Her Answer Is...


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Also Featuring

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Scene Title Her Answer Is…
Synopsis It's the Black Widow versus Verse. Round one. Let's get it on!
Date March 11, 2009


There are two kinds of buzzing sounds here, each distinct in their noise.

One is the sound of buzzing wings, diaphanous and insectile wings, battering against the air to keep chitinous bodies aloft in the dry and arid Sahara air. The other buzzing comes from flickering lightbulbs set into grimy and dust covered aluminum lampshades. Every so often, one of the bees in the room will drift up towards the light, wings buffeting scalding hot glass and the sounds of the filaments burning out and the wings burning on the glass make the most harmonious noise.

Tadrart Acacus Desert, 36 miles outside of the city of Ghat — Libya

Situated beneath the swaying lamps, an enormous man with skin the color of rich mocha swirled with cream and darkened by tattoos rests shirtless, hands bound behind his back, legs bound to the chair, blood making dark stains on the desert camouflage of his pants. Drifting lazily — languidly — in the air, a wasp comes to land down on this burly man's shoulder, tiny little legs carrying it up to the side of his neck, where the torc-like tattoo wraps around his throat. He tilts his head, eyes regarding the insect with a ferocious mixture of hunger and anxiety. It's been days since he has been fed.

"Raj Singh," comes a coarse and rough voice into the room, followed by the intervals of hard-soled shoes clicking on a concrete floor, the steel click of a cane's tip mixing between those steps. "Born April 18th, 1976 in Mumbai, India. Your military record is as extensive as it is bloody, Mister Singh…" Pacing across the floor, black shoes click and clack while a weathered old hand grasps the crowning wolf's head of the cane used to support some of this old man's weight.

April 16th, 2004

Raj turns to look up at the old man, eyes adjusting as all he gets at first is his broad-shouldered silhouette in the brightly lit doorway of this small, isolated building. It's the old man's blue eyes that stand out most, that give some semblance of humanity to an otherwise gargoylish and chiseled face. "You have been a member of the PMC Executive Outcomes since 1998, then joined the PMC Sandline International… you have a heart ripe for war, Mister Singh." Circling behind the chair, this old interrogator looks out of place within the insect infested and abandoned bunker lost somewhere in the Sahara. His black suit and silk tie should be baking him in his own skin in this heat — he isn't even breaking a sweat.

"I'm accustomed to people like you," blue eyes scan up and down Raj's form, "Cold, violent, insecure," lips press together to form a thin line, and almost distractedly, he reaches out to allow one of the bees to land on the sleeve of his jacket. "But you're not just like any other mercenary, Raj… you're different."

All the while silent, Raj almost withers under the stare of those blue eyes. "If it weren't for hunger, dehydration, and the drugs currently coursing through your veins I have no doubt you would be trying to rip me in half with your mind…" The bee scurries up the old man's arm, and finally, under the weight of all of these words, Raj Singh breaks down.

"How— do you know so much about me?" His words come out through parched lips, head hanging as his muscles relax, "How do you know what I am?" For a time, Raj is afforded no response, just the silent and icy stare that remains cold even in the Saharan heat.

"I make it my responsibility to know about all of your kind, Mister Singh." The bee flies off of his arm, "My name is Kazimir Volken, and myself and my associate have some very pointed questions to ask you about what you're doing out here in Libya."

It's only now that those blue eyes settle on her that the third person in the room feels like anything other than a spectator. Swathed in white silks that protect her delicate form from the desert heat, back close to but not pressed up against the chipped and grimy concrete wall, Lucrezia Bennati recalls this very day in 2004, the day she, Kazimir and Amato ventured into the Libyan desert to find one of the Vanguard's weapons cache's looted by mercenaries.

She remembers the proud, arrogant Raj Singh, but more hauntingly, more disconcerting, she remembers watching Kazimir Volken die at the hands of Abigail Beauchamp.

…and yet, here she is.



It was insulting, really.

There she was — er, here she is… standing so brazenly before a Muslim man unmasked, bold as you please, without the apparent God-fearing grace to hide her face behind a veil. This far outside of civilization — meaning Europe — she had no real reason to keep her identity shrouded in mystery and she certainly wasn't about to kowtow to some heathen unChristian custom simply for the sake of putting someone surely about to be tortured to death at ease before his painful passing. No. It was much more fun this way. She'd even gone so far as to see fit not to wear any sort of undershirt beneath her curve-cradling suit jacket. Sure, this would be a decision that she would later regret to some extent — but only because she'd not reckoned just how much sand she'd find floating in the bathwater with her that evening after the terrible triumvirate had retired to someplace civilized. She'd still be discovering grains stuck to her delicate skin for days after the fact. It had been so hot. Even wearing all white, she still couldn't help but sweat, though she did so prettily and with an exotic glow, goddammit. That's probably what Amato would remember most about this trip…

Lucrezia has lived long enough to recognize the difference between dreaming — or nightmare — and reality. Or so she would like to think. But, despite the fact that her brain is percolating with recollected memories of this place and the events about to unfold, none of it seems surreal so much as simply real. With her hands casually kept hidden in the pockets of her perfectly tailored pants, she wonders how much longer this deja vu will last…

"My men— " Before Raj can even finish a sentence, his words are cut off and his thoughts finished by the graven shadow standing behind his chair.

" — are all dead." Kazimir lifts his cane up, bringing it under Raj's chin, eyes narrowing imperceptibly as his head cants slowly to one side, "I kept you alive because you're different from them; a survivor, a soldier. You're not some filthy rodent scraping at the table for scraps, your men were looting — you were salvaging." For a moment, it almost seems as though he's somewhat appreciative of Raj.

"What I want to know, Raj, is how much you and your men know about my operation… what you saw here, what you read in those maps you were rifling through when I found you." He circles around the chair, the wolf-head of his cane perpetually pressed up under the man's chin, "I want to know what you know, I want to see what you see, and you're going to tell me, or Miss Bennati is going to instruct her children," the cane moves up over Raj's cheek, brushing over his lips, "to crawl down your throat, and fill your insides to bursting." The cane lightly taps on Raj's prominent chin, and Kazimir tilts his head to the side, blue eyes expectantly staring down at the tattooed mercenary.

"You— you have…" As Raj begins to speak, there is some strange pressure in the back of Lucrezia's mind, something dull and hollow, a sensation of someone digging around in her head. She's felt the sensation before, in the years she worked side by side with Kazimir, but never so subtly done. The heat, the sweat, the smells — all ample distractions. "You have a base here, a fallback location — in the event — " Raj tenses, as if straining to spit out the words, "in the event of your death, should word reach — " his mouth hangs open slightly, "reach abroad members of the Vanguard, they will go to ground here in the bunkers and await restructuring of…" his eyes narrow, "of the chain of command."

This isn't how the interrogation went, these aren't the questions Kazimir asked Raj Singh, and these are answers no man digging through a munitions depot could know. These are secrets of the Vanguard upper echelon, secrets only Amato, Lucrezia and Ethan knew below Kazimir.

Something is terribly wrong.

Or maybe it was just the heat.

There is an ever so subtle inclination acquired by Lucrezia's slightly pointed chin while she considers the scene laid out before her now as though she'd suddenly become an observer trapped behind her own eyes. Someone was piggybacking in her brain; for a moment, she wonders if this is the same sort of sensation that any of her insect sentries experience when she taps into their senses and supplants their instincts with her own. Only one thing was for sure…

She was not a fan of this revisionist history.

Lucrezia forced herself to recall in grisly detail how the interrogation had really played out. There was a sand storm hung on the horizon like a massive golden-brown curtain just waiting to close in around them. One black-winged bee became ten became too many to count, all clambering to climb frantically into whatever open orifice was available to them on Raj's sunbaked body — be it between screaming lips, flaring nostrils, or aching ear canals. It must have felt like drowning in fire; suffocating and succumbing to anaphylactic shock simultaneously while hundreds of burrowing bees try to seek shelter from the storm beneath the surface of your skin.

This must be what Hell is like.

Unable to breath, unable to see, time ceases to exist in any meaningful increment. Seconds become centuries. Forever extends only so far as the next heartbeat. And his heart is still beating so —

Open your eyes.

The whole wide world seemed blurry and out of focus for a moment until — surfacing — the sensation of warm water lapping just below the earlobes while a pair of pale white hands wiped away the remains of heavy kohl that still hung around the rims of someone else's eyes. Standing over a sink, arms spread out with hands hung on either side of the basin, when Lucrezia looked into the mirror, she no longer saw her own reflection…

"What are you looking for?"

The stunned face in the mirror is that of a man easily a decade Lucrezia's junior, dark hair and eyes set against fair skin and black clothing. In a way, he is reminiscent in style of Volken, though his features far more angular and soft, despite his best attempt to appear intimidating. His voice comes out with a hollow quality through the glass of the mirror, as if speaking from some distant place deep within the earth.

"Answers." Is his succinct response, followed by disappearing from the mirror. Nothing reflects there now, not Lucrezia and not the dark-haired man. Instead, she can feel him behind her, standing in that bathroom, his form a stark silhouette of inky colors in the form of a long black coat buttoned from throat to waist. His hands fold behind his back, shoulders squaring, tensed. It's obvious that he's concerned with how Lucrezia gained the upper hand.

"I'm looking for information on the terrorist group known as the Vanguard, it's my job." There's tightness in the corners of the man's eyes, in his jaw, in his neck. He's afraid of her, or perhaps afraid of the buzzing sound which has not left the shadows of the bathroom. "My name is Verse. Stephen Verse…" His eyes drift up and down Lucrezia's form, "…this doesn't have to be a difficult interrogation."

By the time Lucrezia has deems fit to draw her dark-eyed gaze away from the mirror and observe the vista of Stephen Verse now presented before her bodily, shoulders that might have originally been remembered bare have been hidden beneath a slightly sheer, snow white dressing gown that may or may not be meant to resemble Verse's own attire in inverse as opposed to being the stuff of genuine memory as she recalls an article of clothing that might readily be found hung on a hook in her closet at home or back at the hotel she was abducted from not so long ago. It's safe to say that while Stephen might have a very vivid imagination, he wouldn't need a bit of it in order to divine what Lucrezia might look like without the robe… and so it's worth wondering which of them has decided she be dressed and for what reason if not merely a mockery of modesty.

And suddenly the humidity of the sterile, stainless steel environment they've found themselves sharing becomes just that much more apparent as she slowly approaches her prey. "I don't suppose you could have just asked…

…not that I mind doing things the hard way."

Those words were chosen very carefully.

Visibly tensing as Lucrezia stalks forward, experience begets Verse's ability when the seductress puts on her most charming posture on her approach. Stephen is quick to extricate himself from the situation, reappearing behind her in the mirror as a fogged up specter of a man, a dark silhouette behind so much condensation and glass. But his voice rings hollow in the room, once more a distant echo from some place further away than touch allows.

He has to presume a modicum of self-control, even if his mind betrays himself.

"You would be willing to share your knowledge of the Vanguard with me, outside of this interrogation? Cooperation could earn you a great deal of personal freedom, and depending on your levels of cooperation…" he clears his throat, trying not to make than sound like a veiled pass at the thinly clad beauty, "you may even be afforded release. It — " his voice hesitates for a moment, "it's not unheard of."

Here in the steam, mirrors and tiles, sweat clings to Lucrezia's form. The tickle of condensed water mixing with her own perspiration rolling down her skin gives a taunting semblance of reality to this encounter. Verse stares intently at her through the fog of the mirror, his form little more than a dark silhouette distorted by the gathering moisture in the air.

Betray the memory of the Vanguard.

To be posed with this, despite everything Kazimir Volken did to her, is still an affront to the memory of what the Vanguard was, what it could have been, what the man who ran it was to everyone within the organization.

She reaches up, one delicate hand wiping clean a streak in the mirror where her own face should be, instead revealing Verse's eyes shrouded by the lenses of his dark sunglasses, expression stoic and unflinching. She watches his face, watches the way he stares blankly at her through dark glass.

Her lips move to form an answer — the answer to his request. By the time her thoughts catch up to the motions of her body, she's decided.

Her answer is…

March 11th: About That Fire
March 11th: Doing the Right Thing
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