Pulvis Et Umbra Sumus, Part III


cardinal3_icon.gif dahlia_icon.gif

Scene Title Pulvis Et Umbra Sumus, Part III
Synopsis A shadow has a layover in Argentina, and sends a message ahead.
Date January 21, 2010


The summer rain is coming down and turning the road to mud.

Wheels splash through it as twilight stretches its colours across the sky, veiled in choking storm cloud. The truck ambles its way down the incline of a hilly road, cautious without being overly so, and the driver is an older man with silver running through his hair. Black scars track in his face, the stylised V a familiar part of him now, and a cigarette dangles out the corner of his mouth, seatbelt carelessly abandoned in favour of being cool. A BDU jacket is pulled over a football T-shirt, striping yellow and blue.

The growl of the engine is loud enough on the abandoned stretch of road cut deep into the heart of Argentine jungle, but the rattle of its parts seems to overtake it. Even louder still, a repeated clang of metal hitting rock, would come from behind — the remains of a sentry robot has rope and chain looped through its gangly parts, tied to the back of the tarp covered truck, and dragged along behind it in victory. Kind of like Max was behind the horse — don't think Jorge doesn't recall.

The vehicle bumps to a halt where the road widens, trails off into cut paths, the door pushed open as the older man climbs out. His hand automatically reaches for a packet of cigarettes, but the stormy sky is glanced at, dubiously. Not particularly mindful for the wet weather, he leans against his truck and tolerates it while he waits.

The shadows are thick across the wet ground, dusklight bleeding through the stormclouds above blocked further by the jungle's foliage where it leans over the road, weighed down by the summer rain that pushes it down in a rattling rhythm and runs down stems and trunks in kind.

Those shadows are thick… but unmoving. Not so for the filmy darkness that slithers from them, faint dim lines that stretch between patches of darker matter, shaded between even more dimly, like silly putty that's been stretched too far… or tissue dipped in water and left to fall apart. It's barely visible as it works over the ground, weaving up as a spider's web over one wheel of the vehicle where it stops, resident in the darkness of the wheel well. Apparently, it plans to catch a ride with a recent… acquaintance, or at least see what he's waiting for.

From this vantage point, the shadow only really gets to view where boots sink into mud in a casual angle, and it takes maybe a minute, maybe two, of patient waiting until anything happens. Weight distributes from heel across to toe, the truck shifting just a little when the lanky man takes his weight off of it, and moves up towards the wheel. There's nothing to see, the thin shadow melting readily under the darkness of the car's body and against pitch wheel.

Then, a dry chuckle, a smoker's laugh. "You missed the plane with your friends, muchacho?"

The toe of the boot comes to knock against the wheel, uncertain as to precision, but Jorge certainly isn't talking to himself. "It could be wetter," he adds, as if hiding beneath a car would purely be from the rain.

"I'm… on my way back… now."

There was a time that Richard Cardinal's voice was almost recognizable, if a bit hollow and raspy due to how he spoke when in his shadow's form. Now, however, it's barely understandible unless he takes it slow, harshly grating and faint, as whispered from a distance.

The tattered shadows bleed up slowly from within the wheel well as the branded man points out that he knows he's there, frayed darkness that streaks itself across the side of the truck. Slowly, bits peel away only to be rounded into the main again, an Pollockesque splatter of twilight over the vehicle. After a moment, he stirs himself, "Everything going… well… here?"

Twilight> Lobotimised> Noriko crawl from woodwork.

Rain has slicked Jorge's hair even more so than how it's pulled into its salt and pepper ponytail, the rat end bound at the nape of his neck and disappearing into the collar of his jacket. Amicable ease drains subtle, tenses the corners of his eyes and tracks lines deeper as he regards the shadow. "You don't sound so good," he notes, before he shrugs. "We're cleaning up and getting out. There's nothing left for us out here, thanks to you guys." His tone is neutral, almost wry. "Glad to know the world's gonna be staying in one piece…"


A voice echoes out from the treeline only moments before wet, crunching foot steps herald Dahlia's appearance, her long stride communicating a full recovery from the poison injected into her by killer robots. Her face, as ever, is clear of the branded mark, but a new blossom of bruising marks her temple from some miscellanious tumble out in the jungle.

In the distance, there's the sound of something moving through the trees, and as Dahlia focuses her hawkish stare on the side of the truck, a younger woman seems to leap out from the canopy of trees, landing in the clearing at a height that would have broken ankles. The brand on her cheek is the only explanation needed.

A sound that might be a chuckle of dark humor stirs from the frayed remnants of the shadowmorph, fading as others emerge from the jungle. There's silence, and then the splatter of shadow pulls itself tighter together, forcing darker splotches to spread over the truck, and closer together, although not in one piece still - faint threads running between them, like a light shone through a net.

"Munin was… dealt with. Yes. Dahlia. Hello." No, he doesn't sound good at all, no better than he looks.

In unconscious deference, Jorge steps back in tandem with Dahlia stepping foward, watching the play of shadow with scrutiny. The sound of the rain beats its drum against the metal of the truck, a different tone against tarp, gathering pools that stream as it does along tree branches and leaves. The younger woman's brow tenses, quizzical, watching Dahlia more than the shadow, although that gets some suspicion as well. While she's a face vaguely familiar as a Branded woman who helped scout the perimeter while Team Alpha rested their heads on so many evenings, she doesn't quite know them well enough to recognise this tattered shadow as Richard Cardinal.

Jorge and Dahlia know better. The latter tilts her head and nods back, finally, at the greeting. A question is obviously wanting to be spoken, jaw tense, before she instead asks a more general; "What happened?" To you. To the world. To everyone. To Rico.

It takes a few moments for Richard to answer; speaking seems wearying, and when he does, the shadow of his essence seems to spread out more thinly, as if he were only holding himself together through sheer willpower. Those pauses in his speech allow him to gather back together once more, before continuing to speak to the woman that helped them eliminate the Vanguard of Argentina.

"Gabriel fell. Wagner… Kazimir… Francois…" A twitch of shadow, jerking the tatters of his 'flesh' back together, "…out of time. Had to… absorb… Munin." After another moment, "Rico was… Shield One. Something went wrong… don't know what. I was behind, assumed dead. Better that way."

The older man and the leader of the Branded exchange a glance, before dealing twin stares back towards the shredded shadow splaying out across rusted rusted, abused metal. Horror is a slow thing to dawn on Dahlia's face, and subtle, too, in the same slow way the twilight is sinking into nighttime. The girl beside them, for all that much of this is outside of her scope, knows the name Rico, and reaches forward to tangle a hand with Dahlia's cold one, which only limply allows for it without much in the way of return.

Jorge clears his throat, and nods to Cardinal. "You're fucked up. We're heading into town now— if there's anything you need, I can take you right to the nearest hospital. It's not better being dead."

"Maybe I already am." Maybe I am. An echo of his words follows the first, almost, a mocking whisper with an edge of hysteria that grates like fingernails over rusted metal. That frayed shadow's silent for long moments, shifting upon the truck's peeling paint and dented metal like a shadow lantern's play before he pulls himself more together - mostly together, this time, darkness with hazy and shifting edges.

"It won't… help," Cardinal replies in that tortured whisper, "But… thanks. No, I… need to get back to New York. I can… hide on a plane. Do you have… any way of getting in touch with… anyone? Maybe the— Remnant— Jensen, Holden…"

Pragmatism snaps Dahlia out of it, pushing back her dripping hair and giving the shadow a curt nod. "Come, in," she says, pointing towards where the back window has an inch of a gap letting in find rivulets of rain down the glass. Likely stuck that way. "We'll take you down to El Palenque, and I can try get a hold of Jensen from there."

They're moving in tandem, Idoya releasing Dahlia's numb hand and moving around the truck towards the other door, as if nervous about messing with the tendriling shadow along the face of the car. Jorge flicks his keys in his hand, moving off towards the drivers as Dahlia remains regarding Cardinal, hands on her hips. One thing of note is that she's stripped of weaponry almost entirely, unless you count a knife at her belt, or trust that the bag slung over her shoulder contains something shooty.

"What should I tell him?"

Once, the shadow would have glided through the offered space as smoothly as if someone had shifted the light behind something else. Now it unspools into tendrils and threads of darkness that reach for that gap, some of them almost seeming to lift off the surface in a quivering undulation before snapping back into two dimensions, slithering through the window to conceal himself behind the seats, where it's dark, unseen.

"I need a message… to the New York… Public Library. Main Branch. No names… not mine, no others. Just that… carbonite never stopped Han Solo." A coded message, clearly. "He should know… about Rico, too."

A long silence, before he finishes, "…thank you."

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