Scene Title Chiaroscuro
Synopsis You have two options.
Date June 14, 2018

He tumbles down the stairs.

“Jim? Yeah, he started working here right after the war ended. Good guy.”

His shoulder strikes the wall, legs going over his head, rolling, crashing, the world is spinning.

“Yeah, I know Jim. I think he said something about working security once. Why?”

He loses a boot in the fall, loose laces coming undone, the shoe finding its way between stairs and railing to disappear into the lightless water a few floors below.

“Oh Jimbo? Yeah! We fought together during the war up in Mass. He worked security for some company up there, I don't think he ever said who. You interested in hiring him or something?”

When he reaches the landing at the bottom of the stairs, he lays in a bleeding heap. There's a turn, more stairs, but they only descend down to broken concrete and twisted rebar hitting up out of ice cold water. The Ruins of Queens are such an inhospitable place.

“Jim Hawke? Yeah, yeah I know where he worked. It'll cost you another hundred bucks if you wanna’ know, though.”

Footsteps descend the stairs above, shoes scuffing grit into concrete, blue eyes burning in the dark that peer down at where he struggles to get up into his hands and knees. Her descent is slow and steady, measured, patient. He looks up, stammering our incoherently fearful half-words.

“Jim Hawke ain't his real name. It's Patrick Lynch, and he was security detail for the Commonwealth Institute. He was a Retriever.”

Patrick looks up to the blue eyes in the dark, a single shaft of daylight burning down from overhead hits him like a spotlight and throws the rest of the stairwell into deep darkness. “Please,” he manages to blurt out, watching those horrible eyes.


Nathalie LeRoux reaches the bottom of the stairs, her boots grinding grit against concrete, hands balled into fists. Patrick takes one look up at her, trembling, and pleads again.


Eyes study him with snake-like curiosity. He's already experienced the fangs, he knows that stare is a warning. A sigh is the only response to his plea. That, and a foot slamming into his gut. As he hits the ground, her boot presses his face downward. The rocks and dirt dig into his cheek under her weight.

Please means little to her now, as it meant little to him then.

With her foot holding him in place, her fingers pry open his wallet. Not even a glance is spared for his money, she pulls out an ID. There's a splash as the rest of the wallet hits the water. Those eyes examine the identification, flipping it over in her hands, noting the quality of the work. Some things need to be appreciated.

Patrick has to wait.

But not long.

Nathalie's boot lifts and she crouches next to him. A finger touches his nose. It could almost be a playful gesture, childlike for a passing moment. It's a fleeting hope. The pain is steady, when it comes, eating away at him while she looks on.


The scream comes belatedly, a writhing and agonized thing as he tries to recoil from the touch, but remains pinned by her heel. The tip of his nose has turned black like frostbite, veins under the skin likewise ashy in coloration. He draws in a sharp breath, teeth gnashed together.

No.” He recognizes her now, from the commune in Mexico, from the Arcology. “No fucking way. No fucking way!” There's still some fight left in Mr. Lynch, and with his one good arm he's reaching for a knife in his belt, but comes just a little short as fingertips fail to find purchase on the handle.

Relief comes when he moves for the knife. Her hand moves more surely, pulling out the knife and thrusting it through his hand, pinning it to his side in one smooth movement. Her expression remains unchanged, only her eyes flick from place to place before settling back on his face.

"Do you know what this is, Mr. Lynch?" Her voice is cold, hard and not much like the young girl he remembers. She had been a frightened child at the time. She isn't anymore. She might like him to be, though. That's the aim when her fingers brush against his forehead, pushing his hair back from his face as if the unruliness of it were inappropriate for the occasion.

Screams of whole new varieties join the previously pained yowling when that knife is driven between finger bones and into the soft, yielding flesh above his hip. Nathalie’s fingertip traces a scorched mark of black across Patrick’s brow, blistering dry and splitting enough to reveal bare bone at times. His answer to her question is a howl.

If he knows beyond the most superficial means, his only means of conveying it are panicked screams, pulsing blood, and the stink of decaying flesh. All of this feels familiar to Nathalie, and all of it feels right. But at the same time, a part of her twinges against the torture.

Pushing her palm against his face, Nathalie shifts gears. Wounds slowly knit back together, an unsettling feeling in its own way. She pulls the knife out of him and tosses it into the water, too. It comes with the impression that he is lucky that he isn't getting tossed in there as well.

"You have two choices. Turn yourself in," she says as she slides his ID into his shirt pocket, "or we'll have to meet again."

She pushes herself up when she deems him well enough, boot nudging him as if to test how his internal injuries are doing.

"I don't want to see you again."

Blue eyes look down at him, promising that he doesn't want to see her again, either.

Patrick is reduced to a trembling heap on the concrete landing, hands cradling his face, keeping noises escaping his mouth. The pain has, miraculously, subsided and been replaced with a more terrifying pain than the physical. An emotional pain, and a deeply-driven fear of the past coming back to take penance on misbegotten deeds.

When Patrick looks up from where he is tightly curled, he sees no feet waiting for him. Frantically, he looks around, finding concrete walls and footsteps in the dust where a woman once stood, but nothing else. No blue eyes in the dark, no specter haunting his periphery. Blood soaks his clothing, and yet there is no injury. His fingers come up wet from his side, and yet there is no wound.

Jaw trembling, Patrick stares into the darkness, while sitting in a single shaft of light.

The contrast is blinding.

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