2007-02-20: Us


Hiro_icon.gif Sydney_icon.gif

Summary: Hiro tracks Sydney down at her loft and confronts her about the stolen Isaac Mendez pieces.

Date It Happened: February 20th, 2007


Sydney’s Loft

Buzz, buzz, buzz. That's Sydney's door buzzer, a-ringin'. Once she hits the button to check who it is? If she's got a fancy video camera, a funny-looking Japanese guy with a courier tube on his back and glasses. If she has an intercom? Something like:

"Helloooo? Hello? Ah! Hello!" Hiro might try to look into the camera. "My name is Hiro Nakamura. Are you Sydney Ransom? I found your book!" he says, through a thick accent. He will hold up a half-burnt sketchbook to the camera, if there's a camera.

Sydney would feel a lot safer if her loft was equipped with an exterior camera, but that's not something she can afford on her meager pay scale. She does, however, have an intercom—installed by a former tenant sometime in the late 80's. As the front door creaks open, a section of the blonde's face appears in the gap, bleary-eyed and damp-haired, looking as though she just got out of the shower. "You?" she croaks.

'You!' That's a recognizing response. It's her! It's her! He waves, his hand disappearing into what is little more than a blur of motion. "Hellooo! I finally found you. My name is Hiro Nakamura." You already said that. "I found your notebook," he says, with a smile, and holds it out.

The young woman has to blink a few times before she can will the world into focus, peering at Hiro and the notebook the same way that she might ogle a strange creature at the Central Park Zoo. "Huh," she says, opening the door the rest of the way with one hand while she accepts the notebook with the other, "could've sworn this thing got burnt to a crisp." She doesn't sound particularly overjoyed. In fact, her tone is almost… disappointed?

He leans forward a little bit, whispering. "I went back in to get it," Hiro says, proudly. It's impossible for someone to have gone in to that fire to fetch it, but apparently he achieved just that. Then again, she has seen him teleport around. He lowers his voice again, to a whisper. "Um, er. Could I — er, see your paintings?"

Paintings? Sydney stiffens at the mere mention of the word, and if Hiro is listening closely he might be able to detect a slight hitch in her breath. She retreats into the loft but does not close the door in his face, choosing to leave it hanging open instead. It's the closest thing to an invitation that the man with the funny accent is going to get. "Sorry, kiddo. No paintings here, but I have some sculptures if you're interested in adding something to your personal collection."

Hiro doesn't believe it, but he isn't about to give up, /or/ call her on it. "Please!" he says, aloud. "The paintings are very important. The whole world could depend on them," he pleads, poking his head into the door. "They tell the future!"

Sydney tosses the notebook onto her kitchen table and idly tightens the sash of the robe that she's wearing, busying her hands while her brain tries to process this new piece of information. Judging by the tight-lipped look on her face, she doesn't believe him either. "They tell the future? Is that really the best thing you can come up with?"

"It is true!" Hiro says, only awkwardly sort of meandering after her as she moves through the apartment. "I cannot prove it, but… You have to believe me. You have seen my ability! There are many other people who have abilities. Look! I can show you the other paintings," he says, and holds out his cellphone, and starts fiddling with it. When it's done, he holds it out. And shows a picture of a tornado, destroying Manhattan. Yes, a tornado.

"Abilities," Sydney mutters under her breath, the disdain in her voice drawing it out into a thin, angry hiss. "What do you know about—" Whatever she was about to say next dies a quick and silent death before it ever leaves her mouth. Her dark eyes have settled on the cell phone's screen, and the image there renders her speechless. No doubt about it. That's a Mendez. "Where the hell did you take that?"

"The Company stole the paintings. I stole them back," Hiro says. "I have seven paintings. And pictures of two others," he adds. "And—look!" He pauses, and starts rummaging around in his bag, a big messenger bag of a murse. He produces… a comic book? Titled "9th Wonders", and the artist is unmistakably Isaac Mendez.

And there's this guy with glasses on the cover. Yep, no doubt about it. He holds it out for her to take. "Mr. Mendez was my friend. He had the ability to paint the future. He helped save the world. The paintings are his legacy. He is still helping to protect the whole world."

"Slow down, Short Round." This is all happening too fast for Sydney, who's beginning to wonder if Hiro isn't just an alcohol-induced hallucination. She heaves an aggravated sigh, the stench of cheap tequila and bad Chinese food heavy on her breath. "You knew Mendez?" It's certainly possible now that she thinks about it. Her eyes shift from Hiro to one of the far corners of the loft, which is covered by an unremarkable blue tarp. "Fine," she says, jerking her head in the tarp's general direction, "if that's your game, I'll play."

Hiro visibly flinches when he gets called Short Round. Well, really, it's more of a… blank stare. Not again! But first things first. "I knew Mr. Mendez. We were friends. When he died, I found his body. Both times," he says, on an additional, very sad note. "And until yesterday, I thought I stopped the man who kill him for good. If the paintings are true, he is alive. And that means that I have to stop him… for real." He leaves the cellphone in her possession. "Please look," he says.

As Sydney crosses from one side of the loft to the other, she peruses the pictures on Hiro's cell one at a time, occasionally having to tilt the screen to get a better view of them. Artwork was never meant to be viewed using this medium. The final painting causes her to tighten her grip on the phone, the blood draining from her knuckles until they're as pale as the ghastly expression on her face. If Hiro didn't have her attention before, he does now. "You said the Company stole these," she says as she comes to a stop in front of the tarp, though her gaze does not leave the screen except to briefly flick back to Hiro's face before dropping down again. "What's the Company?"

"I am not certain," Hiro says, earnestly. "They were involved with a man named Linderman. He is dead now. They are the Men in Black — they want to control people like us. When I found the paintings I also found a girl they had imprisoned. They are bad people, but Sylar is worse. Sylar has an ability, like us, but he uses it for evil." Hiro takes his phone back and flips to the head-splitter painting. "This is what he does. Sylar killed Mr. Isaac."

"Shit." Sydney knew about Mendez's murder, but she had mistakenly assumed that it had to do with drugs. Although not a painter herself, it's difficult to ignore the rumours circulating through Manhattan's arts community. She sinks down into a crouch and places her hands on her knees to steady herself, inhaling slowly and deeply. This is a lot for her to take in all at once. "If I show you something, it stays between us, all right?"

Without waiting for an answer, Sydney whips off the tarp. Spread out on the floor, weighed down with bricks to prevent their edges from curling, are four Mendez paintings and the four empty tubes that they were housed in. The first depicts a woman silhouetted in a burning corridor, while the second is eerily reminiscent of the head-splitter painting on Hiro's phone, portraying a young man with his brain removed. The other two paintings are less remarkable: a pair of scissors being pointed toward a woman's chest, and a Japanese man with glasses in the middle of a sword battle with another man in feudal Japanese garb. This last one might explain why she let Hiro into her loft in the first place.

Hiro holds up three fingers when she asks him to promise secrecy. "Scout's honor," he says, a little clumsy in the middle. Once the paintings are revealed, Hiro steps forward, and looks over the four paintings wordlessly. The identity of the young man in the second painting attracts the most of his attention — if he could find out who the young man is, they can stop it, /and/ they can find Sylar. He does, however, pause at the battle.

"… Kensei," he says, and holds up his cellphone, comparing the picture with the /modern/ swordfight. "This has already happened," he says. "I think it is Kensei and I fighting at Whitebeard's camp. I thought he died… but if this painting is true, he not only survived, but he came to the present…"

"What do you mean 'he came to the present'?" Sydney asks, her voice lacking the ire that it previously possessed. "Like, time travel?" For once, she's lucky that she has a good memory; Kensei, Sylar, and The Company are all names that she'll want to mentally file away for later.

"Or maybe he is immortal…" Hiro says, mostly thinking aloud in his brain. "Kensei alive… Sylar alive…" Hiro's enemies seem to be multiplying. How does he do it, anyways? "I traveled back in time by accident. That is where I met Kensei. I thought he was a hero, but he turned out to be a villain… I thought he died, but this is him, here." He holds up the modern painting. "And me, dressed like this…"

Hiro can travel through time. All of a sudden, the events of the fire are starting to make sense. "Activating Evolution," she says numbly. "Jesus Christ. Suresh isn't crazy." With that, the floodgates have opened, and although Sydney has a hundred different questions she wants to ask, she doesn't know where she should begin. After half a minute of stupefied silence, she whispers, "Just how many of us— I mean /you/—" Deep breath, Syd. "How many of you are there?"

"Mohinder Suresh?" Hiro repeats, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. "I met him in the future," he says. "He saved my life." His brain just made a connection between a Point A and Point B in his mind. He waits respectfully through the half-minute or silence. "I do not know. I know…" Think, think, think. "Ten?" he says, and then waits a few beats.

"Did you say us?"

"No, Chandra Suresh. He wrote a book—" Ten isn't a very high number, and Sydney doesn't know how she should feel about it. Any relief she might have experienced is cut abruptly short by a new knot of dread coiling into a tight ball in the pit of her stomach. "You. I said you. /You/ said us." A change of topic is definitely in order. "Why don't you bring your paintings here?" she suggests. "I can keep them safe for you. Away from the Company?"

"I know ten people, but in the future there were many. I do not know how many there could be. But we could be everywhere," Hiro adds, before going silent. "Sorry. I guess I hoped you would have an ability. But you do not need a power to be a hero! Just like my friend, Ando. Ando is the bravest person I know, and he has no powers," he says. "The paintings are at a friend's apartment. I will have to talk to him before we move them."

Sydney nods. "And the girl you rescued from them?" she asks. "Does she need a place to stay, too? Or is she staying with your friend?" By 'friend,' Sydney can only assume that Hiro means another person with abilities, but she's trying really hard not to jump to any conclusions. Just a few weeks ago, she thought she was the only person in the world who was different—the knowledge that there are others makes her both giddy and terrified at the same time.

"Yes," Hiro says. "She does. My friend's apartment… they know who he is," he explains. "It is only a matter of time. I will talk to him about moving things here. His name is Clint," he says. "He is a hero, like me. And the girl is Kellie. She has a power, but she is very afraid. The Company did terrible things to her. Mr. Clint can teleport, like Nightcrawler, just like I can. I do not know what Kellie's power is."

Hiro bows, just quickly. "Thank you. But it will be very dangerous. The Company are very bad. Very evil. You could get into big trouble for helping us."

"Ask her. Make sure she's not like your… Sylar. Popping people's tops off like bottle caps." As for the Company? Sydney snorts. "I could get in big trouble for stealing their shit from that van, too," she points out. "Let me get you my work number." And she's off, ferreting through various stacks of old bills and newspapers littered throughout the apartment in search of something clean to scribble on. Eventually, she returns with a page torn straight from her Yellow Book, which she offers to Hiro. The listing for an establishment called The Back Alley is circled in thick black marker. "If you need to get in touch with me and I'm not home, call them. Say that it's an emergency and you need to talk to Amber."

Hiro tilts his head to the side. "Amber? Is that your middle name?" he asks, with a note of earnest curiosity. "But I will call. And I hope your notebook is salvageable. It was badly burned. But since you are an artist, I thought it would be important."

The beginnings of a genuine smile can be seen at the corners of Sydney's mouth, though they don't last for very long. Just long enough to be noticed. "Sure," she agrees, "but not like Isaac Mendez. My stuff doesn't go down on paper—that notebook is just for fun. I'm a dancer."

"Oh." Hiro is thick, but not that thick. It dawns on him. "Oh!" He blushes, and takes a moment to nervously push his glasses back up onto the top of his nose. "But you are still an artist," he says. "Just like Mr. Isaac. I saw your notebook," he adds, and then… stops. He reaches into his pocket to fish out his cellphone, and starts flipping through it until he finds the picture of the stripper — and the menacing man in the shadows. He holds it out for her to say. "But… then…"

For the second time in one night, Sydney finds herself frowning at Hiro's cell phone. "That could be anybody," she says. "Blonde strippers are a dime a dozen here in Manhattan. Hell, only one of my co-workers is a brunette, and she wears a wig."

Hiro puts his phone away, but looks at it seriously for a second. He looks back at her. "Be careful," he says. "If that is Sylar… I stopped him once. I hope I can stop him again," he adds, trying to sound encouraging. "Please be careful. Sylar has killed too many people already. If you are in danger, call me. This is my number—" He starts fumbling with pen and paper. "Wherever you are. I will come and help you. I promised I would not let Sylar hurt another person ever again."

"I'm a big girl, Mr. Nakamura," Sydney teases gently, "have been since I was waist-high. But just in case—what does this Sylar guy look like? Mendez didn't really capture him, bless his stone cold soul."

"He has short hair. And beady eyes. And he talks like this," Hiro says, and tries to add a gravely quality to his voice. "My name is Sylar!" he says, loudly. "And he usually is wearing black."

As serious as the situation is, Sydney can't help but choke up at Hiro's imitation. "Right. Shark eyes and a smoker's voice. Got'cha."

"He is not funny," Hiro says, and a very serious — is that sadness? — tone creeps into his voice. "Please. Be careful. You must promise. You will call if anything happens." Hiro is probably going to find out where this club she works at is, so that he can teleport there if he has to.

"I promise," Sydney says. "I'll keep a lookout for shady guys at the club, too. Just for you." She takes his number and folds it neatly in two, then tucks it into the front pocket of her robe for safekeeping. "Let me know if you guys find any more of those paintings, okay?"

"Hai," Hiro says, and bows a little in thanks. "Thank you," he adds, for good measure. "And I will try to bring the paintings here. Thank you. We have nowhere else to hide right now." It's difficult to put someone else in danger, but Hiro isn't just looking out for himself — he's covering for Kellie, too.

"I look at it this way," Sydney explains, "you saved my life back there at the fire. If it hadn't been for you, I probably would've, well—" Best not to think about that, really. She has too much on her mind already. "I owe it to you, and even if I didn't, I /want/ to help. I don't want some scummy corporate organization getting its hands on Mendez's stuff. They belong in a gallery."

Hiro stops to think about that. Nobody's ever really thanked him, before. He's usually been too busy. "Yes," he says, regarding Mendez's legacy. "But you will never have to owe anything to me. I am a hero. Helping people is what I do," he says, and it's finally starting to feel like the truth.

As Hiro speaks, Sydney covers the paintings with the tarp again and lets out a soft murmur of agreement. If she's going to keep them here, they have to stay hidden. "You can take pictures of them before you go, if you want," she offers, "but I need to go get ready for work. My shift starts in two hours. Just don't forget to close the door on your way out."

Hiro nods again. "I will. Thank you," he says. "You have been a big help. It is I who owe you."

With a vaguely dismissive flip of her hand, Sydney waves it off and disappears into the bathroom, presumably to do her hair and makeup before she has to leave. Wanting to keep an eye on Hiro, she leaves the door open. Just in case. Despite everything she just said, she doesn't really believe that those paintings belong in a gallery. They belong here, in her loft—with her. At least until she can sell them to a private collector for what she feels she's due.

Hiro takes his pictures as quickly as he can; it's a fairly simple process. Once he's done, and apparently satisfied, he heads over to the door — shuts it, and locks it. While he's still inside. "Thank you! Good night!" he calls back… and then disappears. Into thin air.

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