2008-01-12: A Butterfly Effect


Kory_icon.gif Randall_icon.gif

Special appearance by: Kory's brother Anzeti Alexander.

Summary: Randall gets an impromptu bulletin on how Kory's doing, to his eventual ire; and then he gets a warning in a dream.

Date It Happened: January 12, 2008

A Butterfly Effect

Somewhere in Downtown Manhattan

It's been one of Those Days for Randall, as if brooding over his relationship gaffe wasn't enough. Half the time, there's been no one to talk to, and the wind blowing up dust; the other half, everyone crowds in at once, and take out their own frustrations by nitpicking their portraits. When a balding customer turns around and refers to the woman behind him as 'Waddles', getting punched out for his trouble, the moonlighting street artist just leans against the canvas, shaking his head.

Anzeti is searching the neighborhood for a bodega. Because he hasn't heard from his sister since Friday, except for a text message. Which, in turn, prompted him to drop by her place and knock incessantly until she let him in.

At which point he saw she'd been crying. And, being a nineteen year old boy, the tears made him uncomfortable. And determined to make them stop. Which led to him hearing about The Guy. He has a name, yeah, but Anzeti neither remembers nor cares what it is at the moment.

All he cares about at the moment is finding a bodega that carries her favourite odd flavour of Ben and Jerry's, because it's about the only thing that consoles his sister when she's in a funk this deep. The search has not gone well. Chunky Monkey they had. Chubby Hubby, they had. Karamel Sutra, even…which might've worked in a pinch, but you don't want to give your sister sex-position-pun-flavored ice cream when she's heartbroken over a guy. He gets shoved by a balding man shouldering past him in the crowd, and he turns, voice startlingly similiar to Kory's, and shouts, "Hey! Watch it, willya? This isn't the freakin' Meadowlands!"

Oh, good, more people throwing down. Just what he needed. Randall looks up again, registering the similarity in voice and the definite difference in physical appearance at the same time, prompting him to rub his eyes with the charcoal-free back of his right hand. "Hey, you yell hard enough," he quips without missing a beat, "maybe the block'll take the hint and pick up and move!"

It is probably fortunate that Kory and Randall hadn't been together long enough for picture taking on her part. Randall might still have the picture from the subway, or the picture of Ickle Ronniekins from way back when. But Anzeti's seen neither one.

"You got a problem with my yellin'? Yeah, well, you can—" He stops, though, thinking better of continuing the attitude. He's still irked, by the body language, but he modulates his tone to something more closely resembling politeness. For Kory's sake. "You know this area well, man?" he asks from under his profuse mop of brown hair. "There a Super Target around here, maybe? Or a little hole in the wall mini-mart?"

Randall lets the matter drop, reaching for a frayed washcloth and wiping his hands off. "There's a regular Target about ten, twelve blocks down," he replies, pointing down the street. "No clue about any super ones. And there's a liquor store around the corner— why, what're you looking for?" His tone of voice is distracted, as he exchanges a canvas for a roll of small bills and starts in on the next one. Hooray for multitasking.

Twelve blocks is a long way in the cold, but doable. Randall's suggestion of a liquor store is met with the shake of his head. "Rare flavor of Ben-n-Jerry's," he explains. "Sister's in a funk, and I can't get her out of it with the usual approach of MST3King bad movies with her. So it's serious. If I can't find the ice cream, I may have to call Ma, get her to bake a pie…" By the expression Anzeti gets in his eyes, calling their mother to bake would probably result in the matriarchy of the family descending on the apartment when Kory would prefer to be alone.

"I wonder if she'd settle for Butter Pecan…" He looks at the canvas that just left, and quirks a brow. "Hey, not bad, man. How much for one?" Perhaps a caricature of Kory would cheer her up in lieu of ice cream!

Randall blinks, leaning over and flipping the price list back down; another brief upward shift in the wind had blown it up and over. "Must be pretty rare if the actual Ben-n Jerry's doesn't even have it in stock any more," he muses, squinting at Wadd— ahem, at the next customer in line as she presents her larboard side. "So what's got her down?" he adds, by way of idle conversation.

"What gets any girl down?" Anzeti asks, glancing at the price list. He winces; a bit outside his range. He doublechecks what's in his pocket to be sure; yep. Definitely outside his range. The ice cream and train fare back to White Plains will pretty much wipe him out.

"She has three of the best jobs in the world, but…" Anzeti thinks about it a moment, and scuffs a Sketcher against the concrete, guiltily. He doesn't have weird freaky powers that cause him trouble with the opposite sex. "Eh, whaddayagonna do. Apparently the guy she had her eye on got cold feet. Took off." Anzetti takes a deep breath, as anger wells up in him again. "She went out there on a limb, and he bailed on her.

Oh, boy. So that's why the voice sounded kind of familiar. "Sounds like they were pretty close before that, if she's that worked up about it," says Randall, trying to keep his voice neutral and his face on the other side of the canvas. "Sometimes the guy ends wising up, you know?" And there's the young woman's outline done, flattering her figure without being too obvious about it.

"She doesn't go out on the limb very often," Anzeti says, pulling out his cellphone and checking for the nearest Target. Why didn't he think of that first? Who knows. "Real bad history with guys, my sister. She freaks them out. Scares 'em. And they run." He shakes his head. "Never give her a chance.

"This guy, though? He was special. She didn't come home for Christmas to spend it with this guy." He pockets the phone. "So yeah, I'd like to meet the guy and ask him what the hell, y'know?" The customer currently getting drawn looks up at Anzeti. "Guys are pigs," she offers, unasked.

Randall bites back the urge to snigger. So do the others nearby; they saw what she did to Solar Panel Guy earlier. "Mmm, who knows," he murmurs, quickly handing off that canvas before she can stir up any more impromptu violence. "Hey, hold up a minute, all right? These little ones never move very well, lemme give you a freebie. You know, to go along with the ice cream."

"Guilty as oink," Anzeti answers her, guiltily, hands extended in a gesture that is meant to transmit 'I'm cute, don't kill me'. "I've probably had my moments of being a real hamhock myself." This seems to satisfy her. She takes her portrait, pleased, and begins to walk away.

"Really, man?" Anzeti seems surprised. Street artists are usually hard-up broke. "Can you afford to give away a freebie? This won't keep you from eating tomorrow or anything, will it?" He's not as perceptive as his sister, but he also doesn't have her augmented alertness.

Randall shakes his head. "No, don't worry about it, I'll make up for it later. Besides, ramen lasts an awful long time anyway, you know?" With the limited space to work with, he moves away from the standard portrait style and goes with a simple shadowy outline, with some abstract wave patterns in the background. Hey, it's a break from umpteen straightforward landscape backdrops.

"If you're sure," Anzeti says, still uncertainly, but pulls out his wallet and a photo of himself standing with Kory. He has his arm around her, and she's leaning into him. "This is her, my sister. If you need time, I can head to the store and then come back for it." He's a little calmer given the display of genuine kindness from the artist.

Randall leans over to eye the photo. Yup, that confirms it, all right. "Yeah, that sounds fine— shouldn't take too too long." Reaching for the eraser, he begins to adjust the shape to more closely match the pose in the photo, and make some room for a second one next to it.

"Cool. I won't be long. If you get somebody before I get back, put 'em in front of me." With that, Anzeti gives the man a one handed salute, and takes off at a long-legged sprint. Unlike his sister, he's athletic without the unfortunate tendency toward klutziness. He weaves his way quickly through the crowd. Twelve or fifteen minutes later, he comes back the same way, muttering dire imprecations about Target.

"Four fifty nine for cookies?! What a ripoff!" But he has a bag with the characteristic red and white logo on it in hand just the same. No ice cream, but he apparently managed something he thought might serve in its stead. "H-How's it…goin'…?" he asks the artist, as he finally jogs to a breathless stop back where he started.

Well, he can't spend that long on it when there are paying customers still waiting, no matter how good the sympathy story behind it. "This look okay?" Randall picks up the little portrait, leaned up next to the price display, turning it around and then moving back to add a couple of hesitant strokes to the next one in line (an unduly patient Japanese tourist, complete with camera on neck strap).

"Wow. You're good. And you're fast." Anzeti is impressed, and consults his wallet again. "I can't give you full price, but you deserve something for this." He comes up with a crumpled five. "So who are you, anyway? When you make it big, and this is worth millions, I wanna be able to laugh with her and tell her where I got this."

Randall … hesitates, not having the heart to throw out a bald-faced lie. Especially not when it's pretty much guaranteed to be blown out of the water as soon as he gets it back to her place. "A magician never reveals his secrets," he finally says, wincing as he realizes exactly how lame it sounds. "G'wan, go, before the ice cream melts!" Assuming that there is indeed some sort of ice cream inside the Target bag.

"They didn't have it either," Anzeti remarks. "I got her these expensive frippery cookies every woman in the store recommended." He casts skyward his eyes at the cheesy magician line. "Pft. You wouldn't be out here drawing for money if you wanted to toil away in obscurity forever. At least sign the damn thing."

"Fair enough. Hand it here a sec?" Randall scrawls his initials and the year in the corner before giving the picture to Anzeti, then looks past him to size up how the rest of the line is holding up. Only a couple more stragglers left; he might actually get to close up shop within the hour.

Anzeti takes it back, nodding his thanks. He turns to go, calling thanks over his shoulder before he looks down to see the initials. R. K. Familiar, somehow. He's half a block away when the initials click into place with the name Kory gave him. "Couldn't be, could it?" he asks himself. But the Alexander family has reckless curiosity as a trait, it would appear. "KIRKWOOD?!" he turns to shout down the street toward the artist. He's half-hoping he's wrong.

Randall does not shout back. If Anzeti has good enough eyesight to see him cringing, though, then that will be confirmation enough. At least the customers have enough of a sense of self-preservation not to get involved.

He's nineteen; still young. And has never worn glasses a day in his life. For that matter, his sister, now twenty-five, despite the voracious reading, also doesn't. Suffice to say the eyesight is good. Half a block the short way isn't that far. Anzeti turns around, and stalks back to the artist. "Okay. You have ninety seconds to tell me your half of the story, before I bring the pain." Dramatic? Yes. But the intent is clear enough from the phrasing. He tucks the Target bag onto the lowest rung of a nearby fire escape, tying the handles in a lark's nest, the better to have his hands free. But for the moment, he jams them in his pockets, in an obvious gesture of waiting.

Randall's Apartment

Kory's Apartment

(split screen)

Randall slams the door to his apartment behind him. "I told him it was only a month!" he mutters to no one in particular. "I told her it was only a month!" Ignoring a pile of books as it wobbles and finally collapses onto the carpet - he meant to sort through those later, anyway - he heads to the kitchenette, dumping some ice cubes into a hand towel and pressing it to the side of his face.

Kory would be, and will be completely horrified when her brother returns home with cookies, a drawing, and a story of how he knocked the fool out of Randall.

In fact, Kory is appalled, and despite her gratitude for chocolate and artwork, tells Anzeti she's embarrassed to be related to him. She further tells him to go back to White Plains because — hello, not helping! Even if he meant well, the possibility exists that it may have made things worse. Please, God, not that.

But she doesn't pick up the cellphone to call and see if Randall's all right, nor text, because she's respecting Randall's wishes. A month apart. No communications between them. Well, she's respecting them to the letter, anyway.

She's actually lying awake in her apartment, consciousness spread out across the blocks under the cold winter sky, feeling minds winking, blinking, and nodding away from consciousness into repose for the night. Randall's mind is still awake. And agitated. Determined, she maintains her meditative breathing and she waits.

At least it only takes a few minutes for the immediate pain to die down. Randall sets the ice pack aside, reaching for his copy of Activating Evolution and leafing through it for a while, stubbornly ignoring how his eyes have been bothering him for a few hours. Eventually, reusing the damp cloth to wipe the sweat away, he sets the book aside and drifts off.

Remember those nifty vector graphics and tasteful green-screen backdrops used by that one actor that he sort of resembles? His dreamscape is something like that, only twisted around to an impressive degree for someone who's never developed a drug habit. His body is thinned out like a funhouse mirror, leaving him tall enough to lean his hands into the tops of nearby houses for leverage. One of them, favoring stucco rather than the more common varieties of wood shingle, begins to crumble under the strain.

Ah. There. He's asleep. Finally. But she won't torture either of them by taking her own form into his dream. Kory has hidden herself from dreamers before. And to protect this one, she is willing, if not happy, to do it again.

She concentrates, and takes on the form of a tiny butterfly, in the garden of a house across the street from the one on which he's leaning and destroying. The question still remains — how to warn him? She's consulted books on codes and puzzles — ways to leave him clues — but she has so little to go on. And she's never been in Randall's dreamscape before — so she's a bit worried of jarring him uncomfortably if she chooses the wrong images to show him.

This wasn't how she'd hoped or intended that her first time using her gift with him would go. But to protect him, it's worth giving up another little piece of her romantic fantasies. Have to grow up sometime, she tells herself.

The house shakes, as if from an earthquake relocated from the other coast, but manages to hold together. Randall goes airborne himself, his body snapping upward into a fairly normal size; down below, a set of three glowing lines begins to cut through the cityscape, and he moves his hand to follow after it. Or maybe it's moving because his hand is moving. He doesn't spot the butterfly right away, but does float to the right to avoid colliding with a pigeon on a mission.

Flying dreams are pretty commonplace. The butterfly kicks into turbo, speed increasing to match his, flying behind his heels. Kory's conscious, behind the eye-shaped markings on the wings are watching the dreamscape, even as Randall returns to normal size. She eyes the glowing lines, and concentrates on them. His attention is already on them, so he should see if they spell out a message. It's difficult for her. This reaching across to touch a dream blocks and blocks away is a strain because it's new, but Kory tries to twirl those glowing lines into script letters. Randall's name, for starters. R…A…

Were he awake, Randall's attention would be drawn to this new phenomenon like a moth to flame, and he would immediately realize who it probably was. But then, were he awake, this sort of contact wouldn't be possible in the first place. His attention drifts, followed by his representative form, narrowing in on a shorter length of the whatever-it-is. Maybe it'll be easier to manipulate if it doesn't also stretch several blocks long.

Kory's grateful he hasn't picked up on this dream being different than any other. It would make things more difficult. She clenches her teeth in her apartment, and takes a breath, exerting her will more strongly. Forget several blocks long; forget horizontal on the ground. She snaps the glowing streamline into the air like a luminous lariat, forcing it to scrawl out his first name in cursive.

And while she's at it, since she's unsure how long she can hold a dream connection over a distance, she adds a second word: BEWARE.

Randall has the advantage of being able to reach out and touch the glowing lines. Or can he? The gesture turns into slow motion, the air growing thick with haze and reflections, but he lays hands on the middle and begins to deform them into a different set of shapes. OF.
He's responding to the message. Beware of what? She doesn't know who it was who unleashed doom on a city street to get away from him. Beware of what? Cargo trucks? Chasing people? How to say it simply? And quickly. The reflections briefly blind her, but she maintains, pulling another line into the sky before him. She finally does settle on CARGO. PIPES. Those two words. And behind them, she focuses her will into a chain, to link these four words in his forebrain — such that even when he wakens, the message will hold in his mind.

Randall's hold is weakening, his hands starting to turn red as the lines continue to give off heat as well as light. He manages to shape one more word in his own more-or-less direct fashion - OK - before he has to draw them away again, letting them detach at the wrists and hover in place.

It's a struggle for Kory. Her emotional state, plus the fact that she's been steadily drinking that tea she was gifted with, plus the fact that she stretched her ability beyond her normal limits to find Randall's sleeping mind adds up to her reaching her limits with him tonight even faster than she reached them helping Gabriel hold back Sylar. But the message isn't clear enough. He needs a visual. So she conjures him one. There is a rumble from the road below. The image pulled from the dream she shared with Peter is projected into Randall's dreamscape. The cargo truck itself, with pipes locked and chained to the flatbed — precariously poised in a pyramid; such that should the cables and chains holding them in place fall away, they would roll off, flattening cars or any soft-bodied human in their path.

At the same time, the unfamiliarly intense struggle between conscious and subconscious has left Randall thoroughly subject to the vagaries of the image. His hands move forward of their own volition, hooking fingers into the moorings and tugging them apart, while the rest of him lays down and curls up in a rather pipe-like shape. The pipes begin to roll and clatter downward, knocking him around like an elongated pinball display headed straight for a cross street full of lightning-quick passenger vehicles.

This is always the hardest part of dealing with a dreamer; that their dreams take them wherever they will. But she has enough energy left to nudge him awake; she hopes. Hopefully, he'll have pad and paper nearby if he wants to recall the dream now rather than leaving it 'til morning. The butterfly flies upward into the sky, and out of sight, vanishing in a burst of light as she focuses her will into shunting Randall's mind from sleep to wakefulness.

Still acting on at best semi-conscious instinct, Randall tries to throw his arms out in front of his chest, as if he could stop the cars by sheer muscle. Whether he could have done just that within the dreamscape remains unknown; as he jolts awake, his arms come unstuck from his sides and really do swing forward, at enough of an awkward angle that he rolls off the couch and lands face-down on the carpet. Oof. On the up side, that damp cloth is still within reach of the hand that awkwardly reaches up toward it several seconds later.

Kory is drenched in sweat from the effort of having stretched further than she ever has before, and trembling with exertion. "You're smart," she whispers, levering weakly off the bed and to her feet. "Keep your eyes open." She pauses to grab a towel from the bathroom to wipe away the perspiration from her efforts, and goes to pour herself another cup of that tea Dusk got her; it seems to leach away the day's stresses, and if any day has been a stressful one, this one has.

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