The Second Lie


kincaid_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title The Second Lie
Synopsis A Humanis First initiation ends with some interesting complications. Who's the oddball now bitch.
Date January 31, 2011


Queens is the largest in area and the second most populous of the five boroughs of New York City. Located on the western portion of Long Island, Queens managed to avoid much of the physical ruin attributed to the Bomb. However, Queens on whole suffered from something far more significant in the wake of the explosion that tore apart New York — Economic crisis. With much of Queens relying on industrial productivity for its commerce, it was the mass exodus of many businesses from the New York area following the bomb that crippled the borough.

With refugees pouring in from the western portions of New York following the destruction of Midtown, Queens was inundated with homeless of all walks of life. Food shortages, coupled with the collapse of Queens business centers and the strain put on local police only furthered what would become one of the most embarassing mishandling of a crisis situation the city had ever seen. Weeks after the bomb hit, riots swept through New York by the panicked populace, this was felt most hard in Queens, where food riots ravaged the businesses that dared remain open. Shea Statium was used as temporary shelter for bomb refugees, and the riots that swept through Queens enveloped the stadium as well, resulting in a remarkable loss of life in the chaos.

Ever since, Queens has settled down from the turbulent weeks following the nuclear explosion. But while its scars may not be as physical as Midtowns are, Queens suffers just as the rest of New York does, under the shadow of that broken skyline to the west and the collapse of its social and economic centers. Queens is now a ghost of its former self, slowly struggling to recover from the damage done.

By now, the flower shop lady knows Ryans well enough to smile and nod at him as he walks past her shop away from the cemetary again. She half expects to see him walk across again back to his car, too. Generally, these early afternoon visits are made only when Ryans finds the time to spare, rarer and rarer, and culminate in a long walk on concrete rather than any kind of sandy shoreline scenario. His breath steams in and out in unravelling condensation.

Last time he was in this neighborhood, there had been an ostentatious cedar tree growing in a startling little pocket of greenery between the first Greek deli in a long string of many and the neighboring apartment complex, but he could have expect it to be gone by now. It was getting too big. Dangerous, maybe, for busses passing by, or small children foolishly audacious enough to try and climb it, risk injury. Maybe there will be a stump there instead, already speckling over with the markered names and carved hearts of a hundred young couples. Maybe nobody will notice an unseemlily old man adding a few to the group. Heh heh.

Everyone told him, of course, like everyone tells the bereaved— time heals.

When the big man turns the corner, he finds himself perhaps pleasantly surprised. The tree is still there, looming stalwart, despite the indignity of its seasonal nudity. Its bark is too coarse, uneven, and flakey for but the most tenacious of Sharpie-wielders to have made any recognizable romantic markings on. And the red-haired girl in the too-thin coat, barely visible in her huddle just behind the tree, does not seem to be wielding a Sharpie. The rest of the pedestrians making thin presence along the streets don't pay her any mind at all. Maybe they don't see she's crying, or maybe all they see is that she has a big round sandwich in her hands. How badly-off can she be?

It's the red that catches his eyes first, it's something familiar and speaks to him. It's the color of his own deceased wife's hair and the of Delia. Maybe his brain is just wired for it, though that doesn't explain the blonde that occasionally shares his bed. Either way, it draws his attention to the little girl and it's the tears that have him moving slowly forward.

He's always been a sucker for the tears on children.

Normally stoic and unreadable, Ryans finds it only serves to scare the youngsters he comes across. So as he moves with soft careful steps, Ryans lets go of that mask and lets a more pleasant expression out, one of concern. "You alright there?" That voice of his rumbles like a purring big cat, gentle and soft… yet easily heard.

With a glance over his shoulder and around him cautiously, Ryans reaches up to tug off his old fedora, trying to keep the threat level down as he move to crouch a reasonable distance. "Something happen?" is asked gently as he shifts his attention back to her.

Not all people who view tears are in such a position to assist. From afar, up on the second story of a nearby building, a pair of lenses zoom in on the scene. It's a camera, not an offical pair of binoculars, digital in nature, set up to watch and record the red haired girl as she moved along. Kincaid August had been following her whenever he could, with far too many lapses in his survelience than he might have ever deemed safe. A few hours every day in person… even that seemed like far too few.

Lifting his dark eyes away from the digital screen on the camera, he looks up through the glass of the window and his jaw tightens. Of all the people who could stumble upon her right now. Reflexively, his eyes shift to another set of tools he brought with him, one in particular he hopes not to need, before he leans to grab the pair of binoculars.

The camera is set down on the window seal at an angle. It won't get a clean shot, distorted by the angle and the , but it will continue to record. There are some faces he wouldn't think safe to show on the Advocate anyway— even blacked out for anonymity. No longer using the camera, he begins to cast a look around, checking the area.

When she turns up her face, the girl turns out to be more of a young woman, but trying very hard to make herself very small in her thin coat— a compulsion that does the opposite of 'go away' when Ryans shows up, even if Ryan is trying to copy her remarkable armadillo routine. She stares up out of big green eyes, and at this proximity, it's obvious that her native hair color isn't quite as bright as the cheap ketsup-brilliant dye that's stained into the locks hanging bedraggled down her cheeks, though still red, a natural shade that is not unlike Delia's. The first thing she does is cover up her sandwich.

"Go 'way!" she cries out, swelling like a cat giving warning. She can't have been on the street very long if she's giving warning, but there are round white fingers going into the cuff of her coat, and Benjamin Ryans knows: she's carrying a blade. She doesn't draw it out.

There's a flicker of noise behind him, precisely then, the shift of a shadow through the mottled texture of the one cast down by the tree. He couldn't put into words how he knows. It isn't in the granulation of snow crystals or the acoustic suppression of rubber-sole, not even anything particularly exceptional about the tinny click that goes with it, or how it was timed, an impression of movement and mass so minimalistically spare it's comparable to a stick-figure rendering of the cubism that pops into his head. There's a man standing just around the vast girth of the tree. And he's about to throw a grenade.

Past the giant fucking tre, snowy street and pedestrians fill Kincaid's binocular lenses, fuzzing in focus, and out. A woman drags a ludicrously outfitted purse dog along the zebra crossing on a pink leash, almost body-checks with a ponderous Korean woman who lets loose a flight of articulate yet incomprehensible curses; neither strikes, but they aren't the ones the boy knows to watch anyway. It's the squat off-white vehicle beside them, half a block down from the cedar tree, its windows too chemically opaque to truly pass for the nondescript plumber's van, the blue of the frame edging the license plate too bright and new for the rest of its wind-chapped surface. It stopped there ten minutes ago, and didn't even turn off its engine, but not a soul has gotten out.

At least, not until the women got into it right there, blocking the van's view of the deli and the girl, in much the same way that the cedar tree blocks Kincaid's view of Ryans.

Precisely then, the white door slaps open with what looks like enough noise to make the women and the dog, all, look up. A tall, rangy man steps out, fury on his face and swelling the breadth of his shoulders, despite that his manner seems to be strangled with restraint, his low enough that none of the passing pedestrians even look up.

Certain sounds are distinct and bring an internal flinching of instincts learned from a life time of war and risk. He doesn't react like I war vet, with ducking and trying to get away from the source. Instead, it brings a snap of Benjamin's head around to the kid holding the grenade and a recognition of danger. The old man's whole form goes ridged, like a big cat tensing for a fight.

There is only a few moments to move.

Twisting on the balls of his feet, Ryans turns towards the grenade wielder and in a surge of adrenaline driven. A shoulder twisted towards the youth, intend on body checking him and driving him to the ground. Even as he does, he shouts, "Run!" That intended for the defensive young woman.

Of the many things that Kincaid feels comfortable grabbing hold of, the one thing he reaches for is the one he leasted wanted a reason to hold. Shoving it away into the inside pocket of his coat, he moves away from the window, leaving the camera, the binoculars, and all other objects that he doesn't need. From his vantage point, he can't see a lot of what's going on below. A woman in the way of the van, the tree in the way of a man he briefly saw moments before, it wasn't until he saw a shoulder, a hint of hair flying, that he knew for sure he had to move.

If that brief flash was missunderstood, then he's wrong, and no harm can be done by taking the door out of the second story and jumping down stairs three at a time. Times like this, he a single glance is wrong, that it's paranoia and not something amiss.

Sadly experience has often proved otherwise.

Kincaid almost slips. His step streaks water across somebody's WELCOME :) doormat and a booming voice through a barred door tells you fucking kids to quit horsin' around out there, and he overturns an empty shoe rack before a residence that smells faintly of barbecue. He hits the next landing down so hard he feels the old concrete underneath him quiver, but then he's off like a tear, and then the street opens out in front of him bright-ice-white and cold as a dead wind, the glare refracting off the clumped gutters nearly dazzles him. Despite that, he has very little difficulty guessing who that short-legged silhouette is, racing past, away from the doorway of the apartment.

Of course Benjamin Ryans told her to run.

Clunk-a-bink, the canister falls right out of the man's hand but topples harmlessly to the snow instead. It isn't a frag. It almost looks like a flashbang, but it takes considerably less than a combatant of Ryans' experience to guess that his opponent, now swinging an elbow toward the back of his neck, knows what he's doing. And wouldn't have his eyes open if it were a flashbang. It's almost gratifying, when the pressurized canister pops open, abruptly hisses mustard-colored vapor out, swamping both their struggling legs in cloudy opacity, before the cloud abruptly swallows up both their eyes and heads whole. On the downside, he suddenly can barely see jack shit. On the upside, the struggling shove-and-grab of arms dragging past his chest is obviously going for the firearm that Ryans' knee has pinned under his arm.

And nobody, not even Ryans, wears kevlar to his wife's grave.

(A dozen yards above, a camera's small black eye reflects the cloud's dispersion in miniature, a yellow dot swelling in a neutral backdrop of grays.)

A bullet zips by Kincaid, feels nearer than it really is. Shatters through the windshield of the sedan to his left, and he realizes the van's screeching back into movement, bearing down toward him, toward Lin, who's running like a rabbit. The rangy man is hanging out of it like a fucking lunatic from some ridiculous antique action film, taking shots at her without a real prayer of hitting, they're swerving like crazy. "GET HER!" there's a roar, livid with hate, almost drowned out by the screech of vehicle. "GET THE MUTANT BITCH! SOMEBODY FUCKING STOP HER YOU FUCKING WHITEBREAD RETARDS—!"

What could possibly possess Humanis First! to seek assistance from the pedestrians of quasi-'burban America when it's a girl skittering away on-foot leaves a great deal to the imagination. A hail of fully-automatic fire rakes a roostertail of snow out of the street a dozen yards past Kincaid, slapping his jacket with frigid chunky white and a surreal thrill of adrenaline, but the ruptured snowdrift doesn't simply fall again. Instead, the particles slough gently, slowly Earthward, before sliding incomprehensibly to follow Belinda.

The old man knows that yellow mist as it envelops them. Ben's nose scrunches a bit, but he doesn't feel any panic over it, focusing on grappling with the younger person. He isn't evolved, so it's not an issue. Eyes squint in the haze, hand coming up to smack hard against the flesh of that incoming elbow. It almost succeeds on throwing him off, but he is a larger man.

Grappling in a yellow world, fingers of one hand grip for a neck to curl strong fingers around, while the other seeks to try and throw a hard punch towards the side of the guys head. Serves him right for what he was doing.

It takes everything in Ryans to concentrate on the figure on the ground and not look for the red headed lass, when the gun shots start. He's wholly unaware of Kincaid..

Gunfire slams into snow and makes Kincaid duck back, avoiding the urge to cry out, as he looks around to see the source. The camera above is forgotten— he doesn't even remember the story he'd been hoping to get out of this encounter. Astor had said, maybe he could save the girl.

Biting down on his still sore lip, he pulls the detested item out of his snow splattered coat, making sure it's ready, as he looks in the direction that the red head has fled.

And that's when he sees the particles of snow drifting toward her. A shivering wracks him, as he remembers something else he'd been told, advice he'd not considered could mean anything else.

His right hand rightens around the weapon, as he scrambles along, half ducking behind objects, half trying to run. He doesn't want to be shot, splatterings of snow he can handle, but he needs to get closer to her.

Thrashing. Hands rake Ryan's forearms, find no purchase on the thick fabric of his coat. Whoever this kid was, someone had trained him. There's no stacking a little of that against as much experience as a former Company agent is wont to have amassed under his belt, though. The sucking moist noise of strangling-to-unconsciousness, bleeds through the whirling mess of yellow gas, but there's a twitching shove against his arms, the last efforts to win this— before the man abruptly dwindles into unconsciousness, flops with a reassuring fishlike inertia out into billowing tendrils of yellow smoke. A job well-accomplished.

Still a formidable racket going on in the world outside the cedar tree, though. Louder by the second.

Kincaid has the best view out of all of them, of the girl who seems to be slogging through molasses now instead of running over snow, not that there seems to be anything wrong with the medium through which she's moving. It's just air. Street. People screaming. Yet it's Lin herself who seems to be lagging through time, the shape of her beginning to flicker, erratically, white light and black light and a screaming electric-blue, shades of it passing over her frame, or not— over her frame— but inside it? Instead of warping inside the shape implied by her skin like the incandescence of a glass bulb, however, it's more like a girl-shaped window into some impossible not-space. One instant, that vivid blue-black-flickering void; the next, pale skin and a threadbare coat again, every running step she takes slowing down in time.

Snow sucking toward her, mostly. Vanishing when she's warped into haloed blackness, spattering against her skin when she's herself again. Staccato-strobe flash in-out-in-out. Kincaid can't see her face, but it's expressive, the way she flings out her arms, and the slow-motion roll of her voice. Sta—

aa ay awa

The shopfront window that held her undulating reflection shatters very suddenly. Whole one instant, a million triangles of razor-edged glass the next. Fortunate or not, the fragments slice toward her when she's void rather than flesh, vanish, then she stops with a stagger as a naked tree comes splintering down, snapping slowly at the brittle waist, and there's a man trying to crawl away from her already, screaming, one hand broken. The van starts to stop a dozen yards behind Kincaid but slides, swerving wildly, threatening to mow the boy down off his own bloody snowboots.

He can't contain the rush of a sigh as the person under him goes limp, Ryans own grip relaxing. He never really cusses, unless overly stressed or extremely pissed. This is one of those times he feels justified. "Fucking kids," he grouses softly, doing a search of the body, fishing out the guys weapon. Tucking it into a pocket for later.

Waste not want not.

He even plucks away the wallet if he can, a little revenge. No ID. Boy can walk.

Then he pushes off the down man and rolls to his feet, backing out of the yellow fog with a wave of his hands. He turns at the sounds finally, only to see a familiar figure standing in the road… more importantly the van coming at Kincaid.

Instinct takes over, feet move of their own accord, adrenaline still thick in his veins, Ryans starts forward with a flair of brown duster. "'Caid!" Name shorted for the need to rush the shout to get his attention. "Behind you!" He'll never get there in time, but damn, if the old man won't try.

Sometimes, one wishes to be a good shot— other times, someone wishes for luck to avoid a potentially fatal collision with a van. And finally, some wish for both. In this case, Kincaid has to hope for both, but can do little to have both.

The eyes remain on the girl, despite the warning that something is coming at him from behind. To dive out of the way would sacrifice something he needs far more than his own personal safety. A steady, good aim. A bad aim, if the shot strays too far to the left, or too far to the right… then he's not sure he'd want to worry about whatever is baring down on him from behind.

There's a look of apology in his dark eyes, for the moment that seems so much longer. A second that seems to slow down. It doesn't really, but adrenaline can make it seem to, the triggers of nerves can become faulty. Some would say that things slow down in the snow naturally— even as the very air distorts.

The bullet that flies from the barrel of the gun has a carefully chosen aim, chosen at in sacrifice to movement. Upper body, but trying to shoot clean. The hand needed to stay steady— no matter what.


The bullet slams home, a tidy black hole in the back of Lin's powder-blue coat. For an instant, the shock of impact seems enough to halt the dangerous flicker of her ability fighting to activate itself. The next, her hair catches light, fluorescent white, and the man dragging toward her vanishes in a hiccup of blood vapor that lands on lurid hair, the next instant. She starts to topple, and even Ryans can see it from the distance, her tiny shape crumbling like a clay figurine popping in the oven.

The van hits Kincaid like a rugby tackle, but nothing worse. Jostles him forward, in time to feel a warm cloud of air hit him from behind, a big arm across his shoulders. "Holy shit," the operative is crowing. "For a man who can't hit the broadside of a fucking barn with the gas, you're sure—"

The sky winks then. Alarm rises inside the van. A shout addressed directly to Kincaid and his companion, to go with the snub nose of an AK lurching out to jab the other young man in the leg. Get in! Probation's over, Echo's in too, he's in! GET. IN. The van's already squealing backward before the second, older man hanging out of the van is finished talking, but he reaches out, offering Kincaid a big-gloved hand. The youth who'd been hitting him in the back is falling back already, throwing himself back into his still-warm seat, and the light from the sky is shimmering on downward, faint, like a pane of glass, sleeking swifter than gravity could draw it.

Ryans hears it more than he sees it, when the circle closes, shutting him in with his loot, a van load of Humanis First!, and Kincaid's figure moving in to join them. And it isn't even sound so much as the unnatural, for a split-instant, the eerie exorcism of the December wind and the chaos of Lin's out-of-control ability suddenly muted. It lasts less than the time it takes to blink.

And then there's a subsonic moan that goes right through the air. A ripple of distortion through the strange glass, syrupy circles dispersing concentric ripples from her prone shape, as if the pane is bending outward, toward her. Even as the fallen girl bleeds, she's still flashing black-white light, bending the metal of a traffic light toward her and opening seams in the tarmac below. Yet the noise of it remains bizarrely muffled by the barrier, to Ryans, Kincaid, everyone within— and the cracks forming thinly in the street snake to a stop when they touch it.

The next instant, what's outside the dome, while impressive, seems somewhat less the immediate problem. Within, pandemonium breaks out: a car falling in cleanly bifurcated two, a scream erupting from a man subtracted an arm, and the perforated street begins to reek richly of gasoline. Dust vaults up.

Something like surprise has Ryans slowing, feet giving little mincing steps til he comes to a startled stop. Fiirst as Kincaid is pulled into the van, next at the world in general as it changes. "What…" Neutrality gives way to the shock as so much happens at once.

Hawkishly observant gaze catches this and that… the moment seems slowed as if time stands still. Truth is, it's not… and he's brought back to himself abruptly. Gaze snapping back to Kincaid, but he's being pulled into a van.

"Son of a…" snarls out.

There isn't a thing Ryans can do for the boy. Yet. A glance goes over his shoulder to the prone form, eyes narrow dangerous, like a predator sighting it's prey.

With another worried glance to the van taking off with Kincaid, Ryans moves to the body laying on the ground. He steps past it to the fedora left laying on the ground in the dirt. Brushing it off he takes his time getting back to the body. After fitting the hat back into it's place, he takes a hold of the kid and pulls him onto a broad shoulder, he's not gentle about it either. "You and I kid are going have a little chat," Ben growls settling his burden.

At first, Kincaid may not be sure where he's being pulled, or what happened. In fact, he can feel the warm blood contrasting with the cold of the ice, and the pain of the impact. And most importantly he sees the small hole he created in the girl's upper body. With the van moving, he finally tries to look around, tries to see something out a window.

But the pain, and the arms on him, keep him from getting too far. Arms not of a hostage taker— arms of…

When he said he wanted a story, this was not what he intended. Even the explosions in the background, and the chaos seems dull in comparison to the realization of where he is, who he's with…

The smoking gun slips out of his hand and lands with a clank on the van. His voice is hollow from the shock of what just happened, masking the source of his emotional turmoil.

"Is she dead?"

"Who knows?"

"Hope so," there's a hysterical edge of laughter to that one.



"You want to become the next Midtown statistic?"

Four men in the van with Kincaid and their voices define the agendas of thousands across the United States of America. It smells of gunmetal composite and aftershave and sweat in here, the muggy warmth of paramilitary men accustomed to living each other and high on adrenaline. They don't seem to notice the older man standing beatifically by the roadside under the cedar tree, watching him obliquely through the darkened glass as they sweep by.

In the back window and rearview, a symmetry of chaos erupts. People spilling into the street, climbing out of cars. Fire licking into a car lopped in two, shouts to put it out, shouts to run, the woman holding a hand over her pursedog's nose as the reek of gas sends her gait across the snow in a loopy stagger. The rising pall of dust shreds but clings to the inside of the dome, like rainwater streaking runnily except in aerosol and reverse. Overhead, the sky's still the same color, but that is a lie.

The first of many that will have to be told.

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