Carry On


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Scene Title Carry On
Synopsis Though Natalie Gray is dead and gone, two members of the Convoy touched by her death will carry on.
Date July 5, 2021

The overpass where Natalie Gray's march had finally ended remains much as it had been an hour before: a desolate ruin, isolated and undisturbed. The sky is darker, the slate gray clouds overhead seeming more sullen with the passing of time, the activity in the distance stilled — whatever could be done has been done for the moment.

Silas and Eve, too, are absent — the former having borne Natalie's body away as soon as he'd checked to see that Chess hadn't needed his help, the latter having exited at some point after.

All that remains is the gloom of the leaden sky and the silence that had once been marked by songbirds.

Broadway Street
Ruins of Toledo

July 5th
8:13 pm

Chess hasn’t moved from the spot. Pale eyes stare off into the pale sky; her good drags patterns in the dust and gravel she sits amidst, while the arm that’s nearly useless is cradled in her lap. There’s a park in the distance she can see from the elevated section of highway, overgrown and wild. Now and then, a bird takes sudden flight into the sky and catches her sight; she turns her head to watch it, before it alights again on another tree’s branch.

Miles’ voice echoes in her ear, reading Henry VIII: ‘But as when the bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix, her ashes new create another heir.’

It isn’t about worth, Natalie had said, but about strength. Chess doesn’t feel strong. She picks up one of the larger pebbles to charge in her hand, taking comfort in that familiar warmth.

"You're gonna catch a cold," a low, tired voice calls from a distance away, and Silas Mackenzie emerges from the shadows. Except… it'd probably be fairer to say that he's suddenly there in the shadows, because he's not moving — he's just leaning bonelessly against a slab of concrete. "If you don't get in before nightfall, I mean. It's summer, but the night air doesn't do anyone any good, 'specially not with a river nearby. Dewpoint and all." His voice sounds flat and worn.

Chess’ eyes lift to find Silas’ form – there’s no startle or jump in her own, which is a testament to how exhausted she is. After the ambush, normally her nerves would be on high alert, at flashpoint, but there’s almost nothing left in her. She feels hollow, and yet filled with that new energy that’s different from the kinetic energy that always thrums in her like a hive of agitated bees.

“Are you from a Victorian novel?” she wonders, one corner of her mouth tipping upward in an approximation of a smile. “Where the heroines get a little damp and suddenly have consumption?”

But the smile isn’t able to stand for long, and slips away again. She looks off in the direction Silas had taken Natalie’s body, her brow creasing, before Chess looks up at him again.

“I’m sorry,” she says, suddenly. “For your loss, I mean. I didn’t know her before, like, yesterday.” It’s a clumsy condolence, but sincere.

"Good God, I hope not," Silas says, mouth curving into an actual smile of his own. "It was all the asbestos they packed into their walls that gave everyone consumption anyway, not the moisture," he says, huffing out a tired breath that would've been a laugh under other circumstances.

He shakes his head at Chess's condolences. "Not your fault," he says leadenly, shuffling forward to find a leaning perch that's a bit closer. He moves slowly, picking his steps carefully before he finds another slab of concrete to slouch bonelessly against. "Not your fault," he repeats, more quietly, closing his eyes.

He lets out a slow, quiet breath. "She was the second one I met when I got sent back here, you know," Silas says at last, opening his eyes. For a moment he seems to be looking somewhere past Chess, off to the side, before his gaze finds her again. "Else was first — pulled me aboard her little rowboat, off in the middle of the Atlantic — but it was Natalie who ferried us to the north. Towards home."

“That and the tuberculosis. Sad that one of those two could have been avoided, but history shows humans aren’t great at making good choices, right?” Her smile is tired, slipping again as she glances down to study the pebble in her hand. It’s nothing so dangerous or interesting as asbestos, simply granite, but in her hands it’s plenty dangerous… as Ren found out.

“I’m glad that they were there for you,” she says quietly. “She seemed kind.” It’s said in that polite way people have, talking about someone they didn’t know whose life has left a mark on another. Natalie’s left a mark on Chess, too, but without the warm memories to accompany it.

“I don’t… my power’s always been destructive. I don’t know how to be like her.” Her lips tremble and she presses them into a flat line, before she looks over her shoulder. “How’s everyone else?”

"She was," Silas says simply, closing his eyes again.

Chess's question goes unanswered for awhile. "Dunno. I… haven't really been feelin' like doing the people thing either," he says in that off-handed way. "So I haven't been." When he opens his eyes, he's staring at nothing. "Only two fatalities on our side, as far as I've heard — Natalie and Walker. Both sustained during the first few seconds of the ambush."

"Walker got high-centered by a sniper, dead before he even realized. Natalie took shrapnel, got an artery… she had awhile longer, did her best to make the most of it. Did make the most of it. Ryans and Saffron both took some nasty injuries, but Natalie was able to save them. LeRoux got healed up, too — you'd have to ask Richard for the details on that. Glad she made it; she was on the Ark when I crossed over the first time."

Silas pauses. "She was, though. Kind, I mean. I remember… Monica was talking about things she could've done to try to prevent this. Which is dubious, by the by. Don't get me wrong, she's fierce in a fight, but even she'd be hard pressed to block a sniper bullet she doesn't know is coming. But she's never liked losing people. Don't blame her; neither do I."

He closes his eyes again, and this time there's an expression of pain on his face. "Natalie told her… bad things happen, and it’s not because you did anything less. Sometimes the world is cruel, and no amount of good intentions can fix that. Don’t focus on failures, focus on kindness. Because when the world is at its darkest… kindness is the one thing only we can make."

After a moment, Silas turns his head, looking at Chess, eyes blinking. "I told her I'd pass those words around. I guess I'm startin' here. If you wanna honor her legacy… there's where you start."

Then he chuckles, leaning back again. "Or that's my two cents."

Chess listens, lashes dipping as she turns the little rock in her fingers. “I was with them. Ryans, Castle – Saffron,” she corrects, if he isn’t up on that other name, “Nat. I have some regrets there, too.”

Her eyes lift to stare out at the gray sky in the distance. “I was mad, and I went for the offense first, instead of protection. I have an aspect of my abilities that serves as a shield, but it’s new, compared to the ‘throw shit and blow shit up’ part of my ability. I defaulted to that, to revenge.”

She throws the rock, and it explodes like a tiny firework several yards away. “I can’t help but think that the people with me might not have gotten so hurt if I had shielded them instead.” She glances back at the scene, the collapsed section of highway and the rest of the convoy behind it. “I couldn’t have protected everyone, though.”

Her blue eyes find his face, and she murmurs, “‘Beneficence is a duty,’” before her brows crease again. “I have a lot of people’s legacies to honor, Silas. That's why I’m here in the first place.”

A tear runs down her cheek; Chess brushes it away with irritation. “Please don’t think I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m just… tired.”

"Yeah, guess you were there, weren't you. Heh. Sorry, not… really thinkin' the clearest at the moment," Silas admits with a sigh. "Anyway, they're okay. Aside from Walker and Doc Gray, everyone's okay." Physically, at least, he thinks, but does not say.

"I don't think you're feelin' sorry for yourself," Silas says, giving a tired but sincere grin, his gaze settling on Chess for a moment; the smile is interrupted by a grimace as he rubs at his eyes for a moment, but it returns quickly enough as his eyes find her again. "We're all tired right now; it's been… a really bad day. It's not a crime to take some time for yourself… or if it is, they can try the both of us together. Legacies…"

He pauses for a moment, falling silent as he considers his words; when he speaks again, his voice is lower, his cadence more measured. "Legacies can give us strength, but they can get awfully heavy sometimes. Don't let them crush you, okay? I don't know what else you're carrying, but I know Natalie wouldn't have wanted that."

Her hand reaches for another rock, though this one she simply rolls in her palm, charging it with kinetic energy and un-charging it like a low-tech but high-powered fidget toy. “None of them would want that,” she agrees. “I just want to be worthy of their sacrifices, you know?”

She’s quiet for a moment, then glances over at him. “You met Kimberly. I don’t know if you know we aren’t sisters in the normal manner. I didn’t even know she existed until a couple years ago,” Chess explains. “We were made. Clones. Not like Adam’s, but in a lab, test tube babies and each carried in different surrogates.”

Her blue eyes study the darkening sky for a moment, and that sudden bit of information seems to have no particular point, until Chess speaks again. “It’s hard, when you feel like you were created like a tool for a particular purpose – which I failed at, by the way. And now I have this, and I feel like a tool in another way, when I just want to fucking be.”

"Far as I'm concerned you are," Silas offers off-handedly on the question of worth. "You're tryin' your best. What more would they ask for? And I say would there, not could." There's an important distinction between what someone could ask for and what someone would ask for, but Silas isn't going to spell it out; he's always gotten more mileage out of conclusions he reached on his own.

He nods when Chess mentions clones; it's still a little hard for him to wrap his head around, but at this point he's learned the hard way that there are more things on heaven and earth than he'd ever dreamt of, so he's not going to boggle too much over that. Not, at least, until Chess puts some context on it.

At that, Silas frowns, squinting his eyes at Chess as if to study her. "If you'll permit an old man to extemporize a bit… I don't think it really matters all that much what purpose someone created you for. If they saw you like some kind of… 'sea-monkey'," Silas says, grinning as he calls back Chess's own words from another conversation, less than a month and more than a lifetime ago, "…then that just means they've gone blind in their old age. Because the second you started to think, what started mattering was what you chose. And you're choosin' to move forward. To try to save… what you can," Silas says, his expression falling for a moment as the added grief of his own world's future gutpunches him anew.

He lets out a slow, heavy breath, and looks back to Chess again — Chess, with her eyes now blue, as something else she's said strikes home. "What was it Natalie gave you, anyway?"

At his kind words, her brow draws together and she presses her lips together to keep back the sob that wants to escape. Her eyes fill with tears, and she simply nods – in thanks or agreement, it’s hard to tell.

The question, though, is easier to reply to, and yet harder at the same time. “The healing ability, it’s… perennial? Eternal? I’m not sure, but it gets passed on, from one user to the next, I guess in death.”

She frowns – the word sounds so blunt, so final, when just beside her, Natalie Gray had died so very recently. “Eve saw it in a vision. I tried to avoid my fate, but it caught up to me.” Her smile returns, a little lopsided, and very tired. “I guess I just have to figure out how to use it and do what good I can while I have it.”

Silas narrows his eyes, peering at Chess for a bit. "Huh. That's… something," he says, frowning. And yet… it does explain a few things, doesn't it? Like how she could heal and command birds at the same time. But where did she get it from? he wonders. And did those goons who came after the Starling know about it? Because if so… it makes a lot more sense as to why Natalie was hiding on a ghost ship.

The question of how to use that healing ability is the more important one for the moment, though, and unfortunately Silas doesn't have a clue for that one. "All I can tell you is that for Natalie, healing took a toll. Not one for one, obviously, but… she was running on fumes by the time she got to you, else she'd probably have tried to help you out a bit," he says apologetically.
"Although… maybe it's more related to how fast she heals? She could apparently heal some early stage stuff without anyone bein' the wiser," Silas muses, then shakes his head; he's not equipped to handle this problem, as much as he might like to.

There is, however, a problem at hand he might be able to help out with. "Anyway. I wanted to at least offer you a hand gettin' back a little closer to camp, 'fore the night airs visited consumption upon you," Silas says, in an absolutely terrible attempt at a Victorian affectation. "I can lend you a shoulder to lean on if you need it; help you get somewhere a little less exposed. Get you there unseen, if you like. I'd rather do it that way, if I'm bein' honest. I'm… still not feeling up to crowds."

“Duly noted. There’s always a balance, right? Yīnyáng,” Chess says, the Mandarin word spoken in near-native fluency, a sing-song quality to the two syllables. “Yin and yang. It’s that way with my other ability too, though probably not as dangerous.”

She smiles at his quaint offer to help her, and his confession that he’d rather do it stealthily. “I appreciate that and will happily skulk around with you. It’s very people-y out there.” She offers her good hand to him, trying to tuck one foot beneath herself to help push herself up without the benefit of the other.

“If no one’s told you lately, you’re a good human,” she adds, and once she’s up on her feet, she squeezes his hand in appreciation.

Silas lets out a soft chuckle at that, but he doesn't have the steam to try and argue her compliment, so he'll just accept it — even if he's not so sure, himself. Even if he wonders how true it is.

But doubts can wait until the dark of night; Silas already knows they'll be visiting him then, in earnest. For now, there's the march to be made. "Then away we go," he says, shrouding the two of them as he starts to walk. He sets a careful pace, aiming in the general direction of the rest of the Convoy but letting Chess guide to where, exactly, she wants to go. He'd made a very similar journey out here with Natalie Gray, an hour ago; now, with Chess, he's making that journey in reverse. Still moving forward, though, he thinks. Still carrying on.

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