Safety Third


christian_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Safety Third
Synopsis Speed and victory are the first two. Unless, apparently, you're Teo, in which case your lack of road etiquette is demonstrated to you in belligerent violence.
Date November 20, 2008

Ruins of Midtown

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

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

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

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

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

Teaching high school students for two hours after four hours of sleep, after a horrifying traffic accident, after a disorienting evening wading through Phoenix issues and other affairs involve the members thereof, was unadulterated Hell that Teo thinks he probably only survived by repeatdly reminding himself that there are eyeless cave insects that live their whole lives squirming through bat guano and that, no doubt, must be worse. He was less convinced when he was finally awakened from his nap in the teacher's lounge, but he understood after the initial twenty seconds of private, homocidal chagrin.

Madame Sagnier had done her best to convince them that the poor boy was a good boy and exceptions could be made. Her pity, probably more than anything else, finally drove him upright and packed him off to the parking lot.

Ten minutes later and the XR is screaming along the edge of Midtown's ruins. He knows better than to take the main roads that stripe the destruction zone to get up through Manhattan when he's riding around bare-headed, be as it may that he was being a little feckless about growling around Union Square just yesterday. The NYPD had been too busy with the latest body count or something; he'd been fine. He tends to be fine. The afternoon sun is diluted by cloud-cover, exposing the battered landscape ahead in frigid gray light. For whatever reason, the sight of an old cinema billboard brings him slow.


He stops on the edge of the street, craning his head up to stare at this one, peculiarly humorous remnant of the United States in 2006. Grunts a meaningless monosyllable and pulls out a cigarette, suddenly struck with a pang as he is. He hears another bike coming up behind, the engine noise wavering in the wind of the distance. Squinting, he glances back over his shoulder with pleasant curiosity, a lighter-flame cupped between his hands.

He had been planning on a scrambler, ya know a properly cool bike like McQueen had. Chris loved Steve McQueen, he could go gay for Steve Mcqueen but sadly Chris wasnt quite the man his idol was. For one, Chris was a much bigger dude and the Scrambler felt cramped when he finally got ready to ride it out. Thankfully, last year's KTM looking to be two years ago KTM provided Chris with pretty much the perfect bike. Tall, powerful, a good deal and twice as fast as any bike needed to be. So imagine his surprise, when he finds Teo.

The tall black KTM 990S comes to a quick stop, rear tire skidding an inch or so as he parks right beside(if above) Teo and his XR. He just looks over at first."You mother fucker."he finally mutters, ignoring traffic behind as he raises a boot to kick the XR's tank and hopefully sprawl Teo out beneath it!"I'm gonna beat your mother fucking ass you lyin son of a bitch."

Hey, look, my Fed, Teo observes mildly, even as he pockets his lighter again. Riding his new shiny, he recognizes, dropping his gaze fractionally downward to see the monolithic hog of a thing Christian's riding now. That would be the new bike. Not the Husqvarna, certainly. By virtue of that distraction, he doesn't think anything odd of Christian looking at him, despite the stwinge of unease that he forgot something, somewhere between his subconscious and overt awareness; something he'd hope would go away if he just ignored it long enough. Trying to shake it off, he's about to offer a compliment and a greeting when he's cut off by, you know. The fact that Christian just cussed him out. Unfriendly.

And then suddenly he's upside-down, his bike on him instead of the other way around, concrete digging into the back of his sweater and his cigarette knocked into the dirt in the billboard's shadow. He doesn't waste an eyeblink; sits — or tries to, a scowl extricating itself gradually onto his face, fists pushing into the ground to get him upright. "Hey!" He learned that word in America. "What the fuck was that for, stronzo?" he demands, shedding dirt from his clothes. His ankle is stuck and Christian doesn't look like he's ready to delivery the cheeky punchline yet. Great.

Christian kills his big KTM adventure, and dismounts. Leaving the bike right where it sits on the kickstand. "Oh Christ, Teo, you fell! It sure is a motherfucking shame you didnt wear any gear! Now your gonna get roadrash!" He stalks around the back of his KTM, and past before placing a boot firmly on Teo's shoulder and shoving him -FIRMLY- to the ground" Don't get up yet Teo, your still sliding," he advises cooly. Reaching back underneath his satchel, to produce the crowd pleaser. It's like if you used a knuckle duster to kill somone, it'd be this knuckle duster. Oh, and there's a gigantic motherfucking knife attached at the end.

"Lie still motherfucker, we wouldn't want you to break your fucking neck. Would we."He kneels over, trying to pin his knee right into Teo's throat as his gloved hands take the liberty of rather neatly pulling his hoodie (and shirt and whatever) out enough to get the blade in. Then in a quick jerk, he completely unzips Teo's apparel from waist to neck.

Blue eyes go wide. He goes neither white nor red. Tries, instead, to shove the man's foot off his shoulder and crawl to great freedom, but it's a little bit like trying to shift a marble pillar on the lever of a plastic spoon. Really. Pitting Teodoro Laudani against Christian Powell is a little like leaving a particularly squat bulldog against a freight engine. By the time he's scraped the sole of Christian's boot four painful inches down his bicep, he has a knee on his neck. His initial compulsion to punch the psycho in the nuts, is thwarted by the revelation that the psycho in question has a knife.

A big one. Teo has been somewhere like this before, assaulted by the conviction he's about to die. Heard other people talk about it, too. Your life is supposed to flash before your eyes, or at least the chorus of Barenaked Ladies' 'Next Time,' but nothing ever crosses his mind except for the stray memory that he left a toilet seat up, or his bedroom light on, or the rented Korean film due back tomorrow, a lifetime of trivial shit. There is a gigantic Federal agent swinging at him with a blade as big as his face. Teo realizes, irrelevantly — rather than irreverently — that he hasn't yet returned the man's radio books.

"We wouldn't," he finally grinds out, barely audible from around the pressure on his windpipe. Wouldn't want to break his neck, he means. He almost flinches when the threads split: hoodie, shirt, other shirt, neatly as if Christian had yanked a thread out of an unseen seam, then stares. Glares. "I didn't fall," he snaps, stupidly, before he shoves at Christian's armored fists. "What the fuck is wrong with you? You're supposed to be over this phase, asshole: I didn't do anything. Get—"

Christian calmly sheathes his knife, ignoring Teo's pleas for the moment. Using those big meaty fists, armored in leather and titanium to grab Teo's wrist and turn. Rather roughly kicking the bike off his pinned foot, in order to roll Teo over and slip a zipcuff around one wrist and quickly the other. "Goodness, see if we'd kept our promises." He finally takes a moment to doff his helmet. That cool poker face replaced with unfiltered emotion, you can almost see the rage. Boiling behind his eyes, that vein popping in his forehead. "Oh yes Christian, if you give me this bike for what you have in it and help me ride I'll wear my gear. Even when its a hundred degrees, and I arrive covered in sweat."he snorts, turning to spit.

"I cant abide liars Teo, especially when by their lies they endanger the welfare of my associates." He grabs an ankle, snorting and spitting again before he starts to walk. Dragging Teo chest down across the pavement. "So you need an education, and talking clearly doesn't do the trick. Now does it, you lyin' son of a bitch."

To be fair, that's… completely fair. Teo is disinclined to admit it at first. Mostly because his perspective is skewed away from 'I could get myself killed' closer to something like 'ahhhh he's going to kill me' or, when confronted by the cuffs, 'I don't want to get arrested,' young and obstinate. At first, he's disinclined to say anything at all. Then, "Fuck off."

Rolled over, he spits gravel out, can't decide whether the slimy fragments sticking to his face are more disgusting or the granules still sandy in his teeth. He's being called a liar. Teo is well-aware that he is exactly that, but isn't sure what the presenting complaint is until the static of childish resentment and wasted adrenaline crackles out enough for desperation to kick his brain into paying attention to the words coming out of Christian's suddenly unhelmeted head.

He doesn't have to see the man's face to see that red fury.

The first two feet aren't too bad: Teo's fallen at angles before. It's all downhill from there.

Skin off in layers. Intellectually, he knows what's happening. They call it exfoliation when they're being nice, skinning when they aren't, road rash for slang. Epidermis scored off in narrow stripes that thicken, shale pips and loose concrete biting in and sinking deeper into soft tissue, knocking uneven chunks out. Knowing what happens intellectually doesn't actually help a lot.

He doesn't yell but he twists, furious, pained, a wolf in a trap, aims a kick at the back of Christian's leg, some inimitable noise raking out through his teeth: the words for 'Lemmego' before there were words. Christian isn't wrong: talking doesn't generally do the trick. His father had never been able to figure out what to do with him.

Twenty yards is sufficient, or so Chris feels. Dropping Teo's ankle finally, before jerking free that para-ordinance."Know what happens when you crash, wearing an unsecured firearm?"He walks along Teo quietly, before firmly planting his boot behind Teo's neck. He drops the mag, cycling the slide dry 2-3 times before in a single practiced motion he pops the slide from the frame. He tosses the frame back towards the Honda, before pitching the entire slide off into the rubble.

"So tell me, Teo. What happens when you lie to Christian, your friend. Tell me what happens when you to his face, and go off riding on his good will?"he plucks his boot back, slowly walking to the Honda. "Your the teacher, so tell me Teo whats the fucking lesson?"He flips the bike over, letting it fall with a resounding thud before he stomps the kickstart lever completely off and neatly removes about three quarters of the spokes in the front wheel.

Twenty yards is sufficient. Teo suspects he's bleeding. He doesn't feel like having a look to make sure. He kind of feels like curling up and shrieking Uncle because the entire front of his person is on fire, but he doesn't; he'd had enough fun trying to push parts of his torso up with other ones to reduce the exposure, but it just made things worse for his shoulder, peeled the severed sweater away for what little protection that offered and cut up his chin, and he isn't about to do anything contortionist for a few minutes. His shoulders shift under the weight of Christian's shoe, not exactly testing the man's sincerity. Not exactly. He watches .45 rounds tinkle-tinkle away into the dirt with some dull thing like amazement.

When it's time to answer, he says the wrong thing. "I bought that from you. It's mine, so I can do whatever the fuck I wa—" Realizes it's the wrong thing the next moment. He coughs. It sounds sticky. He gets up, which is probably the wrong thing too; sits on his knees, hunched over, his face hard, jaw set as Christian starts to take apart his own handiwork with a kick. Another. For whatever reason, that inspires him to choose more wrong answers. "What are you, my fucking father? What the fuck—" The spokes cave like teeth and he chops the end of that question off.

Getting his cuffed hands in front of him is a process gone jerky and slow as if he were made of puppet parts. There's no traffic here when you actually need it. It might have helped if Teo's ego was a little smaller. Nearly immune to the superficial stupid of social humiliation, the rest scalds straight through to the real flesh of him and he's miserable, then, knowing the bike had been practically a gift. Blurted, "Okay. Okay, Chris."

"Bought my ass, you had a verbal agreement to buy a motorcycle for what I had in it. If, you wore the gear and rode it safely until I was satisfied you would be a safe motorcyclist." But that anger is gone, now its cold. Now its dangerous. "You lied, and its still my bike. I'll do whatever the FUCK I want, and you won't say a single fucking thing."

He neatly uses a heel to crack the crank case's oil sight window out, so when he rights the bike out goes the oil. "you lied to me, and you put yourself in danger. You imagine the sorta grief I'd feel if somethin' happened to you, in my bike? I would hate to be responsible for you gettin' hurt. So I reckon, iffin ya'll is gonna fuck shit up I might as well see that you did it right. Would you like me to simulate a head injury now, Teo?"

No. "No." Teo manages not to sound sullen, and that isn't even because he's hiding it under enough pain. He'd meant about the head injury, but the answer is probably applicable for the other question, too, since he can't really imagine, but nor can he think of an answer that doesn't sound like he's quoting some 'disturbing art' he'd confiscated off the Goth kid in the back or something similarly emotastic, so he doesn't address that specific question at all. It's okay. It had been a rhetorical one, anyway.

The stink of oil makes him turn his face closer, morbidly fascinated as if it were a live thing, until that notion becomes too real and he can't look anymore. Guilt is a familiar ache, jammed into his chest, but it's a different shape this time and the unfamiliarity breeds discomfort. Romero hates him for having fucked up somebody else. This would never have struck him as equivalent. "Everyone did it back at home, none of my friends said anything here, and the motorcycle laws are different so I didn't think… I just forgot. Okay — I didn't forget. But I left my shit at home," he grates out after a moment. A confession.

Truth. He's capable of it. "I was being stupid. I know I was being stupid." Teo's sentences are peculiarly deprived of the decorative Italian fragments, this time. Dirt-smeared and haggard from as much discomfort internal as physical, he adds, "Please stop."

Watch, you can see Chris' emotions sort've cooling before your eyes. His anger fully leaving him finally, before he's ready to speak. "Ok, you forgot. I'll buy that, now Teo do you think this is fair?" He begins a slow walk back towards where Teo is, producing a ringed shape Teo might recognize as a European style cuff cutter. "Do you want my help?"

Whether because he's physically tired, cold numb, reassured by the departure of emotion from Christian's eyes or because the endorphins are kicking in, Teo forgets to shrink away or even brace himself as he's approached. It doesn't occur to him to run away, either. He does, however, eventually decide to stand up because it's hurting his neck to crane his head up and see Christian's head from where he's crouching.

He ends up looking at his shoes. "I don't know what's fair, but I think I could probably use your help," he manages to say, a reasonably even tone of voice, but quiet.

Christian quickly cuts the cuffs off with a light tug, before he begins to unzip his jacket."We're going to my place, I'll clean you up there." He shrugs out of his big armored jacket, and offers it to Teo." Helmet's on the mirror, put it on. We'll talk later, right now let's keep you from freezing to death."

Freedom, jacket, and hospitality are accepted without complaint. Beggars can't be choosers, and Teo doesn't look much better off than your average homeless person right now. Road-blackened fingers close on the edge of the coat. He puts it on without remembering to acknowledge the deafening, chemical clangor of abused nerve endings and rolled-off flesh down his front or to take off the ragged remains of shirt and sweater, one arm then the other, the tip of a tattoo peering out before the heavy hem closes over it. Zipping up takes a little bit of time, but just a little bit of time. It hangs off him over-large, but not like a house; fortunately, he isn't small.

"Thanks," he mentions, at length. If he finds it strange to say so, he doesn't show it, his aquiline features a little blank, a little downcast.

Christian slips his helmet back on, and dons his sling back once more. Slowly, he climbs back onto the 990. Leaning back to flip down the passenger footpegs, before waiting for Teo to join him. "C'mon, now I'm gettin' cold." A truthful admission of his own, as that big Austrian V-twin rumbles to life.

A helmet goes onto Teodoro's head, too, given how he's always one to be cooperative. The new bike is fucking enormous. Teo crawls on because no other gait would really get him over it and behind Christian, finding the footpegs without having to glance more than once over the right side. "Sorry," comes the second murmur, more ignoble than the first. He puts his hands on the bigger man's waist. He coughs once, over his shoulder. Hocks a ball of gray grit and pink saliva out, over his right shoulder, before he settles down.


for srs :(

November 20th: Misdirection

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 20th: No Truce
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License