A Real Bleak Time


alister_icon.gif eugene_icon.gif sylvester_icon.gif tibby3_icon.gif

Scene Title A Real Bleak Time
Synopsis Alister and Tibby make their getaway?
Date June 6, 2018

Ruins of Staten Island

Wind whips through Tibby’s flyaway blonde hair. Air roars in her ears, or maybe that’s the sound of the convertible’s engine as Alister’s Mustang tears down one of the many lonely, winding roads that carves across Staten Island. Trees whip by, dark shadows made visible by the light of the moon and the car’s headlights every time it swoops around a corner.

When she steers a look back over her shoulder, or when Alister spares a glance at the Rookery behind them through the cracked facade of his rear view mirror, they can see flames rising into the sky and thick plumes of choking black smoke swirling among the stars.

Tomorrow, the Rookery will be covered in a fine layer of ash that consists of what was once the old meat packing plant. Right now, it’s still floating down like snow.

Alister is $10,000 poorer, and his Mustang will need a new coat of red paint, but he’s still alive. So is his ocelot — Tibby can feel Handbag’s presence in the wild tangle of woodland stretching out in every other direction around them, and maybe, once the ash has settled, she might even set off on foot to find her.

It’s a fifteen minute drive back to the Trade Commission, but at the rate Alister is driving, they might even be back in ten.

"Well, I lost someone who was like a child to me, I guess you can have my ocelot because I'm finally starting to get the pee smell out, and you seem to have a way with cats. I'm sure Etienne is fine, and I'm out of money because everyone inevitably betrays me. Great." Alister sounds like some mixture of trying to look on the bright side and incredibly sad and bitter. It's hard to tell which is the dominant feeling there.

"At least I barely know who you are, so you can't betray me." he offers to Tibby. "I should have just given you the money, or Etienne."

This is dumb. Oya was curled up on Tibby’s lap by Adze had been left behind. A sour feeling in the pit of her stomach for her friend, the other friends she lost.. drove to their deaths. All in the name of one other feline. It didn't seem funny but she only felt like she could laugh right now. But Tibby doesn't do so instead opting to hold a hand to her temple. She feels Handbag and she feels Adze, those two familiar beacons in a sea of feral chaos and wild eyes. “Well I’ll find her and let ya know how progress goes.” That ocelot needed.. a lot of care.

“Aye did try to grab little Handbag before this but Astrid was being.. well as ya can see. She's a big ol Bitch.” All of Buddy’s friends were. They would need to talk later. The small woman figured she wouldn't like how that conversation went but really? All of this bullshit? Tibby found herself missing the (relatively) quiet life on the sea by her home in South Africa. Her bibi, she thought of her father daily now. “Sometimes when you lose something precious it's just to make way for something even brighter, lighter, more for you.” Something her grandmother said. A frown on her face and she cradled the assault rifle too with a look over at the ashy scape. “I got betrayed myself recently. I reckon we’ll be just fine. Soon enough. Just you wait.”

Trying to stay positive in a real bleak time.

The forested terrain whipping by outside all used to be Rockland ave. The street sign is gone now, but the winding road that cuts through the Greenbelt remains. There’s admittedly less and less of it every year, but the road is still passable, which is more than can be said for most of Staten Island’s infrastructure. Just a few hundred feet up ahead, the ruins of the Staten Island Nature Center are a crumbling framework between overgrown foliage. Few people live out here in the “wilderness” of Staten Island, what with stories of the “smoke monster” that lives in these parts.

Urban legends aside, the forests are full of other monsters all their own. Across from the Nature Center is a T-intersection with Brielle Ave, a road that once led to the largest metropolitan corner of Staten Island, that one led to colleges and residences before the world fell into a fiery heap of shit more than a decade ago. Now that overgrown road is just home to a parked, derelict school bus splotched with rust and—

—Tibby is screaming.

Glass is in her hair, the world is spinning.

Tires screech on asphalt, the smell of scorched rubber fills the air.

There’s a second impact, they feel that one more than the shock-dulled initial hit. There’s an engine roaring in Tibby’s ear, driveshave whining, tires squealing, they’re not moving forward or backward, they’re moving sideways. They were broadsided. Out the driver’s side window, Alister sees the dark shape of the Nature Center getting closer—

—Glass explodes, metal breaks, and a low stone wall finally does what the rest of the debris between the road and the Nature Center couldn’t.

It flips the car.

The momentum has the mustang flipping side over side, crashing through the once glass and metal framed wall of the Nature Center, skidding on its roof across the slate-tiled floor until the demolished car finally comes to rest, upside down, in the middle of the lobby. It is pitch black, save for the flashes of fire that are disorientingly visible through the shattered windshield. Fluid is leaking from the car, tires are still spinning, and there’s a heavy diesel engine idling nearby.

The world is sickening and spinning. Blood runs down Alister’s forehead, tiny pieces of glass glitter in his and Tibby’s hair. Neither of the car doors will open in their condition.

The bark and howl of dogs pierces the night.

Alister slowly unstraps as he starts to actually get some sense of spatial orientation, holding his arms out to brace for falling to the floor. Then he looks over at Tibby, moving to poke at her face. "You alive?" and then starts carefully unbuckling her as well.

It's cramped, and he's still trying to figure out how the hell to get out of this, or what exactly even just happened.

Just in case, he checks his blazer. Sarah McGlocklan is fine, so that's something.

“Ow! Ya! ..ya.” Miraculously they both are and she slides to the now floor of the car as she unclipped. Ow.. that hurt. She feels Oya outside of the vehicle and she stiffens as she hears the dogs in the distance. Go. Hide. To which Oya can be seen slipping into the foliage, a nearby tree rustles as she apparently climbs up it however unseen.

The tiny woman grabs for her rifle which hangs by the strap on the rear view mirror.

“What the fuck now.”

The sound of something large shuffling through the ferns outside the Nature Center has Oya retreating even further into the tree. Heavy breathing follows the dull snap of claws on old slate as one of the dogs comes into view, having passed Oya’s tree after hiking up a leg to mark it.

It’s large, heavy-set, with dense bones and a short muzzle that matches the rest of its stocky frame.

Some sort of mixed breed.

It wetly sniffs at the air. Ears prick. A dark tongue lolls out, and it rounds on the overturned vehicle, approaching at a slow lope.

Alister draws Sarah McGlocklan, trying to follow where the dog is going. He's pretty sure that if he gets out, he'll only make himself vulnerable, he'll give more area for the dog to pounce on. Instead he aims his gun in the direction that the dog is headed to, waiting patiently, steadying his aim.

This is just like waiting in a hole during the war, except he's not waiting to pounce out and strangle someone to death.

Taking a cue from Alister, Tibby drags her rifle up right, leaning on it besides Alister. The dog is regarded coolly. She doesn't want him to smell her fear and so her face becomes a wall of no emotion, eyes slanted like one of her feline friends, the woman tilts her head as she lines her sights up, vision slowly coming back into alignment fully.

Oya cannot be seen but the feline is there, waiting for her master, her friend. A dart of worry strikes Tibby in the heart, the only cats that were alive and milling about Adze among them, Oya up in the trees hiding successfully for now at least. The moment her vision is clear she preps for that, then she’ll shoot.

“Any ideas?”

She's of the mind that they need to get the fuck out of there now.

A sharp whistle echoes from beyond the demolished hall of the nature center. The dog hesitates, ears perked up and head jerked away. Alister and Tibby hear the sound of small claws on tile as three more sets of paws start entering the nature center. At the same time, an acrid smoke is starting to fill the car, and Tibby can both smell and taste gasoline in the air where she's laying.

Then, another whistle. The dogs all begin to converge on the car, heedless of the smoke billowing from the engine and the pooling gasoline that they begin to tread through on approach. Both Tibby and Alister have clear shots, but there's four dogs circling the car now.

“Are you still alive, Maxwell?” a voice wants to know. On the heels of the dogs, a pair of leather loafers swoops into the Nature Center. Both shoes and voice are recognizable as belonging to Sylvester Sandoval, or as he’s better known on Staten Island, Sly.

It’s a safe bet that he isn’t alone.

“Statistically-speaking, the odds of surviving both a plane and a car crash are pretty fucking slim.”

He pauses at the threshold, where tangled ferns and tall, overgrown grass meets the Nature Center’s patchy slate floor. A flashlight clicks on and sweeps across the room, spilling light on the dogs circling the wreckage ad the wall of taxidermy behind it. It catches a brown bear mid-snarl, glass eyes matte and full of dust.

“No? What about you, Naidu?”

Alister leans back, whispering to Tibby, "Shoot him in the leg." because he figures she's a better shot than him. "I'll shoot the dogs, if I can."

The gas is leaking, their time is running out, and their options are incredibly limited. "I'll go first. Don't say I never did anything for you."

Acting as a distraction, he suddenly bursts from the shattered window of the car, aiming at the first dog he sees and firing. "She's dead, you mongrel piece of shit!" That's a lie, a lie to give Tibby the opportunity to shoot Sylvester. The dogs are a problem, but without Sylvester to lead them, perhaps they can actually survive the damned dogs.

Eyes widen at Alister’s plan but Tibby nods quickly and then she's lining up her shot, briefly eyeing the dogs and the smoke beginning to billow upwards. Sights captured. As Alister runs out and spins his tale she waits one second and pulls the trigger going for the legs of the man looking at the wreckage from afar.

Once she fires a volley of bullets the blonde shimmies out the way Alister went, glass chunks digging into her legs and arm. Hissing with pain she drags the rifle out after herself and spins around to slam her back against the car nose of the gun upwards and ready to fire if one of the dogs tries to go for her. Her heart hammers in her chest but she keeps her expression calm, just like her father Baritu taught her. A calm heart, steady hand. Pull the trigger, never look back.

It's a mantra she repeats in her head. Words to live by. Now she's just gotta stay alive.

Alister’s gunfire catches one of the dogs wholly unaware, and there is a pained yelp that sends the animal skittering to the floor, then scrambling and limping away leaving a drooling trail of blood across the patchy floor. A second gunshot, louder than the rest, roars through the Nature Center and Alister’s plan follows through perfectly as a distraction. Except that the back of his jacket explodes from a blast of gunfire that sends him forward and onto the ground.

The blast of gunfire draws Tibby’s attention from where she was looking just long enough for her to miss the dogs scattering into the darkness. By the time she looks back all she can hear is the click of their claws in the dark as firelight begins to grow inside the lobby. Flames rise up from the engine of the demolished mustang, and the bus that struck the car is still idiling just thirty feet away outside the building.

Tibby can see the source of the gunfire coming into view, a muscular middle-aged man in desert camouflage with a tactical vest on and a shotgun in both hands, smoke issuing from the barrel. “Holly’s a fine animal you piece’a shit!” Eugene Arrowood racks another round in his shotgun and fires again at Alister on the ground, and all Tibby can imagine is that he is most certainly dead.

Except the involuntary howl of pain implies otherwise. Except no bullet has penetrated Alister’s body. His clothes are shredded at the impact site, blood is everywhere, but the shells fired from Eugene’s shotgun aren’t slugs, or even buckshot.

Eugene is firing rock salt. It is agonizing.

Get ‘em!” Eugene barks, followed by the baying howl of the three other dogs as they come scrambling into view. Alister isn’t allowed to die quickly, not after the shit he’s pulled.

While Eugene’s dogs are occupied with Alister’s prone body on the floor, Sylvester pursues Tibby. He’s drawn to the sound of her dragging herself across broken glass and pieces of debris, and swings his flashlight in that general direction.

Her shape lights up like one of her own feral cats caught picking out scraps from a dumpster in the middle of the night.

“That’s a fine ability you’ve got there,” he says, and although he raises his assault rifle and points it at her, his finger does not yet contract around the trigger. “Versatile. Erling won’t stoop to work for me, but maybe you will?”

Alister is groaning in pain, but the sound of dogs fills him with a sudden rush of adrenaline, then he tries to reach down, back aching, to pull his second gun from his ankle, and starts firing at the dogs going after him. "You morons! That car fire is getting worse, and my trunk is full of C4. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"If you don't stop this nonsense, we're all going to die!" he shouts while firing, because that's about all he can manage to avoid getting mauled.

Hopefully Tibby can save him from getting shot again.

There's a decision to be made as the light from Sylvester hits her, shifting her weight to aim the rifle at him she glares, safety off. Work.. for him? It's irritating Tibby first Keira and now him.. what happened to the solo run. Her father would be disgusted, “Strength in numbers..” Her mental net of influence casts out for any felines near enough to come to her aid besides Oya. She doesn't dare look that way of the tree.

Eet kakemoeier.

All it takes is a gentle squeeze of her finger and she lets loose a volley of bullets at the man. Teeth bared as she braces herself with planted feet her body trembling from the bucking of the rifle. She holds still though and aims for his legs before sweeping her rifle over in the direction of the car, whether Alister was bluffing or not she doesn't know and she doesn't care. She just wants the car to explode. To give them a chance.

Alister’s eyes reflect the firelight as he opens fire on the dogs lunging out from the darkness. He hits one, solid enough for it to give a pained yelp and drop immediately to the floor, carried forward by momentum. His second shot at the next dog doesn't go quite as planned, veering wide after he’s bitten on the leg by a third dog. It clamps down, teeth digging in, trying to drag him to the ground. Alister sweeps the gun over point blank and fires into the hound’s face, sending is back to the floor without a sound other than a gunshot.

The fourth dog leaps for Alister’s arm, biting his wrist and clamping down hard enough to force him to drop the gun. The dog drags Alister down with that bite, teeth raking through flesh. The third dog that had nearly been shot starts closing in, growling and barking ferociously.

Another shotgun round goes off, but this time it's Tibby that’s hit square in the side. Rock salt buckshot peppers her right arm, hip, and thigh and burns with an agonizing and scalding hot pain. Eugene racks another shell but looks in Sylvester’s direction with immediate worry.

And with good reason.

Sylvester is looking down at his chest, one gloved hand poised somewhere above his heart. His other arm, the one holding the assault rifle, is slack at his side.

At some point, he dropped his flashlight — pieces of broken plastic diffuse its glow where the filter has cracked down the middle, casting strange shadows on the walls of the Nature Center, and on the crisp white dress shirt Sylvester wears beneath his suit jacket.

Three dark spots of blood blossom open and bloom through the fabric, saturating cotton, now red.

As a SESA agent, part of his job description is being to anticipate the moves that other people might make before they make them, but Sylvester is no Edward Ray.

Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that Sylvester was not Edward Ray, because he’s almost certainly dead before his legs give out beneath him and he hits the floor.

Alister isn't paying Sylvester's death any mind, as he has a dog dragging him by the arm.

Thankfully, he's wielding two guns, and uses his remaining gun to aim at the dog tearing at his arm. "Goddamned pissy animals everywhere!" he grits his teeth, firing point blank as his arm is used as a chew toy.

He immediately aims at the final dog after that, starting to unload, intending to go for his other gun after this, if he can make it.

Hopefully Tibby isn't completely fucked, because Eugene is still a problem. "Again, there is C4 in the car, you better get the fuck out of here and stop fucking with us!"

The shock of seeing Sylvester go down is interrupted by an agonizing pain in her side. She shrieks as she's thrown by the impact, her hoodie and Kevlar vest can only protect her so much and she squirms on the ground reeling from the shock of the sensation. Hacking as she rolls over to drag herself backwards more while eyeing Buddy’s brother. God Damn it. “Ya fucking prick!”

Screams of rage as Tibby reaches for her assault rifle that she dropped only a few moments ago and with her good arm. “Listen to the guy! Leave! I don't wanna do this! For Buddy’s sake god fucking damn you!” With a cry Tibby drags herself backwards with her rifle coming to kneel on her knees.

Emerald green eyes wide and shifting from Alister to Eugene. She's going to lift that rifle and blast him if he doesn't leave. FUCK.

When Sylvester goes down in a crumpled heap, things rapidly change. The pop of gunfire is dropping dogs, and Tibby is giving Eugene an unusual courtesy that he wasn’t going to extend to her. Looking at the way Sylvester fell, and the bullet holes in the center of his chest, there’s a battle for what is best versus what would feel great right now. While Alister is caught up with the remaining dogs. Eugene is backing away slowly, staring down Tibby along the barrel of his shotgun much as she is him. After he gets about ten feet from her, he pulls a canister from his belt and pops the aluminum pin, causing a flood of gray smoke that start spewing from the can.

Eugene kicks the smoke grenade nearby to where Tibby and Alister are, wedging it under the car that is already on fire and belching out thick, black smoke. By the time the last dog is perforates with gunfire the smoke has filled the nature center. Before it’s even partway clear, Tibby can hear the clanking rattle of the idiling school bus backing up, and there are bloody drag marks where Sylvester’s body once was.

It looks like the invocation of Buddy’s name was enough to get Eugene to reconsider his night.

Alister tries to breathe, reaching over to grab Sarah McGlocklan as he puts his guns back into their respective holsters. But he's bleeding, and he was already having trouble walking with a cane, and no dog bite, so this is troublesome. "Tibby, I need help." he admits, reaching out to her with his good arm, waiting to see if she comes.

Sighing in relief as Eugene makes his escape she holds still until the smoke begins to clear more, coughing a bit but not lowering her rifle until he was gone. Her breathing still heavy, green eyes watering as she squints to clear her vision. It doesn't totally work and Tibby feels exhausted now, the adrenaline of the past few hours beginning to wear on her.

She was already regretting not shooting him but she thinks about Buddy, she couldn't do that to him. Tibby just, couldn't.

“Come on you,” dragging herself over to Alister before reaching down with a wince to grab at the man's arm. “You're a crazy fuck.”

The bus in the distance pulls away, rumbling over grass and through an untended lawn at the front of the nature park, then peels out and roars back onto the road, tail lights briefly visible through the fading smoke from the grenade. It seems as though Eugene does have some loyalties, and his drive to recover the body of his fallen companion high among them.

"I won't ever put myself into a position to be betrayed ever again…" Alister finally laments, pulling himself up and leaning on Tibby's shoulder a bit so that he can do his best to walk with her. "This all happened because I trusted someone, because I allowed my loneliness to cause me to make poor decisions. But… never again."

"Never again will I allow one person to put everything that I've built, and my very life, into jeopardy…" he practically grits his teeth, but his words sound less like a solemn vow, and more like the words of someone who has been deeply wounded, hurt, betrayed beyond measure.


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