Chimera Cornered


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Scene Title Chimera Cornered
Synopsis Agent Sawyer tracks down Nicolas Ahlgren to confront him about the implicating evidence. It doesn't exactly go as expected.
Date July 3, 2010

Deveaux Building Rooftop, Upper West Side

The night sky is clear, although that is fairly meaningless when urban light pollution hides the stars — even here, at the edge of demolished Midtown, a place where there are no lights on one side; none at all. The moon hasn't risen yet.

Two small, crumpled structures sit neglected around the edges of a tiled patio, remnants of what may once have been greenhouses; no light brightens the rooftop surface, leaving piles of debris — splintered boards and chunks of broken concrete — to pose considerable navigational hazard in the shadows. It's easy to miss the man sitting here, his back against the boundary wall, beneath a stonework ornament of angels and oval frame. His blonde hair doesn't stand out well in the darkness; his clothes, somber shades of dark blue and gray, contrast even less. Hands tucked out of sight in his lap, shoulders bowed forward, he looks like he could be sleeping, or perhaps meditating; appearances are deceiving in this lack of light, when they are seen at all.

What doesn't let Veronica miss him entirely is the handheld unit she was given, one linked to the servers monitoring Ahlgren's isotope trace — and at short range able to detect the signal itself, making up the finer resolution satellites lack. R&D is one division that almost never stops working, whether or not their prototypes ever reach a stage agents might see.

The agent approaches, footfalls as quiet as she can make the on the patio full of debris. Her taser is in her right hand. It takes a moment of squinting through the darkness and down at the display of the device that tells her Ahlgren is here, to make out his form. Aiming at him, she steps closer, to be sure she has a clear shot, should he try to injure her.

"Doctor Ahlgren," she says, her husky voice as neutral as she can make it, "please keep your hands where I can see them. I have some questions regarding the case you and I were discussing last time, if you would be so kind to give me a few moments of your time." Once upon a time, she may have tased first and asked questions later, but Veronica has learned that things are often not what they seem. Scratch that. Usually not what they seem.

The man's head lifts slightly as the agent speaks; his expression is obscured by the dark night. "Miss Sawyer," he says, amiably polite, his enunciation of each syllable curiously careful and precise. "Forgive me… not rising to greet you." Ahlgren pauses, but doesn't let the silence stretch overlong. "You may, of course," he continues, "have as much of my time as you please."

The agent tilts her head as she comes closer, eyes sweeping the area for any thing that might be a weapon he can grab or that might suggest Ahlgren himself has been injured or hurt. Any syringes like the one found at the O Lounge. "Lee said you've been out ill. It looks like this might in fact be the case. Are you hurt? Did someone hurt you? I expected you would be in your apartment, if you were feeling under the weather." Her words lilt upwards, making the statement into a question of sorts, inviting him to fill in the gaps.

Ahlgren grunts softly, the sardonic lift to his lips lost in shadow. "There are, I think, many shades of under the weather." Tilting his head back, he looks to the shape of the wall behind him, considering it for a moment — but, in the end, he makes no move. No attempt to get up, although with proximity it becomes more clear that one extended foot is — shaking? The invitation offered is apparently denied, as Ahlgren fails to answer her queries. "This place has a remarkable view. I am sorry you cannot see it now."

"Ahlgren," Veronica says, "I'm going to cut to the chase. Right now you seem to be a suspect in this case, except for the fact that you look like you're possibly injured. You need to tell me what you know. Did you hurt Ritchie, Green, that dog? Listen, if your power is out of your control somehow, we'll get you help. If someone else has hurt you, you need to tell me what happened so I can find them and keep this from happening again. Tell me what's going on." As she speaks, the taser continues to point at him, ready to shoot should he make a sudden motion.

"My apologies," Ahlgren replies, with a brief, self-deprecating chuckle. "Old habits." Reaching up, he hooks an elbow over the edge of the low wall, leaning on it as a lever to pull himself up; there's nothing sudden about his actions, each one carefully planned and deliberately followed through… particularly as he doesn't at any point grab the lip of concrete, which would be far quicker and surer an approach. It seems to be all he can do to lean against one of the angel figures, almost experimentally squaring his feet beneath him, studying them closely as if unsure they'll hold his weight.

"Which explains nothing to you, I know," he finally continues, after the long pause of his rise. "To put it simply: yes," Ahlgren answers wearily, looking over to Veronica. "Yes, it was me. As for what is going on…" He smiles, faint and wry, the expression more visible now that his face is well above the wall's overhang. "I admit to hoping you will do me a favor."

As he rises, Veronica slips the tracking device into her pocket, her hand resting then near her firearm, allowing him to see it should he try anything. The taser is still held, rising along with its target. She frowns as he admits it was him as blandly as if he was owning up to being the colleague who left the microwave a mess in the break room.

"I see," she says, raising a brow. "Clearly, all this activity is taking its toll on your health. Is this a new aspect to your power? As far as favors go, we'll see. I'm not sure I'm in the giving mood, since one of my coworkers has been killed and my time's been wasted being sent on wild goose chases, on account of getting the wrong information in lab reports, you know?"

The man before her chuckles softly, paying the implied menace of her firearm less heed than the dry wit of her words. "The survival imperative is a remarkable thing," Ahlgren observes mildly. "Even when you know your doom, your instincts deny it. I am sorry for that." He straightens, but only to sidestep far enough that the statuary is no longer behind him, boosting himself up to sit on the walltop.

"My power — changed, or perhaps grew, quite some time ago. I thought nothing of it, never intended to use it. But — times change." Another rueful smile tugs at the man's lips. "I had hoped —" His fingers splay wide, then curl closed. "But there are no answers, not here. Life could not be so generous." He shakes his head slowly. "I am dying, Miss Sawyer; it is nothing so — treatable — as an ability. It will be the long, slow decay of living death, as my body ceases to obey a mind which remains alert." He says this just as blithely as his admission of guilt; either Nicolas doesn't care — or he believes he's accepted it, come to terms. "Which, perhaps, brings us to what I would ask." Ahlgren pauses, blue gaze level upon Veronica.

The agent's brows knit together, listening, nodding slowly. "I'm sorry to hear that," she says quietly. The vague description of his illness suggests, to the doctor's daughter, degenerative diseases, none of which are kind to watch, none of which are kind to live through. Of course, terminal disease doesn't excuse a man for killing others, especially for the kind of painful, excruciating deaths that the victims of Ahlgren's ability must have suffered.

"I can't promise anything, especially if it means that others might be hurt, but I'm listening," she adds, gesturing for him to continue.

Ahlgren tips his head slightly, as if weighing Veronica's words. Blue eyes drop to the holster at her hip, then to the tiles beneath the agent's feet. "Set down your sidearm," he states quietly.

The sidearm. Not the taser.

Veronica gives a slow shake of her head, confusion contorting her features in that way that makes her look more like a confused young girl than a Company agent. Slowly understanding creeps into her face; her lips part and she takes a step back. Perhaps, if she had followed in the footsteps of her father as she had once planned, she would have received a similar request for assistance in seeking death — euthanasia. As it is, the survival instinct that she carries along with her paradoxical death wish makes her balk at the request.

Still, she knows there is no life for the man once she takes him into custody. She's seen the near-corpses, breathing negation gas through tubes, on gurneys. And if she lets him flee, Ahlgren has who-knows-how-long of degeneration and pain, a fugitive from both the Company and the reaper. The reaper always wins.

She swallows and reaches into the holster, pulling the gun out. "Hit me first," she tells him in a whisper, reaching down to set the gun on the ground as he asked, taser still ready to shoot should this go awry. She stands again, gesturing to her cheek. "Punch me. I can tell them you surprised me and grabbed my gun." Clearly, she trusts that he won't be able to hurt her enough to actually kill her, or she trusts her ability to protect herself if he tries to.

Ahlgren regards Vee for a moment after she replies, then steps forward, each movement slow and careful with his habitual attention to control. It certainly seems a nonthreatening approach, for all that he walks right up into her personal space — and with the eight-inch difference in their heights, he can definitely be said to loom. Even when no overt menace is intended. "You are either very brave, Miss Sawyer," he observes, "or very foolish."

He doesn't hit her face. Ahlgren knows enough biology, and forensics, to know better: if he's going to 'grab her gun', she needs to be disabled, not just given a pretty bruise.

Given that she's just standing there, the fist to Veronica's solar plexus might as well have been a ton of bricks.

True, there is no follow-up, as she's left gasping for air; just Ahlgren dropping down to kneel beside her, one broad hand on the agent's shoulder, two fingers pressing firmly against the angle of her jaw as if to fix the direction of her head, slight tremors communicated through that contact. Veronica can see his other hand come into her field of view, reaching for the discarded weapon, also shaking noticeably.

"You know I've heard that before—" she remarks dryly.

The air knocked out of her, Veronica stumbles, body bowing forward, sinking to one knee. Her free arm wraps around her middle instinctively, as she gapes for a breath that does not yet come. The hand holding the taser drops for a moment, thanks to the force of the hit, but rises again, once more trained on his form, should that gun he is reaching for rise to point at her and not himself. She can't quite manage to speak, and the adrenaline running through her body throws everything into a sharper, almost painful focus. She's afraid, more than she can remember being, afraid she's trusted the wrong person yet again, afraid that her understanding of a dying soul's wishes and needs might just have been wrong, that he might pull the trigger on her.

That this might be her last breath, painful as it is once she finally manages to suck some oxygen back into her lungs.

If she's wrong, the agent has to hope that she can pull the taser trigger faster than he can pull her firearm's; though her head is pushed to one side, her dark eyes, a little blurry with the tears that accompanied the blow to her body, struggle to watch through their corners, try to fix on the motions of the hand that reaches for her gun.

The sidearm passes out of her view, or at least direct and clear vision; she can glimpse it in motion at the periphery, the length and breadth of its profile. The click of the slide drawing back comes slowly, and the heart's beat of silence after is frighteningly, nerve-wrackingly ominous.

"My thanks, Miss Sawyer."

The report of a shot fired is deafening at this close proximity.

It takes a full ten seconds afterwards for Veronica to realize she really is still breathing.

The man slumped against her shoulder, gun in hand but that hand fallen limp to the ground, is decidedly not.

A moment after the gunshot, Veronica finally looks, then closes her eyes. She pulls out her cell phone, the taser holstered. The firearm will have to stay where it is, to serve as evidence that Ahlgren shot himself. Shaking hands manage to punch the correct buttons with only a couple of backspaces due to fumbling fingers.

"Sawyer here. It was Ahlgren. He shot himself. Send someone for the body," she murmurs, voice a little tremulous as the adrenaline fades and she's left with yet another of the Company's own, dead by her own firearm, if not by her hand. "Thanks." She pushes end and turns from her kneeling position into a sitting one, back against the wall of the balcony, a few feet away from the dead body.

"May you find peace, wherever you are, doctor," she murmurs, eyes closed — though the image seems burned on her retinas, still there when she closes her eyes. It will take a long time to fade.

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