The Nightmare Man


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Scene Title The Nightmare Man
Synopsis Agent Verse is confronted by Arthur's personal operatives.
Date January 23, 2012

Stephen Verse sits up in a cold sweat, tangled in his blankets and dimly lit by the flood of light spilling in between slatted blinds. He's bathed in a faint emerald light, reflecting off of the walls of Pinehearst Tower. Rain patters softly onto the glass window walls of his bedroom, creates dark streaks in translucent shadow.

Wiping sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, Verse sits forward and cradles his face in his hands, exhaling a deep breath. His dreams haven't been so troubled in a long time. Looking to the clock, he can see it reads 3:33 am. His brows pinch together, dark eyes sweeping to where his white button-down shirt is draped over the back of a chair, to where slacks are folded nearly in the seat, and a pair of black shoes tucked below. His pistol hangs in a holster over the back of the chair with his shirt.

Taking in another, slow breath, Verse swings his legs over the side of the bed and comes to stand up slowly. Bare feet move across faux wood flooring, his body is cast in bands of black shadow and emerald light. Walking over to the gun, he hesitates, looking to his partly ajar bedroom door. The hair on the back of his neck stands on end. Gone statue-still, Verse's eyes track the room, to the streaks of raindrops, to the clock, to the bed, and then he springs into movement like a tightly-wound coil.

As Verse grabs his gun and holster from the chair, his bedroom door flies open at the kick of a booted foot. Verse rolls across his shoulder, gun drawn and aimed at — he sees the yellow UEO stenciled on black body armor, it was only a matter of time — center mass and pulls the trigger three times. The officer is thrown back from the force of the shot, and he can hear barked cries of, "Shots fired!" From his living room.

Shirt, pants, and shoes swept up in one arm, Verse hops past the open door and lands on his knee at the shoulder of the downed officer. His pistol is pressed into the crook of his neck and unloaded two more times. Starting ot throw on his shirt, Verse spots a flashbang as it hits the floor and scuttles toward the bed. He dives ahead, throwing himself into the closet. The flasgbang detonates, far enough away to still keep his wits, and he can hear booted feet moving. Verse stands, reaches up to the top of the closet shelf and pulls down a sawed off shotgun. A UEO officer sweeps in front of the closet, both barrels blast and blow the back of his head clear off. Verse gets his second sleeve on.

Diving out of the closet, he retrieves his pistol from where he'd tucked it under his arm. Pants still draped over one arm, shoes clenched by the sides between pinched fingers, he gets in close to an assault-rifle wielding officer, barrel under the chin and a pop of gunfire and blood. Verse slings his holster around over his shoulders, bare feet slide in blood on the floor.

"There, there!" Another UEo officer shouts, and Verse darts out of the doorway, a trail of automatic gunfire peppering his walls. They strike the glass on the opposite side of the room, leave large holes. Verse hears more movement, brow twitches, and he sweeps up one of the blankets from his bed and holsters his pitsol. One end around the headboard, then—

— Verse explodes out the bedroom window in a shower of glittering glass. He sails through the rainy air, pants and shoes clutched to his chest in one hand. Gunfire rings out through the opening a half breath after gravity is pulling him down. He swings, smashes his shoulder into the window of the apartment below. Bare feet squeak on the glass, he bends his knees, pulls a John McClane, and launches himself away from the window after drawing his gun. He fires, the last of his handgun rounds, into the glass. When his body impacts it a second time the window gives way, and Verse explodes through the glass again to the floor below. Someone is screaming, a woman and a child. He's got glass in his shoulder, none in his feet.

Up fast, he's tugging on his pants and slipping on his shoes. "Unity Enforcement," Verse technically doesn't lie, "stay down!" No badge to flash, just an unloaded gun. Hurrying into the open-concept kitchen, Verse draws out a long and thin fillet knife and moves to the door. He looks back, briefly, at the family before stepping out into the hall. No one, there's time.

As he heads to the stairwell, Verse carefully pushes the door open and spots four more UEO coming from below, but none from above. He looks at the EXIT sign, squints at it, and then throws himself into the stairwell and begins running up. Gunfire erupts from below. "Northeast stairwell!" One officer screams. When Verse reaches the next landing, there's a UEO officer entering from his apartment floor. He slams the door on him, pulls it open and does it again, and something breaks. H egrabs the barrel of the officer's rifle, pulls it forward and lunges out with his knife and embeds it in the officer's eye before kicking him out again. Safety off, semi-automatic firing mode, Verse backs up the stairs. The second the door opens again, a three-shot burst erupts and sends whoever it was entering back to the ground with a scream. Now he's running, up.

Always up.

Almost to the roof, Verse can hear the sound of approaching helicopters. He checks every glowing red EXIT sign on the way up, pauses just long enough to read each letter in order. When he finally reaches the roof access, he shoots the lock and kicks out the door and steps out into the rain. There's just a woman waiting for him there, in a black dress soaked by the rain, dark hair stuck to her cheek in curls.

"I knew it," Verse states flatly, raising the rifle up at first, but then reconsidering and lowering it. "You must be an idiot," Verse mutters, approaching Hokuto Ichihara with slacked shoulders. The helicopter begins to crest the top of the roof, then… freezes in place, hangs there as though it had neither weight not energy, blades stationary. The rain, too, has frozen now.

Hokuto regards Verse with partly-lowered lashes and pale yellow eyes. "It's a minefield," she assesses, looking around the rooftop, "your mind. I thought the best way to trap you might be to make everything… plesant. Where did I fail, Mr. Verse?"

"Time," Verse states simply. "Time's always relative in a dream. There's no way I could have made it back from Utah to be here in bed at 3:33am," and he's right on that part. "There's no way I could have made it up to the roof as fast as I did. There weren't enough floors." Also, correct. "The exit signs, all of the writing, doesn't look right when I read it a second time." A minor detail she hadn't accounted for.

"I don't want to hurt you," Hokuto says as though this were still her advantage. Verse squints, incredulity passing over his face briefly.

"Likewise," Verse notes. "But I think we both know I'm the one with the weapon here. You're in my mind, and I control mindscapes like this all the time." There's a crook of the corner of Verse's mouth up in a satisfied smile.

"So," Hokuto looks down to the puddles of water at her bare feet, "we are at an embasse then, as neither wants to hurt the other?" Her eyes uplift, attention to the telepath. "You could… tell me why you've betrayed Arthur to the terrorists. We could put this to a close."

Verse looks to the silhouette of Pinehearst Tower behind her. "Arthur is a monster," is said with regret, a recognition of a lifetime of choices made for the wrong side. "He betrayed Edward, he betrayed this country, he'll betray us all to get what he wants."

"What do you think that is?" Hokuto asks of Verse, and the telepath is left uncertain in the question's wake. "There's a price to pay, for everything, Stephen. There are always people who suffer in the name of progress. The measure is… who suffers, and how much. How can it be mitigated?"

Shaking his head, Verse looks away from the Pinehearst Building. "There's a better way," he says with some measure of hollow bravado, "there has to be," sounds more honest and desperate. Hokuto's bare shoulders rise and fall, and as she starts to take a step forward, Verse backs up.

"This interrogation has gone on long enough," he decides, looking back to Hokuto. "When I wake up, I won't be so merciful. You and your father have always been good to me," Verse begins walking to the edge of the roof. "But if you come after me again…" he shakes his head, dropping the useless assault rifle and stepping up onto the stone railing at the roof's edge.

"We won't," Hokuto promises, voice small. Verse smiles, lifting one hand into a salute, and steps over the edge, disappearing off the side of the building a moment later. Hokuto is still, yellow eyes cast to the side, looking ot the green glow of the Pinehearst Tower.

"We won't," Hokuto whispers, closing her eyes. He was right about most everything, except one thing.

He did get home.


Blue and red flashing lights reflect off of a rain-soaked street. Police have erected a line of yellow tape around the street-side crime scene and traffic has been blocked off and diverted. Several cruisers and one UEO truck are parked around a space where a body lays covered by a white sheet, darkened with blood and rain. Water runs into a gutter nearby.

"The fuck…" is whispered by Agent Woods as he holds an umbrella over his head, coffee in one hand, "…made a man in his bloody position jump from his fuckin' roof?" Brows pinched together, Woods looks to be in shock. The man standin gnext to him offers no answer, just a slow roll of his shoulders.

Akado Ichihara draws in a slow breath and sighs as he withdraws a phone from his jacket. "If you'll excuse me," he says to Woods, stepping away the place a call. It's only once he's past the majority of the officers that he gets a response, a tired noise of sleep from the other end.

«Did it work?» Hokuto's voice chirps from the other end of the phone. Akado looks back to the bloody sheet, then up to the roof of the highrise tenement building across from Pinehearst Tower.

"It did," Akado confirms in a hushed voice, "good work." Though he's troubled by the lack of concern in her voice, the lack of remorse. "I'll be by tomorrow, Arthur's promised us some vacation time." Hokuto's response is a non-verbal recognition, followed by the closing of the line. Swallowing tightly, Akado looks back at Verse's sheet-covered corpse one last time, then tucks his phone into his jacket.

He watches the blood drain into the gutter, watches Woods stare at the body of another colleague gone before his time. Lifting his eyes to the green silhouette of Pinehearst Tower, Akado narrows his eyes and allows in the most virulent of thoughts…


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