The Business of Insurance


00-00_icon.gif gina2_icon.gif jessica2_icon.gif luke_icon.gif

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Scene Title The Business of Insurance
Synopsis Luke attempts to a snatch and grab with Gina, and the two become victims of a much more heinous violation.
Date December 31, 2010


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.

The modern age of technology is awesome.

So says Gina, anyway. Dressed in a white trench coat over an exceptionally girly fuzzy pink cashmere sweater with white skinny jeans tucked into a pair of white faux fur boots, she only glances up every few feet as she makes her way from the Nite Owl with a shiny new iPod clutched in one hand, watching an episode of the Advocate from earlier in the month.

Only one ear bud is stuffed in her ear, giving Gina at least some awareness of her surroundings. She doesn't really understand this stuff. Gina never was much for politics. That's Niki and Jessica's game. But this is important! Her boyfriend works on this! Gina can't help but get a goofy smile on her face knowing that Kincaid works in T.V. And on a successful show, no less. Maybe she should call him and see if he wants to ring in the new year.

Well gee, there's this lady holding a brand new iPod out for everyone in the world to see. And you know what? Luke could use a new iPod, since pawn shops pay good money for such things. And since he doesn't have anything better to do on New Year's Eve, why not. And who knows, maybe this lady's easy and likes the bad boys. Luke waits a few minutes for her to stroll by, then starts following her. After all, she's got her eyes glued on the thing.

Unfortunately for Luke, the reflection in the screen of Gina's iPod isn't her own. Jessica is sharper than her party girl counterpart, and realises they she is being followed.

Unfortunately for Gina, Jessica doesn't really see fit to tell her just yet.

Gina stops at a street corner, glancing up at the light to wait for the walk sign to light up, tapping her foot absently as she flickers her gaze between the iPod's screen, and the walk light.

Oblivious to any split personalities spying on him from reflections, because that's just crazytalk, Luke steps up right next to Gina. "You look like you need help with that." he tells her, going for the 'oh-so-helpful' route. "Here, let me show you something." and he holds out his hand. Hey, she looks like she's got blonde roots, maybe she's dumb enough to hand it over. She seems the ditzy type, especially looking like she was an extra in Legally Blonde.

Gina turns her head to peer at Luke slowly. "Excuse me?" He receives a dubious look that's not quite a sneer, but has the spirit of one. "My nephew taught me all sorts of shit that you can do with an iPod." Granted, that was four years ago, when the Video model was brand new, but still. She pauses the program and squints. "Do I look stupid?" The answer is yes, of course. Gina's a little too good at the vapid, vacant stare.

Is she asking for an honest answer? Because Luke can give her one. "Well you're walking around in this kind of neighborhood, dressed like you are, and flashing that thing where anyone can see, so…. yes." and while he's (hopefully) distracting her with what he's saying, he snatches at the iPod, and for good measure, also sneaks a hand to goose her as an…. added distraction. And a perk for him, because those tight white pants make her ass fantastic. And whether or not he gets either, he's going to run like hell.

Gina is caught off guard by Luke's answer. As such, he manages to swipe her iPod and grab her ass, drawing a sharp and very indignant grasp. "Get back here, you little fucker!" she shouts as she takes off after Luke, suddenly grateful that she wore actual (if fashionable) snow boots, rather than heels. "I will beat the piss out of you!"

Yeah right, like Luke's going to stop running and let her catch him. "Nice ass, bitch!" Luke calls behind him as he runs away with nice sneakers. "Maybe some other time you can do the dominatrix thing." Yeah, he knows that what he's saying is just going to add fuel to the fire, but it's not like she could hurt him much even if she did catch him, right? Maybe just hit him with a purse, or scratch at his eyes, or… well he knows how to handle tazers by now so that wouldn't be too bad. Mace, though….

Sprinting isn't an issue. Gina takes care of herself. Or Jessica does. Morning runs pay off once again as Gina pours on the speed and launches herself at Luke with the intention of tackling him to the ground so she can start punching his goddamned lights out.

Boots and sneakers slap against slushy concrete with equal liberal report as Luke and Gina begin their chase. Dipping off of the main street and diving down a steam shrouded alley, the young microwave manipulator skids in the melting snow brought about by unseasonably warm temperatures for New Year's Eve. Under the jaundiced yellow light of the alleyway, the steam rising up through the sewer grates looks like a yellow fog expanding outward as Luke plows through it, iPod clutched in one hand, chest rising and falling with heaving breaths.

Gina is fast on his heels, brunette hair whipping around as she rounds a corner and slams one shoulder into the locked back door of a restaurant closed for the holiday, marred with graffiti. Her boots skid on the pavement and the slushy snow, then catch traction as she leaps forward with hands outstretched, catching hold of Luke's collar before dragging him to the ground with a crash and a splash in the wet snow.

The iPod flies from Luke's hand, bouncing across the concrete and then skidding on its metal underside through the snow when it comes into contact with the black toe of a booted foot standing not far away. As warm breeze blows the steam away from the dark silhouette, Luke and Gina both can see the darkly dressed figure in matte black armor standing in the middle of the alleyway. A tinted orange visor shadows his face, hydraulics and an exo-skeleton of mechanical parks covers his back, arms and legs like some sort of machine-man. But the stylings of a FRONTLINE suit, even if looking more heavily-plated than others, is unmistakable.

00-00 is stenciled on the right breast plate of the armor, and hydraulics whirr and hiss as he raises one gauntleted hand towards Gina and Luke, wagging a chastising finger from side to side.

Luke keeps himself from faceplanting in the snow thanks in part to the hand that WAS holding the iPod. It goes off across the ground and Luke curses, shoving at Gina. He looks over to see where it went, then freezes. Oh, shit. "Fuck." yeah, forget the woman, forget the iPod, Luke wants NOTHING to do with anyone even remotely related to the government.

An observer doesn't stop Gina from pulling back her fist to punch Luke in the face, with the intention of breaking his nose. She certainly has the strength to fracture bone. Deceptive little package, she is. But then she looks up from the scuffle she and Luke are engaged in and stops dead, staring at the FRONTLINE-armoured stranger like a deer caught in the hi-beams of an oncoming truck.

Except that he isn't really a stranger at all, is he? Gina, through Jessica, has heard stories. "Rrrrrrrichard?" she asks hesitantly, her voice pitched up in an attempt to sound more innocent than either of her other counterparts would have allowed themselves. Despite that, she still hisses under her breath.


«Been a long time, Jessica,» crackles over the speakers of the visored helmet, a few vibrant bolts of red lightning arcing between the armored figure's fingers. «I'm really sorry about this, but it's for your own protection. His too.» Whatever that means, whatever that implies is answered not with words from the armored figure. No, what his answer is comes in the form of an explosion of red lighting from his out-stretched hand.

The lightning comes with a high-voltage buzzing and humming snap as it leaps from armored figure's hand, bathing the fog in a hellish crimson glow from his red right hand. The lightning forks off to touch the walls and ground like normal electricity before hitting both Luke and Jessica with equal force in a twinned bolt.

It hurts but not like electricity, it hurts like fire. There's a boiling sensation at the contact of the red lightning, a feeling like fire burning up inside of both the boy and the woman that tackled him. Jessica is thrown off of Luke from the force of the bolt, rolling backwards in the snow while Luke curls up reflexively on his side as a tingling fire burns deep in his bones and in his blood.

As a scream involuntarily escapes from Jessica's mouth, the snow around her begins to melt away into steam from a heat and radiation she cannot feel being expelled from her body. Luke doesn't recognize immediately as his genes are being re-sequenced, as the unique magnetic aura that all Evolved resonate is tweaked just so by the red lightning, that he has curled his fingers into the asphalt like it were sand.

When the lightning stops, when the armored figure lowers his hand slowly, there is no more apologies.

Uh oh, that's a fist aimed his way and—ohholyshitWHATTHEHELLISTHIS. "FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCCKKKK." Luke screams out as he gets zapped by red electricity that BURNS LIKE FIRE. Fetal position? Check. Writhing in pain? Check. Noticing anything unusual? No, because he's IN PAIN. Then it stops, and Luke just lies there still curled up, gasping in pain.

"No!" Gina throws out one hand as if to stop what's coming. She also retreats into her own mind simultaneously, letting Jessica take control when it's already too late. But she can take the blow.

Like she's always done.

It's been a long time since anyone's made Jessica scream. For any reason. It's also been years since she's felt true panic. When she's stopped crying out, grey-blue eyes grow wide and fix on the armoured form of Richard Cardinal (From the FutureTM). She pushes herself up to her knees, because it's what she must do, as the snow continues to melt around her in an increasing radius.

"What did you do?!" Jessica's voice isn't as strong as she'd like it to be. It's ragged, like the breaths she sucks in to try and manage the pain. She looks a bit like a dirty angel in white and pink with slush and snow dampening and darkening her clothes and making grit and hair stick to her face. Though the glow radiating from her isn't the soft angelic white. Luke will recognise it as his own, when his senses return to him.

«I used to work in private security,» a voice that does not belong to Richard Cardinal calls out from inside the suit of armor, taking a step back into the steam towards another armored silhouette that is approaching his position. He lets that notion hang in the air as snow continues to liquify around Jessica's feet, as the water begins to evaporate around her, and Luke can feel a tingle of sunburn beginning to redden his cheeks from proximity to a living microwave.

«I'm not in that line of business any longer,» Richard's tone is there in that assertion, the second figure moving up from behind also dressed in the armor of a FRONTLINE officer, layered with heavier armor plating. A gauntleted hand rests on the shoulder of 00-00.

«I'm in the business of insurance, now.» It's only partly a play on words.

Luke blinks and stares at Jessica in disbelief. Wait, she has it too? Ow. Hey, don't zap him! He lifts up his hand to send off a zap of his own, but…. nothing happens. Wait, WHAT? "What the hell did you DO?!" he exclaims, looking around. Negation gas? he didn't get injected with anything, so it must be that. Well, when all else fails… Luke somehow gets to his feet, then lunges for the two figures, bringing his fist back to punch them. Maybe that steam is negation gas, that must be it.

Insurance. Right. Like Jessica used to be in the paper business. When she shoves to her feet, she stumbles. She feels weak. She feels powerless. Even though it's quite obvious she is anything but, with the waves rolling off her.

"Kid, stop!" Jessica bellows. "Tell me what your ability is and tell me how to control it!" She stares down at her hands and for a moment, it's four years and change ago. Jessica wonders if there's about to be another Midtown. The news would probably call her the Chelsea Girl. (Dear God.) "Tell me how to control it right now!"

«Good luck on that front,» the synthesized voice of Cardinal's borrowed body offers to Niki, «I know you'll get control of it eventually.» As Luke barrels down the alleyway towards the two, what comes next isn't a show of force nor a comical moment in which the villain reveals his cunning plan to his victims. Not even a spirited fight with the 'hero', if Luke can qualify as one.

No, what comes next is a thunderclap followed by an explosion of electricity outwards in a sphere that crackles up and down the alley, sucking the steam inwards towards a central point, accompanying a flash of lightning.

When the peal of thunder fades and the blinding white flash subsides, there is nothing left behind where once two men in Horizon armor stood, save for a bowl-shaped cut-out scooped out of the alleyway glowing orange hot on the edges like smoldering paper. A few crackling sparks of electricity pop through the air, then silence.

Just the noise of a busy city street nearby, and the low humming thrum of microwave energy emitting from Jessica's body.

Then the sudden smash of brickwork as Luke's wild swing clips the alleyway wall, tearing out a chunk of masonry and shattering the alleyway's edge right before he topples down into the divot of earth taken away by Lucas Eldridge's teleportation.

Luke's fist smashes through a wall like it was made of styrofoam, and he has just enough time for his incredulous mind to realize it before he falls into the hole. Immediately, he's leaping to his feet again because it's HOT, damnit, and then…. pauses. Wait. What was that? He stares at his hand, still clenched in a fist, then eyes the wall it just went through. Ignoring the woman yelling at him, since he's out of range of being microwaved, he goes back to the wall. He punches it again, wincing since he's dead certain it'd hurt and his fist goes through the bricks, punching a hole in it. "What the hell just happened?!" he yells out, turning to face her. Then he belatedly recalls she's yelling at him, and smirks. "Calm down." he suggests.

"You calm down!" Jessica barks back reflexively. "You have my ability, and I have yours." That little fucker. "I have superhuman strength. Now, tell me what the fuck it is that I'm doing." Her blood is boiling. If she isn't careful, Luke's will be, too.

"Oh." pause. "You can… make microwaves, like to cook stuff." pause again. "Superhuman strength, huh…?" Luke grins at that. Oooh, he can use this. Maybe he can finally punch that jackass Griffin in the face and break HIS hand! "And like I SAID, calm down! Whenever I get upset it just happens. Do you want to kill everything around you?" Luke backs away some more, since HE knows the range. Or at least, his own range when he had it. Yeah, he's not going to tell her how to work the power. Why should he? She'd probably use it on him.

"Right now? Yeah. I'd like that. But I need you right now, so you better count your fuckin' blessings." Jessica shuts her eyes tightly, reminds herself that she's above this. She's above all that anger. She makes it work for her. But Jessica has a lot of rage to suppress.

"Who are you, anyway? It's like you're a whole other person from before." or maybe she just has anger issues, but he can't see someone like this prancing around in an outfit like that the way she was earlier. Oh, speaking of which, Luke starts searching the ground for that iPod. Oh, hey! He can have a cell phone of his own now without it fitzing on him! He doesn't find the iPod, though, and sighs. Damn, either they took it, or fried it.

Jessica doesn't offer any explanation as to why she seems like a whole different person. Anger issues doesn't even begin to cover it. But despite that, she is calming down finally. The waves of radiation seem to shrink up around her until they fade entirely. "I'm going to clip that bird's wings," she growls. "My name is Lorine. Who're you?"

"Michael." Luke tends not to want to tell people his name ever unless he had to, paranoia at work. He has no idea if the name she gave was her real one either, she seems like some kinda crazy bitch. He's still staying his distance away from her, too.

Jessica purses her lips and reaches into her pocket to retrieve her cell phone. Yeah, that's an exercise in futility. Fuck. "I work with Redbird Security," she tells Luke. "You should go there tomorrow. Tell them Lorine sent you. You'll want to talk to them about this." She sets her jaw angrily. The re-emergence of those microwaves only pisses her off further. "I need to go." Before she ends up killing him and losing her hope of getting her ability back. "Go to Redbird tomorrow. Or I'll find some inventive way to kill you when I manage to track your ass down again."

Luke doesn't respond to that. Frankly, right now he wouldn't mind not having microwave powers. (Yeah, right until he tries making dinner and realizes he CAN'T) "Hmm." she'll just have to be happy with a noncommittal grunt. Luke's pretty confident he can avoid being found by her, after all, he avoided being found by the government for a while.

"I'm not kidding, Michael." In her mind's eye, Jessica is stalking forward and lifting Luke off the ground by his throat. In reality, she's standing her ground and fuming about the fact that she wouldn't have the strength for it. After a lingering moment of glaring daggers at Luke, Jessica finally turns on her heels and heads back the way she came, leaving melted snow in her wake.

Luke ostentatiously rolls his eyes at her once she's turned around, and turns to go off in a different direction. Hey, maybe he can pretend like he doesn't have powers anymore so those asshole government officials will leave him alone. So off he goes, walking like he's invincible or something.

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