The Bad Moon Rising


avi_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title The Bad Moon Rising
Synopsis Epstein turns to Richard for help when there is no one left to turn to.
Date July 14, 2018

Jackson Heights

Night in the Safe Zone is a strange thing. For people who lived in New York City, the darkness is the first thing that’s hard to reconcile. North of Yamagato Park, the Safe Zone gets progressively darker in the night hours, with no reliable electricity to power street lamps, if the roads even had them to begin with. Where once there was a glittering city of light that never slept, now there is a broken shell that is struggling to awaken.

The long stretch of industrial parks and warehouses that makes up what used to be Long Island City in Queens has changed little since the war. Though many of the warehouses are in disrepair and destroyed, one in particular suffered a noteworthy destruction many years prior to the war’s start. It is suffocatingly dark around the tumbledown ruins of the Eagle Electric building, a structure so famous that it may well become a historic landmark for its involvement with the Vanguard. Now, though, it’s an empty cellar hole surrounded by a chain link fence.

Avi Epstein sits behind the wheel of a beat-up brown pickup truck across the street from Eagle Electric, with the windows rolled down because they can’t roll back up, cigarette pinched between forefingers and thumb and one arm hanging out the window. There’s just stray cats out here tonight, and the pale crescent of the moon hanging low overhead. Music spills from the truck’s open windows, WSZR Radio playing Creedence Clearwater’s Bad Moon Rising.

It doesn’t amuse him.

"I love Creedence," is Richard's casual comment as he leans on the opposite car door with one arm, fingertips tapping against the dented metal of the truck's door in tune with the music. Mostly on tune, anyway. "Always a good contrast against a quiet night."

The executive's out of his work clothes and back into something that people who used to call him Cardinal would recognize better; an old, worn pair of BDUs, a grey t-shirt that's developed a few holes near the hem and collar from age. He could blend in almost anywhere in the Safe Zone, except maybe Yamagato Park.

A turn of his head, and he brings his hand up to tug shades down the bridge of his nose as he regards the older spy beside him over their rims. "So," he begins, "What've you been up to, Pentacles?"

“Oh, are we going by outdated names?” Avi asks as he slips his cigarette up to his lips and takes a drag. “Well, Cardinal, I’ll have you know I’ve taken up knitting and fucking croquet.” Cigarette smoked down to a nub, Avi pitches it out the window to the sidewalk. “Alternatively, I’m about to go balls deep on Georgia Mayes using Wolfhound as an intermediary.” His command of colorful language hasn’t changed since they last spoke.

“I wanted to give you an off-the-record heads-up that it’s going down, hard. Full government support, airstrikes, the whole nine yards. Humanis First has a fucking military base out in the Dead Zone, and we’re hitting it like the fucking hammer of god.” Avi looks to the clock on the old analog radio, then back to Richard. “I had a question I wanted to ask you about, too. Well, Nick had a question. But… whatever.”

"I could use a new blanket for the kids," Richard quips right back to Avi's response, elbow resting on the window and fingers scratching through the hair on the side of his head as he regards the other man. The humor fades at what the older man says, his lips pursing in a tight line.

"Mayes," he murmurs lowly, "I've heard that name… too many times recently. I almost wish I was going in with you, but— not my job anymore, I suppose. I wish you the best of luck in kicking that bitch's ass off a cliff and into hell, Avi, I mean that." A glint of steel in his eyes, "Burn the last roots of that damn plant from the ground for good."

A turn of his head looks out the window again, then back, "I need to ask a favor, though, if you're going in. But… what's up with Nick?" He asks, as if he has no idea what's up with Nick.

He's pretty sure he knows what's up with Nick.

The question of a favor goes unanswered, Avi lets it roll off of him until the details are posed. As for Nick though, “Nick’s dealing with some shit. Uh,” Avi’s brows furrow, and as he turns to address Richard it’s clear he has one black eye — his good eye — that is about a day out from being freshly administered. But Avi doesn’t immediately ask his question, instead he looks to the radio and asks something else.

“The last time I heard this song… I was in a truck like this, with Gabriel Gray.” Looking to the radio, Avi motions to the moon hanging in the sky, “It was almost a full moon then. Driving up a fucking highway into Antananarivo, about to lay the hammer down on Edmund Rasoul.” Avi turns to look at Richard, brows furrowed. “Almost ten fucking years later, and I’m still scraping the Vanguard off of my fucking boots. But I’m missing something from back then, and I’m hoping you might be able to help.”

Avi’s brows furrow, and he asks the impossible. “I need Gabriel Gray.”


Richard’ breathes out a sigh, leaning back against the headrest of the seat, eyes closing for a moment as he takes in the weight of that request.

“Is that all.”

One hand comes up, fingers sliding under the shades to rub at his eyes, as if to pre-emptively work away a headache he knows is coming in the near future. “Not an easy request to fill,” he murmurs, “He’s been in hiding since he lost… oh.”

Those fingers slide down a bit, the bridge of the shades balancing on them as he regards the agent in the other seat sourly for a moment. “This is about Eileen. Talk to me, Avi.”

“It's Volken.” Avi affirms, flatly. “I don't know how and I don't fucking care, but it's Kazimir fucking Volken. Blue eyes, grand disposition, the whole nine yards. It thinks it's Eileen, but it's a fucking poltergeist pretending to— ” he cuts himself off, reaching for the pack of cigarettes in the center console to take another.

“It's about more than that.” Avi admits reluctantly, pushing in the round cigarette lighter beside where the smokes are tucked into the center console. “What I'm gonna tell you, ya gotta promise to keep fucking dark. This is about somebody’s fucking life, and it ain't either of our rights t’fuck it up.”

The vehemence from the older agent draws one of Richard's eyebrows upwards, but despite that motion and the steady look he gives, he doesn't contradict the man — at the moment, anyway.

"I never know anything," he replies dryly, "And I try not to fuck things up for more people than I have to, you know that." A turn of his head, and he regards the ruins of Eagle Electric for a moment before admitting more quietly, "Already fucked up enough peoples' lives as it is. Dug as many graves as I’ve dug up. Go on."

“Eileen is alive,” is something Avi refuses to admit to Nick, of all people. He refuses to give him that hope, if it’s going to be taken away. Better than he believe the uncertainty, the more comfortable lie. Avi’s one good eye settles on Richard. “Her consciousness survived the attack on Pollepel, wound up in a child. I don’t know how. She goes by the name Sibyl, I found her at an orphanage by fucking coincidence. Some soldiers were going to take off with her right after the war ended for god knows what,” Avi has his speculation. “A contact let me know, I picked her up and paid for her in cash and… I was going to just ferry her off, as you do, when she…”

Avi swallows hard, shakes his head and looks away from Richard. “It’s her. Most of her. She’s been in this kid for years. So long that she doesn’t really know where she ends and Sibyl begins. I’ve been… hiding her, for a long time. Keeping her safe, letting this kid live as much of a life as she could. But when that fucking SESA agent got his ass killed and I got thrown in a hole, she bolted — like I trained her to.” Avi closes his eyes and drags one hand down his face.

“She was apparently hiding out on Staten Island, and… that fucking ghoul found her.” Avi looks down to the steering wheel, slapping his hands down onto it and hunching forward, resting his brow against the flaking leather. “She was right in my fucking grasp, and that fucking monster took her.” Avi looks back to Richard. “There’s fuck-all I can do now. I’m already on thin ice with Hana, I told her the truth a few months ago. But we don’t know where they are. Gabriel’s… the only person who would. Who could get her back. I wanted to let her have her own fucking life… I…” He loses his words, for once.

At the first words, Richard’s head turns half-way back to consider Avi out of the corner of his eye. Eileen is alive. He doesn’t say anything or give anything away, remaining silent as the other man speaks, as he explains the situation. Insane as it may be, Ray’s got weirder stories in his own life that he could tell.

“It’s been known to happen,” he finally says after Avi’s words fail him, his thumb rubbing back and forth against the side of his hand in an absent tic, as if worrying over the problem even as he speaks, “I can name a… half dozen or so evolved that’ve survived the death of their bodies. Technopaths, astral projectors, oneiromancers. It makes sense that a telepath could, somehow.”

He looks out the window again, lips pursing in a line. “I think Hana’s pretty pissed at me right now, too… I wouldn’t do this for Eileen, Avi. There was never any love lost between us, too much shit we did to each other, and I still blame her for how shit went down in the end, even if it was fucking Mihangle that was the traitor all along.”

Might be news. Might not.

“Not to mention that nobody’s seen Gabriel in a half-fucking decade. But…” A turn of his head back has him regarding the King of Pentacles seriously, asking, “The kid. You love her, don’t you?” A finger pointed directly at the older agent, “And don’t you try and bullshit me, old man, you can’t pull that over on me.”

When Griffin’s name is invoked, Avi looks up with furrowed brows and then down to the ground. It was news, and he hadn't heard through the grapevine, but it made enough sense. He was the only one they never caught up with, all those years later. The only one who was missing from the grand scheme of things. The one with a family.


Avi looks up to Richard, a broken shell of a man that lost his ability to fight saving children from the arcology, who lost his eye to the Vanguard, who lost his soul to Uncle Sam. “I loved her,” Avi clarifies. “Like a… I don't know. Sister? Daughter? I watched her bleed out in front of me in that fucking castle. Heard the birds tear her apart.”

Swallowing loudly, Avi looks down to his lap, then up to the ruins of Eagle Electric. “I love Sibyl too. She's the only family I have left that'll talk to me.” He looks away from the ruins, to the radio now playing the song’s last few notes.

“But that doesn't matter,” Avi admits in a hushed voice. “What matters is that she gets to live her life, without someone telling her who she is.” That cyclopean stare levels on Richard again. “Gabriel's the only one who can make that happen now.”

“Jesus Christ.” Richard turns his head away to look forward down the road, hand lifting back to rub against the side and back of his neck as he says quietly, “You’re asking a lot’ve me here, you know.”

Then a sigh, that hand sliding off his neck and dropping instead to clap on the older man’s shoulder. “I’ve got your back, though, Avi. All you needed to do is ask. I’ll find that bushy-eyebrowed hermit and do my best to save your kid.”

“The list of people I haven't fucking failed is vanishingly small, Richard.” Avi looks over from the steering wheel to the passenger seat. “I already failed her once, after she dragged my ass out of a fucking gutter and gave me something to live for and fight for…” he glances back to the radio, the song now over.

He doesn't know where to go with that train of thought, and instead turns off the radio with a click of the knob. “I owe you one,” is a dangerous thing to say to Richard Ray, but there it is, said aloud.

It may be dangerous, but Richard waves it off with a lift of his hand, fingers brushing the words away. “All the other Royals are gone, Avi,” he says quietly, “Dead, or out’ve the game. Hana’s myopic about most things — always has been. She gets tunnel vision. Someone’s gotta look out for you, old man.”

“You’re a friend. I got you.”

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