Friday In The Park With Jim

September 19, 2014: Jim calls Keith to talk about important things. Keith finds out what exactly 'the partner' is.

Central Park

Sitting on 843 acres of public land, Central Park is one of the most famous
sight-seeing spots in New York, and is considered large enough to have its
own police precinct (the Central Park Precinct) dedicated to its protection.
The Park boasts several lakes — all of which have been created artificially
— extensive walking and bridle paths, two ice skating rinks, a variety of
outdoor theatre spaces, several playgrounds, and a considerable collection of
whimsical statuary. It is home to Belvedere Castle, the Carousel, the Central
Park Zoo, the Conservatory, and Cleopatra's Needle (one of three, 70-foot
Egyptian obelisks from the Temple of Ra in Helios, its mates residing in
London and Paris).



  • None

Mood Music:
Blinded By The Light

Central Park is one of Keith's favorite places to relax before or after a patrol, or on his days off. The greenery invigorated him and made him feel safe, and he enjoyed contact with the grass for as long as it was possible. Which is why he readily agreeed to meet his caller at this location- and take advantage that Fall has not yet swept in and the weather is still toerable. He's sitting at the base of a tree and taken his shoes off, perhaps his last chance to really enjoy this before winter comes in like a lion and buries the world in sleep.

The redhead sits and waits. He's decided not to come in his Vorpal shape… since Jim has seen him in both, it isn't necessary. Plus, it draws less attention.

It is a great day. Fortunately, despite the scheduling of work, Jim did manage to get the day part of it off, though he's expected to go in and cover an over-night watch shift for one of the other managers at the yard. Works out pretty well, though, because it means he can get some paperwork done while keeping an eye out. Far cry from military watch-standing, to say the least.

A bit wary, Jim heads towards a nearby bench, carefully putting a used newspaper IN the recycling bin nearby where it is supposed to go.

Some people just have no manners!

He looks out and around the park. He's not really good on this whole 'spycraft' thing, but he's starting to pick up bits and pieces just by osmosis…

Did he just doze off? Keith shakes himself awake. He is more tired than he realizes… of course he is. He's been running on four or three hours of sleep per night this week. No matter how young, that catches up pretty fast when you're out of your teens. Worried, he checks his phone to check the time (he doesn't wear a watch. He used to, but his first two heroing outings convined him that he'd go broke if he had to replace his watch after every fight) to make sure it hasn't passed him by.

Good, it was only five minutes or so, putting him right at the hour. The young man stands up and looks around the park, one hand over his face to shield it from the sunlight. Shaking blades of grass from his jeans, he steprs forward, barefoot, towards the bench in the distance where he thinks he has spotted his mark.

"Hello," he says quietly as he approaches the bench from behind. If this isn't Jim, he's going to give a poor stiff some fright…

Even if it *is* the mark, there's a chance of giving the guy a fright. And his shoulders tense reflexively in a surefire 'tell' that yep, that's his name alright.

Jim scoots to one end of the bench, leaving plenty of room for Keith to sit without personal space issues. He probably wouldn't appreciate up close and personal, though.

"Afternoon. How ya doin'?"

"Tired." He answers honestly, sitting down on the bench, one foot propped up on the edge. "Sorry I haven't been in touch lately. Been trying to figure things out with the Titans and all of that. How are things going at the tower? How's Miss Potts doing? You'll tell her I said hi, won't you?"

"Can understand that one. Between the idiots over in Queens the other day and the other things going on…" he trails off briefly before taking up again. "They're going pretty good, much better work environment than my last one. Both Pepper and Mike are great. And I'll let her know. You feeling any better after the other night when you came in?"

"To be honest, I feel a little worse, and better." Keith smirks. "The good part is that… I'm sort of involved with someone now. Changeling. The bad part? He's thinking about hitting Waller up and offer his services for a limited number of assignments, in exchange for her leaving the Titans alone." He runs his hand through his red hair, exhaling. "Naturally… I am not over the moon about this."

"Well, that's great. Given how weird things have been lately, good for both of you. And… on that other thing… I wouldn't worry about that too much."

Mysterious Jim is mysterious as he kind of lets that hang for a bit.

The multiverse is a strange thing, really. There is a dimension, somewhere, at this very moment where it is the 1940s and where a masked vigilante known as the Red Panda is looking at his sassy sidekick, The Flying Squirrel, and phrases a question with a mixture of wariness and suspicion. It just so happens that at this very moment, Keith O'Neil looks at Jim and phrases the exact same question, with the exact same tone, at the exact same time. "Oh god. What did you do?"

And in that dimension, the sassy sidekick is beaming proudly and about to impart knowledge of something monumentally stupid it has done that was effective in getting the Nazi spies out of New York but that will have grave consequences in the future.

However, that purview is not this one, and Jim shrugs a bit.

"The Corvinus was a bit upset over the antics of a certain fearful fellow, decided to see if it could make with a meeting of the minds with a rather determined woman."

No names. Keep it generic. Let Keith draw the right conclusions, hopefully.

"During the course of that discussion it was revealed that this person no longer has an interest in certain events transpiring in New York. Seems there was a serious issue of… shall we say… continuity?"

That seems to be the best way to say it. Jim's pretty darn casual about the whole thing, actually. Might be unlikely that he actually spoke to the person directly.

Keith raises an eyebrow. "… But this … person," damnit, he hated pussyfooting around like that. That was fine and good when he was Vorpal and he had all of the feline malice to enjoy, but… "might hold on to some grudges. Particularly of certain things that went wrong for this woman when she visited the fearful one in his home turf, so to speak, which dragged a lot of his at-the-time associates into the mess."

"Something isn't smelling right about the whole deal. Seems like all parties that appear to be involved are more concerned about damage control and cya. If this really was the woman, just on talking to her, I suspect she would have finished the job. Didn't strike either of us as someone that'd leave a thing hanging, nor the sort that'd let it get to the public eye — that'd endanger her mission? Upshot is, as long as folks keep their noses clean, she's not getting involved. Which leads me to my other thinking… that a different party did this for whatever particular reason to drag the woman's name through the mud and to really set you and your friends after her. Who really benefits from that sort of situation?"

It's a very short list, isn't it?

"I have a few ideas about that… but on the topic of her…" Keith frowns. "Maybe I should talk to her. Before Gar goes over and decies to become a sacrificial lamb. See if she will take an apology and an offer to lay down hostilities, since we're supposed to be working towards a common goal here."

"I don't think it'd be wise for any of the parties to meet at this point and time. Not until one of the parties has something more concrete than a bunch of wild-ass guessing as to what the situation might be. Theories are nice to have, but without the facts to back them, they're nothing but fodder for the tin-foil hat crowd?"

"If you really wanted to tip the hand somehow, and give her the credit where it is due and potentially draw out whatever other party is doing this, do a public apology to her and her people, indicate that new information has come to light that was attempting to discredit her hard work and disrupt the safety and security of this country, and that perhaps you and your friends are working on resolving the issue? Completely honest, straight-forward, and shoving a knife in the gut of whoever tried pulling this off, right? At least, that's me and the partner's assessment on it. Flush out the quarry."

"The partner, yes…" Keith looks at Jim with a sidelong glance. "You know, we haven't talked about that. I'm not sure you'd want to trust me that far but… well, I've seen him. So if you'd like to enlighten me, go ahead. You can ask anything about my 'other side', so to speak. Though he doesn't really have a separate identity. It's more like added flavor."

"Well, what do you want to know about it? It's very keen on that buzzword you dropped in there, so if there's something I can help with, I'd be more than willing to help out. Just realize I've gotta kinda downplay it at the moment? Last thing we need is either me looking possessed or having a sudden eruption out here, right? Might even get taken in for indecency."

"Well… what is he… it," Keith says, using the pronoun Jim used. "In that alternate reality, that whole thing with the groovy psychedelic sermon… what was up with that?"

"Picture a Zen Buddhist monk. They can only show you 'a' path to enlightenment. They cannot *force* you to become wise. The very nature of such a thing is a very deeply personal sort of issue, right? It'd be like telling a Muslim that the only way to Heaven is to convert to Judaism. Or telling the most rabid witch-hunter that they need to take up Wicca for their spiritual well-being. The partner is about choice, about promoting self-awareness, growth, development."

Jim pauses and shudders a bit.

"In that other place… he was some sort of spiritual leader, almost like a cult leader or perhaps one of many cult leaders… the memories are thankfully rather sparse and we're trying not to dwell on them too much because it was almost like we were thrust into that role and it was very, very uncomfortable? And… how do you suddenly get both agoraphobia and people-claustrophobia? So while I was freaking out about that, the partner decided to guide the masses. See previous analogy for how well that was going."

"I remember quite well." Keith shudders. That was a horrible experience. "So… you essentially have some sort of… bird Messiah, inside you?"
That… was something. He turned into a Cheshire cat. But today, he may have found something even wierder than himself.

"No. *THAT* world had me with a Jesus Bird inside me. That's nothing to what it is really like. It's more about people learning. A good day for it is when everybody learns something. Might be something bad, might be something good, but Always Be Learning. Its been doing it… a very long time."

"So… you know that the follow-up question is 'How on earth did that happen?', right? I'm basically poking at Origin stories. How does one get… that inside of you?" Waller momentarily forgotten, Keith's curiosity is now fully focused on Jim.

"Depends on which 'it' and which Earth you're talking about? On *that* one, I was apparently sacrificed to it to be a host. My family got paid or something for it. I think. I'd really rather not think about it and the partner gets cranky thinking about it."

The guy pauses, shrugs.

"From my side it's pretty simple. Got the shaft from work — they closed up the stores days before my twentieth anniversary. I was in the park north of my house debating some seriously dark things and something came out of the sky. Like an idiot, I went to go check. And more or less, here we are."

"Well… that's almost as weird as falling into a mirror and getting impaled to death by a shard." Going through the Looking-glass. Hah.
Keith pauses. "Well, no, it's weirder. So, then… what does your partner like to teach?"

"There was a brief iteration sensation when I was walking through the neighborhood at a different time that there was version that used a katana on a heart-shot?"

Jim shakes a bit. "Really glad the tower is fixed by the way. Even if you lost it, please thank the person who set things back right for owning his or her mistake?"

"The partner is big on teaching folks how to learn on their own. It has a huge database, though according to it the thing is but a mere shadow of what it once had access to. And… everything is learning, when you boil down to it. The mere sensations of this glorious day? A learning experience. Learning to not go into a burning building without proper breathing protection? Another learning experience."

Was that a subtle dig on Vorpal's heroics not too long ago?

"The important things for it right now are Enlightenment and keeping everyone alive as much as possible. It sees something bad coming, but it is loathe to talk about it too much."

"… I wet my jacket and wrapped it around my nose," Keith says, sullenly. "… it just… sort of… fell off…" He kicks at the grass a little. Man, he wasn't going to live that down.

Ding. "Something bad?" He looks up. "… what something?"

"Hey. You did something that I could not have done. Been beating the partner over the head, trying to get him to keep as low a profile as possible but sometimes that doesn't work so well. You saved lives. That means it's cool in both our books, not that you need our stamp of approval on it, you know inside you did what you needed to do. Life learning experience, okay?"

"It likens this thing to a storm, something bad coming from far away. Apparently related with its primary mission of providing enlightenment. One of the first lessons he learned was the analogy I related earlier?"

A storm. Keith looks at the beautiful day, the sun coming through the trees, the warmth. Something bad coming from afar.
"How much time?" Keith asks. "And what can we do to prepare?"

"Its current math puts it at five to ten years. That's barring any other factors coming into play, like the source of it knowing that it is here, that kind of thing. And as far as preparing, the big thing right now is slowly getting the word out there, so that when things DO come to pass, folks can actually work together, even if they'd normally be beating each other's heads in. Imagine, briefly, if you would, an alliance between Loki and the Batman, the Joker and the woman I met recently. All will be needed when that arrives. It doesn't know what will defeat this thing. Only that if we don't have as many as possible…"

"Jim, don't. You can't get the Joker to work with anyone. The man is insane. I had an encounter with him…" he shudders. "… no matter the threat, I get the impression he'd be on the side of the threat, just so he could see everything crumble firsthand. Try Wonder Woman…"

A pause. And a slow blush crosses his features. "… if you do ever meet her, though… can you get an autograph for me?"

"See. These are the notions that the partner is trying to defeat. Everyone has a goal, everyone has a quest, everyone has a path they are on. Why, it managed to persuade Loki to do something to advance his own agenda while working for the greater good. Something that the God of Mischief wouldn't do normally, even if asked politely. Everyone has something that will bring them on-board, whether they realize it or not. That's what the partner is banking on. For the Joker… what fun is it if everything is in ruin and he has nothing to break anymore? What happens to him, then? Enlightenment comes all over. This is the danger and the promise of it. Makes a charming cat with a big smile seem downright hospitable, doesn't it?"

"I don't really hob-nob in those kinds of circles, man. But if I do, sure thing. If such a case comes up, who do I tell it is to?"

"Me. Just Vorpal, or Keith. I don't have a secret identity. But I'm not going to pretend someone like her would have heard of a little nobody rookie." Keith grins. And then he frowns. "Wait… Loki? How… wh… how? Because… I was considering. See, I saw him at Constantine's Manor… and I figured, if I could maybe find something that he wants.. or strike a deal with him…" his voice grows small, "Maybe he could help spare Gar from whatever twisted thing that woman would send him to."

Ah, what mortals these fools be.

"Alrighty. No guarantees, of course, you know how this stuff is." he pauses and considers. "Don't. I'm suggesting you don't do that because that guy is a social nuke waiting to go off. Nothing good will come of anything you ask of him. I'm still waiting for the shoe to drop on what the partner did. Any deal you strike with him will be worse than the contract Wal-Mart employees get. And he'll probably demand kneeling and immediate supplication. Take the advice where you will, but I'm telling you that's a very, very, cosmically bad idea. If you were going to do something, I'd recommend the public apology, but with enough of a generic spin so everyone can save face and walk away from it a bit wiser."

"Public apology… alright." Keith sighs a little. Apologies were hard, for the purple side of him. "I'll do anything to keep Gar and my team-mates safe." Yes. Even apologize. He looks at his phone and nods. "I need to be heading back… only got a few hours of sleep before I need to do the bouncer thing."

"Sometimes the hardest step to take on the road is the one that leads away from a fork in it. Just make sure that it's not being stuck in you, because then you're done, right?" Was that a playful joke? And did it come from the partner, or from the portly fellow? At any rate, he nods. "I should head back myself. Adjusted my work schedule to meet you myself."

"Then don't let me keep you! Work is important. And Jim? … thank you." Keith smiles at him. A genuine smile. "Also, don't try to go after the fearful one. He's not one of us anymore and, as far as I am concerned, he's a cockwaffle esteeped in asshoney. Good riddance."

"You're welcome. Hope it was some help. And I have no intention or design to go after him. After all, the partner tried to reach out to him, and the best assurance that it could wrangle from that revv'd up douche was that he was a loner in the night." Again with the odd humor. Or was it just a mangling of appropriate lyrics? At any rate… "That cowboy shit is what alarmed the other side. Definite fear that the doofus was gonna be running around willy-nilly slaughtering folks that 'attacked him'. Granted, might be reading a bit into it and there is also that thing that fear is part of his line, but… yeah."

"Oh god, you already… it already tried. Well… I could have saved you the waste of time." He reaches out and pats Jim's shoulder. "Let's do lunch sometime soon, okay? We're almost done looking for a new place to stay. Far less visible. Once that's done, I should be more free… auf wiedersehen, Jim. I may stop by the tower with another batch of Tiramisu at some point."

"The partner has this annoying habit of, while not at the Loki or David Xanatos level, of pushing hard and fast on some things. It's probably going to get us screwed at some point. You'd think someone with epochs of experience would learn to slow down and smell the roses, right?"

The pudgy guy offers Keith his hand to shake.

"Even if it's fixed, I think you can understand why I'm sort of shy about going over there?"

"Oh god, no, we're not rebuilding the tower. We found out that 'T' stands for Target. I meant the Stark tower. That one doesn't get blown up." Keith grins. "Our new headquarters will be secret. Ish."

"You guys are lucky you didn't get sued by them on top of all your other woes. And seriously, who builds a tower into a 'T'?"

"If Stark Tower gets attacked there's gonna be some hell to pay. That's one of the few places in the city I can actually relax at, even while working. That goes away… it's not just Pepper and Tony that folks will have to worry about."

"The Swedish Crown, that's who. They're big on symbolism, I've heard. But yeah… if anyone attacks Stark Tower, I can guarantee you every available Titan will be there on top of everybody else."

The redhead waves, "Well, I need to go and find my shoes. Try to have a good day, okay?"

"Already having one. This just put some icing on the top of the cake. Good luck at the gig tonight."

Jim gets up and wanders off down the trail, humming a song that some of his words has gotten him stuck with an earworm…

Blinded by the light… revved up like a deuce another runner in the night…

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