alistair_icon.gif hana_icon.gif liette_icon.gif logan_icon.gif

Scene Title Swapsies
Synopsis With Liette's aid, Hana and Logan find a way back to normal. Mostly.
Date October 26, 2011

Staten Island

"We can't keep meeting this way."

Logan's voice is flat, and announces his presence, although he wouldn't put it past Hana to pick up on the sound of his footsteps in approach. He has a small flashlight in hand, having beamed it off the dirty walls of the abandoned safehouse — abandoned to his eye, anyway — and now it's off, twiddled between his fingers as he ducks into the miserable dwelling. No electricity, no WiFi, just an oil lamp and somewhere, nonperishables concealed under floorboards. How do these people live like this?

Asthmatically, one imagines. "There are nice restaurants still standing," he says, coming to a stop on scratched wooden floor, his shoes polished to a sheen despite the walk. His voice is gentle, like velvet gloves over iron fists. "Hotels with feather beds and central heating and fake fireplaces. There's dancing, and movies, and theatre."

Or they could just forever stick to the dustiest corners they can find in Staten Island, Logan supposes. He's a slender figure in pinstripe suit and rougher, hardier wool coat, rain speckled, more or less healthy. There is a glint of a leather buckle at the shoulder, beneath layers. A holster. It's just a matter of sense that one does not go wandering this borough without going armed.

It's got all sorts of stories. Feral dogs. Cannibals. Even terrorists, lurking in the shadows.

“Not who you think,” comes from the doorway, and rather than Hana’s voice it’s that of a much younger woman with a less severe edge. She looks like someone upended a dirty mop and dressed it haphazardly from Goodwill, layered in a patched up wool winter coat, mismatched and loudly colorful mittens, tall boots a half size too big for her and jeans that have been patched and re-patched more than the jacket. The mop, however, is a tangled mane of wavy blonde hair with streaks of faded blue and purple. She can’t be older than twelve, maybe thirteen.

Behind her, though, that’s the silhouette John was expecting.

There's a kerosene lamp on the kitchen table, cards laid out around it: two hands left face-down and forlorn on the table, a third still in hand, at least for the moment. Alistair McKeon sits sentry over the interrupted game of rummy, watching the assembly in the living room with good-humored amusement he makes exactly no attempt to conceal. A bottle of dark beer sits not far from his hand; not so for either of the female players.

Hana speaks up before Alistair can do so from his remove, the woman striding past the counter that delineates kitchen from company space. "Maybe next time," she tells Logan, her tone on the cool side of repressive, rebuke rather more than promise; not that she expects it to faze him any. She wears a shirt that hints at blue in the dim lighting, long-sleeved, fitted. The black jeans that might as well be part of her own idiosyncratic uniform. Boots, their tread only a little loud on the floorboards; a gun on one hip and a knife on the other. There's a coat to go with the rest, but it's thrown over the back of a chair rather than currently worn.

Coming to a halt behind Liette, Hana touches light fingers to the girl's shoulder, contact only just tangible through cold-weather clothing. Decides, at the last, to offer a measure of explanation to the complaining new arrival. "The first time, I was down for two weeks. You, for two days. I don't expect this to go gracefully." Nice places are not necessarily good ones to be vulnerable in, when one lives the life of a ghost belonging nowhere and to no one. Here — here she has familiarity. A measure of control.

And someone who likes to fence with words altogether too much for Hana's impatience to appreciate today, but she casts Logan a thin, edged smile over Liette's head nonetheless. "Make yourself at home, anyway."
Nice places are ideal to be vulnerable in, Logan might argue. Comfortable, well lit. When Hana mentions recovery time, Logan casts a skeptical look about the place before his attention tracks back towards Liette. The last guy who did this to them both, well, he was much bigger.

Logan makes himself at home, finding a piece of furniture that doesn't look like it will collapse beneath him or like it is decaying (and note, his inner observational self is probably being a little uncharitable). Kicks his ankle up onto opposite knee and forages in a pocket for his smokes. "Eleven months," he says. "We're just a month shy off an anniversary, you know. What's the first year? Paper?"

The end of his cigarette embers, burns brightly, and then is gestured towards Liette.

"Who's the muppet?"

“Your mom,” Liette answers Logan under her breath, lips pursed to one side as she walks ahead of Hana. Muppety as she is, Liette boosts herself up to sit on the corner of the table adjacent to Logan, feet kicking back and forth and a sour expression shifting to one of uncertainty as she looks the well-dressed man over.

Liette’s grown more cautious over time, not as eager to announce to the world her gifts as she was when she first came into Ferry care. Looking aside to Hana, one of her fair brows raise and she waits for either an ok to divulge information, or for Hana to do it herself.

Setting his cards aside, Alistair leans back in his chair, watching as the other three settle into positions like cats divvying up territory. He looks altogether amused by the circumstances. "You want a beer to go with that nicotine, Mister Logan?" he offers, holding up an unopened bottle.

Hana, for her part, stalks back to the table and leans over to snag one for herself. Twisting the cap off, she eyes Logan sidelong around a long drink. "Bizarre convention, those rules," she answers at last, lowering the bottle to rest its edge against the table but not releasing it to stand on its own. "I admit, that particular anniversary is not one I care to memorialize." While it is a loss, after a fashion, and it is her losses that Hana holds closest…

…they are here because that loss is not final.

Liette's silence earns her an incline of the woman's head, not so much permission granted as a much rarer bestowal of approval. "The muppet," Hana echoes, edging the phrase with the disdain she feels it deserves, "has graciously agreed to return our powers to their original state." Impatience colors her choice of words, her tone, the tension in her shoulders, but all Hana follows with is a tilt of her free hand, granting Liette that permission to act — or simply speak up — as she sees fit.

"Ta," is to Alistair, obliging himself by taking him up on his offer. Twisting off the cap of the beer bottle, Liette's sass is rewarded with a stare from Logan, cattishly fixed as he considers her in light of Hana's explanations. Sips his beer.

The picture of casual relaxation, as if no one need be in any rush, all the more so for Hana's quiet tension setting a contrast. There is some reserve in him, reserve that doesn't really make it all the way towards reluctance, and certainly isn't the sort he can articulate even if he wanted to. Protesting the return of something he misses doesn't make any sense.

Logan takes a very long pull of beer, and sets it down.

"Then what're we fucking around for?"

His attention diverts back to Hana, whom he spares a crooked smile. Good humoured.

“Well,” Liette’s brows furrow at Logan’s rhetoric. “Uh, there’s some complications to this whole idea. Once I told your people about what I can do, this all kinda’ happened fast. I mean, I get that you’re in a,” her nose wrinkles, “uncomfy swap? But this is all kinda new to me.”

Boosting herself up onto a nearby stool a bit apart from the others, Liette lets her legs dangle, and booted feet kick back and forth slowly. “This isn’t normally my thing,” she admits with some reluctance. “I’m — I emulate other people’s abilities when I’m exposed to them.” It’s not the whole truth, but it’s as far as she’s going with present company. “I got hit by the same thing you all did,” and to demonstrate she raises her small hands and arcs red lightning between her fingertips. “But,” there’s that nose wrinkle again, “I’ve never actually used it before?”

Alistair settles back in his chair, beer in hand, looking on with quiet but readily apparent amusement as the three Evolved in the room figuratively spiral towards addressing the issue that brought them here.

What, indeed. Hana doesn't return Logan's smile in kind — good-humored, crooked, or otherwise — but the overt consent to proceed, the explicit presence of everyone on the same metaphorical page, leach a measure of tension from her posture, softening the set of her features slightly. It's almost the same thing.

For her part, Hana pushes the nearest chair out with her foot, then sits in it. Casts a glance towards the girl perched on the table. "I can't tell you anything about what it's like to use, obviously," she remarks, taking a swig from her beer. "What it was like to be hit…" Her voice falls quiet, her complete nonexpression strikingly communicative in the manner of a profound understatement.

Well, that part might not be useful to Liette, either. "I was struck first, originally," Hana recalls aloud. The mouth of her beer bottle is angled in Logan's direction. "Logan, second, with the — lightning — held on both of us for a time. I can't say how long for — " not with as scrambled as they both were after " — but I expect it was hardly any time at all, in absolute terms."

She takes a long drink, and looks at exactly no one.

"It hurt," is Logan's contribution, at first, his own eyeline wandering from one woman to the younger of the pair. Far away, a little. It all happened at a wild blur, of running and gunfire and confusion, and long enough ago to make recollection a struggle. "And I remember he did something first, before that. He took away my power. I remember I didn't have anything, for a moment, before I got hit again, after Hana."

He shrugs, a loose and lazy movement. "Don't ask if that's a necessary step. But maybe he had to take it from me, to put into her, to trade it back, and the going out was less of an ordeal of something being shoved in. And to reiterate, it felt a little like what I imagine lightning to feel like, so if you could skip the trial and error and just nail it perfectly on the first try, that would be grand."

Just saying. Another quick, darting smile through the haze of his cigarette smoke. "For all involved."

It sort of only occurs to him, in that moment, what they could do. That a simple exchange might not necessarily be required, for Hana to reclaim her powers. It's a good thing those in this room are either apathetic or oblivious to what he is, who he is, then, isn't it? All the same, the next long pull from his beer is hasty.

Nervously fidgeting in her seat on the stool, Liette wrings her hands together in her lap with brows lowered. “Okay,” sounds like it’s more for herself than either Logan or Hana. There’s an obvious, expected trepidation in her expression. After a moment she swings her legs off of the stool and hops down, walking hesitantly to stand roughly between the two, with an uncertain look given to Alistair.

“So, I can do this for you both, I’m pretty sure.” Liette looks briefly down to her hands, then back up. “I’ll try and do it the same way it happened before, same order, same — idea? But, like I said, I… haven’t really used this power before. I’m not going to have any finesse with it, or…” her brows scrunch up, eyes shifting to the side. “I can’t guarantee I can’t make things worse either. I mean, you could both wind up with the same power, or no power at all, maybe?”

Nothing Liette says is comforting, but it is delivered with an earnest honesty. Her trepidation is understood, and it isn’t like she can just experiment with a power like this. “Uh, oh and,” she looks at Alistair. “You… maybe, might want to get clear? I have no idea what it could do if it accidentally hit you.”

It hurt is an understatement, one Hana resolutely refuses to dwell upon. She frames her anticipation in terms of going forward instead, towards having her rightful ability back, towards finally being able to finish a task long-delayed. Towards what will make revisiting this process entirely worthwhile. In that light, she receives Liette's trepidation and concerns with calm equanimity… or at least its outward appearance. "You will work it out, Liette," Hana says, regarding the girl levelly; her tone layers quiet reassurance over what might equally be firm conviction or firm expectation.

Hana takes a last drink and sets her beer aside, then settles her weight back in the chair. It does occur to her that it would be smartest to go all the way to the floor for this… given that she'll probably wind up there anyway… but the woman's too stubborn to do so, for reason of several justifications.

Meanwhile, Alistair raises his beer to Liette in some semblance of salute. "That sounds like an excellent idea. You just let me know when it's all said and done, and I'll pick up whatever pieces need picking," he promises the three, before withdrawing upstairs.

Logan darts a glance to Hana as she settles, as if tempted to suggest the floor himself. He doesn't really remember hitting it, eleven months ago, when his vision had filled with red light, but he knows he must have done so, seeing as all he had seen next was black. He certainly woke up to enough pain. But she knows what she's about, so he instead just finishes his beer, tries not to bare teeth at the notion of same powers, or no power at all.
He stubs out his cigarette on the table, pulling his chair out from it. He hasn't any idea about what Hana had gone through while his mind had split apart beneath the pressure of her invasive ability, but he would rather a clean collapse than slamming back into the table.

The digital world twinkles away above and around and through him, a sound — or a sensation — that he's gotten used to by now. Text messages, emails, satellites, reaching beyond the atmosphere into cold space and ricocheted back down to earth; a pulsing web, covering the globe; a noisy crowd. He can see why it might be sentimental. He can see how it might drive someone to care.

Leg folded over the other, elbow over the back of his chair, he waits with bridled patience.

Liette nods to herself in a way that Logan’s seen a dozen times before. Not in this mop-haired child, but in the expressions of underlings in the Rookery. It’s that oh sure, sure nod of feigned confidence from someone who’s never actually had any. She forces a smile, bubbles with a touch of nervous laughter, and looks to make sure Alistair is clear. Her blue eyes sweep the room, consider Logan and Hana’s positions, and she takes a few steps back as if being precise, as if measuring something.

But, ultimately, they can both tell she’s making it up as she goes along. “I’m… sorry if this hurts,” Liette explains, lifting a hand at each, fingers flexing open and closed. The rail-thin young woman draws in a breath, closes her eyes and rolls her head from side to side, and then in one swift and slow exhalation opens her eyes and expels an arc of crackling crimson lightning tinged with brighter shades of carnation and neon pink square into Logan’s chest.

The force of the blast is minimal enough, he remembers how it caused him to miss a step when it struck him in the back the first time, pushed him a long a little. Now it feels less impactful, like a strong shove to the chest. But the internal sensations, the prickling of limbs, the internal heat raising rapidly and uncomfortably; that’s all the same. Red fills Logan’s vision, tints everything in the world, and he can feel his muscles involuntarily contracting.
A moment after Logan is struck, Hana is next. Liette, perhaps in her misunderstanding of the sequence of events, maintains the bolt on each of them. There’s a crackle-pop searing of red-hued lightning as it hits Hana, shoves her, and then feels like it’s cooking her from within. Limbs prickle, blood roils, vision blurs and for a moment neither Hana nor Logan find their abilities swapped, so much as amplified.

Logan can feel — feel bone deep — every throb and pulse of the digital world around him. Packets of data swimming through the air feel like they’re coursing through his veins. Phone conversations in Beijing bouncing off of a satellite miles above Earth rattle around in his skull.

Likewise, whatever Liette is doing with that power isn’t changing anything for Hana. Her senses are flooded with biological information, she can sense Logan’s pain, feel the beat of his heart, every drop of blood in his veins, likewise Liette’s life is felt too, oddly dualistic and strangely tethered to something imperceptible. Hana can feel the uneven beat of Liette’s heart, like the cadence of someone running on a bad knee. She can feel the pressure behind her eyes, feel the strain this is taking. Hana can feel every living creature around her for more than a mile, the biological inverse of her original ability. As though there was some layer to what Logan could do, something neither of them had discovered fully.

But then, Liette exhales a sharp and ragged whine of discomfort, and crosses her arms in an X. Doing so drags the beams in an inelegant fashion. Instead of a relatively painless swap that someone with experience using the ability could manage, Liette rips the powers from Logan and Hana. It feels like something meaty, like a rib being wrenched out of position, twisted at the cartilage, and snapped out of a socket. It’s agonizing, scream-inducing, and is not replaced by anything less hurtful.

The swap back is like being thrown from ice cold water into a hot bath, a shock to the system. For a moment, both Logan and Hana go from amplified to completely negated. Like having all the sinus pressure possible, and then none. Their heads swim, bodies ache, and then are on fire from within. Logan can suddenly feel every pulse of his heartbeat, the blood pounding in his ears is like a ceaseless drum that cannot be quieted. Hana hears the shriek and scream of digital information, electronic nails across a wireless chalkboard. It’s needles in her eyes, knives in her ears.

Then, there’s a crackle-snap and the red light goes out. Neither of them have the frame of mind to see Liette crumple like a heap of laundry onto the floor. She’s all elbows and knees, rattling down with a thunk of her head as she goes. Twin streaks of blood smear down her face from her nose, a few rivulets at her ears and eyes. Alive, of that Logan is absolutely certain because for the moment he can’t stop feeling everyone’s heartbeats.
And in that, there is a measure of comfort. Up is up, down is down, everything is back the way it should be. Mostly.

Hana can't help but tense as the girl raises her hands, knowing what's going to follow. Only… she's wrong.

She would have said it couldn't be worse.

She would have been wrong.

Her skin sears, her blood, her bones; and at the same time her awareness expands, flooding with information in a way that is familiar and yet utterly foreign. Hana cannot think to comprehend it all, although understanding imprints itself on her core, automatically translated at a level more fundamental than conscious awareness. People and dogs and birds and rats, pain and fear and hunger and sleep —

She'd probably be screaming, if her throat hadn't completely seized.

Then everything changes, and nothing, nothing can hold the scream back, involuntarily or otherwise.

It feels like being turned inside-out, like being scraped raw and salted and set on fire. Like nothing there words could describe, because Hana has no words, no thoughts, can conceive of nothing at all beyond subsuming, consuming agony.

She doesn't even realize her rightful ability has been returned, at first. Doesn't register the torrent of digital information streaming through her — no more than she registers the fact that she's ended up in a heap on the floor, arm contorted painfully and pinned beneath herself. She will have bruises in the morning, has bitten the inside of her cheek to the point of bleeding, and none of that holds even the faintest candle to the agony within.

Hana doesn't realize she's still keening until… well, until she's in shape to realize anything at all.

She swallows the sound, swallows the cloying iron taste of blood; clings to that tiny sliver of awareness in the same desperate manner that she clings to the floor, fingernails dug in, knuckles bloodlessly white. Still she shudders, sobs. Reflexively, instinctively, her body draws in, curls up, forms itself into a protective, defensive knot… one that can only be utterly ineffectual against the onslaught Hana faces.

Everything. Every text message, every cellular call, every email and web search and GPS query and even the simplest of route-testing pings that might be bounced up to the aether and back down again. English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Russian — dozens of languages blur together in meaningless cacophony, rumbling through her mind like the tide through a rocky cleft, only this tide never stops coming in.

Hana's body isn't burning from the inside out anymore; her mind might as well be. Yet —



how to do this.

Old habits reassert themselves slowly, painfully, figurative muscle memory dusted off and prodded into action by sheer irrefutable need. Long-disused compensatory mechanisms flex, unfurl, reach out to intercept streaming data. Their operation is initially hesitant, halting, uncertain — the merest echo of what used to be, half-forgotten spectres gradually gaining strength as their effects feed into a positive loop. Reclaiming just a little mental space lets those processes work better, which in turn enables more of the torrent to be divided, categorized, disposed of; piece by interminable piece, the woman who is now, is again, a technopath struggles to recover herself from beneath the avalanche that continues rumbling on.

Hana Gitelman finally opens her eyes, all the better to stare at blurry wood grain pressed right up against her face.

Logan remains unmoving, even after the worst of it is done. Breathless, having landed on the floor due to some convulsion he doesn't even remember that sent him crashing down, he lies with his hands flat against the wooden floor, forehead pressed to it, nausea roiling in his stomach. The silence of the digital world now taken from him feels as uncomfortable as cotton stuffed deeply into his ears, disorienting and wrong.

Until it's right. Heart beats. That sense of inner physical complexity, where feeling and thought and the nature of the human soul is reduced to pitiable squirts of chemistry and grey matter. When before he had to lay his hands on people to read and manipulate what was going on within them, it comes to him now like vibrations through the floor, like heat.

By the time he is on his hands and knees, he can make out through blurred vision the shape of Alistair, reappeared and hunched over Liette. He turns to see Hana, who is still senseless as her larger power contorts itself back into her mind, and without getting to his feet, makes his way closer. Puts his hand on her shoulder, and feels for himself the adrenaline coursing through her system, the flux of dopamine and serotonin. Old friends.

Adrenaline is siphoned off, although he is careful not to negate her. Calm, on a physiological level, eases through her muscles. Reflexive nausea disappears. Dizziness stabilises.

When she opens her eyes, he sits back, off-balance enough that his shoulder strikes a chair and it skitters aside with a noisy scrape. He's gone white as a sheet, making bruises and scars and sleeplessness and unshaven grain stand out on his skin, cold sweat and shadows.

"Did we break 'er?"

His voice is very rough, strained, only belatedly looking to Alistair and his current ward.

"She'll be fine," is Alistair's response from the living room; the words are spoken from faith rather than knowledge, but he is quite certain they'll hold true. For his part, he remains kneeling beside Liette's prone form; he's moved her to be out of the way, laying supine with her head pillowed on his jacket, and is carefully wiping the blood from her face.

Meanwhile, what Hana is seeing makes no sense. Some part of her subliminally expects an institutional ceiling, a hospital bed, a too-familiar face looming above; none of those things are here. It takes the space of a breath for memory to reassert itself: she is not there, not now. On balance, Hana considers that a good thing.

Rolling far enough to get her hands under her, she coughs, spits out blood. "Not… broken… yet," Hana manages, voice rasping and brittle. Not broken, but definitely battered, if mostly on the inside. She thinks about rising, briefly; fails to do so. She's not… quite… confident in her physical stability; she feels fragile, shaky. Strangely detached. Standing up doesn't seem wise — though in truth, what Hana cannot herself discern, those sensations exist only in her own perception.

Well, except for the headache. That's very real.

Instead of rising, Hana leans back against the chair she used to be sitting in, one elbow braced on its seat, legs folded to one side. Her head hangs slightly, eyes hooded, a thin smear of blood marking one side of her mouth; her breathing is carefully slow and deliberate, like she's expecting something to hurt, even when it doesn't. Still, dark eyes trace the contours of Logan's posture, study the planes of his face. For all his obvious strain, Hana concludes he at least looks better than she feels. "Back… in order?"

There's only a slight tremor in his fingers as Logan fishes his smokes back out of his pocket, going for a second, still sitting as if his strings had been cut on the hardwood floor. That unsettling deafness is bothersome, to say the least, but one of those things he'll wind up re-acclimating to. Just as he did the noise.

"More or less," he says, after breathing in a lungful of smoke, easing it out at his leisure. Christ, going from feeling as though you've been set on fire from the inside out to feeling just a little bruised from hitting the floor sure is a fucking nightmare, if better than the other way around.

He shakes the cigarette pack. An offer. "I don't need to drag you to my underground lair, now, do I?"

It takes Hana two tries to pluck a cigarette from the pack, which fact says more than words could about her current state. Lighting it off Logan's, she takes the time to draw in a breath and let the nicotine begin to work, then gives him a critical look-over. "Don't look like you're… in shape to drag anyone… anywhere." Lairs, underground, or otherwise. The remark would probably be acerbic, at another time; there's no energy behind it now.

Looking past Logan, Hana catches Alistair's gaze and gives a directive tip of her head. The Ferryman nods back, accepting the implicit instruction, then collects up Liette to carry outside.

Hana doesn't watch him go, but returns her attention to Logan, and takes another drag off the cigarette. More seriously: "I'm aware enough to talk. I'll hold." Though she promptly decides to test that expectation, to push her limits; tipping her head back, Hana closes her eyes, breathes out smoke, and reaches. It's like stepping out onto a busy highway, each vehicle — each message, call, query — rocketing past with a blast of air pressure fit to shove her over. Virtually speaking. It's also like juggling coals, each one an ember that sears battered neurons.

But she can hear them, can touch them, can feel to be seared. That alone is worth the discomfort she now provokes, and the associated satisfaction — likely aided by nicotine — settles like a blanket over mood, expression, biochemistry.

I'm back online, Hana says to herself, to her ghosts. Just keep waiting a little longer.

Note: As of October 29th, key members of the Ferry and Endgame can expect to be made aware that Wireless is once again in play.

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