A Tainted Touch


claire_icon.gif kazimir_icon.gif

Scene Title A Tainted Touch
Synopsis On a trip to Staten Island for PARIAH, Claire Bennet has a dreadful encounter with death itself.
Date November 9, 2008

Staten Island, Coast

Winter has a way of wearing everything down to the bone.

A freezing rain falls from thick and heavy clouds down across so much of Staten Island's grimy exterior. Desolate streets devoid of cars, save for the burned-out husks of those abandoned by the roadside, bristle with dead brown grass that grows up between fissures in the pavement. Derelict warehouses line these streets approaching an empty harbor now used as a haven for smugglers and drug runners — the kind of people that PARIAH rubs elbows with out of necessity rather than want.

"S'fuckin' cold enough to freeze m'balls off, Christ." Shoulders rolled forward and hands stuffed into the pockets of his denim coat as he walks down the street, Angelo Santera may have been known as one of the most outspoken and tough members of the terrorist organization, a man able to turn to solid rock, but he is now a man who is waylaid by something as simple as a bitter New York winter.

"Jesus, man, will you shut the fuck up? It's been nothin' but non-stop bitchin' and moanin' since we left the fuckin' Dagger. I swear to God if I hear you talk about how cold your hands are one more time — " Dan Salinger on the other hand, is a far more aggressive man. "M'so fuckin' cold from this goddamned sleet I don't thinik I can even light a goddamned match with my ability. Why don't you just fuckin' turn into a boulder, man?"

"Not in front'a the girl." It's a grunted sentiment, and Angelo nods towards the brunette leading the two men towards the harbor between the old and abandoned warehouses. "Man you know what happens t'my clothes. Plus, we gotta' get on a boat soon so— " one hand waves flippantly in the air, "jus' drop it man."

Winter has a way of wearing everything down to the bone…

…for these few members of PARIAH, Winter will take everything away.

Looking less then amused at the chatter behind her, Claire just kinda rolls her eyes skyward for a moment before pausing to glance over her shoulder. "Please, you can't be telling me that your worried my poor innocent eyes will see something and corrupt me." Brows lift a bit in a 'well?' sort of way, before she turns back to continue, steel toed boots crunching with each step.

"Kinda late for that," Claire adds rather blandly in quiet tones, as she glances round the corners. Dressed in typical all black, to include a nice black oil duster that hit her favorite shotgun from view, she blends into the dark shadows of the ally. "Somehow, I don't think you have anything I haven't seen before.." Pulling back so that she can glance behind again. "..Or worse."

"Fft, see?" Dan swats at the back of Angelo's head, palm making a wet slap against his rainsoaked watchman's cap. Then, turning green eyes across the alley towards where Claire's ducked into the shadows, Dan tucks his gloved hand sback into his pockets and makes his way out of the sleet and under the tattered awning of one of the brick-faced buildings. "So, this guy we're goin' to see… arms-dealer or whatever, you said he worked with Cameron in the past?" There's a quirk of one blonde brow, and Dan glances back over his shoulder at Angelo, making sure he's following off of the street.

"Man, didn't you listen at all when Karl was talkin'? Says this Zarek guy's got all the military hardware, we just gotta bring the— " Angelo winces, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck with one hand, "man, s'fuckin cold out… Think'm gettin' Frostbite from the wind."

Dan stops halfway down the alley, looking over his shoulder to Angelo with a roll of his eyes. "Man, it's like thirty degrees out, you're not gettin' frostbite." The shadows of the alley move in the way shadows tend to when the setting sun pushes them to elongate, but the lack of a setting sun to be seen on this overcast and wet day makes the slow crawl of darkness all the more unusual.

"Nah man, seriously, m'fingers are all— prickly." Angelo stops at the mouth of the alley, rubbing one hand across the side of his face, "can we chill for a minute? I just wanna' catch my breath and have a smoke or somethin'." His dark brown eyes peer across the alley towards Claire, lips crooked in a grimace, "that cool? Or…"

Pulling the bill of the baseball cap she's wearing around to the back of her head, Claire wipe a damp hand over her face brushing away drizzle. "You guys really are wimps," she says glancing over both with an amused tilt of her lip. Her tone is a touch teasing as she says, "I lived in sunny California and Texas. You don't see me whimpering about a bit of cold." Course she doesn't ever get sick, so the phrase 'catch your death' means little to her. She can afford to be a little cold.

Glancing out of the alley and narrowing her eyes at the open street beyond, she states simply, "I'd rather get there and get this meeting done, and get back." Rubbing her hand against her nose to feel how numb it is, Claire eyes Angelo with a slight frown. "Besides, sooner we get there the sooner we're out of the cold, " she points out helpfully. Nodding her head at the end of the alley, she prepares to continue. "Let's go. Where we meeting him?"

This is why Claire's in charge, clearly. "Karl said he'd be bringin' a boat in from Brooklyn' around sundown." Squinting up at the drizzling gray skies, Dan sighs heavily, "whole lotta' good that's gonna' do us." When he turns to look back at Angelo, Dan's brows crease together, noticing the Latino slouched up against one of the brick walls, holding his chest. "Christ, Ange, you okay?"

The sound of fluttering wings abruptly breaks the silence of the opposite end of the alley behind Claire, as the distant cawing of dozens of ravens echo down the brickwork from their perches atop a tangled clothesline. Further down the alley, the large, black birds peck open trash bags and tug out the contents with sharp beaks.

The noise of the birds cawing and wings causes Dan to startle, jerking his head back over to look past Claire, "Man, I fuckin' hate this god damned island…" He takes a step closer to Angelo, resting a hand on the slouched man's shoulder. "You gonna' be alright, dude?" As he leans in, Dan's expression changes, his mouth slowly opening bit no sound truly coming out. He begins to back away from Angelo, even as the latino struggles up from the wall, a pathetic whimper escaping him as he falls to his knees, black veins coursing up the side of his neck and face.

"Shit! Shit!" Dan pushes back against the wall, practically scrambling away from Angelo when the man falls to his knees, "what the fuck is wrong with him, sh— shit — " he doesn't notice how much his own hands are shaking. Further down the alley, the ravens let out a loud cry and those perched on the clothesline suddenly take flight with a flap of dark wings.

At the first flutter, the oiled duster is brushed aside and Claire's precious shotgun makes an appearance, clutched in white knuckled hands as she turns back. Eyes widen at the scene, "We walked into a scene from The Birds?" Her voice sounds a touch awed, even as her stomach seizes with the first taste of fear. No telephone booths here… "Need to go now…" She half whispers and half hisses.

Starting to reach for them to propel them into the street, it dawns on Claire that something else is up as Angelo falls to his knees. "Shit." The word is uttered in surprise and she reaches down to grab Angelo by an elbow so that he doesn't go down completely. Allowing herself to tear eyes away from the birds, she gives the downed man a quick look over. "We don't have time to find out. Get on the other side of him and support, I'll cover." As raven's take flight, she ducks down out of instinct. This could not be real. "Can't be that much farther to the coast."

When Claire's fingers truly give purchase to Angelo's elbow, there's a sudden crunch beneath her fingers as everything she's holding on to suddenly crumbles beneath the sleeve of his jacket. Bone, flesh and muscle all seem to crack and split like dry wood from a fireplace. Angelo lets out a whimpering noise from the back of his throat, a dry, rasping sound as he falls towards Dan. The shorter, thinner man tries to grab the heavier Latino's weight, not quite realize what just happened. When he grabs him, there is a sudden crack sound, and Angelo's lower body splits off from his upper half, collapsing down to the wet alley floor underfoot, spillowing with jet black flakes of ash and hard-baked flesh.

The horrified scream that Dan lets out with accompanies the shaking of his hands as he drops the upper half of Angelo's body as it practically shattered like ashen glass, leaving a black smudge along the ground. "Oh my God! Jesus Christ!" Dan's eyes grow wide, he's looking at something, something on the other side of the alley over Claire's shoulder.

Something that makes Dan begin to stagger away in fear, something the pyrokinetic has never shown before to Claire, to anyone. As he steps back, Claire can finally see something on the ground, amidst the broken rubble of what was once Angelo's body; smoke. Thick, black, voluminous smoke billows like a carpet at their feet, tendrils have snaked up and into Dan's pants, slithering like serpents around his calves. He clutches his chest, skin going pale as he stumbles out into the street.

Missing the curb with one step, Dan lands awkwardly, his ankle shattering like brittle parchment as he howls in fear and pain, a pain that Claire feels nothing of. She's fine. The black smoke rushes across the bottom of the alley, rolling over Dan in a slow wave, then slithers back around, leaving a dessicated corpse behind where once there was a screaming man. His flesh is pulled tight to bone, eyes withered in their sockets — mummified.

"Claire Bennet…" The voice comes from the direction Dan had been looking in, a voice attached to a dark silhouette at the alley's distant mouth. There, the light has grown more dim, somehow smothering the diffuse gray that filters from the clouds. Amidst the gloom of the alley, a figure dressed in a black suit walks slowly, the click of his cane against the concrete coming between each footfall. "I've read so much about you…" His voice is rich, textured like so much sandpaper and whiskey, the voice of a weary old man. "It's a pleasure we can finally meet." Rolling beneath her feet, that carpet of shadows returns to where it came from, the man draped in so much night.

She's heard of him, heard horrible stories from Helena, from the news. But never did she think she would be brought face to face with him.

With Kazimir Volken.

Crunch? People don't crunch. Her hand comes away quickly like she had just broke an egg. "Oh god, Angelo — I'm so sorry." Claire is worried now, fear tightening it's grip on her stomach. She knows she doesn't have super strength, so what can she do? She doesn't really think past that as Angelo splits in half. She takes a couple of steps back quickly as he shatters, giving a little shriek of her own. How can you not?

Okay Claire.. this is all some horrible nightmare. Don't look at it as people — Not people — Oh god, I think I'm going to be sick. Her eyes flick up to look at Dan. "Rrr — " Run. She can't say it as the other man starts to shatter as well. "Dan!" A hand reaches towards him, actually shaking for once as her other companion withers away.

Then that voice reaches Claire and the sound just crawls down her back, making her involuntarily shiver. Her whole body goes cold, her mind finally giving her clues… everything she's heard. She swings towards the man, the sound of her shot gun ratcheting echoing off the brick walls. Shotgun braced against her shoulder, Claire stares down the barrel her eyes narrow. "The feeling isn't mutual, I can assure you." Her voice is hollow and filled with ice. The son of a bitch killed her co…. terrorists.

"It's a natural reaction, the fear." His pace is casual, walking forward slowly as the darkness peels back and away from him, revealing a weathered old man with soft, blue eyes and gray hair that ends in curly tresses at the base of his neck. "Fear of the inevitable, fear of," his eyes divert to the crumbles bodies, "the horrific and inhuman." When his focus shifts back to Claire, Kazimir comes to a stop halfway between where she is and the alley ends, a ten foot span is all that divides them.

"Did you know, you're the only person in the Registry listed to have regeneration as fast as you do?" One gray brow rises in question, the hard soles of black shoes clack between the click of his cane's steel tip as than ten foot distance begins to clear shorter, walking directly towards the barrel of the shotgun.

Kazimir halts, just shy of arm's reach of her, looking down at the short young woman with an impassive expression; no joy, no guilt, no remorse — he just is. "I knew a man like you once, when I was younger… in simpler times." There's a very subtle narrowing of the old man's eyes, as Kazimir regards Claire with scrutiny. "I need to find out a truth, miss Bennet. A truth only you have the answer to…"

Maybe it's fear that keeps her finger from squeezing the trigger, maybe it's curiosity, but Claire doesn't shoot. At the mention of fear, her jaw suddenly takes a stubborn set, chin tilts a bit defiantly. "I'm not scare of you," she snaps out trying to glare at him. Trying to keep her voice casual, she tries to state like it's no big deal, "I've seen worse."

Registration… Parkman, that son of a bitch. She'd have to try to thank him later. If he hadn't registered her, she wouldn't be faced with this pycho. Setting the shotgun into a better position she shakes her head slowly and says, "Don't come any closer." Her voice quavers a bit, giving away that she is indeed still scared. Eyes glare at him from the other end of the shotgun. "I don't know what truth you hope to find out.. But I'm not interested in being you little… Guinea pig," she practically spits that last word out. A foot slides back to test the ground behind her before taking a step back. She was leaving… "You just stay right there and I won't have to fill you full of holes."

Seen worse? "No," Kazimir notes with a smile, "No you have not." Taking a step closer, a testing and confident step, Kazimir's blue eyes settle down on Claire's far darker ones. "You can pull the trigger, miss Bennet. It won't do you a world of good, because you and I… we are similar in ways he and I were similar." One weathered hand comes down to brush fingertips along the metal barrel of the shotgun, "not a natural wood stock, wise." He doesn't elaborate on why.

"What I need from you, you have already given me." Slithering down from below Claire, coiling tendrils of black fog roll away and withdraw inside of Kazimir's darkly clad form. A smile slowly creeps up on his lips, allowing one liver-spotted hand to gently brush along Claire's cheek. Her skin blisters and peels away at the tainted touch of his caress, flesh rotting and then regenerating in the same instant, unable to be destroyed by his life-draining touch.

"You proved to me, that there are indeed things out there, that are above my capabilities." There is a strange mixture of relief and regret in Kazimir's quiet voice as he lightly brushes his knuckles across the side of Claire's face, letting her flesh peel back and mend in the wake of his fingers as his hand lowers slowly. "You've proven me wrong, and given me the inspiration necessary to…" letting his words trail off, Kazimir takes a half step back from Claire, "…pursue new avenues."

Smiling no longer, Kazimir's icy blue stare affixes to Claire's eyes once more, and he motions with a nod of his head towards the street behind her. "You can go, miss Bennet." No threats, no tricks, just satisfying his own morbid curiosity in his own limitations. It's not how things usually work for Claire.

"I will." Claire hisses the words out, trying to be threatening, pressing the barrel into his chest and her finger starts to tighten, but his words stop her. Her brow falls into a confused frown, eying him. "Similar? I don't think so." Looking completely disgusted by the idea she pulling away again. "There is no way… this… " She motions to the ground with a hand, "Is anything like mine. What you do is just sick and twisted."

The touch takes her by surprise and she jerks her head away with a hiss. She might heal quickly, but it still stings. "Don't touch me." Her hand coming up to brush his away, with a quick flick. Not that it matters as he gets another touch in. The fear is instantly washed away by rage and frustration at him daring to touch her like that. "I can go? Just like that?" A hand comes away from her shotgun to wipe at the cheek her touched, her expression completely disgusted on the edge of looking ill. "I should be making you pay for killing Angelo and Dan," Angry at being blown off like that, the shotgun starts to come up again, but she stops herself. A glance up and she cusses softly under her breath, boat would be there soon.

A glare is flashed at Kazimir before Claire turns away. For a moment it looks like she's going to run, but the young woman forces herself to walk away casually. See.. you don't scare me. Of course, as soon as she's out of his sight, Claire starts to jog and then run. She runs as fast and as hard as her legs will take her. Her vision blurs as she finally lets the emotions roll over her. The strength of those emotions is strong enough that she has to stumble to a stop so that she can double over and retch. Maybe it's good she hadn't had time for lunch.

When her stomach finally stops trying to turn itself inside out, she gives a small sob. How was she going to explain this to Karl and the others? Poor Dan… Poor Angelo… At least they won't feel the cold anymore.

Standing in the alley, the ravens perched far out of the necrotic darkness that surrounds Kazimir are his only companion once Claire makes her retreat. His eyes turn down to his hand, one gray brow rising slowly as he turns his hand over to look at his palm, as if marveling from the way his touch failed to take her life. "You just get to go…" he says in a hushed voice, "I couldn't kill you, miss Bennet, even if I wanted to." His forefingers and thumb roll together, blue eyes looking down to the street one last time before he turns with a click of his cane, voice low and rasping. "No one can…"

"You're far more special than you even realize."

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