2010-01-17: Clipped Wings



Date: January 17th, 2010


They don't all sing.

"Clipped Wings"

Daphne's Cell, Building 27

Six Months Ago

"I never thought I'd end up here."

Whoosh! It's the sound of freedom — that sound of eager feet pounding pavement far faster than the human eye can conceive. Not exactly Olympic legal, but that hardly matters based on the warm expression on the face of the runner. As she slows down, tennis shoes thudding against the sidewalk in front of an old comic store, the speedster flips over the piece of paper in her hand. There's a name written in bold print, an address, and then, in odd parallel, the name of a charity just below that.

"I know. Totally cheap, right? The girl falls for the guy's cheesy lines, gives up her life of sin… la de da — but I'd promised it wasn't like that."

There's still a slight dent in it from where he'd had it folded around his fingers before he handed it over. An imprint of how he'd smiled awkwardly and told her she was doing good.

"… I'd hoped it wasn't like that."

The heel of one foot kicks off, returning the speedster to blur form as oblivious New Yorkers continue on with their dull, normal-timed lives. Nobody notices that the heavy breeze unfixing their hair and lifting their coats is really a girl — a girl now perusing a comic book.

"But, whatever, right. He let me keep doing what I wanted to do, and if a little money went astray… It was, dare I say it— nice."

It flutters open, stepped into the speedster's timeframe while she's holding it. She flips a few pages of red, whites, and blues, until her flipping drops it open near purposefully on a page of tall panels where, on one side, there's a frame devoted solely to the image of Superman as he takes his girlfriend up into the skies and past the stars.

Daphne thumb creases the tiny illustrated moon.

"You'd think I'd know better. You don't get into the stuff that's gonna slow you down. After months of waiting for Pinehearst to breathe down my neck, I should've been a ghost as far as anybody was concerned. But then a guy time-warps me over a pair of lousy sunglasses and, next thing you know, one speedster to the rescue of the many. I should've known. You can't rescue the ones that really matter. That's how life gets you back. Karma. You don't slow down for anything… or life handles it for you. In my case… it was in the form of Her—

Call me Ishmael. My story isn't that far from Moby Dick. I'm alienated from everyone else. I have been for years. I know what my story looks like, few social relationships — the ones I have incredibly unhealthy. At the end of the day? I am the job. I've always been the job. I probably will always BE the job. To get into the SEALS, I had to be, especially as a woman. But then my parents died. My brother got put into a coma, all because of Theodore Scott, my other-once-favourite brother. I spent years pursuing him across the country — changing posts according to the deaths that he caused. He ages people somehow; always claimed it was an accident, but with such loss how is a dutiful marine to proceed? The answer is simple: With a vendetta for vengeance, of course. And while I'm dutiful to the end, I'm prepared to whatever it takes to catch Teddy; no matter the costs, even my own arrest.

Three Weeks Ago

The gun remains levelled at Daphne's head as Jo twitches slightly, uncomfortably trying to decide what to do. But she's worked too long and too hard for this; she's been waiting for this take for years. She's poured her heart and soul into it, pushed herself into it, even lost herself in it. "Come on! Give me what you know about Lt. Scott! Or are your legs and life not that important to you, Miss Millbrook?"

"I've done it again…"

Life and legs; they're probably the most important things in the world to Daphne, in that order, and yet here she is, throat parched with her current lack of words. Each passing second she's sworn even stronger that it's her last, but still the gun doesn't go off. The tense way she's holding herself is becoming rapidly uncomfortable but no amount of shaky breathing is going to lessen that any time soon. She's grown stiff and choppy in her movements, though the only current one is to raise her hand, palm out and protective. "I— " Something finally pushes out of her mouth, "I can't!" She shakes her head like a seizure. "His — his name, his ability— maybe! I don't have what you want — please." It could be as much a death sentence as silence, but she has to try.

"You can't?! Or won't?" Jo quirks with a tilt of her head. "You brought him up; I didn't. Obviously you know something. So tell me, where is Teddy? I followed him across the country to New York City for his latest…" Accident. Murder in her own mind. "…that was August."

It was a particularly hot August day, and Jo's detective work had brought her to Teddy's apartment which she staked out for the day. She quietly followed him, waiting for a moment to strike; a time when no one would see her do it — no one but her estranged brother, himself. But he'd seen her and frantically boarded the subway. She cursed to herself and jumped in the car next to him, aiming to follow him off the train. But the commotion his panic had caused cost two people their lives. Aged and distorted the sixteen year old boy was frail and rotting only moments after Teddy had touched him. Jo had failed. For the last time she hoped.

She keeps her gun levelled at Daphne's head as she stares at the blonde woman in front of her. "I would answer the questions carefully, Miss Millbrook if your life or your legs are important to you."

"I've gotten myself into trouble because of what I am. A snitch. A liar. A thief. If cheetahs can't change their spots, I don't know what I was expecting. A miracle, I guess. I'd seen one before; that was great. But it wasn't mine. After all, what have I done to deserve one?"

Pinehearst was a long time ago; it seems like another life sometimes. Then, the evolved were just names on a piece of paper. She always figured they all had done one thing or another in their life to merit getting roped into a nasty corporation. And if they didn't? Well, it wasn't her problem. She was just the messenger.

"I had a file on him," Daphne confesses in a lower voice as she picks up a modicum of calm in telling the truth. What's the point of bluffing any further… for some random guy she doesn't even know?! "I-It just said his name, had this… I don't know, surveillance picture. Said he was a degenerative. Approach with caution." There's a miniscule wince as she knows she's stepped out of line. Approach suggests an address. The reason for the slip up becomes evident as the pulsing machine behind her begins to fluctuate more rapidly; the same way the speedster's heart is beginning to go. She's getting feeling back.

"You know nothing about Teddy," Jo's tone is angry, bitter, mirthless. Out of spite she keeps the gun levelled at Daphne's head. "I should shoot you for your insolence!" she virtually spits the words. "Give me something I can use. Give me a reason not to shoot you." And now she's smiling; she's losing her focus, but her anger remains.

Duty. I've always been about duty. I take orders well; I'm a good marine. I am an excellent marine. A fighting machine. A SEAL. True. All-American. I have to live this way. It's who I am.

The radio at Jo's belt buzzes angrily, "Agent Scott, please come in. Agent Scott — you're needed in the human resource room."

Jo frowns and stares at Daphne, she's hesitating. She won't respond yet, but the voice tugs at her; it pulls her away from Daphne.

Eyes flicker closed as she's accused; Daphne licks chapped lips. The gun's there, but she's tired of staring it down. Somewhere in that brain Jo's threatening to blow out, there's information on dozens more… but she plucks at not a single string. Even if some traitorous part of her mind wants to. Her heart doesn't. Good for it, right? It's not the organ about to splatter—

"I guess I'm not running anymore."

She jerks on the bed at the buzzing, fingers scrambling against the merciless metal purchase, legs unresponsive. Finally, an eye twitches open when she notices she's still there to notice it. That wasn't the gunblast she was expecting.

Heaving in a careful breath, she watches Jo watch her, the maddened way her eyes are now too wide the only sign of her acceptance of the situation. As the last of the morphine drip goes away, and the pain stings a deadly reminder, she makes a choice.

"But speech is a freedom, too.

Bluntly, she looks Jo in the eye and states, "You said you wanted names. I gave you one."

"I also said I needed to be satisfied." There's a beat before Jo asks sardonically while lowering her gun, "Do I look satisfied?" Beads of sweat have gathered on her brow by now, the tension of being so close to her target yet so far away worse at her. Pursing her lips angrily she hisses, "Alright then, Miss Millbrook. If that's the way you want to play it, I'm going to let your legs heal themselves. Good luck with that." She smiles before she pistolwhips Daphne's head with the blunt end of her gun. "Good night and good luck," she clucks as she holsters her gun and picks up her walkie-talkie, "Mountaineer here. I'm on my way to Human Resources. I'll be there soon. Over and out." The syringe full of morphine remains on the floor as Jo's heels noisily clamber out the door and into the hall.

"… I can hate myself for wanting to be a hero, right? That doesn't contradict some weird… natural balance thing? Good. Because here goes. It should've been easy to give her exactly what she wanted. I'm not stupid. Duh. I know how to string along a line or two. But it's, like: hey! Why do that when you can toss yourselves to the sharks, instead. Real brilliant idea, Daphne. Really working the old noggin'. They'd all be… real proud… back home…"

Left lying on that cell's slab as the sound of Jo echoes away, Daphne wants nothing more than to fade off into that dream she started with. But her moment of defiance costs.


Not just that her head ricochets off the side of the bed from the hit, circular lacerations appearing to display the point of impact, suggest the fracturing below.

"It was the same feeling at home…"

Not just that the sign of her temporary salvation, that tiny round cylinder of morphine is feet below her on the floor, useless and sure to be crushed underfoot by the next agent who decides she's fair meat. Neither that the protocol of slipping in sedatives to keep the prisoners silent and asleep has been dusted, denying that blissful unawareness. With the onslaught of the pain returning, it's unlikely she'll be able to doze except fitfully.

"It was the one feeling I never ever ever wanted to know ever again."

Not even just that, with no doctor's attention, there's little hope for the leg surviving, much less herself when the infection takes its course.

"The reason I sold my soul, bought into the life of evil— la de friggin' da. That feeling."

No. The final cost is not that she'll hurt or she'll die… but that she'll be in here, in the gray, dull, closed-in walls of this cell, when it happens. And she'll be alone.

"The caged bird."

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