2009-10-19: Stalker Turned Prey?

Starring: Joel and Sydney


Date: October 19, 2009


After an uneasy feeling about Joel, Sydney shows up at his doorstep to find a tall green-eyed man who takes aim at her. Literally.

"Stalker Turned Prey?"

Joel's Apartment

With everything going on lately, Sydney hasn't exactly felt settled lately. So it should come as no surprise that she's gone to great lengths to figure out exactly what Joel does. It started relatively casually. Ever since she began working at the police station, she's used police resources to check on people that left her feeling unsettled. She'd had a colleague look up the license plate of the sedan only to find out it was indeed registered to a company called SecureTech. But when she investigated SecureTech all she ever gets is voicemail that no one appears to answer or call her back about her security needs. That was when she'd had that same colleague try to track down Joel's apartment. And she'd shown up a couple of times unannounced, but Joel's never been there. In fact, she's not even convinced he actually lives there. But here she is, standing at what is apparently his front door, knocking lightly on the wood. She's dressed much more casually than when they'd met: faded jeans, a black sweater, and sneakers.

The last handful of times she'd been in the building there'd barely been any notice. The super on the first floor just stayed behind his desk staring at his black and white television, barely sparing her a glance when she wandered up. She might have gotten a flicker of annoyance from him, and the vague hint of opportunism, as if he might be considering trying to talk her into renting one of his vacancies. But he says nothing, does nothing as she moves on by.

Meanwhile, when she walked down that old hallway there were no other renters visible. There was that ubiquitous and omni-present sound of someone watching television too loudly, a crying baby off in the distance, but no real evidence the place is inhabited. There are some plants along the hall, all fake. The decor is straight from the fifties, stripes in tan primarily. So when she reached the front door of that apartment she was probably all set for disappointment. Of course, that's when the door opened.

In front of her is a man, dark of hair, shocking green eyes, taller than six foot by a good three inches. He's wearing a jogging suit, grey in color with a pair of sneakers on his feet. "What can I do for you?"

The twenty-something stares at the man in front of her blankly, completely surprised that someone anyone has opened the door. Completely caught off-guard she looks up at him, "Uh—" So eloquent in such odd circumstances. Finally she forces some actual words, "I think I have the wrong address," she swallows as she looks up at the man, "BUT I'll ask anyways. Does Joel Nelson live here?" She wrinkles her nose with a sense of apprehension as she looks up at the man almost hopefully.

The man in front of her seems curiously blank, almost preternaturally so. He's not exuding a measure of emotion, he doesn't seem to care one way or another, it's almost as if he were so out of it that he wasn't invested on anything going on in his surroundings. Though when she mentions Joel he lifts his head, and a smile is plastered on there, "Joel Nelson? Yeah he's my roommate. He went out for some food. Should be back soon, won't you come in?" He steps back from the door and gestures to the interior.
Should she look inside the apartment she'll probably satisfy her imaginings of what Joel's home was like. A typical slacker bachelor pad, old couch, big television, video games, a few beanbag chairs. It all seems so… average.

And the apartment is about what she'd expected. She smirks at how typical it all is. And she thought something odd was up, now it all seems so normal. "He's not expecting me," she says almost idly as she peers about the room. "Uh. I'm Sydney," she extends a hand to the roommate. And then it occurs to her, how is it Joel has a roommate and no one's been home the last few times she's stopped by…

Her hand is taken and he gives a firm shake, "Pleasure to meet you, Sydney." There's something so terribly distant about him, he says, "Oh wait, 'The' Sydney? He's talked about you. He'll be so glad you came by." He says that almost musically, almost happily, perhaps to set her off guard for what is next. The man's green eyes meet and hold hers, his hand tightens, and with that smile still plastered on and in place he powerfully /YANKS/ to pull her inside and slam the door behind her.

"Really?" she quirks at the notion of being talked about. Her cheeks begin to redden, but her flattery is interrupted by being yanked inside the apartment. "What the hell are you doing?!" Sydney's voice is a yell. Her anger beyond apparent. And, as usual, when her temper flairs, it tends to emit to others, which never bodes well for her. "You don't do that to people! No one does that! You could've pulled my arm out of my socket or something!"

And then the man who was hiding behind the door holds up his pistol and it makes a terribly ominous 'click' as he draws the slide back, chambering a round and aiming it square at her. The first man still addresses her, having released her hand. "I advise you to be quiet, Sydney." He murmurs her name almost as if it were a dagger to be tossed at her.

As she's still gathering her bearings, getting used to her surroundings, three more men enter from the side hallway. Some of them have firearms, all of them aim them squarely at her, but what might be more striking… is that they all look exactly alike.

It might be something that takes a few moments to process, might be something that causes a mind to reel. A second glance… they're all wearing different clothes. There's one in a grey suit, another in jeans and a t-shirt, another in chinos… but they all are the same man. One has some facial hair though… but there's all those green eyes, stabbing and piercing with their intensity as they glare at her. The one that met her at the door says quietly, "Do you choose to cooperate with us?"

Raising her hands to the air, eyes are widened, and mouth is shut. Her pulse races, her heart pounds. This is not typical for her. She nods slightly as her hands continue to be held int he air, "I'll cooperate." She glances from one man to the next. There are so many of them, all looking the same, "W-who are you?" And then she manages another question that feels all to obvious now, "J-Joel's not at the store, is he?" She bites her bottom lip.

"No," The man in the sweats tells her, "He's not." It seems it's his job to talk to her, at least for now. He gestures with one large hand towards that grungy tan and white couch, motioning for her to have a seat. "You are now going to tell us all you know about Mr. Nelson, the varying degrees of discomfort you experience will depend on your answers."
The man move around her, partially shifting to cover the windows, the door. Now that she's 'secured' enough for them, they begin to disperse leaving only the man in sweats and the gunman in chinos overlooking her. She might, should she glance down the hall see several other individuals, at least seven in total.

And she does look down the hall. EYes are still wide. "Well. What do you want to know?" She raises an eyebrow, "I actually don't appear to know very much." She crosses her arms over her chest as she bites her bottom lip. "I came here for answers." She frowns, "I only have questions." And even more now.

"What is your relation to Mr. Nelson?" He settles down upon the coffeetable directly opposite her, looking at her with pale death's eyes, clearly without emotion, utterly lacking in compassion. "Why your repeated attempts at contact?" The gunman walks to stand behind her and behind the couch, his back to the tiny area that passes for a kitchenette in the apartment.

"Um." Sydney considers. What exactly is her relation to Joel?! She doesn't even know! "Well… We met. It was electric. We smooched. We parted." She glances up at the man in front of her. "Honestly, that's basically what happened. I don't know if I'm an acquaintance, a friend, a random stranger. And he said he'd call." Well, she told him to call. That's the same thing, right? She sighs at the next question, "I had… a feeling." She frowns. "I can't really explain it, but it was a gut feeling that he was lying to me. And I work for the police station so I—I looked him up. Rather, a colleague did. I'm an analyst. Not privy to such information on my own." And then she attempts to offer further explanation, "I called SecureTech and no one ever answered. I left messages requesting security and no one ever responded." She looks up at the green-eyed man, "Look, maybe you don't put any weight in instinct, but it's gotten me far in life, and in my field, it's important to rely on."

For a time those brilliant green eyes look at her. It's almost as if the man was looking through her. As she speaks he listens closely, clearly commiting this to memory and soaking up the information as he can. When she finishes speaking he purses his lips. There's the first hint of emotion to touch him as he seems almost annoyed. He gives a nod to the gunman standing behind her and says, "You are quite the open individual, Sydney. I appreciate your truthfulness. I owe you at the least a death without pain."

A beat goes by. "What?!" And then she settles a bit after glancing at the men around. That feeling in her stomach tells her she's safe. For now. She inhales a deep breath as her eyes scan each gunman individually. So many. They couldn't all be bad shots. Where is Joel? Is he dead in a ditch somewhere? And what on earth does he do for a living?

The man starts to respond when any possibility of conversation is shattered by a low /KRUMPF/ as the door seems to burst open, the knob and locking mechanism exploding inwards as if propelly by a firecracker. The next instant there's a silhouette of something flying through the air, small, spherical, and landing right on that coffee table with a light _thump_. It all happens so quickly, but she might have enough of an idea of what's going on to recognize that things have just changed.

Almost immediately, Sydney averts her eyes, and ducks behind the couch. This is her opportunity to at least put some distance between her and her assailants. She ducks.

As she dives over the couch there's a blinding flash that brightens up the room entirely, casting a huge shadow over her as the furniture partially blocks the blaze of light. It's curiously quiet as things begin to fall into chaos. She can see the gunman reeling beside her, clearly staggering from the flash. Can hear the men shout as they respond. There's a low /ffft-ffft/ of sound several times, and then suddenly the body of the man in grey sweats falls over the couch and almost lands right on top of her, his tracksuit no longer so pristine as it sports a trio of black holes in the chest.

Still crouching behind the sofa, the young woman waits. She fails to suppress a surprised scream as the body nearly falls on top of her. She hasn't actually seen a dead body up close before. Closing her eyes, she takes a deep breath and tries to focus on that courage she'd found in Central Park when she was mugged.

There's a flurry of motion, down the hallway behind her several of the men start to run, reaching for their firearms as they move. Towards the window the one that was guarding there spins around, his pistol lifting and barking once with a loud report. From her place behind cover, Sydney might see him jerk as several bullets strike him cleanly and precisely in the wrist, the chest, the forehead. That man in the business suit keels over, head snapping back by the last bullet. He falls to the ground knees first… then chest. It's perhaps then that she might catch sight of the shooter, the reflection of him clear in the sliding glass door that leads out to the balcony. It's barely more than a black silhouette, fatigues, heavy boots, a pair of pistols, and a silvered visor. He's standing there, turning and already bringing one weapon to aim at the hallway.

Sydney involuntarily cringes as she sees the body jerk down with the bullets. Her lips are pressed together as she studies the figure in the reflection. One shooter against all of these men? How is that even possible? She wrinkles her nose as she strains to stare at the reflection.

The remaining duplicates start to reach the end of the hallway. The lead one's progress is suddenly halted by several rounds striking him instantly as soon as he rounds the corner. The others pause, the bare slivers of a second needed to get around their falling comrade is enough time for the shooter to fire again. The pistol in his hands emits that /FFFT-FFFT/ sound, and then there's a loud /PING/ heard as each of the rounds ricochets off of the old 67 Mustang hubcap that hangs in the hallway, the rebounding bullets striking the other two duplicates perfectly and sending them to the floor in a tumble.

But Sydney doesn't move. The shock has certainly set in. She closes her eyes and tries to shut off everything, tries to convince herself this is all some odd dream…

And as quickly as that, everything has fallen silent. The shooter walks across the room quickly, boots crunching the debris from the fallen door. The pistols are holstered as he moves. He draws closer to her, eyes hidden behind mask and silvered visor. He stands there and then offers a few quick words, tone modulated electronically, "We need to go, are you hurt?" There's a staccatoness to his pacing, an abruptness in his manner.

As the voice talks to her, she knows it's not a dream. She opens her eyes and just shakes her head slightly. "I'm fine." Well, that would be a stretch considering the level of shock, she's currently in. She stands to her feet quickly. And then a moment of apprehension. She trusted the supposed roommate too easily. "W-Who are you?"

Standing there seeming terribly ominous and dark in those combat fatigues and mask, the shooter for a time doesn't say anything. Behind them the fallen bodies of the duplicates begin to shimmer and hiss, a faint sheen of grey smoke drifting around them. She can actually sense this person before her though, can sense… distance, wariness, a touch of paranoia, but then a faint touch of affection. The hesitation is gone, and without her having to ask twice he pulls off that mask and the small electronic visor.
Sure he's a bit sweaty, and sure his hair's a bit slicked back. But his voice is no longer modulated as he tells her, "My name's Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you." And to Joel's credit he maintains a straight face.

RELIEF! All of Sydney's apprehension melts away. "JOEL!" So many questions, so many things to ask, but in this moment, all of them fade away. The relief is too great to even consider them. Her lips curl upwards momentarily into a small smile at the joke, but the smile fades quickly as the adrenaline kicks in again. "We can go." She'll follow him where he leads her.

The moment of levity is enough, and once again he's all business. There's a short sharp gesture towards the door, and he starts to move. He's the first into the hall, stooping long enough to scoop up his long jacket that he must have taken off before entering. Joel swirls it on over his shoulders, hiding most of his equipment from view even as he begins to stride towards the stairwell that's a few dozen paces down the hall. "Was surveilling this place since figured the guy'd come by. Saw them go up and start tossing the apartment, then you wandered on up. You know, I hate running, you made me run. So mad." He's still hard for her to read, but the emotional impression she's getting from him is… utter iron will and discipline.

And the adrenaline takes over. Sydney follows him down the hall, trekking only a few feet behind him. "Sorry, I guess?" it's more of a question than an apology. She's still really confused. Her steps are light. And then the apology is cast aside, and some sentences are given as if to explain, but it's all very cryptic, "I felt funny. I looked you up. This was your last known address. I did my due diligence." She just got pulled into an apartment, and had several guns pointed at her.

A low chuckle comes from him as he pulls open the stairwell door, checks to make sure it's clear, then precedes her into it. Strangely enough they start to head up instead of down. "I'm flattered, especially all those sweet things you said about me while they interrogated you. So cute." He offers her an askance half-smile over his shoulder, but then starts taking the steps in a steady rhythm. They only have three stories to go for the roof, but it's still a bit of time.

"You were listening?! I don't even remember what I said!" Sydney sputters as she follows him upstairs. "Just let me die now," she mutters as she continues light-footed. "Where are we going?!" Ironically, despite not knowing she keeps moving. "Who were those guys? They all looked the same! They all had guns! Pointed. At. ME."

She can sense a moment of hesitance, as if considering to tell her or not tell her. Eventually he decides on the former, if only because well… they can always remove those memories later. "He's a guy who has this talent, he's able to duplicate himself with a sort of mental energy. A real bastard, has done some pretty nasty stuff." He glances over at her as he turns on the stairwell, climbing up another flight of steps, "Kinda what I've been working on the last few days." He offers her that and clearly he's leaving some blank spots there, but it's all he says for now at least.

"I seriously need therapy," Sydney says more to herself than Joel. Of course, she probably needed it before today, but then most therapists do. "So you're telling me he's one of the evolved?" Yes, Sydney knows about the evolved. And ever since she learned, life hasn't quite been the same. "But how did you take them all down? The sheer number against. You."

There's a moment he gives her a doubletake, but then he opens the rooftop door and steps outside. He gives an all clear after a glance around, then he replies to her. "Yeah," He lets the fact that she knows about the evolved go by, then he answers her other question, "Oh you know, I'm just that good." There's something sardonic in his tone, almost self-deprecating, he doesn't elaborate, however. It's towards the building's edge that he walks, it's the edge of the building that is so close to the rooftop of the neighboring one.

Sydney follows him onto the rooftop and looks around too. She's learned too well not to be too trusting today. She narrows her eyes and just shakes her head as she follows him, frowning at the lack of explanation, she just follows to the edge. "What do you do? Obviously SecureTek is a load of crap. Of course, I figured that out when I left a message inviting them to install a security system in my apartment." Not that she'd actually intended to follow through on that.

There's a wry curl to his lip as he looks over the side, then casually _hops_ over onto the fire escape. He lands with a /clang/ both boots striking the wrought iron heavily. He reaches up to offer her a hand in climbing down should she need it, "Well," He confides in her as she moves, "This sounds cheesy, but there are folk out there that like to use their talents for pretty horrible things. I try to stop that."

The hand is accepted and she climbs down rather slowly. Sydney arches an eyebrow as her lips twitch ever so slightly. "I wish I'd know that a week and a bit ago." She bites her bottom lip. "There was this blonde. I think. I think she took over a policeman's body. At least, that's what I've come to understand." She swallows and then just nods, "Well it's a commendable job then." She quirks a soft smile.

"Yeah," Joel lets that word hang there, almost as if he knows about what happened or that he had heard about it. He gives her hand a small reassuring squeeze, then turns around to push the ladder from the fire escape to the side… then over, it unfolds to /CLANG/ loudly against the building next to theirs, creating a way onto the rooftop beside them. A decent escape plan for now. He starts to climb up the ladder, avoiding looking down at the considerable drop, clearly expecting her to follow, "Needless to say, my life's kinda crazy." And having said that he pulls himself up onto the other rooftop and to what safety it has to offer.

Sydney follows him, climbing up while refusing to look down. She clamours onto the solid rooftop and instinctively dusts herself off, as if trying to rid the ugliness of the apartment from her. She furrows her eyebrows at him, "It's all very secret isn't it?' Pursing her lips together she considers him. "Thanks," she finally says. "For what you did back there. I appreciate not being dead right now. Luke." She fights the smile spreading on her lips, but fails miserably.

"Yeah, well, you know how it is." His cheeks colour a bit, but then he shakes his head as he starts to make for the other stairwell to head down to street level. He reaches the door, opening it and stepping in to consider its safety, then nods to her to come along. "If I let you get popped in there I'd have to get the carpets cleaned, and then where would I be?" Of course he uses humor to deflect, even as he tries to focus on their safety. He starts down the steps and then says over his shoulder, "Also, you're very persistent you know…"

"Ah yes. Nothing like having to clean spilled blood," Sydney raises her eyebrows as she follows him after getting the signal. Her cheeks colour as well, "Persistent? How so? Wait. Have you been watching me this whole time?" She swallows before adding in her own defense, "You didn't call." Not yet, anyways. Of course, she didn't know he was off battling some guy that could create duplicates of himself.

His eyes distance for a moment and she can see him touch his ear, or rather something in his ear as he listens to distant voices. He grimaces faintly, but continues the descent, one hand on the handrail and his footsteps precise and even. He looks at her for a moment, pausing as he murmurs, "Yeah, I know. I kinda heard from the messages and the like. And yeah, sorry, I'm an ass." He gives her that with a small smile. For a moment he rests a hand on her shoulder, as if to reassure her… then he's moving down the stairs again.

"Ah so you did get my messages," Sydney half-teases with a smirk as she follows him down the stairs. "Maybe I do need to read 'He's Just Not that Into You,'" her smirk broadens. "Should've called," she tuts with mild flirtation as she continues to traipse after him.

"Yeah, here. Let me take time off my busy schedule of saving the world to make sure you feel loved." Joel's smirk is levelled at her over his shoulder as he continues to stroll down the steps. Sure those words might sting, but only if one ignored his usual tone and manner. He's goofing, but then again she might just as easily purposefully misunderstand too. With his hand sliding over the handrail he continues the sojourn downwards, "Here's the plan, kiddo. Going to get you somewhere safe, make sure you can lay low a bit, then I'm gonna head out and take care of this. All right? All right."

Sydney just smirks back at the sarcasm and dishes it out herself, "Yes well, at least you know my priorities." She winks and keeps strolling until he tells her the plan, it's at that moment that she stops dead in her tracks. "Wait. So. It's not over?" she quirks an eyebrow. "I thought you got them all?" And then she narrows her eyes further, "… I'm not getting to work tonight, am I?"

The young man has a sour expression on his features as he walks, his look somewhat pensive. At the next flight he pauses long enough to meet her eyes and tell her, "The guy's name is Grayson Berg. He makes dupes of himeslf, but when he does that he keeps himself safe in some hidey hole somewhere. Didn't know that at first, so when I first went to take him down he survived. So now we're kinda trying to kill each other. I'm trying to find him, and vicey versey."

Blink. Blink. Blink. "O-kay." Sydney starts walking again behind Joel, following his lead once more. "So I'm not going to work tonight." She nods a little at this and then furrows her eyebrows while whispering, "I am so fired." She swallows, "Do you honestly think I'm still at risk? I don't know anything. About anything, really. In fact everything the more I learn about all of this the less I know." Confusion and worry, a kind of uneasiness is all she feels and all she projects.

Starting the traipse down the steps again he says over his shoulder, "I can't tell you how much he knows. I'd not take the chance, but hey, what do I know? I'm just the guy that saved your life and stuff." With his hands jammed deep in his pockets, Joel looks almost petulant, probably picking up some of her negativity. He then adds with a casual snark, "But hey, thanks for all your efforts Joel, you hot stud of a man you."

Forehead is wrinkled, "I thanked you already! And I am thankful! I am very thankful, dammit, but if you picked up a phone once in awhile none of this would've happened! AND I just had guns pointed at me! I'm a freakin' therapist! I've only had a gun pointed at me once before like two weeks ago! And I hoped that would be the only time, so I'm sorry if I'm testy." And then she twitches. Joel's change from relatively good humor to outright irritation mirrored her own. This is all too coincidental. The mugging, the yoga studio, the rooftop argument. With a deep breath she closes her eyes and concentrates on her happy place, her place of calm. Her mind is entirely at ease for this moment. And for this moment, all she projects is that optimistic easiness that permeates her personality.

Finally they reach the bottom floor, once there he rounds on her his expression sharp from the remembered anger, but as the subtle waves of emotion flow out from her like a rippling lake, he seems to lose a touch of that edge. "Look, first off, if you _ever_ get me on a phone, then it's not me and somebody has a gun to my head. They can track you like that, I hate that. Second, I don't see a ring on this finger. I mean don't get me wrong, you're pretty hot, but dammit woman…" His words start to trail off as she shifts her focus, his brow knitting with a haze of confusion. He at least manages to finish his thought, "Just… my life's out there."

She manages to just focus on her happy place for a few more minutes until Joel starts to calm down. This is very unsettling. And then the freak out begins. Eyes are opened wide, "Holy shit." Sydney's heart pounds in her chest. "You feel what I feel! Everyone feels what I feel! Shit!" She's long since stopped dead in her tracks as she pieces everything together. "But if you feel what I feel than nothing anyone around me has ever felt is real. Ever." Her mouth gapes open. Her head shakes "No, the mugging. The bravery. It just. It wasn't mine." She begins to tremble. "Shit.”

That brings him up short, his hand already on the 'emergency exit' door that leads out the back of the building and towards an alleyway behind. "What are you talking about?" He squints, clearly not following her and probably going to be a few steps behind regardless. He holds up a hand, "Look, just try to focus. We have to get out of here." He reaches out a hand to steady her, and despite her ability to affect emotions she can perhaps sense his own level of focus. Sure he can be shifted like a reed in the wind, but there's still a core of feeling to him. A step closer as he tries to get through to her, perhaps such proximity helps her realize at his essence is a desire to protect, a general positive feeling, but also there's that ethereal hint of affection and attraction that gave the initial seed of their interactions.

And Joel's proximity eases her, particularly as she takes the hand. His focus gives her a dose of perspective, and she just nods. After a few moments, the freak-out is gone, for now anyways. After swallowing, taking a deep breath, and studying him, she observes, "It appears I take the psychological phrase emotion manipulation to a new level." An unsettling thought for a therapist, particularly as emotional manipulation tends to be viewed as abusive. "You feel what I feel. I feel what you feel." That said she looks at him with that same focus he's projected to her. The tone is undeniably calm, "I'm ready to go on now."

For a time he looks at her warily, worried, concerned. He then gets a faint glimmer of amusement in his eyes, and she can feel it through their hands where they touch, but also deep inside his emotional makeup. As if he was and always will be a joker. He leans in and then very quietly, very gently, whispers. "Tell me what I'm feeling now?" And with a goofy half-smile he even goes so far as to waggle his eyebrows, just the hint of the lascivious.

Sydney leans towards him to jab him in the arm, but it's not hard. She's picked up on the amusement, and cracks a smile of her own. "I'm not some side-show, Jerk," she smirks, openly-flirting. With a sigh, she clears her throat, "You really are all fun and games under the all business exterior, aren't you?" She's grinning again, but the smile fades all too quickly.

Crinkling his nose, as if reeling from that terrible impact upon his arm, Joel replies to her lightly. "Just like a tootsie roll pop." And with that said he plants a shoulder into the exit door, pushing it open and letting them out into the night air once again, but this time it's tinged with the savoury scent of garbage. He gestures one way and starts to walk, making their escape at an easy pace.

"The centre always is the best part," she notes as she follows, with that same easiness she generally conveys. She wrinkles her nose in the garage but doesn't complain despite the scent.

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