2014-11-09 The Best Laid Plans
This scene is rated PG-13
Warning: Gross, melty death. Language.
Players: Angelica, Surge
GMed by Surge (good job!)
Title: The Best Laid Plans

The warehouse sure looks abandoned. From the outside. Or it did until a few months ago. Slowly, the dilapidated structure has been showing signs of renovation. At least on the inside. The busted windows, way high up, have been covered over with steel. There's been the glow of a welder's torch at night. Electricity's come back to the place. Light leaks out from beneath the bay doors. During the day, battered conversion vans have driven into the place to disgorge some mysterious payload, and then driven out again. Something's going on, and such things don't escape the notice of the opportunists and criminals of West Bayville, for long.

Unknown to Columbia University and the rest of the world, Angelica Jones, adjunct professor and Stark Industries intern, has been setting herself up a lab. It's a hodge podge of new — but once broken — equipment she's soldered and rewired, and ancient, decrepit machines she's brought back to life. The array is dizzying and made, taking up about a third of the cavernous space. The overhead lights provide only a dim, tungsten glow, so there are bright work lights on tripods all around the lab area. The catwalks are lost in the gloom overhead. The skylights — well, who worries about skylights, except when they leak. Those apertures have been left alone, glass and grime. Where they do leak in the rain, trash cans and even a large, claw-footed tub have been set around like an obstacle course to collect the dripping water.

It's late at night, pushing on toward morning, and Angelica Jones is hooked up to one of her own machines, leads and electrodes taped over her arms, chest and body. She's wearing jeans at a football jersey, blue and white, displaying a team called the 'Panthers' and the number '33.' Her hair is in a ponytail. For all that she's commanding a mad scientist's wet dream, she looks like a precocious teenager playing with a home lab kit.

Speaking of precocious teens, one has been sussing out some clues to better refine his search for someone of a more nefarious quality. Every time Drake has laid eyes on this 'Demon of Hell's Kitchen', it's involved something science-y. Sometimes it's a tube of unknown contents, other times it involves a particularly large, unusual machine. Whatever the case is, there has to be some impetus. There has to be a science background. It just adds up. So he refined his sniffing around to include any 'unaffiliated' research facilities or their ilk, and a few people have suggested he take a look around this area.

Now that we're caught up, we join Drake on a domed warehouse rooftop across from the one he's scoping out. And since this would be rather incriminating for a casual streetpunk, he's donned his uniform and assumed the role of Surge. May as well make the snooping official.

For as much snooping as a guy can do through steel-covered windows, that is.

"Ugh. Couldn't make this easy, could'ja?" One large door, no easy windows, but it likely has a skylight like most of the others here. He'd made use of that before in spying, so it's worth a shot.

It takes a little maneuvering, but nothing particularly demanding. A few crates climbed here, a chin-up there, and he's hopping onto the 'abandoned' warehouse rooftop like a proper padfoot. And behold, his intuition pays off! There's a skylight! His head tilts over to peek inside, mindful of his physical presence, and spots a redhead girl strapped to a machine. "Huh. Lucky break…?"

But when has he ever known his prey to wear anything so.. so casual?

At about that time, a large pick-up truck pulls in front of the warehouse. Two men get out of the front and two more hop out of the bed, leaving a folded tarp behind. They wear baggy outer-wear, none particularly distinct, but loose enough to conceal small objects and rough enough to suggest they've done it before. The lead man simply pushes on the bay door to test if it's locked.

Sure it's locked. But the sound alerts the red ponytail in the football jersey immediately, making her jump in the chair where she's been quietly seated, poring over the readouts that she herself, apparently, is giving off. "God damn it," she swears, pulling off the leads. Apparently, her readings are no good now. Not after a start like that. She pushes to her feet and begins to stalk across the space toward the huge doors. "NOBODY'S HOME!" she shouts. "THESE ARE NOT THE DROIDS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR! MOVE ALONG!" Wandering hoodlums have only rattled the doors half a hundred times since she took up residence here. Usually, they go away when they find there's no easy way in.

Surge perks slightly when she jumps. She heard something that he didn't! He can at least catch her muffled shouts! Hahah, she dropped that Star Wars line again!

Holy crap, that's AJ.

The men at the other side of the door exchange annoyed looks. Three of them return to the truck to fish around in the driver's side cabin while another waits at the door. "Publisher's Clearing House!," he shouts back with a sneer as much audible as it is physical. He's rejoined by two of the three, one handing him an aluminum baseball bat, the other two sporting similar blunt objects. The third, however, has retrieved a length of chain with a hook and tether. The tether is linked with the back of the truck, and the hook is set over the padlock.

AJ actually snerks at the reply. She can appreciate snark. But then there's more rattling, and that's alarming. That means that someone's more intent on entering than just expressing curiosity as they pass. "Shit…" she whispers, backing up a few steps before turning to look wildly at her equipment. There's no a lot there. And who's she going to call? The cops? Where she's been squatting in a condemned property, not even leasing the lot, stealing the electric, and breaking about a hundred city health and safety codes? No likely.

"Okay," she mutters to herself. "What would Lara Croft do?" She blows out a breath. "Lara Croft would have guns. And a much better rack." As it is, Angelica Jones has a blowtorch. So she picks it up. Better than nothing.

A motor growls, tires squeal, and there's a sharp metallic *SNAP*. That's one less padlock in the world.

The door opens a number of seconds later, and in walk four men. Three of them disperse to start snooping around at the delicate equipment while the fourth gives a low, appreciative whistle. "Somebody's been busy," he remarks. The fat end of the baseball bat repeatedly thumps into his left hand as he takes in the grandiose layout. For a one-woman operation, it's a heck of an accomplishment. But that's enough admiring. "I'm gonna make this real simple. We're gonna take some of this stuff. Then we're gonna come back and take the rest of it. If you try to use that thing, we're gonna go to town on you. In every possible sense of the phrase. Am I understood? Or are you one of them 'learn by experience' types?"

The skylight… is now vacant. Surge has vanished!

AJ jumps and puts a hand over her mouth to stifle a scream as the doors bust open, her eyes the size of saucers and her face white as a sheet. The men stalk in and she steps back, shaking visibly. "You won't want any of this," she protests, voice shaking as badly as the rest of her. "It's out of date. I've jury rigged it within an inch of its shelf-life and they'll probably never power back up again if you move them." She babbling, words practically falling over one another. "It's second and third hand and I've salvaged it out of junk piles. And I need/ it." AJ seems intent on appealing to these men's better nature. More's the pity. "You don't understand how much I need it. I //can't let you take it…"

When the men appear unmoved, she swallows hard, tears brimming on her lashes. "Please," she whispers. "Please don't make me hurt you."

"Oh, that so? You're the one who did all this? And you made'em work?" The men exchange a few looks and a twisted smile comes to their faces. They're all on the same page. But never fear, they intend to catch the ginger up. "Guess we'll be takin' you along, too!" Whether or not they heard her plea to not make her hurt them, they give no indication.

And suddenly, there's a knock on the doorframe. "Uh, hello? Knock, knock?" A sleekly-trim young man is standing in the doorway, affecting an entirely innocent look, despite the eyemask and dramatic getup. "Sorry to barge in, I'm lookin' for four guys with bad hygeine and the charm of a hospital fire." He makes a quick showing of glancing to each of the other males present. "Oop, yeah, that's you guys, huh? I'm in the right place."

"I work really badly under pressure," AJ tells the men who've just decided she's also a commodity. "And I have a medical condition. It's complicated. Whoever you take me to will probably be pretty pissed when you come back with a bunch of shit that doesn't work and a girl that keels over dead."

Then there's Surge, the Underpublicized Hero, and AJ joins her new friends in gaping rather stupidly at him. She looks quickly around, then up at the skylight, to see if there are more of him. There don't appear to be, and she doesn't look overwhelmingly reassured by those odds. "Okay," she says, mostly to herself, still shaking. "Time for some thrilling heroics?" A girl can always hope.

With a wink and perhaps even cocky fingerpoint to AJ, Surge says, "Exactly."

"The fuuhhh~?," baffles one of the thugs. A couple others exchange looks. They've been around here a while. They know crap can get bad when there's someone in a costume. But this guy looks small. Not bulky like Captain America. Heck, he might even look young. The conclusion is simply, "He's just some idiot kid! Mash'em!"

Two of the men charge forward, brandishing their 'mashing instruments'. In response, Surge thrusts out his right hand. A stream of brilliant blue electricity coils rapidly along his extended arm and discharges from the palm, only to connect with one man's chest. The stream continues, however, arcing sideways onto the second. Both men convulse violently as the ionic energy wracks through them right up until Surge balls the hand into a fist and cuts off the stream. Both men fall into unceremonious, smouldering heaps. "Ohoho, man," chuckles Surge. "That had to suck."

The lead man with the baseball bat occupies himself by moving deeper into the room and glancing back at AJ. A plan formulates - a desperate one, but it's a plan. He attempts to weave in behind her, intent on grabbing her around the neck and taking her hostage. The other man looks considerably more unsure about this life choice he's made, readying a length of pipe and shooting furtive looks back and forth. He holds his ground for now.

"Really?" AJ asks, looking skeptical and a little alarmed as the boy in the costume agrees with her. But then there's chaos, and blue lightning, and men being electrocuted in her lab. She grabs the edge of a table so that her knees don't give, staring at the guy in the tights. Her expression turns, after a moment, from shock and fear to something like lust — avarice, really. Pure scientific greed. "Would you mind a lot of I took some readings?" She doesn't get to finish the thought, though, cut off in the middle of the word 'readings' by the thug grabbing her from behind. Instead of trying to fight him, she goes very still.

"Please let me go," she says softly. It's a deeply earnest plea. "This is a really, really bad idea. You should just… go home. This isn't worth it. None of it is." It's the kind of suggestive speech that might indicate psionics were being used, or the infamous Jedi mind trick. But it's neither. It's a plea for someone's life. Maybe his.

Surge whisks a gloved hand through his bangs, which simply fall back into place. Oh, habit. But he steps on into the laboratory, confidently locking eyes with the thug between him and AJ. And though he's looking at him, his words are intended for her: "Ah, can't let'cha do that. A guy's gotta have some mystery, right? But what I /can/ do is cut you a break." He can't quite see what's going on behind the thug in front of him, so her capture goes unnoticed.

"Back off! Back off! I ain't playin'!" Panic has set in. The man looks like he wants to bolt, but sees no clear opening.

"Funny thing is, I haven't even gotten serious yet," replies Surge as he stalks closer. "This isn't even my whole night." Surge comes to a stop in front of him, eyes narrowing. And suddenly, he grabs onto the weapon while it's still being held and gives it a sharp shove, thumping it against the man's head. Said man drops in an unconscious sprawl. "Idjit."

"Shut up! Shut up!," growls a voice beside her ear. The baseball bat is raised, albeit awkwardly with only one hand. "You! Leave! Or I'm gonna bash her brains in!"

Is it getting hot in here? It's suddenly getting really quite hot in here. AJ's face is screwed up as though she's expecting to receive that bashing any moment — she's hyperventilating, completely panicked. Desperate. "You need," she grits through her teeth, shaking again, "To let. Me GO!"

But it's too late.

The thug holding her screeches horribly — again and again — a well-nigh inhuman sound that dissolves into gurgles as his flesh begins to cook and melt off the bone. His clothing catches fire and he goes up like a torch. Even the baseball bat slumps into limp, molten metal.

In the course of all this horror, the man does, in fact let her go, and AJ bolts for the door. One she's out in the black and cold, she stumbles, pitches forward, and falls to her hands and knees. There's one wretched sob — and then she vomits up whatever she had for dinner.

Surge snaps his attention to the hostage situation with a scowl. "Oh, you screwed up now. I'm gonna… err…" He trails off. It's getting hot in here. Hotter than he'd expect. And the girl seems to be panicking. And then, something straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark occurs. Hell, he was just gonna smack the guy around or something. A pair of gloved hands clap over his mouth. For all his stride and attitude, he's still a person with limited life experience. And this is a particular life experience he would've preferred to avoid.

AJ escapes the building without a hitch.

"Oh.. god.." Whirling around finally, Surge takes off out the warehouse. "H-hey! Uh.. you.." She's puking. He approaches, but it's slow and deliberate so as not to take her by surprise. "You just.. let it out, okay? Uh.." It's difficult to process consoling someone versus dealing with a person physically melting. But he's putting forth a solid effort. "..did he, uh.. hurt you? You need.. um.. y'okay?"

Once she's finished horking up the contents of her stomach, AJ's eerily quiet. She stays that way for an uncomfortable stretch of time — it's probably only a couple of minutes, but it seems like forever. Then, slowly, she pushes to her feet, using the bed of the pickup to steady herself. "I'm fine," she says in a voice that's… dead. And pretty far from fine. Dead voices are not fine. "Thank you." She doesn't look at him. She certainly doesn't look back at the warehouse. "Please go away."

Surge waits patiently while she takes her time. Even though puke smells horrible. And melted-person probably stinks, too. But once she's on her feet, he shakes his head. No, she isn't looking at him, so she probably doesn't catch that. "Can't. You need help," he replies, his voice measured and even. "For a number of things. You need to get somewhere safe, and you need.. whatever happened here to disappear. I can help you with that, but I need you to trust me." He takes a single step forward. "Think you can do that?"

She starts to tremble, putting her free hand over her mouth. She still doesn't turn to look at him. "I didn't mean to hurt him," she whispers, her voice choked with tears she's trying desperately not to shed. "I swear. I swear I didn't mean to — I told him to let me go. I begged him to let me go." She breathes a sob, and her hand curls into a fist, pressing her knuckles against her mouth. "I didn't want to hurt anyone. That's why I'm here. That's all I've — " her voice catches and begins to sound a little hysterical. "I've been trying to understand it. Trying to control it. I've never — I never wanted to hurt anyone! Never, ever again…!"

Surge moves in closer to her as she seems to break down. It's a huge risk, but human contact can make a world of difference. So she'll soon feel a gloved hand gently set to her shoulder. "Hey, I know. I was there. I saw. And the same thing happened to me a time or two when I was just starting out. You're not alone." His head tilts in an effort to meet her gaze. "Understanding it is one of the top priorities of the people I'm with. Understanding it and controlling it so.. so things like this don't happen. Just.. shh, you're okay now. If you'll let me, I'll make sure you're taken care of."

She's only as warm as one would expect a human being to be, standing outside in the chill of a November night. Warmer than the ambient air, but no moreso than that. There are tears on her cheeks. Her eyes are puffy. Some women are beautiful when they cry — AJ is not. She hiccups with her sobbing, wretchedly, like a child. "I'd hurt them, too. I'd hurt you. I'm s-so, so stupid. I should have kn-known it was only a matter of time…" She steps away from him. "God, please don't touch me." There's a note of alarm in her voice, like she's afraid she might cook him, too.

"Nono, it's okay," Surge insists, keeping his voice gentle and hopefully calming. "You're not gonna fry me. I trust you, even if you don't trust you. It's gotta start somewhere, right?" Should she look at him, he'll flash her a quick, supportive smile. "You're not stupid. You're smart. You're trying to get a handle on it, right? Smart people know to… to, like, do their research. To look at the results other people have found. That's what I'm offerin'. Let me introduce you to the people who're helpin' me. They've got a lot of experience in this. It's sort'a what they do."

She might argue with him further if she weren't so lost… but she is. Completely lost, drowning, alternating between nauseating grief and numb horror. She sees his encouraging smile through a tunnel, like he's a hundred miles away. Her nod of assent is a tiny thing. She surrenders. "What do I do?" she whispers.

"Nothing," says Surge. "You sit tight, I call this in, and you go for a little ride with me. Then, you'll meet with someone, and they'll talk to you about what we have to offer. If you like what you hear, you stick around. If not, you go back out on your way." He steps forward again, and that hand goes to touch gingerly upon her shoulder. "Either way, this that happened here tonight is gonna get taken care of."

What he doesn't mention is that he's probably going to get so fussed at for all of this. But alas, priorities.

AJ nods again. "Okay." It's another whisper, and barely audible. She just cooked a dude. Probably takes a lot out of a girl. "Can we — can we get out of here?" She hugs her arms to herself. "I don't care where we go. Just… away."

Surge glances back to the warehouse, then to her again with a sharp nod. "Yeah! Yeah. Let's go for a walk." With the hand still on her shoulder, he attempts to coax her away from the truck to begin sauntering down the street. "What's your name?," he asks, a nearly pointless question. He already knows her name is AJ. But it helps in maintaining the facade.

She lets him guide her, walking aimlessly and automatically at his side. "Angel," she says, then winces. "I mean AJ. It's AJ." She glances at him. Holyfuckguyintights. "You're. Uhm." Yeah. "What's yours?"

"Angel, AJ, Ginger Spice…," he lists before shooting her a soft, yet mirthful smile. "A rose by any other name, y'know?" Of course they covered Romeo and Juliet in a literature class. Where the Spice Girls reference came from is anyone's guess, though. "Surge. I go by Surge."

"Heh," says AJ, softly. "I guess that's apropos. Better than Joules or The Ohm. Mr. Transistor. Capacitor Boy?" She muses. "Kid Oscillator." A nod. "I think you probably chose wisely." She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear with a hand that still trembles faintly. "Maybe I could be Charbroil. Or Patty Melt." Dark, dark humor. And desiccated. She glances at him. "You're not registered, are you?"

Dark humor, but it actually gets a laugh. "That's awful," he chides as he comes down from the mirth. "Hah, no. I don't trust it. Not with everything that's been going on with mutants and how they're being received. Just seems smarter to stay off the radar."

One of the compartments of his belt is unclasped and a cellphone retrieved. No fancy communicator - just a cellphone. "That warehouse… what were you doing in there?"

AJ nods at his explanation. "Yeah. It's very Schindler's List," she agrees. "I'm not either. Obviously." She glances at the cell, but doesn't ask who he's going to call. It sure ain't Ghostbusters. Unless the warehouse is already haunted by the man she killed. "Research," she says, bleakly. "I thought — I've always thought, since I was fourteen, the first time it happened…" Her shoulders lift in a shrug. "I thought that if I understood it, I could control it. Or maybe even cure it."

"Well, first of all, you're right. Second of all, you're wrong." Surge casts a cloying smirk her way, then begins gesturing with the phone, "There's nothing wrong with you to cure. You're different. That's all there is to it. You can do things other people can't, and that's an extra little something that makes you unique. It's not an illness or anything."

He slides the phone open with a thumb.

"But understanding it /will/ help you control it. That's why I'm calling this in and letting you meet someone who'll help you along."

AJ stops walking abruptly. She doesn't raise her voice, though the very clear enunciation of her quiet words has almost the same effect. "I killed a man." A beat. "I killed two men. That's not a quirk. That's not heterochromia. That makes me dangerous. If I were a dog, I'd have been put down a long time ago."

Surge exhales a sigh and turns to face her fully. "AJ… look, I've never crossed that line, myself. I've gone overboard, but never that far. And I count myself lucky for it. These things that we can do, they're… chaotic at first. Wild. Hard to predict. But that's because they're tied to us. They're a part of us. We have to learn how to work with it, just like how we learned to walk growin' up."

Surge links his hands, phone and all, behind his back modestly. "Don't give up on yourself. The fact that this is hurtin' you so much on the inside is what tells me you're a good person."

"I know I'm a good person," AJ replies, just as quiet. "That doesn't mean I'm not a dangerous person." She shakes her head slightly, setting her ponytail swinging. "Go ahead and make your call."

"What, I'm not?," muses Surge. "I'm not saying you're not dangerous. Just…" Beat. Then he quickly shakes his head. This is going off the rails for him. "Whatever, I'm doing this all wrong." The phone is lifted and a speed-dial button is pressed, murmuring, "Just gonna.. go ahead and make the call…"

"Yeah," AJ agrees, sitting down on a low brick wall around the decrepit remains of some landscaping. On a good day, say… one where she was lost in Harlem, she might be supporting him. Telling him to believe in himself. One freak to another. But today is a very bad day. "That's probably best."

The conversation is quick. "This is Surge. Tell the Professor I'm bringing someone in. An 'AJ'. We're here at, uh.." Surge pauses to take in the nearby street signs to relay the address. "…And we're gonna need a clean-up here in one of the warehouses. Can't miss it. Truck out in front." … "'Kay."

The call is ended and the phone replaced into his belt compartment. From there, he looks back to the girl with a frown. "You're doing the right thing," he offers in assurance. He isn't sure how their talk spiraled out of control, or even if it /has/ spiraled. He just knows the tone has changed.

But soon, a black van pulls in beside them. A few people in black outfits get out of the back, and Surge motions Angelica in. "They're gonna take care of things here, and we're gonna head back."

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