Audition

We all imagine ourselves the agents of our destiny….

There is a sound of laughter in the air, the whirr of metal and the shriek of the entertained. Colored fabric spreads out in a sea of tents set against a field of packed earth and short grass. Brightly flashing lights of red and yellow, blue and green twinkle like stars. Turning slowly, a great Ferris wheel turns with the slow precision of a clock, the hours and minutes ticking by. Beneath the dingy yellow bulbs, red paint and neon lights, the signage for the Sullivan Bros. Carnival looks old and faded, paint peeling, well-worn without looking old and broken.

…capable of determining our own fate.

Stepping out from behind a half drawn curtain of patterned cloth, a ruddy-cheeked man wth short brown hair and a worried countenance stalks through the crowd of spectators, past a wild-eyed fortune teller in a velvet tophat brandishing tarot cards between gloved fingers, past a large tent where a man in dredlocks beckons passers by into the house of mirrors. Joseph Sullivan is not himself today, the feelings of anxiety and frustration welling up inside of him bundle up like tightly wound spring ready to exert all its force the moment it is released. The impressions of the people around him do little to ease this sense of nervousness.

But have we truly any choice in when we rise or when we fall?

Behind curtains designed to divide the 'back stage' area of the Carnival and its trailers from the fairgrounds, Joseph carries himself with a determined gait, marching across the well-trod dirt past a picnic table illuminated by hanging Christmas lights strewn threw a trellice above it. There, with knives laid across the table and one in his lap, the Carnival's juggler takes notice of Joseph's determined stride and the uncharacteristically frustrated look on his face as he makes his way to his trailer.

Or does a force larger than ourselves bid us our direction?

Focus shifts from the trailer, and it is only when he looks away from Joseph's movement into that trailer that the Carnival's knife-thrower and juggler, Edgar, is able to see that someone else witnessed that same frustrated departure. Standing in the doorway of a red silk tent, the Carnival's painted lady stands with arms crossed over her chest and sandy blonde hair spilled down her shoulders, her eyes too having moved from Joseph to the man across the dirt path.

Is it evolution that takes us by the hand?

There's a stillness in the cloudy sky tonight. Under the glow of flickering colored lights, of paper lanterns and in the distant saturation of neon the painted lady and the knife thrower find themselves at a crossroads, one divided by a span of only some thirty feet and a few words. Sometimes though, even a space that small may as well be a thousand miles and a hundred years.

Does science point our way?

The noise of the Carnival is the backdrop for their eyes meeting, sharing in the sense that something is wrong, but not knowing enough to tell what, or just how bad.

Or is it God who intervenes, keeping us safe?

Or how much worse it is going to get.

A man doesn't need to be an empath to know when something is very wrong with one of his nearest and dearest. Joseph, like a father to him for so many years, is almost as easy to read as the carnival sign itself. The knife thrower's jaw flares out only a fraction of an inch as his teeth clench together tightly, his lips set into a grim line. When the man's azure eyes meet her dark umber ones, his eyebrows twitch downward, just a little.

The noise is unmistakable, the high pitched whistle of extreme velocity hits her ears before she even realizes he's beside her. There's two kukri clenched tightly, one in each of his sinewy hands, something of a safety blanket for him. "Wha' d'you think Lydia? There's somethin' off about him, been off about him all day."

His eyes flick toward her, an imperceptible movement. Unlike most, there's no roll or slow drift to him. Everything is near instantaneous.

It's a noise Lydia's grown accustomed to over the years, but even then, it's an odd near-surprise when he's next to her. Her gaze drifts from the trailer to Edgar and then back again while concern consumes her features — her eyebrows knit together, her arms tighten against her chest, and her lips purse with quiet consideration. Unlike Edgar, her expression, her thoughts, and her actions are evenly paced, but at this moment, easy enough to read.

"He's unsettled," she agrees as her eyes flit back to him. Although in quiet confidence she adds, "Unusually so." Her lips press together as her chin lifts, examining the grounds, although nothing stands out as particularly agitating to her.

"Has he told you anything?"

"No, an' that's what worries me," Edgar's voice is smooth, a contrast to his rugged appearance. One of the knives appears, its point embedded in the old table to the side of her trailer. The hand that had been holding it so tightly is drawn through his patchy beard, creating a rough sandpapery sound as the callouses scrape over the stubble. "'As 'e told you anythin'?"

There aren't many of the carnival folk, though family, privileged enough to actually converse with the juggler. Not because he is distant but because he's always been a man of very few words. Short, like the wild little people, and to the point, like the knives he's so fond of wielding. To get more than a few words or a smile of contentment is troublesome, at least for those who know him. "You'd tell me if there was, wouldn'cheh." It's not a question, it's an affirmation.

A small twitch of lips and eyes accompanied by a shake of her head are all too telling. "He hasn't said a word. Not to me," Lydia's words are even-toned until the last where the inflection changes; one of her few tells rearing it's ugly face. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other, leaning towards him to keep their words between them, away from anyone else who would care to hear, "I'm worried too. Something is wrong."

Her features soften at his assertion while her general guardedness and demeanour weaken at the non-question. "Of course I would tell you." Her arms drop slowly from her chest and her tongue runs over her lips before she soothes, "It probably doesn't concern us. A lot of people are weary these days and wearing something else's weariness is too catching for empaths." Her lips twitch into a tightened smile, while it might be small comfort, there's little to be done at this moment.

The confirmation lets his tension ease, his posture relaxing enough to make him seem less hostile. Though there's no curve to his lips, when his face angles in a smooth motion toward her, there's a peace in his eyes. "Weary, wearing weary. Righ'" Those few words are his acceptance of her explanation and with a small nod, he turns his head in the direction of Joseph's disappearance.

"Still, it migh' be a good idea for someone to go make certain," and Edgar's eyes are on Lydia again, alternately seeking advice and asking permission to find the head man of the carnival. The other knife appears, much like the first, point embedded in the table and his hands are empty. A silent offer to be the one.

The peace in his eyes yields another smile across her lips, more at ease than the tight one she'd forced before. Again she glances at the trailer, contemplating Joseph inside. "Perhaps," Lydia states quietly before looking back to Edgar. With his hands empty, her eyes linger on them for a moment. Her right hand lifts towards his, her silent desire for contact so often suppressed reaching out, but only for an instant before her hesitation beckons her to use it as a comb through her sandy coloured locks instead. Even as she does so, something nearly imperceptible crosses her eyes, a glimmer of a secret never uttered, even in the carnival's world of mystery, the painted lady remains forever mysterious.

"I'll come," she offers quietly as that hand is returned to her side while her smile becomes tight once again.


Jacksonville, Florida

Three Years Later


Crack

It's hard to be the best when being too good draws just too much scrutiny. The tiny shadow of an airborne baseball casts down as it eclipses the sun from the pitcher's perspective, one of his hands shadowing his eyes as he watches a pop fly soar up and over and out into left field to the cry of, "Foul!"

There's a cheer from the crowd gathered at the stadium today under a blazing sun and sweltering heat in the late afternoon. At the pitcher's mound, the first batter up in the day for the St.Augustine Stingrays offers a squared look at the pitcher on the mount, his head tipping from side to side as he wavers his bat back and forth in a slow swing at the ground, then leans in to the batter's box again with brows furrowed and eyes narrowed.

It feels like a lifetime ago that Edgar Smythe went by his real name, feels like another life before he became Augusto Hernandez. In a way, it was and is. Gone are the lights of the Carnival, replaced by stadium lights and the cheer of a crowd, the light of the hot sun burning down on his cheeks, the chanting of the crowd in the stands stomping their feet. They've come to see the Razorback's star pitcher.

Augusto Hernandez is a good pitcher, great by the standards of the minors, but if he truly gave this job his all, he'd be the best. But doing his best here, being who he really is on the inside? That would mean going back to the way things were, and the hurt in that is too great to even consider.

Years ago, his ability was a gift, something he treasured and drew strength from. Now, nothing but a curse that weighs heavily on him. Standing on the mound, he raises a hand to the cap on his head and gives the brim a quick swipe between his thumb and forefinger. Then that hand comes down to grind the little white ball deep into his glove.

Years ago, the cheering of crowds drew a smile to his face, he appreciated them for appreciating him. Now, there's shame and a fear of being noticed. With television cameras angled toward him, catching his every move, there's no hiding. Being an outfielder was good, he kept a low profile. Not low enough though, because it didn't take the coach and managers long to pick up his talent on review.

"Hernandez is winding up for the pitch…"

"Look at that concentration, Bob… Not hard to see why everyone has eyes on this one…"

"And it's a swing and a miss!! The Razorbacks have won it!!"

"I sure hope the brass in the majors saw this game…"

The announcer's commentaries aren't heard by the pitcher, it's everything he doesn't want. As the cheers of the crowd threaten to deafen him, Augusto Hernandez ambles off the mound, starting a slow jog toward the dugout. The entire team is on him, patting his back, smiles, cheers for their win…

With the cheer of the crowd the remainder of the Razorbacks come rushing out from the stands, hats waving around and a few of the young men springing into the air, wheeling around and waving their arms at the cheering crowd. The struck out batter of the Stingrays offers a frown, eyes falling shut and shoulders slacking as he tosses his bat aside and walks away from the batters box, sweeping his hat off of his head so he can rake his hands through short hair frustratedly.

"Hernandez you son've a bitch!" is said with a laugh by one of Hernandez's teammates over the roar of the crowd. It's so quick that arms are around him, slapping palms against his shoulders and back, clapping and cheering. To everyone in those stands, Augusto Hernandez is a hero, but that same man is also a living lie. What of Edgar Smythe? What is he to people?

He's a fugitive.

And eventually, all fugitives have to run.


Sullivan Bros. Carnival

May, 2007


Hunched forward over a formica table, the bottle of Jack Daniels sitting half empty in front of a shotglass is a sign that nothing has gone right. Faded blue curtains hang over the trailer windows, the smell of cigarettes linger in the air, and Joseph Sullivan seems all the beaten for it. Palms flat on the counter, his mouth burns with the alcohol still swishing around in it. By the time he swallows, he can hear the metallic rap of knuckles on the trailer door.

Brows raising, Joseph turns and regards the shadow of a person seen through the small square window of frosted glass on the door's surface. Closing his eyes, Joseph slacks his posture, walking over to the door reluctantly, turning the latch aside to unlock it, then cracks the door open, "Aye?"

The smell of alcohol and cigarettes wafts out the door.

Lydia's hand lowers slowly at the answer to the knock. She tightens the shawl draped around her shoulders. Even with her own muddled conclusion about the man's upset, she's could convince herself. Wrought with concern, her dark eyebrows knit together and her head tilts at the man behind the door. "Joseph?"

Her nose wrinkles involuntarily at the combined scent of booze and cigarettes, adding to her now-growing uneasiness. Her own idea can bring her little comfort at the image of this man she regards as a father.

Her fingers — complete with red painted fingernail polish — clasp the edge of the door, causing her knuckles to whiten, but she doesn't impose more than that. On the short walk to the trailer, she'd planned what to say, but here at the precipice of the trailer, her former questions and words of comfort are useless; they're quickly abandoned for a simple question, quiet, nonjudgmental, and dripping with that still-present concern, "What's going on?"

Though she was alone initially, Edgar ghosts in behind her with nothing but a sharp breeze and a toss of stray trash drifting toward them as an indication of which way he came in from. His eyes are on Lydia to begin with, then quickly flit up to meet Joseph's. "It's alrigh' Joseph, we're alone. Ev'ryone's workin' or workin' the crowds."

Unlike the painted lady, Edgar's eyebrows aren't furrowed. There's an upturn to the inner edges, giving him a countenance of concern and curiosity. Almost like they traded places. The speedster takes a deep breath inward, the intoxicating air putting him at odds with himself and with Joseph's state of mind. He ducks his head a little to the side, angling it for a better view of the interior of the trailer.

"S'quieter in there, Joseph. For talkin'." Like Lydia's assurance back at her tent, Edgar's voice has a soothing and easy gait about it. One can almost hear the gentle persuasion as he attempts to talk their way inside. "If your drinkin', maybe there's somethin' you need to unload. We're your fam'ly."

"You both need t'mind yer own— " A sharp reaction like that is so unlike Joseph that even he realizes when the alcohol is talking. The recognition has his posture slouching and arm lowering from where it was braced on the back of the door. Tired eyes peer past Edgar and Lydia, to the seer's tent, but Joseph only steps back into his trailer with a clunk of his shoes on the linoleum-tiled floor. "Come in…" he reluctantly grouses, seeming far less like the amenable leader that he usually is.

"Honestly, a' don't know if a'should be talking t'you both about this,." Joseph makes a slow progress over to the table where the bottle of alcohol sits, picking up the cap and gently screwing it on with one hand if for no other reason than to keep his hands busy. "Was it tha' obvious?" is asked over Joseph's shoulder as the red-faced man turns, still looking at the floor and not directly at either Lydia or Edgar.

"Was it tha' obvious tha'm upset?" Normally, he's much more adept at hiding his feelings.

Joseph's response earns him a skeptical raise of Lydia's eyebrow, but at the invitation and opening of the door she turns her head to peek at Edgar before shuffling inside, her own ballet flats nearly silent along the linoleum. "You're not yourself," she observes quietly following him further into the trailer. But she doesn't follow him to the table, she stops several feet shy, somewhat unsure. "We know you. We care about you and our family and these people… Joseph, if something is wrong, we want to help."

Quicker steps fill the gap she'd left. "Please. Tell us. What's going on? It's just us. No one else will hear a word of it. Edgar and I — " she casts a glance back to her cohort " — we're not going to tell anyone. But you need to talk about it." Meaningfully her eyes rest on the bottle, "This isn't you…"

Edgar's never really been much for words. Letting Lydia do most of the talking, he stands quietly near the door with one heavy booted foot pressed against it in order to make certain it stays closed. Imperceptible as his movements may be, he keeps a careful watch on the outside my spending most of his time focused on Joseph.

Folding his arms over his chest, he takes a deep breath inward and leans his shoulder close to the little window in the door. His jaw clenches tightly, his eyes flitting between the half empty bottle of whiskey, Joseph, Lydia, and the dirt path outside the small trailer. "If it makes you better Joseph, I don' think many others noticed, bu' they don' know you like we do."

"You don't know me as well as y'think," is Joseph's grumbling answer, one of his hands lifted up to rub over his brow as he brings that bottle of Jack over to the small kitchenette just a few steps away, opening up a cabinet over the sink and putting the bottle on the shelf inside. "M'worried about m'brother…" comes as something of a surprise, "Samuel's… his attitude lately's been botherin' me. He's— have either've you noticed it?"

The question has Joseph looking over to Lydia, then to Edgar with a raise of one brow. "There's a darkness 'bout him, an anger… A'can feel it in m'bones, smell it in th' air. M'worried about him, worried tha' he's going t'do something… something tha'll endanger all've us, endanger th' family."

Guilty eyes avert to the peeling linoleum floor, and Joseoh slouches back against the sink, the heels of his palms resting on the metal edge. "Please tell me s'no just me seein it… feelin' it. Don't— don't tell me tha' I'm th' only one." It's a pleading tone, one that also carries a certain earnest desperation. If there was ever anything that could put Joseph in a foul way, it's Samuel.

Lydia's head tilts as her eyebrows furrow further, her expression knits with concern, but at the question, consideration becomes her mark — quiet consideration of the question. "He is angry," she agrees as her gaze flits between the men. "It doesn't take an empath to see it, but…" The word carries a considerably weight to it. "Everyone is. The world is in a constant state of flux and governmental fear-mongering leaves half of our patrons uneasy and the family just… off."

She sighs, her concern surfacing further with each moment, "Samuel has always yielded to your leadership. We all do. Even if he's angry, you are the father here. I know it's unsettling, but… he will submit to your wisdom." Another silent step shuffles closer towards him as a hand is held out towards his shoulder, "Joseph. Please."

Lydia is wrong, the sharp glance that Edgar treats her is one of furrow brow confusion and the slight twitch of his head might be a disagreement. Not everyone has been angry. While the bomb affected the outside world, the knife thrower hasn't let it bother him too much. Going about his daily life, as unconcerned of the outside as he always has been. "She's righ', ev'ryone's angry. Samuel's just a little hotter under the collar, bu' your 'is brother Joseph. Y've raised 'im like you've raised the rest of us, he'll come 'round."

But Edgar doesn't really feel it. Yes, he's noticed Samuel's rage. He's heard the ranting, but there's never been a day in his recollection that the younger Sullivan hasn't had something raising the hair on the back of his head. Nodding his head toward the bottle, his gaze is fixed on Joseph. "The question is… What's drinkin' 'elpin'?"

"My conscience," is the dry, sarcastic answer that Joseph gives to Edgar's question, one that he regrets after saying from the dismissive shake of his head and look on his face. "Samuel told me tha' with people knowin' about our kind now… tha' they need t'be shown how t'properly respect us. That they need t'learn that there's a line between the ones who will lay down an' take what comes to'm, and the one who will stand up an' defend themselves. He— he's obsessed with the idea of— "

There's a pop outside, not one of fireworks or a wine cork coming off, but the distinct pop of a gun. Just once, but that's all it takes for a scream to erupt from outside. Joseph straightens up immediately, eyes wide and brows pressed together. More voices join the screaming, then shouting, then two more pops in quick succession.

Someone is shooting inside of the Carnival grounds.

"But Joseph, Samuel's not without reas — " Lydia begins only to be interrupted by that sound. The colour drains from her face as she looks between the men, while something was wrong before, chaos has overturned their world now. The shawl is tightened around her shoulders as staccato'd steps carry her to the door in a pseudo run, but she stops before just shy of it, a hand reaching out to the window, just beyond Edgar.

But she stops midway, turning back to face the man she regards as a father. Everything begins to come into focus, even amid the chaos. "Joseph. What have you done?"

There's a a blur and a whirl of wind that whips up a few loose fliers before the door makes its own pale imitation of that single shot… clapclap

BAM!!

Edgar stands completely still in front of Joseph, cradling a dead child in his arms. The red stain on her little costume blooms like a morbid rose, spreading out over her chest and from the back, drips down to the floor. "Wh-what have you done? Joseph… What have yeh done…"

Both of the empaths in the room can likely feel the anguish tearing through the speedster. Likely the first time since they've known him, a sparkle of tears can be seen gathering in the corners of his eyes. "You bloody bastard…" he croaks in a whisper, turning to lay the child gently on Joseph's bed. "What've y'done…"

When she's laid to rest, his arms slide from beneath her, stained with crimson streaks. Then he's in front of Lydia, his strong hands gripping her around the tops of her arms. "Stay… wait for me… I'm goin' teh take care of this…" Still, he manages only a whisper.

Leaning down a fraction of an inch, it almost seems as though he's about to kiss her before the door slams again. He's gone.

Joseph's expression is one of abject horror, blood rests in thick droplets on the linoleum floor, tracking all the way to the bed that Edgar laid her on. Julie Bowman, just a child, just a sweet and innocent child that he'd saved. "Not— not this," Joseph croaks, tears welling up in his eyes as he hears another loud pop come from outside of his trailer, "I— I didn't— this isn't wha' a'wanted…" when he turns to look back at Lydia, there is nothing but sorrow in his expression.

"I can still make this right," he breathes out exasperatedly, treading in Julie's blood over to the door to his trailer, pushing it open with a look back over his shoulder to Lydia, "Stay here," is the same order Edgar had given, though both know Lydia too well to presume she'll follow that instruction. "Stay here an' stay down, if this doesn't go well a'know Edgar will come t'protect you…"

Stepping back slowly, Joseph moves down the steps from his trailer and onto the dirt path between the tents.

He has to set this right.


Jacksonville, Florida

Present Day


Back beyond the dugout and towards the locker rooms, the noise of the crowds cheers and applause has ended. The thunder of feet on the bleachers and spectators going home after an evening of fantastic baseball has begun. The sea of players of the Razorbacks are on their way to the showers, most of them still offering congratulatory slaps to the back of their new star pitcher. For a team as low in rankings as the Razorbacks are, there's a turn of the season coming thanks to Augusto Hernandez.

"Augusto!" Is a call from down the hallway, "Augusto Hernandez?" The voice is a familiar one, and when the infielder slips into the locker room, she's revealed fully where she leans one shoulder against the concrete block wall. Long, blonde hair is tied back into a ponetail, brows are furrowed together, a black suit jacket covers a loose white blouse with its top buttons undone, dark slacks slim her profile to an inky silhouette.

"Do you sign autographs?" Where this blonde woman's collar is parted, there is a jagged scar running down the side of her throat, over her collarbone and down across the front of her chest. "Because I'm a huge fan of yours."


The Sullivan Bros. Carnival

Three Years Ago


Beyond the tents ont he periphery of the Carnival, it has turned into the verge of a war. Shouts rise up amongst the crowd, somewhere in the sea of Carnival goers, Samuel Sullivan's voice rings out. But on the periphery of the field, there black-clad Homeland Security Counter-Terrorism agents crouch in tall grass — flak jackets stenciled with yellow DHS logos on their backs, helmets and goggles hiding their faces, rifles ready — are wholly unprepared for the mighty wind that is blowing their way.

«Osprey-1 this is Ocelot-2, do you have target in sight?» The voice crackles over a sharpshooter's radio as he levels his Ar-15 up to one shoulder, peering through the red-dot scope, training it up over the crowd to where a man in a purple overcoat with the collar flipped up parades around atop a picnic table, pointing an accusing hand down at agents with their hands raised, a situation trying to be defused.

"Affirmative," the agent calls into his shoulder, training that red dot on his scope at the center of Samuel Sullivan's chest. "Wait— " through the crowd, a smaller and more unassuming man emerges, both his hands held out, expression grieving. "Our Contact just moved into the field. Orders?"

At a distance, it's impossible to hear what Joseph Sullivan is saying, trying to plead between the DHS and Company agents, trying to appeal to his brother as he turns, one hand motioning to each of the groups.

«Take the shot, Ocelot-1.»

The wind that is coming is not just a breeze, but a backdraft from a man faster than a bullet.

When he was a boy, he used to read comic books with a man faster than a speeding bullet. Edgar doesn't have all of his powers but what he does have is a strong desire for vengeance and justice. Having skirted around the carnival in less time than it takes a man to point a remote control at a television, the juggler zips in a staggered line up the path.

The first agent is sliced down by the knees, cutting ligaments and tendons. Before he has a change to scream or fall, the second is circled as the kukri swirls completely around his neck. The first has not yet uttered a sound before the third looks down one last time to see his heart explode out the front of his chest.

In slow motion, Edgar is preforming a ballet. Each movement well timed and precise. A low slice from a windmilling arm cuts through two legs before a few leaps are taken to circle around his next partner. The dancer allows him to smile in 360, from a new mouth gifted to him from someone he will never see. The grand finale in this dance of death is a knife plunged through the back, breaking a hole for a fist to shove a heart through.

Then he is gone. Without being seen. Leaving the first to bleed out as he witnesses the others demise.

«Take the shot, Ocelot-1.»

He won't, the gun is kicked out of his hands before the wind pauses to show him a face. For the first time, Edgar slows enough to give a menacing curl of his lip and allow the agent to see what he truly faces when DHS dares invade a tight knit family. Then, the kukri is driven up through the man's lower jaw, the wind dies as he falls, unable to name his killer. Turning slowly, Edgar narrows his eyes toward the field, seeing Joseph with his new enemy.

Then he's gone.

"Ocelot-1 do you hear me, I said take the shot…" Backing up from the crowd of shouting carnies, a blonde woman in a sleek black suit is whispering into a microphone in her sleeve. Suited agents with distinctive handguns readied aim at the crowd. At the moment it's a stalemate, powers haven't yet come into play, abilities haven't been called upon. Amidst the crowd of agents, a white-haired old man in a pale tan suit keeps his gun trained. Albert Rossling narrows his eyes, looking to one of the agents beside him.

"Steady, don't fire unless you absolutely have to," comes in a clipped British accent, "remember, we're here to take them in to custody, not kill them." Of the agents, another opposite of Rossling stands with both dark hands out, his bald head shaved clean of hair, a necklace glinting at his collar in the shape of half a helix. His silence is steady, as is his posture.

"Ocelot-1 do you read me," a badge flaps around at the blonde agent's chest, showing a photograph of her smiling face, along with the header Department of Homeland Security and beneath that, her name in italics: Gilmore, Lauren. "Ocelot-1 take the shot."

From the back of the crowd of Carnies, shouting fills the air. "They took from us a sacred life! They say they're here to help us, to integrate us into society!" Wheeling around, Samuel Sullivan stares over the frames of his rectangular sunglasses, brandishing a hand down at the agents. "They're here to take us in! To take our lives! To take our homes!"

"Samuel, stop!" Joseph screams as he turns his back to the agents, both his hands up in the air, "Samuel, please, listen t'reason… we can stop this. It was an accident, it was a terrible accident. Please… everyone," Joseph turns, looking back to the agents, "Everyone please… calm down an' listen t'reason."

"Reason," Samuel sneers with eyes narrowed, "Reason t'what? Hmm? Reasons why you've turned on us, Joseph? Why you've turned on y'only brother?" That makes Joseph turn around with a sharp snap of his head, eyes wide and focused up on where Samuel stands on a picnic table, head and shoulders higher than the rest of the carnies. "I know what you were up to, Joseph. I know. D'you think tha' y'really could keep it a secret from yer own brother? I know you were meetin' with the agents, I was just…" the theatricality is a power play, "Joseph, I'd hoped you'd come t'your senses."

The wind is blowing again.

"Be careful, I lo — " but he's already gone and the words get consumed by the speed with which he exits, it's useless, really — even in her own acknowledgment of those emotions she pushes beneath the surface; she finishes the thought anyways, her voice a croaky whisper veiled in tears, "…you." They're both gone, leaving Lydia to her own devices. Her lips press together, the instructions of both men considered among her sobs. Instructions she heeds for only a few moments to plant a soft kiss on Jenny's forehead.

Stray tears are sopped up by the shawl around her shoulders before she exits the trailer, refusing to stay put as they would have her do, giving her just enough time to witness the argument between the brothers.

A horrible sinking feeling grows in the pit of her stomach as she edges a little closer. Just a stitch; it's almost like a car crash, and Lydia can't look away as yet one more tear rolls down her cheek.

"They're here to take us in!"

"To take our lives!"

"To take our homes!"

Samuel's words ring clearly across the field as Edgar watches from the corpse of Ocelot. Samuel speaks the truth, they've all seen it. They've all witnessed Joseph's treachery. He and that blonde woman. The kukri are flicked, little drops of blood and other forms of human goo slide from the blades before his form on the horizon is nothing but fading haze.

The speedster, having spotted his next mark, runs another zig-zag course to get to her. His velocity makes the blur nothing but an artistic swish of a black paintbrush across the lush green canvas of the field. Dual blades held ready at the side, his eyes are stuck to the blonde like a fly on sh— leftovers.

As Joseph and Samuel argue, the eyes of the crowd are drawn to another sight. The agent that shot little Jennie, is yelling for Ocelot to take the shot. A shot is taken but it's not the one she wants. "Y'don't kill mah fam'ly. Y'don't come t'my home." Those are the words the wind whispers as her hair flies up around her head.

With the flash of a blade, a long slice is pulled up from the woman's chest and across her neck.

Blood sprays from the cleaving wound as Lauren's collarbone is split by the force of the kukri's hack across her neck and chest. She screams, a yelping howl as blood sprays from the wound and she flies backwards from the momentum, hair swinging up in the same momentum of the blood droplets hanging in the air.

Rossling has hardly a moment to react as he turns his gun on Edgar, "Lauren!" is screamed as he opens fire, muzzle flash and bullets ripping through the air, but Edgar is gone from their path like a fly away from a frog's flicked tongue. Where Edgar was however is now open space and Rossling's gunfire instead peppers the crowd. The tophat wearing fortune teller is sent off of her feet with a scream of pain, blood spraying across the face of a tall and buely man standing at her side. He in turn picks up an empty steel drum over his head and hurls it at the closest agent, crashing into the darkly dressed man and sending him down to the grass with a scream.

Another agent fires into the crowd, someone in the middle of the pack screams, and everyone begins to scatter from the gunfire. A moment later there's a crackling bolt of electricity shooting out from one of the Carnies, a teenage girl with spiky purple hair, one fishnet-gloved hand held out and eyes surging with blue light.

The DHS teams sweep in, popping up from the low grass, the strike squad that Edgar didn't eviscerate. Automatic gunfire enters the crowd and the electrokinetic teen goes with with a spray of red mist, a bullet whizzes past Lydia through the crowd, clips her in the shoulder and sends her spinning off of her feet and down onto her side. A flesh wound, but painful never the less.

"Rally my brothers and sisters!" Samuel shouts as the ground rumbles and he leaps off of the picnic table, holding out one hand towards the group of agents as the earth swells at his feet, "Rally!" Stepping in front of his brother, Joseph throws his arms out to the side, trying to block Samuel's way from making this worse.

"Samuel!" is screamed over the sounds of panic, "Samuel— stop this! This isn't how it's supposed t'be, you can't— " blood erupts from Joseph's shoulder as he falls forward, a stray gunshot hitting him in the back. As Samuel's brother collapses, Samuel doesn't kneel to help him, but instead looks down with brows furrowed and lips cast into a scowl.

"We can do this!" Samuel shouts as he takes a step forward, a group of carnies that have not yet fled at his back, but the moment the rumbling stops Samuel realizes his folly. Standing opposite to the terrakinetic, the Haitian slowly tilts his head to the side, and for once, Samuel Sullivan feels powerless.

It is a similar feeling to what Edgar Smythe feels in his bones, as the Carnival erupts into chaos around him.


Jacksonville, Florida

Present Day


The scar is an unmistakable signature that Augusto Hernandez left on Lauren Gilmore indelibly three years ago. Now, trapped in a concrete block hallway with her, Hernandez' present-day life is confronted by a banshee from his past. "I'd like to ask you to come with my quietly, mister Smythe, otherwise I can make this very noisy, and very painful."

Her suit jacket is pulled open with one hand, revealing a gun holstered under her arm.

Behind Edgar, a tall and darkly dressed man steps out from behind lockers, his bald shaved head reflecting the fluorescent hall lights, the same illumination glinting off of his half-helix necklace. The Haitian is a force that Edgar recognizes the presence of well as he feels a sluggishness come into ihs steps.

Now he only has his cunning to rely on.

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