2010-03-05: Hell On Earth



Date: March 5th, 2010


"Hell on Earth"

New York Harbor

Overlooking the choppy waters of the iconic New York Harbor, Tracy Strauss has her arms folded against a brightly yellow painted metal rail, leaning against it. It's quiet here next to the ferry terminals that takes select travelers to Staten Island and Governors Island. She's chosen the spot somewhat at random, but also because there's no one here at the moment; it may not even be an area for those who don't work at the harbour. She's not expecting much activity out on the water. It's late. Yet she finds herself staring idly out at the flickering light of a boat. Maybe a ferry. She can't tell. Maybe the Coast Guard.

It's windy, the cold night air reminding Manhattan that it's not quite spring yet. The wind whips about the woman's pale hair, especially here by the water. Her gaze is thoughtful, serious, hard-edged. The kind of look someone might have if they were considering jumping in to that water. Such is not the case… this year. All the same, there's a lot on Tracy's mind. She ought to return to her hideaway with Beth, but she's been out for hours. Might be faster at this point to dive right into the water after all, as a shortcut.

Purple skinned and semi-unsure, Agent Scott sits on the boat that transports her back to New York everyday. With an idle smirk she turns back to watch Governor's Island disappear. It is lovely, isn't it Katie? her mother asks causing Jo to shrug. Talking to dead people in public can only illicit rumours of a lost mind among other things, so she manages to stay relatively quiet when the voices talk to her around others.

The boat pulls up to the dock and the high heeled suit-wearing marine steps off. The boat captain issues her a wave before turning the boat around. There will be more people to come off. The guard has doubled. And they think she's killed Law and Baker. They were half-right.

She lingers on the pier as she watches the water. Do you remember when we used to come out here and watch the ferry boats. You used to love ferry boat, her father observes causing Jo to smile. "I still do," she murmurs quietly to her parents who've been following her around all day.

Tracy is lulled out of her deep thoughts by the arrival of the late night ferry, watching the people depart and trying to recall her knowledge of New York landmarks, wondering where they came from.

The woman with the odd skin colour draws more attention than most, but it's not only the shade of purple that has Tracy's eyes narrowing. She's not sure, at first, if she recognizes Jo — she spends a moment criticizing, seeing past the skin change.

When her suspicion is on high mode, Tracy becomes instantly on guard. Her whole posture switches from pensive to fight or flight, going from a casual incline against the rail to a pin-straight and on-edge.

Do you remember that time you jumped in the water to swim after a ferry boat, Katie? her father asks. Jo nods, silently at the nothing in front of her, but her smile growns bigger. "You swam after me," she says aloud to her father with a broad grin. "It was cold. Very cold. I was stuck in spot. Couldn't swim really. You jumped in anyways."

Her father grins at her. Of course I jumped in. I was a naval officer. We swim in everything.

Jo glances down at the water. "I missed you guys. You've missed a lot you know…" she begins to turn and then her gaze lands on Tracy. The marine noticeably stiffens as she stares — outright stares — at Strauss for several seconds before turning back to the water. It seems she's seeing dead people everywhere.

For an instant, Jo is a train wreck that Tracy can't look away from. Is she talking to herself? She certainly seems to be. What's more confusing is when the agent looks away. Tracy is struck with a sudden moral dilemma she'd rather swat away: she very recently went after people like Jo Scott, hunted them down like they hunted her down. Now here's one just strolling along right in front of her. And by the water, no less — her element. The other people coming off the ferry gradually are dispersing. She wonders how easy it would be to take the agent down right here without anyone noticing.

Jo might even deserve it.

Tracy is unwittingly paralyzed by these thoughts as she stares, but in reality it's only a few seconds. Still — too much time. In the end, she bites down on nothing and starts to hastily turn away, to walk away, looking over her shoulder all the while, maybe disappear into the docks somewhere, but she stops abruptly. The fact is, she's been seen and obviously recognized, even if Jo looked away for reasons she can't help but guess at.

So Tracy turns and strides straight toward Jo.

As Tracy begins to turn away, Agent Scott breathes a little easier. "Is she leaving?" she asks her parents.

Her father nods. For a moment. Until Tracy turns. Katiekins, she's coming this way.

Jo rolls her eyes. "I was hoping to get a moment alone with you two." She rolls her eyes again as she turns on her heel and begins to move towards Tracy. Her voice hisses, "Look Strauss. I don't know what you're playing at, but I don't talk to dead people outside of my apartment." It's a lie considering she's been talking to her parents all the while.

Katie, don't lie, her mother chides, causing Jo to turn to her right, "Shh. Quiet mom. I'm dealing with Strauss."

Tracy slows down a safe distance from Jo. Several feet is hardly "safe" when there are guns and tasers as possibilities, but she has no intent on making it any easier by taking one step further. She turns her head slightly to one side, eyeing Jo… strangely. "…You think I'm dead," she realizes outloud, almost… amused. She slowly glances around, but has no doubts that the woman is talking to herself, lest her "mom" is invisible. Granted, that's not out of the realm of possibility. Blue eyes land sharply on Jo and fix on her. No more amusement. Just a cold stare.

"You don't know you're dead?" Jo asks idly before furrowing her eyebrows. She turns to her right again, "Mom, you may have to explain this to her…"

And sure enough Gayla attempts to explain the situation to Tracy, unfortunately Tracy can't hear, You're dead. You were frozen and then shot by a bunch of agents and now you're here. My Katie can see you and talk to you, but no one else can. Jo nods at this statement, but to Tracy it looks like she's nodding at nothing.

"There you have it. Mom has explained everything." She presses her lips together. "Unless you dead people can't hear each other…" her eyebrows furrow further as Jo sighs, shakes her head, and begins to walk down the street, hoping that Strauss doesn't follow.

Tracy wasn't one-hundred percent convinced that Jo wasn't just trying to be witty, but now realization drifts over her features. The agent is clearly out of her mind. Wow, the blonde — her hair slightly damp though there's no rain — mouths to herself with a lift her brows and roll of her eyes. This is not what she expected, but lucky her, she's in less trouble of being killed or reported by someone who thinks she's already dead.

She jogs after Jo. "Of course I know I'm dead," she calls out, a harsh whispery anger to her voice. It's not an act. She may be alive, but it's no thanks to the people the crazy woman works for. "Thanks to the dedication of your colleagues who made my life miserable," she hisses out as she catches up. Here's to hoping she doesn't run into Jo's imaginary mother. "Where'd you come from just now?"

Months earlier Jo had walked the halls of Building 26. She was one of the more dedicated agents mostly because she always took joy in her job. And she promised herself if she waited long enough she'd be able to catch her brother and accomplish her goals. That is the goal, really: kill Teddy.


And if she could disable others in the process, then why not? Tugging at her infamous black suit she opens the door to the storage area where they're holding one Tracy Strauss. Even as she opens the door she can feel the heat. With a very prominent frown, she unbuttons her blazer and pads over to where the blonde is actually being held. Tilting her head, she encircles Tracy. "Rather warm in here," she observes dryly with her cool-but-distant smile.

That damn hot box. By that time, Tracy was at the end of her rope. She didn't know how far she'd be stretched even afterward.

But the heat room was the worst.

Weak and glistening with the sheen of sweat that's been ever-present since being forced to swelter under the glare of the lamps that give everyone that odd, red-tinged hue, Tracy, even at the end of her rope, hasn't given up staring hatefully at everyone who walks through that door. Almost everyone. This woman isn't an exception. There's a faint stir of metal chains as she shifts and looks up from her slouch on the chair. "Can't think of something more original?" she counters, faintly hoarse. The agents all must think they're so funny. As if she hasn't heard that one before.

Fortunately for Tracy, Jo's mother steps out of the way. "Why are you following me?" Jo asks. "If you want to talk to me, I said it would have to be at the apartment." She glances to her left and her dad nods, causing the marine woman to grin, but only for an instant. "And I talked McCarty and Law already. I'm not dealing with another person. Too much in too few days," her voice is a hiss again.

Her pace quickens some as her parents follow quickly behind, falling into step with their living daughter.

"You're dead. You can go anywhere. You want to know where I came from, then you'll have to go there yourself," no, Jo isn't particularly cooperative with the dead; not since her haunting with Erin. "And those people, Ms. Strauss. Those people have no idea what they're doing. They're still American heroes." She blinks.

Heroes. Tracy scoffs under her breath. She lets some space return between them. Crazy means unpredictable, she reminds herself. Her eyes narrow, harboring memories: her stare is nothing short of hateful.

All of a sudden, something clicks. It doesn't take long for her to realize; Jo has barely finished speaking before her steps, clicking against the pave, halt altogether. "Wait." she demands, commanding and need-to-know. "You saw Erin?" she attempts to clarify. Jo said McCarty. Law and McCarty. "Erin is dead," she voices with question. She doesn't instantly believe it — all things considered. Jo's perception of who is dead and alive is obviously a little skewed, but there's a reason she thought Tracy was dead. Erin… "I'll haunt you all the way to your apartment if I damn well please. Tell me what you know about Erin McCarty."

Jo hmmms as she continues her circle around Tracy. "I'm not here for your entertainment, Ms. Strauss, and I was just observing the temperature of the room" she says equally dryly. She yawns and feigns that same cool-but-distant smile. She looks at the heat lamps and then back at Tracy. In a way she wants to shut them off, but she's prevented — her authority doesn't extend that far. One day, maybe.

She shrugs the jacket from her shoulders and sighs. "I'm Agent Scott. My colleagues tell me you're not being very cooperative." She blinks distantly like she's not really looking at Tracy, but through her.

The blonde woman shackled to the floor, stuck on the metal chair, keeps her stare on Jo. Definitely not through her. Her gaze is level, no matter how hard she has to fight to keep it there and despite the sweat of her brow threatening to drip into it and the damp, strangled hair in front of her face. Her first retort seemed to come like a second nature, but in reality, Tracy is in a fog. She struggles through it. With slightly laboured breathing, she eventually replies, "Why would I be cooperative? I have nothing to tell you. I'll talk to Senator Wynn."

"And I'll ignore you as long as I want. McCarty proved she couldn't hurt me the other day," Jo twitches. "She looks terrible in her after-life. Said they burned her alive to get rid of her diseases — the woman was a petri dish when she died." There's a trace of something different in the brunette's tone: remorse. Shhh. No more talking about McCarty, her dad growls.

Jo nods at the invisible figure on her left, "We can't talk about her anymore. You'll have to communicate with her in your afterlife or something. I imagine you went to the same place," she issues Tracy her infamous cool-but-distant smile.

A grain of truth, or the ramblings of a crazy person? Tracy watches Jo carefully, noting the hint of remorse, the odd gestures to invisible figures, attempting to discern truth from fiction. Ultimately, she shakes her head slowly and starts to back away. "Hm," she says under her breath, the beginnings of a humourless laugh that never comes. "See you in hell."

"You choose not to cooperate with the operation," Jo observes coldly. "Cooperation would get you out of here faster. I'm no ice princess, but it's hot for me. I can only imagine how you're feeling at this moment." She tilts her head at Tracy, "I have colleagues that have suggested making it hotter in here to see if you'll melt. I'm not entirely sure that's necessary."

"Besides, I'm an Agent, not a Walmart worker." All she needs to hear to make her day 'Clean up, aisle twelve.' Her lips press together in a solid line, "I'm sure you'll find that your precious Senator can do little to help you in here, Ms. Strauss. You are clearly dangerous."

"At least you can be assured of one thing," her lips curl upwards as her voice remains pleasantly level, "The children you brought in will a have a very protected childhood. I imagine being drugged for most of it will, at least, keep them safe."

Tracy slowly breathes in and out. Her expression belies no conceding, no cooperation, but she's not really in a position to deny anything. It hasn't stopped her — yet. "You're just like the rest of them. You think you're better'n us?" she challenges, faintly slurred from exhaustion. Another rattle of shackles and chains sounds as she moves her hands, flexing and extending her fingers. "What do you want."

"No. You won't. I'm too damned for hell," Jo murmurs. "McCarty said so herself. No, I get to disappear into nothing, which in a way, is still better than being one of you." Everyday, Jo considers lodging a bullet in her brain, but then, what would that accomplish? And if she's fully honest with herself, she's enjoying the company of her parents.

"Good-bye Ms. Strauss. Good luck enduring whatever purgatory you've been given."

She marches towards her apartment, her heels clapping hard against the pavement.

The moment Jo turns away, Tracy, keeping her eyes on the retreating agent, sneaks off to one side and ducks behind a building by the pier. Jo was right about one thing— she can go anywhere she wants. Flattening against the wall, much like she found herself hiding earlier in the day in Nathan's office, she strategically dares to glimpse back at Jo's form one more time, making sure as she can not to lose her. Her body then starts to take on the waving, glistening properties of water — water that slinks the ground.

She'll find Agent Scott's apartment one way or another, she thinks.

"I want to find more of you. Same as the rest of my colleagues. I want this country safe from people would could damage it. You are one of them. For information, I can get you moved. Get the lamps turned down, even. But the choice is yours." She turns on her heel and shakes her head. "I'll give you some time to think about it. You know people like you are dangerous, you froze off a man's arm which landed you here. At the very least, the Protocol can diminish powers."

She takes another step towards Tracy and tilts her head. "I guess it comes down to control. We license weapons. Perhaps we need to make you apply for licenses to live."

The chance to go elsewhere — or to have the heat lamps turned down — is tempting, but Tracy knows it would come with a price. By the time Jo says license to live, she's lost hope. "I'd rather be a little hot than be controlled by someone like you," she replies, hostile as can be, revolted by the thought of being licensed. Chipped like a pet? No. Worse. She uses what's left of her depleted energy to sit all the way up and toss her hair out of her eyes to further stare down the agent. She has something important to say.

"Go to hell."

Jo continues to walk on her way to the apartment, somewhat relieved that Tracy is gone. I don't know how you deal with people like her, Katie, her father says gently. Jo shrugs her shoulders, "I'm good at my job, Daddy. I always do a good job at my job." Her eyes flit to the other side.

Of course you do. That's what we trained you to be. Duty and honour — these are more important than all other things, including love.

"You're right. Duty and honour are the only things. Were ever the only things. Nothing else matters. Except love for my country."


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