Weighing The Values Of Life


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Scene Title Weighing the Value of Life
Synopsis One tragedy begets another and the Zimmerman family is forever shattered.
Date February, 1992

"…Thank you, for— for the warning."

Those are the last words uttered by doctor Jonas Zimmerman as he sends the receiver of his phone clattering down atop the base with a faint chime of the bell inside from the impact. Weary eyes stare wide at the desk, at the black rotary phone sitting beside a clutter of paperwork and photographs. The old man's neck tightens, his fingers curl in a white-knuckled grip on the receiver as his eyes water with emotion.

Letting out a scream that reverberates through his office, Jonas yanks the phone up off of the desk and hurls it towards the wall. The black base impacts with a smash, leaving a hole in the drywall before the whole thing clatters to the floor noisily. He shudders out a sharply exhaled breath, bringing up both of his hands to sweep over his face, hunches forward and crumples onto his elbows atop the desk, his breathing turning into ragged and choked sobbing.

The office is dark, light filters through the partly blinded windows in horizontal slats, windows rippled with water from the sleet falling outside. Silhouette against these windows, Zimmerman's frame hardly moves against the desk, but when he does it's with a broken elastic's snap as he sweeps paperwork and photographs off of the desk with a growl of frustration, his glasses resting crookedly on his nose.

Turning around with the motion of the furious sweep, Doctor Zimmerman storms across his office towards the coat rack hanging up on the door, swinging his heavy winter jacket around his shoulders. The motion reveals the leather under-arm holster of a snub-nosed .22 revolver hanging on the coat rack, and Zimmerman stares at it through the thick lenses of his glasses, throat working up and down in a nervous swallow.

Relieving the holster of its gun, Jonas tucks the revolver in a side pocket on the outside of his jacket, then yanks open the office door and steps out into the dimly lit hall, slamming the glass-windowed door behind himself, his body viewed as a dark silhouette through the frosted glass, and the logo of Primatech Paper obscuring part of it.

Staten Island, New York

February, 1992


The noisy strum of a bass guitar reverberates through a cluttered and dusty garage. Seated atop a stack of milk crates, a young man quietly tunes his guitar under the glow of the garage's overhead light. Eyes fixed distantly on an oil stain on the concrete. The old, gray jacket that doesn't quite fit his frame shrugs with movements of the young man's shoulders, and as he twists the knobs at the head of the bass, there's a brief strum over the strings, followed by a hiss of breath when it still doesn't sound quite right.

The sound of an approaching car has the young man looking up from the guitar to the closed garage door and the glow of headlights shining through a crack where the bottom meets the concrete. Taking the guitar off of his shoulder and stuffing a pack of cigarettes inside his jacket, the young man creeps towards the door only to hear the remote opener begin to groan and clank, drawing the garage door slowly open to the falling sleet pouring down outside.

Breath visible in the headlights of the car, the blonde-haired young man takes a hesitant step towards the headlights, one hand raised to shield his eyes from the glow before he hears the door slam shut and a frantic voice shouting from the driveway. "Niklaus!"

The boy's spine stiffens at hearing his name, eyes wide and a horrified recognition of his father having found him here. Stepping slowly to the edge of the garage, Niklaus' defiance comes in refusing to speak to his father in German, a subtle way to display his disapproval. "Why did you come out here, father?" Though his accent stillc lings heavy to each sylable, Niklaus' fluency isn't in question, even if the language comes a bit heavily off of his tongue.

"«Niklaus get in the car!»" He's never heard his father take that tone, never known him to be willing to stand in just his wool coat in the pouring sleet, both their breaths visible as steaming clouds in the headlights. Bristling, Niklaus takes a step back, brows furrowed and eyes narrowed, but that is all it takes for his father to practically lunge across the driveway towards him.

Striding into the garage, Jonas Zimmerman is like a silver-scaled snake for all his matted gray hair seems to shine in the headlights, soaked with sleet. One hand snaps out like a viper's jaws, grabbing his son by the arm and dragging him in close, fingers pressed firmly against his bicep. "«Now is not the time for you to question me!»" Jonas' breath is hot against his son's face, eyes reddened around the edges behind the fogged up lenses of his glasses. Jonas Zimmerman doesn't cry, and yet…

"W— what— " Niklaus looks nervously to the car, then back to his father, nodding his head repeatedly as he allows himself to be led out into the freezing rain, dragged to the passenger side of the old Volkswagon and practically thrown into the passenger seat with the door slammed shut swiftly behind him.

In the car, all Niklaus can hear is the sound of the engine idiling and rain pattering on the roof. His father is crossing in front of the car, a blurry silhouette thorugh the rainsteaked windshield and that there's a gun in the center console only registers when his father is opening the driver's side door.

Jolting up as if he knew he weren't supposed to be seeing the gun, Niklaus leans towards the passenger-side window when Jonas climbs into the car and slams the door shut, grinding the shifter on the center console to throw the car into reverse, backing up into the street and almost forgetting to turn on the squeaking wipers. There's no effort made to close the garage door, no one will be going back to that house.

"Where is your sister?" Jonas asks with an askance look flicked to his son then down to the revolver sitting in the cup holder, then back to the road.

"I— " the words clutch at the back of Niklaus' throat, and no amount of disrespect for his father can change how scared he feels at the moment. The switch back to his native tongue is almost as reflexive as it is a coping method. "«She's at the new apartment, on Manhattan, I think she went with mother I don't— I don't know.»"

Before Jonas can react though, Niklaus is trying to defensively cover himself from presumed wrongdoings. "«I'm sorry… for not having helped pack our things, for not— wanting to move again. Why do we need to move to Manhattan, I was just getting comfortable here and— »"

"«Your mother is dead,»" comes cold and poorly worded to a man of Niklaus' age. As the shock sets in, as the gun is misinterpreted, Jonas turns down a side street, checking a pair of headlights behind their car in the rear-view mirror, not relaxing even when they don't take the same turn. "«Son, I need you to listen to me and do exactly as I tell you. Your life, your sister's life, they depend on you following my instructions exactly.»"

Too horrified to talk, Niklaus' jaw trembles as he watches his father. Unaware of the truth behind Jonas' work with the Company, all this young man can do is try to puzzle out the possibilities crumbling before his eyes, now that the life he'd thought was so constraining is quickly becoming a footnote.

"How?" is croaked out in English abruptly, when disbelief finally becomes horror at the realization that his mother is dead. Jonas looks askance to his son, and only the clicking of the car's direction is an answer at first, until they round the corner and begin heading down another sparsely traversed section of street, where melting snowbanks contribute as much as the sleet to the slick roads.

"«The people I work for, The Company,»" Jonas says with as much venom in his voice as emotion, "«killed your mother. They killed her because she found something out, because she questioned it, and now they are going to come for me, they are going to come for me, come for you and your sister.»"

Somewhere, deep down inside, Niklaus had always been afraid of the work his father did, always known that the people he associated with, the money that was quickly funneled into the family and the "tests" his sister spoke of in cagey regard to him were more than medical research, something that Jonas had to hide from his family.

Sick to his stomach, tears welling in his eyes and unable to form words, Niklaus' head keeps shaking from side to side as if denial would make this all go away. "«Son, I am so sorry. I've brought this into our home, brought this into your life and your sister's life. But I am going to set this right, I'm going to— to do something. I'm going to protect you, you and your sister. Niklaus you have no idea how important you are, what they would do if they knew you were like your sister.»"

Most of what Jonas is saying sounds like the noise of the rain on the windshield to his ears, the sound of blood rushing in his ears makes it hard to concentrate. There's so much happening at once that he has a hard time following it all. Jonas turns right onto a four lane highway, pickiing up speed and glancing at his son, looking to how Niklaus slouches forward in his seatm hands clutched at the side of his head, shoulders trembling in silent sobs.

"«Son, you have to be strong for me…»" Jonas implores, throat tight with each word. "«I'm going to take you to the subway station, I need you to take the briefcase out of the back seat and everything inside and go. Do somewhere, do not tell me where just— just leave. Get out of the country, do not go back to Hamburg, do not come back to New York. Just… just leave and do not stop running.»"

Tearful eyes look up accusingly to Jonas, slamming his hands down into his lap Niklaus' scream reverberates thorugh the car. "No!" It's as loud as he can manage, his voice sore from the hoarse scream. "No I will not! You can't— you can't tell me that m— mmother is dead that— that Barbara is in danger and not— you can't not tell me! I want to help! I'm not going anywhere! I'm not!"

Wary eyes snap towards Niklaus as he starts shouting, and trying to keep his eyes on the road, Jonas reaches out to lay a hand on his son's shoulder. "«Calm down, please, Niklaus you have to calm down. It is so very important that you calm down… Please.»"

The hand is swatted away, and when his father tries to urge calm it only drives Niklaus into a further fit of rage. Jonas isn't surprised, though, not inwardly. When his hand is smacked away he eases onto the brakes, just a moment before his son opens his mouth to shout "No!" again and the windshield wipers bend away from the car. Niklaus doesn't notice, but Jonas does, notices the curl of the metal peeling away from plastic and can feel the vibration in the streering column.

"«Son, please… you're spec— »" The sudden explosion of glass from the back of the car has Jonas jerking into the steering wheel and Niklaus grabbing on for dear life as the old Volkswagon spins out of control, crossing into the second land and then crashing into the center median. The airbags both deploy with a sound analogous to a gunshot, sending Jonas slamming back against the seat and nearly having the same effect on Niklaus.

Silence, save for the pattering of rain comes with the whine of the clunking engine still running and a groan of confusion from Jonas. Niklaus pushes down on the airbag, tries to control his breathing, and as he reaches out for his father sees the flash of headlights sweep over the car, followed by a screech of wet tires and a slam of doors.

Sitting up to look behind himself, Niklaus catches men in dark suits and long jackets through the broken window of the back hatch of the car. He tries to follow them in the sleet-streaked windows, but the sudden clunk of the passenger's side door behind him opening comes only moments before he's dragged out of the car, feet kicking and arms windmillind, screaming for his father.

The sleet is cold against his face, pins and needles, blurring his vision. Arms are quick to slide under Niklaus' and hands lock behind his head, putting him in a submissive position before being forced down to one knee by the larger man behind him. Through the heavily falling sleet, Niklaus can see his father wrenched out of the car, dragged back by the other darkly clad men towards another standing in the headlights of the parked van behind them with an umbrella opened.

Hoarse from screaming, Niklaus tries to struggle against the man holding him, watching helplessly as his father is handcuffed and dragged arm-in-arm towards the van. It's only when both the van and Jonas' battered car rattle across the empty stretch of freeway that they hesitate in moving the old doctor. In the confusion, Jonas takes the initiative, jerking his head back and slamming it into the nose of the man behind him, then sliding out of the headlock and sucker-punching the agent in the crotch, sending him toppling over with a keening shout.

As Jonas starts coming to consciousness, the remaining darkly-dressed agents are drawing their guns, even as the man shadowed by the umbrella is taking a step back and out of the headlights. "Let him go!" Niklaus screams as he makes a run for the Volkswagon and his father's revolver. The pop of gunfire shatters windows as Niklaus screams and ducks beaide the car, shakily grabbing the revolver out of the center console.

One of the agents steps around to the passenger's side of the car, raising his Company-issue .45 into the glare of the headlights and the falling sleet, and before Niklaus can raise his own gun he's cowering from the barrel of another with a panicked cry at the same moment the trigger is pulled.

There's a low bass hum and an eruption of red as the agent's head as a bullet punches through it, his skull jerks back and his body falls to the ground, one foot twitching from side to side as blood swirls with meltwater. Eyes slowly opening, Jonas stares down at himself, stares down at the revolver in his hand that he never fired, and out at the man dead in front of him.

Hearing footsteps, he bolts up from behind the car to avoid getting caught like he was a second time. When he pops up, unable to keep his head down enough, there's another gunshot that rings out, resounding across the street. The agents struggling with Jonas have dragged him into the back of the van, one of them turning with gun drawn as he spots Jonas and opens fire again with a resounding gunshot.

As Jonas flinches, the agent falls backwards clutching his throat, gurgling out a scream from the bullet that tore open his windpipe and punched sideways through nis neck. Blood pulses warm and hot between his fingers, and as the agent rolls around on the ground, the man beneath the umbrella makes a warning call. "Stop! Cease— cease fire!"

Jonas pops up at the warning, squeezing off three shots from the revolver that hit nothing but elicits the agents to all return fire. This time there's no eye-squinting reaction, and this time Niklaus sees what he missed all the other times. There in the rain in the seconds after the gunshots, bullets hang motionless in the air, and following a resonant bass-thrum they rocket away from his body, striking the agents around him and sending them careening down to the wet pavement.

Confusion sets in on Niklaus, confusion and horror at what he just witnessed. As the umbrella-shadowed agent turns towards the van, Niklaus gives chase, shouting at him as he blindly fires the remainign three shots of his revolver, once through the windshield of the van, another thorugh the passenger's side door and another that missed both the man and the vehicle entirely.

Slipping across the frozen pavement, Niklaus feels the world spin upside down as he lands on his back, gun slipping from his grip and clattering a few feet away. Watching as the last standing agent is ducking into the van, Niklaus rolls onto his side, head throbbing behind his eyes. The van's engine revs and he can see it backing up. Turning for the gun he finds it out of reach. His eyes settle up on the van, seeing his father handcuffed in the back seat through the open side door, struggling to try and get out.

Reaching out for his father, Niklaus screams a hoarse cry and feels that same bass-beat hum through the air, this time with a visible pond-ripple distortion around his outstretched hand. The shockwave spreads outward with a buzz behind his eyes, and as the van lifts its rear end off of the ground and comes crashing down on its side, Niklaus Zimmerman bears witness to a feat of something superhuman, something beyond extraordinary.

Glass shatters when the van crashes down onto its side, tires spinning, and the young Niklaus pulls himself up to his feet, scrambling ahead towards the van with limping steps. Walking around the front, he sees the bloodied agent half crushed beneath the vav, having been flung out the passenger's side window when the vehicle flipped over and onto its side. Blood is thick around the front of the van and Niklaus nearly vomits there on the street.

Niklaus' heart races, pulse throbs and adreanaline surges thorugh his body, making his hands shake and making the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach subside. Creeping around the van, his eyes scan the horizon for headlights, then make shis way to the back of the van. The hatch door is flung open, bend crooked and windowless now. Ducking down into a crouch, he peers while calling out to his father.

"Niklaus," is a weary voice in the back of the van. Crawling around one of the back seats, squirming across a shattered window, glass crunshing beneath him, Jonas makes his way towards his son's rain-soaked frame, reaching out a bloodied and shake hand for help. Where not long ago there was confusion and fear of his own father, now there is just distrust leveled at everything.

A shaky hand takes his father's, pulls him up to his feet and stares at him wide eyed. It's impossible to put into words what he saw, what he did. Jonas knows this much, and as the old docotor stands up wincingly, a hand is placed on his son's shoulder. "«I am… so sorry. I am so sorry for what you became, but I never intended this for you. You were supposed to be normal.»"

The words sting, as much as the sleet does, maybe worse.

Slapping the hand away again, Niklaus stares down at his father, brows furrowed and jaw trembling. His eyes say everything his voice cannot, that he hates the man standing in front of him. But on the other side of that coin, Niklaus could not bring himself to allow his father to be taken. Perhaps in that double-edged sense he finds the capacity to listen as both men turn towards the oncoming glow of headlights coming down the highway.

"«Son, please. Please trust me… take— »" with a car coming and the suitcase too far away, Zimmerman reaches bloody fingers into his back pocket, handing his wallet over to a still trembling Niklaus, squeezing his hands around it. "«Take this, take this and go. I have to go for your sister, before they find out what happened, before they get to her. Please, please just go.»"

"What am I?" Niklaus finally asks, voice hoarse from the screaming, rain hiding tears that streak down his cheeks. Jonas' lips creep faintly into a smile, but it's too short lived to be honest. Stepping away from the van, Jonas shakes his head to his son, looks as though he hasn't the answer for that question.

"«You are special,»" isn't descriptive enough, "«you're like your mother, your sister. If anyone finds out what you can do, Niklaus, they will try to use you for it. You can't let them, you have to— look out for yourself now. Please.»"

"When will I see you again?" comes reflexively in English as Jonas' head shakes again, wallet clutched tightly in his hand. That his father just smiles in silence is a harrowing enough answer. By now the approaching car is creeping up on what looks like a terrible accident. The dark of night at the falling sleet masks both Jonas and Niklaus from the headlights, but as Jonas backs away from the van it's clear he intends on flagging down the car.

There never is an answer, to when Jonas will see his son again. As Niklaus turns into the rainy night, wiping at his eyes with one sleeve, doctor Zimmerman turns towards the approaching headlights, arms waving in frantic call for help. He may not ever know what to truly expect from the future, know what to expect from the Company when they finally catch him. But Jonas Zimmerman is banking on his knowledge saving both his life, and his memory.

With one look back to his son disappearing into the dark and freezing rain, Jonas knows that no amount of sympathy or comfort, no amount of answers will ever truly make up for what Niklaus will later experience when the weight of this situation crashes down on him. Jonas can only pray that when measured against the sins of his own life, the weight of one or two lives saved will be some measure of redemption.

But, he knows how unlikely redemption is.

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