Strangers In Vans


colette2_icon.gif conrad_icon.gif

Scene Title Strangers in Vans
Synopsis Conrad is one of them, and yet Colette still gets in. Somewhere, Judah is shaking his head.
Date January 6, 2009


Before the bomb, Chelsea was most known for being "gay-friendly," home of the stereotypical "Chelsea Boy." It was a place of culture and art, of eclectic ethnic restaurants and cutting-edge performing arts studios.

One of the last places in Manhattan to be reopened to the public, the streets of Chelsea almost give the impression of an urban ghost town. Many buildings are dark, inhabited only by the homeless, if by anyone at all. Their walls have been tagged with graffiti, the windows broken; forgotten cars line the streets, slowly rusting away. Close inspection reveals that their interiors have already been gutted of anything valuable or useful.

Housing in Chelsea is quite cheap; it therefore doesn't stay on the market long, despite the potential threat of residual radiation. The population has become a mixture of all ethnicities, desperation being their thread in common; those who have the money to live elsewhere do. Culture seems to have been washed out entirely on the neighborhood scale, survival taking vast precedence over art.

When the phone call came, Con basically said gimme your number and I'll call you back. I'm with a girl right now.

Great start, huh?

And then when he called back he told Colette to be at an address waiting. Then he drove up to the curb where she was in a WHITE VAN that he stole. Because he steals everything he drives, not actually owning a vehicle of his own. There at the curb he waves in the window at the girl he THINKS is Colette (because she fits the tiny statured description he was given by Teo) and mutters to himself in the van, "Jesus Christ it's a fucking drag rat…"

Seated on a bench on the roadside, Colette does indeed match the description. A tiny little thing bundled up in a fur-collared winter jacket, with her hands tucked under hr arms and legs pullled up to her chest, trying to keep the cold out and what little warmth she has in. Couldn't he have at least picked a location inside where there'd be heat? When the Van rolls up, the girl moves one hand out from under her arm, checking a cell phone she had kept tucked away there.

No Missed Calls.

Her dark brows furrow together, and as she folds the phone closed, her eyes lift up to focus on the van now blocking her view of the Starbucks across the street. With a wrinkle of her nose, the girl eyes the man inside, then looks down to her phone, opening it once more and hitting redial. No wave is returned, this is New York City, after all.

Inside the van, Conrad's phone blurts out a loud and tinny rendition of Sweet Home Alabama. Because it's classy.

Con can be seen in the driver's seat picking up his phone and talking on it. And his voice comes through. "Smart move, kid. You get points. Hop in."

"In the van." The voice that comes over Conrad's phone doesn't phrase it as a question, more as a statement of disbelief. "You— " She closes her eyes, and then closes the phone. A sigh accompanies the combined motions. One gloved hand movees up to sweep her messy bangs from her face, and the young girl's feet come down off of the bench to settle on the icy sidewalk. With a hesitant gesture, the girl tucks her phone away into one of the jacket's front pockets as she approaches the van under shaky footing, black boots scuffing the icy sidewalk until she's up at the door.

One gloved hand draws it open, enough to let the bitter cold air in to what is slowly becoming less and less of a warm cabin. "Where're we going?" She sounds even younger in person, looks it too. But there's something mildly disconcerting about the way her eyes focus up on Conrad, the mismatched quality of them — one green, the other a murky, blind white. "And what's your name?"

"I'm Conrad Wozniak." Con says forwardly, jerks his head toward the back of the van. "Go ahead and look the thing over before you get in. I just boosted it half an hour ago and we're gonna ditch it when we're done, so keep those gloves on and don't put any prints on anything. We're gonna drive around a little bit so we're not observed and talk. Then I drop you back off here and leave. That's the plan." He's got a Buffalo Bills jacket on and a matching ball cap. Apparently he likes the Bills today.

"J-Jacked?" Colette's brows scrunch together, and it takes her a moment to really piece together what he's saying. She hesitates, taking a step back from the door, and when it's slammed shut, there's an indication that just maybe she isn't going to get inside at all. The girl pauses there, on the sidewalk, in the cold. The wind blows at her short hair, causing her to raise one gloved hand to keep it from blowing in her eyes as she looks up one end of the street, and then down another.

Like she's looking for someone, but doesn't find them.

As if that somehow answered any concerns she had, the girl silently tucks her hands into her pockets with a roll of her shoulders, and disappears out of direct sight. In the rear-view mirrors the girl's silhouette moves around the corner of the van, followed by a clattering clunk of the back doors' handle until she manages to fumble around and get her gloved finger on the latch right, pulling only one side open when she does. "You seriously stole this?" It's the first thing out of her mouth as she pokes her head inside, looking around the back of the van. "Isn't that — That's crazy."

"Probably came from a for-real child molestor. I bet you thought that's what I look like driving up in it huh?" asks Con, grinning to himself though Colette probably can't see him from where she's at. He adjusts the rear view to look for where she's at, letting the engine idle and the heater run. "I figured whoever owned this piece of shit deserved to get it stolen. Anyway I'm just gonna leave it parked at a meter without paying. That's always fun for the owner to try to explain later."

One brow raises just a bit higher than the other, and Colette gives Conrad's profile, visible partly from the obscurement of his seat's headrest, an askance look, "You didn't." Her hands come up to her eyes, making circles with her index-fingers and thumbs, "You know, you didn't have those— " She searches for the word, and finds it quickly, "Aviator sunglasses." Both hands move away from her mis-matched eyes, one hand holding the closed door, the other bracing against the interior as she pulls herself up into the back of the van. It's fortunate Judah isn't here to see this.

"So, um…" Her words are momentarially cut off by the slam of the van door closing behind her, "Teo?" She squints, not sure if she's getting the name right, "He told you what I wanted, right?" Her eyes scan the back of the van again, spotting a few white plastic trash bags full of laundry, which are quickly converted into a makeshift seat with a plastic crinkle. "What I need help with?"

Once she's in Con leans a little to turn and look, as if making sure the door's closed. Then nods and pulls away from the curb, driving unremarkably down the street. Now it's like being a cab driver. "Teo told me you needed to be taught how to use your abilities. He seems to think I could help you do that. Thing is, I'm not sure who the hell you are, what the hell you can do, any of that. So this is a get-to-know." He works the rear view mirror again, this time so he can make eye contact with Colette, providing she looks at said mirror. At least he can see her somewhat this way, as she isn't riding shotgun. "I also heard you had some run-ins with Abby. And that you were there in Chinatown that day everything went pearshaped."

Bristling a bit at the mention of Chinatown, the girl rolls her shoulders forward and wraps her arms around herself. It may not be outside, but the back of the van is still cold. "Yeah…" It's her mumbled reply, "I— I was there. I don't remember much, 'cept for everything exploding." Conrad's handywork, even if she isn't aware. "My um, my name's Colette Demsky." Her eyes scan the walls of the van's cab, then level on Conrad again. "And I — I don't know what the fuck I do. It's…" Moving her hands, she proceeds to take off one of her gloves, revealing much smaller hands than the gloves would indicate — delicate, fragile looking. She concentrates for a moment, then squints and exhales an exasperated sigh.

Stumbling forward, the girl gets up and moves to the front of the van, reaching her hand out between the two seats while bracing herself against the passenger's. "I do this, whatever the hell it is." When she moves her hand closed to the sunlight filtering through the windshield, a small disc appears in her hand, six inches across, balanced precariously on her fingertips, and mostly transparent. It looks like a concave circle of light, shimmering at the edges with tiny little rainbow swirls. With a flex of her hand, the disc bends and deforms, and the image of her palm through the lens distorts and bends as well, like a magnifying glass.

"It doesn't really work well in the dark, and if I put my hand in bright light — I fucking burned a hole in the wall at the apartment." She's terribly awkward, both in manner of speech and body motions. So much the clumbsy and awkward teenager, in every way. "If I flex it too hard, it breaks." She squeezes her fingers to emphasize the point, and the disc discorporates into tiny little fireflies of rainbow hued light, like a thousand little spherical prisms.

Con cautions briefly as Colette moves with the glove off, "Careful of prints." Then he watches what she's doing, driving slow with one eye on the road and the other on her hand and the light trick. Once she's done with all that, he purses his lips and nods. "That's pretty neat. How long you been doing it?" Beat. "By the way, the exploding? That was prolly me."

"Since the — " Colette's answer is cut off by the jerky motion backwards she makes when Conrad reveals what he did that day. The motion of the van and her own clumbsyness cause the girl to topple backwards onto her behind with a loud thump, those fireflies of light dimming down to starlit pinpricks over her palm the moment she's in the darker back of the van. "Y-you — you're one of t-them?" There's a pause, and she bites her lip. Them. "Us. Me? I — I'm sorry." Her head ducks down, one hand moving up to cover her reddening face. "I didn't mean — I didn't mean it like that."

That reaction makes Conrad laugh. And laugh good. In fact he keeps right one laughing, obviously highly amused. "Get the fuck back in your seat. Hah!" He goes on laughing and driving, slowing down to make a turn. Driving nice and legal.

His reaction isn't what the girl expects at all, laughing? He's out of his mind. At the order, though, Colette immediately clambors up to her fet and scrambles over to the bags of laundry she was perched on, tugging her glove back on haphazardly. "I — Do you know, I mean, what that is? Can… Can you, I — " She can't find the words, and her tongue stumbles over all of the necessary sylables to clearly explain herself. It takes a moment of calm collection to get her mind back in order.

"How do I control it? I — In Chinatown, t-that's… That's when I realized. I — I hurt someone with it. I don't — That's not what I want to do." The girl looks down at the floor, fingers curling into her jeans and then relaxing, leaving little creases in the denim. "I just want it to go away or…" Her head shakes, "I don't know."

"Relax, kid," says Con, the laughter calming down a bit as it passes. "That's a good sign. That you don't wanna hurt people. That's what keeps you human. So long as you hold onto that and do your best to keep it, that little talent of yours won't ever make you LESS than human. Got that?" He looks in the rear view, eyeing the girl casually through it as he drives. Then continues, "It's like having a built-in gun or a knife. As if you grew this dangerous weapon out of your body. Guns are dangerous because they make it real easy to kill and hurt people, right? But at the same time they can be used to protect other people. You learn to use it and control it right, you'll be able to choose what you do with it, rather than have it choose what to do with you. Right now, you seem to be just starting out. So it's you're in puberty with it. It's still growing, so you can shoot your load if you're not careful. Blow things up, burn things down, whatever. I'm guessing your problem is intensity control, right?"

While something could be said for the way Conrad get shis point across and the colorful language used to describe it, something could also be said for how effective it is; a linguistic brick upside of Colette's head. "I…" Her head ducks down towards her shoulders, emulating a turtle with the motion. "Nobody's… ever really said it like that b'fore." While her words are mumbled, the otherwise silent van helps carry them up to the front. "I… I mean, I guess you've got a point. But, I just — How?" She asks the question to the shag carpeting on the van's floor, watching the ice and snow from her boots melting into the brown fabric.

"How do I control it?" Her eyes lift up from the floor to Conrad again, catching his eyes in th rear-view with her own mis-matched stare. "It — it's like, it feels weird, and I just, I don't know… I — There's stuff I can feel, and tell, but — " Her brows crunch together and she hunches forward. "I have to do this." Her voice changes tone, becoming pleading, "You can't let me wimp out." She flicks her gaze back up to Conrad's reflection in the rear view mirror. "I have to do this."

"Well if you have to do it, do it." Conrad says simply, glancing back at the reflection. Fortunately he doesn't leave his advice at that. "As for the how, practice and hard work. And finding a place to put yourself through your paces. You're gonna have to find out just how far your ability goes before you know what you need to work on. And it's all gonna be up to you." He turns his head to actually look at the girl briefly before looking back at the road to drive. "I can probably help with some of that. I'm in my thirties, and my thing began developing when I was about twenty one."

"R-really?" That last bit perks Colette's interest back up, causing her to lean forward on the bags of clothes, crinkling the plastic more. "I — There were people like y— like us back then? I mean, I thought… I thought it was all recent?" So naive to the world around her, unaware of its workings or its secrets. It's almost refreshing, if not somewhat alarming. "S-so, so like, how… How'd you manage? I — W— What…" The next words come out slowly, anxiously, as if she were suddenly trying to talk down a wild animal. "W-what is it you do?"

That makes Con chuckle. "Nah kid, the way I hear it we've just gotten more common recently, that's all." He pauses and says, "I control sound. Pretty much complete control of sound waves, through air, solid, liquid, whatever. Any frequency or amplitude I feel like. Those explosions you heard that night in Chinatown were sonic booms. Just imagine what a jet does when it breaks Mach One, only put it inside a building and account for air compression and proximity. And also the fact that I can make sonic booms in solid objects." He holds a finger up in a cautionary manner, "Don't tell people I can do that, by the way. That's not common knowledge. Most of em think my power's cute. I can mimic voices or hear things they can't. I can do that too, but they don't need to know I can bust their heads like a zit, too."

Bust their heads like a zit. It's enough to make Colette reconsider everything, to leap out of the moving van. But at the same time, if he can do that, then what can she do? And how can it help her do what she has to do? "Do you…" The words are hesitant, and eventually revised. "When do we start?" The resolution in her voice isn't entirely sure, there's still heaps of doubt and lacking self-confidence, but there's something in the girl that shows she has drive, but drive to what isn't entirely clear.

If Conrad knew, maybe he wouldn't be helping her. Maybe he still would.

"I'm not gonna make you any promises, kid. I can't promise it'll work out. I can't promise your ability will reveal itself and make sense. I can't do what you do, so it's gonna be new territory for me too. But if you want, we can get together again tomorrow or the next day and I can take you some place you can cut loose, and we'll start figuring out what you've got. How's that sound?" Well. That's an offer anyway. But Con adds, "Though I gotta meet some asshole cop tomorrow, and he might arrest me. So if I don't get in touch with you tomorrow don't panic. It'll just take me a day or two to get magistrated and back out of jail if that happens."

Arrested? Colette covers her face with both hands, sinking down into a slouch. This is the best Teo can offer? But she's a begger, and she knows full well that beggars can't be choosers. "Tomorrow?" Her eyes roll up to per vacantly at the ceiling, teeth tugging at her lower lip as she considers where people will be, and what she needs to do. When her eyes level back on Conrad again, there's a subtle nod of approval, followed by one very simple question. "Do you like dogs?"

Tomorrow is going to be a heck of a day.

By now they're coming back up on where Conrad originally picked Colette up. "Yeah they're okay. Why?" He stops at the curb and puts the van in park, then looks over his shoulder at the girl. "If tomorrow's not good, when's good for you?"

"'Cause, I've got a sidekick." Colette answers a bit too impishly, lurching towards the back of the van a few moments before it even stops. "Whenever, I don't go to school or anything." The girl wrinkles her nose, opening the back door of the van, "Just call me, I'll be waiting." There's a wink of her blinded eye as she hops out f the van, landing awkwardly on the street before turning to peer back through the doors at Conrad, giving him a silent smile of appreciation, before slamming the door shut.

Con rolls down the window and sticks a hand out to wave at Colette as he drives off. "See you, kid." he says, his voice carrying with unrealistic clarity over the distance and ambient noises of the city to her ears. And he's off to ditch the illegally obtained van somewhere inconvenient.

January 6th: I Have a Cunning Plan
January 6th: Conversations over Takeout
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