With A Bang, And A Whimper


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With an appearance by


Scene Title With A Bang, And A Whimper
Synopsis You don't get treachery without misplaced faith. Minea Dahl pays a price.
Date October 7, 2009

Queens — Roy Wilkens Park

Located off of Merrick and Baisley Boulevard, the Roy Wilkins Park is a plot covering just over fifty acres of land, with a number of features to entertain those from the very young to the very old. Boasting four outdoor tennis courts, a quarter mile jogging track that circles the rec center, and a wheelchair accessible basketball court, anyone visiting the massive park can find a reason to spend hours idling away their time. In addition to these features there is an indoor pool open all year round, and a number of baseball fields - two towards the northern area of the park with a smaller field towards the south end, in the Nautilus Playground, which is just south of a small pond.

For convenience of the park visitors, restrooms are located both in the playground and at the rec center. Pristine, with a relatively clean pond, the facility also hosts a summer day camp, a counseling center, and hosts a variety of community events. Along with the rec center and play areas, there is a jogging path and a series of picnic tables scattered throughout the park, complete with nearby barbecue grills for outdoor eating. Far more than an ordinary park or recreation center, the Roy Wilkins Park is a cultural landmark, home to the Black Spectrum Theatre, an acting troupe given to perform socially conscious drama. The most famous feature of the park, however, is the four acre vegetable garden that gives locals an opportunity to grow their own produce, which is often donated to charity.

In October, the Roy Wilkens Park isn't yet white: a pinwheel's blurring and bobbing rainbow of orange and red tree leaves, cloying underfoot and still-dense in the char-black mass and raking strew of branches overhead, only faintly dwindled by the wind and diluted in their chromatic intensity by the cast of evening. Evening comes sooner these days than the summer, though there's still almost a month yet before Franklin's ingenious time policy sees implementation for 2009. It's cold and dry. So cold it seems to crushes the clouds down from the sky, an ache in their lungs, a promise (or threat) of snow that remains unfulfilled in the brittle wrinkle and soothe of the pondwater.

Too cold for children, too late, and arguably most importantly: too dangerous, the stink of terror ever too near even if only Manhattan proper had its curfew shifted since the news lit media everywhere yesterday. At least, Teo is aware that the Ferry house on Calgary Boulevard cancelled the weekly day trip. Without them, the Nautilus Playground stands empty in farcically bright polychrome, aluminum and plastic parts. Slides big enough to carry whole families, a climbing jungle comprised of rounded parts and stencilled iconography, fat ropes with knots as big as tangerines, monkey bars, spring-legged ponies.

He had invited her out for any number of reasons. Intel being the default, explanation being— relevant to his use of the name of a certain mutual deceased friend of theirs, agendas to complete, people to hunt, stuff to steal, mistakes he'd made. He's smoking a cigarette, seated on a tire swing. Chains creak without unwinding above him, fraying watery shadows over the ragged bristle of his jaw and off-blond hair.

And Minea came. Because Teo is an informant, because even though Ivanov was found there's still others at large, responsible for his injuries. Creepy dangerous parks are the norm. Creepy dangerous places are where clandestine shady things between informants and company agents, any kind of agents do business. It's the default setting. So's the default black SUV parked off some place safe nearby and Minea's making through the park with numerous weapons on her person both seen and unseen and a wary eye for anything not Teodoro Laudani.

"Don't think I ever saw you smoke" When she's near enough, her voice it's usual lower register than your general run of the mill female. 'I'm noticing just how many people smoke these days. Picking the habit up again. Not good for me."

Aw. 'Run of the mill female' is unnecessary humility, you'd think. Teo's slants a grin up at her, and it doesn't quite hold together properly— a row of piecemeal stones or bric-a-brac lodged into the face of a snowman in an arc meant to approximate human mirth, a goofily harmless parody of the real thing. He sighs. Scrubs the back of his wrist up against the point of his nose, briefly, pulls himself up off the tire he was sitting on.

There's nothing that isn't Teodoro Laudani out here. They share an fantastically terrifying cavalcade of enemies, the Company Agent and the erstwhile terrorist, some of which have most recently been known to burn shit down and conduct hangings, and Teo would be deeply remiss in his ninjutsu theatrics if he'dve allowed any of them within a mile of this conference. "I quit a couple months ago, but— I don't know if you remember," there's a brief show of teeth, an intake of breath. "I was sorting some identity issues. You seen Ivanov, Sumter, or Denton lately?"

"Sumter, no, I checked in on Ivanov when they first pulled him out. Last I heard, he's expected to make a miraculous recovery. Inw hich, I assume the little blonde pulled his ass out of the fire again. So I've heard" Minea comes to settle not beside him but near enough so she can pull out her own pack of smokes and begin the ceremonial process of lighting up.

"Denton. Ahh Denton. Seems posession is all the rage in the evo community. Denton was at the mercy of a woman named Juliet it seems. He's not happy. Whomever she was though, was asking about Adam Monroe and his girlfriends. Note the plural hmmm?" Inhale, hold then exhale and wait for the nicotine to hit the system. "She then wanted… a list of every Moab prisoner who was up in Utah. Odd request. Got any reason why?"

She pulls the smoke away, blowing it in a stream away from the two of them. "Denton's also asked about securing my help dealing with a pesky little anti-evolved group that seems to be a bee in everyones bonnet."

The world hacked up into binary now. Evolved and non-Evolved, child and adult, civilian and fair game, male and female. Smoker and non-smoker. Not trusting the end of his own cigarette to provide enough combusting heat to light her cigarette, Teo instead provides a lighter when the moment comes up cupped in the almond-outline symmetry of her hands, thumb flinking only twice before the spark catches fuel, spites the ashy, wan gray of the day with another sanguine dab of the autumnal palette.

"Wouldn't be surprised if Monroe was drawing some of his harem out of the MFP dossier. I mean, if a bird can pull off hunter orange, you know you've struck gold." There's a squint around his eyes, a tired twitch of real amusement. There are any number of ways the Agent could take that. He's gay, for one thing. Being facetious, for another. "Alternatively, Adam Monroe has an interest in the Ferrymen and-or Norman White. Only so many places you'll find a reliable flow of anti-establishment sentiment outside of theoretical academia and adolescents."

His left leg goes lazy under him, suddenly, sets the bulk of his shoulder up against the diagonal bar of the swingset's support. The darker the evening gets, the paler her face seems in it. "Humanis First? Does that mean you're still in the doghouse because of the ballroom clusterfuck, or that you're finally out of it?"

"Probably got one foot still in it. Most people are realizing now that I wasn't acting out of pure want. I mean, who really runs around with an armor plated ice cream truck ready to extract you?" Ashes are tapped to the ground as opposed to the structure. no use dirtying up kids clothes if they ever come back here during the day.

The information her feeds her about Monroe, his interest in Norman White. It's shuffled away, filed away in the mind of hers. "He was out on the west coast. Seems he does have a bit of a hareem with him. Denton fed me pictures to see who I identified. Looks like he's on a warpath, taking out company founders. There was a gaggle of women standing around that he stopped and talked to, who stayed there till he left, tall dark woman, skin near black. She's in company database. A lot of them were in company files. Moab files though, i'm not privy to that information. Far as I know my clearance doesn't get me that"

She's nursing the smoke really. Drawing it out as long as she can. "Who's Norman White?"

There's a faint sneer scorching a curl into the edge of Teo's mouth when the answer to that initial question comes to mind, even if it stays unverbalized. They both know. It's ridiculous, but Emile fucking Danko runs around with an armor plated ice cream truck ready to extract him. It's enough to make a guy spit, but as long as his oral fixation is being sated by the gradual induction of lung cancer, he holds off. He holds off on Abigail's recent Registry update, too, but then: Minea hadn't really expected him to say. They have an understanding.

Or so it goes. His eyes flick down, following the frosty particulate eddy and swizz of ashes dropping off the end of his cigarette and shrinking into their vanishing point somewhere around where his feet are. He continues speaking without knowing, exactly, why he's bothering. That phrase, Company founders, echoes in his head like a trill through the ambient static of emotional exhaustion, recent grief, the perpetuating drone of proactive inertia. Life goes on. "The terrakinetic asshole who stormed airwaves last night.

"He's an ex-con. Already a few people interested in him— that rapper everyone used to know, 'Shard?' Former cellmate of his, taking a stand. Based on Staten Island, I think. They had a slap-fight on YouTube even before White took down the Municipal building the other night."

"And is responsible for the curfew" Minea purses her lips with a shake of her head before she rises from the swing so that she can pinch the cigarette and it's fading business end away from her mouth and grind it off on the steel supports. "I can look into White, see what I can get. He'll be on a lot of watch lists if he's the one responsible for the municipal building" She's palming blackberry, black electronic device so that she can open up an email, fire it off to len.

Norman White, responsible for tevised incident and building collapse. Finding out more. Monroe and white possibly together or Monroe is interested in white source says. MD.

Whether it makes it to it's destination when she hits send, is a whole different question. "Tier 3 terrakinetic. Mighty powerful. How the hell is he running around and no ones got their hands on him? That's.." WAs the company slipping? Did they not know? Maybe Crowley and his investigation had some validity.

"Bianco died. You going to be attending his funeral?" She had plans to. More out of respect and obligation, than a desire and want.

There's a hacking cough, a poor but recognizable facsimile of laughter. "No." Teo spits his own cigarette out into his hand before it uproots entirely, puts it out on the arm of the swingset and casts about, briefly, before compacting it summarily into his pocket instead. He claps ash off his palm. "I think his mom would come after me with nails drawn and a little more secondhand angst than I'd want to deal with. He was a friend of mine. You know the kind." He sheds a wink out of the fringy lids of his left eye, a dry, dry, almost desiccated joke, wilted within the papery membrane of its own skin.

"I wouldn't worry too much about all this, though," he offers, after a moment, an absurd parody of comfort rendered out of the least reliable source on the planet. "The Company's still technically on vacation. Or playing dead, or whatever the fuck— and I'm sure that by the time it's ready to claw its way out of the grave, there'll be another apocalypse to cock up. Are you still pissed about the 'Einliter' thing?" Dalton would have been the one who mentioned.

"Bad taste to use that name. You know it. Especially in light of i've never quite believed the fucker to truly be dead" But she can get over. A name is a name. "I'm sure you had a reason. Maybe i'll know some day. You got anything you're wanting to play pass the ball about. If not, I have some stuff I could be doing. Friend to drop in on."

And then, as if realizing what it was that Teo said, the brunette's face turns grim. "Mayor's son" She licks her lips and shakes her head. A scattering of brown hair from side to side. "Cherish the good times Laudani. You sure do find yourself in the most interesting of beds for being one of the burning birds."

There's a low hook to Teo's nod, more like he's bashfully ducking away from mama bear's cuff around the head than because he's bobbing a salute for the affirmitive. The bit about his sex life— well, former sex life, is taken in stride, unelaborated, her busy schedule acknowledged in the same concise measure of the gesture. "I'm going to get to your boy Lenton soon a-sap about getting psychometric material from the HF mooks I hear they caught at the Suresh Center. I heard two were taken: one dead, one alive. What with all the fucking red tape, I figure the dead one might be easier to get information off of— or it's what the rest of us will settle for, assuming everybody's still interested in pooling resources.

"Sorry about the name," he adds, after a moment, his tone changing cadence, slowing, finding a breathing regularity in the footless gust of wind. "Chris was the first one to tell me it's bad luck, invoking dead soldier for aliases or naming your equipment, but opposite seemed to turn out true in that other future. Sometimes I think I was born backward. I like what I shouldn't, hate all wrong. Most people end up in our general area of industry because we're poor, maladjusted motherfuckers. Me, Ivanov, Einliter. Samantha Tanner. You're a rare animal, you know that, Dahl?"

"I heard the burning birds got their hands on one. Liz has some files about them, she has my permission to share it with you. Hughie Hornpecker. Went by the moniker 'Doug' while he was near Liz. Murdoch got quite a bit off the finger, you owe him. He went back a few times to that finger to get information off it to try and save Ivanov. All we got was the Cambria girl, but it was better than nothing and getting the information is not easy for him."

But he's talking about people, agents, those in the alternative lifestyle that doesn't include whips and chains and safewords.

Well, maybe not safewords.

"Because i'm a well adjusted female agent with no traumatic background that forged me from the fires of mordor?"

Yes. Precisely because of that. Teo barely blinks an eye at the whole Hughie Hornpecker thing, possibly because he suspects that this is the next phase in the ensuing gag about the ludicrous choices that people make with their false identities (—because seriously), grunts a monosyllable of something approximating laughter when she asks. No doubt, there's a Cambria girl who would object to the woman's decision to lump herself in with Tolkien's bad guys. "One to rule them all," he offers, by way of agreement. "Even if you've always ranked yourself with the rest of the soldiers. Okay. I'll let Liz know. And get with Denton soon. I seem to've lost track of the Vanguard's psychometer, but that's where your feminine wiles figure in, si?

"In the meantime—" He makes a wearily expansive motion with his hands, arms out, elbows winged lazily wide, circumscribing the limitless trajectories that she could take on outta here in the mathematical arc and angle of his limbs. He makes a scoop of a gesture. Go. Off with her, then. Freed unto the Earth to return to whatever character of licensed abductions, forensic investigation, stranded kitten retrieval, or other righteous crusade she's cavalry to.


The last inch of the simple bodily signal swerves off-course, jerks saccadically off the easy harmless swing of implied direction and good-natured dismissal, a jolt of kinesis that goes through his arm and ends with a knife obscenely tidy toaster-popped out, in under his hand. The throw comes as quick. Pivot, twist, its triangled point ravening for the gap of Minea's throat, even as the raspy click of gunmetal declares the second measure, and not one line of Teo's face changes.

She was already moving when the arm came swinging out oh so casually. That alone saves her at that moment when she spots the glint of metal in streetlamps and eyes narrowing and there's a few strands of hair that are severed from it's brethren.

Her own gun is out as she's twisting, safety switched as she's drawing then firing a shot off on the run that frankly has no specific aim other than in his general direction. Running somewhere where she can gather herself and not be acting on instinct but with a plan. Get behind a tree, something solid. "What the FUCK!?"

The round fired from the woman's weapon sings off into the deepening dark, plunges flat into the torso of a tree. Sends splinters up, a ragged hole punctured into the trunk and a frayed scissoring of splinters up, nicking at the scruffy line of Teo's jaw. He already has his face turned away, half of it mapped out in the brutally steep black geometry of shadows, the sliver of profile that deigns itself lit by the sodium yellow of the lamp standing out against his other half like a pre-fossilized skull lodged in tar. He takes an instant out of time to remember where the knife had gone.

The grip of the weapon in his hand weighs heavy, steady into the palm of the other, fitting against the hollow of his hand. He holds the nozzle pointed down in the symmetrical extension of arms, his back hunkered low beneath the edge of a log platform. Plastic logs, of course. It wouldn't do to have the little American children cartch splinters. "How many times do you remember stabbing Phoenix in the back?"

"I never stabbed. My job was to gather intelligence. Find out who was who and pass over the information Laudani" Fuck. Shit. The blackberry is slid out and hastily hitting numbers, texting out a message. Deja vu from so many months before. Goodman before he had her wiped. Laudani. Roy Wilkens. Help. She hits send before dialing 911. They won't get an answer from her, but they'll hear the shots fired off and will send someone. Denton wouldn't get here in time, no one would get here in time and she doesn't quite know the extent of his skills.

What she would kill, for the MP5 in her trunk of the SUV right about now. She listens for the sound of his voice before rising, squeezing off a shot in his direction before ducking back down. "Whatever I did not long ago, I don't remember. I don't know what I did to phoenix, but they're still where they are so it can't have been bad. Don't you remember what I've told you? It's a job."

Another ricochet. A blink of one wintry blue eye and the Sicilian snaps back on the existential tether and reseats in his body, leaving behind the panickily waver and saccadic twitch of Minea's eyes in their sockets, snapshots of her Blackberry blurred overlaying his own view of the skeletal forest. It takes him an instant to recalibrate, the space of a breath and the speed of a thought. There's a scratching scuff of ridged rubber on flat asphalt, clap of a grip on the edge of planed and painted plastic. Rope creaks. Teo leaps up, lands slithering, cat-like, on the bulwark of the thing he'd concealed himself down behind.

"Between the two of us, signora, I wouldn't be the one having trouble remembering what was said or done," he points out, mapping a long stride across the deck. His shadow pools, drags its mobius outline along in the wake of his strides, blotting out the narrow gaps between tiger stripes. "It's a job where people lose their lives as a matter of course. Stabbed in the neck, shot in the head, or locked up in a cell. I don't think now'd be the fucking time to be splitting hairs about what a guy's allowed to take personally, eh?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not the one who came here with the intention of killing someone Laudani" He's moving, which means she's moving albeit without the advantage of an evolved ability to see where he is. Just plain old fashioned six senses. Away from the playground, try and work her way back to her vehicle.

She runs then, feet digging into ground and pushing off sending clods of mulch flying in the opposite direction as she goes from behind the horizontally layered wood that was used to climb over, towards a tree emptying a clip in his direction - where she thought he was and left to right of that general area. Cover fire more than anything. She doesn't think there's anyone else here, she'll risk shooting with abandon. But when she's behind the tree, the gun is dropped, abandoned and the one from her shoulder holster is brought out now. One down, two more on her person. Thank you South American paranoia. The saftey flicked off again of the matte black weapon and a full round ready and waiting. Hopefully something hit Teodoro Laudani.

The voice that carries Teo's reply is flat: flatter than real anger would be, flatter even than the sarcasm that characterizes his word choice: "You don't have to apologize. It's just a job."

It isn't just a job, of course. There would be purity in that, of purpose if not ethicality. Even— or especially now, he wouldn't be one to debate on that particular subject, anyway.

Untargeted sprayfire twitches off tree bark, fiberglass and tubed metal, whistles a sour one-note as chases the Sicilian's voice backward through the air and lands on nothing at all. Little sound follows for five seconds, stretched out into— eight; not mulch, in any case, or the crackle of leaves, and the line where the asphalt ends is far enough that the contact between synthetics is easily muted by the calculated friction of conditioned strides. Seconds toll out, blank except for the thunder of arterial convulsion, lungs contracting in the painful bite and frigidity of the climate.

Which cracks. A twig, desiccated vegetable matter snapping and grinding flatter flat under the blunt of Teo's shoe. There's a sharp intake of breath, closer, the liquid drift of a urine yellow-edged shadow seeping into the periphery of Minea's vision, and then a click to her left, some dense clot of remorseless metal scratching and tumbling on an oblique path. It could be anything: she's read the reports, assembled the dossier, seen him once or thrice, the grenades and the knives, PARIAH's pipe bombs, a viral apocalypse quelled and the Department of Homeland Security evaded by the skin of his teeth. She has to move. That much is clear: the SUV's waiting, and if he'd come here with the intention of killing someone, this could be anything.

It's there that he'll catch her. In the back, and not with a knife nor even a bullet, but the wrenching, sickening sensation of mind gutted out of its membraneous seat in the brain, a concussive discharge of neuro-electricity swelling an ache through her inner-ear. Vision going in great brutal neon bites.

She's never quite felt like this and for a faint moment, she fears that maybe, right now, she's having an aneurysm and god, this is a crappy time for a blood vessel in her brain to burst. Or maybe it's a stroke. The gun and phone make their respective thuds to the ground at her feet just a few moments before denim covered knee's make contact. Her hands tangled in her hair and holding the sides of her head and willing herself to breath. It's like a taser hit her, at the base of her skull instead of her back or the other usual target spots of the human body. teeth grind against teeth and it's a muted whimper from the company agent as she realizes that whatever this is, she's fucked.

She takes small consolation that at least, some poor dispatcher on the other end of her blackberry is getting the front row audio seat to the assasination of a HomeSec officer.

They do say that nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around. The acclaimed and widely-read scholar known as 'them' might be wrong on this one, though. Teo doesn't greet the spectacle of the woman on the ground, kneeling on legs that never deigned to learn to do such a thing, with a discernible uplifting of spirit. It seems a minor miracle in and of itself that the forest floor stays steady below him, with the weird wheedling of a half-formed thought in his head. The flare goes off a dozen feet off the Agent's shoulder, anticlimactic: a flare of acid white light charring skeletal silhouettes in through the queasy disfocus of Minea's vision.

The new clip grinds home. Thumb folds back with cold alacrity over the hammer once, forefinger over trugger. Knuckles tighten. The report punches a cone of raw-edged noise through the quiet, and a ripping funnel of force through the trunk of her back, taking a fist-sized hunk of her left lung with it. The second, wetly, into her right.

There's no third shot to offset the sucking moisture of flagging respiration, or the slow tank and drain of blood out of her clothes and into the loam, nor a knife, or even cold hands fastened around the bone of her jaw to end this pedestrian nightmare with a grinding snap of her spine. Instead, the ground is cold on her cheek. Matched boots measure slinking increments up, past the perpendicular horizon of twisted leaves and matted dirt. He stoops to lift the Blackberry off the ground, hiking the device up, out of view, with a sinewy flick of his wrist. Even in the dark, in dying, she can tell: his fingers have turned red wet.

"Hana," he says.

No shot to the head with a smile still on her face like Sonny was at least granted. No quick death for a homeland officer who a week and some ago helped to rescue a little girl. Who helped Phoenix save the world from annihilation.

It's not quick. He's not giving her a quick death. It's one that's pain filled, body tight with agaony and desperately trying to suck in oxygen but failing as air whistles through red bubbled froth.

Minea listens to him, to Hana's name as another blink of her eyes takes a little longer than the one before. In another state away, her second niece is being born. Not that Minea will know. All she knows is that Laudani just killed her.

Where's fucking Pinehearst when you need it? Or Felix's nine lives, one to be spared for her. Fuck you, Laudani. She wants to yell it at him. All the favors called in and the trust she placed - the help she gave him when she shouldn't have. Fingers dig into the ground as if to will air into her lungs and she's left with closed eyes and just her hearing to rely on before Teo's intentions succeed. There's a pamnesiac somewhere that will be rejoicing while eating her wheaties and god only knows who will actually show up at her funeral.

There's one less company agent in the world.

One more tally mark moved from the ranks of the living to the list of no-longer-relevant. The mental computation requires no thought, no effort; just listening.

She is listening. Listening to the sound of an open line, the slow loss of Minea Dahl's grip on life. Says nothing, the silence of stiff ire, infractions not yet — perhaps never — forgiven. Opens the throttle on her bike, listening to the whistle of the wind at seventy, eighty, ninety miles per hour; letting none of its noise seep through the connection, just like she keeps hold of Minea's messages for help — though the information, the relay of White and Monroe, slides between digital fingers. That doesn't matter to Hana Gitelman.

In silence, Hana keeps vigil for the moments, the eternity, that it takes Minea Dahl to die.

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