Training Day


chess_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif jibram_icon.gif

Scene Title Training Day
Synopsis Chess brings help to a man sorely in need of it.
Date June 2, 2018

Red Hook

The van under the underpass has seen better days. Rusted and tire-less, any of its useful mechanical parts long since stripped, it’s really just a metal tube that serves as a place to sleep — but it’s more than some people have.

For Jibram, the fact that the doors open and just outside the van, one can see the sky and smell the sea is probably enough.

Now that it’s close to the time Huruma’s scheduled to arrive, Chess knocks on the metal door that rattles the entire metal can.

“You awake? We have company coming. I brought you some clothes and some food, too. We’re in a bit of a food crunch, so it’s not great, but…” but beggars can’t be choosers, goes without saying. Also that he’s been living on bunker food for seven years and probably won’t complain crosses her mind. Peanut butter, crackers, and hard-boiled eggs may be a veritable feast.

The knock is greeted with a surprised noise from inside the van and, a moment later, the door opening. It's clear that Jibram was asleep, but also that he doesn't mind being woken up. Truth is, he stayed up looking out at the water and up at the stars— more stars than he ever remembers seeing in the sky over New York— and probably would still be doing so if he hadn't eventually passed out.

There's a lot of sleep to make up for.

"Yeah," he says, clearing his throat, "I'm awake." Food and clothes are definitely not expected, but he blinks away his surprise. "Thanks. I guess my fashion's a little out of date," he says, a small, but crooked smile coming to his face.

“The funny thing is no one cares anymore,” Chess says with a smirk, regarding clothing choices. “But it’s nice to have something new sometimes.”

The clothes are in fact new — for all that Chess seems to be homeless, she seems to have money to spend on things when she needs it, as she passes over a bag of clothes from one of the stores in the Safe Zone. “There’s a receipt if you need to exchange anything,” she says, as if it’s a given that he’ll be safe to be around other people sooner rather than later.

“Go ahead and change and eat. I’m sure our guest will be here soon,” she says, moving to sit on a nearby car that’s also been abandoned, giving him the time and space to change.

It’s still a short time before there is any indication of a new arrival; when she does ping Chess on her inner radar, Huruma makes a slow but steady way to the pass. Rather than take the long way around to the underneath, she finds a place to crouch on the slope downward and ride down angled on her boots.

The tall woman lands below in a puff of grass and dust, head swiveling to locate the van she is questing for. It’s easy to spot, and thankfully so is the woman sitting out on the other abandoned vehicle. Huruma doesn’t approach too close, recalling her reason for being here, but she does lift her hand in a gesture of hello.

"Thanks, I'll… figure out some way to pay you back." Probably for more than just the clothes. Jibram closes himself back into the van, just long enough to get into the new clothes. Apparently, they fit well enough for him, because he comes out a few moments later. Hands slide through his hair, but do little to help how unruly it is.

He starts toward Chess, but pauses when he sees Huruma coming their way.

"She's your friend, right?" he says, as if he doesn't want to have to deal with the alternative. But it's a joke. Mostly. When he steps back, it's not out of fear of her, but worry about what he might do to her. To cover, he moves to sit on the car near Chess, like that was the plan all along.

Chess lifts a hand when she sees Huruma. Once the empath gets close enough, she’ll feel that bit of something like pride that Jibram is still here, that her instincts seem to be right.

“She’s a friend of friends,” she says quietly to the young man when he sits down next to her. “I only met her yesterday but I trust the people that trust her, you know? And she fought in the war. Like I did. I think she knows what it’s like to be judged for how dangerous her ability is, so I think she’ll get it. Get you.

Chess glances to Huruma, then back to Jibram. “I’m not sure how much you will affect her. I’m kinda here to make sure it goes okay… okay? So if I have to…” She shrugs. “I’ll try just to knock you out or drag you away and not hurt you, all right? I don’t want to hurt you. Neither does she.”

Looking back to Huruma, Chess calls out, “Hey there. Huruma, Jibram, Jibram, Huruma. We’re all one-name cool, like Cher or Bono or Prince, or something.” Or something.

Huruma slows her steps as she comes into that rough range that Chess had estimated for her. Her clothes speak of a similarity to Chess, black and boots and a dash of red and purple. Her ability reaches far ahead for her, whisking over the pride from the other woman and seeking out tentative readings of Jibram.

“Hello.” Huruma’s reaction to one-name cool is a small huff behind a half-smile, amused but at the same time a little perplexed. “It is not really like that, but alright…” Her voice drawls slightly towards the last, the low pitch a bit cloying on the ear. White irises flicker after Jibram, studious. “I hear that you have a problem or two.”

"Okay," Jibram says to Chess. He's here and trusts Chess— at least far enough that he doesn't think she's brought him out here and given him a bed and food and clothes just to yank the rug out from under him. "If I do hurt her, you do what you gotta." Because he doesn't want to hurt anyone either. Huruma can feel that as she gets closer. Among other things. Self-loathing. Fear. Stress. He's unbalanced, from being in a new place around new people, but also that seems to be a familiar feeling, like it's been around longer than just the last couple days.

"Spider-Man," Jibram offers, very helpfully, to the list of cool people with one name only. But it's a weak joke, and his expression slips back into something more serious as Huruma addresses him. "Uh. Yeah. Chess thinks you might be able to help." He looks over to her, as if making sure he's doing it right before he looks back to Huruma. "It's my ability. I can't— stop it."

“Thanks for coming,” Chess says, and when Jibram answers, then looks to her, she nods, in an encouraging way, but she stays quiet, glancing back to Huruma. She sits, seemingly relaxed and trusting that this will all go well, but there’s a very subtle tension in the muscles, ready and poised to jump into action if she needs to, to pull Jibram out of range if Huruma suddenly acts like Eve and Luther had the other day.

“I’m here,” she says quietly, for Jibram’s ears only. “Just watching. You’ll be fine.”

“Chess told me that you cause people to see things?” With the woman sitting aside, Huruma turns her undivided attention to Jibram. “Perhaps you can give me some insight into that before we begin…” In an effort to bridge the first gap between them, Huruma offers some of her own.

“In a show of faith I want you to know what I do.” Her chin tips up, the lines of her cheekbones stark. “I am an empath. It means that I can study and control the scope of human emotion. Sometimes it is not pretty, but then other times-” Huruma smiles now, slim but present on her expression. “-it changes lives.”

Jibram looks at Chess, her words getting a nod. A grateful one. But he turns his attention to Huruma, eyebrows lifting when she explains her ability. He feels, for a moment, embarrassed. But once it occurs to him that she can tell that he feels that way, he tries not to. Which is far more difficult than hiding his emotions from his face.

In the end, he gives up.

"I see their memories. And they see them, too. Horrible memories. They just replay until they can get away. Or I can." His hand runs over his face, because those memories linger. And so do his own horrible memories.

The realization of what they saw — and how they reacted — makes Chess’ dark eyes widen a little. To see her friends that scared — of course, she knows what her own worst memory would be, if he could see that. How she would react.

Her eyes fill with tears and no doubt Huruma will feel the swell of sympathy in the younger woman, but she looks down, examining her manicure (or lack thereof) so Jibram won’t see those tears. They don’t fall but are blinked away as Chess chips off a bit of dark blue nail polish from one thumbnail. She doesn’t speak, letting Huruma hold her class with her solo student.

For his comfort, Huruma does not bring up his flustering; it’ll just be between them. She considers his words in relative quiet, for now remaining a pace out of range.

“And this is regardless of your intent, yes? It just stays around you, like a cloud?” Huruma seeks clarification out of the search for knowledge. “What do you feel, when someone moves into it? Physically…mentally? Are you overstimulated, or do you experience a sort of… tunnel vision?”

“I would also like to experience it for myself, if you are amenable.” All the better to know him with, but: “Though I will hazard you, if you do see them too…” Huruma’s voice stays on the low end, eyes hooded as she watches him. “You may not like what you see, but know that now I am no longer the woman that I was. As I expect you are no longer the boy you once were.”

"Pretty much. I guess it's always there, waiting for someone to wander in. I have Chess' static right now." A comfort, her mind. He doesn't know why, but he's not going to question it. The question of what he experiences is a difficult one. Jibram falls silent for a long moment. "I feel like a different person. Or several different people. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a different place. They're not my memories, but they are. Now they are. I have to find a way to remind myself that I'm me, then I can try to leave, but before that I feel… Stuck."

He visibly tenses when she mentions wanting to try it. "It isn't going to be good," he says, as if she needs the warning, "but if you want to. If it'll help." He looks over at Chess, a frown deepening on his face. She'll need to be ready, just in case.

“Jesus,” Chess softly intones, that sympathy swelling in her once again.

When he looks her way, she nods. “Knowing it’s going to happen probably helps a little,” she says, getting up and indicating he should too — it’ll be easier to pull him out of range if they’re both standing.

Of course, he doesn’t really want to be in range, either — which means she might not have to strong arm anyone.

“If I say move back, move back, yeah?” she tells him. “Or if she does.”

Her eyes move back to Huruma, her expression apologetic for what she’s asking the other woman to endure, for the sake of helping this stranger. “Thank you again,” she says. “My ability’s physical — I can’t even wrap my head around this mental stuff.”

Dissociation on a large scale, enveloping himself in the illusion of memories. Letting it swallow him, sticking like hot tar. Huruma listens closely to his description, sensing the tension when he addresses her desire to see it. “I am quite used to ‘nothing good’, I assure you. I do think that it will help me in understanding how this makes you suffer.”

The way Chess feels on the inside contrasts some with the visible presentation; Huruma watches her as she speaks, nodding just once in return. “I had the feeling that you weren’t well-versed, askari. It is nothing to feel shame over. I am willing to do this.” She has seen the worst of broken people like Jibram. The most that she can do is search her mind and bring forth some buried memories, hoping that his ability hooks one of them. In a sense, she hopes to control it.

After a suitable pause to allow the two of them to be readied, Huruma takes a proud stride forward into the abyss.

The world is white, snow passing in cyclones and the sky full of mountains, lurking in clouds. The ice doesn’t sting, but the wind does.

A shriek pierces the air, inhuman.

Huruma braces for an impact that Jibram sees coming, the tall figure who came to help him clad in black matte armor. There is a shrill moment of panic, and a machine lurches overhead and sails to her; a great cat, without a face, built of chrome and steel and slavering yellow gas. It pins her, and she fights back- a fist connects with its head and crunches metal. The woman’s fight or flight is fight, and she fears it in a cold, animal sweat.

Her fear and pain flicker. Her eyes look past the machine at her chest. They swivel onto Jibram through the memory. The scene jolts to a stop, hard and fast.

The wind is gone, replaced by the stink of ruined explosives and broken metal.

The gunshot is pain and fire and the pressure of armor fruitlessly trying to block the force.

A man’s rumbling voice shouts something she doesn’t understand, followed by another shot virtually in her ear. Huruma feels the split of tissue and the seep of red blood, and it courses terror through her as the cold, white sky far above blackens with a massive spiral- and so does her vision. An illusion not unlike a red sun burns down at her, pulling her in and rattling a fever dream from above.

You are going to die here.

You will not be mourned.

Jibram gets up, moving to a more open space than on or near a car. It's clear to both of them that he's not thrilled with this, but he wants the help. And it can't be worse than what he has already done, not with a spotter there and space to run. He nods to Chess' words, "If I can." Move, that is.

He tenses when Huruma steps forward. Chess can see how his eyes white over once she triggers his ability.
Huruma's memory slams into Jibram's mind and into her own. It feels real to her, like it's happening right now, instead of years ago. She knows, intellectually, that it's a memory— a distant one— but that part of her is buried under the freshness of it all.

Jibram, too, feels it this way. She can feel his own lance of fear at the sight of the bot, his panic when they're pinned, the way his own flight-or-fight response triggers neither. Instead, he freezes in place like a terrified rabbit hoping to be overlooked.

When the memory shifts, he whimpers at the pain and Chess can see him shaking while he stares straight ahead at nothing. It's all he can do to stay still, while in his mind there is pain and blood and images he can barely decipher.

A single tear slides down his cheek.

Those words ring true in and out of the memory. Huruma can feel a profound loneliness he knows was his own making, and that sense that he deserves it.

“It’s a lot to ask, to willingly see what you’re afraid of,” is all Chess murmurs back when Huruma addresses her. She holds no weapons, but keeps her hands free, ready to grab, drag, or do whatever she has to, if things slide sideways. Once Huruma steps forward, her dark eyes angle over to Jibram, watching him and poised to move if she needs to.

At the whimper, the trembling, she bites her lower lip, willing herself to stand it long enough for Huruma to gather what she needs — but her own desire to help would probably feel as loud to Huruma — if Huruma wasn’t dealing with her own demons in the form of memories — as her own heartbeat sounds in her chest: deafening.

She reaches out to take Jibram’s hand, unsure if he can sense anything outside of whatever shared hell Huruma and he suffer together in this moment.

It begins to feel as if the eye of God is bearing down, and then a shock of adrenaline as the world turns upside right again, the gaze snapping out of the sky to be replaced by what can only be described as a black hole.

Huruma, on the outside, strains against whatever is in her head; but she stands her ground, teeth bared in a snarl, pupils pinpricks of black and beads at her brow. He’s powerful.

If you ask her, not powerful enough. Her senses pierce through veils of memory to find Jibram’s mind, reaching arms lancing through him and hooking in. The layers tug with her effort to shift them away from the fear of the end of the world. Away from the shared despairs of being worthless sinners.

They do, after a practiced psionic pressure to remember something else.

Flashes of that black spiral move overhead. The inside of a helicopter, still pain. The lights blacking out and sound muffling. People over her, one of them with fingers under her skin tying it back together.

Maybe she will still die.

The next memory jolts hard again, and this time it’s unclear as to where she is. There is blood covering the floor, pooling around bullet casings. The copper taste in her mouth is not her own. Living fellow soldiers and injured ones are behind, enemies ahead, her body already battered when she lurches forward into a strike.

A knife splits the meat of an arm, teeth against skin, nails digging in for purchase. Desperation, fear for herself, for the people behind her.

But that lurch in memory moves into life, as well; Huruma moves too, hands find Jibram in a sweep of fingers, her lancets in his head vibrating against his sorrow. He’ll feel the cold first, as she yanks on it and sends a chill of fear down his spine. The next sensation is still cooler on his head and mind, an encompassing calm that presses down on him like dead weight, unwilling to move.

Quiet your head and you will quiet mine.” Huruma’s voice is practically in his ear.

Whether or not he can sense anything, when Chess takes his hand, Jibram grips onto her. He mentioned it before. He needs something to remind him that he's here, that he's him.

Her hand does it.

For a moment, he sees the memory as observer, instead of participant, a flicker of sympathy eclipsing the pain and fear in him.

And when Huruma's fingers find him, her power sending him through his own sorrow, his own fear, she finds him easy to push from one mood to the next until he feels that calm settle over him.

He nods to her words, but his hold on Chess tightens. It takes time, unwinding himself from her mind, easing his own heartbeat, but the press of her memory ebbs. Not gone, but fallen beneath still water instead of battering the shore.

Jibram opens his eyes, irises fading back into view.

When Huruma moves forward, Chess stiffens, ready to move to keep Jibram out of danger, but she trusts Huruma to keep a rein on herself — mostly. Her eyes widen as she prepares to pull the young man out of the way, her free hand coming up to push if she needs to.

There’s a flash of fear beneath that stronger drive to protect. She keeps her eyes on the teacher, though she seems to sense when Jibram comes back into himself, and her eyes slide sideways.

That fear shifts to relief, warmth instead of the cold of fear, and she squeezes his hand, before looking back to Huruma, brows lifting in a silent query — is she okay?

Huruma’s hands press against the flat plane of Jibram’s sternum as she drives his mind to tameness. She pushes the memories at the front of her mind back, skimming more recent ones, brighter ones, waiting as the young man seeks to pull his mind from hers like a leech. There is a push back from something in her head, and the barrier to mental attacks she has developed snaps at his ability like a rubber band. If the calm does not completely do it, she hopes this will.

The memory flickers and wavers like a skipping film reel, bodies and movement layering opaque over one another in a blur. It seeps away, bleeding color into a colorless aura at the corners of Huruma’s vision. Sound and sight warble under the waters of Jibram’s intrusive mind.

She is able to look at him now— the real him. Dark hands weigh against him, and the pale eyes in that ebony face peer back when he opens his eyes. Hello. Her voice comes back low, a drawl tinged with sweetness.

“Look at me.” Fear dissipates from the creases of her face and the sharpness of her bones; her world becomes Jibram. “Remember this feeling.” A wash of warmth moves into the telepath, echoing serenity and pushing everything else away. Artificial touches of confidence seek out what little he has of his own to amplify them.

“We may be what others fear, but there is no need for you to fear. Our abilities may try to control us, but we are the superior. Overcoming your guilt will take time. Conquer control first.”

As far as pep talks go… Huruma’s are rather fascinating.

Leech is a good word for it.

Jibram seems surprised when there's something nicer to find among those memories. His brow furrows and he looks up at Huruma. Confused. That has never happened before. And when her power pushes him out, his gaze moves to Chess. This is not what he expected to find when they finally made it out of their bunker. People willing to help. People who weren't afraid of him.

He looks back when Huruma tells him to and he watches as her face changes. He doesn't get it, but he'll take it. Serenity seems to be a scarce thing, she can tell. But here with Chess' support and Huruma's guidance, it comes along easier than usual. And while his power doesn't turn off, not entirely, Huruma doesn't have the pull against her memories that she had moments before.

Remembering this won't be hard.

Her next words, those are hard. Jibram takes them in with a nod, though. Control first makes sense to him. It helps him not add any more to the guilt he already has. Penance can come later.

"Was there really a black hole?" he ends up asking.

Chess simply watches, eyes moving from Huruma to Jibram and back again, watching for the red flags that she should move — to protect both the teacher and the student. Her brows draw together at the mention of controlling guilt, and there’s a resonant pang of guilt in the young woman that Huruma can feel, as if it’s responding to its name.

But this isn’t about her.

Her eyes dart back to Jibram’s question, brow lifting at the memories the two of them apparently shared. Glancing back to Huruma, she nods to Jibram. “Do you think he’ll be ready to live somewhere better than this soon? He’s been living in a bunker for seven years and this isn’t the nicest of accommodations,” she says wryly, even if she chooses to stay there herself, among her other little caches.

Huruma listens to the young man as if he were a ticking clock, her hands coming to rest on his shoulders, providing a weight that likens to gravity keeping him on the ground. Steadying. His shock at the flickers of goodness that she dredges up is felt by her senses, and she allows him to absorb that peace into his mind in a slow, gentle flow.

She concentrates now on the memories of this. Chess coming to her at the Benchmark. Arriving in a puff of dust. The cautiousness she felt when she met Jibram just a short time ago. Her thoughts loop over these, arriving back at the Now again and again. If his ability keeps reaching, she hopes that he sees nothing else.

Jibram’s question about the crackling vacuum in the sky gets a smile, short but knowing. Chess gets a blink into what he saw, but it still does not make a lot of sense. “Yes, I really did see a black hole.” Her palm pats against his face, and one brow arches. “I do not recommend it.”

“There are places that help people like him- “ Huruma’s hands drop slowly, and she looks between Chess and the young man. “-but they so often contain other troubled minds that I hesitate to suggest it…” Sending Jibram to a place such as the Benchmark or a halfway house would not exactly end well, she thinks. “Negoxan may help in the short term… while he learns… but in my honest opinion, it may be best for you to move out of the city entirely. The world out there may be different, but, your telepathy has teeth. It digs in, inhales, tears at things without reservation. Being around less people ought to give you time to learn, and it will give you time to come to terms with a world you know so little about.”

Jibram looks over at Chess, curious at first, but a nod comes along as she explains. "It's got sky. View of the water," he says gesturing that way. Those are both accommodations he hasn't had in a while. "But I understand if you don't want me crowding your space," he adds with a slight smile. It might be a joke. But it's also serious. He wouldn't want her to be uncomfortable.

He looks back to Huruma. He has a sense of her memories, although he's not experiencing them like he was. It's hard to say if that's because he's calm or because his power doesn't care for happier memories.

"I'm with you there, didn't seem fun," Jib says, as far as the black hole goes. But obviously, it didn't swallow the world, so it's easy enough to be flippant about.

He listens, though, to her thoughts, to her advice, nodding here and there. She's right that his telepathy and the history lingering in the memories around this city are not going to mix well. And she's right that he's dangerous. But there's one thought that floats to the top of all these truths.

"Out of the city? To where? Jersey?"

Unacceptable, obviously.

Chess’ brows dip in a scowl as Huruma suggests Jibram leave the city, then huffs a laugh at the comment that he might crowd her. And then she snorts at Jersey.

It really is unacceptable.

“I have a few spots I crash at. You can have this one. We could move you to Park Slope — lots of buildings there to squat in and be away from people. Maybe we can work up how many people you can handle — next time we can bring someone else,” she suggests.

She glances to Huruma, to see how the teacher is taking the suggestion, “and then a third person, et cetera. Build you up to being able to handle a crowd, maybe?”

“Outside of the city simply removes every obstacle that you have already seen.” Huruma explains this first, narrowing a look over on Chess, but it lacks vindiction. Just hear it out. “Park Slope is certainly lacking for population, but being around here would still present a risk. It will be up to you-” She looks to Jibram. “-to assess that risk and whether or not you feel confident to be in a space occupied by others.”

Else he will find himself in another bunker situation. Another situation where he is trapped, or a boogeyman.

“Abilities like ours are much different than physical ones.” As which Chess already knows, too. “Safe for them may not mean safe for us, but it will always fall on your discretion. Your decisions. Know when to step back.”

“I can ask around, perhaps. My expert suggestion is to master one person first. Master keeping your field of effect quelled. Possibly learn to relegate it to touch. Numbers will come in time. Even I started from the bottom.”

"I'll stay here for now. See how it goes. If I can't get it under control… well, I'll do something different, then." Jibram lets out a long breath, hand running back through his hair. "I'll have to be able to get a job sometime soon." A guy's gotta eat. Starvation is very motivating for him.

"I don't want to shut myself off from everybody again," he says to Huruma, even though her advice is definitely good. "Even if it's just out there," he says with a sweeping gesture. "I can't live like that again. I gotta see people." Even if it's at a distance. Even if he just knows it's an option for him to go out and feel a city moving around him again.

"Does that make sense?"

“It removes obstacles but it’s no way to live. He can’t learn if there’s nothing to practice on, unless someone goes with him,” Chess says, before she realizes maybe that talking about “him” in front of Jibram isn’t polite. She casts him an apologetic look, but nods when he presents his own opinion on the subject.

“At least out here — or Park Slope — no one’s locked in with one another. And if he sees people within his range, he can move outside of it. Maybe an upper story, keep your range above anyone who just happens to walk by on the sidewalk or something, yeah?” she says.

“The Armory I used to stay wouldn’t be a bad spot, except I can’t visit there to bring you supplies.” A flicker of anger flashes across her face and in Huruma’s perceptors, but it fades quickly enough. “There’s a lot of cool buildings out there, but we’ll want to make sure there’s no one squatting in the lower levels. And make sure it’s not a building that should have been condemned.”

“It does.” Huruma answers Jibram simply; she has her opinions, but it seems that he wants what he wants. Not everyone thinks like a mercenary. “I cannot make you into a paranoid survivalist, but remember that caution.” The tall woman puts a hand to his shoulder, squeezing once before letting it drop and taking a step back in order to relax some of the strain she suspects his power has with her so near.

“I am sure that there is a place out there to suit you. This was not a small place in its prime, after all. With help I know you will manage. As far as work goes… you could look into uses for your ability once you have it under control. If you are hungry there are shelters, churches, soup kitchens… there is a shortage of food of late, but I have seen these people act with grace regardless.”

“We shall make a schedule for some training, and go from there… how does that sound?”

Jibram nods to Chess. Upper floors aren't a bad idea. He tucks that one away for later. "I'll see what I can find. Maybe find my own van," he says, amusement crinkling around his eyes. "I'll be careful," he adds, to both of them. Huruma gets a grateful look at the squeeze, a nod following. "I got the paranoid part down. Don't worry." He doesn't want to have claws and teeth, but since he has, he'll do what he can to not hook them into other people.

"That sounds great. Thank you. I know that's not— I'll find a way to thank you." Promises made, he moves back until he doesn't feel Huruma's mind, until there's only the static that tells him Chess is there, and he leans back against the car, relaxing back against it like he'd been holding himself tense.

Scheduling can happen at a distance, at least, and give him a small reprieve.

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