Paul Serene's Posts (7)

Signs of Home (Summer Contest Entry)

A collaboration between Paul (as Tom Carcetti) and James (as Adam Jensen-Carcetti)

Soundtrack: Empty Gold by Halsey, Blood in the Cut by K.Flay, Revenge by Chevelle

July hits with the force of a train, announcing that summer has come to Baltimore in its entirety, bringing with it thicker smells of decay from the harbor and trash-filled lots alike. Broken glass along pavement and scattered in unmowed vacant patches reflects the sun like daggers into the eyes of passersby. Metal becomes unbearable to the touch by noon. What few air conditioners there are to go around in this part of town struggle valiantly in their ultimately futile battle against the heat as it climbs ever closer to hitting the triple-digit mark before August even hits.

 

With this heat comes lethargy. Weed-grown, trash-strewn playgrounds rust untouched, their lead paint long ago having begun to flake and peel from the sun. Mangy stray dogs wander through alleys, avoiding kicks and searching for something the sun has not yet turned too ripe to eat. Old men lounge on stoops, cigarettes and sweating beers in hand, attempting to find shade from the cracking bricks of row houses that long ago lost their shine. Ants swarm the carcass of a dead pigeon that met its demise via window, tearing past feathers and beginning a process of decay that reflects the state of the city, only mercifully sped up instead of drawn out to an agonizing and slow death. Why something can't just do that to the entire rotting corpse of this place is a question even a deity would struggle to answer. It might just be the mercy killing that's needed.

 

With this heat comes freedom- from school, from homework, from responsibility. Young children and teenagers alike, cut free from the bonds of their usual work, find themselves cast adrift as poor parents who must continue their normal schedules can't figure out what to do with them. In a place where going out to play could result in a hypodermic in the foot or a knife in the gut, those that stay sitting on stoops are the good kids. Those that find work for their idle hands on the corners or as runners are staring down a life that will likely not end well. Some parents notice. Some don't care. Others encourage the behavior. Some are following in their father's footsteps, which brings pride. This is life here, on the West side. And the East? Not too different- although saying as much is a good way to end up needing an ambulance.

 

With this heat comes anger. Crime rates rise. Fistfights increase. Murders and robberies soar. Summer is a dangerous time, even before temperatures peak out at the top of their range. Tom Carcetti knows this. He grew up with it. The sound of sketchy ice cream trucks, battered vans often hawking more than their treats alone, is a siren song of childhood. Dirty public pools, now rarer than ever, are a godsend. These are the sounds and smells and sights of summer.

 

These are the signs of home.

 

Vacation from the swamp, as Washington DC is so affectionately called by anyone in political circles, was a welcome thing to be gifted. Pitching the idea of taking it back to Baltimore, though, got more than a few looks from Secret Service, the President, and his travelling companion alike. But it had been too long since he'd gone home, and far too long since he'd spent a summer on the streets of the city that molded him into what he's become.

 

As the afternoon fades into a murky, humid evening, the sun beginning its slow descent and leaving the sky a languid, feverish orange, water gushes from a popped fire hydrant, still pouring out onto the street where kids spent hours playing with no intervention from cops or maintenance workers. Even adults joined in the fun, and the one officer that passed merely smiled in knowing acceptance and moved along. It's late now, though, and it hasn't been reported. Apparently, it was time for this street's gutters to be cleaned, even if it will rack up the city's water bill, which they can surely barely pay as it is. There's nothing like wasting good, potable water on frivolous things, right?

 

The fundraiser party was for the Baltimore school system. It lasted most of the afternoon, but in the evening, it has begun to turn into a drinking marathon. And as people have begun to consume more alcohol in a misguided effort to beat the heat, the music has grown louder, and so have the voices. It's by that time Tom turns to his companion and whispers to leave. Agreement is made fast, as the two men know each other far too well to think either of them enjoys such settings. A few words to Secret Service and a couple of public goodbyes, and they're free. At least...as free as the Vice President and his cohort can be.

 

Tom steps across the deepening puddle of runoff water to reach the sidewalk, his move turning into a half-hearted jump to get across what might as well be an unsurpassable body of water at this point.

 

"Jesus. It's like the fuckin' Mississippi." His quiet complaint is lodged as he recovers, bending down to rub at his knee with a pained frown and another swear. "Fuck this. Anybody got a hacksaw? I think it'd be easier to cut this leg off right above the knee."

 

“Never been,” Adam Jensen, the “traveling companion,” newly branded with the surname Carcetti, responds as he wipes his head with a towel. His arms are overheating too much with the summer mugginess, causing the metal to burn what precious skin he has left on contact. The towel at least collects his sweat as his internal Augs struggle to keep up with the heat. “But if you ask me, I think both of us could do with never going outside again.”

 

They’ve been married a solid year, and the two play off one another as if they’ve known each other for much longer. Which, in reality, they have. From secret love affair to an announcement that shook the nation (again) during Vice President Carcetti’s second run for office, the two are inseparable at this point. Vacation to Baltimore, though, seems to only make him question his husband's sanity. The heat is unbearable. They should have gone to Detroit.

 

“Where’s the car? Why are we walking again?”

 

"Jesus, we've been driving all day. I wanted to stretch. But now I'm regretting everything. Seriously, anybody got a hacksaw?"

 

"Sir, maybe we should get a car delivered. It's just a phone call, and-"

 

"I'm not having it," Tommy snaps at one of the two Secret Service agents tailing behind them. "What's next, is Tweedledum gonna suggest my cane?" The injuries he bears from the assassination attempt are severe, but the fact that he's out in public again is more than just a show for the press. He didn't announce his planned presence at this event. What lucky reporters and photographers, both amateur and professional, that caught him there will have exclusives. This is a test of his own willpower and physical capability more than anything else. He's yet to announce his planned run for the Presidency, but that day is coming very, very soon.

 

The Unkillable Tommy Carcetti- your one and only sane choice for the highest office in the land. Who else are you going to vote for? A Cheeto with a clump on their head pulled straight out of a shower drain's hair trap? Between the knife he took between the ribs as a Baltimore City Councilman and the assault rifle fire he survived slightly over a year ago, he's proven his ability to stand tall under the most harrowing of circumstances.

 

At least, in public, where he holds back his swearing and tears. Those are reserved for physical therapy and home, where only Jensen and his Secret Service guards can hear and see how much pain he's in behind closed doors.

 

"Anybody got Advil or somethin'? Please?"

 

Jensen digs into his pockets and shakes a pill bottle. “I knew you’d forget your pain meds, Carcetti. I know you too well.” He rubs that in before handing his husband the bottle, adjusting his shades so they sit better on his nose. He’s long abandoned the shielding protective eyewear, knowing he looks out of place with it on.

 

“And you’re complaining, whining, and boring me to death. Just tell them to call the car, or I will make use that cane.” He’s become hyper-protective since the assassination attempt left Carcetti’s knee a wreck and Jensen unable to stop it. Since then, he’s been mothering him a little too much, but the Aug would never admit it.

 

"Thanks." The bottle is taken, although grudgingly. It sounds like there's at least three, and that's plenty for him. If he takes these now, he knows he can't have the heavy stuff at home. But desperation is desperation, and he's ailing badly. "I don't wanna dry-swallow these and end up puking in the gutter. We're stopping to get water." It's not an offer or a question. It's an order.

 

He squints into the night, past dim, grungy light from overhead poles that comes in hues ranging from piss-yellow to barely-there brown. The toe of his expensive, Italian-leather shoe catches on a raised cement edge and scuffs.

 

"COCKsucker." That got a bit loud. Mercifully, anyone out here tonight won't know who he is, or simply won't care. "Fuck." Now his GOOD foot is aching, his BAD knee is throbbing, and he's growing even more pissed off. "There. Okay? We'll stop there, I'll get water, I'll take the fuckin' pills, and I'll get a snack to keep them down." When silence follows, he turns, whirling to face the two Secret Service guards and his husband.

 

"What? I'm an old fuckin' man, and my delicate stomach can't handle them without food. Impeach me!" The anger is sharp and pointed, stemming from his pain and his exhaustion. It's characteristic of him, and neither of the other three will be remotely offended or surprised.

 

“Carcetti,” Jensen snaps, only to take off his shades, tuck them into his jacket, and pull the angry little man along towards the storefront. He’s tired and irritated himself from the heat, unable to keep himself cool with how hot it’s growing. The idea of a cold soft drink gets him a little excited. “We should have brought the damn car.”

 

Now they’re both grumpy. This won’t bode well for their security, who has dealt with how annoyed and angry these two can get when they’ve been exposed to too much stimulation. Something is nagging at the back of his skull, though, making him nervous. He shakes it off, sliding off his suit jacket and rolling his sleeves up to his elbows like it’ll do much good. His arms are fucking metal.

 

He waits for one of the men to open the door for him.

 

The convenience store is run-down, a typical example of its type. The windows, save for the one on the door with chicken wire doubled-up inside of it, are all boarded over for safety. That, or they've already all been broken out. Either is plausible. The neon signs flicker weakly, coaxing passersby to buy a lottery ticket. God knows it's the only money the poor, ailing education funds see around here. Taggers have made a mess of the plywood elsewhere. None of that is even visible to the pissed-off politician who grew up here.

 

"Will you two stay outside? My husband and I are having a moment." Tommy's question is, once again, an order disguised as something else. The agents know better. One shrugs to the other, who mouths a simple phrase: Thank fucking god. Dealing with these two can be exhausting when they're pissed off.

 

The interior is typical. Refrigerated cases line the back wall. Rows of fatty, salt-laden, pre-packaged snacks line several short aisles. Another features toiletries, car fluids, and emergency supplies. Behind the counter, cigarettes, chew, and alcohol can be purchased. Tommy waves to the bored attendant, who barely gives the pair a second look. All told, Jensen and Tommy bring the store's population up to six. Three other patrons are browsing- a mother and her young teenage son, and a strung-out man who looks fresh off his latest shoot-up.

 

Normal.

 

Outside, the two agents slip to the side of the building to wait. One lights up a cigarette, and gossip starts to flow.

 

Jensen heads straight for the fountain drinks, and spoils himself with soda. Then it’s for jerky, where he spends several moments trying to decide if he wants pork or beef. He keeps an eye on Tommy as he makes his way around, finally ending up at his side and thinking a moment about a beer. Does he want one?

 

“Do I want a beer?” Might as well ask the one man who knows him best. It won’t make him drunk, but it’ll cure his little withdrawals that several days of talking have created.

 

"Do you want to be in the news for buying a beer at a place like this at this time of night?" The question is meant to be as biting as it sounds. Tommy grabs a bag of M&Ms to go with his water bottle and turns to limp his way to the counter.

 

Before he can get there, the ding of the bells haphazardly tied to the inside of the door clink dully as it opens again. A Baltimorian dressed a bit too thickly for the weather walks in, his letter jacket bearing the Orioles colors. The door slams shut, and he approaches the counter.

 

"What can I get you, broth-"

 

The gunshot echoes so loudly in the small, enclosed space that it's hard to register. Tommy freezes, dropping what he's holding. The pill bottle rolls away from him with a clatter and finds a new home underneath a dusty, disgusting shelf. The clerk sinks and drops to the ground, half of his skull blown away and his brain matter painting the glass display of cigarettes and chew behind him. The mother screams. Tom is frozen, locked up in a personal hell of memories and fear.

 

The agents outside rush to the door. The shooter turns his massive handgun on the door and fires again, the bullet ripping straight through the chest of the first and dropping him in seconds.

 

"Don't PLAY, motherfucker!" The warning is shouted to the second, who quickly whips around the corner again and dials 9-1-1. "GET ON YOUR KNEES! All of you, GET the fuck over here, NOW!" The gunman gestures to an open space by the freezer section. The strung-out man collapses in fear, the floor beneath him soon collecting a yellow puddle. The smell isn't recognizable from anything else in the store already. The mother shields her son and does as asked, a hand up as she tries to protect herself and her child.

 

Jensen yanks Carcetti down and over as hard as he can, getting ready to leap forward and jab this son of a bitch with this wrist blades that haven’t seen action in years. His first priority is to protect his husband, then protect the others inside. Unless Carcetti stops him.

 

“Stay down,” he hisses in Carcetti’s ear. “I’ll move in a-”

 

"No!" Tom hisses, letting Jensen shelter him. "Don't do it, they'll know what you can do! You're gonna get more people killed, Adam. Not now. I know how guys like this work." He tugs Jensen with him over towards the others and hangs on his arm to drop to his knees one at a time. His wince as his bad one hits is huge, and the whimper of pain is a noise he barely silences. Suddenly, his stubbed toes and scuffed shoe don’t seem to be pressing issues anymore.

 

“I can talk to him, then.” Jensen is on his knees as well, which whir in protest to being bent so awkwardly. He’s whispering as quietly as he can. “I’ve talked a lot of people out of these kinds of things...”

 

"Not like this you haven't." Tom grits his teeth and straightens up, risking a glance at the gunman. "This is Baltimore."

 

"SHUT UP." The man aims the weapon at the junkie. "Wallets. Phones. Keys. On the floor, right fuckin' now, motherfuckers."

 

Tommy keeps a hand up and visible as he reaches into his pockets one at a time as ordered, tossing the sparse contents out on the ground.

 

A blur off in his left peripheral signals the junkie is bolting for it. He slips in the puddle of his own piss and crashes down into a metal stand of snack-sized chip offerings. The gun fires again, punching a hole through his back. The child screams and Tommy curls in on himself, holding his gut as if it were his own that would spill out should he move his arms. He's survived it once. He doesn't think he can again.

 

Outside, sirens are starting to blare. The gunman, apparently not after money or anything more than fame, is furious. He bears the look of a crazed madman. Whatever brought him here tonight is going to end in death, and he knows it will be his own.

 

"He knows he's gonna die, Adam. He wants to take us all with him." The whisper is broken. "Don't fuck this up."

 

Jensen snarls, but looks towards where his wedding ring and wallet are on the floor, angry that they’ve been parted from him and even more angry he can’t do anything about this.

 

He inhales, his Augs doing the talking as he reads this kid’s body language, information spilling into his head as he licks his lips and opens his mouth.

 

“Hey. You don’t have to do this.” How cliché.

 

"The fuck you know about what I don't have to do, white boy?" Nice, Jensen. Tom is cringing. "It's all gone to shit. I either go home and get shot in my bed or I go out tonight and get fuckin' remembered. I ain't gonna sit around and wait."

 

The sirens are louder now, and there is clear police activity outside. The boarded windows make it hard to tell how much for normal eyes. Responding officers are blocking off the scene as a hostage team is en route.

 

“This is how you want to be remembered? A faceless thug?” His words are chosen carefully, but it’s been a very long time since he’s had to do this. He’s rusty. This could go badly.

 

The sirens outside provide some relief. At least he can keep Jensen from getting killed. The mother and child? Not so much.

 

Badly is an understatement. The elephant gun is swung downwards and cracks into Tommy's skull with a noise far too loud. He crumples down, his world going red and brown and black all at once. The pain is loud, like white noise from an empty TV station. He bit his tongue. Blood rolls from his mouth, such wounds always looking more severe than they are. There's no way that didn't cause a concussion, if not worse. There's blood, but...somehow, the skull isn't cracked. He moans into the tile and stays down.

 

"You got anything else to say, smart-ass?"

 

“Fuck.” Shooter forgotten, Jensen is instantly cradling Tommy on his lap, looking at the shooter with flared glowing eyes. “You just pistol whipped the Vice President.”

 

Bad move, kid. Metal fingers are brushing hair away from the wound, tempted to just kill the shooter right there. But that, like Tommy said, would just cause more problems. He grits his teeth, gaze moving back up towards the shooter.

 

"Say fuckin' what?" The weapon is turned on the child now. The mother screams and pleads, shielding him. The shooter kicks her away and drags the boy towards himself, holding the weapon right to the top of the child's head.

 

"THIS IS BALTIMORE PD." The voice cracks over the loudspeaker, the noises outside growing. They make Tommy's head buzz. He can't see straight. Words aren't coming to him. He wonders if they ever will again. Right now they feel slippery and taste like iron. "TALK TO US, SON."

 

He glances to his hostages and stares at Tommy for a moment longer before the gun is waved as an extension of his hand.

 

"You that mayor. I remember you. Shit." He realizes it, now, and it's too late to change things. But in the end, it's just an even more valuable bargaining chip, and he needs all the help he can get. "HEY!" He shouts, knowing he can be heard through the plywood. "I've got the fuckin' VP in here, man, and I'll hurt him worse! Back the fuck off!"

 

Shit. That's going to make this even worse. The surviving Secret Service agent has already confirmed this with the police, but now they know Tommy is hurt. The limited field of view they have inside probably means they don't know who is alive and who is dead. They've only heard shots fired, if they even know how many of those there have been.

 

Thus, a standoff begins that lasts far past the fall of the sun, deep into the night. Hours pass, and negotiations are failing. The shooter paces, brandishing the weapon and kicking over displays. He's nervous and circling like a cornered animal. Tommy finds his words again after half an hour, but stays down. After a bit of cleaning, though, it's clear the blow to the head isn't as bad as it first appeared. Count your blessings, right?

 

By 1:00 AM, everyone is exhausted, dirty, and tired, including the police outside, and especially the shooter.

 

“Look, kid, you got me, you got the VP. The kid and the mom, they’re just collateral. Kill the Vice President, you’re a legend. Kill a mom and you’re the same as every other forgotten madman. Are you really a man willing to kill a child in hopes people will remember you for maybe two more weeks than every other gunman in town?”

 

Jensen is trying again, this time trying to appeal to him rather than convince him otherwise.

 

“You know Carcetti, then you know me. We’re what’s really valuable here.“

 

"You his husband?" He points to the two masculine wedding rings among the gathered wallets and phones. He's thinking about it. Finally, he nods. It's small and angry, and it shows how tired he is.

 

"Hey. Get the fuck up." His order to the drowsy mother and child is harsh. They rise when ordered. What they don't expect is to be ushered to the door. "Get out. Go." The body of the downed agent has long been removed. They cross bloodstained steps, faces streaked with tears and sweat, and rush into the arms of Baltimore PD outside.

 

Tommy exhales audibly with relief, now back to sitting against the refrigerator case behind him.

 

The gunman stands there for a moment, thinking about what he's done. He turns to look at his last two remaining live hostages, his lips twitching as his face falls. He realizes what he's done. The gun raises...and turns towards his own temple.

 

"WAIT!" The voice of Carcetti cuts through the thick, nauseating air. The smell of bile, of blood, of shit, of urine, and of worse is not something a man can grow accustomed to, no matter what. It always weighs heavily in the sinuses, like a coating of toxic paint. "Kid, please. Wait." Surprising even Jensen, he stands, gripping the handle of the door directly behind him to do so. His other hand is held out, palm open. His face is a perfect picture of fear and sincerity, his face half covered in dried blood and his hair matted and ruffled.

 

"Don't pull that trigger, son. Please." What's he doing?

 

“Carcetti,” Jensen warns, suddenly getting overwhelmed from Carcetti abruptly talking as well. He shakes it off, metal hand on the floor and his other curled into a fist, ready to tackle the kid down if he tries anything to hurt Tommy again. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.

 

His shoulders are starting to ache from the gravity of this situation. Getting the mother and kid out was hard enough, but now they have to talk this kid out of suicide? He feels conflicted. Really, he’s tired and wants this over with.

 

Tommy better know what he’s doing.

 

"Hey. Listen to me." Tommy drops the hand he's reaching out with, and stands up as straight as he can. His arms fall to his sides loosely, his shoulders lopsided as he takes weight off of his bad leg and therefore throws off his posture. "This city eats people alive. It fuckin' destroys you. I ain't got a clue what brought you here to this point. I can't understand. I won't ever. But, man, this? This ain't gonna do it. I wrote the death penalty out back in 2014, son. I promise you won't eat that. Please. Walk out with me. I promise they won't shoot you."

 

There's desperation in his voice, a broken plea. He wants to save a life tonight. He wants it more than anything else.

 

"We'll go out first. You come behind us. We'll shield you, okay? Just...please. Don't do this, kid. You're, what...twenty-five?" There are tears in his eyes, from stress, pain, and fear. "C'mon. Please."

 

The gunman hesitates for a long time, staring down the face of the battered, smaller politician. This is likely the first time he's heard and seen sincerity from one. Hell, this might be the first time anyone had to this degree, if this were being televised. Thank fucking god it's not.

 

"Aight." The reply is quiet. The gun is lowered. "Come on." He gestures with his other hand. "You two first."

 

"Good. Good. Thank you." Tommy kneels awkwardly to grab for his wedding ring. He slips it on his bloodied hand and passes Jensen his before grabbing his husband's arm and limping forward towards the door.

 

“Carcetti…” Another grit in the teeth from Jensen. This is a bad idea. It has bad written all over it. But from the look he’s given, and the fact that a gun isn’t on him, he can’t do anything but comply. So inside, he gently takes Tommy’s arm, knowing full well that knee is horrible and that he’s probably got a concussion and moves forward, his gaze dropping down to the rings on the floor before gently moving forward.

 

“I hope you know what you're doing,” Jensen’s convinced that gun’s fucked his brain up somehow. Right foot. left foot. He’s moving very slow, pausing only when his hand reaches the door.

 

DON’T SHOOT,” he shouts out in that deep, loud voice, waiting a moment before the door is gently pushed open.

 

Tommy is using both arms to hold onto Jensen to stay upright. He's doing his best to hold it together, knowing that now news cameras are on them. He's a bloody mess, but so long as he stays standing, he looks superhuman to everyone watching and everyone that will see him later. He can survive this. He can survive anything. He can-

 

The shot rings out from behind them. The spatter of gore strikes their backs and heads. The gunman's body collapses.

 

The cops raise their weapons.

 

Jensen can’t even shout. Carcetti is shoved down under him, time slowing as thick metal plates just out of his arms to form a small shield as Jensen throws himself on top of Tommy. Gunshots follow, making his ears ring and his head throb in pain. He landed on Tommy pretty hard, and given his weight it can’t be doing the smaller man any favors. The slowing down of time seems to stop and everything catches up, hitting Jensen hard in the face.

 

His only thought is if Tommy is still breathing under him.

 

Two shots are taken, shots that very well may have ended up hitting the two survivors. Imagine that headline- Vice President killed by Baltimore PD after being held hostage in a convenience store for nine hours. That's not the eulogy Tommy deserves. Hell, that's not the eulogy ANYONE deserves.

 

Quiet shock ripples through the crowd. An officer breaks the spell and rushes towards the two men. Paramedics charge forward. Soon, they're engulfed in a swarm of the good old BPD blue.

 

---

 

The cameras, bright lights, and loud voices are finally fading away as a perimeter is established around the ambulance Tommy and Jensen are situated in. Secured down to the gurney, Tommy sits halfway up, haggard face looking like that of a man who just left a warzone. He's covered in blood- his own, and that of the dead. His eyes are hollow and listless. An IV is feeding him anti-nausea medication, painkillers, and fluids for now. The head trauma is mercifully incredibly mild. For once, he got lucky.

 

"This fuckin' city..." The words feel like sandpaper being scratched against the inside of his throat. He coughs and tries again, his gaze still fixated out the open back doors of the ambulance and the quieting flurry of activity around the scene. "This fuckin' city eats people alive."

 

“There was nothing we could do,” Jensen isn’t scuffed, but there’s some attention that’s been given to him. His shirt is torn and dirty, he’ll have to throw it away when he gets home. “Kid was messed up. Bad. If anything, he just got what he wanted.”

 

It’s not what Tommy wants to hear.

 

"Just 'cause he wanted it doesn't mean it's what shoulda happened." He wants to mean it. He really does. But there's a faraway look on his face that suggests with all he's seen and done, with all he's lived through, that he's not so sure he believes that anymore, no matter how many times he says it for the media.

 

"There was nothing we could do?" He laughs once, the sound bitter and harsh against murky nighttime air. A car alarm is blaring somewhere nearby. Chatter from crowds echoes like the calls of crickets in the night. A door slams down the street.

 

"That's just what we tell ourselves to pretend the big, gaping wound that is this fuckin' city ain't here."

 

July hits with the force of a train, announcing that summer has come to Baltimore in its entirety. With its heat comes lethargy, freedom, and anger.

 

These are the signs of home.

 

Somewhere in the night, from an open window, a radio broadcasts news with a signal so poor the dozing inhabitant of the apartment would never be able to make it out even if he were to be awake.

 

"-sorry to interrupt our programming tonight to report that a fatal hostage situation involving Vice President Thomas Carcetti and his husband, Adam Carcetti, occurred on the tenth block of-"

 

The fire hydrant's pour continues unabated. The ants have finished off the pigeon carcass.

 

Life in Baltimore moves on.

 

Read more…

Sit the Fuck Down {Collaboration}

Four editors. Fourteen beloved characters. One labor of love.

We are proud to present to you our first-ever RP characters collab. We've worked for about two months to bring this to life. Enjoy!

Song: STFD by TezaTalks

Parts-


1| Hope.- Carmilla Karnstein
2| Sarge- Paul Serene
3| AceDhampir- Adam Jensen
4| xxStillexx- Olivia Foster
5| Hope.- Kara Danvers/Supergirl
6| AceDhampir- Fiction/Shaw Durand
7| Hope.- Isa Vidal
8| xxStillexx- Ben Roth
9| Sarge- Lenny Belardo
10| AceDhampir- James Harris
11| xxStillexx- Nex Jones
12| Sarge- Tommy J. Carcetti
13|AceDhampir- Jim Corrigan/The Spectre
14| Sarge- Richard Swift/The Shade

Fan Art:
Part 13-
memed.deviantart.com

Read more…

"Save your ammunition."

Male | Age: 130 | Species: Human (frontal and temporal lobes intact), Bionic Automaton | Nationality: American
Height: 10'0"/3m | Weight: 457 lbs

Theoretical Physicist
Chairman of the UAC
Monarch Solutions Chief Chronon Research Officer

Unit Specifications:
Bulletproof
Enhanced Strength
Enhanced Speed
Plasmatronic Processing Core (a "biochemical brain" that has replaced his parietal and occipital lobes)
Birth and Death:
Born into a wealthy family with old money, Dr. Hayden completed a Masters in Theoretical Physics at Oxford University. His specialty fields were thermodynamics, nuclear sciences, and electromagnetic theory. His Samuel Hayden Foundation sponsored scientific talent in young minds and funded programs in schools and higher education campuses. Often described as having a daunting intellect, Hayden was scooped up by the UAC quickly. This corporation was looking to tap into renewable energy resources off-planet. Thus began his life on Mars.

Hayden was appointed General Director of the UAC's Global Science Council, although he quickly ascended to take total control of the UAC itself upon discovering the Argent Fracture on Mars. It is through his leadership the Argent Tower was begun, a structure able to tap into the raw energies of hell and extract it for use on Earth.

However, during this time, Dr. Hayden was diagnosed with a terminal, inoperable brain cancer which had already reached stage 4. While his rivals whispered about who would take his place, Samuel made other plans. With six months to live, he took to his office, and he drew up a radical solution to his mortality...via cybernetic transference and bionic automatons.

Rebirth:

Upon death, Samuel's temporal and frontal lobes were left intact. The parietal and occipital were bypassed entirely, instead networked into a plasmatronic core of his new body, which serves as a type of biomechanical brain. He retains his memories, personality, comprehension, and reasoning. However, due to these changes, both his calculation and his perception are supercharged. Back, bigger, stronger, and more formidable than ever before, his massive frame inspires fear and admiration from those around him.

When his choice of such a massive frame was questioned, his response was simple:

"Dictating the future of mankind is dangerous work. You never know when we may need a hero."

In short? He wanted to be scary.

Due to both neural conditioning and stem cells, his brain is constantly rejuvenating, allowing him to have lived for 130 years at this point. It is presumed that his lifespan is to be indefinite.

His body has long since passed, but his soul will live on forever.

His work with Argent energy has destroyed the boundaries of humanity's understanding of physics, which led to him catching the eye of a certain corporation...

Monarch Solutions:

The jump from Argent energy to Chronon Fields seemed simple enough to the brilliant mind of Hayden. Whether it is the challenge that keeps him around, the chance to be on Earth again for some time, or some other sort of bargain or blackmail, Dr. Hayden has found a place within Monarch, and he intends to stay.

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Schrödinger's Man

Schrödinger's Man

A Paul Serene Playlist

1. FML- K.Flay

2. Say Hello to the Bad Guy (Reimagined)- Emarosa

3. Me and the Devil- Soap&Skin

4. Kitty Hawk- Ki: Theory

5. Ten Tonne Skeleton- Royal Blood

6. Daze- Poets of the Fall

7. Sweater Weather- The Neighbourhood

8. Saskatoon- Data Romance

9. Stomach It- Crywolf ft. EDEN

10. Blood in the Cut- K.Flay

---

      Disjointed images twist together to form Paul's fractured view of his office, reality jumping and breaking like so many shards of glass scattered on the floor. Their linear rays cut glimmering lines in the cornres of his vision, and with them comes splitting pricks of pain, like needles being driven behind his eyes. He rubs at his forehead harshly, so much so that when he draws his palm away, he's left a red mark. The sensations stop, although briefly. The momentary clarity feels like ice slipping down from his head to the pit of his stomach. The coolness drifts away, and the burning returns. He gulps.

      This is who he is now. This is who he became. His reflection stares back at him from the glass-top desk he's seated at, slumped forward in a slouch in his expensive office chair. He reaches out and rubs at a smudge with his thumb, making the image more visible. He then traces a scratch mark, unable to remember how it got there in the first place. Maybe he broke a glass. Maybe it happened when he rearranged his furniture. Maybe he did it in a moment of weakness, when the illness got to be too much. Maybe it happened back in October, when his building was infiltrated. The possibilities float through his mind as if they were being carried by a current. Long before they've turned the bend, he's already moved on.

      He sees a middle-aged face, creased with worry-lines and salt-and-pepper hair. In his light eyes there is exhaustion, pain, and a steady determination to see his plans through, the same look that's been there since 1999...the second time he experienced it, anyway. His body is lean, and not from lack of muscle, but for the sake of it. Instead of bulk, he's developed the frame of a distance runner, compact and durable. It's a far cry from what would have greeted him before the incident began. A far cry from what he's ever been before.

      Once, he was a sickly, frail child who got beaten up so badly in third grade that he ended up in the emergency room with a broken jaw. He doesn't remember what started the conflict, only that he was pushed from playground equipment and attacked with kicks, blows, and laughs, tears streaming down his face, blood pouring from his nose. That's when Jack stepped in to protect him, taking more than a few hits himself. He barely knew the other boy yet, but Jack visited him in the hospital and brought him a balloon. His own mother doted, but coldly so. It was the brightest thing to be in his life that entire year, a simple balloon. The brightest thing other than Jack himself.

      Once, he was a thin, nervous teenager, a bundle of nerves wrapped up and coiled like tense wire around a spool. Advanced classes, extracurriculars, competitions, tutoring...He went to sleep at night anxious about the days to come, about homework he feared he'd forgotten, about how his father would react to the B he'd received on the geometry test he had gotten back that morning but had not shown his parents yet. He'd say later that he forgot. They'd be mad, but it gave him more time to think it over and not be reduced to tears in front of them for his failings. At least, that's what he told himself as he counted the remnants of the glow-in-the-dark stars still on his ceiling. His parents didn't like him spending so much time with "that underachiever," but Jack was the one person Paul felt truly at home with. Jack took to riding the wrong schoolbus, riding home with Paul instead and walking nearly two miles to his own home, just so they'd have more time to talk. Paul always felt less anxious around Jack. He even felt like things might be okay. Sometimes, he even snuck out late at Jack's encouragement when he couldn't sleep, and the two would prowl the city, dreaming big dreams. Jack liked to steal small things, inconsequential ones he said nobody would miss. One night, they saw a man jump to his death from a fairly tall downtown building. They ran home breathless, scared, and feeling very, very mortal. Paul's grip on Jack's hand lasted longer then than it ever had before as they made each other promises to never mention it to anyone.

      Once, he was a tightly-wound, overachieving high schooler, frantic over AP tests, university admissions, and maintaining his top class ranking to prevent the wrath of his parents and what would surely be the end of his life as he knew it, should he slip one spot. With few friends and fewer prosepcts for fun, Paul fought off illness after illness as he nearly succumbed to the stress of the regimen forced on him. But forced by who? In the end, he's the one that made the choice to try and be the perfect child. He's the one that couldn't bear to disappoint his parents. Jack worked two part-time jobs after his parents died, trying to help support himself and his older brother Will, a legal adult with custody of Jack so they could stay together. Paul felt guilty, but his parents wouldn't help more. He spent as much time with Jack as he could, even as the other fell into small crimes and trouble. During football season, they'd attend the high school's games together as often as Paul's schedule allowed. One night, when they were there late, everything changed. He blurted out three words, and he felt shame flood through him, like he had just laid bare his most toxic secret.

      "I love you."

      He thought he'd ruined everything. Instead, he was met with a kiss. Suddenly, everything was better.

      Then he was a college freshmen, a proud Business major, studying hard and spending his evenings getting into trouble with Jack just like always. Jack tried one semester, but dropped out to pursue a full-time job instead. That is, until he landed in jail for grand theft auto. Getting him out was hell, but Paul managed to find the money by digging into his inheritance from a dead relative. These were the years of emo rock music and late-night strolls through Riverport, fingers stealthily entwined. These were the years of stolen kisses and breathless laughs, when everything felt like it would be okay. He graduated, and he went on to business school. And Jack? Well, Jack just couldn't stay out of trouble. In a last-ditch effort to keep him from ending up in prison, Paul poured the rest of his inheritance in helping his best friend in the entire world move abroad, thinking he'd never get to see him again.

      How did it fall apart? How did the thin, work-driven young man become what he sees now? How did he manage to lose the only person he'd ever be capable of loving like this? Irreconcilable differences, resulting in six bullets in his chest, sealed the situation. And that fact hurts far more than the wounds ever did.

      Dead.

      Alive.

      Maybe both.

      Does it really matter? Paul Serene is a man missing half of himself. It is not something he can ever replace. For all his money, all his power...he can't win back the only person that ever mattered.

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Slipping Away to Pain and Rage

[mood music]

The heat inside him is rising, burning at every stray cell, bumping every atom into a frenzy, blurring his vision and skyrocketing his pulse. His lungs feel light and liquid-filled, as if they are ready to explode at any given moment. His steps lost meaning nearly fifty blocks back. He doesn't feel the pavement beneath him anymore. He's floating, lost in a haze as time around him warps and twists. Whispers of what has been and what could have been and what could still yet be nip at him from every direction. Ignoring their siren song, his own eyes stay fixed on the glowing lights of the Monarch Solutions building rising in the distance.

The glass and steel monolith is a gorgeous, gleaming tower in the night, the largest one in Riverport and a true marvel of engineering. Its reflective surfaces capture the light pollution of the city and the glow of the harbor and airport nearby, sucking it in and refracting a dim, comforting glow. It is much-needed healing for a city without a doctor.

He is not about to take up that role.

Riverport, Massachusetts is large, but downtown is walkable, especially this late at night. The streetlights blaze down, causing the sweat beading on his face to roll. It's the feeling of hyperventilation combined with the floating of freefall. The knowledge that nothing around him is exempt to what he knows is coming keeps the separation he feels even more poignant. But he's walked alone now for a long time, and he'll keep doing so. He survived the events of 2016. He survived the disaster that ruined his life and stole his best friend from him.

But he doesn't think he can survive himself.

Not for much longer.

He'd always been silver tongued, a gifted businessman and one hell of a speaker. But he had never been a scientist. So why did he decide to play god? Vanity. Sheer vanity. The fame it would have brought him...the MONEY...he gambled everything on time travel, and he lost it all just as quickly.

By trying to stop his own mistake, by trying to stop himself from facing the fate that awaited him, he only came to cause it himself. Fired into the terrifying future and yanked back to 1999, forced to relieve 17 years of his life in hiding from everyone he'd ever known, forced to try to sleep with the memories of what he'd seen at the end of time, Serene twisted into something bitter and harsh, like a flower in the desert.

Time would end. It would take the world with it.

He would not let humanity end with it.

He's seen the end. He knows what comes. And so he devoted himself to preparing, to building an empire, to becoming the monster he knew he must to ensure that darkness didn't wipe out every snuff of innocence and joy from the oblivious around him. He feels fragile. He feels alone.

And he knows he's dying. He's becoming the enemy. No miracle of medicine, magic, or science can stop it. He sold his soul to a machine, and his payment is to be fractured into irreparable pieces, caught up in a cycle of life and death, tormented until clarity returns of its own accord.

He's slipping away to pain and rage.

And he's not so sure he wants to stop it.

He chose to make sacrifices to fix his mistake- more than most would do, or so he tells himself. He continues to make them, and continues to push his failing body to its limit. The treatments aren't working. His breathing is labored. His immune system is shutting down. He's whithering away, never a particularly intimidating man in a physical sense to begin with. But to see him quake when trying to write...to see him stumble to just walk down the hallway...it will ruin him. It will ruin his company's thoughts of him. The press will tear him apart.

They'll claim cancer. AIDS. Worse.

But he knows the truth.

Exposure to the very particles that allow time travel, the very ones that gave him his abilities, is killing him.

And god help the next poor bastard who falls into the same trap.

So he'll burn in his rage and he'll turn his pain into power, because nobody else will guard against the inevitable. No one else is willing to make the hard decisions. So he'll be the monster. He'll be the beast.

The world- and his life- will end on his own terms.

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"You play, you pay, you bastard."

Tʜᴇ sᴜɴ ᴡᴇɴᴛ ᴅᴏᴡɴ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴘʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴄᴇᴅ ʙʀᴀᴠᴀᴅᴏ. Tᴡɪʟɪɢʜᴛ ᴄʀᴀᴡʟᴇᴅ ᴀᴄʀᴏss ᴛʜᴇ sᴋʏ, ʟᴀᴅᴇɴ ᴡɪᴛʜ ғᴏʀᴇʙᴏᴅɪɴɢ.

I ᴅɪᴅɴ'ᴛ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴡᴀʏ ᴛʜᴇ sʜᴏᴡ sᴛᴀʀᴛᴇᴅ. Bᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇʏ ʜᴀᴅ ɢɪᴠᴇɴ ᴍᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴇsᴛ sᴇᴀᴛ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ʜᴏᴜsᴇ. Fʀᴏɴᴛ ʀᴏᴡ ᴄᴇɴᴛᴇʀ.

Male | Age: 47 (Born 1969) | Species: Human | Sexuality: Angry | Nationality: American
Height: 5'11" | Weight: 193 lbs | Hair: Brown | Eyes: Light Brown

FBI Agent, New York City Metro Gang Task Force
Former Occupations: Agent, DEA; NYPD Detective

Currently Living: New York City, New York

Abilities:
Bullet Time- Max, in moments of intense stress and concentration, is able to slow down the perception of time for up to thirty seconds, in which he is able to move faster than everyone else around him, but not at full speed. His pulse echoes loudly and his already incredible reaction time is increased. His aim rarely misses in this state, but he is momentarily exhausted after using it. It takes upwards of an hour for him to regain the ability to use this ability again unless he has only used it in small bursts for a second or two at a time.
Healing- Max is, somehow, able to survive incredible amounts of painkillers and alcohol combined. He can take painkillers to aid in his hyper-accelerated (and completely unexplained) healing process. He has proven incapable of ODing on anything other than a special manufactured drug called Valkyr.

Self-Narration- For some unexplained reason, Max's entire life is narrated in monologue in his head. This only comes into play if someone tries to pry into his mind, at which point they are greeted with prose they never wanted to hear. Serves anyone right for trying that, though.

Family:
Helen Payne (Mother)
Jack Payne (Father)
Michelle Payne (Wife)
Rose Payne (Daughter)
Alex Balder (Partner)
Valerie Winterson (Partner)
Mona Sax (Love Interest)

Relationship Status: Married (Previously: Widower)

Tʜᴇʏ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴀʟʟ ᴅᴇᴀᴅ. Tʜᴇ ғɪɴᴀʟ ɢᴜɴsʜᴏᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴀɴ ᴇxᴄʟᴀᴍᴀᴛɪᴏɴ ᴍᴀʀᴋ ᴛᴏ ᴇᴠᴇʀʏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʜᴀᴅ ʟᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜɪs ᴘᴏɪɴᴛ. I ʀᴇʟᴇᴀsᴇᴅ ᴍʏ ғɪɴɢᴇʀ ғʀᴏᴍ ᴛʜᴇ ᴛʀɪɢɢᴇʀ. Aɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇɴ ɪᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴏᴠᴇʀ.

Max grew up in the 1970s. His father, Jack, was a Vietnam War veteran suffering from PTSD and was abusive in an attempt to "toughen" his son up. He often beat Max's mother and cheated on her as well. His mother, Helen, fell to drinking, which led to her death in 1976. Max's father moved on quickly and started dating new women. Max drew a replica revolver on his father to intimidate him and pulled the trigger at his head after making him beg and cry for his life. After that, it was clear Max had been through enough. Jack Payne died in 1979, which left Max an orphan at the age of 10.

Sometime in the late 80s and early 90s, Max trained in the New York Police Academy and was among the best of his class. Upon becoming an officer, he quickly rose up from being a beat cop to being a full-time detective. He met Alex Balder early in his career, the two men becoming partners on the force and best friends. Their drug busts and fight against the Punchinello crime family drew media attention, lauding the two men as heroes.

Balder eventually joined the DEA and urged Max to follow him. Max declined, citing the nature of undercover work keeping him away from his family. Shortly after this, Max met his future wife, a woman named Michelle, who he rescued from two robbers. Six months later, they were married. Nine months later, on February 4th of 1998, the couple's daughter was born- Rose Payne. The family settled into a house in the suburbs of Jersey. The real American Dream.

But it all fell apart so fast that he could barely comprehend it. On August 22, 1998, both his wife and daughter were murdered by men pumped up on the new and thus-far unknown designer drug "V," and Payne returned home mid-invasion. He was too late to save either his infant daughter or his wife. He killed the intruders moments too late. His home destroyed and his loved ones taken from him, all he could do was scream in anguish with Michelle in his arms as sirens built to a wailing crescendo...

With nothing left to lose, Max accepted Alex Balder's offer and joins the DEA, becoming an undercover agent with the determined plan to seek out this new drug and bring down every producer and trafficker of it in any way possible.

Three and a half years later in October of 2001, Max Payne infiltrated the Punchinello crime family. Until December, he posed as a gangster and rose up through the ranks to learn who is who and uncover the source of the drug, Valkyr, or "V." He maintained contact with only two other DEA agents through this period, Alex Balder and a new man known as B.B. One night that December, the storm of the century blew into New York City, and B.B. called Payne with a frantic message to meet Balder at Roscoe Street Metro Station, in the Bronx. He arrived and found the station overrun with gangsters. Upon meeting up with Balder, who seems as confused as Max as to why they were there, Balder was gunned down by an unknown assailant. Max shot his way out, but was framed for the murder of his friend and an intensive manhunt was put underway to capture him.

Max, realizing he had little time and this would end in either his death or his arrest, set out to destroy the entire criminal food chain, starting at the bottom and climbing all the way to the top. It is on this path he met hitman Mona Sax, who knocked him unconscious with rohypnol in a glass of whiskey.

After discovering Aesir Corporation was behind the creation of Valkyr via a military project, Max survived an overdose of the drug and its hallucinations before making his way to Aesir HQ, where he crushes Horne's helicopter with a radio antennae he shoots down, killing her and preventing the escape. At Aesir headquarters, he saw Mona Sax get shot in the head and assumes she is dead.

Max is taken into custody, but Senator Alfred Woden, a member of the Inner Circle involved with the creation of Valkyr, cleared all charges against Max. Payne is then exonerated and set free.

I ʟɪᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴍʏsᴇʟғ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ɪᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴏᴠᴇʀ. I ᴡᴀs sᴛɪʟʟ ᴀʟɪᴠᴇ, ᴍʏ ʟᴏᴠᴇᴅ ᴏɴᴇs ᴡᴇʀᴇ sᴛɪʟʟ ᴅᴇᴀᴅ. Iᴛ ᴡᴀsɴ'ᴛ ᴏᴠᴇʀ.

Payne transferred back to the NYPD in 2002 and joined the homicide unit, with a new partner named Valerie Winterson. They made headlines with catching a serial killer.

In 2003, Max intercepted a call about "shots fired" and finds out about a mob war going down between the Russians, led by Vladimir Lem, and the Italians, led by Vinnie Gognitti. Mona Sax, having survived the gunshot wound, called Payne to warn him they both have contracts on their heads. The two barely escape an attack, and Max finds out he has been watched for quite some time. Together, Payne and Sax worked their way up the chain to try and discover what was going on. While Payne fought off the team of hitmen, Mona was arrested by Max's partner. Max was then suspended from the force.

Mona escaped the station, avoiding another attempt to kill her, and Max accepted the help of Vladimir Lem to get back to Mona. This is when sparks finally flew, and the two shared a passionate moment before they were interrupted by the same team of people out to kill them both. Max is forced to kill his Homicide partner and ended up gut-shot in the process. He undergoes surgery at the hospital, but is forced to flee long  before he is ready to when he and Mona have to run for their lives yet again.

Max found out that Vladimir was behind everything, and driven by fury at this revelation, aims to destroy him and bring down Senator Woden, who he now ties to being responsible for the death of his family. Payne is shot by Vladimir, and only rescued from a fire by Mona's bravery.

The two set off together to end things once and for all, but upon arriving at Senator Woden's mansion, Mona reveals that she was hired to kill Max. She could not do it. She droped her weapon and is killed by Vladimir moments later. The Russian then killed Senator Woden. Payne ended the fight by shooting Vladimir and letting him fall to his death. Payne kissed Mona one last time as she died.

I ᴅɪᴅɴ'ᴛ ᴅᴇsᴇʀᴠᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴡᴀʟᴋ ᴀᴡᴀʏ. Tʜᴇʀᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ɴᴏ ʜᴀᴘᴘʏ ᴇɴᴅɪɴɢs.

Max left the NYPD and lived on a small penison shortly after and fell into a spiral of of painkiller abuse, depression, and drinking. He lived in a small, dingy apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. But the future is still being written, and while Payne expects nothing but more heartache, he'll carry on until his final day.

With a new job in the FBI and a surprising romantic interest, the next chapter of Payne's life is unfolding in full color. Only time will tell what happens next...

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"I'm better at being you than you ever were."

The Herald of Darkness

The Writer of the Night

Soldier of the Dark Presence

Fiend of Bright Falls

Words have a power.

He uses them as he sees fit, to create a world in his image.

Male | Age: 6 (appearance: 40)| Species: Unknown | Sexuality: Murder

There's a hole where his heart should be, a gaping chasm straight through his chest. It was taken from him decades ago in the 1970s.

Once upon a time, the Herald of Darkness crawled out of the depths of Cauldron Lake...

---

He's a writer. He can bring his words to life by reading them once he has penned them. They must be his own words, or things will go horribly, horribly wrong. He can create reality with penstrokes, driving the world closer and closer to his idea of perfection.

He works on commission, writing things for people for payment. The first is on the house. After that, it takes cash to get what you're chasing. It's only fair. He has to pay his rent and his utilities, as well as buy the nice things he deserves...

Or thinks he does.

His voice is a weapon. His writing gives him his bullets. What he uses it for is up to you. Trying to muzzle and control this power has never been attempted.

In addition to these powers, he controls the shadows as easily as some breathe. The Taken haunt this darkness, an army of his creation formed from the various people his shadows have overtaken and twisted into nightmares. They are enshrouded in darkness, and only by cutting through this with light can they be wounded or attacked.

He is capable of massive destruction, and is able to throw seemingly any object via use of his shadows to create poltergeist objects. He can dissipate his physical form and become nothing but those same dark mists.

"It's not a lake. It's an ocean. Ooooh."

Art Credit: [x]

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