The Dead We Carry


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Scene Title The Dead We Carry
Synopsis While the Ferrymen safehouse on Beach Street comes under attack by Humanis First!, Hana and her psychic passenger go to recover a body. Incomplete.
Date August 25, 2009

Staten Island — Coast

Situated at one end of the Arthur Kill, this small harbor has clearly seen days of better and more frequent use. Though it's little more than a network formed by a few creaky docks and causeways, it's still more than suitable to tie up for those who have business on the Island. Invariably, at least one of the ports is taken up by a houseboat covered in seagull shit. A thick, greenish layer of bilge scum floats on top of the water and clings to the hull of every passing vessel. Welcome to Staten Island. If you have baggage or cargo to unload, there are usually a few layabouts at the Angry Pelican, which is just a short walk away. Just be sure to ask for a clean glass and keep one hand on your wallet at all times.

In the back of Hana's psychic ear, there's static splattering snow and twittering feedback; screams of pain; orders conferred in sharp, hoarse soupcons; a name flung out their amid the Humanis First! operatives' frayed and disrupted communications: Harlow. Over, behind, surrounding the noise of 46 Beach Street, there's also the cacophony of slow-swinging satellites, Cable packets, clumsily shorthanded instant messages from college campuses that ring the world around, snippets of unsupervised radio intelligence that spring from deserts, sewers, junk code, data and data.

Outside her head, the night is decent with the whisper of surf, a street light buzzing but still urine-lurid bright, one pearlescently-hemmed thundercloud thinning in the wind over Fresh Kills, a waning crescent moon smiling bleak down on them, bleak with conspiracy. The engine noise of her motorcycle cut out minutes ago.

Sandwiched somewhere between the electronic din and the crushing solitude of Staten at night, Teo begins to wonder if he's going deaf from either thing. She'd told him, already, which safehouse his injured body is laid up at, briefly blinked a cross-marked sallite image through where he could see it, despite the cool absence of real expectation that he was going to go back to it. They know what they're here for. Excuse him. Who they're here for.

Danko ordered them to do it at the harbor, but no specifics. His presence is paltry, thin, a weak water eddy and drip. It's been this way since he came to her. It doesn't sound like Ghost.

Hana's reply is a thing of texture, feeling, inherent yet unmistakable meaning; she doesn't speak aloud. That takes time, effort, breath that can be allocated to other things — and she's well-accustomed to focusing her thoughts in that particular fashion. It's not so different to send a message into the ether as it is to communicate with her passenger. The difference is feeling.
Laudani. If she had spoken, the syllables would have been stretched just that little bit, made into a dry rebuke; in the halls of Hana's mind it carries that same tone, but with undercurrents that so often are not shared externally. Wound-spring tension coiling tighter, the rapid flicker of her thoughts querying locations, triangulating, double-, triple-, quadruple-checking; I am here and the call was made there.

It's impossible to see from the outside, cloaked in darkness, her expression a focused mask, tied-back hair and leather jacket offering an inscrutable surface to the night. Inside, it's impossible to miss — the anger that bubbles beneath her thoughts, thoughts which tally each and every sound originating at 46 Beach Street with almost clinical detachment, separated from deeper emotion. That will come later, when they are not picking their way down the harbor, walking cautiously across rocks in the dark towards a destination unseen but certain in its placement.

Don't tell me what I already know.

All right. Teo's response is small, though the shrunken whisper of his psychic voice was so meek already that there isn't enough room within it for meaningful variation anyway. He's small enough that the bubbles that erode their way through her consciousness seem to move him as they break surface, pop, release aerosol venom into the space around him. He is a tiny ship in a tumultous sea. If there were any more size or substance to him, he might not float at all. Break, sink. Somehow, though— and this would probably only really be disconcerting if she wasn't too angry to remember, he doesn't apologize, either.

I can check who's still alive around here or I can stay with you. He stops talking— thinking— when he concludes that particular offer, settling again, as best that he can in the uneasy vicissitude of the Jewish woman's mind. He remembers what it was like in here. He remembers it being easier to bear, too, doesn't recall her rage being quite— so— near, but though the membraneous walls that constitute himself shudder, they don't break. It smells familiarly of salt through her nose, and the jumbled granite hew of —- breakwater? is even under her feet, the immaculate symmetry of her balance, in a way that it hadn't been under his since he left 2019.

It is dark. Too humid and sporadically congested for stars, sky denying moon transparency.

I think they've gone. Conveyed not as a decision, but an opinion, an educated assessment; it isn't a "don't". The timbre of her thoughts suggests that scouting is probably a good idea. Even if the earlier motorized approach appears to have passed unnoticed, or at least unworthy of response by anyone who might be out there.

The body isn't rock, isn't concrete. It stands out for that, amidst planes and angles, unyielding surfaces; the texture in the attenuated streetlight is all wrong. Hana crouches down beside it, fury spiking hot and cold; a flash of anger, the bitterly metallic tang of determination. There will be a reckoning.

She looks across the water, though there is nothing to see; a presence felt rather than observed, summoned by the ephemeral pulse of a digital communication. Heard only because the Israeli's feet no longer crunch on stone; background night sounds are all that obscure the muted rumble of a boat's engine. It isn't much of a boat.

Her thoughts are not hers alone, but they are unspoken.

You don't need much of a boat to carry two women, even if one of them is gonna be a carcass sprawl incapable of holding itself upright. It galls him to think that Elisabeth had spent most of her final hours in exactly that state, but that— that is a notion that he carefully culls out of the emotional and cognitive transfer between minds. It's the oddest thing. Ghost never used to get as much runoff, or give it. Not that he can remember very clearly, anyway, and that could be attributed to any number of mundane things: the stain of sleep-deprivation lasts long after he's dumped the body and given up its weight and weaknesses.

He should have gone alone. That, that is one thought that does escape into the ether as he sits stable inside her skull, listening to the clock and toll of water, the growl and cough of the boat's metal parts grumbling below and behind. Everything is blurry to him, but he knows that there is nothing wrong with her eyes. Hana's always taken good care of herself in that particular respect.

Don't look back, Laudani.

It's not a literal instruction, not meant to be taken so. Admonishment gentle in a fashion the woman outside never ever demonstrably is; sympathy, empathy, her own regrets — fleeting impressions, but tangible nonetheless.

An angular shape rises out of the darkness, sulfur-hued light barely picking out its surface: wooden sides converging to a blocky point, unadorned by anything resembling rail or shield. It floats, moves at the dictate of the outboard attached to its rear; will carry them somewhere as unremarkable as the vehicle itself. That's all it has to do.

There's a splash as feet jump from the boat to the water, figure made faceless by the night; the driver doesn't speak either, just hauls it up to where Hana will be easily able to step in, fine-tunes the boat's position by hand, steadies its motion to something insignificant.
She slides her arms beneath Elisabeth's body, lifts, straightens; anything but effortless. Liz is not much smaller than Hana, and the weight forces a grunt of air from her lungs, even if the Israeli refuses to admit to the strain otherwise. All she has to do is transfer Elisabeth into the boat; not so much to demand, surely.

From Hana, those words could be, if over-generalized, a mix of hypocrisy in decades' quantity and practical advisement that one take it from one who's been there, knows what's what, done this. Looking back is a waste of time, of course. Learning from one's mistakes is different. Acknowledging that you were built by the concatenation of events, now, that's as crucial to the understanding of one's present situation as it is for the optimized odds of tackling the future. It's hard, though.

There's this boy that Hana knew, no more than four years younger than herself, who had this terrible habit of regret. And there's this man that she's been made to carry in much the same way, and sometimes— dislocated psyche, murder habit, dexterity with knives aside— sometimes you can see the resemblence. Not that that's on anyone's mind at the moment, the literal meaning of absurd Evolved abilities and dislocated brains notwithstanding.

Hana is pulling up a body. It is wet with things added to seawater. Naked and wrinkled and slackly sodden waterlogged down to the compressed balloons of its lungs, a grotesquely oversized fetus without any of the life to it. Stringmop yellow hair, recognizable hands, skin turned fluorescent by the light. Bruise patterns: her ribs were smashed over time and her body torqued against impacts, broken-off pieces left to float around the cavity of her torso, limbs seamed with scratches, lifted hair, diluted pus and streaked blue bruises all over, as if they'd thought her a doll to be dismantled to its simplest parts. Rashes browning with incipient rot at the edges of her face, where the blindfold had been knotted too tight and left too long.

There's a clot wicked firmly in the velveteen delicacy of Elisabeth's one exposed ear. Some of her fingers are pointing the wrong way. Both her skull and her digits loll too loosely against the deck as she— it— is lowered down, down, to rest.

Teo's gone dead in Hana's head, like maybe— unrealistically, but maybe he'd left. Or else he's clenched down, turned inward, swallowed and choked on himself in an ouroboros of nauseated, toxic fright. What comes after is a desperate lunge at the corpse on the boat, like he'd forgotten that the callused palms that he is tracking are Hana's rather than his own. He crashes painlessly, harmlessly into the wall of Hana's skull, sloughs back, goes thready, fading, sharpening, thinning again, abruptly incoherent.

And then a notion unravels in the corner of her mind, without enough words to frame it in actual thought. It somehow fails to refer to the tattoo on Elisabeth's skin, a snatch of another image that might remind her of other conversations, distant times, and of not entirely irrelevant angels: I think I see wings.

Pauwzed but available for reference.

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