By the Sword


kazimir3_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif wu-long_icon.gif

Scene Title By the Sword
Synopsis One can live by the sword, but it ultimately leads to the other side of that equation…
Date January 15, 2009

Eagle Electric

Perfection is not an accident.

There is no moon out. That, and all of her twinkling needlestick minions remain occulted somewhere behind the roiling mess of cloud-cover and translucent humidity. The air is getting heavier. It seems to squat on top of the Eagle Electric like a goblin atop a box of greedily guarded treasure. Which Wu-Long might understand, given the merchandise he tends to spend his money on. Explosives and industrial strength adhesives are always solid investments for a mercenary of decent caliber.

Small, temperamental blonde women are less so. Temperamental women, period.

He's here because of that. That investment. And yet, despite being aware that there's some risk involved with walking himself back into the property lines of the paramilitary faction he's begun to make plans and actions of mutiny against, and despite that Odessa Knutson had loudly — if not proudly — announced she was through with him, that declaration had had the rarest effect: of going straight through him. By the time he noticed the exit wound, she was out of sight and digging a stubborn stiletto into his mind.

As a cat squirms through a gap, his shadow drops down from the crevice between the top of the door and the edge of the roof. His landing is uncharacteristically weightless, a strange show of prudence. He eddies there, close to the floor, an animate fog and artless swatch of negative space and unfurls a tendril this way and that, between shipping containers, under the artificial firmament of blue tarp.

The place has changed, at least since Wu-Long's last visit. The warehouse is in a state of disarray that is uncharacteristic of Kazimir Volken's almost obsessive sense of organization. Crates are toppled over, white cloth tarps are spooled in desheveled heaps on the cold concrete floor, and all of his precicely arranged mirrors. All of that, it's as though it was abandoned for something far less sane, something more disorganized.

Notably, a vehicle dominates the warehouse, a sixteen wheeler truck with a full trailer, parked with its nose facing one of the closed bay doors. The vehicle looks like it belongs to a trucking company, a faded stencil along the side of the tractor-trailer proudly displaying, "EMPIRE STATE SHIPPING" in peeling red, along with a silhouette of what may be the statue of liberty amidst spots of rust that bubble up through the paint.

Between where shadows solidify into man, where the ephemeral and the corporeal meet, and the door that leads to Wu-Long's object of affection, there is another sign that something is greatly amiss. The dais upon which Kazimir Volken's throne once stood is barren of such furnishings. A broken heap of old and graying wood is shattered some twenty feet away, amidst a pile of ashen-gray bones and the tattered remains of a black business suit. Where the throne should be, amidst the dirty yellow-orange glow of the exterior lights filtering through the high warehouse windows, stands a wholly new black silhouette. Sylar, with his head bowed and hands raised, appraising a steel-tipped wolf's head cane laid out across both of his hands. His eyes, dark and large, wander up and down the object as if unfamiliar with it, but at the same time there is a respect to the way he holds it; an understanding.

But he fails to see the approaching phantom of Wu-Long, fails to see anything but what must be his own thoughts. Well, his own thoughts, and that of the man imprisoned within him.

In the depths of a limitless cage of a shared mind, Sylar is discovering what room there is to move. On the physical side, the suffocating vessel of his own body provides no comfort, the bars of such an enclosure going as deep as his own bones, but on an entirely different plane, there is freedom. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost of losing yourself, of becoming one of the wailing dead in Kazimir's mental legacy, and so he cannot retreat there. Not always, and certainly not during waking hours.

So he, too, is forced to appraise the cane in his hands, eyes tracking it unwillingly - although there is some shared fascination at least. Sylar makes an effort not to talk to Kazimir for the most part, bludgeoned with more than enough argument and abuse when the man feels inclined to beat back his psychic passenger.

And yet, Sylar will, occasionally, find himself 'speaking' first. As if asking for more, or maybe attempting to find some level of sanity and understanding. Either way. As if he were sitting beside Kazimir in a bar with a glass of bourbon in front of him, he casually asks, with maybe a touch of a sneer, Regrets?

Reminiscent. Comes the mental response, accompanied by a slow lowering of the cane to lean on. There's a noticable height disparity between the body that once belonged to Richard Santiago, and the body of Gabriel Gray, and it's made evident in the way the cane feels when leaned upon. The world is full of paths untaken, Sylar. Each time he uses that name, it burns almost as much as when he once called him Gabriel. To think of being used, played like a puppet for so long and with such ease, it's disgusting. Where would the world be, if I had given up my quest in my youth. Where would the world be if I had never met Adam Monroe? There's a longing to Kazimir's subtle mental reply, as he paces across the dais.

The what-if's of life will drag you down faster than chains, Sylar. I've learned this much in my long life. He pauses, appraising the wolf's head of the cane again, looking at the notch on its brow that he allows his hand to so often follow the depression of. You and I are monsters, Sylar. There is no "what if" with us. We were born monsters, and the world will die knowing us as monsters. Your attempt at redemption, however misguided, will never be known. You are, and will always be to them, a nightmare. Kazimir lowers the cane again with a thunk of metal against old wood, as if trying to get accustomed to the position of his arm when it is at rest. There are no second chances.

At the very least, each barb, each use of his name and every sneer directed towards him, ignites something. Hurt, anger, shame. These are human emotions, and they are still his own. Sylar attempts to welcome them, but he's not quite at that level of despair yet that pain is favourable over nothing. He still listens with quiet resentment and hatred. But he can at least take it as a sign of identity.

I'll know it, Sylar murmurs in icy response. I'll remember it. Even if no one else does. An empty laugh, echoing through their shared consciousness. And that's all that matters now, isn't it? You've taken everything. All I have left is myself.

The karma wheel crushes the man chained to the rim, the curtain rises on the comedy of errors, and the hammer of judgment is falling closer with every transpiring moment. Or so you'd think, if you were under the hilarious illusion contrary to truth: that the lifespan of a man or an empire or a species lie equally within a single heartbeat of terra frore. Wu-Long tends to be sure about the insignificance of things. He had lent his sword as readily to the apocalypse as he had his patriotism to the Middle Kingdom, and he's turned on it with as little fuss. When he does fuss, generally, it's because of women.

Which makes sense in the context of literature, as the spokes spin, the spotlight floods the stage, and the prematurely slain begin to bay for blood.

"Wan an." The language employed betrays Wu-Long before the shape of his silhouette draped in leather as black as the curls of his scalp, and even before the first heartbeat then footfall impinge on Sylar's ulstrasonic hearing. Organizing his body back into muscle, bone, and tangible molecules apparently fails to elicit a reciprocal alignment with logic to the chaos of warehouse around him. Wu-Long had already been frowning. It deepens now. "What happened here?"

Turning slowly, as if a delayed reaction to the words spoken and the sudden abruptness of corporeality, Kazimir settles his eyes — Sylar's eyes — on the tangled mess of dark hair nearby. "I happened, Wu-Long." There's a certain proud smile that creeps up across those lips, and completing his turn, Kazimir focuses on the man who was once among his most trusted standing before him. Perhaps he is, perhaps Wu-Long is one of the few non-traitorous of the flock. But on the same notion, he will not live to survive what comes; loyal or not. It is in the end, the ultimate irony of the Vanguard, loyalty and disloyalty both find the same net-result.


"Out with the old, and in with the new. I think that's the proper phrase to coin in this instance." One hand flourishes towards the skeletal remains of Richard Santiago, blowing him about with a telekinetic sweep; as if he were commanding a dustpan and broom poorly. "It's good to see you," Dark eyes flicker back to Wu-Long, head tilting to one side. Heartbeats are fickle things, and ever since occupying Sylar's body he's heard so many. But Wu-Long's heartbeat is different, there's something about the steady beat, the calm rythm… it's captivating.

"You're here." He finally seems to notice, or perhaps comment on. "What brings you back, everyone else seems pretty content to just…" He motions ephemerally in the air with one swirling hand, "Go their own way." There's a pause, ever so brief, and Sylar's mocking frame turns to look over his shoulder at the door behind him, the one lading into the laboratories, then back to Wu-Long, one dark and knowing brow raised expectantly.

Even at its most clouded, convoluted, addled by new circumstances or old heartache, Wu-Long's brain operates with mechanical efficiency. Little good that it does him now. All evidence points to some remarkable feat of power and prowess that he should attribute to his comrade. Or erstwhile comrade? The world is saved, he suspects, staring down at the chalky carapace of Santiago's torso, the sunken cheeks and shriveled pits of eyes, the crumbling brow and sand where fingertips blunt on the ground. He marks that down with the cane in Sylar's hand, the stagnant chaos of the warehouse, the riven throne. Kazimir Volken is dead. The world is saved.

Cool. Explains a few things.

Promptly, he subtracts the relevant variables from his calculations and turns his eyes back upward to the younger man. "Odessa ran away because she was afraid of him." He indicates Santiago with a jut of his chin even as he begins to cross the floor toward him, an oddly brusque, soldierly gesture for a man who generally seems to lack the barbaric sanguinity commonly associated with it. His footfalls are a contrast, precise, timed by the perfect recall of muscle memory. "There was a deadline— I think she must have told you." He's under few illusions of his place in the woman's hierarchy of priorities, convenience, and confidantes. "She asked me to go with her but I didn't. Ni jianguo ta ma?"

Even at its most clouded, convoluted, addled by new circumstances or old heartache, Wu-Long's brain operates with mechanical efficiency. Little good that it does him now. All evidence points to some remarkable feat of power and prowess that he should attribute to his comrade. Or erstwhile comrade? The world is saved, he suspects, staring down at the chalky carapace of Santiago's torso, the sunken cheeks and shriveled pits of eyes, the crumbling brow and sand where fingertips blunt on the ground. He marks that down with the cane in Sylar's hand, the stagnant chaos of the warehouse, the riven throne. Kazimir Volken is dead. The world is saved.

Cool. Explains a few things.

Promptly, he subtracts the relevant variables from his calculations and turns his eyes back upward to the younger man. "Odessa ran away because she was afraid of him." He indicates Santiago with a jut of his chin even as he begins to cross the floor toward him, an oddly brusque, soldierly gesture for a man who generally seems to lack the barbaric sanguinity commonly associated with it. His footfalls are a contrast, precise, timed by the perfect recall of muscle memory. "There was a deadline— I think she must have told you." He's under few illusions of his place in the woman's hierarchy of priorities, convenience, and confidantes. "She asked me to go with her but I didn't. Ni jianguo ta ma?"

There's an almost birdlike stillness to Kazimir, followed by a jerky quirk of his had to one side when that litany of Mandarin nonsense comes spilling forth from Wu-Long's lips with an expectant expression. Kazimir, for just a moment, is dumbstruck as his mind reels through memories of learning Mandarin, but lacking any sort of practiced sense of how the language works. If he spent enough time, he could sift through Sylar's encyclopedic knowledge of the words, but that would be far more awkward than the easier answer. "Shut up."

Not quite, perhaps, as eloquent as would have been preferred in this given circumstance.

"Odessa is operating on a timeframe based in necessity. Odessa is back, because I dragged her back." He can't keep up this act, the act of being Sylar. There's too much between the two that he can feel on the fringes of his memory, too many little tells that could catch him at just the wrong moment. "Odessa is loyal, Wu-Long. Presumably you should be too, provided you value…" His words hitch in his throat, Kazimir's eyes settling on the dark-haired mercenary for a moment, swallowing dryly. Something in the back of his throat, something he can't quite swallow down — what is that feeling? "Provided…" He catches himself, enough to keep his balance conversationally. "You value Doctor Knutson's continued well being, you'll remain loyal." Dark brows lower slowly, followed by a crook of a smile. "Right, buddy?"

Kazimir's snap of an answer rings foreboding through the conscious entity of Sylar, an almost bristling reaction given as the conversation promptly goes downhill. The pretence is shed, or at least, obviously so in Sylar's mind-eye, and in some sort of prideful, selfish way, it's a relief. Not being forced to lie to people he doesn't care to lie to. No more masks, Kazimir? he asks.

And he rides along with every movement, twitch of the eye, even mannerism— including the slight trip over words, which he doesn't question, not out loud. There's a pause, even after Kazimir has stopped forcing his mouth to talk, before he tries something new. I have to commend you in picking your men, Kazimir, he says, tone respectful. Wu-Long, as he told me, is a soldier. He will follow you because that's his duty.

Elias occasionally calls him that. Buddy. Few of his constituency in the Vanguard's tiers do, less Ethan, never Sylar. It's the least and the last flourish in an otherwise perplexing array of weird shit that Wu-Long is picking up from his comrade's tone and carriage. Kazimir might have been overthinking it, honestly: with the face, the eyebrows, voice and long, precise hands, keeping up the ruse isn't hard. "The touch—" he raises a hand as if to demonstrate, though he's standing two yards off, and the curl of fingers and palm indicative of skin contact without ever making any. His hands are not gloved. Scars and calluses stand out in a mesh of disrupted grain bridging his knuckles. "The mind-reading.

"Did you do that with him?" The hand falls. Indicates the corpse that takes up the floor between them. "I don't think there's a pill for that," he notes, characteristically wry, sidestepping mention of the little doctor by fluid coincidence rather than conscious avoidance. The order to Shut up has about as much effect on him as a headbutt from a particularly large mouse. "But time worked for you before. If that is it." He's stopped. Further away than the demarcations of wolfish comraderie he's normally wont to stand in, but with all of the same casual humor, nonchalance, practical prudence as he's done before.

On the other hand, he wouldn't be much of a mercenary if he let his suspicions or paranoia show to its subject.

He's stumbled squarely into the perfect ploy, the perfect trick. Tactile telepathy, one of Sylar's swiss-army-knife powers he has yet to experiment with, but at the same time the focus of some measure of confusion and frustration. Munin's control over birds, and Wu-Long's darkness should be his to command, learned via that leeching touch as Kazimir interprets it, but they're as difficult to grasp as smoke between fingers. It's infuriating.

"I did." It's the perfect lie, "He, touched me, actually." Made clearer, "That… thing he did, with the black smoke, turns you to ashes." Given detailing, texturing and layers, like any good lie; painted up like some brothel harlot. "It's different than what happened between you and I," pull back on the formalities, pull away from the old methods of speech. Be more like Sylar.

"Me and you," Better, "Wu-Long, I learned something from you, but…" Kazimir narrows his eyes, ignoring the bite of Sylar's mind at the back of his own long enough to focus on Wu-Long. His skin itches, sweat beadng on his brows and at the back of his neck, tongue wetting parched lips. "I've been having trouble, with that… the shadows, controling them. Your gift."

Kazimir watches the mercenary move, and he himself is possessed of all the awkward grace of a man with a stomach virus, lurching and slow suddenly. He can feel the ache in his bones, something isn't right, his eyes tingle, fingertips are shaking — what's wrong? "I couldn't use it on Kazimir." Another daub of color to the lie, "It would have helped… I…" A parched swallow, hearing muffles and sharpens unexpectedly. The room feels suffocatingly hot and claustrophobic despite being cold and empty, "Can you show me?" Kazimir looks up to Wu-Long, pleadingly, "Show me how you… work it. Just… re-educate me."

This is… different. As Wu-Long conjures up an alibi, one Sylar had not shared with Kazimir, he's silent and a little stunned, watching everything unfold a bit like a car crash. Even if he had a choice in the matter, Sylar isn't sure he could really look away. There's a moment of anger, control once again wrested from him - what little he had to begin with - and he again tries to rattle metaphorical cage bars. Telepathy on its own can't steal away powers, he decides to taunt, even as Kazimir speaks, perhaps as a way of distracting him, of giving Wu-Long some measure of clue. It didn't work on Jennifer Childs because I didn't care about her. Maybe when I die I'll die a monster, like you say, but at least I have something you can't have. A talent you don't get to play with.

Somewhere out there, God sniggered. Empathy, a talent. Among these three, it may well be.

Wu-Long is measures a sidelong pace over the floor, stepping over Santiago's wilted arm where telekinesis had flung it haphazardly across the concrete. Having experienced the receiving end of that invisible hook multiple times before, he isn't surprised to see that the limb is beginning to separate from its powdery joint. Out of his peripheral, of course. He keeps his eyes on Kazimir, his gaze as intent as the event horizon of a black hole, of lightless mass so deep and immense that it collapsed inward and erased itself completely. Searching.

Given the tone and dialogue of the past five minutes, the probability of Wu-Long finding a seam in this disguise must seem rather remote by now. Handed over that lie on a silver platter, excused the inconsistencies of behavior, of mannerisms and flagging with the mathematical logic of a mercenary monster. There are far too many things this soldier did not know about his King. And yet—

"Kazimir Volken does not let his people see him sweat," he observes, mild as spring, and then without segue: "Hao ba." Thumb and middle finger meet with a jovial click. In a flicker of counterfeit shadow, sudden deafness, a great brutal bite out of sight, a column of absolute blackness roars — silently, silently — out of the ground at Sylar's feet and up to the fullest reach of the ceiling.

The deafness was the thing that had caught Sylar out the last time, and now, it's no different for Kazimir. It's a roar of silence that fills in the absence of being able to hear everything within a staggeringly large range is almost painful, enough to overwhelm the senses and steal away from the dramatic effect of darkness, eyes going wide with both shock and sightlessness.

Like a splash of cold water, Kazimir goes still - everyone goes still, it seems, when rendered blind - until he casts a hand out, fingers splayed, palm stretched. An observer gets half a second to guess what tool from the swiss-army knife he will display and flaunt, before an invisible wall of telekinesis is sent slamming, brutally, into Wu-Long. A blind attack, he is not thrown into a hold against the floor or the wall of a frieght container - he is simply thrown, a sudden disruption of expelled energy as kinetic movement grips him for a moment, long enough to draw feet off the ground.

The sudden display of Wu-Long's power catches Sylar almost as off-guard as Kazimir, but in a different way. In a moment of panic, he wonders if it was Kazimir who had suddenly pitched him into a blind and deaf void with only his own voice as company, and the panic can be felt all away across the psychic plane. Understanding comes a moment later, grim resignation. Neither of us have ever won before, he notes.

This isn't about winning, Sylar. The voice is ragged, struggling and panting, like someone suffering from a fever. This is about resolutions. One way or another. The focus required to confront whatever it is Wu-Long is attempting loosens those mental bonds Sylar has found himself time and again restrained by. Not enough to move an arm, to scream out, or to claw his way from his cerebeal prison, but there is a small victory in Kazimir being so distracted by a threat to his eternal life.

He can feel the birds nearby, clearly.

Wu-Long hits the floor now the same way as he had hit the floor back then: weightlessly, as a shadow would have deferred to gravity, a pitch and bounce of matriced energy that's more incorporeal than not. Unfortunately, Sylar's fought alongside him enough to several of Wu-Long's limitations: his intangibility is incomplete, and maintaining the sensory blackout requires concentration that being slapped around at traumatic velocity tends to rupture like a knife.

When sight returns to Kazimir and his prisoner, it finds the soldier unaccountably in the flesh, though tactics would indicate on few uncertain terms that there is safety to be found in his other form against an Evolved as brutally talented at range as Sylar is. There's a faint stoop dragging at Wu-Long's shoulders before he forces them into their lean square, where flying men and other telekinetics have taken their toll. There's also a gun in his hand. The Glock, standard-issue, its deadly little shape shadowed ugly underneath the hang of his sleeve.

His heartbeat rollicks like a train in Sylar's hearing, thud-a-thud, rapid-fire with joyous ferocity that acknowledges no human distinction between ill temper and pleasure. Every creature to its element. This is Wu-Long's, or ought to be, the way he's standing, watching, thinking, in perfect equilibrium, and distinctly at odds with the question when he chooses to speak:

"What did you do with them?"

Sight and sound flood back in in techniolour and surround for at least one host within this body. There's a curl of a smile at Kazimir's mouth, posture defensive by the time the world melts back into place. "What did I do to them?" he asks, taking a step towards the right. The cane has long since clattered to the ground, leaving free both his hands as he moves away from both it and the broken down throne lying in splinters. "I did nothing to them, Wu-Long. They, unlike some, are busy working to achieve what we've always been headed towards." His head tilts a fraction, a recently Sylar-like quirk of posture, bird-like and scrutinising. "You are looking at Sylar's duty fulfilled. Odessa is engineering the next phase. And you…"

That smile widens, a hand lifts, eyes become glassier. "I have new task for you." Another grasp of telekinesis, wrapping around Wu-Long's shoulders and lifting him up and up, letting him dangle like so many people who have found themselves in this position - albeit not for long.

Sylar, in his head, stays carefully quiet. Like watching a horror movie, waiting to see distantly what happens next and trying to cut back on the urge to shout, look out behind you. If Wu-Long is going to win, contrary to Kazimir's statement, he'd benefit from a lack of knowledge on Sylar's part as to his tactics. They've sparred enough for Sylar to know.

"I need you to show me, Wu-Long Zhang…" Kazimir's eyes widen, head tilting to the side as he raises the mercenary up off of his feet, "Show me how." Eyes narrow, a focused squint as Kazimir lets one hand tremble, a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. Rational thought, all of it, it's bleeeding away so fast to something primal and uncontrolable, an animalistic hunger that drives him out of his senses, turns the precision of supernatural hearing into so much muffled blood rushing past his ears.

He has to see. He has to see. It's killing him not to.

It may be strange, that the Hunger that so defined Sylar as a monster in his own mind was something that his comrade had never truly seen claim him. Or at least, not in this grotesquely organic, untidy dripping thing that's taken up residence in Sylar's body. Most of the time, Wu-Long is differentiated from his better-socialized counterparts the way that most human beings are, without the biological prerogative or subconscious reliance on making eye-contact. Tonight, he's looking at Sylar's face, analyzing that sickly sheen thicken on his skin and that sick appetite extrude veins in his jaw as he works Kazimir's words out of them. Even as he's caught, even as he's lifted. Looking for weaknesses.

He finds none that offer a guarantee. There aren't a lot of things he can kill that Sylar can't, and he had never had the opportunity to learn if Sylar was one of them.

This time, summoning darkness requires only a twitch of thought. Wu-Long hasn't needed to gesture to call upon his ability for years; the theatrics had been merely that. The net falls over Sylar's head, torso and spans wide, but stops short at his hips, leaving his standing legs protruding from underneath.

Simultaneously, Wu-Long turns to shadow, dropping out of the telekinetic grip with a wild twist like a cat, or an ink drawing of a cat, or the shadow cast by an ink drawing of a cat held up against the light. He falls to the floor and comes roiling toward Sylar's legs like an image of seething animate tar out of Hell, only to latch back onto his physical mass the last moment, skidding a sharp turn on his knees, circling around to fire the Glock at the back of the other man's thigh. Knee, next. Calf, last. The three gunshots scream like thunder below the hang of the null zone, but even that deafening disruption stops dead against its flickering black belly.

The first gunshot rips through the warehouse's silence, following by an ungodly scream of pain that goes silent as the bullet passes through his leg, tearing muscle and shattering bone, a cloud of blood glittering in the air like a swarm before untidily making the cement shine. The second one repeats and forces the monster to crumple, out of the globe of silent darkness, breath coming in rasps, and then… laughter.

Laughter that fills the room as the light seems to dim, in a way that doesn't quite fit with Wu-Long's power. A hazy drain of life that makes what light these is suddenly draw into absence. Wu-Long will feel it too, a sudden, unhealthy prickle over his skin, and veins of shadow seem to creep out from under Kazimir's form. No more blood, only smoke, drawing in the life and vitality of the room and its contents in a hazy aura of lifelessness. Underneath the bullet-turn fabric of his pants, skin closes and beneath that, things begin to repair.

"But first you must hold still," Kazimir growls in Sylar's voice, as if he had gone uninterrupted, and with a flick of his hand, Wu-Long is telekinetically batted aside. A temporary disruption, he knows that now, and he struggles to his feet. Green-blue light suddenly flashes, leaves black marks in the floor as he flings the laser trajectories in Wu-Long's direction, looking to sear flesh, blind, cut tendons - anything.


It's the first time that Sylar has seen this - the surge of primal need beginning to steal away from rational thought. He's felt it, plenty of times. But this is like watching it on the side of a glass screen, one that holds fast even when you beat against it. Distantly, he can feel his own heart race, his own skin prickle, his own thoughts start to cloud and for a second, he could almost give into it himself…


The sudden abrupt flash of pain is distant thunder, and outside, birds flap with alarm that isn't theirs, circling away from the warehouse, until they only veer back. Sylar can see it, flashes of the outside world through their eyes. Help me, he sends. They know only confusion, what does that mean? They'll figure it out when they get there. And they do get there. A flock of black ravens suddenly pour through the high windows, avian cavalry cawing as they dip through the rafters, feathers cutting the air.

Seething tendrils of black rise and lash out from Kazimir's new form, snaking vipers of black smoke that hungrily grasp at the air. The windows erupt with an explosion of birds, glass raining down from high above as ravens, grackels and seagulls from the nearby port come flooding in a haze of black and white feathers. Sylar rises, Kazimir's dark soul making him do so, and his eyes focus up and around on the birds as they come towards him.

"Munin." A misjudgement, a miscalculation, but towards the same result. Holding up one hand, Kazimir focuses the lasers towards the ceiling, tracing winding and zig-zagging patterns that meet with squawking cries of avian bodies as wings are split from bodies, heads are severed from necks, and then in some coup de grace, a pulse of darkness erupts out like an explosion of black fog edged by ashes, and as the birds dive towards Kazimir, their bodies are stripped of flesh, blood and life as ashen clouds of feathers and brittle chalk-dry bones explode against his form. Their lifeless bodies become so many powdery eruptions on the concrete floor, siphoning their meager essences into himself.

No distractions. It's almost irrational now, he has no focus, no meaning. He has to find out what makes Wu-Long…


The situation has deteriorated. Wu-Long is missing a leg. Strictly speaking, half a leg.

The severing could have been measured on a ruler, how straight it is, an oblique angle down from the back and center of the man's thigh and down to the front of his knee, the onion-like cross-section of muscle, tendon, bone, all abbreviated on the same surgically-perfect sizzling plane. Through some miracle of coincidence, the thickest part of his artery is left sealed almost shut with molten skin, leaving the soldier down on his side, the stump of his upper leg flailing in the air. Its other half lies on the floor, still clad in a fraction of a pant leg and disused boot.

Wu-Long stares at the ceiling even as its torn to pieces in helter-skelter geometry. There are no stars. Instead, he sees black wings, hears the havoc of screams, isn't Western enough to be reminded of angels. Deserter he might have been, but there were a few lines he'd never crossed. Never turned a weapon on a comrade in the field. Serves him right.

He isn't thinking straight either or, perhaps, pointlessly, he's trying to hide. He calls darkness, and darkness answers, swirling in at the furthest reach that either his erstwhile master or his — friend? — had ever seen, a three-hundred foot globe that bloats out inside the walls and then through them, flaring, erratic, wild, a light show that consumes the entire building, but shorts out every time Kazimir — Sylar — Kazimir opens the swizz of lazers out into the sky, only to recover again like some deranged strobe light. If he had a little more presence of mind or his sense of irony intact, he might have tried for Morse. Save our souls.

Dully, he's aware his arm is cut up too, and a corner's missing from his earlobe. Relatively minor inconveniences. His lip curls. He bleeds. He feels a scream coming on, and nulls the sound around his own head in a gesture some might see as petulant. His gun is gone.

No, NO, Sylar screams inside his own head - not for Wu-Long, but for the rain and explosions of ash as the birds are murdered. He can feel it, every single one of them, and it's a psychic kind of pain that may as well be physical. Kazimir can't feel it, but Sylar can - his body torn apart limb from limb with searing heat and light, and for a moment, or several repeated ones, he knows the death Santiago went through. He becomes a seething, senseless point of psychic panic within Kazimir, screaming and wordless and impossible to ignore.

But possible to dismiss, like a headache. Nothing, not even Sylar's panicked presence, can get in the way of the hunger that seems powerful enough to blot out the stars. Stars that have nothing to do with the sudden interplay of shadow and light that consumes the space. Patches of deafness, of blindness, disorienting util he lets lasers rip holes through. He winds up on his knees, not entirely sure how he got there, lasers penetrating through the darkness and extended from splayed hands without real rhyme or reason, some deadly, some merely a streak of light. It does it's job.


The name echoes through the space, distorted by the ability gone wild, but when it shimmers through erratically, it doesn't sound like Sylar. It sounds like the screech of multiple voices, male and female, and smokey tendrils of darkness seem to twist out from an extended hand, playing along the invisible telekinetic grip that winds around Wu-Long's remaining ankle. In jerks, the Chinaman is dragged closer, leaving streaks of blood as he goes. There is nothing left but hunger. He's waited too long.

Sylar's scream is a confirmation given notice and lost in the pounding of his own heart. Kazimir struggles forward, lurching like some starving beast as he yanks Wu-Long's bloodied body across the concrete, and with a flick of his wrist turns him right-side up. Stepping over the mercenary, Kazimir's lips pull back into a snarl, "Show me." The globe of darkness was amazing, a large enough field of soundless, sightless umbral perfection that he could block out all life and light within it, he needs this ability, he wants and craves it.

A swift kick is given to Wu-Long's bloodied stump, wetting the tip of Sylar's shoe before he drops down, slamming a knee into the man's shoulder, one hand held out in a choking motion, a low harmonic rumble of telekinetic force pinning Wu-Long down to the ground. "It's up there, in there." His voice ebbs and flows with the sound of countless others, what monster he had become?

But like a dog chasing a car, Kazimir has no idea what to do with Wu-Long once he's grabbed a hold of him. He can feel, smell what is locked away in his skull, but how to open it? Lasers might damage what's inside, too quick, too sharp. Kazimir growls, frustrated, angrily, pushing down with another violent thrust of telekinesis as he straddles Wu-Long's chest, holding out his free hand as a glimmer of black and metal whips through the air.

His cane.

Too much thought, effort, and twisting to use the sword. No, just crack it open, like a coconut. Kazimir stares down at Wu-Long, eyes wide and hands shaking. "Give it to me." He rasps out, before bringing the snarling wolf's head cane down like a hammer.


And Again.

And Again.

There's no real defiance in the face that stares up at Kazimir, even when it goes crimson, moreso, then blacker as runny marrow splurts. There is no reply forthcoming because there isn't enough time between the intervals of the blows that ram down into his skull. The silence bubble around Wu-Long's head ruptures the instant the tip of the man's boot comes tearing into the stub, jacking up the abbreviated limb in the socket of its hip and the air goes clear, suddenly, leaving feathery down and avian arterial spray to fall pink and white in the fluorescent light. He isn't immune to his own pain. He'd have has much luck with bending energy, now, as he would with remembering his — who? — before — it wasn't so very long ago, was it? That he could remember — how —

To run.

His right eye fills with blood and his eyes close, his shattered jaw slack, slimy scarlet around the beginning of a groan. The next smash buckles his teeth in and makes a splintered furrow of his nose.

Somewhere in New York City, a young man grabbed a crystal and cracked open a skull for the first time. In the middle of this space of light and darkness, shadows churning, he relives it with every beat of the cane. Still shaken to the core from the deaths of the flock, Sylar bleats out a pleading No with each bone-cracking smack of the wolf-end of the cane, blood spattering, skull splintering.

How in the world could he have ever enjoyed this?

The hunger that twists through Kazimir's body is a separate, monstrous thing now, as he watches with abstract horror as it devours the host of his body, spirals him into even further madness of the desperate need to learn and to take. Artificial light floods back through, revealing everything, exposing the evidence to both of their two eyes.

You cut, he says, barely over a whisper, but it cuts through the fog of hunger all the same. Cut it open. Telekinesis. I'll show you. I'll show you how to see it.

He found the ability to laugh in his prison, and now, Gabriel Gray finds the ability to cry.

Bloody, feral, uncontrolled. It is all of the things Kazimir Volken wasn't, but is now. Telekinesis is used, but its too late now, and used so wrong, used like a pair of fingers curled around the broken edges of Wu-Long's skull, used to pry the man's head open along the jagged and shattered fractures where blood pumps forth. Fingers find purchase at something soft, slick and wet, and then probe within to the steaming warmth beyond.

"There you are…" Kazimir rasps out, leaning forward as his fingers delve further into the broken rift of his lieutenant's skull, "There you are." But it's like grasping at smoke. Kazimir can feel, can see, can find what is there, the patterns of thought, muscle, and chemical needed to do exactly what Wu-Long does. But it is in his own, bloodied frustration, that the true irony of this brutality is given.

After all of that struggle, and wasted life.

He can't even take the ability.

If Sylar could feel nausea, he would - at the brutal display, perhaps, but more so at the mad-dog way Kazimir pries into Wu-Long's head with all the patience of a ravenous wolf. The cane lies just beside him, coated in a slick red sheet of blood, the same quality of which pools out scarlet beneath Wu-Long's corpse, beneath Kazimir's crouch. It spreads and spreads, touching the ash of Santiago's remains and reflecting the lights hanging above them, rich and in a way, beautiful, until one's eye is drawn back to the hideous display.

Dui bu qi, is shimmered audibly through the psychic plane shared between he and Kazimir, but not at all intended for the latter. Outside, the clouds that hang heavy suddenly crack with thunder and split with lightning, a predictable prelude to the sudden spatter of rain that comes down on the warehouse roof. A memory is conjured, something snatched from his perusal of Chinese culture, of language he'd been inspired to learn from the man lying dead. Xiayu le, Sylar silently tells the corpse - or perhaps a moment of deeper memory in his mind, one that has a smile and eyes that near close when he does so.

The rain shines through the windows, and beats down persistently towards the earth.

Something wrong, Kazimir, Sylar now asks with dark bitterness. Something else you didn't count on?

Kazimir withdraws his fingers from the rift of Wu-Long's skull, thick and heavy droplets of blood falling from curling fingers. "Nothing is wrong…" Kazimir says aloud to the rain, and the man imprisoned within him. Slowly he turns from Wu-Long's corpse, leaving it unceremoniously discarded amongst the other rubble of the warehouse, left with the still bloodied cane at his side; a sentimental heirloom of a life long since past.

Stepping to the bay doors, Kazimir listens to the sound of the rain as the blood drips quietly from his fingertips. Another peal of thunder, the quiet sussurus of rain to back it, and Kazimir lowers his head to look down at the red stain of his hands. "Nothing is wrong…" He echoes, closing his hand into a fist, eyes falling shut.

"And nothing of consequence was lost."

Zhang Wu-Long. The name had too much Yang in it, his mother said. However, her husband insisted, raising the infant up to examine against the light, his indifference to his son's tiny growls and whines of protest belied by the gentleness of his touch. The man said, No need to be a superstitious old witch; it sounds strong, that's all a boy needs out of a name. Five conquering dragons.

The woman looked out of the window and frowned that it was raining on Tianjin that afternoon. This had been another omen whispered through her circle of friends in the twenty-seven years of her life: that the Heavens wept when an evil creature was born, that they would shine when he died.

January 15th: Yours to Remember
January 15th: Painters
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