't a stick on the sidewalky. A huge brute— or maybe I remember wrong: I was ten years old and quite skinny. My mother was very angry with me.

"She kept saying—" he pauses to translate it. "'That dog belonged to someone.' 'Now someone has no dog.'" The Upper East Side glides past with its trinket storefronts, restaurants with original art peering out through the windows, live trees growing out of the sidewalks. The margin between Manhattan's finest and the bare necessities isn't as wide as it used to be, once, but it's coming. He glances at the rearview. Adds a footnote: "We're going to kill all of the Evolved in the world."

"Putting a bullet in his brainpan improved his looks significantly," Odessa remarks in the only way she knows how to cope - callously. His admission to her of the the Work entails causes her head to snap to the side so her gaze can fix on Wu-Long. "Why?" There has to be a reason. Even the Company sees worth to the Evolved. One of Us, One of Them. "The world needs Us." Not that he can tell she's putting more meaning into a simple two-letter pronoun than most others would. "There's a balance there. Why is that our goal?"

The fact that she uses that simple two-letter pronoun at all discloses, to Wu-Long, information that he didn't have before. He turns his head from the rearview to look at the woman herself for a moment, black eyebrows crooking, surprised, before he shifts his attention back to the road ahead. They turn left, stop behind a handful of other vehicles. Two of them are cabs, as yellow and bright as her hair, her coat.

Her eyes are harder than his right now, compressing the magnitude of yesterday's nightmare behind those pretty blue portals. "I don't know where you have been living all your life," which indicates he could guess, "but whatever is there, it isn't balance. I don't have a rant to go with that, but we could probably find one on the radio if you want to." He makes no move to switch it on, but bobs his chin toward it, generous with company property. His forehead wrinkles quizzically at the novelty of her other assertion. "Why does the world need us?"

"It just does. For hundreds of years, we have been here. People like me have been here. People like you have been here. There's got to be some reason for it, right? We aren't some new invention. We've just been quietly watching and waiting for the day we were to tell the world." Odessa frowns and stares ahead at one of those bright yellow taxicabs. "So the bomb brought us to light. How many other disasters in history do you suppose may have been attributed to people like us? Nobody knew then." She catches herself and turns her gaze to Wu-Long once more. "That's the thing, isn't it? That's just it. How long have we been the cause behind the tragedies of humanity and nobody knew?" A pause for a moment's thought. "All right then, so we kill all the Evolved." The thoughts tumble ceaselessly, her brain unable to shut off and stop trying to analyse the whys and the hows of all this. "What happens to us then when the rest of them are dead? Do we just off ourselves and call it part of the greater good? Martyrs for the cause, rather than live out the rest of our lives as heroes of the age?"

Someone else ought to be having this conversation with her. Wu-Long suspects this is the case, anyway, but that suspicion might well make him the perfect candidate to broach the subject. He finds it interesting that that wasn't the first thing she thought of. 'What about us?' Intellectuals, they tend to be that way, probing their fingers through the weave of logic, following threads and seeking patterns, methodical, before they arrive at the conclusion that it's a noose they've pulled themselves into, or the possibility that there's still a razor needle singing at the end. "Kazimir will be the last to die," he answers straightforwardly. "He will finish whomever is left.

"I probably won't be around that long; I'm already over my peak, and the work is hard." Ironically, Wu-Long is characterized by a tendency to forget to attach to more meaning to words like that. The Work. "If there's a reason for something to begin, centuries ago, then there's a good chance there's as good a reason for things to end now, don't you think?" He flicks her a look. Turns the wheel, turns the car. Graffiti crops up around them. The ruins of Midtown staring skeletal from seven fences away. "It's a good time to pick a side."

Odessa's suddenly found herself smack dab in the middle of a situation she doesn't fully understand. Then again, the entirety of the world is a situation she doesn't fully understand. "Over your peak," she repeats as if testing the words out. "What do you mean by that?"

He pauses to let a Volvo pass, shifts his hands around the wheel. Creaks leather as he straightens, something uncomfortable digging into his ribs for a moment. Box of diamonds, maybe. "I'm old," he answers. "Not for a civilian, but for a soldier. I'm almost forty. Soon, there will be someone faster, stronger, better. That's a song, isn't it?" He lapses into a sidelong glance that doesn't last. By now, Wu-Long has the distinct sense that Odessa is even worse off than he is, as pop culture goes. Though, at least she watches movies. "Why did you come with Sylar?"

"I had no where else to go," she admits. "I've lived my entire life locked away from the world. And when I left, I realised I had no resources. No way to support myself. I didn't know where to go or what to do. I can take care of myself, but even that would only last me for so long." It isn't an easy thing to confess, really. Telling Wu-Long that she moved ahead with no plan - telling anyone she moved ahead with no plan - is difficult. "I believe fate brought Sylar and I together once more. The first time I was sent out on my own, I saw him. In a city the size of New York, of all the trillions of places he could have fled to, and we met. Then, when I fled my prison, we found each other once more. I'm normally not a big proponent of these sorts of theories, but everything does happen for a reason. And I think Sylar and I have found each other for a reason."

She seems to attribute a lot of things to a reason; it both intrigues and doesn't, that she's yet to suss out what that reason could possibly be. Wu-Long is neither a cereberal nor patient animal by nature, but he's spent enough time watching human beings to continue to do so a little longer with this one. There are worse assignments. The Vanguard doesn't need a doctor or a surgeon, but it could use one. Especially if she has nowhere else to go. "You and Eileen have one thing in common, then," he says, with a macabrely humorous twitch of his cheek. "Would you tell me about your great escape? From what I understand," the syllables are crisply formed, as if Wu-Long thought he might have trouble pronouncing them, encumbered by his accent, "that takes some doing." Graffiti flashes by on a red brick wall, bubble letters too tribally stylized to be legible for his first pass.

"What it amounts to is that I abused the trust given to me." For that, Odessa is sorry. Her impatience got the better of her, and she found herself too frightened to go back when she realised her mistake. "I knew exactly where to be and when in order to slip out unnoticed. I was likely just extremely lucky that I managed to pull it off." There's a great deal of modesty in that statement, attributing it to good fortune rather than her own ingenuity.

Wu-Long sort of doubts both weren't involved, but he tends toward skepticism, if his quiet tolerance of all mention of 'fate' hadn't indicated that enough. "I hope freedom is shaping up to be what you wanted.

"And that isn't even a little bit sarcasm," he adds, always one to be courteous. Then, "We're almost there." The signs have been changing language. The billboards, the taped paper flyers, the shop names articulated extravagantly in neon above the plump red shapes of false lanterns and a few tanks with live fish bellying in the translucent greenness of their water, awaiting their doom. China town. The density of Asian pedestrians increases proportionally. Hell, the density of pedestrians, period, increase proportionally. He peers about, and presses toward a big square 'P' sign. "What is your ability?"

"I can't say it's everything I hoped it would be, but I've always known my hopes were unrealistic." Odessa watches out the windows at the changing scenery, fascinated by it all. Her head turns so she can fix a look of wide-eyed curiosity on Wu-Long. "China doesn't look like this, does it?" If she heard his question, it's lost beneath the sea of wonder.

It's a not unimportant question. Wu-Long fosters another few doubts, not verbalized, even as they sink underground to park in the cool shadows. "Some parts of it. All big cities look alike in little ways, Saudi Arabia or Berlin." He parks with a chirp of electronics and pushes the door open, steps out with a leathery whisper of long coat.

It's colder out here than it was in the car, which is easy to forget until it's pinching gooseflesh out of your skin. He rounds the blunt posterior of the car to retrieve his charge, glances over her trimmings and tresses all blonde and gold, assuring himself no hair is out of place, before there's an abrupt nudge to her ribs: the butt of a gun, proffered, on safety, its black shape stark even against his sea-blackened skin. The PD standard, Glock, .9, ugly as sin as far as the enthusiasts are concerned, by as reliable as they come. "If you don't have one of your own," he says.

Odessa steps out of the car and smooths out her jacket, shivering against the cold once. She takes the proffered gun and then looks down at herself a little bewildered. "Where… do you want me to stow it?" She doubts she's badass enough to tuck it in the back of her pants, and she's fairly certain isn't supposed to simply slip a Glock into her pocket.

Tucking a Glock into the back of one's pants doesn't require a badass, as far as Wu-Long is aware of. In any sense of the phrase. Actually, in some of them, that would kind of get in the way. Odessa's ass is adequate to the task, and she has hands. "Into your waistband," he answers, after a beat's quizzical pause. "I'll tell you if the bulge is too conspicuous. It should be fine. You won't have to sit down; you'll probably forget it's even there." Though if she doesn't want it, he could just as easily find some other perturbing place to hide it.

Odessa opens her coat enough so that she can slip the gun into her pants, but toward her hip rather than at the small of her back. It isn't so much a case of being badass enough as it really is - She shifts once, uncomfortably, and relocates the gun to sit at her back. Phooey. Badass or no, it's better than having it push into her hip. "How's that?" she asks quietly.

It shows. Barely. Enough to send a message to the kind of people you'd want to receive it. Wu-Long lifts his eyes from her posterior, smiles, and makes a gallant gesture toward the exit. "Xiaojie, you're perfect," he says. The car locks with a tweet of the key.

It's not a long walk, but it feels longer when extruded off the main street and squeezed into the alleyway between two eateries, too narrow for a dumpster, too clean for rats, curtained frivolously with overhanging laundry. Striped linens, a child's pinafore, a theadbare set of curtains, some faggot's Technicolor button-down shirts lined up like a rainbow. A big man greets them outside, as big men are wont to do, wearing jeans and a coat, highlights drizzled through his spiked hair, a cigarette in hand; forty pounds heavier than Wu-Long, he's of the taller Asians that Odessa's bound to ever meet. He stares at her a moment.

Dark eyes click to Wu-Long's. "Ni wei shenma daila gui lou?"

Wu-Long shrugs first. The actual answer, before proffering information that means nothing: "Ta shi wode yi jia ren." There's a grunt; they're let in to the door riveted to what seems little more than a hole in the wall. A bead curtain swings into Odessa's shoulder and incense seams up warm against her face, neither obfuscating the sight of a thin older man and his desk, two statues of squat lions on either corner in the front.

The woman finds herself uncertain of what role she's intended to play. Competent accomplice? Or perhaps she's meant to be seen as some sort of obedient girlfriend along for the ride. Being unable to understand the exchange doesn't help matters. Her solution is therefore neither to level on the guard at the door a sort of 'what are you staring at?' gaze or lower her eyes to the ground and follow at Wu-Long's heels like a puppy. She instead keeps her expression neutral and follows a step and a half behind her keeper, glancing about the room with no more interest than is polite. At her sides, her fingers twitch restlessly.

Something to have discussed earlier, perhaps, only Wu-Long hadn't broached the topic for the simple reason that he wondered what she'd do. How she'd do it. It's a beautiful day, the most recent out of a very, very few spent beyond the Company's walls, and she'd spent most of it watching a sad film. The fact that she drops into following neither disappoints nor pleases him.

Likewise, the fact that there's another unaccountably gigantic Chinese inside, as well, installed like a gargoyle just inside the doorway. Wu-Long leads across the carpet, a Persian — or reasonable counterfeit, steps up to the table. Its surface is glass, and there are objects underneath; a few pieces of wrought gold, goldfish and charactered plaques, a red jade buddha with a tummy about the size of a human eyeball, none of them with tags. They talk.

Over time, it becomes apparent that the old man is nervous; impatient, even, but self-evidently trying to rein it in. And Wu-Long, like a shark drawn to blood, doesn't like it; narrows his eyes, leans closer, the Mandarin that passes through his lips takes a harsher bent, as if shifting dialects to something more provincial, though he's anything but. Slow, though deft, he pulls the box out of his coat. Abruptly, there's a word from the front door: the man in the front giving an alert.

The blonde whirls around impossibly fast, hands outstretched before her in surprise. One doesn't have to understand a language to know when alarm has been sounded. "Wu-Long," she utters quietly, questioningly. Like a soldier asking for orders, rather than the timid girl suddenly terrified of what might be about to happen.

Wu-Long learned this when he was young: you should never enter a knife fight thinking you won't get cut. He learned this before he picked up a knife, and before it was taught. Funny how even a deeper-than-intellectual understanding of this fact never quite thwarts unwanted surprises on the field. He wheels around, surprised; the old man behind him snatches up the box and yells something incorrigible, undeniable frightened, even as the big man against the wall lumbers close, ensnares him in a protective grip and begins to drag him toward the door. Wu-Long's brow furrows; he turns back around.

"He stole my shit," he exclaims with genuine consternation, even as he watches the thief in question totter backward, hapless— almost embarrassingly so, the bodyguard trying to shoulder past Odessa. Apparently, the old man's been running his business down here long enough to acquaint himself at least passingly with the indigenous language. He glares at the blonde woman, spits a curse at her, and flings the box of diamonds at her. Petulantly.

The box of diamonds is caught effortlessly and Odessa fixes a very surprised look on Wu-Long, getting out of the way of the massive bodyguards. What in the world prompted the man to just give the diamonds back? And why to her? Either way, she's tucking them away inside of her coat and out of sight.

If anything could possibly annoy Wu-Long more under these circumstances than being swindled, it would be — that. He's equally surprised. Starts forward, a middle finger waving the air in a remarkably Western gesture, exclaiming the Mandarin equivalent of I came here to do business, or something equally uncreative, his footsteps drubbing loud as he draws up even to Odessa. He's promptly shoved aside as the other bodyguard comes storming back indoors, moving to overturn the desk.

Glass shatters and trinkets spill out across the floor, a goldfish made of gold bouncing off her shoe, the lucky Buddha teetering to a stop beside a sliver of glass the size and shape of a shark's tooth. Underneath the carpet, there's a safe. The bodyguard seems to be invested in getting it open, his actions seeming fuelled, spurred by desperation— that only hitches when something slams into the ceiling overhead. Footfalls drubbing, shouts, a woman's scream; furniture screeching against wood and rucking carpet, pandemonium approaching from the interior, with efficiency only a little subpar to military.

Which wouldn't be good enough, in Wu-Long's general estimation of things. He pulls his .45 out, and motions Odessa toward the doorway out which they had come. "Run away," he says.

"I'm not leaving you," Odessa insists, pulling her own gun out and quickly figuring out how to turn off the safety. Like she's watched Company agents do, she keeps the weapon pointed at the floor. Never wave around a loaded weapon unless you intend to shoot whatever you're waving it at.

Disobedience in small doses is something Wu-Long learned to cope with after he got out of the PLA and into Blackwater, and furthermore when he joined the Vanguard's dysfunctional family. Between the half of the Italian's face left on the stove-top and Munin's tendency to hack her feet up on broken dishes and pick fights with her surrogate not-father, he's encountered his fair share of less than perfect discipiline. All the same, Odessa's retort has him taken aback for a moment, his eyes in white relief against sailor's swarthiness and the ragged crow's wing of his hair.

"I think we're in the middle of a gang war," he states, after a protracted instant. A gunshot goes off somewhere overhead; hits nothing but wall, from what he can tell. "Triads tearing each other apart.

"I was hoping I would be able to shift our goods before anybody started to move out of the city, but after the election…" His level of English fluency doesn't bring an adequate metaphor to mind. It's all right; they shouldn't be talking anyway. He reaches to pull the woman down behind the meager cover of the capsized table. Hears the safe given a final swizz before it swings open on hinges too well-oiled to squeak, sees the bodyguard begin to fill his bag with funds, ignoring both himeslf and Odessa for no other reason than because he thinks he has no choice. A fallacious opinion, and he sees the error of his ways the next moment. Pulls out a silver gun, and fires at Wu-Long's head.

One small hand shoots up in a surprised gesture. "Look out!" Luckily for both of them, Odessa kept a wary eye on the remaining guard. Lucky for her, because it's likely she would have been next. Their good fortune is continued when the shot goes wide, compounded with the blonde lunging forward to shove Wu-Long down on the floor entirely beneath her. The hand cradling the gun is brought up and aimed at the large man's head. Fingers flexing restlessly on her free hand, she pulls the trigger without hesitation.

Now Wu-Long is underneath a hundred pounds of immaculately accoutremented blonde while bullets whizz about overhead. Life could be a lot worse. This is, after all, his natural habitat with a view improved over normal. He manages not to clunk his head flat on the floor, winds up blinking up at the underside of her gun in time to see the muzzle-flash of discharge. He doesn't have to look to know that the bullet path and bodyguard's skull intersect neatly. Abruptly, the man's falling, strings cut, puppet parts tumbling limb and clothes and sack of bills and stones, a corpse before he hits the carpet with a wretched, splattering stain, a new hole splintered through his head. Odessa might imagine she'd seen straight through it.

A figure flickers through the doorway, then, a motion swifter than an ordinary man, running with the subtle wrongness of a cyborg. Motion blur coalesces into a human face and mortal frame. The newcomer is a lean man, interchangeably Asian were it not for the wicked scar tracing around the lowest curve of his face like the chin strap of a helmet. There's another gun, of course; there's always another gun. Odessa finds knees planted square against her ribs, the instant before she's swung off Wu-Long, down behind the overturned table. The wall behind her sprouts holes. Bigger than the ones the other bodyguard had made: hollow-point bullets.

Odessa sighs heavily, looking only mildly rattled. "Oh, I do hope he wasn't Evolved. Sylar will never forgive me for wasting a brain." But her reverie is interrupted quickly as someone who must be Evolved has made the scene. And she's now flat on her back. "Whoa— !!" She goes rolling over and scrambles across the floor toward where the bodyguard is down. Clearly her goal is to snatch up the valuables. What can she say? She's a girl who likes shiny things.

A bit of bodyguard has gotten onto Odessa's shiny things. For whatever reason, Wu-Long doesn't expect that to be terribly off-putting for her. That's good: shiny things are as good for the Vanguard to hoard as the next privately-funded army, and besides, hysterical girls puking over corpses aren't conducive to this current leg of the war effort. Which would be killing everything in the room. Wu-Long rolls over and leaps.

He's desolidified before he leaves the ground, an inkburst momentarily blacking out the ceiling light, gripping the glass edges of the lantern to swing weightlessly on it, a post-modern abstraction of Tarzan. Gathering momentum, he lets go. Comes sailing through the air toward the Evolved ganger, who wouldn't much like the notion of being attacked by a homicidal shadow creature if he could see it coming. Unfortunately, he's temporarily blinded, beating himself around the brow and eyes to try to free himself of the separate zone of blackness that had sprung up around his head.

He doesn't see the knife coming before it sinks into his belly. He doesn't see the knife coming at all, until he's loosing viscera and what might be actual offal like ruined and rotted potatoes from a sodden sack. The man staggers backward, filling the doorway with his shape. Convenient, mostly because his comrades are filing in from behind, shouting. One of them is wearing a dumpling in his hair. "You're thinking about Sylar?" Wu-Long asks, pulling out his own Glock. He is unable to keep his annoyance from his voice.

"Yeah!" Duh! Odessa's tone is entirely unapologetic as she scoops up the last of the valuables and hefts the sack up, gun out and ready, still. She eyes the man on the floor for a moment, a look of hunger in her eyes mixed with a slight twinge of fear or maybe revulsion. Somehow, cutting someone open to look at their insides is just different than that. "I can handle these goons. Can you get the car ready?"

"Yeah!" Duh! Odessa's tone is entirely unapologetic as she scoops up the last of the valuables and hefts the sack up, gun out and ready, still. She eyes the man on the floor for a moment, a look of hunger in her eyes mixed with a slight twinge of fear or maybe revulsion. Somehow, cutting someone open to look at their insides is just different than that. "I can handle these goons. Can you get the car ready?"

There's a smell. Wu-Long's nose wrinkles slightly at it, though only slightly. If organic fluids were a thing to chase him into the horizon out of squeamishness, he would doubtless be in a different line of work. He raises his .9 and pulls the trigger, once. The bullet clips the side of the gutted man's neck, squirting a miniature roostertail of blood into the air before it caves in the right side of the face of the man immediately following.

"You make unexpected assertions," he tells the woman, deadpan, even as he reaches over to snag the bag out of her grip with a hand neither rough nor especially polite. Unless, you know. She shoots him to prevent him taking such a liberty with their loot. "I hope you remember the way," he says, simply, before he turns on a heel and starts away, running like a cat. Four footfalls ringing against the carpet; on the fifth, he's naught but a phantom again, flowing like wind given color and quiddity. Away. Out.

Only to snag to a halt just outside the doorway. He cranes his head around to look, visible as an inky tendril curling low, past the frame, watching. It wouldn't do for Odessa to die on his watch, he's aware. He can't think of a single Vanguard member who would appreciate her untimely destruction. Except, perhaps ironically, their little bao bei.

"I'm not a flower," Odessa remarks softly. "Go." She relinquishes the bag only too happily, glad to free up her hand. When the shadow stops in the doorway, she growls, "Go! I'll be right behind you!" She brings her gun up and squeezes off another shot that doesn't incapacitate her target fully as intended. "You're making me nervous! Go!"

"Yes, dear," comes the easy lie, brief before the shadow-form sweeps backward and away. Wu-Long pulls himself out of the doorway, receding out of view, hearing, and hopefully out of mind — for all of three seconds, anyway, spent crawling the wall of the alleyway like a fretful lizard, vertically circling the deserted entrance, before he pulls himself down to the ground and crouches. Hidden almost entirely from view of inside, watching her whenever he isn't glancing to and fro down the slot-shaped space. He can see the bodyguard and the fence in the distance, running, toward a car parked far behind the buildings. He can see another vehicle coming from the opposite side, blocking out storefronts and scattered droves of pedestrians, hemming them in. It's impossible to tell, from here, where the core of the battle is or where the oscillating scales of victory are falling.

By the time Wu-Long has made his circle and come back to peer inside and look after Odessa, she's… no longer in the room. The gutted man has been dragged out of clear view, hidden behind the table. Drops of blood lead from the body and out of the building. In the alleyway, high heeled footsteps ring out clearly as the blonde runs for all she's worth. The borrowed Glock is gripped tightly in one hand while a new sack swings freely in the other. Whatever the contents of it, they're wet and dripping on the pavement in a clear trail.

Braced on the doorframe, Wu-Long executes what would have been a comedic double-take, if he'd had his head and body on right, his eyebrows high on his forehead and dark eyes wide. Instead, there's an especially confused-looking fog watching as she skitters down the concrete, then down at the speckled trail she leaves behind her rapid-fire heels. Based on her recent-most exclamation, he can take a wild guess as to her new prize. Based on everything else she did, he's somewhat at a loss as to the tactical logic of their next few moves.

Teleportation. Something— more? Wordlessly intrigued, he leaps up the alley wall. Reaches the rooftop in a breath. Swarming to a halt, he pivots, begins to pelt along parallel to Odessa's course on the ground, toward the end of the alleyway, where vehicles continue to spill men out onto the pavement.

Odessa comes skidding to a halt at the mouth of the alleyway, eyes wide and frightened as she tries to catch her breath. She didn't think through this far. Panic is settling in and it's obvious. She tucks the gun back into her pants and nervously flexes her now free fingers several times over before she lets out a frustrated cry and starts running again, back toward the car. "Oh please, oh please, oh please," she begs with every breath burning her lungs.

Understandably, business in both restaurant fronts has ground to a halt. While no one's been shot or really much more than extravagantly punched into a Peking duck down there, the citizens and visitors of Manhattan city know better than to continue eating when there are unusually large Chinese men piling out of cars. Nor does the picturesque addition of a blonde carrying a bloody bag a little smaller than a man's head particularly improve upon matters, even if her garb screams 'civilian' and the bulge in the back isn't something that most would notice.

The first woman Odessa almost runs into points at her face and screams, before ducking down behind a particularly small lobby-level pot plant. A man a little ways behind, leading a small troupe of children he might well have fathered, falls down the elevator he was riding.

The gun-toting thugs behind her exclaim, their attention riveted to the bag in her hand. One makes a grab at her, reaching to enclose bulky arms around her frailler dimensions and pin her elbows to her sides. Despite that the distance between him and the overambitious doctor wasn't all that far, he manages to lose his way somewhere along; winds up halted so close that his rancid breath tickles her cheek, his tattooed hands leaping to his head as if to claw free the blinding, black halo that suddenly encircled his skull, blocking out all light. Wu-Long pours off the edge of the roof, lands beside her.

"Lo wai must lay the pipe right," he remarks, cryptically, even as his hand closes on her wrist. Warm, despite the chill of the outdoors and her own blood scalding hot, percussive, inside her skin. He shoots the blind man in the stomach, and blinds another with a blink, and abruptly, they phase.

Doctor Knutson screams as she's nearly captured by the burly thugs behind her. She's eternally grateful when Wu-Long reappears for the moment beside her and she's only too eager to let him use that ability of his to get them out of harm's way.

It's not as straightforward as Wu-Long would honestly prefer, though by no means a skin-of-the-teeth escape. They aren't entirely intangible. A reality that takes poorly to be charged down twice, shot once, and yelled at a whole lot, before they manage to slide far enough down the sidewalk for the Triad men to reassess their priorities.

In a few more whirlwind seconds, spastically paced been running, shouting and, reacquiring flesh, hanging around the corner of an alley that smells like a cocktail of grapefruit juice and cat urine, they finally arrive back at their original parking space. With two goodie bags and the sort of disorientation that would normally be associated with rattled-loose fillings. Wu-Long's a little overtaxed, blinking oddly in the dim light of the subterranean level as he calls the car doors to unlock with a bleary squeeze of a key button.

Odessa hits the pavement running once they're fully tangible again, unable to catch herself before she slams into the side of the car in her disorientation. She bounces back and stumbles a few steps, teetering backward dangerously before she catches her balance again and throws open the car door and jumps in. Her prize is settled on the floor between her high heeled feet. She takes the time to buckle her safety belt before she retrieves her gun. Just in case. "Oh, my gosh," she mumbles under her breath. "Oh, my gosh."

Wu-Long is going to be comatose for a day. He has that feeling. It's no easy business, decorporealizing little girls, hotfooting them through a quarter of Chinatown. He yanks his own door open and overhands the sack onto the floor of the back seats, before levering his body in at a more sedentary pace. Knives and guns are out of sight, leaving him feeling like his fingers are wooden logs and elbows are pendulous parts of a steamship, uncomfortably warm under his leather collar, and privvy to the distinct sense his hair looks greasy. He sweeps it out of his face with a callused hand and secures his own seatbelt, reaches to shove key into ignition. Pauses.

He looks at her. Polite enough to turn in his seat as he does so, his shoulders squaring, a conversational posture. He cocks his head slightly to catch Odessa's gaze, as if her eyes were raindrops to be fielded by the flat of his face. The metaphor is the furthest thing from applicable, of course. She isn't close to tears. Nowhere near. "Next time," he says, the rust of his accent thinned by the precision of his enunciation, "if I tell you to run away."

"Yes sir," Odessa murmurs numbly, staring straight ahead. "Oh, my gosh." Her eyes lid tightly. "Let's get out of here. Please." She may not be close to crying, but she's spooked. She didn't seem so back in the office of the fence, or while she was shooting, but something happened in the space of time it took her to run the alley.

If running were actually involved. Wu-Long has his doubts about that, and questions about a number of other things besides. They'll have to wait. Fatigue is muddying his thoughts, weighting his eyelids with lead. He has enough in him to get them back to Ethan's, but he can only hope the Englishman is willing to lend him his couch again.

His irritation fades in the same heartbeat that encapsulated Odessa's answer, his temper limited to its practical application. Leaves him watching her for another protracted moment, mapping the stoop of her brow and bloodless lips against the images of her running, shooting, waiting, glaring at the bodyguard, a brief backward walkthrough through fleeting recollections. There's a step missing; one frame. Callused hand turns gleaming key. The car coughs, rumbles to life, reawakening with a shudder of mechanics beneath them. At length, he decides: "Mission accomplished." A beat. "Put your bag on the other one. I don't want stains."

November 14th: Schroedinger's Cat
November 14th: Glad to be of Help
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