Logs:Give heed to my cry; for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are too strong for me!
|Give heed to my cry; for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are too strong for me!|
"This is all perfectly legal, Sir."
<NYC> Lower East Side
This stretch of Delancey Street is lined with a polyglot mix of wholesale businesses, bodegas, and hole-in-the-wall eateries stores. Though it's not got the draw of nearby Essex Market, it is usually bustling even on a chilly Friday evening. And it was quite lively tonight, too, up until a few minutes ago. The arrival of a spotless passenger van escorted by two interceptors seems to have chilled the mood on the street, notwithstanding that the vehicles and the officers they disgorge or are all unmarked. Residents peer nervously from their windows, and people who had been chatting on the corner promptly find somewhere else to be. The six plainclothes -- though really, their black jackets conspicuously bulged by body armor may as well be uniforms -- linger near their vehicles in front of the bodega, chatting quietly among themselves and trying to look natural.
In contrast to the trying-too-hard agents outside, Leo actually does look unassuming as he steps out of the bodega, in black slim-line peacoat over a soft chambray button-down, gray needle cord trousers, black slip-on boots; the plush scarf he wears (a blue abstract wave pattern on a white background) unwound and hanging loosely over both shoulders, though he winds it back more snugly as the chill evening air hits him. He has a canvas shopping bag hanging on the crook of his arm and is fumbling open the top of a crinkly green back of Snacku rice crackers ('vegetable flavored', they optimistically proclaim.) The widening of his eyes as he steps out of the store is -- very slight. He winds his scarf a little bit higher around his face, turning -- brisk but not rushed -- down the sidewalk away from the van.
Steve is not bundled up quite as warmly as most of his fellow pedestrians, though in concession to the wind he has zipped up his brown leather jacket and tucked the tails of his red-and-gold striped scarf into the gap between his chin and the collar. He's carrying a plastic takeout bag in one ungloved hand, his other swiping out a message on his phone, almost like some kind of digital native. His eyes track the not-so-undercover agents, narrowing ever so slightly, though he does not vary his pace or direction as he moves toward them.
The plainclothes almost miss Leo in their attempt to Appear Normal, but one of them at least manages to both remember what they are there to do and recognize their mark, and points him out the others. Four of them fan out toward Leo, two hanging back as if they would like to have their thumbs hooked into the straps of their vests but cannot owing to the cover of their jackets. "Leo Conception?" says the one who spotted him, though they clearly didn't intend for the name to come out sounding quite so much like a question. The older agent beside them produces a bronze Homeland Security Investigations badge. "You need to come with us right now."
Leo's shoulders hunch tighter under his coat, and his fingers clench down hard, crumpling at the plastic bag of crackers. There's a suddenly more ashen tinge to his warm brown skin, and he shakes his head quickly. "No -- no," his protest is slightly muffled behind the scarf. His steps stutter-hitch to an uncertain stop, one of his hands dropping to his pocket reflexively. "No -- thank you, I'm just going home."
Steve's brows furrow and he quickens his steps as he slips the phone back into his pocket. "Gentlemen," he says -- not loudly, but there's something in his tone that commands attention. Then adds, after a closer look at the agents, "...and miss. Is there a problem here?" His expression is neutral and patient.
The two agents who had spoken to Leo step back from him as his hand moves toward his pocket. "Put your hands in the air!" one of them shouts, and the other "Get on the ground!" as they and the two others flanking Leo scramble for their sidearms. Only one of them actually manages to get a pistol free, the others apparently -- distracted? By Steve's intervention.
"This is an immigration enforcement, Sir, you need to step back," says the one whose gun is out. To their very slight credit, they have not actually taken aim at Leo. Yet.
"We're federal agents," the one Steve had addressed as "miss" says sharply.
The two who had hung back with the vehicles are approaching now, too. "Hey, isn't that Captain America?" the younger one of them says, eyes wide with awe.
"What? I just --" Leo's hands fly up, his eyes wide and startled. The phone that he'd been reaching for falls from his hand, dropping to the sidewalk with an unfortunate crunch of glass. His crackers fall to spill across the sidewalk, too, his grocery bag dangling awkwardly from the crook of his elbow. He looks down to the phone -- back up to the gun in the agent's hand. Up to Steve, sucking his cheeks in between his teeth briefly. His lips move quick and silent for a beat before, shakily: "You're -- Flicker's friend, right?"
Steve puts his hands up, too, though he re-settles his weight lower at the same time. "I am Captain America, and I see no evidence that you are agents of any sort." Though there's no fear in his ice blue eyes and his expression is suddenly, deeply unamused, his jaw set tight. "Only that you are menacing decent folks with a gun." He glances aside at Leo, searching his face quickly. "He's a very dear friend."
"Don't move!" the young agent who had spoken first barks at Leo again. He has finally gotten his gun free, though he's now just pointing it straight down, uncertain.
The older agent who had flashed their badge at Leo earlier turns it toward Steve instead. "We're with Immigration and Customs Enforcement," they explain earnestly, "we're law enforcement agents, just like you."
"We just need to take this man in for questioning," says the agent with the gun drawn, still aimed at the ground between themselves and Leo. "This is all perfectly legal, Sir."
There's enough fear in Leo's to make up for Steve's lack. He's holding veeery still, his hands slightly shaky where they stay lifted above his head -- one more than the other, with the grocery bag weighing it down. He looks down helplessly at his cellphone again, then back up at Steve. "Please --" It comes out too low and too rough, at first; he has to clear his throat before speaking more steadily. "I -- don't think -- they're not really -- I. I've been through this before, I. The place they took me, we --" He closes his eyes, shakes his head, his shoulders wilting. "Please just -- tell him they're taking me back. I'm -- Leo."
Steve grits his teeth, eyes skipping between Leo and the two drawn pistols. His hands have been very slowly creeping lower, and probably not due to the bag of food hooked on one wrist. He looks about to speak, but then shuts his mouth as he listens to Leo, his eyes widening. "Alright, Leo. I'll tell him." His voice has gone oddly steady here. "Sir -- Agent, I mean -- would you mind letting me take a closer look at your badge? You know we didn't even have a Department of Homeland Security in my day, so I'm not familiar." He dips his head slightly, as if embarrassed. "I'd like to take a picture of it to show our friend later. My smart telephone is in my the right pocket of my jacket."
"He'll be well-cared for in custody," says the agent who had drawn their weapon first, "and his friends can request information on his whereabouts from our New York field office."
The older agent takes a step toward Steve and holds the badge up proudly for inspection. "I'm Special Agent Norman Wellington." He hesitates now, but despite his uncertainly he shrugs, "I suppose you can take a picture, but I don't think they'll need that information. You just need his name and birthday." He nods at Leo.
"Thank you." This comes out in almost a whisper. Leo swallows hard. Breathes hard. His eyes dart from Steve to Special Agent Norman Wellington -- skip quickly over the other agents -- back to Steve. He tenses as the agent holds his badge up for Steve. A moment later drops his hands -- his grocery bag falls to the floor, scattering its contents (a roll of cheap toilet paper -- two tins of spam -- an off-brand box of wheat crackers, a quart of orange juice) to the sidewalk as he bolts.
Steve draws out his phone, the screen turning back on to the last app he had open. He must see something telegraphed in Leo's body language, because before the man even takes off he is tapping something in rapidly and mashing the 'insert my location' icon.
The message is still sending when he chucks the phone end-over-end, aimed unerringly for the right knuckles of the gun-wielding agent farther from him. The nearer one gets whacked on the wrist with a takeout bag that bursts on contact, spilling Chinese food all over their very nondescript clothing and the sidewalk.
The sudden commotion has sent the few remaining pedestrians on the street scattering, and the rest of the agents rushing to draw their sidearms. The phone Steve threw smacks into the agent's knuckles, hard. He yelps and drops his weapon, which clatters loudly to the sidewalk.
"Stop, this is your last -- aaah!" cries the young agent as he's assaulted with carryout, though he manages to hang onto his weapon, at least, swinging it up toward Steve with a look of wide-eyed betrayal on his face.
By now, two of the other agents have also bared their guns, one pointing at Leo and the other at Steve. They're all shouting over each other in a state of high agitation and confusion.
Leo kind of skids -- kind of stumbles to a stop when the agent yells at him. Immediately afterward ducks his head, eyes screwing up. "No -- don't shoot him. I'm stopped. Don't -- don't shoot him. I'm sorry." His arms have crossed over his chest, his breathing quicker, rougher.
Whether any answer comes to Steve's phone or not is -- kind of a moot point, as it goes sailing through the air. What does follow the text message, though, only a handful of seconds later, is a familiar fluttering shimmer somewhere at the corner of Steve's vision. It hovers, circles, drops down, darts back up -- finally coalesces at Steve's side into a faintly ruffled-looking Flicker, underdressed for the evening chill in khakis, button-down, dark green sweater vest. He's still holding a cup of cocoa with Evolve's colorful logo in the insulating sleeve.
Somewhere along the way, the gun that had been pointing at Leo is -- not. Flicker isn't holding it! But neither, anymore, is the agent. "-- Are we fighting the police?" There's oddly little surprise in his voice as he looks from Steve to the agent pointing the gun at Steve.
Steve intercepts the young agent's arm in a bid to disarm them and throw the pistol at one of the other agents pointing guns. Something in his posture eases when he recognizes Flicker's trajectory, and when one of his targets spontaneously loses his weapon he changes his targeting. Finally he settles back into a neutral fighting stance. "They say they're federal agents, but Leo thinks they're here to abduct him for the labs?" His gaze darts to Leo, then returns to the agents. "I'm not fixing to let them."
The young agent recently besplattered with Chinese food stands no chance against Steve's strength or speed. The leaves Steve's hand only a moment later and smacks into the last drawn gun, knocking it to the ground and leaving the agent who had been hold it just a moment ago swearing in pain.
The old agent with the badge is finally going for their own weapon, and the one Steve had called "miss" has theirs out, as well. "Labs?" they repeat, "I have no idea what you're talking about, but you are going down for assaulting a federal officer."
"--Jesusmaryandjosephthankyou," comes out all in a rush. Leo still isn't moving, but he does start breathing a little more steadily when Flicker arrives. "This is just how it happened before," he explains, words quicker, choppy, "they said it was an immigration thing but then put me in a cage for ever and made me a mutant and then the labs and now it's happening again -- I can't -- do that."
"Who? They -- oh." There's a sudden clearer understanding in Flicker's expression when he looks over to Leo. "Oh." He gives a regretful look to the cocoa cup in his hand -- which vanishes, too, a moment later. Then he's a blur of motion again. This time, whisking Steve and Leo both with him in a dizzying whirlwind -- and leaving the agents with the broken phones and spilled groceries in the oddly emptied street.
It's a long beat before "miss" federal agent breaks the relative silence with "The fuck?!"