Dialogue I



Scene Title Dialogue I
Synopsis A group of entities meets on the Deveaux Rooftop — maybe — in Midtown Manhattan (or an approximation of it).
Colour-coded for reader convenience.
Date November 23, 2010


Crumbling skyscrapers stripped down to their steel skeletons are rotten teeth in New York City's lower jaw. There is no better view of Midtown Manhattan than from the Deveaux Building's rooftop where winter winds tug and pull and hair and clothes, and send whorls of snow spinning. Flakes of gray and white gather on dark wool and frostbitten skin, leaving smears on fabric and fingertips when touched. What's falling from the sky has the texture and consistency of ash—

And maybe it should. The skies here are still dark with what seems like smoke, and although the thick, smothering smell of it fills the air, it's no less brittle or crisp.

"I don't think he's coming," says a voice, husky and thick. "Let's get this show on the road."

Booted footsteps crunch over gravel, a gloved hand fishes into a coat pocket and a moment later there's the telltale flick-flick-flick of a cigarette lighter struggling before it finally sneezes flame and licks the tip of a joint pursed between a pair of thin, chapped lips.

"I'm not— are you sure it's safe to be meeting like this? Someone could be eavesdropping…" It's a hesitantly offered question, admittedly one sharply answered.

"He'd notice, seriously. Come on stop being such a pussy. What the hell'r you doing, anyway? What've you been up to this whole time?"

"Being busy." Is the quick, defensive retort.

At the edge of the rooftop, perched on its concrete lip, a solitary pigeon covered in soot gives a flick of its rumpled wings and begins picking through its feathers with its beak, little pink toes curled around what was once part of a decorative sculpture with threads of ivy etched into and woven through it.

A new voice pipes up. Distracted. Resentful. "No one's followed us, trust me. Please. It's the best I can do and— if he doesn't want to come along, then…"

"What do you think we're doing? Same as you. Infiltrating. Mingling. Fitting in. It's what we're here to do, right? What have you been up to?" another voice retorts.

"Maybe he'll get here soon. You sure we shouldn't wait? Or maybe someone should check on him," another voice, a little more uncertain, pipes up.

"Are you volunteering? This's depressing, by the way. I — " there's a moment of distracted (male) pause from the conversation's outskirts, some smeary scuffing of a hand to worn wool, "am officially depressed."

The cigarette wielder's mouth curves around a humourless smile at that. Smoke trails from flaring nostrils, joining the fog that escapes noses and mouths with every breath, hanging heavily in the air like a shapeless specter fueled by the conversation, which comes from left and right, front and back. "Are you ever not?"

"You should cheer up." Another new voice chimes in from the side. "You don't think he's having second thoughts— ?"

A quiet voice interrupts. "We all know what we signed up for. But I do agree, someone should check on him. Make sure nothing happened."

"As long as it ain't me," a tired male voice says, rough and exhausted.

"Can we focus here, people?" Something gold winks at the column of the speaker's throat. Hands find pockets, shoulders hunched against the cold. "What's the situation in New York City like, and is it safe to come back?"

"You know…" Elaborate boredom, a voice that's focused more on some distant corner— projected towards the ruined city center— than the people that surrounds it. "I can think of at least ten things I'd rather be doing, so maybe if we can just-"

"Can— can you all just stop? Goodness. New York City, what's happening?"

"It's full of people I don't give a shit about. Sorry if that bothers any'a you, but really. I don't like all this sneaking around shit, can we just drop the fuckin' hammer and be done?"

"Well, I can't look for him, so someone else could, instead of just assuming he doesn't wanna be here. He could be in trouble, you know," the uncertain voice says, a little more softly after the reprimand and call back to attention.

"Safe's relative, I think. If you keep your heads low and your eyes open, I think it's okay to be back. It's not like it's any more dangerous than anywhere else, I don't think. And it's not like we're here to duck our heads and hide in a corner, right? It's what we signed up for."

"Well ignorance is bliss, Bigums," sounds a touch (a touch) whiny in the slightly dramatic drawl of that more nasal male contribution. "'Ask questions later' patrols are still in effect throughout the city, especially after hours. So long as the lot've you can avoid fucking up you should be fine."

"Most of us can get around them, but even that is all suspicious," the chipper voice says.

"I think it will be safe to come back." Calm and devoid of major emotions, this voice still warns, "As long as you're careful. Seek the guidance of those you have placed yourself close to. The more vulnerable you appear, the less likely they are to suspect anything other than kinship."

"And more likely to buy you coffee too," the tired voice speaks up. A moment later he adds on, defensively, "I like the coffee, okay?"

"Guess I'm the only one who takes offense t' people he don't give a shit about." Teeth clamp down around the cigarette's filter. "Look. Does anyone have anything we can use t'— drop the hammer, as he so fuckin' put it? What's happening on Pollepel?"

"No, we don't, and that's to be expected!" A hiss of a sigh, this voice edged with tension and a kind of weary tone that doesn't translate to physical tiredness. Mental exhaustion. "Don't expect short term solutions or we'll fail. These people are smart. We need to watch, we need to befriend. Pollepel— "

"Is full of fuckin' rats. It was before and it is now."

"No. Pollepel has several…" A speculative pause. "…names of interest. We need to stay. We lose them and we might as well retire."

Grumbling, "Hey kiddo, you hear that?" It's sarcastically offered, "he said if you can avoid fucking up."

"S— shut up! I'm perfectly capable, as much as the rest of you. I'm almost done my assignment, what about you?"


"You don't get to whatever me. Jerk." Huffy and entitled, the young woman's voice snaps back. "Come on, that can't be all that's going on there."


"Out with it."

"Jesus, fuck— Fine. Beauchamp found my compass. Christ."

"How the hell did that happen? And why didn't you say something sooner? I swear to God…" The uncertainty is gone, the soft voice growing a little louder and more snappish as well. There is an irritated sigh of exasperation. "Maybe it's best if a few of you leave the island and branch out, find intel on the other names we have? Some of us can stay, keep our ears to the ground."

"What the fuck, man? What'd you tell her?" This is all but growled in irritation, a fierce scowl accompanying the words.

"Wh — how long've you people even fucking been there?" in the background. "Long enough to've gotten heads and thumbs up asses." He answers himself. Also in the background.

The emotionless voice sighs. "I warned you about her. She's not good at lying, and she's not good at keeping secrets. You can bet that some of the important people there will know soon enough."

"Smooth. I'll stick where I am, but… I don't think I'm in any position to drop hammers."

"I might be able to do a little more," the tired voice has woken up a bit. "But I can't promise anything. I'll keep you updated on anything I find out."

"Maybe it's not too late. Maybe he could tell her— Maybe he could tell her he picked it up at a flea market, or that it's a family heirloom—"

Lightning crackles through the sky that seems apathetic to the destruction of Midtown below it, a rumble of thunder making the bones of the building they stand on shiver. Someone clears their throat. "If they suspect anything," is quiet, despite the drama of a storm that isn't shedding rain, "they haven't acted on it. And it's been since the 8th." Of course, is the acid addition in tone, but it's all the argument that is summoned.

"I'm gladly bailing on that place, because fuck that noise. My target's elsewhere. You havin' any success?"

"Fuck you. Yeah, I've been sitting around and what, vacationing on Pollepel, right? Just dawdling. Because that's like me, right? So sorry I haven't gotten a full report to you, by now." This voice is no longer soft, but sharp and acerbic.

"Not in any — very strict …sense of the word, no. Un-strictly speaking, I have found a place to camp and met a very nice — ma-sseuse — " He cuts off short in the face of an incoming fuck you and so on, a wincing retract and hunch written into tell-tale silence. Hold please.

"Hello? Earth to Jerkface, how are you going to cover up the compass thing?"

Snapping back rather quickly as the lightning builds with a rumbling crescendo of thunder, the man who lost the compass seems to be on the defensive, emotionally. "Fuck you all, it's just Beauchamp. Seriously. I'll just tell her I was part of the Carnival or some shit, this isn't fuckin' rocket science."

"I think Beauchamp has a soft spot though she's suspicious. And after what happened to the council… she's probably going to make sure everyone in their leadership's aware of anything out of the ordinary. Can you blame her?" This offering is soft once again, snappishness still tinging the words though more thoughtful and musing than her prior outburst.

"Then those of us who aren't obviously connected to Jackass here should keep our distance. Spread out the resources," a lower voice says. "Maybe some of you should split up, head off the island before the scrutiny gets too tight?"

"We need to stay calm," the soft rumbly voice states, somehow seeming patient with the behavior and various emotional states. "But those of you that stay, keep an eye on Beauchamp. Don't let her leave."

"Far as I can tell no one suspects me," the tired voice adds in, awakened, but still has a worn out quality, like someone who isn't getting a lot of restful sleep.

"Yeah, your job's so hard," the younger voice, with a cheerful quality says, sarcasm thick.

"I actually have a job."

In response, there's the always mature sound of a raspberry being blown.

"Something tells me we're not gonna accomplish much more here tonight. Call it a hunch." Dark eyes lift to regard paler ones on the other side of the circle before the speaker is turning their face away again and removing a gloved hand from their jacket pocket to peel away strands of hair caught in the corner of their mouth. The set of their rounded jaw is firm, annoyed, and they wear an expression that asks: And is it any wonder?

"'m agreed."

There's a soft chuckle, a little rueful and sad. "Meeting adjourned. Ladies, gentlemen… go get some sleep." A scuff of boots on the rooftop, a step of retraction as if to break an already broken circle. "You'll need it."

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