Tree Of Virtues, Tree Of Vices


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Scene Title Tree of Virtues, Tree of Vices
Synopsis Tree of Virtues and the Tree of Vices depicts a spectrum of human qualities, from the basest earthliness (capital vices) to heavenly righteousness (cardinal virtues). They provided a structure in which monks could interpret and contemplate the associations between each abstraction
Date January 4, 2010

USS George Washington

Out on the deck of the USS George Washington, the final location of the sunset will be bleeding all kinds of colour on the horizon, providing the weather isn't so awful as to hide it. But below, it's impossible to tell the time of day save for the tick of clocks and how many people are awake and why. The brightly lit shooting range is timeless and nondescript, a lengthy cavern of steel and cement, a ceiling that feels lower than it is in comparison to its other dimensions, which seem bigger especially when you happen to be alone, or at least relatively so.

Francois toes the firing line, ears muffled both to the firing of his own weapon and the approach of anyone that could be happening by. Since his arrival, he looks like he relatively fits in, wearing plain jeans and a nondescript white T-shirt issued him, the only thing marking him as remarkable possibly being the brace on his left hand — but since the arrival of other teams, injuries are commonplace as well. He's testing the mettle of his own against his aim — he'd managed to shoot Sasha twice without particular effect even before the doctor had done his work on his hand.

His sidearm kicks a little in his hands, lowering the weapon for a moment to try and squint over at the target hung up as far as it is, before lifting the weapon again and emptying the rest of his clip rapidly, shoulders tense, jaw as well.

Down this deep into the belly of the ship, the groan, creak and pop of the aircraft carrier makes it feel like being stuck in the stomach of a great beast, that all those noises are the sounds of its digestion and bodily functions happening, perhaps those near-mechanical noises keep some people comfortable, knowing the ship is still intact around them, gray iron fortress that it is.

He had to have approached during Francois' last magazine of gunfire, the sound of his choice of shoes would have echoed in the hall. Stepping out from the stall beside Francois, where another shooter would be if the range weren't empty, Peter Petrelli's body is an unfamiliar shadow in Francois' periphery. But the posture, despite being taller and thinner than Kazimir Volken was in his most recent incarnation that Francois recalls, is unmistakable. Those blue eyes, paired to flank a deep and hideous scar that travels in a deep cleft across the dark-haired man's face are likewise remarkable, mirrors of his own in so many ways, having bore equal witness to atrocity.

"Tell me," Kazimir asks in a voice unfamiliar, yet with tone and cadence so haunting, "exactly how it is you are standing here, and have become two men." Apparently, it seems, he's met his estranged immortality. Typically that is not something someone loses, immortality is not much like car keys.

By the time the gun is emptied in his hands, Kaizmir's silhouette is sliding into his periphery, not immediately recognised as Francois takes his time and patience in ejecting the spent magazine and setting it down beside the pistol he'd chosen, favouring one hand over the other before dragging off his earmuffs as well with a brisk shake of his head. The small bite missing from the curl of skin and cartilage appears as old an injury that fifteen years might suggest, but then again, Chesterfield did mention the time traveling aspect of his arrival. No time to turn and confront, by the time Kazimir is talking, and at that stage—

Francois doesn't turn around, not immedately, fingers picking at the earmuffs in his hands and sparing a glance towards the ruined target far in front of him. Eventually, he funnels out a sigh and drops the earmuffs down next to the rest of his equipment, turning briskly, his face a mask of suspicion and something more guarded.

He's not quite prepared for the sight in front of him. Logically, he should be, but his attention focuses on familiar eyes in an unfamiliar face, one even younger than his. The Frenchman's eyebrows go up, demeanor one of unbalance. "Two men? Then you know of the other, the one like you."

"He's nothing like me." Kazimir spits out defensively, taking a step towards Francois, "he's nothing like you." Blue eyes narrow, and the darkly dressed man makes a stalking approach towards the Frenchman, looking at him as if confronted with a ghost made manifest, and if somehow that would not surprise the man who is very much just that. "Time travel?" Kazimir grouses, nose rankling and upper lip curling as if he smelled something distasteful. "You cheated death, with a time traveler."

The double-standard of cheating death comes as something of hypocritical exclamation point at the end of Kazimir's sentence. "Why were you in Vladivostok?" He demands, and from that question alone it's clear to Francois that Cat spilled the beans on what happened between them. "Why did you go to see that church?" It's not anger that makes him raise his voice.

It's fear.

And Kazimir isn't the only one with something to fear, Francois' green eyes gone wide with the avid attention of prey. However, when Kazimir does step forward, he doesn't back up — as much as there wouldn't be much room to back into — and when he says those words, the ones on the church, on Vladivostok, miss their mark. The former healer comes forward, the palms of his hands landing flat against Kazimir's chest in a challenging kind of shove, careless strength in the gesture, but tellingly brisk for all that the gesture is as blunt as paws. "«You sent that death to me,»" is snarling French, fear replaced, for a moment, by an older kind of anger.

As if there was some kind of betrayal in there, like perhaps he deserved better than to be hunted down by an assassin. "I cheated nothing. But you— what you are doing this to this boy is what you did to Richard Santiago."

Nudged back by the shove, Kazimir's back tenses as his brows knit into a look of frustration. "You earned it," Kazimir intones in a hushed quality of voice, "or so I thought." He exhales a long and tense sigh, trying to let some of that stiffness in his posture drain out with the exhalation. It doesn't work, not as much as he'd like it to, but seeing the living, breathing acade of Francois Allegre haunting him here in the present where once it was only dreams is not what he was prepared for, not even after hearing it; Seeing is more than believing.

"This boy," Kazimir's brows furrow together at the appelation, "was an unintentional casualty in an unpredictable situation." Sweat beads on Kazimir's forehead, trickling down in a thin line from his brow. The Kazimir Volken that Francois knew never usually sweat, though that may have been a byproduct of many more generations of occupation in a single body.

"How are you seperate from your ability and— and yet you?" The confusion that is maintained by Kazimir seems almost palpable, his puzzled expression hanging amidst the way overhead lights make him look somewhat cadaverous and skeletal, all high cheekbones and furrowed scar.

Puzzlement is briefly mirrored, pulling at the corner of Francois' mouth and tensing his jaw, his posture already militantly stiff once distance between them is reclaimed, rocking back another step as if to allow more to fall between them. "I gave my ability away, in the same way I had been given it. After your man left me for dead, I was granted a choice — to die with my gift or pass it to another. Had I known I would be rescued…" But then, keeping his power, denying Abigail it, probably would have meant that she never grew up to stop Volken, and then who would return to him? The paradox has him trailing off, green eyes tracking away resentfully.

Only for a split second. Kazimir is put under study once more, trying to see past the bigger differences of now a third face Francois is meant to know him by, another step back taken. "I was at the church, trying to find you. As I have always been trying to find you, Volken, following your foot steps no matter how old they may be. These were more recent than Kershner and I had expected."

Gave it away, like a Christmas present or an unwanted fruit cake, the notion that the abilities can be so willingly passed down has Kazimir's brows furrowed in confusion. Did Gabriel give it away, or did it choose? Or did Francois ever have a choice of who took it up? Kazimir tenses, jaw set and eyes averting to the floor. "Vladivostok was…" his words trail off, explanation lost in a haze of cloudy emotions that storm behind those blue eyes. "I did not find what I wanted there," is his terse deflection, eyes lifted back up to Francois.

"You have found me," darkly clad arms sweep out from Kazimir's side, as if to proclaim here I am to Francois "now what will you do? If this has been revenge, after so long, then I compel you to try and take it without that curse of yours. If not, why have you continued to follow me? What possible reason could you have for standing in my shadow for as many decades as you have, only to wind up here, if not for revenge?"

There's two more magazines waiting for a good emptying just behind him, as much as Francois is fully aware about what would happen if he tried. His shoulders roll a little beneath the nondescript white of his T-shirt, before he briskly shakes his head. "Non. Not revenge. I have known for a very long time that it is not my destiny to end you. But I would see that no one should suffer at your hands again. You've— " Abruptly, he smiles, the crowsfeet lines at his eyes deepening along with it. "You have done a lot of work in fifteen years, and I am helping those who would dismantle it. That is all."

He turns his back on the other man, and Kazimir is treated to the slick, sharp sounds of a gun being reloaded, movements as efficient as one fully able hand will grant the former healer. "I took no pleasure in knowing you survived Argentina, I will admit that. What are you doing here, exactly?" He pauses, glances over his shoulder. "I cannot believe you have learned what I failed to teach you."

"Believe whatever you'd like, Allegre," The surname is tossed with a sharpness, as if Kazimir can hardly believe he's able to have this conversation, able to have this argument with a man he had conteplated the death of over ten years ago. "I am helping those who would dismantle what I made." The words are almost exactly parroted back, but there's no sarcasm in them, as much as he wishes for there to be. "I made a terrible mistake by forming the Vanguard," Kazimir's admittance comes with a turn of his head to the side, tensing of his brows as if puzzled by his own thoughts and words, "I'm rectifying that mistake before it can become any more disastrous."

Considering that last thing Francois had said to him before he answered, Kazimir wonders about the truth of the statement. Had he learned from what Francois failed to teach. "You were a poor teacher," he offers with little emphasis behind the words, more disappointment — whether in himself or Francois is uncertain. "It took your progeny, your… whatever you would call Abigail Beauchamp." Blue eyes rise from the floor to meet Francois' when he says her the name.

"When she destroyed me, I was gone, dead, obliterated. I watched myself die from behind the eyes of a man named Gabriel. He has… a plethora of abilities, a swiss-army knife of powers. He had mine, for a time, when I claimed his body. But when I was exorcised from him," the notion brings to mind all manner of fanciful images, what Abigail must have gone through to face down Kazimir, "an echo of what I was lingered on in him. Impressions of my memory and personality from his psychic empathy. Impressions of my ability and its life-sapping nature from his intuition, or perhaps from the empathy in a different manner, I could never tell. But I was like a dark seed in the back of his mind, growing, gestating waiting for a time when I could be reborn."

Such theatrics to Kazimir's speech seems familiar, to have him speak of his life as if a shakesperian play brings back old and painful memories. "I watched, helpless as a prisoner from his mind, watched him fall in love with a girl I considered my own daughter, watched him become friends with the men that ended my life, men that were once loyal only to me. I watched him grow and struggle and lose himself entirely… and perhaps in that loss of his mind, I was able to begin returning. A figment in the corner of his vision, a ghost on the edges of his senses, I matured from seed to sapling, until fate delivered me to this young man, when Gabriel attempted to use my ability in a way I had never even dreamed possible."

Kazimir looks away, down to the floor. "He had done it before, and made me feel ashamed for never having been bright enough to realize it. This," he lifts his gloved hands up, looking down at them, "this curse can not only take life, but give it as well." Those blue eyes alight from his palms back to Francois. "Humility was the soil in which my seedling grew into this scarred tree before you."

From behind glass, through bars, seated opposite — Francois has heard speech like this before in many different ways, from age-roughened throats as opposed to the younger tones of Peter Petrelli, and he could almost roll his eyes if it wasn't for the information. He keeps his back to Kazimir all the while, head bowed to look at the pistol in his hands as he listens. When that metaphor is finished, and Francois grants him one more glance, he returns his aim up to fire off four more rounds, despite the ringing assault of noise against his own ears. The shots aren't bad, but there's always room for improvement.

The clip is taken out once more, kept in his hands to fidget with as he grants Kazimir his attention once more, back against the wall of the booth. "Do you remember, when we both discovered what my gift could do to you? It frightened you, but it scared me more than you imagined. That it could do harm, as well as heal. It was then I knew that whatever it was we were, it was bigger than either of us. But you— you were always too arrogant to believe yourself as anything but your power. Monstrous."

He lifts his chin up in a nod towards Kazimir, green eyes cold. "After a while, I believed you too. But you see me here now, without my gift, and I am to believe we are both changed men?"

Head angled down to the floor, perhaps always that way since the gun was being fired, Kazimir seems lost for a time as he considers Francois words. There's a touch of uncertainty in his voice, hesitation that seems unusual. "I— Remember that, yes," blue eyes drift back up to Francois, still somewhat searching in their quality; distant and unfocused things. He swallows, anxiously, and reaches up to brush a bead of that sweat from his temple, eyes falling shut a moment later as he turns to afford Francois his profile, considering the doorway out.

"Men never change," Kazimir reluctantly offers as answer to his old nemesis, "only the times around them." Swallowing tensely, he looks from door to Frenchman, watching his blue-eyed opposite. "Neither of us has truly changed, but that doesn't mean we can't make the effort before our time truly is up."

"I agree," he says, without particular concession. Guarded disbelief remains in his voice, as if, like Kazimir, Francois needs to see it to believe it too. It's not without conflict, manifesting visibly as the scratch of his nails against the magazine in a nervous fidget, the same anxiety that's kept him pacing and sleepless ever since his conversation with his alleged granddaughter. After a moment, he snorts, and pushes his weight back off the wall of the stall. "I would like to believe you are willing to do that, Volken. If I did not think there was some capacity for change in you, this would have ended a long time ago."

He shrugs, looking away as if to dismiss him. "But after you tried to have me killed— after I learned about what you tried to do, the virus, and now this— " His brow furrows. "Perhaps it is just better to let go, non? Release the boy, whether in death or life. You had your time to make amends and now it is borrowed. You should have died before Santiago, truly."

"You and I both know I can't do that, Francois." There's something fleeting in Kazimir's tone, a touch of genuine appreciation for the sounding board, perhaps the only person in the world aside from Adam Monroe who he truly feels is a peer. "I am seeing this to its absolute end, because no one other me can destroy the monster I've made." Then, with more reluctance he implies something unusual. "This is what the boy would have wanted to, for what it's worth. He isn't the kind to give up, or let go, when things become difficult… not, anymore at least."

His words hang in the air, silence finally come to the shooting range. Cloth rustles as Kazimir turns, gloved hands folded behind his back as he walks towards the doorway of the range, head bowed. His footsteps are slow, ponrdous steps, the footfalls of a man with his head somewhere other than level on his shoulders. In a way, this is the Kazimir that Francois knew, and yet at the same time, something still feels off.

And after? Francois doesn't voice the question. It's a cruel one, one he doesn't want to ask himself either. What comes after this is done, for either of them? Eventually, he turns back to his task, to set his mind on the simple equation of pointing a weapon and pulling the trigger, not an equation he'd trained himself in for a long time. If Kazimir is wrong, in that men can change, Francois isn't sure as to whether he's proving it.

The sound of gunshots echo through the shooting range, the cacophony trailing after Kazimir's departure.

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