Sometimes The Dragon Wins


alexander_icon.gif wu-long_icon.gif

Scene Title Sometimes The Dragon Wins
Synopsis It's a pun on Alexander's surname. He has indeed been led astray.
Date December 19, 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.

When last we left our….heroes? Anti-heroes? Protagonists? All hell had broken loose. Al was t rying to defend Rickham, who had proven not to need it. But that's okay, because there is Wu to distract him. They've played a little game of cat and mouse through first the crowd and then down the alleyways - Al's in a red rage, and the sign of Vanguard's presence is enough to distract him. He'll regret it later, but now he's latched on like a bulldog, pursuing Wu without much by way of conscious thought.

True to his namesake, following Wu-Long through the ruins of Midtown at night is like trying to pursue five dragons: it would be easier if you had five men to do it.

If you have only one, however, it might as well be a hot-tempered, ex-military telekinetic whos flagrant displays of power, resilience, and temper have left the monster he chases with the feeling that he would prefer not to lose the hunter. So you have it. As incorporeal as a phantom and dark as the demon Abby has named him, Wu-Long leaps twice as far as an ordinary man and slides through seams in fences no wider than a child's finger. Never quite out of sight.

Abnatural silence gives way to the rattling b-bang when he lands on the rusted grille that once vented a subway tunnel through the sidewalk, the last functioning lamp of the street some ten yards behind Alexander. Wu-Long turns to stare. Derelict apartment complexes to his right, snowy street empty to his left, he looks the part of a ghost in a ghost town. He says, "I take it you met Eileen."

Sylar named him Fido. And Al looks more like a junkyard dog than ever, down to the curling lip, bared teeth, and short, bristling coat. He leaps with the aid of his power, following by main, brute force. He pauses a little way off, snow boiling in eddies around him entirely contrary to the motion of the wind, and then stalks forward a stiff pace or two. Wu's question gets a jerk of his head in acknowledgement, even as he reaches out to try and seize the shadow with his power, hold him in place.

Telekinesis meets leather and muscle with a solid sound of contact: Wu-Long is held. And without comment, despite having watched the arcs of psychic power bend away the falling flurries of snow as they came for him. His breathing changes, fractionally, visible in the rhythm of the translucency that leaks out from between his lips, though he doesn't so much as blink. Nor speak again for a time, considering that answer; finding it as irritating as it is adequate. He watches the younger man.

Al's face is set in something not quite a sneer, not quite a rictus. And slowly, the pressure begins to mount on Wu's throat, even as he lifts the other man up to keep his feet from getting purchase on the ground. RAther than trying to snap Wu's neck, the telekine is attempting a strangle.

Asphyxiation is a place Wu-Long has been before. Two things happen roughly simultaneously as the burning starts to set into his lungs and a guttural noise out of his throat, quick as the blink of one obsidian eye. Abrupt as the switch of a light, Alexander finds himself blind and deaf as a babe, his head and body consumed by a column of total sensory blackness: the same stuff that Wu-Long is suddenly made of once again, the transition from flesh to erratically matriced energy as effortless for him as breathing.

And then he's twisting like a cat, if the cat were twisting like ink, twisting to free himself from his telekinetic prison as he had done with Sylar mere weeks ago. He takes his dark zone with him only when — if — he succeeds.

And then, for a moment, he's gone.

It's enough of a distraction that that grip eases, and Wu is free. Al is left momentarily at a loss, before slipping back out into the alleyways, casting back and forth for some sign of the other man's passage. More than ever like someone's faithful watchdog let off the chain.

Both of them are betrayed equally by the snow. Not that the falling flakes move when the weightless cloud of Wu-Long's body pushes through them, but the black of him shows stark against the white of that. Not in the alleyway, no. Not ahead.


The subway vent exhales him like the dying gasp of a system abandoned to age and disuse. Incorporeal one moment, he's a grip locked on Alexander's shoulder the next, steely hands on his elbow, wrist, a knee against the back of the younger man's thigh, tipping the telekinetic's weight against the fulcrum of his hip then summarily thrown face-down into the frost-scudded concrete under the brunt of Wu-Long's shoulder.

He wasn't expecting it, having given a little too much to the eager rage. And thus Al's got the breath knocked out of him, for the moment. He's no martial artist - there's no art to what brawling he can do. But he's scrambling up, sending one of those little spherical shockwaves out around him as he does, trying to blast the shadow away.

The shadow isn't a shadow. Or isn't shadow enough to be impervious to the telekinetic shockwave that comes at him in an expanding bubble of force. It rams him backward, takes him off his feet; were he fractionally less agile, he probably would have ended up turned over on his shoulders, feet in the air and eyes ringed white with surprise. As it is, Wu-Long manages to keep all four limbs braced, axis vertical if not balance centered. He lands with a slithering thump of leather, in a crouch, expelling a breath that hadn't gone in right.

A quiet click of gunmetal betrays the .9 that arrives out of its holster, a moment before the gunshot rips off toward Alexander's stumbling frame. It's what you do with a mad dog, when you fancy yourself human enough.

The air between them is warped and shimmering, as if heat rose from the pavement - the snow whorls sickeningly. The bullet….despite that, it shocks home. Not dead center, as Wu might hope, but low and to the side, just over the hip. Al makes a little strangled noise, even as he reaches for the gun, trying to snatch it from his foe.

A cracked rib and complaining shoulder will do that to your aim, Wu-Long is familiar. The strength in his arm isn't what it ought to be, and the distortions of snow lag perception: the gun is snagged out of his hand before his other can rejoin it, and the only visible effect of the effort he makes to snag at its handle is to send the weapon into a lazy spiral. His lip curls in consternation. He steps back. Once, twice. Around the corner of the bricked edge of the building, out of the alleyway and back into the street.

And now Al has it….and he comes pounding on again. Not at a dead run, not while trying to staunch that wound with a hand. But a long-distance runner's lope. He's still got a little while, before he has to drop out of the fight.

In a gesture that almost resembles squeamish disgust, Wu-Long is flapping his hand, experimentally channeling force up the line of his arm even as crushed crystals flick off the tip of his glove. Pursued, he continues backward, minimizing Alexander's window of opportunity until, unfortunately for him, he can't do any further. The boulevard opens out, cock-eyed buildings on one side, a gap-toothed bank beaming hideous on the other, grille and pavement below, an eternity of winter overhead. He's breathing out of his mouth, his paces slowed. He opens out his arms like a taunt, and waits for a blow.

Al will cheat. Again. Reaching out with that power to try and keep Wu right where he wants him….and achieving that, firing at a relatively short distance.

And Wu-Long does nothing but cheat. Always. But it only helps so much: he decorporealizes the instant he sees the barrel sighting down toward him, but the bullet's flight erupts enough concussive force through even the strange stuff of the soldier to tax him deeply. He isn't moving right as he comes for Alexander then, the amorphous tendrils and eddies in his form hitching and dropping in erratic fractions, effortful, heavy now with something that resembles pain.

Reaching. Weakened and slower, incapable of affecting matter, but it doesn't matter that much; that's not what he's trying to do, and he only needs a touch. The slightest will do.

And then, abruptly, Al will find himself alike to his enemy in darkness. Flesh, sinew, clothes and spurting blood decoded into shapeless, light-eating energy, touch vague, sight and hearing echoing through a mind that's suddenly freed from the cage of his own skull, face gone, hands gone, disorienting, proprioception alone promising that he has all his parts still in here, somewhere intact.

Barely, he can feel Wu-Long's grip shift on him, the transference of mass without weight, and it's the oddest sensation, feeling one's disembodied body squeezing down into an opening you'd otherwise only have been able to fit half a hand through. Wu-Long lets go of him then: once he's partway into the subway grille, its rusted iron still strong enough to crush a man.

He's caught and torn as he falls through, gravity saving him for once, as is his own forces insistent push that he not stay, caught in the rusting iron like a fly in a web. But he's half there and half not, and the Al that drops into the subway is torn and bleeding inside, far beyond any damage done by the bullet. He coughs, spattering blood on the concrete, and collapses, pistol momentarily forgotten. Point and match to Wu-Long.

It ought never be said that Wu-Long's work doesn't take work. Exhaustion characterizes the stoop of his shoulders as he finds his flesh again, his shoes flat on the vent, parted enough for him to stare down into the wholly natural darkness that became of the younger man. He hears the cough. Its wetness. Makes him smile. Somewhere — not far, a window finishes falling after the runoff of a telekinetic shockwave pried it loose from its seams. Tinkle, silvery.

He should check. Retrieve the .9, divest Al's person of electronics, finish the job if it isn't finished already, but he isn't so well-adapted to darkness that he would be able to see down there, and his victory isn't by such a broad margin that he specifically relishes the idea of confronting a cornered animal. He steps back, easing at least momentarily from vent, listens to his breathing creak. "Are you alive?"

It's a straight body shot, delivered by a fist that isn't there. There's a pale flicker beneath, as Al scuttles along, nearly on all fours. Anything to get -away-. He vanishes from the little bars of light that come down from the streetlamp above. Cornered beast indeed.

Apparently, Alexander couldn't have just said, 'Yes.'

The shot rocks home solidly, sends Wu-Long backward into a snowdrift with a breath too short to constitute a proper snarl. Confident, at least, that his prey is momentarily incapable of at least getting to him from over there, he merely lies there for a moment, staring up at the nocturne sky, snow soft underneath his weight and softer still falling on his eyelids, lashes, nose and cheeks. Given enough seconds to rearrange his thoughts, he exhales and sits up, extracts a ceramic blade from his sleeve. He shoves up onto his feet and walks.

Away from Alexander, or so says the audible scuff and thump of his boots. The cadence shorts out briefly, then there's the ringing crack of dense glass breathing. The dull glow of street lamp blacks out, leaving Al seemingly alone with the snow.

Al is wasting no time. There's only the faintest sounds of movement beneath - trying to get as far as he can before adrenaline ceases to be a painkiller, and he simply drops. Only pausing for a moment to stuff his cap against the bullet wound, the closest thing he has to a bandage.

The noise of crawling and panting disrupt what otherwise would have been imperfect silence, cold, and darkness: if Wu-Long is still here, coming or waiting, Alexander isn't about to see him coming.

Alexander flees down the dark paths, occasionally splashing through frigid water not yet frozen, trying to seek out an old squat in an abandoned subway station. It may serve for nothing better than somewhere to lay down and die, but it's the sort of sanctuary a wounded animal will seek instinctively. He doesn't keep the pistol - scattering parts in the deeper pools as he passes, like a child in a fairy tale leaving bread crumbs.

December 19th: Disaster Within Disaster, Part II
December 19th: Exile
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