MONTAGE: It's A New World

Summary:

The future is now.


"It's a New World"

A dull click. CD to tray, as the car's equipment swallows the bold black lettering American Mix. The blast of ocean-side breeze almost carries the first notes away, far across the PCH highway and into the cool California evening. With the sun setting against the water, it's nothing but a natural light show, and stretches of perfect road, gently curving here and there to keep the hand occupied on the wheel.

… Well I'm packing up my game and I'm a head out west. Where real women come equipped with scripts and fake breasts…

Blaring from the open top of the Mercedes Benz as it rips another corner of freeway, the music doesn't seem to notice how dated it is. Neither cares its driver, tossing his head back to wail, in a voice mangling the words not from unknown lyrics but a thick European accent.

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… Find a nest in the hills chill like Flynt… Buy an old droptop find a spot to pimp…

Vroom. Santa Monica Pier rotates far in the distance, a sparkle of society still alight versus the dark, cold beaches ahead. A lone streetlight, the first for a mile, looms in warning red. Arturas' foot heaves reluctantly from the gas, sitting free for a rebellious second.

… And I'm a Kid Rock it up and down your block. With a bottle of scotch and watch lots of crotch…

An ode to the gods of old music and free driving: red turns to green. Instantly, that foot finds the gas; it's natural; it belongs there.

… Buy yacht with a flag sayin' chillin' the most…

Fast. Faster. Green has given its permission, dropped its flag. There isn't another headlight anywhere in sight to warrant anything but Arturas' joyride of flooring it. But as the car pulls up to that green gate, a flash of white at the corner.

… Then rock that bitch up and down the coa—

Screeching drowns the words. Not even a warning honk. Just the squeal of tires hitting overcharge. Bang like a rocket. The Mercedes caves, nailed solidly at the door. Car folding in on itself with an unearthly whine that echoes up and down the dark and unlit coastline. Speeds don't stop until the convertible leads both vehicles at a chaotic sprint into the heavy concrete divider between road and beach. Now the other side crunches in, negligent to its driver, and, with a finalized squeal that seems to last minutes — seconds — is an instant, both cars are molded into a heap beside the coolly rising tide.

… cause I wanna be a cowboy, baby…

… nearest units respond to a Code 30, 11-80, on the PCH near Will Rogers State Beach… witnesses report a Mercedes Benz and an unidentified vehicle have collided, driver unresponsive…

"Oh my God— "

… repeat, 11-80… Ambulances…

"Oh my God, did you see that?"
"T-That girl! There's a young woman here— she just leapt off the top— "
"Are you getting this?"
"Holy shit, holy shit…"

Reports are coming in that an unidentified woman has just leapt from an over 500 foot ferris wheel at the carnival hosted in our own Central Park tonight. And that, in fact, this young woman then got to her feet and addressed the camera, we'll be hopefully receiving that footage soon, folks— we're as baffled here as you are…

Stories are coming out of New York this evening. You may have already heard, but several news cameras picked up a very bizarre incident some hours ago…

Here we go. We're getting something in now— attention, New York, this is completely unedited footage. It was not touched up in the studio, nobody's looked at it here yet…

A young Texan is said to have taken the plunge off a Carnival ferris wheel and survived. And, no, this wasn't part of any scheduled performance. Earlier that evening, witnesses claim to have experienced unnatural earthquakes, alongside the tirade of Carnival forerunner, Samuel Sullivan, now in custody…

You saw it here first— a woman falling 500 feet puts herself back to together without a scratch.

This just in…

Her name is Claire Bennet.

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No one goes out for lunch while they're working at a hospital— none of the big-name players, anyway. It's a sign that you aren't serious about your work, and if you aren't serious about your work, people die. End result: a lot of casual socializing goes down in the cafeteria.

A lot of casual meanness, too, as people drop their bedside manner and blow off steam. "At least you're not one of those freaks," Dr. Lois says to one of his interns, gesturing to a TV set in the corner tuned to a news channel. Then, eyes narrowing at the latest arrival, his voice abruptly grows more pointed.

"Isn't that right, Mitchell?"

Simon rolls his eyes, saying nothing; they've butted heads over his inexplicable insights, nothing new there. Instead, he turns his attention to the TV, curious what might have prompted this latest round:

Footage of a young woman plunging off the top of a Ferris wheel and breaking her neck, only to get up again a few seconds later.

Hoax, my ass, Simon thinks to himself. He hasn't met anyone who could pull that off, but he has no trouble buying it. More to the point, he has a sneaking suspicion that Lois buys it too— and that things between them are about to get a whole lot uglier…

Experts and witnesses alike are at a loss to explain this real-life movie miracle.

… there's no way it's real, but it's certainly drummed up a lot of attention. Whoever put it together, I applaud them. The eyes and ears of what seems to be all of New York are on the same place tonight…

If it's a hoax, then it's a clever one. We'll have more official reactions tonight at 11…

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Dropped off at school by his mother, Ethan steps inside playing on his Nintendo DS. The college lobby is full of people, but nobody stops to talk to Ethan. He was used to it by now. Of those in the lobby that shared his classes, most were annoyed by the fact that even four or five years younger than them, he got higher marks than almost the entire rest of the class.

Except, today, they weren't ignoring him out of annoyance, he could sense that immediately. He could hear snatches of thought easier than he could hear the conversation, since thought wasn't affected by the echoing acoustics of the lobby, "…should have died, but she just stood back up…" and "If there's her, how many others are out there? What can they do?"

"What's going on?" he asks one of his classmates as he approaches, and for once he isn't dismissed. Instead, he's given a big grin, "Haven't you heard? Superheroes are real!"

Not just America, but the whole world is reeling tonight after the announcement an hour ago by the Vice President confirming that the now infamous "indestructible jumper" video was not — I repeat not — a hoax and that the sudden outpouring of people claiming they have so-called superpowers… may be telling the truth. The President is set to make an official statement…

They're calling them "abilities": feats previously thought to be beyond the human scope. We're living in extraordinary times.

… making the public wonder, just who knew about these people?

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Iraq

It's about time for the soldiers to hit the hay for a few hours of sleep before they roll out to keep the mission underway. One of the men in uniform is risking sleep deprivation by kicking around outside. In the shadow of one of the armored vehicles, under the dim, blue light of the moon, Kevin Parrish is working himself up into a fit of frustration. Sweat and sand get in his eyes as he grunts and groans under the exertion of trying to lift the giant, heavy-duty tire that lies in the dirt. It's not the kind of object that can be hefted one-handedly like a dinner plate, but he's putting his all into it. He grits his teeth. The veins in his forehead pop. He did it before— why the hell can't he do it again?

His own natural strength rolls the tire onto an edge, but any meathead who knows a bicep workout can do that. Kev lets the tire thud into the sandy ground, straightens, and gives the thing a brutal kick — anger meant for himself. Frustrated to the max, he blindly, unthinkingly throws his fist into the nearest surface. That surface happens to be the armored vehicle. His fist crunches into it and the tough exterior crumples around his knuckles.

As Kev brings his bruised hand to his forehead, breathing heavily and blinking at the dent he made, barely seeing more than red, his commanding officer watches from afar. "I'm not having one'a them so-called A-Ps in my unit," he grimly expresses to the other superior officer to his right. "Parrish is gonna have to find somewhere else to go. Far away from here."

The more citizens "come out" as Ability Positive, the more challenges they face — and the more the city of Los Angeles faces. Discrimination is on the rise, from graffiti with a message of anti-ability hate to a subletter being violently forced from an apartment in a West Hollywood … a neighborhood usually known for welcoming diversity. It's turmoil.

"Is your blood red or blue?"

LATR: "Los Angeles, Take Responsibility" wants you find out if you have, or could even develop, an ability. Did you know that could be a danger to yourself and others without even realizing it?

Unsafe. Unwatched. Unprotected. The dark expanse of dirty, oil-stained pavement behind a 24-hour gas station and convenience store screams the feeling, ignoring the glow of fluorescent lights out front. The lonely gas bar might as well be Nowhereland instead of Los Angeles. The harsh calls of the city night are hollow from here — joined by the more immediate sound of the in and out inhales and exhales of breath.

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With a sudden, all-encompassing breath in, Clara wakes up. She's a pale shape behind the building, crumpled against the wall as grey as her oversized t-shirt, her head on the ground.

As she forces her limbs to coordinate and starts to push up, her palm slams down on a torn poster that drifted along with the rest of the trash on the pavement. A handsome face of Hollywood implores the public: 'Get Tested.' It catches Clara's eye for a split second — it means nothing to her but bright colours — before her hand slips and crushes the campaign's good intentions.

She claws her hair out of her face with shaky fingers. The distant fluorescence is dull and cold to her; it finds her eyes with a gleam, underscoring the sudden fright in them for all of no one to care about. Sitting up against the wall, she wraps her arms about herself, looking this way and that— nothing tells her where she should be going.

So she just goes away.

Clara's eyes close, her sights fill with bright lights, and the very ability the neglected poster on the ground tells her to Get Tested takes her far from here.

Suddenly, she's looking into a public restroom mirror instead of an empty lot. Muffled club music drift in and out as if from another world. Her hair is perfect and curled instead of unbrushed; her lips are red and puckering into an experimental pucker to show off her lipstick to the reflection; a pink glimmering party dress has replaced her shabby street clothes.

Escape.

Tensions are high as the world attempts to get a grip on all the new information that's been coming out in the last year about superhuman abilities. While scientific fact is still struggling to catch up, it leaves the floor open for boundless rumors and fears to crop out, often catching fire on the internet, then being replaced the next day by something new.

"— Yeah, Ricky, I'm calling in from Montana— "

Common opinion on the street seems to be that these abilities are the result of some kind of defect, or disease, and those few who have come forward for testing have been quarantined, for the public, and their own, safety.

"— wanna give a shout-out to all my blue brothers out there! Stay strong!"

The dims lights hit the back table spasmodically, keeping their colorful mood second fiddle to the relative privacy of the booths lining the walls. His arm slung over the rounded top of that cushioned seating, a young man turns a smug look tinged with the certainty of gossip. "You gotta be careful in these kinds of places these days," he relates with easy caution, wisdom he tries to invoke across the way with a twist of his wrist to indicate the surroundings. His friend nods over the top of a non-alcoholic juice spruced up enough so as to be disguised as a club drink. "Don't let 'em take the bottoms off anymore, you know what I mean? They might infect you."

Blinking blearily in the dark yet somehow fluorescent corner, the friend slides his mouth hesitantly over the edge of his martini glass as if it, too, might hold some lingering poison. "It's… it's not like it's contagious or anything," he declares, shaking his head softly, then more determinedly as he uses the argument to convince himself. "I hear it's in the blood, or something."

"Right. In the blood," comes the instant declaration, "In the bodies. Then they're rubbing their body all over you. What else you think is going to happen? Freak spreads—"

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A hand plants down on the fabric next to his, supporting some of Tess' weight while she ably glides her hips in to press the rest onto the man's lap. Club spotlights create neon patterns along her dark skin as it sways in heavy grinding, back and forth, immune to the pitter of conversation.

"— just imagine if you got this bitch pregnant, now. Think you're just banging a chick, next thing you know: squid-baby."

Calm, and pleasantly engaged, Tess' dark eyes stare into the face of the young man whose lap she occupies, regardless of his inattentiveness. With a regretted gulp, the friend slides his drink onto the table, peering at its color and minted attachment now sagging much like seaweed off the corner.

"Public's right to be warned about that— mmm, honey, that is good…"

The city's crime rates have been seeing an odd turn of events recently, blamed in part — by some — on Ability Positives coming out into the open. People who were once afraid to use their power in the fear that it would be revealed are now using those abilities to perpetrate and cover up their crimes, police say.

"We have not formed to combat abilities, but rather to respond to changing times…"

The Ability Crimes Response Unit. Get used to memorizing "ACRU", Los Angeles: they claim to be sticking around. The police unit is the first of its kind, specialized to handle incidents that involve abilities and keep the peace, with a vision for everyone to work harmoniously together…

"We're on everyone's side."

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The carpet is soaked with blood. Harriet Parker kneels down in front of it with a camera and an evidence number. Snap goes the camera as she takes a picture. Then, she stands and takes another. Lowering the camera, she sees more drops of blood further into the room. She puts an evidence marker down and snaps a picture. This routine continues until she realizes that it's going up the wall…and across the ceiling. A large blood spatter soaks in there, as if a body floated to the ceiling and stayed there for an hour or two. With a sigh, the woman calls out. "I'm going to need a ladder." She sighs. "And some duct tape."

"Good evening. There is no denying that some of these abilities are dangerous. One of several panels is convening to talk about how to handle the ongoing integration of these "superpowers" into everyday life— "

— C.H.A.R.L.I.E. dispatch, suspected ability related incident at 1310 Santa Monica — ACRU Team 1 en route —

"So, it's about— control?"

Twelve faces swiveled instinctively, feelings batted back and forth like the ball of a tennis match, in a far different court. Juror #5 bounced her knee slightly, slinging one leg over the other; this case made her antsy, but excited. She leaned a little too far forward than her upright posture called for.

"Control and consciousness are not always dynamically linked. One is not married to the other, while they are also not easily separated."

"Could you explain that further, Doctor?"

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Daniel's grey-eyed study of Juror #5 lifted, carrying his gaze over the rims of his thick glasses, then down, through the lenses so that the middle-aged attorney standing primly a few feet away came into focus. She was not antsy. She was terrified. Behind her, every inch of wooden bench was packed tight with flushed, curious faces. Faces that were every bit as terrified as her. Terrified, Daniel's head tipped subtly sideways, of the teenager nearly wrapped around his chair in his own anticipation. His head sunk nearly to the desk, he lifted his face to meet his gaze with the doctor who, by opening his mouth, might condemn him.

"C-Control…" slipped out, "is a token of willpower. Loss of control is considered a loss of discipline, and occasionally an impairment of the brain." Daniel laid his hands out in front of him alongside the microphone; it made him have to lift from the seat and adjust further forward. He was not antsy. "It, uhh… it's like saying that you were seeing red. Something else takes over, and you find it— difficult. More difficult to control your actions. Some would say impossible; it's an open argument."

"But— consciousness. An action— a thing— anything… that you are not conscious off… how could you control? There's no… base. No ground to stand on. You are— fundamentally unaware. Juror number five," suddenly, like his elbow was caving in, Daniel jutted to the side, a finger laid pointedly out towards the woman, "isn't conscious that her foot is twitching." With an alarmed jolt, the woman gathered her hands across her skirt, soothing the motion. A rumble of humanity rippled across the overly tense courtroom. Not even a twitch of humor on Daniel's face; instead, he reared back, slightly confused, at the reaction. "But, umm. Opposing council, on the other hand, has been controlling the urge to sneeze for the last five minutes."

Another ripple. Daniel's attention bounced off it to the face of the young man. The accused. Of assault. Because his DNA, they were saying, controlled his behavior. It wasn't a new argument. Control. Consciousness. How you were born, how your childhood motivated your later actions… how you could have something buried deep inside you that was immeasurably dangerous, and not even know it.

Time slowed to an ill heartbeat. Everyone was afraid. Of this child. Tearful, hesitant eyes met Daniel's across the room a second time. Everyone, so afraid. The kid's gaze suddenly balked, tearing with a rapid jerking of his head anywhere but on the stand. Behind the hazy black of his lenses, Daniel blinked past the blurriness of movement.

"… Doctor?"

His head snapped up. Twelve faces — all faces — were turned on him expectantly. "… Sorry?"

"Doctor: I asked you if you felt, in your expert opinion, that the defendant was conscious of his violent actions?"

Daniel looked; the kid wouldn't meet his eye again.

"… No."

High-powered cases are taking on a new meaning in the courtroom where powers are now being put on trial. The justice system has been in turmoil for several months trying to stay on top of a game that has changed.

"Can our government label its own citizens as potential threats when they haven't broken a law? It can, according to their decision to assign Risk Levels to its Ability Positive citizens based on their genetics…"

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A burst of blue fire flits across Jude's laptop screen. It hasn't caught on fire; she's watching a YouTube video as she sits cross-legged on her bed in her otherwise unlit in-campus housing room, nestled in purple pyjamas patterned with sleepy pandas. She leans in toward the video and it whimsically illuminates her face, the brilliant display dancing in her round, fascinated eyes.

A young man in swim trunks, poolside, throws his hands up into the air at a party and sends blazes of bright blue into the night sky to the gleeful whoops and hollers of the other tipsy partygoers. It looks just like special effects magic, but the title declares it 'RICKY USING HIS ABILITY!!!!! RISK LVL HIGH MOFOS!!!1:)' Irresponsible college kid shenanigans meet superhuman abilities and this is what happens. He makes a showy game of it for entertainment, and 471,346 viewers, plus one redheaded UCLA student in panda pyjamas, have been entertained.

In the middle of Jude's watch, the door bursts open to admit her roommate, dressed for a night out on the town. She automatically gives a skeptical eye to Jude and her late-night viewing. Traipsing right over, she plants a hand on her hip and idly fluffs her halo of curls, spying. Jude slams the laptop shut like she's been caught watching a dirty movie.

"You know, you watch too many of those stupid videos, Jude," she says before grabbing her phone from the nightstand and traipsing back out. Jude waits until the door shuts before she pries the laptop back open, curling up on her side next to the computer just in time to watch "Ricky's" friends playfully shove him into the pool and put his fire out.

Heaving a wistful sigh, the twenty-three year old grabs her stuffed elephant, hugs him, and hits 'next'.

Local business owner refuses to serve High Risk Level customers. It's not the first headline of its kind. Naysayers predicted the turmoil the city is now facing.

Los Angeles will persevere.

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It is the sound of traffic on the 101 that knocks Nicol out of her daydream. Which might be a good thing since she's about to slam into the car in front of her. With a curse, Nic swerves her motorcycle and comes to a stop on the freeway. There is honking all around and Nicol can tell that nobody is going anywhere for a while.

Taking her headphones out of her ears, she stands up on the bike to try and tries to see what the hold up is, unable to tell the young woman sighs and resigns to sitting on the bike. It's not exactly a cool day either. Stretching her arms out, she gets comfortable for the wait. Taking her helmet off and placing it in front of her. "Just.. perfect."

It starts as a tremble running up her back, this odd sensation and then everything goes black periodically. When the lights are turned back on, Nicol is sitting on her bike still but something is different. There isn't any sound.

Looking around her, Nicol notices that everything is still moving but there's no sound involved. Blessed silence from the honking, before she can begin to freak that her hearing is gone. She notices something on the opposite of the freeway with incoming traffic. A car speeding through the lanes and not showing any signs of stopping. As Nicol watches this speed demon.

There's one more thing she notices, a road worker on the side of the road bending over to pick up a tool before the car smacks into the man, sending him flying. Of course, he's dead. As Nicol screams everything goes black again before she comes too and realizes that the honking has started up again.

Disoriented, Nicol looks behind her to see that the road worker is indeed there and alive. With a deep exhale Nicol relaxes until the car from her dream(?) comes out of nowhere and hits the man. All she knows is screams, it's like she won't ever stop screaming.

That is until she jolts awake in her bed inside of her studio apartment in Hollywood. The sheets are tangled tightly around her legs and the slightly open window allows a bit of a breeze inside of the place. Panting, she sits up and puts her head in her hands. She hadn't had the dream in months, she takes a moment to look at the pamphlet thrown on the floor not far from the bed. Her brown eyes taking in every word, she's seen the message everywhere. It's not like she really needs to read it. Is your blood red or blue? asks the pamphlet, a call for registration.

It only takes a moment for Nicol to curl up on her bed and quietly cry as she reflects on the dream. That was the day that she first noticed her ability. It hasn't been the last time either.

The battle between equality and discrimination is ongoing, but what else is new? It's a new normal Los Angeles is settling into…

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It's the ungodly hour of 6:30 AM and the alarm clock is blaring, belting out some random classic rock track from the radio on the other side of the bed. The only problem with this, aside from the hour, is that Concordia is hearing two different songs: one from the radio that seems miles away, and the other from right inside her own head.

"Unnnngh!" Concordia groans from under the piles of blankets that are haphazardly yanked up and strewn across the bed. A single arm slaps ineffectively at the alarm while her tangled mess of bedhead peeks out from the blanket cocoon. Sleep-confused fingers fumble with the buttons on the radio before she gives up the ghost, pressing her eyes shut tightly and grimacing a bit…while she swaps 'stations.' If you can't beat'em, join'em, right? At least now, she gets the same song, in natural stereo!

For a while, she just lies there in bed while she wakes up. The bed is the centerpiece of her small bedroom…and it also happens to be the centerpiece of her living room too! Eventually though, she hops out of bed and starts the process of getting ready for work, pulling on a pair of well-worn jeans, mismatched polka-dotted socks, broken-in cowboy boots that have seen better days, and a faded t-shirt that could very well have been from the Led Zeppelin 1977 tour it mentions on the front.

Even though the alarm is long since turned off by the time she leaves, she pulls the apartment door shut behind her and heads out to start the day making coffee bobbing along with another song in her head. Or talk radio. Or the morning news. Or sports highlights. Or…

The pressure to get blood tests to determine Ability Positive or Negative is heavy now that the public office campaign to "Get Tested" is in high gear.

It's the least you could do #gettested

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Flickering edges of not quite properly compressed video are still visible around the edges of the video blog as it slides into place under the internet's giant 'play' button. On the screen, little more than the smiling face of Mickey Calhoun, who needs no adornments as he clasps his hands on the table in front of the screen, winking sardonically at his invisible audience.

"A new slew of campaigning was introduced today, encouraging people to get themselves tested to check for that tricky old superpowers gene. The spokesperson for this expensive new plot? None other than the great Van Dallas. Van, the Vampire, Dallas. Ye old VD. That's right, people. VD wants you to get checked."

Bracing his elbows more strongly on the table, he cocks his head in mock sincerity, and conspiracy, both. "Now, if your little macaroni heads are a'burning with curiosity— yes, I did get tested. I just can't help myself. Needles turn me on. And, yes. I am a freak… in the sack. But my blood runs blue, folks, which— " he raises a finger, "The stupidity of that labeling system we'll get into later. For now— this is Mickey Calhoun reporting— "

Mickey rears back from the camera as its viewpoint widens to include a life-sized cardboard cut out of Van, his cardboard hands depicted as forever testing his belt-buckle. With a whump, Mickey gives his stiff company a slap to the chest with a high-running smirk that fully displays both his teeth and how amused he is with himself.

"Get tested— for VD."

"…Nobody got hurt, did they? … Where are you going? … You can't hide in here forever. … Don't just stand there. Do Something."

The path that leads through this particular penthouse suite is one that shows that whomever lives here is in dire need of a cleaning lady. In dire need of a cleaning lady that actually cleans. The entire place is a complete mess, clearly the aftermath of a huge party. From the way the girls are sleeping so comfortably in random sections of this residence, it is almost as if they do this on a regular basis.

Over the bed, which is also full of girls and off towards the open balcony door, will show that there's an epic sunrise that's happening at this very moment. A lone athletic and masculine figure is wearing nothing but a pair of black basketball shorts. Anyone that knows their sexy bodies would know that this one could belong to one man and one man only…

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Van Dallas.

He's leaning against the balcony, peering off into the rising sun. Clasped between his hands is a rolled up script. After a moment, Van turns to make his way back towards one of the chairs on the balcony and slides into it. The script is dropped onto the table while he reaches for a margarita glass, from which he takes a long sip.

The script unravels to reveal the title: Nightlife.

"Now tell the audience at home what that means Dave, are you against getting tested or against people with abilities?"

"The labeling is wrong. Jeez, come on! Are we in Nazi Germany? I'm chef at a five star restaurant and I don't look at anyone's registration before serving them.

"Audience?"

"It's like the red and blue blood campaign. People chose to literally wear their result on their sleeve, creating a division between reds and blues. It's still not right— "

"And yet the phrase on everybody's tongue is License Law. It's being pushed more than ever, so where the hell does that leave the general consensus?"

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'Are You Red or Blue!?' blares the headline of the LA Times. Doctor Theodore Ruskin lowers the paper as he looks around the coroner's office. Such a simple thing to perform, a blood test. It's a test he can perform himself. He's got the resources, he's got the know-how. So why is it that he's finding it so bloody difficult to do something as simple as test his blood for something he's suspected for several years. At least since he's read those obscure genetic papers, and that book by Suresh. It's how he got to the US in the first place, chasing a lead on Suresh, stopping briefly in California on his way to New York. He's not living up to the full potential of his mental capacity, however, he's content where he is in Los Angeles.

"They're a minority, they need our support, they'll keep needing our support. Like any minority, anything new, people fear what they don't understand. It takes more than a few years."

"Los Angeles might just be making the most progress of all large US cities, with every month turning out a new laws and rights groups related to all things A-P…"

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It's an average day inside the courthouse. These days, "average" has a new meaning. Lucy's high-heeled shoes saunter her over the slick marbled tile of the wide hallway. In dull contrast to her bold shoes are the black loafers of the man she walks alongside. Even with the heels, the diminutive lawyer is looking way up him, but it doesn't bother her a bit: her eyes meet him like an equal. With a bit of added mischief.

"Eight months detention, three years probation," he says.

"Ha!" Lucy scoffs cheerfully, giddily entertained by how completely insane she thinks the offer is. Her hands clap together. Neither of them lose pace. "Come on, it's just assault. And he's a first-time offender. Axe the detention. Two years. Probation."

"Is Yonge, Levine and Ginsberg sure you went to law school? You do know what bargaining is, right?"

"I dunno, here I thought I was bein' pretty generous."

"I don't think I can rationalize skipping jail time, Ms. Vega. What he did to that kid's face? That's not simple assault."

"Call me Lucy," she replies, smiling. "Yeah, alright, but he got shoved, he shoved back. It's not his fault that when he shoves he has the ability to melt someone's face off. I mean, it sucks…"

"What does old Y, L and G have to do with juvenile court anyway?"

"They go where the heat is! And I go where they send me." Lucy stops in the hall. Around them, people flit here and there on their way to court appointments. She stands firmly in front of the man, her smile beaming and bright, but her eyes, however glimmering, mean business. "Two years probation." She tips her head cutely to one side and smiles a little more. "I'll throw in community service."

He eyes her. He's unconvinced of the deal, but looking down at Lucy's smiling face and mischievous eyes, he sighs and turns around. "I'll make a phone call."

By that time, Lucy is already turning around the other way, quietly — but most certainly — pleased with herself. This fight should go down easy. But her attention is caught by the soft sounds of crying; she pauses when she spots the defendant sitting on the bench outside the courtroom, his parents wrapping their arms around him. He's only fourteen, and he looks like anything but a vicious attacker. But he certainly does look ridden with guilt — broken to pieces over what he did. It was an accident. It was never supposed to go this far.

"…He has to plead guilty on the stand," the other attorney's voice drifts back in. "Confess to being in the wrong, no contest… Lucy?"

"Oh, uh … yeah," she answers, even though her dark eyes remain stuck on her young Ability Positive client. She's a bit frozen in spot there in the hall. But whatever she feels, she focuses on ironing it away. "Deal…"

It's been a year with a lock-down on ability-related crime and some may dare say the streets are as safe as they ever were. Is this the new temperature of the city? Los Angeles is on the cutting edge. Others might say breaking edge…

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Alvin Davis Drake is sitting behind his desk, sneakers up on the top of it. He's not wearing his suit jacket, which shows his shoulder holster strap. He's occasionally balling up random pieces of paper and taking shots off at the Nerf Hoop strategically placed above the trash can in the corner. He makes more of them than somebody that looks the way he should make.

There's a knock on his office door, which is already slightly ajar and a clerk pokes her head in. Another paper ball is swished through the Nerf Net as the clerk drops a folder down onto his desk. They smile at each other as she backs her way out of the office.

Alvin's smile fades, though, as he looks down at the folder. It takes a moment, but soon enough he's lifting the folder up and peering at the tab on it. It's marked: 'ACRU'. Hesitation crosses his features and he sighs to himself, looking to the left and at the picture on his desk. The picture of his black family and his own smiling white face.

A moment later, Alvin is pushing his door closed and grabbing at his glasses. Finally. Time to work.

NOW

All the blood's red behind the glass, each one sat indiscriminately next to each other on the thin tray labeled to be next for testing. It's further down the line that have been segregated; nothing's changed in the tubes, themselves, but now a slapped on sticker identifies each by name, and by color: red or blue. Not a single red vial leans over to tap its blue neighbors. Each stand upright, like soldiers.

From this array, a gloved hand plucks up one, turning it over until the rounded shape surrenders its label for reading. Jacklyn LeBlanc. Next to a red tag.

Clack clack of footsteps on linoleum. The researcher perks up, slipping the tube back into its slot, not noticing when it slants crooked. Noticing the open door, steps are taken to the thin counter overseeing the patients' chair, empty and waiting. The gloved hand dips into a supply cabinet, retrieving syringe, cotton, and a vial, so far untainted by blood or color. These are handled with the efficiency of repetition. The syringe popped open, and held up.

Held out.

To you.

"Are you getting the test?"

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