Earn Your Name


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Scene Title Earn Your Name
Synopsis John Logan is summoned by Kazimir Volken for a special assignment.
Date January 12, 2012

Manhattan is an island of tombstones. Each gray monolith rising from its streets a monument to billions dead. Humanity’s brief death throes when they attempted to destroy the Vanguard extended the ruins that already claimed Midtown, the fires that spread uncontrolled in the wake of humanity’s death knell pushed it further. Now it is just a grave, a concrete epitaph to a world now dead.

It is from the 102 floor observatory atop the Empire State Building that Kazimir Volken designs to watch the world die. The spacious single room observatory, with its fifteen foot tall windows, gives a panoramic view of the apocalypse. The glass in the windows were blown out by the bomb years ago, and that glass still litters the floor. Tattered blue tarps gutter and flap in the wind, even as howling wind and driving rain batter the skyscraper.

Standing in one of those blown out windows, looking out onto the balcony, Kazimir’s silhouette is a wedge of ink blank. Broad shoulders are squared, hands folded in front of himself and clasped atop his snarling wolf’s head cane. Gray hair is swept away from his face weathered by sudden and advanced age. He waits here in contemplative silence, not for the end of the world, but for the man he summoned to come up the stairs at his back.

There is still Work to be done.

Empire State Building


Ruins of New York City

The man he has summoned is slow going up the excruciating climb of the Empire State Building, but doggedly paced, one foot after the other, well used to a world without elevators. Up this high, the wind that batters the steel and concrete structure causes it to sway ever so, but only in incremental inches thanks to its heavy weighted construction that roots it in place, its central steel spine. For that reason, it stands proud among ruins.

It's cold, too, especially with the windows obliterated as they are. Steam gusts out of John Logan's lungs, thick between his teeth, as he settles to stand, gripping the edges of his coat. Where he stops is an instinctual few feet set between himself and Kazimir, but abreast so as to share the desolate panoramic. Cityscapes by daylight have always reminded Logan of washed up trash, tattered newspaper colours, and that's before they were left to rot.

He gives a shiver, ducking his chin against gathered scarf. The contours of his skull visible through the close shaven grain of his hair, and his hunger.

"Lord Volken."

Kazimir turns his head at Logan’s arrival, regarding him in profile before finally turning around. “Every time I look out over this city, I see something new.” His voice is sandpaper and spiders, a rough call of something as old as dust. “A personal drama playing out on these once congested streets. Be it one of past recollection, or more present deeds.” As he clears the distance to Logan, Kazimir's footsteps are interspersed with the metal click of the cane’s tip on the bare concrete underfoot.

“I'm left to wonder if the survivors of this world understand that they do so out of a sense of mercy, rather than oversight. I watch them clamor up broken streets, hide behind tumbledown walls, and cower in the darkness. They whisper, their sad little prayers to a god who does not have the decency to answer them.” With a firm grip on the cane, Kazimir holds it by its black-lacquered haft and motions to Logan with the snarling head. “People like you, whom are allowed to breathe the air of life and freedom, do not do so out of convenience or subtlety.”

Pale blue eyes assess John’s and Kazimir lowers the cane and rests his weight on the wolf’s head, thumb tracing a notch in the wolf’s brow. “I called you here because it's time that you prove yourself worthy of the life you've been allowed to live so far. I have a task for you, one suited to your skills, that if successful will ensure your survival for the foreseeable future. Failure,” Kazimir’s head tilts to the side, one dark brow raised. “Failure will be rewarded accordingly.”

There's a moment of silence, between the preamble and the ask, where Kazimir both visibly and invisibly leaves an opening for Logan to speak up. It's a familiar game, where Volken has no want to hear someone but is nonetheless curious to see what they say in the situation. A fascination with people and interpersonal choice that has festered like an infection since coming into ownership of this new vessel. A burning need to understand.

The gesture of wolf-headed cane doesn't go blinked at, gaze level and unflinching, Logan long since practiced at keeping his thoughts out of his expression, even if he has never quite been able to control the amount of intensity with which he tends to stare through people. Even Herr Volken. But his silence is deferential — agreeable, almost, about the circumstance of his continued existence in a world in which most of its people are dead and rotted — and his posture upright.

Tense, too, ever so.

Especially when he's given an opportunity to speak. He swallows, dryly, and speaks in the guttersnipe accent that never put on the affectation it did in other worlds like this one. "I'm ready," he says. "Only people that survive in this world is those that adapt to what it asks of 'em. What you ask," is added, quickly, "that is.

"What do you need?"

Slowly, Kazimir unwinds his tension and moves in the slow and deliberate manner of a serpent uncoiling from a striking position. “The rats are scurrying in their nests,” he explains by way of explaining nothing, stepping away from Logan and meandering back toward the blown-out window. “Frey has spotted them moving with more regularity.” The survivors. “A hospital, library, to name a few. They're getting bold…”

Kazimir turns, regarding Logan sidelong. “We keep a precious piece of material in the remains of Textile Factory 17 in Red Hook, a proverbial castle for a princess.” He turns his back to the window, cane down and hands rested atop the wolf’s head. “They're too close to her location, and I want you to assist Vor in transporting her and the remainder of our assets there back to Manhattan.”

Then, with a dark brow lifted, Kazimir suggests, “perhaps set up a parting gift for them as well. For all their hard work.” The theatrics of this feels unnecessary. Kazimir could go himself, wait for someone to try and take whatever his precious cargo is, and then kill them all. But he chooses not to, chooses to send John Logan in his place.

Suspicion, immediately, before he can find a way to stamp it down inside of him — as if he believes uncanny blue eyes can look that deeply — uncoils like a snake in his chest. Being well practiced with this sort of thing, Logan contains his curiousity to the tip of his head and an arrangement of a neutral expression around his pale eyes.

It's not that he thinks Lord Volken is hoping he will die on whatever perilous journey awaits — after all, there stands the broken window, and a rapid descent. His own bare hands. Black smog.

Rather, it sounds suspiciously like an errand, and his pride — embattled, but still rattling around in there — turns over.

Except for this last part, and the other parts as he puts them together, and his eyes hood in thought, possibly looking too much like he's weighing up an offer as opposed to taking an order, but they both know how this conversation will end. More than that, he's evaluating its worth.

His worth. "You'd like this princess behaving, I gather," Logan says, without delaying much longer. His smile is crooked. A broken tooth gives it a feral quality. "You know how they are, what with knights in shining armor around every corner."

The question draws a moment of silence from Kazimir. “She's impressionable,” he explains in an unusual moment of openness. “Young, talented, compassionate. Unfortunately stained by her genetics, but such as it is. She is resistant to the new order.

“I would prefer she remain compliant, docile, and ideally sedated for her travel here.” There, in that line, shows her value to Kazimir. When confronted with a vulnerable asset, he has never drawn her arms protectively around them. Always left them to dangle, to see how they perform, and if they’ll exceed. This is a difference, a quirk of the mind, though whether Gray or Volken isn't clear. Much as the line between them.

Kazimir lifts his cane up, approaching Logan again with a slow pace. “A room has been prepared for her here, safe, secure. Make sure Vor gets her here undamaged and untroubled,” Kazimir lifts one dark brow. “And perhaps you and I can begin discussions about Europe?” An errand, but also a proving of worth. A job interview.

Logan doesn't have to put effort into stopping himself from asking, is she pretty? Swallowing back words is a matter of survival in these wilds. But he thinks it, bright and clear, wonders if there's anything within his husk of a leader beyond just killing smog and hunger, where parasite ends and host begins, but doesn't wonder it for long until he imagines leaving New York City forever.

He remains still and upright as Kazimir approaches, hands knit together in front. "Take the princess, leave behind a dragon," is what he says. He starts to say: It'll be done.

And instead says, "I'll see she's taken care of."

Attention is given to Logan’s choice of words, and Kazimir offers a look to him that is little more than narrow eyes staring vacantly from behind a decaying mask of rapidly-aging flesh. The cane comes up, slowly, and the snarling wolf’s head is pressed to Logan’s shoulder. It's at first a gently brush of steel on fabric, then pressed by a greater strength, the pointed muzzle of the wolf biting uncomfortably where bone is close to the surface of the shoulder.

“The standard by which a man is measured,” Kazimir intones as he steps closer to Logan, “is weighed not by his intentions, but by his actions. One comes to understand a man through his successes, and his failures.” Quieter, now, Kazimir leans in and brings his weathered face closer to Logan’s, parallel as if to whisper a secret into his ear. “If you succeed,” is a rasp that comes with an uncomfortable prickling at being this close to Kazimir. “I will know you and name you Lodurr, and you will be free.”

As if that statement alone was some sort of magic, Kazimir eases back on the cane and leans away from Logan as if to imply the release of weight and burden. “Fail me…” his pale blue eyes assess Logan’s stare with haunting emptiness.

“…and I will seek to better understand you.”

The implication is clear.

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