The Red Zone



Scene Title The Red Zone
Synopsis At ground zero in Midtown, Peter pushes himself to the breaking point.
Date September 18th, 2008

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.

A peal of thunder carries out through the cloud-shrouded heavens, a roiling storm born not of terrestrial variations in temperature and air pressure, nor from something as insigifnicant as the beating of a butterfly's wings a thousand miles away. This storm is one born of both necessity and emotion, one birthed of the cruelest of self-inflicted wounds; a wound on the conscience.

The wind carries through hollow remants of charcoal gray buildings, skeletal frameworks of twisted steel once molten and now cooled. Carrying on it the debris of so many lives snuffed out in an instant, the ashen crater of a future that was denied now stands as an epitaph for innocence lost in the flash of atomic fire.

It is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Mixed amidst the slouching and hollowed out buildings, mixed amidst the sea of lifeless gray and black are flashes of light, colorful blasts of orange and yellow that illuminate the fog-shrouded ruins of the city's metropolitan heart. Here, amidst the flickering flare of lightning in the clouds above, an entirely seperate storm is raging. It is a storm of determination tempered by self-doubt and insecrity, a storm of anger, resentment and fear.

Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress.

Defying gravity, enormous pieces of concrete float languidly in the air, droplets of rain spattering on their baked and cracked surfaces. Each piece drifts like debris in the vacuum of space, but serving a purpose all their own. In the middle of this floating field of ruin, a singular person stands at the footprint of ground zero, hair patted down against his brow from the falling rain, and a fiery orange glow shining through his skin, shining from the white glow of the bones in his hands.

Alternatingly, one hand will clench into a fist and glow with the white-hot power of a sun, then open to reveal a blue-white burst of energy before closing again. As this happens, pieces of stone slowly lift and float into the air, consciousness directed in a dozen different directions. Rain runs in sheets down his brow, trickling across the deep scar in his forehead, droplets falling from his nose and chin.

Another flash and crackle of atomic fire, and then his eyes open, luminous and white, shedding that same burning glow. His arms snap out, sending waves of flame rippling from his shoulders, for a moment these uncontrolled pyroclasmic clouds swirl and churn before being manipulated with a thrumming vibration of telekinetic energy, turning into lashing tendrils of fire that score the ground black. I can do this. His eyes force shut, followed by the sound of air rushing to where a body once occupied what is now a void.

In a world of stable populations where each individual must struggle to survive, those with the "best" characteristics will be more likely to survive, and those desirable traits will be passed to their offspring. These advantageous characteristics are inherited by following generations, becoming dominant among the population through time.

The black-clad man re-appears hundreds of feet in the air, and all of the pieces of debris begin to plummet towards the ground. As the sundered pieces of skyscrapers and pavement begin to free-fall back towards ground zero, the man responsible for their levitation begins to flash through the field of debris. Winking in and out of space, he flashes from one piece of falling debris to another, calling forth rolling waves of flame and concussive telekinetic force, pulverizing pieces of stone into flaming debris that rains down below.

With each shattered whole, he vanishes again with a surge of rushing air, re-appaearing elsewheres in the falling debris, followed by another eruption of flame and a low thrumming rumble. Concrete shatters into fine powder, mixing with the falling rain as larger pieces of broken stone collide with the sundered city below. One by one, the formerly levitated rocks are pulverized, and with each utilization of that myriad of powers, the singular force responsible for all of this burns down slowly, like a candle lit at both ends.

This is natural selection. It may be further inferred that natural selection, if carried far enough, makes changes in a population, eventually leading to new species.

Landing on the ground, pieces of the ruined blast zone shower down all around him, crashing into the already devastated streets. His breathing is labored, heavy and wheezing, dark circles burned beneath his eyes, sweat mixing with rain that beads on his skin, and steam rising up from his shoulders at the internal temperature his body radiates. Beneath his feet, the soles of his boots become soft and tacky, sticking slightly to the ruined pavement.

One remaining piece of debris, the largest of them all continues to fall, one lifted the highest of all of them. It drops down out of the sky, silhouetted by flashes of lightning and the torrential rain. His eyes look up, peering at the ever-growing blot in the air abov ehim that blocks out the rain. With a heave of his shoulders, one hand is raised, fingers spreading as his hand glows with a brilliant white light. Fingers curl closed, forming a fist, and then draws back as the twisted piece of concrete and steel plummets down towards the solitary man.

He raises his fist as it nearly collides with him, followed by a deep resonating rumble in the air, a wave of telekinetic force backed by the impact of fist against stone, and then the sudden eruption of nuclear energy into a punch that creates a localized eruption of heat, flame and light in a brilliant sphere, blowing back waves of dust, rock and water.

In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.

Steam, smoke and stone-dust blows away from the crater in the ground this impact causes, and standing on shaky legs, the solitary man shakes violently, his fist still raised into the air, shoulders slacked and his free arm hanging down limt at his side. Steam issues forth from his body, rising in coiling waves from his skin as the radiant glow begins to fade. He wavers, knees buckling, and then collapsing down into the puddle of water recollecting beneath him.

I… Have to be strong… In the rippling surface of the murky puddle, he sees his face reflected by the glow of lightning in the skies. A man worn and battered internally and externally, the scar that cuts across his face a pale shadow of the scar that carves him in twain on the inside. "Be the one they need," he thinks to himself, the tone sarcastic and weak. His fingers curl into the water, forming a fist before punching at his own reflection with a futile effort, as if to shatter the reflection of the tired man staring back at him.

As for a future life, every man must judge for himself,

between conflicting vague probabilities,

and choose the path they will regret the least…

September 18th: Chili And Children

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…
Make or Break

September 18th: Make or Break
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