|In the Ring|
|Location||18th Street Station - Mutant Town|
|Summary||Lea and Rohan run into each other at 18th Street, talk mutations.|
| Long since closed to the public, an entrance to the 18th Street Station has been opened from the more southern 14th Street Station - if one knows how to find it. A door leads to a tunnel which opens into the dimness of the abandoned station. The once-glass ceiling has been covered with scraps of plywood and corrugated metal, and a wall of the same blocks the station from the view of passing trains. This once-grand station is now crumbling in disrepair, and every inch of it is covered in layers of graffiti.
A series of metal bleachers has been built into the platform, affording a fairly good view of the tracks below. The tracks themselves have been enclosed on two sides in tall, sturdy barriers meant to withstand a great deal of force - and other things.
Here is where the mutants of New York fight.
Fights are arranged by Simon, a tall, broad-shouldered man few seem inclined to cross. If Simon is a mutant, no one knows his mutation; perhaps it's his entrepreneurial spirit. Simon also serves as bookie and scorekeeper; winners take home a portion of the bets, and are determined by a point system only the truly dedicated audience members can follow. The basic gist is that blows by mutation are preferred over fists, weapons aren't allowed, and creativity is rewarded. A knock-out or tap-out is a clear win, but bouts have been called long before then for Simon's mysterious reasons. Although rumors suggest the ring has seen more than one death, no one seems to be able to name names; most end with blood or, at worst, a few broken bones. Other vendors take advantage of the crowds Simon's mutant ring draws, and it's easy to find someone with a cart or box willing to sell you alcohol or a hot dog or reasonably-priced recreational drugs.
| It is a summer night. The weather is warm and clear.|
Tuesday night is not a particularly popular night for the fights, which makes it good for fresh faces to get their feet wet. At present, the two in the ring look like they can't be a day over sixteen. A boy and a girl circle each other. The boy makes a few half-hearted swipes with hands frozen to ice, only to dodge backward to avoid the girl's more serious attempts. Bones sprout from between her knuckles in long, sharp claws, and one of her swipes leaves the boy's shirt shredded and his chest bleeding. The crowd - what there is of it - roars wildly.
Lea is seated in the front row. Her long, dark hair has been swept back into a high ponytail, and she's frowning at the display in front of them. A roll of tape sits beside her, and she's currently flexing her fingers, testing the wrap of it around her knuckles.
Rohan wanders through, seemingly only casually interested in the fighting. He has a half-eaten hot dog in one hand, and a beer in the other. He pauses, however, at the sight of Lea, and calls out, "You planning to fight?"
It takes a moment for Rohan's question to make it through the focus of Lea's attention. When it does, she looks up, blinking at him for a beat. "Rohan," she says evenly. "Hi." Her eyes flick back toward the ring, considering it for a moment, and then she nods with a sharp jerk. "I hear you can win money," she says.
"You can," says Rohan. He settles on the nearest bench, balancing his beer on his thigh. "But you can also get really beat up. I tried once. Ended up with a concussion," he says a little ruefully. "I think I promised someone I wouldn't do it again."
One corner of Lea's mouth turns upward in a very slight smile. "I'm pretty sure I can handle myself," she says with matter-of-fact cockiness. She flexes her fingers again, then tilts her head as her eyebrows raise. "You think?"
"I'm sure you can," Rohan tells her. He takes a bite of his hot dog. "I'm not implying you can't," he adds. "Just explaining what it's like." He looks to the ring. "I think," he says. "That was...sort of a really rotten time for me. Also, concussed."
"Ah," Lea says, tilting her head in a brief nod as if that explains it. There's a moment's silence as her gaze goes back to the ring before she thinks to add, politely, "I'm sorry to hear that."
"It's rare for me not to remember things," Rohan tells her, with a wry twist of his mouth. "Better than average memory, me; probably came with the power. Apparently a huge ox of a man hitting me in the head really rung my bell." His gaze goes back to the ring, and he hitches an awkward shrug. "Well, I'm a survivor. Good luck, though."
"Oh, right," Lea says. This time Rohan gets an actual smile, slightly apologetic around the edges. "I forgot that's what you do. Which is kind of ironic, I guess. Anyway." She glances back toward the ring and adds, "It's not that I'm really that good. It's that they can't hit me."
"Your power?" guesses Rohan. He leans forward a little, his beer at a precarious lean. "See, that's step one. Step one, don't get hit. Step two, hit them. The rules of melee."
Lea lifts a hand, leaning over to wave it through Rohan's beer with a twist of a smile. "Intangibility," she says. "Remember?" Like that one time she ran through you on the way to rip out an alien Queen's heart.
Rohan squints at Lea a moment, and then makes a swipe to right his tilting beer. "Wait," he says. "Is that happened...back in space?" He waves with his free hand, as if 'in space' explains everything.
"Like, in general, or that one specific time at the end?" Lea wonders with a dry uptick of her brows that indicates an equally dry breath of humor. "I mean, yeah."
"That one specific time at the end," clarifies Rohan, with a raise of an eyebrow. "When I was busy trying to mentally hack an alien queen, and you ripped out her heart."
Lea looks away, but she nods as she does, stiff and silent as she settles her taped hands against her knees. There's a moment before she adds, "Pretty much the reason I'm alive. It's useful that way."
"Mine has its uses for staying alive, too," says Rohan with a quirk of his mouth. "In different ways, though."
"A lot of them do," Lea agrees. Her gaze flicks curiously toward Rohan, and she's silent for a beat before she says, "You use it that way a lot?"
Rohan is quiet for a long moment. He finishes his hot dog slowly. Finally, he says, "Not so much any more. I'm...more settled now." He shrugs. "But there were times when I had to."
"Here?" Lea says, watching Rohan intently despite the discomfort his long pause might suggest. She seems to have little shame and even less tact, instead preferring blunt directness. "In this world?"
"In this world," confirms Rohan. "It..." He begins his sentence and then pauses, reaching into his pocket for his cigarettes. "This world is still intact," he says, "but there's a dark underbelly. Lawless areas and people. Dangerous places."
Lea makes a noise that's not easily interpreted, something between 'hmph' and 'mmm.' Whatever might follow after is interrupted by the end of the match, and Lea finds her feet quickly as she glances down at Rohan. "That's me," she says with a small smile. "Wish me luck."
"I'll do better than that," says Rohan, glancing over his shoulders, and then back to her. "I'll go put a bet on you. Then you know I'm really pulling for you. Good luck."Lea's smile widens briefly before it flashes out entirely. In its wake is a calm, still sort of focus, and she steps into the ring.