See No Evil


darien_icon.gif hokuto_icon.gif

Scene Title See No Evil
Synopsis Who says lightning can't strike the same place twice?
Date July 6, 2009

Brooklyn Public Library

The central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was designed to resemble an open book, two wings stretching out along the bordering streets, with the main entrance located at their hinge. Inside is the heart of one of the nation's largest public library systems; the Central Library alone contains over 1.5 million books, magazines, and other materials. It also contains the Brooklyn Collection, an assortment of references and ephemera that chronicle the history of the borough, and a Multilingual Center for non-English speakers and linguistic scholars. A cafe on the first floor sells coffee and snacks, while a restaurant on the third floor (open weekdays only) sells cafeteria-style meals. Internet access is freely available throughout the building.

For once, the sun is shining on the Empire State. In the last month, sunlight and summer weather like this has been a rare commodity.

Ever since the Fourty of July passed, the hot sun has beat down on the city like normal, and it's brought people out of their homes and onto the streets in droves. Threats of terrorist activities, the rolling blackouts still plaguing the fringes of the city, and even the poltical unrest eating away at every news broadcast can do little to darken the notion of the first full day of sunshine to grace the city in nearly two weeks.

And how does Hokuto Ichihara plan to spend that time? Indoors.

"It was nice of you to offer to come down here with me, I'm not certain I could have loaded the Civic up with all of the books by myself and still made it here in time." Using her shoulder to push open the large glass-paned doors, the small black and white framed figure of Hokuto Ichihara slides happily into the expansive entrance of the Brooklyn Public Library. On a Monday morning like this, the Library is sparsely populated with people browsing the internet on the public terminals and reading in the foyer lounge. Carrying a cardboard box full of old books up against her chest, the dark-eyed proprieter of Roosevelt Island's only remaining bookseller seems almost bouncy given her surroundings.

Leaning back to hold the door open, she kicks up a black brow towards the man following behind her, "I haven't been able to donate books like this in a while. But it's great to have the help," she notes with a crooked smile, re-adjusting the way the weight of her singular box is carried while keeping one side of the door shouldered open.

Somehow, though, the inside of a library on a day like today, doesn't seem so bad.

"Don't worry about it," Darien says with a lop-sided smile, his chin planted firmly on the top of the of the pair of boxes he's carrying to keep the upper box from sliding away, one atop the other. He squeezes past Hokuto, shifting his grip on the lower box slightly. "My last batch was due soon, so I was headed this way anyway."

The smirk Hokuto wears shifts as much as the box in her hands does, mostly from the effort of juggling the cardboard container and keeping the door open. Once Darien's out of the way, she eases away from the door, the pneumatic hiss of its hinges leading towards quiet thunk when it finally shuts. Brows furrowed together, she seems lost in a thought, hustling up to catch Darien's side, turning an askance look in his direction.

"Batch?" Both her brows raise, lips pursed into a questioning expression until it finally dawns on her, "oh!" Wrinkling her nose, Hokuto pivots as she walks, eventually stepping backwards through the lobby, past college-age students sprawled out across chairs and sofas, one pair sharing headphones from an iPod while reading seperate books, another lazily sleeping with a magazine laid out over his face. "Now that you've started working at the shop," she seugues away from her original topic without any real transition, eyes turned skyward towards the vaulted ceilings overhead instead of the marble floor, "I've been thinking about taking some… time off?" The idea seems as alien as it sounds coming from her lips. "The request of an old friend, really."

Walking past another row of sofas, one anxious looking man tucks his hands into the pockets of his loose windbreaker, biting down on his lower lip as he paces back and forth between the sofa and a table, clearly waiting for someone. "Do you think you'd be able to cover the whole shop in the meantime? It wouldn't be… more than a week, I'd say." Hokuto's brows lightly press together, words spilling out of her mouth in a litany of excited rambling.

"Considering that I haven't seen you so much as leave the shop an hour early, I'd say you're long past due." Darien chuckles, keeping pace with his employer. Almost unconsciously his eyes follow a librarian wheeling a push-cart of books off into the depths of the library, head tilting slightly as he reads the titles. Redirecting his gaze as she passes, he nods to Hokuto.

"I can let the Center know I won't be in during your time off," he pauses, frowning lightly. "Honestly, they've been hounding me a bit to take some time off myself, give myself some time to decompress, considering I'm there about as regularly as you are at the shop."

"Ah!" The exclamation comes with a quirk of Hokuto's head to one side, "I forgot you work at the Church," how she can forget such a crucial and vital component of one of her employee's work history is a marvelous fact, "hopefully they won't be too put off…" Casting her eyes to the side, Hokuto comes up, finally, to the front desk, hefting the box up to lay down on top of the counterspace with a slight grunt of effort. Absent-mindedly threading a lock of ink-black hair behind one ear, she glances back to Darien and motions for him to add his boxes up onto the counter as well. In her periphery, she sees the six newcomers entering the library from the front doors, but distraction prevents that perception from being anything but tangental.

"We're bringing these in for book donations," Hokuto says with a broad smile, rising up on her toes as her fingers curl at the counter's edge, craning her head to look over the box as she calls out to the young woman behind the front desk.

"Oh!" There's a broad, beaming smile at the number of boxes from the matronly older woman, "Miss Ichihara, it's been quite a while. I guess this is making up for lost time?" Her smirk is plaufully chiding as she adjusts her glasses, moving over to the registry computer. "Do you have a count on how many there are in all of this? I'll fill that in while," one lick is given to a finger before pulling a document away from a stack, held out to Hokuto, "you sign this."

Of the six who came in, only three walk deeper into the library, quietly making their way to the young man who was waiting by the sofa. A few awkward handshakes seem to put him at ease, while the other three linger by the tug, one of them tugging on the collar of his windbreaker as he looks over to the pair of kids sharing headphones.

"Like I said, they'll probably be happy to hear I'm taking the time off; less chance I'll snap after a bad morning." Darien chuckles again at the thought, then slides the upper box onto the counter, placing the other next to it. "I'll bring in the rest," he nods, then exits the library, paying the teenagers no mind.

He walks back into the library with another pair of boxes a few minutes later, thanking a departing patron as she holds the door open for him. He sets one on the counter next to the others, three ducks in a neat row, then places the fourth box a little bit further down the counter. "And I'd like to return these after we're done with the donation," he says to the librarian, taking his library card out of his wallet and setting it next to the last box.

The congregation at the door give a crooked look to Darien as he slips out of the library, and by the time he's come back in they've all but one moved to gather over by the sofa where the anxious kid was earlier. Once the last boxes are laid out on the counter, Hokuto brings the heel o fher palm up to her forehead, with a broad but laughing smile, her head shaking back and forth slowly. "I've never seen someone with such an appetite for books before in my — "

A shotgun blast is not the punctuation note Hokuto, or anyone else in the library was expecting. "Everyone get down on the ground! Face down! Right now!" Plaster from the ceiling comes tumbling down following the shot, and screams fill the library. The man who stayed by the door holds a sawed-off shotgun in one hand, glancing back and forth between the front of the library and the interior, while the other five men who came in with him, and the younger man who was waiting here for them, all pull out hand-guns from inside of the windbreakers they were wearing.

Already halfway in a crouch after the deafening report of the shotgun, Hokuto's pale fingers curl into Darien's sleeve, trying to urge him down to the ground as well. "Everyone get out your wallets, right now!" A red-haired young man shouts, no mask, no hat, nothing to conceal his identity. An armed and undisguised robbery at a library in broad daylight?

Panicked teenagers and library patrons dive for cover or just drop to the floor in terrified complience, most of them folding their hands behind their heads because that's how it is in the movies according to their logic.

Some, however, begin fishing out their wallets and find them hastily snatched out by the gunmen. One of them, a man in his forties with a thick mustache stands watch while the younger men rifle through the wallets, letting money, credit cards and ATM cards fall to the floor. Something isn't right, aside from the obvious.

Darien kneels down on the balls of his feet with little urging, pulling out a battered paperback from his pants pocket - of course - followed by his wallet, tossing both to the floor in front of him. As he does so, he watches the robbers discard cash and valuables with abandon, brows furrowing deeply as he notes a pair of hundred-dollar bills floating down (the third was payday, right? Oh, that means rent was due last Wednesday) from the latest wallet.

"Don't they usually use handguns for this sort of thing?" he mutters quietly to himself, looking sidelong at Hokuto to see if this whole scenario seems as strange to her as it does to him.

"This— something's wrong," She doesn't seem as scared as she should, not in the face of guns and violent offenders, the look of puzzled plastered across her face is even more intent than anything. She makes the mistake, however, of reaching for her phone as one of the gunmen is palming through Darien's wallet. The wallet is discarded entirely with a leathery slap to the tile floor, "Don't even fuckin' try it, drop it, drop the phone!" Eyes going wide, Hokuto shrinks back and lobs the phone like a softball to land between the gunman's legs. Somewhere across the library at the lounge, a shout rings out from one of the other men.

"Son of a bitch, I got one!" He's holding a blue and white card in his hand, waving it around, while gripping one of the pair of teens who was sharing headphones by the arm. A gunman behind him presses a pistol to the young man's back, and then —

"Oh my God!" Hands immediately move to cover Hokuto's mouth as a loud pop and a spray of red issues out from the front of the young man's chest, sending him crumpling to the ground with a drooling crimsin trail spilling out from his lips. Now scared out of her mind, Hokuto edges closer to Darien, reaching into the back pocket of her jeans to hurl her wallet to the ground, eyes already watering over as she listens to the horrified screams of the teenage girl far in the back being held away by other library patrons.

"This!" The man with the moustache snatches the card out of the other gunman's hand, "This!" He throws the card to the ground, stamping his foot down on it, "Look at us, look at us and remember our faces! We are your fathers, your sons, your daughters! We are your policemen, your firemen, your security!" He brandishes his shotgun around as he talks, and only once he moves his foot off of the card does Darien recognize the mark on the corner and the logo at the top.

It's a Linderman Act Registration Card.

"We are Humans, we aren't freaks!" A booted foot comes up to swiftly kick the young man who bleeds out on the ground. Then, from over by the computers, there's a strangled shouting, and the youngest of the gunmen drags a girl over by the hair, kicking and screaming. She can't be any older then fourteen.

"She's one of them!" The young man shouts, a blue discarded on the floor near where he had grabbed her.

"I can't do anything! I can't do anything!" The girl shouts, eyes reddened already with tears, "It's just music, all I do is make music! Please! I'm not dangerous! Please!"

Wide eyed and terrified, Hokuto grips tighter on Darien's sleeve, giving an imploring look to him. But in her mind, there's nothing either of them can do right now.

"Where's our security from you?" Darien calls out, voice frighteningly loud in the deathly silent library — from the look on his face, he's almost as surprised that he's speaking as anyone else. "The way I see it, you're the only ones we need security from right now. You're the ones that've shed blood today, not those kids."

The man with the moustache turns towards the sound of the voice, his speech entirely interrupted as his shoulders give an awkward jerk of an angle, forefingers and thumb on one hand rubbing together. Hokuto keeps whispering as Darien talks, "Stop, stop, stop, stop!" Her pale fingers bone-white at the knuckles wher eshe holds on to his sleeve, narrowing her profile by hiding against the crouching man.

"We're the ones saving humanity from shit in the gene pool!" He waves the shotgun towards the body, then angles it back towards Darien with a ka-chak and an expulsion of one smoking shell as another is loaded. "Who're you? Just some freak-lover? You hidin' your freak girlfriend there, is that it?" Hokuto's eyes grow wide, breath hitching in the back of her throat as she eyes her phone, then immediately looks back up to the gunman with the mustache.

Quiet sobbing occupies other areas of the library, the other men still going through the wallets, one watching the display from the man who's clearly in charge of things. "You got somethin' against the human race? The sooner we kill freaks like these off, the sooner we protect ourselves from another Midtown Man!"

There's no doubt about it, this is Humanis First in the flesh. All over the news, reports of their violent acts have spread across the country, inspiring and horrifying a divided nation down genetic battle-lines. "So what is it, pretty boy," he gently brings the muzzle of the shotgun up beneath Darien's chin, tapping it tauntingly, "you a freak lover?"

"I'm a human lover," Darien says, slowly standing up, keeping his chin high as the shotgun follows. He keeps his hands held passively before him, looking the gunman in the eye. "I'm fine you having your own viewpoint on Evolution, up until you begin hurting people over it."

"You say you're saving humanity? Who are you saving it for? You say you're our sons and daughters? I say you aren't. I work every day to help the people you leave in your wake — the sons, the daughters, the wives, the husbands of the people you murder," at this, Darien's voice rises in passion. He's speaking the unvarnished truth, and if he believes in anything, he believes in the work he spends hours on every morning. "Have you ever looked at a little girl and had to tell her that her dad won't be coming home, because someone shot him for being different… and then had to tell her that she can't go home either, because someone burnt it down? Is that the kind of security you're offering the rest of us?"

Staring up at Darien, Hokuto doesn't quite look like she even recognizes the man for who he is after that speech, like preconceptions of someone she saw as a somewhat absent-minded bookworm weaved itself into a wholly different person, like turning the pages of a storybook and reaching a twist in the plot.

"You jus' don't see the big picture." It's an easy, dismissive answer, and by now most of the other gunmen have stopped to watch. The shotgun-wielding leader of their seems to have been forced down a precarious conversational path, and as he takes a step away from Darien, shotgun hefted over his shoulder, he taps the loaded and primed weapon a couple of times, up and down in a thoughtful motion, stepping away from Darien at a slow, meandering pace.

"You wanna stick up for them? You wanna' stick up for the freaks that killed my little girl?" Brows crease together, and the leader of the Humanis First cell quirks his head to the side, "fine." Darien can see the tension building in the man's arms, in his neck and in his back. Hokuto seems like she's stopped breathing, eyes wide annd focused on the shotgun wielding man and the cell phone on the floor in front of her.

"Then you're gonna' go with the rest of em!" He turns, telegraphing his motions as the shotgun wheels aroud, barrel pointed in the direction of Darien and Hokuto, scowl cutting his face into a firmly chiseled expression of frustration. Hokuto throws her arms up to her face, falling back from her couch to slouch against the front desk, eyes wrenching shut just seconds before the loud report of the gunshot sounds again —

A book? Somehow on his knees with a blinding headache and a dizziness that doesn't quite fade, the gunman seems entirely unprepared for the concussive effect of the book or how fast it seemed to move. With all of the gunmen's eyes on Darien, Hokuto scrambles away, but not before snatching up her phone in two hands, landing on her side behind one of the pillars in the middle of the lobby, quickly dialing 911 before throwing the phone away from her, letting it skid across the smooth tile surface and land beneath one of the couches.

The other gunmen aren't taking chances, and the one holding the teenage girl immediately moves his pistol away from her and aims towards Darien. But just before he squeezes off a round at the bookseller, the young girl lets out a high-pitched shriek in his direction, causing the gun to trattle violently in his hands, screws falling out of the metal casing, the bolt falling off the back and the clip falling out of the bottom. He practically throws the gun aside as the vibrations begin to cause his reddening hand to ache, backpedaling from the young girl.

"Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch!" Fear is what ultimately drives these men, and the remaining five with guns quickly begin pointing them all around the library in a panic, not sure who to aim for or what to do. Taking that moment, Hokuto darts out from behind the pillar, scrambling behind the couch before sliding into the back of the leather upholstry, reaching under the couch to grab her phone. «Hello? Hello?> The emergency dispatch on the other end already trying to figure out what's going on.

"Hostage situation at the Brooklyn public Library, six gunmen, two of them are library security guards." She tries to keep her voice down, back pressed up against the sofa. "Retired Homeland Security agent on scene, requesting immediate assistance from NYPD-Scout." Her hands are shaking, adrenaline, fear. She trained for this, years ago, but she never saw any real field work — not like this.

By the time shooting starts, people are already ducking for cover, the gunmen trying to shoot their way out of the library. The one down on his knees by Darien tries to struggle away, backpedaling on his hands and keels, practically crab-walking across the tile. The bullets have gone stray so far, gunmen hustling out and away as fast as they can.

«Understood, please stay on the line, ma'am. What was your badge…» By the time the receptionist has gotten that far, Hokuto's laid down the phone again at the sound of gunfire, eyes wrenched shut, head ducked down, praying Darien knows what he's doing.

"Saint John's Crisis Intervention and Counseling Center," Darien says softly. He's still kneeling on the ground, hands held up, shaking a little. "If you need- If you need to talk, every day, eight to eleven. Don't let it keep festering like this."

Darien closes his eyes, shaking his head from side to side.

"What would your little girl say if she saw you like this?"

Slipping out from behind the sofa, Hokuto watches as the gunmen make their way to the front doors, some rushing out the side exits, trying to tuck their guns away and get out of the library. The leader of the group finally makes it to his feet, scrambling to the side, eyes wide as he takes a few steps back and away from Darien, swallowing tensely before breaking into a sprint and rushing out the front doors, leaving his gun behind.

What he saw wasn't just the voice of truth in Darien's words, but what Hokuto sees when she finally creeps up from behind the sofa. Behind Darien, behind the counter where the books in cardboard boaxes had all been laid, the books had all risen up of their own accord, hanging in the air with pages rustling in some unseen wind, loose sheets of paper from the nearby printers folding in absrtact origamy shapes, some spinning at wild speeds like tiny paper sawblades. Her dark brows tense for a moment, not sure what to make of that, or the way all of the books suddenly fall down in a rain of hard and sofa covers to the counter once the tension in Darien seems to be ebbing away, the way the paper retruns to its rightful smooth shape and simply falls loose to the ground, as if someone had just gathered it all up into their arms and hurled it into the air.

Her lips part, a silent question, but her focus is gathered by the shouting out front, the roar of sirens and barked orders from police officers screeching their cars to a halt on at the front steps of the library. Panting, breathing hard and uneven, she looks over at the young girl who cried out with that high-pitched scream, then over to the young man laying face down on the floor in his own blood, to the people already trying to check him for signs of life, then just scrambles over to Darien, hard-soled black shoes skidding on the tile floor.

"Darien!" She drops down at his side onto her knees, fingers winding into the shoulder of his jacket, looking back out towards the entrance, her heart slamming in her chest. "You— you could've— " her hand balls up into a fist, slamming harmlessly against his shoulder, her own rising and falling rapidly with frantic breaths.

"But I didn't." He hesitantly, as though unsure what to do in this situation, puts his arms around Hokuto, just holding her for a minute. "I couldn't do anything less and still look at myself in the mirror tomorrow morning. He wasn't- they weren't-"

Whatever eloquence Darien had in his words to the gunmen has evaporated, leaving him the same somewhat stumbling speaker he usually is. He looks at the young girl, tears running down her cheeks, at the motionless boy.

"They're not bad people. Just… scared. We all are, in some way or another."

Now, now she'll break down. In years of service to the Company, Hokuto had never been forced to deal with anything quite like this, never been forced to face death so close to her face. She's seen, felt, heard things in dreams, but this was the first time she witnessed a life taken first hand. The bomb, the bomb was something otherworldly, like a bad dream. This was too clear, too crisp, to visceral to be explained away by shock.

So, for lack of a better thing to do as NYPD officers rush into the library, she cries.

Darien's right. Everyone in this city is scared, one way or another.

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