Faraday Cage: A container made of a conductor, such as wire mesh or metal plates, shielding what it encloses from external electric fields.
Looking at them, it didn’t make sense. Ramsey’s pseudo-son and heir apparent, with the violent man he could barely control.
Tall and broad, skull mask, arms crossed in motorcycle leathers, Ryan was a silent menace in the corner of the room. He didn’t need to make a sound, because his presence was a promise, but when he did it was a vague threat, or a high, maniacal laugh. But Gavin was the centre of attention, a wide, friendly grin and an easy manner. He dressed in the very best – the most expensive shirts he could find, or they were bespoke, commissioned in whatever fabric cost most by the yard that day – and his hair gelled to perfection. Gavin smiled and charmed, he put people at ease. Ryan could never do that. Even out of the heavy, durable black, and his face on show with all the face paint scrubbed off, there was something standoffish about him, something coiled tight and waiting to snap.
But there was something slightly soft, something slightly fond, at the corner of his shark smile when Gavin tripped over the coffee table.
It hadn’t take long for the rest of the criminal fraternity to figure Ramsey’s weakness, his Achilles heel, as the young hacker in the gold sunglasses.
It hadn’t take them much longer after that to learn that Ramsey’s madman, the Rottweiler of Los Santos, could make even the most desperate man realise Gavin wasn’t worth the payout.
No one knew what Ryan had been doing before he found them. He’d been drawn to the city out of curiosity. For the mayhem they caused, the rumours of death-defying stunts. Of the word of one officer in the LSPD who had been forced onto administrative leave for insisting he’d shot the Fake’s pilot between the eyes only for her to be seen grinning broadly into CCTV the day after.
The detective had gone missing soon after.
He’d found them in a seedy bar.
“They say you’re the crew that won’t die,” he’d said.
“What of it,” said Geoff.
“If it’s true,” said Ryan, “then I’m the man who can’t be killed.”
Ryan scared them from the start. In a world where there was nothing left that could kill them for long, he scared them. He was old, they knew. Old enough to see empires grow and crumble. Old, and used to being alone.
They think it drove him mad.
There was something in his eyes. Something like a dark, empty blankness, like he wasn’t really there. Sometimes there was a rabid fury and unstoppable need to hurt.
He was so old…so ancient compared to them. He never told them when he first died, and they never asked. Looking at Ryan had the uncomfortable feeling like they were looking into the future.
Once, woozy from blood loss from a shot to the gut and half-delusional from the pain of oozing stomach acid as they waited for him to die and come back, he’d mentioned a kingdom, and a throne. The king who had been shy and kind and fair. Who’d grown his influence through diplomacy and wit, not violence. A farmer king with a fondness for sweet, sticky dates and harvest festivals, stories around a fire.
A week later, they’d watch the kind king behead a man with an axe, laughing as the blood splattered his face.
They wondered what it was that had driven the kind king mad.
Too many deaths, his own and loved ones, too many centuries alone, or just too long alive.
Man was not made to live forever he’d once said.
When would they begin to feel their own worlds tremble. That moment when they had died too many times or seen too many days and they would start to unwind.
And then then there was Gavin.
Gavin, charismatic, far more likely to charm a mark than threaten them.
Gavin, who got queasy at the sight of blood.
Gavin, who after the first time Ryan had gone rogue had tracked him down to a warehouse full of bodies, panting and snarling and barely recognisable as human. Gavin who had put his hands on his hips and complained that Ryan was ruining his evening. Ryan had promised to play mario party with them. And now he’d seen all these bodies and used-to-be-people he didn’t feel like his dinner and he’d been looking forward to itall day.
Jeremy watched as Ryan’s chest rose and fell as he breathed heavily and his face tight with rage. He saw out of the corner of his eye as Geoff and Jack began to slowly reach for their pistols.
Jeremy watched how, in one breath, it was gone. Whatever had been there had vanished.
“Sorry Gavin” he’d said meekly.
Jeremy watched how, like nothing, they all went home.
But Gavin had a violence all of his own.
Not the bright red temper of Michael’s rage, or Ray’s pin-point precision. Not Jeremy’s careful but childlike curiosity, pushing the boundary each time to see how far he could go. Not Ryan’s black endless chaos.
Gavin was the plan to sneak into the police precinct in the dead of night to cut the ropes of their parachutes the day before a training jump. Gavin was the kind who’d send an ally into a gunfight with a pistol full of blanks, just to see what they would do. Gavin was the warm breath on his ear as he leant over from the passenger seat and said, “there’s a biker. Run them over for me Ryan.”
And it was chaos, pure and simple. But it a chaos that resonated at the exact opposite of Ryan’s own, anarchy against his wild disorder. It grounded him, in the eye of the storm.
It was like Gavin had looked at his prison sentence and taken it as a challenge.
Man was not made to live forever? Sit back and watch me.
How does he put up with Gavin’s constant annoying chatter, they wonder. His never-ending what ifs and “for a million dollars…”, hypothetical questions always patiently answered by a man with a low boredom threshold and a knife.
“He talks enough for the both of us,” Ryan says in his version of a friendly voice, and they all laugh along.
But Gavin gives him knowing smile.
Because they don’t wake up to Ryan screaming, muscles tight and shaking hard. They don’t see one of his large, scarred, calloused hands being covered with two smaller ones. The quick and clever fingers gentle as they tug him away to the couch, where they sit curled up under a blanket, tv on with the volume at the lowest, and Gavin talks and talks until the sun starts to rise, and there’s a heavy head asleep on his shoulder.
Because Gavin’s voice was like white noise, level and regular, cutting through the loudness in his own head. The two sounds struck together and cancelled each other out. He didn’t put up with Gavin’s chatter, his compulsion to fill every space with noise and conversation. No, he relished it, listening to Gavin talk so he could enjoy the silence.
Why does he put up with him, they ask Gavin.
Why set your sights on a man as unpredictable as the sea, who was as likely to grenade his friends as he was their targets.
“Cause it’s fun” he’ll say, “not like he can kill me is it.”
It’s a perfectly acceptable lie, and easy to swallow. But it’s so much more than that. Gavin loved mayhem, and loved Ryan’s chaos, and thrilled at having the man’s attention. Knew that people lived or died at Ryan’s hands depending on his mood. Because at Ryan’s side he truly feels like the untouchable immortal he is.
Sometimes even Ryan will ask. Why him. Why, when he could have anyone. Why waste time on someone who, on a bad day couldn’t tell what century he’s in or what language he’s supposed to speak.
“Because you’re not your bad days”, Gavin will say,” because in your own way you’re kind and funny and caring”
Because I’m old as well, he doesn’t say. Not as old as you, but compared to the others, I’m ancient. Because I’ve buried too many and been forgotten by more. Because my tongue has started to trip over words I used to dance along.
Because sometimes it’s nice to tell a story and see someone smile and say, “Yes, I remember that too.”
It was hard some days, because of course it was. Sometimes it was like he was in a storm, thunder clashing so loud in his ears and the rain so thick and icy that he couldn’t see anything around him, and his skin was numb and soaking wet from the cold. He couldn’t see and he couldn’t hear what he was doing but kept pushing forward, knowing the ground would crumble under his feet if he stopped.
Other times it was like sex. Sweat pouring, heart pounding and full of life. Every gun shot, every scream was all part of it, so much like another thrust or moan, and every time he fired or stabbed or punched, it was like he was getting closer, so much closer to release. But no matter what it was always one step away and it felt like he would never reach it and it made him more and more desperate. More screams, more pain, more anything. He needed to fall apart, but he was too stuck together, the pieces all jammed in in the wrong places. He needed, he needed -
But then Gavin would wrap his arms around him from behind, and rest his chin on his shoulder. The storm rolled back. It was still there, still howling wind and freezing, clattering rain, but it’s like he’s watching from inside, watching as water hit in a relentless but deadened patter against the glass. He could hear the wind but it no longer buffeted him, threatening to knock him off his feet.
“It’s beautiful” Gavin said, his arms tight and possessive around him as they watched the city burn.
When it had been long enough, he found Ryan’s hand, prised the lighter from his tight grip and then threaded their fingers together.
“Come on,” he said “it’s time to go home.”
The monster calmed, and allowed himself to be led away by the bright smile of his Faraday.