Scene Title Saints
Synopsis A long time ago, Teo fights on one front of the Second Civil War and makes a series of grievous mistakes.
Date February 12, 2012

The Bronx, Pelham Bay

2012. The war is early in its years yet, but Janet is fucking late. Freezing cold temperatures should render fog impossible, yet fog there is. It roils over the surface of the sea, rolling and crashing, the same wave mechanics as the water except that the math is turned upside-down and colored white. Good to be friends with weather witches.

Off the Long Island Sound, the Gallant bobs like a cork.

Two stories tall with seating for thirty, already past capacity. No, she wouldn't make it all the way to Canada on her own, but there's a floating rig hiding out twenty miles East of Portland, some ingenious shit. Another vessel waiting there to halve the load.

Pop. Crackle. "We should launch," Leroi's voice grinds in over the radio. "Permission to set sail."

"Negative. Hold," Teo says. "They're almost here."

"Something's off."

"Fucking hold. Two minutes, three kids."

Leroi swears, but he keeps the engine idling. Leroi's anxiety is not exactly unjustified. They lost two safehouses in the past two weeks, no fatalities, but that only ever means someone was taken into custody. Lines of communication are tighter now than ever, and need-to-know is the basis upon which anyone ever gets to know jack shit, but there's always a question of who might have talked. (They've lost more than that, already, but if you look as far back as Pollepel Island, you tend to see a lot of things that will blind you.) The old man next to Teo is grinding his teeth so loudly that the Sicilian can hear them; he knows that Hamza disagrees with him, but won't say it, occupying himself with binoculars. Teo checks his phone. Nothing on the 'Gram, ha ha. No. No new military movement, and Wireless would reach out over radio with anything else.

"T, I'm calling it," Leroi says. "We have fifteen fucking kids on-board. See you in six weeks."

"Wait." Teo closes his eyes and reaches out. Without line-of-sight, his psychic aim is bad as ever, but sheer luck: he slides into the nearest mind, and that mind is Janet's. She's in the driver's seat of the designated van, accelerating like a maniac, the voices of children crying in her ears. He checks rearview in the corner of her vision; no one in pursuit. Makes sense. She's only been a Ferryman for twice as long as there has been a war, but she wouldn't be trying to make the rendezvous point if it would compromise the other refugees. She's one of the best. Francois had vetted her himself. "Roy, they're here."

"Hundred yards," Hamza says. Hamza drops the binoculars and puts up his sniper rifle, stooping over the scope more agilely than you would expect for his grey bones.

Leroi guides the boat slightly closer. Teo knows the kid managing the gangway. Cornelia — Corny — is a lanky teenager who does not identify as a kid, but she should be in college, barely has a real face emerging out from under the baby fat. She waves at him, balancing on the deck with startling, sinewy grace. Unbelievably, this will be her third voyage.

He can't remember when they started recruiting children to save other children.

The van comes skidding into view, wobbling, brakes so fast Teo thinks for an instant it's going to roll. But it stops at the end of a swirl of stinking, burned-rubber tracks. Teo runs out to meet it.

Janet half-climbs, half-falls out of the driver's seat. Her whole left side is red.

He sees a glint of her rib before he sees the matching holes in the door. She doesn't say anything but she tries; when she opens her mouth, the liquid volume of her lung swamps down his pant leg. But she shoves him with her hands, jerking a thumb at the kids, even as she collapses onto her knees, wrapping an arm around herself; she starts to crawl toward the pierhouse. Something's off, but there is no time for deduction, my dear Watson, so — fuck it.

Teo picks up the smallest kid, then realizes the kid must be eleven. Too big to carry, but today is a special fucking day! The other two get the memo, running fast behind him, toward the boat. The boy in his arms is warm and light as a toy inside his puffy blue Paddington Bear anorak; despite being three days without a shower, traveling across half the United States, he smells sweet, the way that all kids do before puberty rolls in fucks everything up with B.O. He wonders what these three can do. Teo doesn't know anything else about them; need-to-know, as it is. They can't be more dangerous than Walter. (He makes himself stop thinking about Walter.) The boy in his arms, the one he's carrying, keeps saying, "Get me on the boat. Get me on the boat."

Get me on the boat.

Get. me. on. the. boat.

Teodoro gets him on the boat, and the other two. Cornelia throws off the mooring. Leroi guns the engine and seething water slaps up on the deck, soaking Teo's shoes.

Before he even knows why, Teo starts to run — not to Hamza, Janet and the pierhouse, but the other way. In his head, he does the math backward.

Get me on the boat.

Janet was bleeding out of her lung. Janet knows protocol.

Janet was fucking late.

And just like that, right on cue, the US Marine Corps lurch into view in three cars. Hamza fires the first shot, blows out a tire, manages to skew the lead vehicle off to the side, but the two followers steer around instead of stopping. No radio still. Someone got wise. By the time Teo gets to his rifle, there are two more cars and then, like a bat-winged demon manufactured in the drama of a Miltonesque fever dream, an actual fucking helicopter descends from the sky. Fog swirls Styxian between the blades. From a bullhorn, the chopper commands Leroi to stop and turn around, or they'll fire. When Leroi starts to do it, the helicopter fires its onboard artillery anyway.

At that moment in time, Teo is changing out his clip. Multi-tasking, he makes another mistake, probably, reaching out with his power, seeing if the boat is in range.

He can't know who his psychic host is, but the heat is incredible. He feels the burning echo of nerve damage without the visceral reality of the pain, the sucking kinesis of backdraft against their skin. Screams, splitting wood, groaning metal punctuate his borrowed hearing. The host looks down and sees no leg coming out of their hip, as they fall, slow motion, trying to reach out and stop themself with scorched hands. Teo blinks, snaps himself back into his own body, locking the new clip home. He looks out across the water with his own eyes.

Bodies topple into the churning grey water, different sizes. (Corny is definitely dead.) (Janet might still have ten minutes.) The Gallant lists, taking on water. Half her stern is gone, and what remains smokes orange.

Teo pulls the strap of the rifle over his head, wasting the new clip. Whatever. He got a few marines, probably. He starts toward the water. (He knows things about dying. That inch for inch and minute for minute, fire is more painful, but drowning is terror itself.)

WHOmpf. Someone knocks him on his ass.

Teo claws at his own throat, trying to reteach his trachea to be. not. flat? for the purposes of breathing. Ow. Through his watering eyes, he sees the other man. It's like looking up into a carnival mirror, a face nearly like his own, shorter stubble framing his jaw. The storming sky fits neatly around the other man's rumpled head, pearlescent and threatening snow that will not come.


"We've gotta go," Ghost says.

Teo spits out a disgusting, pneumonic cough, the kind that vibrates all the way up from your sternum with the resonance of slimy liquid phlegm. Fuck. He lurches onto his feet, throws a feint and then a fist into the ghost's face. Translation: get out of my way. Number one, he is a categorically stronger swimmer than a solid ninety nine percent of the Ferry's membership, despite the obvious symbolism. Number two, where did this motherfucker come from? Really? Number three, but there is no time for number three, because the ghost takes the punch with noble fortitude, Teo's wedding ring promising to leave a special mark on the corner of his jaw, and then Ghost grabs his arms.

It's not graceful.

"You fucked up," Ghost says, dragging him around the other corner of the building. Marines shout in their direction, but mostly at the water. The ghost's voice is different from usual, but he has been more like during the past few months than anything that Teo has seen since their inception in this timeline; not exactly harsh and certainly not kind. But urgent, somehow. "Get over it." Ghost hisses this in the other Teo's ear, and sees something in the contortion of his clone's face that tells him what is, unfortunately, real fucking necessary now.

Probably, Teo should see it coming. But he just kicks the ghost once, hard enough to make him swear, and then

the astral blast comes with the voltage of a taser.

Teo's body jolts, muscles dancing against bone; his eyes snap shut. His head bounces on its stem.

Ghost does it one more time, again, just to make sure. Then he stoops down, shouldering the dead weight of his clone as best he can. It is, it turns out, very difficult to tip-toe, run, and cart around a full-grown man simultaneously; somewhere upstairs and across the lane, old Hamza is the diversion that he needs, and the sacrifice that he is willing to make, if it comes to that. "This is the last time I do anything nice for anybody," Ghost says to no one in particular. Mostly just for himself, which you have to do sometimes. The only time it's a good idea to forget yourself is in love, and even that is debatable, and there is time now for neither dispute nor the other thing.

There's no time for anything except for this, the diametric opposite of love in every aphorism ever popularized to man.

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