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s_deckard_icon.gif francois_icon.gif kazimir4_icon.gif

Scene Title Malleable
Synopsis After a vivid dream that doesn't belong to him, Deckard retreats further into the desert only to find he isn't alone.
Date January 11, 2010

Dreamscape and Mexico

The snap of electricity can be heard all the way from over here, and he's running.

Prisoners move like so much dumb cattle, elbowed aside and bumping together as gracelessly as heifers. Most veer away from the sight of the young man siezing and jerking as if on strings, as if cursed, as if electrocution was as easy a disease as typhus. Backs striped white and black and clinging in the numbing downpour of rain, heads shaven, and when they scatter, they make sure to keep their bowls clenched in hand. Deckard dropped his, a ragged, wordless cry tearing from his throat.

He's already flat on his back by the time he can get there, a young Polish man, hair light where it grows back. He could almost be Teo and for a moment, he is. Maybe that sudden lurch of panic could be shared, but Deckard has little choice over his own hands which lay down on the prisoner's chest. Eyes are glassy with quick death, but he tries not to see them, or his scorched palms.

The drag of healing feels like a gravitational pull, something still beating, churning within the body in front of him and accepting all his has to give, but there's a resistant tug at his arms, his shoulders, back. Hands grabbing and trying to steer him away, and in blind animal panic, he fights, snarls threats, hands straining to lay back down on the dying man.

The SS guard is efficient, connecting the butt of his rifle to Deckard's temple, and tipping the world into bleached unconsciousness.


Brick cracks after flesh and bone splinter and spatter outward. Deckard's shoulders twitch and he continues to stare ahead of him, denying himself the sight of a prisoner collapsing, head broken in by the gun to its back. The air smells smokey from the crematorium, an underlying Devil's stench, unmistakable roasting of human meat. Young men get hung like bled pigs after slaughter, bodies quickening to be better shoved into the gaping maws of the ovens. Currently, he's waiting his turn, and is far too tired to feel anything more than cold, shivering beneath his clothing.

Another shot goes off. Foot steps fall behind him, the brick wall in front of him splitting in and out of focus. He'd given too much, but so many of them needed it. Disease symptoms smoothed, gaping wounds closed as much as infection rages. Useless and spent, he'd collapsed on the way to the munitions factory.

His hands raise to hold onto his face, gripping terror suddenly striking cold. The Polish man hadn't wanted to live any longer in this place, but Deckard doesn't want to die here either. Mon dieu, aidez-moi.

German sounds like the same nonsense, but an aged, authoritative voice barks it across the courtyard, and no gun goes off. Relief and dread of the moment engulf him, hands going to his ears to clap down on the sounds of voices and argument, but a rough hand on his shoulder steers his attention. The world spins until his back hits brick, cracking open bleary eyes to stare at the gaunt figure of the pale faced man looking him up and down in appraisal. More German, and Deckard can only blink in incomprehension. The guard holding his gun is patient, dull interest, neither eager nor reluctant to gun anyone down.

Suddenly, French, "comment t'appelles-tu?" jerks him awake.

Flint Deckard is almost said, but thickly, he obediently parrots, "Francois Allègre," even before he meets the older man's eyes. Rain water dots the German's coat, his hands neatly clad in pristine leather gloves that remain clasped together as he addresses the guards in his guttural German. Deckard imagines he catches a name somewhere in there, repeating it to himself even as he's escorted away from the blood spattered wall, unseeingly led past fallen, uniformed bodies.

Hard to say that Kazimir Volken saved his life. More accurately, he prolonged it.


Legs stick stiffly, rags doing little to cover the skeletal mass of bone and thin paper flesh hanging to emaciated muscles. Still and straight as wooden boards and stacked roughly the same, old blood pooling together and teeth exposed from the starved pull of skin on bony faces. Ridged spines stick like knives beneath grey skin, lead towards sunken buttocks that may as well not be there for all that jutting bone melds into stick legs. Rib cages make patterns, arcing protrusions that lead to the sink of a stomach. Fleshy differences of gender seem token, shriveled and sexless. None of these people have names, let alone a sex to call their own.

Starvation and disease — it doesn't matter how much healing life you pour into such a person.

Rain might make the smell worse, or wash it away entirely — regardless, it's a dry day, this one of liberation. Gravity tugs him down, drags as if in some kind of demanding embrace that leaves Deckard cold on the unyielding cement. Sees flashes of himself, with limbs holding their own uneasy thinness draped and covered in rough fabric. White and black exaggerated stripes of both his jacket and pants, feet bare with cracked, dirty soles.

Eventually he leaves it behind. Uncertain if the clench and release in his chest was dry retching, sobs, simple breathing grown tight. Cardiac arrest, you know. He's laced his feet into boots, an American's coat drawn over his prisoner garb still itching from its delousing.

The wet smack of the shovel sounds sharper above the growl of distant engines, humming conversation between Allied and prisoners and even the soldiers and guards of Dachau concentration camp. One of which collapses to the ground, jaw split, and Americans are slow, too slow, to move in when the prisoner brings the shovel down directly towards the bleeding man's face. Break noses, ear splitting crunches, beatings as casual as the ones received in the past nine months, and longer for many. Human waste and extermination define everything.

A young soldier panics when one of the SS guards goes to move, and his rifle spits bullets, premature and hysterical. Another gun flashes and bucks, lancing bullets through kneecaps, and then another, and another. It takes less than a minute for all forty men to be reduced to a pile of dead and dying meat.

Hesitates in healing. Hesitates in going forward. Turns up the collar of his coat instead — it's cold out, and everything is starting to become normal.


It won't be the first hesitation. The orchestra only plays when they're marching to work, and it's quiet save for the rain beating their shaven skulls and pavement as they move for what will count as dinner, ridges of the bowl cutting cold into Deckard's palms as he moves with the herd. The hard-planked bunks allow for no privacy, and all had heard Poland talk about it, theorising it, a madman's smile in the darkness when he'd spoken in English Deckard could understand only just enough. You could probably escape through the fences.

Sees him move, an abrupt departure from the flock with a nihilist attempt. Deckard knows he should be crying out, because no one's looking, and he has the special privilege of being the one to do so. And doing nothing.

There's no rolling over and going back to sleep after that, is there?

It's a clear, cold, quiet night in the desert, and Deckard has escaped. It's not hard to out here.

Hop on a horse and ride two or three miles in any direction and it could be days before anyone finds you if they're on foot. Maybe not that long if they manage to dig up the keys to the El Camino.

The moon's bright enough that there's plenty of light to see by to collect a few last pieces of firewood, and that's what Flint's up to now. Right hand gloved against scorpions and spiders, he drags a robust length of mesquite past the dark hide of Chopazo and tips into a pile that should last him several hours, if not all night. Nearby, a half-buried safe stands open in the sand, home to a rifle, a box of cartridges, matches, lighter fluid, bottled water, a 30 pack and a couple've porn mags.

He hasn't been out here by himself for very long. Just long enough to escape a washing and grooming against his will, apparently. His hair is still bristled dry with sweat and dust; more grey shows in his beard than he's probably cares for. It doesn't make him look dignified. Just old.

Orion and Scorpio stand out bright against a velvet sky while he considers what he's gathered so far and sets to trudging off on his own again. One or two more pieces. Then he can light it up.

Flint hasn't gotten more than five paces before the sound of crackling fire springs into being, the heat of which can only subtly be detected from where he stands, and the light floods across rock and sand, his shadow bending and warping in front of him each time the night air snags a breeze on flame tongues. If the landscape has changed, it's impossible to tell, this shift of light making the desert black at the edges, the horizon indefinite, though the moon remains fat with light. There's a sharp crunch as heavy wood is dropped into the fire bit, the sounds of splintering rustling up.

"It seems easy, if you keep moving, then eventually you will be so deep out here that no one will find you. Will you go deeper still if they follow again?"

Francois' voice is a familiar one by now, but it's been a while. He stands on the other side of the fire, a longer stick used to nudge at the flames and the things burning in them - it vaguely resembles the lumps of wood Deckard had already gathered, but it's difficult to tell when the fire is like it's been burning for some time now. Smoke billows up, smudges out the details between them in white haze. "You'll hit a road, a town, before you find endlessness. The world gets smaller. It's harder to lose yourself."

Tension slices across Flint's back like the cut of a whip when he seizes into a hunched turn, frigid eyes pale with animal fear. Fires don't start themselves.

And the French don't randomly materialize out of sand and wood. Utterly disaffected even as Deckard nearly falls over himself in his haste to turn himself the fuck around, Chopazo lips at some scrubby greenery and swishes his tail at the fuzzy green glow of a lightning bug. Black and white stripes blotch through the sweat-yellowed rumple of his button-down like bubbles of air through superheated film, drawing wide bands around rickety ribs and ridged spine. It's temporary — a ripple effect on panic's leading edge that's nearly overtaken by the more familiar orange of a numbered and collared jumpsuit before it breaks and dissipates entirely, leaving him back in mundane desertwear with a thunderclap flicker of bony blue through his left wrist.

He's on edge even once real recognition has set in over subconscious impulse, brow knit and scruffy jaw set into an aggressive clamp against faux fire and faux Frenchmen.

"You're not really here."

Words can hurt, Flint. Francois' glance upwards holds some reproach, as if this were an offensive thing to say, but the smile that follows communicates this not at all as he takes the time to break the stick in half, toss its pieces into the fire. More details spill into frame as far as the light from the fire stretches up his form — a brown leather jacket over nondescript cotton, jeans as dusty as Deckard's— everything, shoes in the same worn down state. If a little cleaner than the other man, the Frenchman, imaginary or no, has been out here just as long, scruff grown down his jaw and throat.

He tilts his chin towards the fire. "This can burn you," he points out, eyes simply black in firelight and shadows, disguising gentle green. "Try it, if you like. And you are talking to me. Perhaps it is you who are the one who is not really here."

It's hard to look skeptical through adrenaline-fueled paranoia. The estuary of uncertainty where cynicism mixes with mild dementia makes him look more unhinged than he probably is, and he stands rooted to the spot with cold wind tagging at his shirt and blue jeans streaked with grit. Staring.

In the end, he isn't confident enough in his position to push his luck with the fire or anything else. He can feel the heat on his face and neck when he turns both to glance down the way he came, but the bar's well off on the other side of a rise. Nothing for them to see either way.

"I'm not you," is what finally seems true enough to be worth saying. "I wasn't chosen for this. You tried to make it work and it hasn't. She's still the innocent doing things right and getting fucked over for it and I'm…" he trails off with an irritable rankle at his nose, both overlarge hands sketching down at a skeletal, insectoid jerk to illustrate the sum of his entirety.

"I'm not a war hero. I'm not even religious."

Hands push casually into jacket pockets, as if illusions, too, required comfort. Francois' head is at a tilt as he listens, chin up, and when he moves— much like the firewood split apart when he'd tossed extra into it, he leaves foot prints behind him, as real as grit under the nails or the acrid tinge to the dry smoke in the air. "I cannot make anything work," he says, boots scuffing sand as he rounds around the firepit, as close as he dares although with wariness to suggest that he, too, fears getting burned. "My time for work is over. That is only you, chosen or not, and oui, who are you?"

He nudges aside a piece of charred wood, looking back at Deckard almost with accusation. "I'm not a war hero either," he points out, with a neutral kind of ambivalence, shoulders hiking up. Bitterness or modesty aside. "Something chose you, Flint. Maybe not God or anyone with intention but what does it matter. Why are you running?"

The firelight plays unnaturally off the distrustful turn of Deckard's face, yellow and orange never touching the queer blue of his eyes. Too bright, too sharply focused — his pupils are pinned instead of swollen against the encroach of night at the firelight's outer reaches. He retains his hunch too, vaguely reminiscent of a stray dog caught in a spotlight with plenty of open space to run in but nowhere to hide from bullets or Francois or the light.

"You helped people. You wanted to help people."

In some other parallel version of the same stretch of desert, Chopazo is watching Flint have this conversation with himself and the sand in the dark while he noses around for mints in the open safe. In this one, Flint's faster respiration is exposed by the way the fire's glow catches at his foggy breath. He doesn't answer the question.

"I was a child when I was given this power," Francois says, his voice losing some of that gentleness, gaining steel as it always inevitably does. "So was Abby. It doesn't seem like you, to wax poetic about who is chosen for a thing when they, like you, had no choice, none at all. Perhaps it shaped them and they were ignorant to what it was doing, and so it tries to shape you. That you are aware does not make it somehow wrong." His foot scuffs, sprays dirt into the fire, which flickers and generally protests before filling out its flames again.

Then, a smile in Deckard's direction, a little wry. "You want to be liked," he says, in a similar tone and rhythm as Deckard's prior statement.

Deckard's surprise is starkly genuine in it's scrawl through the long lines around his face until reason catches up with the moment and informs him that it shouldn't be surprising that something that lives in his head knows what's in there. He blinks once and then twice as he looks away, grizzled hair long enough to ruffle against cold air while he struggles to reorient himself. For anyone looking on without complete context, it's probably a little sad to watch. He's a homeless crackpot without a corner to stand on or a sign to wave.

This end up. "Kids are malleable." This is a losing argument. He's proven himself malleable in ways he'd rather not think about where there Frenchman can overhear. Devoid of a more promising argument, he stares hard, brow knit and rawboned hands banding themselves into rigid-knuckled fists at his sides. "I think you can't admit failure."

Admitting to that would disprove Deckard's point, and Francois— or whatever this is— doesn't, squares him with a look before he turns his back to pace away. With any luck, the thick shadows beyond would swallow him whole and dissolve him into nothing, leaving Deckard alone with his unlit fire, horse and porn. But the meander indicates that no, the Frenchman isn't planning to leave, but perhaps resisting finding out what would happen should a fist be thrown.

At either of them. "I think there is nothing for me to win, and so nothing to lose," he counters, haughtily, turning back towards Deckard. "And that it is interesting that I am the only part of you that wants to try, or at least, is brave enough to admit it. You do too — but you are the one with something to lose. You are the failure. That is why you are here, non?"

Arms go out, a grand gesture, as if he could indicate the horizon and everything within its impossible circle. "If you like it, then I can do what I said I would do. I could leave you here, with this fire. It is a better one than you coud build anyway."

At that, Deckard is quiet. Third person omniscience isn't needed to see that it's because he's considering it. Having blossomed into quite the coward, he considers the fire and the safe and his horse in turn. The rifle is last, tarnished and worn. May have been some kind of antique before he bought it and started using it to shoot vermin.

An electric blue band of exposed ribs winds up his side in an S curve, circling 'round the back of his neck to coil through his spine and down one leg like a giant centipede. He ignores it in favor of squinting down at his fist and the way firelight ripples black and orange across the belted sinew and raised knuckles. "She knows." His hand falls back to his side, stretches, and claws itself up into a fist again. "I don't know if someone told her, or if she just figured it out on her own."

If Francois sees or cares for the glimmer of blue that bends two dimensionally around Deckard's form, peeling back clothing and skin, then it doesn't show on his face. Stands to reason that nothing Deckard should do would surprise him. Frustrate, please, sadden, these are all fair game, but surprise? Down the same road, he knows what Flint is talking about, and he comes to stand closer again, reclaiming the ground he'd laid behind him upon walking away. "And that changes everything?" he asks, in a tone that suggests, no.

He doesn't think so. "You left a map. She followed it. It doesn't have to be perfect to be simple. You do not want to be here, anymore than a child wants to hide under the bed from something they fear. You cannot. I won't let you."

"Nothing about it is simple. I hit her. She's — clearly mentally unstable." To have come here, to care, to think he can do better. The rest of him vanishes like a slide ticking down into the next slot on a projector, leaving bone alone to glow spectral blue in a lanky skeleton that manages to bear more resemblance to its host than it should. This time his fingers curl and flex without benefit of visible muscle; sand shows ghostly white through the space between ulna and radius. His belt buckle and revolver jostle at his hip, and he has no expression because he has no face. Hiding on top of hiding.

"You survive the holocaust and I can barely survive wanting to fuck a girl half my age.” The narrow brace of his jaw clacks tooth to tooth without benefit of a tongue to accent his, “ Je suis au bout du rouleau. The dreams — you. I've done my time."

"Maybe because the sum of your parts are greater than that," Francois suggests, lifting a hand to indicate the skeleton before him while he remains flesh and clothing, hair, dirt. "You are free to flee to the desert. She is free to chase you. If you would like my opinion," and a broader smile communicates a sardonic, and I know you do, "you are both crazy."

The smile dims readily. Admitting failure is hard. "I can still see you," Francois feels forced to add, and he doesn't mean the collection of bones in front of him, but the things inside, the things outside. "You have dreams that don't belong to you, but I wanted you to know that it is not my doing, or yours. That was something else. Perhaps, something you can fight. If you cared to." A hand goes out, testing the heat of the flames against a flat palm, before he withdraws. "Prends soin de toi. You've survived more than you acknowledge." He starts to move away, with foot steps that seem to eat up distance as much as it's a casual stroll, shadows creeping into place, the fire sputtering.

So can Chopazo. In a glitchy distortion of environmental register, the big horse suddenly jumps from swishing his tail ten feet away to snuffing its muzzle at Flint's jean pockets, all whisker and flesh and no bones laid bare save for overlarge teeth nipping after a candy wrapper. Disoriented again, the skeleton Deckard lifts the long bones of his arm up out of the way in time for them to fill in with skin and muscle past the dirty roll of his sleeve. How long has he been standing out here by himself?

His attention diverts automatically back to the fire — still there against all odds — and then up after Francois' retreat, now hazy. Smudged. Without clear definition. Meanwhile the cold all around presses in sharper than he remembers it being, black in its smother against the fire and a few stray sparks spit up as a last resort, leaving him with his horse, the moon, the stars and a rickety pile of firewood that has yet to be lit.

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