Stranger Confessions


faulkner_icon.gif isis_icon.gif

Scene Title Stranger Confessions
Synopsis Everyone's alive, so he's earned some answers…
…but answers lead to troubling questions.
Date September 1, 2019

Park Slope - Isaac's Apartment

A small lantern throws a dull illumination upward under their chins, slanting shadows at sharp angles across opposite halves of each face. Isis sits on one end of the too familiar couch, body turned with a bent knee pulled atop a cushion to better face Issac. Tick-tick-tack-tick. She spiders her short, unpolished nails over the glass in hand, her gloves resting over her knee.

“So, I expect most of what I’m about to tell you is total oversharing in the world of normal early relationship status. Not that I’m an expert on normal relationships, I’ve only had one healthy-…” Isis stops abruptly, her face screwing up tight with the sour taste of her own accidental confession. “Nevermind. What I mean is… “ Isis takes a deep breath, a quick pass of her tongue leaving a soft glisten on the bow of peach-pale lips. She’s stalled long enough.

“I used to work at a bar here in New York some ten whole years ago. My boss was a man named Adam. It seemed like a normal job and he seemed like a normal-ish man to start… Until he asked me to rob a bank. I didn’t…” She pauses here to sip from her glass, grimace-smiling at the contents. Perhaps a poor choice of timing for suspense, because the following clarification doesn’t really give her any bonus points. “My working partner flaked before the job could be finished.”

Isaac has settled in sideways, mirroring her pose. But while Isis seems a very picture of nervous energy, he seems almost calm, composed, almost languid… except for his eyes. Those are rested intently on Isis.

"So… you were going to rob a bank," he says slowly; there's no judgement in his voice, only a careful sort of consideration, and his eyes remain focused on her intently, gleaming in the gloom.

“I was young.” A comment that might have been passably casual if she hadn’t so obviously prepared it in advance. She twitches her nose. Better yet, it twitches without her knowledge. Isis takes the deep breath of a swimmer preparing to dive back in…
“I got mixed up instead with Brian and the Lighthouse. The Ferrymen.” Irrelevant to the scheme, but it feels necessary to throw in some good deeds to light the way as they begin heading deeper down this rabbit hole. “When I came back, though, to the Safe Zone - someone contacted me. About the Book Club.” This time, the endearing term earns little air quotes. Isis adjusts her drink back in her hands. “Shedda. Come to find out, it’s run by Adam and their mission statement is hella more involved than just robbing banks.” With an obvious effort, she draws her hazel eyes up to Isaac’s face…

It’s difficult to bear the weight of his gaze as she buffs off the paint on Joanne’s mask - the stuff that looks good from a distance but reveals chips, flakes, and something warped underneath upon too close a scrutiny. Even still, she braces herself to witness his reaction. “It’s pro-evolved.” … “Almost to the point of anti-normal, possibly. It promises to grant non-evo’s a chance at abilities if they help the organization. It’s built on good intentions, but you know what they say about that road.” Her expression takes on something halfway between a grimace and a smile, with a shrug thrown in for good measure. “And Adam? He’s a New and Improved Adam-pants. Oh, and he’s immortal, to boot.”

Pro-evolved can mean a lot of things; he's fine with that. Anti-normal… at that, Isaac's brow furrows slightly; he's a little less certain about that, in part because Isis doesn't seem entirely certain about that.

The bit about giving non-evos evolved abilities elicits a further furrowing, and her talk of the new and improved Adam causes his brow to furrow further still; Isis's tone suggests that she's maybe not as keen on that, either. By the time she's finished speaking, his expression is one of concentration — as though he were running some particularly complex math problem in his head. Which, in a way, he is.

It's the last bit he opts to ask about, though — for now, at least. "Was Adam always immortal, or is that part of the new and improved?"

With each added wrinkle that marks the deeper furrowing of Isaac’s brow, Isis somehow grows smaller. It’s not an outward thing - there are no hunkered shoulders or curling into oneself. In fact, her back is still deliberately, unerringly straight. And yet, something inside her seems to hunker down and hold tight, preparing to ride out some impending storm.

But, then… A lifeline - a question! Her brows pop up, a few blinks attempting to shoo away her obvious surprise. “Oh. Um, well, apparently he was always immortal. He’s old as dirt, so I’m told. The new and improved? Well, that’s his whole…” Isis leans back and frees up a hand to make an embellished, open-palmed, swirling gesture around her torso as she puts on a serious grimace and weaves her head subtly side-to-side. “Demeanor.” She pauses, holding for effect, and then resumes her previous posture with a short sip of liquor. “The Sage. Mightier Than Thou. Weighted by Wisdom. World on His Shoulders.” Isis looks down in her too empty a glass. “There’s not much scarier than a man that thinks he knows everything.”
Without looking up, she moves to fill in the silence with more words to cover up her unease. “He’s got all these…” Isis wiggles her fingers in a helter-skelter spidery gesture by the right side of her head. “Voices in his head. Clones, I think? All mentally linked to him. It’s cacophonous. I’m not sure how someone could have all that and stay…”

She doesn’t finish. Instead, she claws one hand back through her hair as she tips her head back and downs the last shot of her drink.

Now this is beyond interesting. Voices in his head? Clones? It's at this point, as she takes that last drink, that Isaac notices that Isis's glass is empty; he reaches out, grabbing the bottle of Lemon Death, and raises it questioningly, offering to refill her glass.

It gives Isaac time to think. To consider his next words.

"As far as I know… people only have one ability. But if Adam's got clones — and if he's linked to them, like you're describing, on top of being immortal… that sounds like two." He consider for a moment. "Which… if Shedda actually has a way to…"

He hesitates, the word eluding him for a moment; he pulls a frustrated face for a moment as he scrabbles for something suitable. "Transfer?" Transfer works, but it's not quite what he'd been going for. Isaac's frown deepens a bit; there's a whole other line of thought in that, but it's not something he really wants to pursue at the moment. "Confer!" That's the word he's looking for.

"If Shedda actually has a way to confer abilities… that might explain that. If they can give an ability to someone who doesn't have any of their own… what's to stop them from giving an ability to someone who already has one?"

His frown returns, though, and now his gaze turns directly to Isis. She'd put something out there with that last thought, but hadn't managed to finish it… but from Isaac's point of view, what she'd left unsaid was too important to leave hanging, especially if Adam is running an organization with the power Shedda seems to have. "Do you think he's crazy?"

Isis’s brows bob in a way that’s both encouraging and grateful at the offer of more Lemon Death. She squints thoughtfully as if she can provide her mental power as an added boost while Isaac chases the filmy cobweb of the elusive word. Confer. She smiles, but she doesn’t stop squinting - a lingering itch, like a half-picked scab, leftover by something Isaac had said. “Transfer…” A shiver rakes up her spine. “Do you think they have to… take an ability to give an ability?” Her stomach turns, and it’s not from the sour death-liquor. “… Where the fuck else would an ability come from? And,…” She grits her teeth, turning a tone of natural honey-alto to a gravely, quiet growl. “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

“Multiple abilities and voices aside…” The redhead rolls her head around on her shoulders, hazel eyes flitting across the ceiling briefly in search of some secret answer etched in the old discoloration and shadow therein, before turning back to Isaac. “I hope he’s not crazy. Because if he is…”

“… I’ve done something terrible.”

And that's exactly the train of thought he didn't want to go chasing down — the question of where those abilities come from. Because… because it's unsettling.

Negation is one thing — a bad enough bogeyman on its own, that — but the idea of having his ability stripped from him? Ripped away? Given to someone else? That's… frightening. Truly frightening, in a way that Isaac hasn't been frightened in a very long time. Because exactly what is Isaac Faulkner, alone? What remains of him, without his ability? Without the shadows, his devoted friends, constantly at his beck and call?

A frightened boy, lost in the dark, groping his way along until something bigger eats him. A nobody.

It's Isis's voice that pulls him back from that particular abyss. The gravel in her growl… and, more than that, the awful, leaden quiet of her voice at those last words. His eyes come back from the middle distance, regarding her carefully for a moment. "How terrible?"

“Good question…”

One she has decidedly avoided. One that her silence had made avoidable. Until now.

Isis rests a hand over her throat, slender fingers a spreading in a wide fan on one side, forcing her to incline her chin as she stares off unblinking at something invisible just over Isaac’s shoulder. Lips whitened, tight. Her left eyebrow crawls into a sharp arc. “Medusa level terrible.” Her fingers curl one after another, leaving little crests of reddened skin in their wake. Culminating in a tiny fist, her hand falls to her lap and jars her attention back to the here, to the now - to him.

Her gaze sharpens. Not in defiance. Not armor in the sense that she is prepared to defend herself. There is no defense for what she has done. No, is it is the hardened look of resolve.

Isis wrestles against a tightly locked jaw, grinding out the grated words. “Bioweapon level terrible.”

Bioweapon level terrible. Not words Isaac had ever expected to hear… at least, not in the literal sense. He might have said something along those lines about a lame movie or a bad story arc in a comic book; a bit of hyperbole aimed at ridiculing some particularly noisome bit of drivel. Maybe Isis would've too, on a different occasion, under different circumstances… but she isn't now. No, Isaac's sure of that; that fierce gaze on her face is the look of someone coming face to face with…

…well. With something that is legitimately, truly, bioweapon level terrible.

This has gone beyond interesting; there's a pit in Isaac's stomach, a feeling like that moment when you hang suspended at the top of a roller coaster, right before the big plunge. A feeling that one more step will take him into the deeps.

He studies Isis for a moment — the steel in her eyes, the fist curled in her lap — then he takes a drink from his glass, finishing his Lemon Death in one shot. As the fire flows down into his stomach, he exhales… then looks back to Isis. "Tell me more," he says, bracing for the plunge.


Or is it a twitch. Maybe a snap. Better still, a crack. Or some combination all there of - a twitch of uncertainty, a snap of her attention, a crack in her facade. Hazel eyes cut that sharp little angle to Isaac’s visage. “That’s where you were supposed to ask me to leave - on a good day. On a bad one, maybe skip the asking and just throw me out. Or call SESA. Or…” Any number of scenarios other than one where he stays. With her. Something softens in the liner embellished contours of her wide, doe-ish eyes… until she turns her cheek to him and sips her drink.

“Shedda’s got the right of it. As long as there is a difference, there will always be hate. I get that. They may not have the right endgame here, but… It doesn’t matter. It’s not really why I joined. Not wholly.” Isis licks a drop of lemony liquor at the corner of her mouth. “Not sure that it makes it better or worse…”

Isis picks up the proverbial shovel and continues digging her hole deeper with extra gusto. “I did what they asked - when I took the GORGON sample, I didn’t know what it was. Deliberately. If I knew, I probably couldn’t have gone through with it and then I couldn’t have gotten closer to Adam…”

“The injection that Zachery gave me? I thought it was something from Adam. Something that could make me like him. Or almost like him. It was some sort of… clone juice, instead. That’s why we waited so long. Why I waited so long, when things turned bad. The Adam I knew, having recognized the symptoms of what we’d-… I’d done, wouldn’t have been so forgiving…”

And /breeeaaaaaaathhhh. Oh, yes… and driiiiiiink, that too.

There's a certain sense to what Isis is saying, about how she'd thought that Isaac would have tossed her out at this point. It wouldn't be an unfounded reaction. Radical group plus bioweapon makes something that sounds a lot like terrorism, and that's a bad look these days. A really bad look. On any day, come to that.

Strange that Isaac hadn't even thought about it. Maybe it's what Isis told him about being afraid she'd gotten him killed. Maybe it's just that if someone's made a bioweapon level screwup, he wants to know exactly what it is.

Maybe it's the iron in her eyes.

"It probably makes it worse, honestly," he says once she's finished speaking, though there's no sense of rancor or scorn in his voice as he says it; if anything, there's a hint of something like admiration there. "At least in one respect. Better in others, though, so it's a moot point."

It's at this point that Isaac notices that his cup is empty, which is a problem because at some point while Isis was talking he made an executive decision that he is not going to go on his run tonight, that he is instead going to get well and truly drunk; a rare thing for him, but today has turned into a red letter day, hasn't it? He reaches out and snags the bottle of Lemon Death, pouring himself a bit more, then offering to refill Isis's cup as well.

"It sounds like… Adam in his earlier days was quite the hellion. From what you're saying, though, it seems like he's mellowed. Less werewolf, more vampire… which is probably a good thing if he's plotting things involving bioweapons," Isaac says.

He considers for a moment. "What's your take on this Garza guy?"

Isis accepts the refill with all the vigor appropriate for this situation. Leaning across the couch, glass extended, her attention flicks from a thirsty look upon the liquor to a sharp daring glance up under her thickly lined lashes. “Did you just call vampires mellow?” She hisses something that is a vague forced phantom of a snicker but lets it die in a hurriedly renewed sip of Lemon Death.

The redhead holds the glass against her lips and nose, cupped in both hands. She blinks over the rim at Issac and swallows before tipping her head to consider. “He seems… sold. He’s gone all-in… If ever Adam had a doubt, I think Garza would push the button anyway.” The plunger? How does one release a bioweapon that could kill thousands or -… “What do you think the ratio of evos to non is now-a-days?” The sickly hollow of her words is only embellished by the way they echo around in the glass half-tilted to her face still.

Isaac laughs in turn; it's soft, but there's some real amusement there. "By comparsion. Less likely to maul without consideration," he admits, sounding both amused and sheepish. It doesn't last long before his expression turns more pensive. "We should probably both be thankful for that…" he murmurs.

His expression grows more solemn still at Isis's analysis. "A true believer, then," Isaac says, sounding a bit glum.

Isis's sudden switch of topics draws a questioning look. "Probably not as high as it was before the war… and it wasn't that high even then." He frowns, searching his memory. "I think they used to say that one in a hundred was SLC-E?" he ventures.

“Oh gods.” Isis turns away, a hand coming to her mouth and her shoulders heaving in a too familiar way. By some divine intervention or sheer practice, she does NOT lose the contents of her stomach on Isaac’s carpet. Again.

“Why am I even talking…-” Outside voice. Her hand draaaags from lips, over liquor flushed cheeks, and into her hair where fingers curl and tangle roughly. Once it’s out there, spoken, you can’t ignore it. “The virus as it stands, or stood, attacked SLICE only. I’m assuming they’re going to, or already have, reverse engineer that and…” … “Ninety percent of people? Of all people? I can’t… I don’t…”

Isis stands up, collecting her gloves with a snatch. “I gotta… “ What exactly. “I gotta get out. I gotta go. I gotta… “ Her worlds devolve into senseless ramblings as she begins to pick her way through the half-shadowed apartment.

Isaac is, for the moment, frozen. What she's talking about has roughly the same effect on his brain as a fork being thrown down a garbage disposal — lots of chugging, sparks and smoke, and a failure to process.

For a moment all he can get is that her math's wrong; if one in a hundred is immune, that'd be ninety nine percent, not ninety. Better than that, even, if the percentage of population that's SLC-E has dropped. It's then that he's actually able to think about what she's implying.

"Okay, okay, wait, fuck," Isaac says, trying to spring to his feet —

— only to find that his sense of balance is already nicely wrecked by the alcohol he's been merrily washing down this discussion with, sending him crashing to the floor. He makes some incoherent sputtering noises, then works on starting to try to lever himself upright. "Isis, wait," he calls; he's trying very hard to keep his voice calm, but there's an edge of tension even so. "Please."

Isis freezes with a cold bare hand on the opened door - a dark silhouette of sharp, tense lines and chaotic curls and Isaac’s hunkered frame at her back. The gentle plea has her canting her head. Her amber-hazel eyes surreptitiously scan the darkened hall for something. It’s not outward she’s searching, though. Her thin brows slowly draw into a furrow.

The small woman turns her visage over a shoulder, enough to cast her voice back but without enough courage to look. “I’m sorry.”

She doesn’t even bother to shut the door behind her.

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