About the End of the World


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Scene Title About the End of the World
Synopsis Maybe it doesn't look so appealing anymore.
Date January 30, 2020

Bay Ridge: Nicole's Home

The world is upside down, and Zachery is ill-inclined to change this.

He's sprawled the wrong way around on a mattress, on his back, blankets half kicked off, head just hanging down over the edge of the bed, and he's still more comfortable than he's been in months. No supervision, no threat of death looming, no possibly-world-affecting work waiting to be finished.

That's all done now.

But not all ends are that easily tied up.

His view squarely on the wall and floor of Nicole's bedroom, he grabs blindly around for his phone nearby, drags it closer, and lifts it up over his face to call a memorised number. Not that the secrecy will do him much good now.

When he hears the line open up, he does not wait for a greeting, saying instead, "Good morning Miss Charming."

From the other end a rustling, papers shuffled about. A chuckle made husky by being unceremoniously awoken, or something similar, by the incessant ring of ever-invasive technology.

“Just had to hear my voice one more time?” Isis combs her fingers back through her hair. For the hundredth time, if the state of it is anything to go by. She pushes her thumb into the corner of her lips as she pries her gaze up from the pages of dark blue and scrawled white to the reflection in the sizable half-circle mirror opposite her unkempt bed. Crusts of flaked mascara mix into a shift of freckles and paperwork takes up more space on the bed than fabric or person. It stares back blankly. “I was going to drop by…”

There's a hiss for an answer, first, air sucked in through gritted teeth. "About that," Zachery answers, finally, "Are you, ah -"

He goes quiet, mouth still open, squinting real and fake eye half shut as he tries to find the exact right words and comes up very short indeed. "Are you all right?"

He sounds almost hopeful. As though a 'yes' would free him from the worry showing on his brow.

Cracks in the blank stare form as wrinkles in snowy flesh. A whispy pale brow arcs high, pulling in her cheeks in a tight expression. She quickly averts her gaze from the mirror, considering instead a blueprint obscured by her splayed hand. She shuffles it away from her. And back again.

“Lots of unfinished business means I get to come back as a vengeful specter, right?” Her fingers curl. Pop.”But-” Pop. “What about-” Pop. “It?” The mattress beneath offers no support, letting one digit after the other puncture holes in the building schematic. She wrinkles her nose and there’s a sudden blast of staticy rustling in the phone.

On the other end, Isis shakes her hand vigorously, like a feline with tape stuck to her paw, trying to dislodge the offending paperwork. It flutters away off the edge of the bed, leafily drifting to the floor with blown holes like bullet wounds blossoming upwards.

Zachery yanks the phone away from his ear with a grimace, breathing out a bitter mix between a chuckle and a noise of disbelief.

"Isis," he urges, taking a deep breath before continuing with urgency threaded through slowed words. "It. Isn't happening." His free hand scrubs idly at his jaw, gaze drifting elsewhere as he rattles off more words. "Things didn't go as planned. I haven't been able to contact you for the past month but - in short - among others, Eve knows about you, and Shedda, and that whole bag of kittens is climbing up the curtains by now, I suspect."

Maybe it's the comfort but he's sounding less than distressed about it.

“Wait, what?”

It’s impressive the impaled paper doesn’t spontaneously burst into flames given the heat of Isis’s death glare. Body swapping is her secondary power. Deathray stare is her first.

“So, holdthefuckup. What the hell did you do, Z? Because, it’s painfully fucking clear what you didn’t!” She crams the tiny device into her crook of awkwardly bent neck and shoulder. There’s a fresh static of crumpling as she clambers across the paperwork and sheets on all fours and THUMPS of the bed. Her wild mane of sanguine peeks back up somewhere on the horizon of the mirror over the bureau.

“And, excuse-thefuck-me. But, you told Eve I’m with Shedda? You-You… don’t even know, man! Where the fuck have you been? What fucking right do you have to throw me under the bus for anything?” Clothes sail across the room at every angle. “You don’t know me.” There’s a hard and fast…


Every time Zachery opens his mouth and inhales to answer is a time Isis starts speaking again, and by the third time this happens, he lets his breath leave him in a sigh.

As he pulls himself forward, propping himself up with an elbow into the mattress, his expression changes. Gaze still cast downward, a grin slowly creeps thoughtlessly onto his face — like the fit being thrown is a puppy endearingly pissing in someone else's shoes.

"I might not know you," he answers calmly. "And you're correct, I didn't have the right. Or a choice, really." In spite of himself, that concern slips into his voice again when he asks without pausing, "Are you still listening?"

HUFF. Siiiiigh. “Yes.”

A wacky-waving-inflatable-leg-flaying-tube of denim pops up in view of the mirror before a foot wrestles free of the pant leg. “But, fair warning: I’m coming to kick your ass.” Isis pops up from the floor, phone still wedged between ear and shoulder as her hands are busily hooked and tugging on strained belt loops. “It’s the very least you deserve after-…”

Isis rigidly turns to snatch something from the bed, only to stop as her gaze settles on the crumpled pages: imaginative sketches of flora, buildings brought to life by the touch of Mother Nature Herself, electrical wires here, solar panels there. She sneers at the whole lot, heedless of their beauty, and takes a deep, leveling breath to finish in an entirely different tone than which she had started “… - What happened?”

Now, it's Zachery's end of the line that goes silent.

At least, before he laughs. Sinking further down at first, and then hoisting himself up to sit up properly. "You don't even know where I am!" He mocks, "I could be calling you from anywhere in the bloody world." And surely he should be far enough away for her not to be able to get to him. Surely. Especially since, as he willingly admits with a sluggish blink and lopsided grin: "I gave them all the names I could think of."

A lie, but damn near the truth. Two names removed from it, in fact, now just the one.

“I’d find you.” Somehow it’s not a threat. It’s lighter than all that - a careful orchestra of quiet and petulant timbre - both warning and promise: She’s here. But she’ll be there, wherever there is, if necessary.

She takes the phone back in hand to tilt her head and consider the paperwork from another angle. CRUNCH She lands face-first across the pond of sheet work and plush. “I want to hit something,” she groans. “Sounds like you might know of a good something. Do you want me to come out there and hit a something?”

She rolls over in a crinkle-crumple cacophony and stares at the ceiling. “You’re alive, so that’s good. But-…” Isis’s hazel gaze dances jaggedly from one corner of the room to the other. “What happened to the stuff?”

"It was never what I thought it was." Zachery answers more slowly, and the trend continues as though every word is more deeply steeped in thought. "It never is, though, is it? You can never really know what's going on. And the next thing you know you're tied to a chair and every vein in your body is burning and all you've got to show for it is… is a gammy leg."

He chuckles, but the sound is a near dead thing in his throat. In lieu of being able to look Isis in the face, his expression leans absent. Leaving the subject of hitting things aside for now, he deadpans instead, "Do you remember what you told me, back in December? 'Do it right, or don't do it at all'. So I met your Adam," or one of them, anyway, and personally handed him a nice, shiny case of fuck all."

Isis turns her face so her cheek is pressed into a page of scribbles of a steno notebook and her hazel eyes scans the horizon of crumbled paper. “It never is,” she echoes.

Gammy? Sometimes I forget what an odd duck you are, Mr. Charming.” The visible corner of her pale lips draws into a sharp curve. It’s a short lived amusement, smothered quickly under an expression of shock. “Oh, I remember, alright,” she pushes upright. “Fuck all? You met him? And… fuck all?! HA!” Isis’s voice pitches high. “You’re insane. You’re wonderfully, beautiful fucking touched in the head, you know that?!” She slinks off the bed and moves to the window, holding back a curtain and considering the scape of Bay Ridge outside. “HA!”

"Isn't it funny?" Zachery's voice sounds across from the other end of the line, before he lifts a hand to scrub it across his mouth and jawline. "I might have argued against that only five short years ago." When it still wouldn't have been far off from the truth, but maybe slightly more so than now.

He doesn't leave much room for answering, instead asking past the bend of his fingers. "You seem… okay?" This last word spoken like he has some trouble grasping the reality of it, brow creasing at the unexpected outcome. "You realise the world's going to keep on going, right? And that your name - and possibly face - is out there, now, associated with a terrorist organisation? Known to who knows what. To Eve Mas, at the very least. You're not worried about that?"

A pale, sharp little finger juts pointedly at the window, forcefully enough to bend the first trisection against the glass. “It was always going to keep going, wasn’t it? Just with less pests. Now we get to keep on the ride. Round and round and round we go. Where we stop-…”

“HA!” Isis devolves into a short bout of laughter. Not the healthy kind - some parts relief, some parts of want for anything else to do, but full of amusement nonetheless. “All or nothing was only ever meant to fix my mistake.” She lets the curtain fall back into place and turns, resting her back to the fabric and pinching the bridge of her nose. “Worried? About Eve?” She shakes her head. “No.” Snort. “That’s the danger I know.” She rubs the back of her wrist into a tired eye, further smearing crackly old mascara and liner, with a groan. “Does anyone else know?”

For all of Isis' energy, Zachery seems to regain none. He just sits, one hand sliding from his face to his neck, the other loosely holding the phone, listening, gaze down on the sheets.

Maybe it is fine. Maybe there are no worries to be had.


"Yi-Min Yeh." He answers, matter-of-factly. "I don't know where she stands, but I assume she's not working alone on whatever she's planning. I didn't think to ask about any associates between the injection of platypus venom and the stabbing." Or, you know, the whole month after the fact.

The hiss of the shower stopped some time ago. Maybe he noted it, maybe he didn’t. All the same, the door separating the bedroom from the master bath swings open and a towel-wrapped Nicole steps out, wringing her hair out with a smaller towel as she makes her way into her room.

She pauses about three steps in, registering that Zachery isn’t simply muttering to himself, but that he’s speaking to someone on the phone. Her brow furrows with confusion, then concern. Who could he possibly be speaking to?

All the same, she doesn’t interrupt. Not verbally anyway. Surely her physical presence is interruption on its own, in spite of intent on her part. Faintly luminescent gaze turns away from where he lays on her bed, toward her dresser. The little towel is dropped onto the carpet without concern for the mess it is. Instead of asking questions, she opens the top drawer and pulls out a matching pair of underthings made of forest green lace, setting them aside on the bed before closing the drawer again and opening the next.

Isis opens one bleary eye into a concerned slit. “I’m not familiar with the name.” And so the cloying nature of the unknown scratches its talons in deeper. She’s not working alone…

“Wait, platypus venom? Who the fuck is milking one of those egg-laying little shits?” The redhead squints skeptically across the room at a section of wall marred with a circular fracturing and a large dent at its center. She stalks across the room with a scowl and begins picking vehemently at the chipped paint. The silence carries on a few beats as she takes her aggression out in a pointedly compulsive flicking and clawing. Scritch-scritch.

Finally… “I guess I’m not totally off the hook, though.” She glances down to the small dusting of paint chips before her bare feet. “If you gave him fuck all, that leaves one million dollar question.” She tips her head slowly to one side, frizzy curls falling across her glassy-distant gaze. “Where’s the real shit, Mr. Charming? What did you do with it?”

Platypus what now? Zachery does not get to answering this question, continuing the quiet trend in favour of continuing to listen. Partly because he has no answer to the question about the venom, and partly because his attention is elsewhere. No longer looking down, but instead following the movement of the second person in the room.

But that last question — that definitely does warrant an answer. "I had no choice but to relinquish it. My best guess is Yeh has either destroyed or hidden it, but, personally, I'd put my money on the latter. Only because we never figured out what, exactly, it was meant to —"

He pauses, leans forward, and streeetches to snatch the lace up, then shoves it quickly under a pillow and sits back down. Finishing his sentence very seriously: "— Target."

And also looking up at Nicole with the most innocent face he can muster. Which is never very, but he can try. "I feel like I should tell you that by the time we were done with it, the virus was… less of a shotgun, more of a sniper round. A far stretch from…" A short pause to consider his current situation. "What it started as."

A blouse is pulled free of where it was neatly folded on the top of the drawer, a similar shade of green to the linger that she just—

Nicole stares at the empty space on the bed for a moment. Zachery can see the wheels turning in her head. Sees her retracing her steps of only a moment ago. She did set them out, right? She takes a step back from the bed and glances to the floor to see if she’d set them too close to the edge and they’d fallen soundlessly to the carpet.

That’s when she notices Zachery looking at her. Ah. That makes far more sense. Wordlessly, she lets the blouse hang from its neck in one hand and holds out her other expectantly. Give them back, pal.


“Best guess? This wasn’t a box of kittens, dude.” Flick-flick. “… Yi-Min Yeh,” Isis mutters through the vague static of the phone. “Hold on. Rewind. Slow it down for me, Mad Scientist: is there anything left of its original form? The big shotgun version, I mean?”

All Nicole gets from Zachery is maintained eye contact and rise of his eyebrows and shrugging shoulders both. Hmwhat?

"Probably," he continues the conversation, meanwhile, "would you like me to ask? I can." He clears his throat, his voice suddenly a little more lively in its accommodation. "Though I might need a bit of a favour in return."

Nicole purses her lips, impatient. When he still doesn’t comply, she scowls a brief moment and then turns away. Her blouse is laid out on the bed and she goes back to the top drawer again. It’s not like she only has one set of foundation garments. She doesn’t have time for his childish games.

She does, however, absolutely have time to eavesdrop on this conversation and try to discern exactly what shit he’s wilfully stepping in this time.

Isis’s gaze sharpens. Eyes narrow. She tips her head as she considers something on the wall in front of her. “A favor.” After a moment’s silence the sounds of muffled scratching resume. “Ask.”

And so he does. "That December day…"

Zachery shifts his weight - sheets dragged along with him - and moves over until he's sitting at the edge of the bed next to the blouse. After scooping it up, he holds it just behind him, in plain sight.

"I need you to forget about what I said was going to happen." He's gravely serious about this, speaking more clearly and slowly than is necessary. "Do you understand why?"

Nicole turns back with an aubergine pair of underthings this time, frowning when she finds her shirt not where she left it, but behind Zachery. This time, she sets her smallclothes on top of the dresser before she braces a knee on the edge of the mattress and stretches out toward Zachery to try and take her shirt back.

Her feet shuffle backwards on the carpet, hazel eyes glassy behind jagged curls of garnet cutting sanguine lines across her face. Isis stares ahead as she adjusts her grip on the little cellular device to make sure her quiet reply is heard nonetheless “Because it doesn’t matter any more. Because something happened. You changed, or at least… your perspective did.” She sighs deeply. “If you think forgetting will help, then yeah - find out what you can, and it never happened, ‘kay?”

"Oh, it matters," Zachery continues the conversation much as before, even if there's a hint of something else threaded into his words now. A smidge more confidence, even if it's partially through distraction. Probably to do with the fact that he's beginning to enjoy the happenings on his end of the line a little more. "But some people might not take too kindly to… considerations of that particular nature."

With that carefully phrased answer, waiting for just the right moment, he drops the blouse behind him and leans forward to reach for Nicole's middle, pulling her closer.

Nicole gasps softly and tips forward when the grasping hands draw her in. She stifles a giggle, biting her lip so as to keep from making a sound and giving away his actions to the person on the other end of the line.

Gently, she pushes him down onto the mattress and curls up with her face against his neck. And her ear near his phone.

“Worried about your image?” She pokes and yet… that tone…

It’s like a moment where the lap belt comes down on the death-defying roller coaster you didn’t realize you were even in line for. Wait. How did we end up here?

The cheery cherry-pie fun and jest is gone. The aftertaste is bitter. “Right-o. Past behind you and all that. Better you tomorrow.” She wrinkles her nose and juts a thumbs up at the phone receiver. “I know another guy who was giving that a try…”

Isis’s gaze flicks down to the paint chips.

“It’s cool. I get it. Genocide’s fun to contemplate when you hit bottom, but the minute you can pass the buck all is forgiven, as long as its forgotten, right? I mean, not like anyone else’s conscious had been weighed down by your master-fucking-plan.” A pause. Her tongue wrests out through the tight clench of her teeth, only to end up pinned painfully between pearly whites.

Isis hisses inwardly. “Thanks for letting me know,” comes out strained and non-specific.

Zachery, previously all too happy to be in this moment, suddenly looks like the different things he was mentally juggling have turned to knives in his hands. He swallows dryly as one of the blades may as well have lodged itself directly into his leg.

Arm around Nicole and his gaze squarely on the ceiling, he goes quieter than he'd like. It takes him a moment to reconcile truths, or attempt to. Mitigating potential disaster was never his specialty.

The lightness of enjoyment is gone from his voice entirely when his answer finally sounds on the other end of the line: "I'll let you know when I know more." It's a stock answer with no life to it, and they're not the words he wants to say. Somewhat closer is what he adds shortly afterward, even if the words smack of reluctance. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

Nicole pretends not to care about the conversation she’s only catching half of. But if he believes that ruse, he perhaps doesn’t know her as well as he likes to think he does. Whatever the reality of it, she frowns against the curve of his neck even as she plants soft kisses there. Much too busy to care about apologies to other women at the end of the world.


The coaster ride stops as quickly as it had catapulted, bitterness replaced by… nothingness. Bland.

“Zach?” For a moment the voice on the other end sounds small, uncertain. There’s a silence and a sigh, both long enough to suggest she opts for something other than her originally intended statement. “You’re good people, you know. Underneath. Don’t lose perspective.”

The phone half slides down her cheek before the call disconnects with a quiet beep.

Her head tilts. The world tilts.

She’s staring at the cracked wall.

The wall stares back at a cracked woman…

What was originally a circular crack of impact is now a gnarled design of exposed, gouged plaster roughly hewn in the shape of a large, singular eye.

Isis sneers at the gaudy malformed image and crawls back into bed, into a sea of papers and plans, to sleep.

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