Scene Title Toxicity
Synopsis Remanded to state care, Anna finds herself spirited away by her very own Peter Pan…
Date November 28, 2010


For ward of the New York State Child Protective Services, the holidays are always difficult.

For Anna James, it has become abundantly clear the last two days just how hard it is. An emergency shelter is an uncomfortable and impersonal place, especially in the post-bomb climate of New York City. While the term 'bomb orphans' has faded some in the last few years, the influx of homeless children left abandoned by the loss of their parents in the destruction of Midtown hasn't been forgotten. It took four years for Anna James to finally wind up at the bottom of the barrel, the communal shelters of children with no prospective foster families, children with no homes, no hopes, and — in their eyes — no futures.

There is no privacy here, in the too-white sterile walls, boarding-room style living spaces of gender-segregated sleeping quarters with folding cots arranged side-by-side to one another. Scheduled meals, schedules sleeping time, constant oppressive attention of psychiatric counselors, abuse counselors, and the sound of children crying themselves to sleep at night.

This year it isn't the bomb that has left children without homes and families, it was the riots. Too many to count, spread out over the city and across the state. This one shelter, in the heart of lower Manhattan, is just one of dozens of facilities like this across the city, bursting at the seams with the lost children.

Sunday evening means dinner will be coming soon, cafeteria-style meals that evoke memories of grade school lunch lines with all the awkward shuffling and disappointment in the offering. It's under flickering fluorescent lights and on scuffed, tile floors that Anna is spending her evening. The sun is setting outside, past barred windows overlooking cold Manhattan streets. Inside the confines of an emergency shelter, seated at the end of a long cafeteria table with a tray of pre-sliced, microwaved turkey and canned gravy, instant mashed potatos and bagged milk Anna is left with the mental juxtaposition of the abuse she has left behind, and the finality of child protective services ahead of her.

Anna isn't even hungry, so the teen leaves the food alone, instead watching out of the window. She's bored, tired, but not hungry. There's not much else to do at this moment than lament, and so the teen sighs, and yawns, and thinks. She thinks about how her life could have gone differently. About what to do next, and what not to do. What options she truly has gotten left, and all that sort of stuff.

There aren't many, not ones that are in Anna's control. Worse yet is the ugly situation of her family life with her foster parents, one that isn't just going to go away overnight. She knows that further examination and questioning is coming, a criminal investigation, and while her contact with her former foster family won't be rekindled, there is still that lingering worry in her heart. Maybe they won't be able to prove it, maybe she'll wind up back with her foster parents.

What would they do to her then?

No amount of vacant staring into a swirl og gravy and mashed potatos divines Anna the answer to that worry. Nor does the tapping she's been hearing for the last few minutes amount to any sort of rhythm to think by. It's the patter of something rattling on glass, gone unnoticed by the handful of overtaxed social workers keeping an eye on the children in the cafeteria.

A window some fifteen feet from the end of Anna's table views out front of the shelter. There, the silhouette of a young man is barely visible with the glare of the setting sun on the glass. His knuckles rap on the surface again, trying to get Anna's attention without drawing the attention of the caretakers.

One hand beckons between each rap on the window, Peter Pan beckoning Wendy on a day out with the Lost Boys. There's no way Anna could slip out the front door, through the lobby and past security on her own. The only place she could get would be out of the cafeteria and to the hall with the bathrooms, and then out into the fenced off basketball court if she's sneaky enough.

Rap, rap, rap go the knuckles again, and the dark-haired young man jerks his head to the side once he's sure Anna's seen him once, then drops down from the window and out of sight.

Sure beats staring into mashed potatos.

After considering it for a moment, and then another, and the girl gets up, following that only path she knows out. Slipping off her shoes to be silent - but taking them with her for when she's outside - the teen heads on her way to the basketball court, as sneaky as she can manage to be… and she hopes she won't get caught on the way, she really does.

"Anna," not even five steps out of the cafeteria, and already she's been busted. "Anna, you haven't finished your dinner yet, where are you going?" Gloria Evans is a generally kind — if not overstressed — woman, that much Anna has come to recognize in her two days here. Somewhere in her mid to late 40s, she tries to be a mother to the children here all on her own. Age creases her face too deeply, a smoker's countenance patched up with concealer and mascara as best as she can manage.

The clap of her flats across the tiled floor punctuates each footstep as she weaves around one table, following the spying eyes of other younger children watching Anna leaving. Seeing the shoes hanging from Anna's hands, Gloria furrows her brows and offers a look of consternation at the young teen.

"Where were you going, Anna?" Now may not be time for the truth.

Well, that's not going as planned, no sir. "I was going to the loo, ma'am." Anna tries, glancing to the indicated hallway, "Is that a problem?" She doesn't even try to hide the shoes… merely pretending they're not actually there by ignoring them as much as she can. "I'm sorry, I'm not all that familiar with all the rules here yet."

Gloria's eyes flick from Anna to the doorway and then back again, then finally she just nods repeatedly and folds her arms across her chest. "Hurry back," is a patiently offered agreement as she steps away, looking to the other children watching Anna. She lightly taps the closest one on the shoulder where he sits, waving her hand around near him in a shooing motion. "Focus on your dinner, c'mon nothing's going on here…"

As Gloria turns away from Anna, with her focus on the children still eating, the hallway beyond the cafeteria is a wide-open avenue of relative escape, even if only trading one indoor cage for a chillier outdoor one.

And on Anna goes, putting her shoes back on before she leaves the indoor cage for the outdoor one. It's cold, and she doesn't wear anything beyond her indoor clothes, which makes 'hurry back' a rather attractive seeming option. Once outside, however, she glances around to see whether the cause of this silly going outside thing happens to have had the same idea for a meeting place.

The basketball court is decidedly sparse, set into a courtyard between three separate brick-walled facilities with a single alleyway outlet beyond the ten foot high chain link fence. Four hoops installed decades ago show years of wear and tear, none of which have nets for their hoops any longer.

Dried leaves blow across the cracked pavement, rustling as they tumble and skitter on the freezing cold wind. Dark shadows of rooftops cut a jagged long across adjacent buildings, bright orange sunlight burning too cool to matter above them as the sun traces its lazy path down below the horizon.

As the door to the hallway shuts on its automatic hinge behind Anna, the Peter Pan to her Wendy comes stepping out into frame of the alleyway's mouth. Hands tucked into his pockets, head down and shoulders hunched forward the young man makes slow progress towards the fence dividing the basketball courtyard from the outside world.

Dark shadows move in the windows looking out to the court, suggesting that either a nosy youth or likewise curious caretaker could see Anna out there any moment. "You're a fucking pain in the ass to track down," distracts her from that notion, however. Stepping out of the shadows of the alleyway, the young man looks older than Anna, though not by much. Dark hair and middling gray-green eyes give him a distinctly unfamiliar appearance. His hair is shaggy and disheveled, wind tossed. He's in his late teens, maybe very early twenties on the outside. Swinging a backpack off of his shoulder, he sets it down on the ground and beckons Anna over.

"C'mon, I ain't got all day." Gloved hands slide out of the pockets of his leather jacket, unzippering the top of the backpack. It's as if he's expecting her to be expecting him.

"Whatever." Anna responds, and heads over to the boy. She looks around carefully, hoping the shadows are just that… shadows. The teen looks him in the eye and forces a smile, "So, how can I help you?" She asks, "I assume there's a particular reason for this visit, no…?"

A curious look is flicked up to Anna as her unexpected guest withdraws a pair of tin snips from insode the backpack, scans the windows, and then begins cutting through the links of the fence, squeezing hard with both hands on the grips of the clippers. "You've got a funny way of talking," he admits with a raise of one brow up on his forehead. "You also got a funny way of being thankful. Where's your holiday spirit, huh?"


The first link is cut through, and as he brings it down to the next, there's a lopsided smile that cuts across his face. "Everybody calls me Becker," he explains, without much insight into who 'everybody' is. "You made some friends, you know? People who know the shit that you said on that talk-show wasn't just blowing hot air. Found out what happened to you, y'know… your folks?"

There's a moment of silence, and Becker squeezes down hard on the clippers, grimacing as he does. "Ain't right for you t'get shuffled around this shit hole. So, I came here t'bust you out. Prison break style." Dark eyebrows waggle, and Becker tries again, squeezing hard before eliciting the sound of freedom from another one of the links.


"Thanks…" Stammers Anna before looking abck up to this 'Becker', "So… what's next?" She asks eagerly, "Where to, … what kind of favor do I owe you?" She smiles more genuinely now, but also a little nervous. "I'm Anna… but somehow I think you already knew this…?" Yeah, it's sort of a question. "Nice to meet you, by the way, Becker."


One ring left, and Becker is fixing those sharp steel blades around the link. "Yeah, I knew. Like I said I saw you on the Advocate giving that shit-head Bradley a run around. When I found out about what you did at the book store I wanted to stand up and applaud you, but that would've looked kinda' dumb." Teeth pressed together, Becker squeezes the handles together tighter, cutting into the metal.

"Don't owe me nothing. Khalid wants to talk to you, he's kinda' my boss. But other than that, we just want t'get you outta' here and with some people who actually give a shit about you, y'know?" Those hazel eyes angle back up to Anna, followed by a crooked smile before one more satisfying…


Excitedly moving the clippers back into his bag, Becker grabs a hold of the chain link fence and tugs the bottom back, parting the metal curtain along where he had cut, making a very narrow opening for Anny to try and squeeze through, probably while lying down. "Nnh, c'mon— ain't got all fucking day."

And the girl starts to squeeze herself through, carefully trying to avoid damaging her clothes too much all the while. "Khalid? Who's that…?" The teen asks once she's on the other side, and redignifies herself by standing upright and everything. "I don't have long until they come investigating, so let's go, shall we?"

"Shall we," Becker echoes sarcastically with a scoff of breath, "yeah sure thing princess." As Anna wriggles her way between the chain-link fence, catching her cluthing in tugging fashion on the cut ends of the links, she manages to get out without damaging the clothing, save for a few little snags here and there. Once she's got her legs out of the fence, Becker slides off his leather jacket.

"Here," it's held out by the collar, "throw this on, otherwise you're gonna freeze your ass off out here." The thick sweatshirt he's wearing beneath won't be nearly as much protection from the chill, but at least in some small part Becker has a sliver of chivalry down there somewhere. "C'mon, we're gonna hit the subway. Do you have your Reg' card on you?"

Zippered up, Becker swings his backpack over one shoulder and starts to push up to stand, eyes focused up on the windows, then back down to Anna. A subtle expression shows that maybe — just maybe — this went easier and smoother than he'd expected.

"Yeah, I do." Anna responds, and she's glad for that thing for once. Just this once the bloody thing might actually prove some use. The teen ignores the snark as she puts on the leather jacket, "Thanks for the jacket, by the way." And the girl looks around as she starts to walk away from the fence, "Which way to the nearest station?"

The jerk of Becker's head to the side indicates the alley wordlessly, and once he's up on his feet he's hustling with sneakered footfalls across the asphalt and into the shadows of the alley's mouth again, keeping slow enough pace to ensure that Anna is following. "So, you in the habit of accepting help from any guy who shows up with a pair of tin snips to your backyard?" There's a crooked smile crossing Becker's lips again as he glances back over his shoulder, then tucks his hands into the pouch at the front of his sweatshirt.

"We got about a block to walk, then we'll hit the subway and take the N train out to the Heights. Khalid's got a place out there we can lay low in, let you kick up your feet and get a real fucking meal…" One more paranoid look over his shoulder, and Becker leads Anna out onto the sidewalk, by busy traffic whipping up and down Grand street, cutting through SoHo.

"Not normally, no. But this weekend hasn't been normal." Anna responds as she follows along, trying to go unnoticed… for a while at least. "And a real meal sounds good, yeah… thanks again." Anna can walk, especially now that she's not as freaking cold. Following Peter Pan… or is it more of a white rabbit leading her down a rabbit hole of trouble..? Only time will telll.

It's not hard to blend in on the streets, and while pedestrian traffic has been diminished by the twin perils of cold weather and martial law there is still enough foot traffic in downtown SoHo to keep up appearances that both Becker and Anna belong here. "Yeah, well… it hasn't been a normal four years for a lot of us." No longer hasty in his pace, Becker has taken to a leisurely strolling speed down the sidewalk, offering an askance look to Anna.

"So, you know… what's your story?" It seems like such a personal question, also contradictory to his assertion of seeming to know who Anna is. "I mean, what put you on the other side of the line. You know, us versus them." The way Becker is talking, it's like he doesn't even consider Anna one of the Evolved.

"You tell first, then… maybe I will." There's a faint smile at that tit-fot-tat exchange offered.

"The Midtown Man killed me pa an' ma." Anna responds to that inquiry, "Changed my life forever, you know?" And that's all she has to say about it, if not pressed. The teen follows along, seemingly glad to be seen as what she wants to be… Non-Evolved. "Your turn now, Becker." She says with a faint grin.

"Dunno if I can compete with that," Becker admits with a roll of his shoulders, looking side-long to Anna. "I grew up in a little shit-hole town in Texas, didn't fit in, didn't get along with anyone…" one of his brows lifts as he looks away, side-stepping a man walking his dog, letting him come between he and Anna ever so briefly before weaving back parallel to her.

"Some shit went down, couple girls got killed… Midtown man did it, 'course I didn't find that out till later. One of the girls there, she moved away after the murder. Went out of her fucking mind too," and that has Becker scowling. "She joined up with those terrorists, the ones that caused the riots. Messiah." Becker glances back over to Anna, then down to his feet as he steps down off of the curb and onto a crosswalk. Up ahead, a subway entrance rises up out of the street, people coming and going from the steps descending below street level.

"I just— got fed up with their shit. Ruining everyone's lives because they can, y'know? Figure… why not put them back where they belong, give 'em a taste of their own fucking medicine sometimes."

"Agreed." Anna responds as she dashes into the subway, grinning faintly. Freedom beckers… or is that beckons? She swipes her registration card through the machine… careful not to show it to Becker. "So, you know which routes to take, I assume… guide the way, then." She suggests as she waits for Becker to do just that.

Taking his sweet time coming down the steps, Becker reaches into his pocket to withdraw his wallet, thumbing through a few cards before pulling out one that he swipes through the reader, eliciting the flash of a green light as he glances up to a surveillance camera watching the rush-hour crowd. "Cops are gonna' be looking for you, and they'll be able to track you by the swipes on your card here," Becker points to the turnstyle, then looks out towards the subway platform beyond, "and where we get off in Brooklyn."

Catching up to Anna and then walking past her, Becker glances over to one of the cops watching the sea of commuters, then back to Anna again. "Won't do them a fuck of good to find you once you get to Brooklyn, though. Just— remember that whenever you swipe that card they can track your movements. I'll see if I can get Khalid to get you another one, but…" Becker offers a slow shrug. "Don't count on it right away."

Looking left and right, Becker holds up one hand. "Hey, wait a sec." Hustling away from Anna, he hurries over to a bench near where the oncoming suvway trains will pass, settling his backpack down. The top is unzipped again, and Becker musses around with something inside, then zips the top shut and offers a crooked smile, leaving the bag in place as he heads for the waiting platform for the oncoming train.

"So, important question time," Becker asks with one brow lifting up inquisitively. "All that shit you've said, on the Advocate and stuff… you really mean it?"

"If I didn't, would I have pulled the stunt at the bookstore?" Anna counters the question, pretty much ignoring the other comments made by Becker, "Or do you think I would pull such a stupid stunt if I didn't mean it…?" A faint grin, "Makes sense what I'm saying, doesn't it?"

"Kids, do stupid shit for stupid reasons," Becker admits with a furrow of his brows, lifting his gloved hands out of the pouch in his sweater, a cell phone held in one hand, closed. "Maybe you just wanted t'smack your folks across the mouth, maybe you were just lashing out. Who the fuck knows, right? But the way I look at it, this is where things become pass or fail for you."

Becker looks down the subway tunnel, hearing the screeching noise of the approaching train, lights shining down the dark tunnel corridor. "You either meant it, and you come with me on this train… or you didn't mean it, and you stay here on this subway platform, and watch me leave."

Shrugging, he doesn't seem terribly comitted to either answer. "Your choice."

"Let's go, together." Anna responds, hoping the boy will consider that enough of an answer… for a brief moment before she says, "I meant it." And then the teen grows silent as she waits for the train to stop and the pair to enter.

As it comes to a slow, screeching halt, Becker offers a crooked smile and a crack of his lips in a grin. "That's what I like to hear." The doors to the subway train slide open, expelling commuters coming from Brooklyn to Manhattan, while Becker closes the distance between himself and Anna, one hand coming to clamp down on her shoulder, then sweep to her elbow as he hastily guides her like a wedge between the flow of pedestrian traffic to rush onto the subway train.

Shouldering past commuters and practically dragging Anna with him, Becker squeezes his way onto the train ahead of the crowd, taking Anna down towards the back of the subway car as he flips open his phone, gloved thumb sliding over some keys without looking. "So," he glances out the window, "we'll get you something to eat and a place to sleep. Khalid won't be back till tomorrow, so you have some time to settle in. Oh and…" Becker looks back, pressing send on his phone and flipping it closed against his thigh.

"Becker's what Khalid and his buddies call me, but between you an' me…" The doors to the subway train slide shut, and as the train screeches back into motion, Becker manages a lopsided smile.

"You can call me Zach."



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