RP:A Working Plan
This RP is part of the Great Reformation arc.
Synopsis: Croix makes it back to the West after enduring the harsh realities of the East and releasing the cure with Ahab and Clara. On her way to a safe location to recover, she runs into Ahab in the West who had left the East before her. Together, they go to a safehouse where they can clean themselves up and prepare for their next step. They discuss the future of Ankou Ennis and start formulating a plan for what East Ankou will need and how they might get it to them.
Characters: Ahab and Croix
Location: Narrow Alleyway and the Second Floor Safehouse, West Ankou Ennis
The dark and filthy alleyway reeks of mold and smog from the factory district. The floor through this passageway appears to always be wet, an incessant drip emanating from an unknown source. Small pools of liquid reflect light back toward the barely visible sky overhead. A basement stoop leads down into the building on the eastern side of the alleyway. Fire escapes and drain pipes line the dark brick buildings, and metal garbage cans stand in clusters against the exterior walls of the buildings, some of them fallen over with trash strewn across the floor where the starved of West Ankou recently had their latest feast. Shoes can be seen sticking out from behind such a mess; a foot twitches but the body doesn't stir, suggesting the homeless person is fast asleep, having passed out in the filth of their own crumby meal. A brown paper bag with a glass bottleneck sticking out from the top remains cradled against his chest as his mouth hangs agape and drool seeps from the corner of his lips. A black-eyed buzzard watches overhead, perched on the rusted railing of a fire escape, head tilting to the side sharply to get a better look at the bodies below, patiently awaiting the death of its next meal. A quintet of roguish-looking individuals have assembled themselves around the foot of the basement stoop, their dark eyes watching all that pass warily. As crooked as they all seem, none make a move to harm passers-by. They appear to be guarding something, and so long as no one inquires as to what their business is, trouble shall find no one here.
Ahab's rage had not died, in the coming week of peace. Guttered and spent, it had merely gone to sleep inside his heart, resting there until the day it would be needed once again to keep him alive. But the truth of it was, when he had gotten Clara to the West he merely disappeared. A sudden rash of disappearances, attributed to people leaving Ankou, was the only mark he'd left for a while. They never even found the bones. And then...he had returned. A silhouette on an apartment rooftop. Fully dressed in actual clothing (a bit of a dusty suit, but a suit nonetheless) and with a new mask o'er his face (black cloth, balaclava, with a haphazardly painted skull on the front the only thing separating him from a robber and planting him firmly into mad masked murderer territory), he watched. And waited. He knew her path. He knew where she was. She had only just recently surfaced. Truth be told, he wasn't sure why he was waiting on the roof. But if she tried hard enough, or thought hard enough, she'd feel him there. Watching. So much was going to change, so much HAD changed...Ahab's life was on the verge of falling down around him. He had no purpose anymore, no drive. All that had driven him was killing the infected. And now there would be none of that anymore, would there?
He needed Croix. Not to tell him what to do...but to help him understand and maybe even fit into her world. Ahab's world was gone. A cancer that had been cured. All that was left was the pristine West, and if Ahab were to survive, he'd need her help. And for once, he'd gladly admit it.
Croix moved through the night of West Ankou’s street in silence. Her head hung low and her somber, black gaze watched the passing cobblestone as she walked the abandoned street. She had only just returned to the West, and she couldn’t shake the heavy feeling in her stomach. Knowing what was in the East – and what wasn’t – had done more than rock the foundation on which her beliefs had been built. The lack of humanity shown to the survivors of the plague was despicable, and the pit of her stomach wanted her to do something about it. There were countless individuals who had never seen a proper burial and even more who had never seen a proper life. Her mind wandered over thoughts of the East and the poor teenager she’d given the name Thomas to. There was so much that had been lost in the East and the weight of that debt seemed to bear on her. She came to a quiet stop and lifted her gaze. Her hands were in the pockets of her dirty, worn captain’s coat. Wisps of unruly, black hair that had slipped from a haphazard bun flitted with the passing wind. Ahab would see the small light reflecting from her eyes as her gaze connected with his face, the source of which might have been the moon or some distant, old victorian street lamp lit by oil and fire. Her face, though obscured by night, was solemn. She said nothing, but she waited for him.
He watched her come to a stop, felt her eyes, and sprang into action. Clambering down the side of the building with ease, he alighted on the ground and stood before her on the dark and empty street. He waited a moment. There were words to be exchanged, clearly. He just had trouble speaking them. "...y'know, never thought I'd make it. T'the West." He gestured all around them, to the buildings, to civilization, to something resembling life. "Thought I'd die 'fore I saw 'er. Not make it. Then, when I made it here, never thought I'd feckin'survive the rest. An' so on, so forth...long cycle of assumin' I'd keel over 'n breathe out m'last any second." He began his approach, stuffing his hands into the frayed suit pockets. "Lookit me now. Got infected, tore 'em several hundred new ones, 'n got cured fer it. An' honest, Croix...iunno what t'do now." He lets that sit for a moment, before continuing. "S'like everythin' just ended. Like I been...blind, angry this whole time at everythin', angry 'cuz no one came t'save me, angry at the infected fer...existin'." He shrugged. "An' now it's gone. I got nothin' t'hate. I don't hate you. I mean..." He scratched at the mask absentmindedly. "I don't love ye' either...not in...that way. I mean...there's a word for it, ain't there? Plasomethin'...Croix, I'm glad I met'cha. Made'ja what'cha are. No regrets. But...iunno how to work yer world. All this." He once more gestured to the buildings around them. "Don't know what t'do, where t'start...so I was--" He trailed off into mumbling. He took a moment. "Waswonderin'...if y'could help. Iffin'y'don't...mind. Me. That is. Like...existin'. Around ye. Could like...kill people who make y'mad...bodyguard..." He trailed off again, listing any number of odd jobs he could do.
Croix didn’t take her eyes off his mask as words came rushing from behind it. She seemed almost absent as he spoke: traumatized, really. In another time, she might have rolled her eyes or told him to shut up or both, but not this time. Annoyance didn’t register at all on her face. Instead, her eyes fell absently toward the floor as she listened. She appeared distracted and detached, but then her eyes rose again and she nodded silent understanding. For once, he was dressed better than her while she was covered in dirt and sweat and stunk of a desperate need for a bath. “…Ah need a showah,” she drawled, her voice heavy with the sound of depression and fatigue. With a step forward, she started heading toward a narrow, cobbled alleyway, her demeanor one of leading the way. If it wasn’t clear that she wanted him to follow, then she wouldn’t waste a moment waiting for him. The cover of shadow would protect her from any eyes that happened to be open and awake at that hour that might notice the length of her canines, and if Ahab followed, the shadows would hide him too.
Ahab could settle for that. Resolving himself to silence and a lack of an answer, knowing he might never get a real one, he followed along. He had grown rather attached to the concept of wearing a mask, and this new one was already looking to be a favorite. For him, at least. He doubted people who saw it in the dark would have the same opinion. He didn't know how to help her. He wanted to, by god, but he had no idea. The best he could do, maybe, was just...exist. "I'm stealin' yer damn shower after yer done...get the smell'a East off me." A beat as he trailed behind her. "...awww, fuck we gonna do about our teeth..."
Croix managed a brief glance over her shoulder as he asked that question. “File’em down,” she offered quietly as her focus slipped ahead again. “They’re gettin’ in the way.” It was her attempt at making conversation, but her tone fell flat, making a response from anyone almost impossible. ‘Almost’ because Ahab would find a way to respond wherever response was, for most, difficult or impossible to come up with. They winded down several alleys, slipping from one to the next until they were spilled out into an alleyway that looked grittier than any of the others they’d passed through. She stopped just beneath the fire escape and looked up the way. “It’s up there,” she said, stepping forward to begin the climb. She dragged a tall, tin trashcan underneath the suspended ladder and, bracing her hand against the brick building, hoisted herself onto the trashcan. “We’ll have t’go this way to avoid bein’ seen.” It wobbled underneath her, and she held still for a beat to make sure the trashcan wouldn’t give before straightening and reaching for the ladder. The ladder creaked painfully as she tugged it down, the length of it rolling down on cogs until it was low enough for her to climb up. She set her foot on a rung and pressed her weight on it to hold it in place as she started up. It creaked again under the strain of her weight, but she was sure it wouldn’t give just yet. “Start climbin’ before Ah get up. The ladder’ll make an awful racket and wake people up othahwise. We don’t need them seein’ us comin’ up through the fire escape.” However unlike herself she might’ve been, she was still a clever woman.
Ahab paled at the thought of filing his teeth down. Dear god. The pain. He followed along quietly at that point, and when the trashcan wobbled he brought his hands out to steady it. He listened to her advice and as soon as there was space, he was on the ladder and climbing up until he reached top, letting Croix do what she needed with the ladder. "This some kinda safehouse...?" All he had done was dig holes. A lot of them. "...won't ask questions no more." He'd reach out to help Croix pull the ladder back up at least, before once again letting her take the lead. "Probably should get a bone to gnaw on...keep the teeth short, once I...eurgh...file 'em..."
Croix managed a smile through her daze at the thought of Ahab gnawing on a bone like a mutt. It was a fitting thought. He might’ve caught the flash of humor in her eyes as she turned to carry on the climb. Only the lowermost ladder slid on cogs. It was designed to prevent people from climbing up fire escapes but to allow those descending to drop to safety should circumstance need it.
Second Floor Safehouse
The common area sports old vertical sliding windows that do a poor job of keeping the air out even when they're closed. The curtains are typically drawn closed, casting darkness into the apartment even on the brightest of days. Outside the windows of one of the walls is a creaky fire escape. Mildly tacky and old, upholstered cushions are arranged like a normal living area around an old, elaborately carved wooden coffee table, the surface of which remains bare save for a small, out-of-the-place centerpiece of fake fruits. The lighting fixtures are cheap and dated like the aged flower print wallpaper. The floorboards are so worn, they no longer have their glazed appearance. The decorations are impersonal and sparse. Where most homes have their walls and furniture tops littered with elaborate brass- and wood-framed still shots of unsmiling relatives and friends in grey, there are no such decorations here. A moderately-sized impressionist painting of a generic park view is the only thing to hang on the walls, save for the dusty light fixtures. The painting is forgettable and lacks the allure that requires a passerby to inspect it. What decorations have made their way onto furniture tops are candleholders in antique finish and nothing more. The source of light for any room or too-narrow hallway comes from strategically placed candleholders and in the sconces along the walls. It is clear this apartment is not dressed to be lived in permanently.
They reached the second floor and she paused, tapping quietly on the curtained window. The glass was covered in soot and grime, but the curtains inside were tasteful. The fabric was pulled aside slightly from inside to allow an unseen person to peek through, and then the fabric fell back into place. There was a pause, and then the curtain was pulled to the side to reveal a blonde man with hazel eyes and a clean-shaven face. He was preoccupied with keeping the curtain drawn as he unhooked the latch on the window and slid the glass up to let Croix and Ahab through. “Neva seen him b’fore,” he commented in an Australian accent as he held his hand out to help Croix through the window. She took his hand and eased herself in, ducking her head to avoid bumping it on the glass overhead. “Jeez!” he hissed, recoiling his face away from her. “Y’smell awful, luv. And ya look it, too…” He earned a hard look from her, and he quickly shut up, smiling sheepishly at her. “Ai’ll get the towels,” he offered in apology as he left her side. Ahab was left to climb through the window himself.
Ahab waited for her to climb on through, eyeing the man behind the mask when he casually and half-heartedly addressed him. People would learn. Maybe. Who knows. He couldn't tell if he wanted people to be afraid of his name and sighting or to be accepted. Either way, he was already climbing through the window, keeping his mask on and brushing part of his suit off for god knows what reason. He raised one arm and sniffed a bit, recoiling. "Okay we smell terrible sweet gods how did I not notice."
Croix glanced at Ahab, quiet for a beat, and then casually drawled, “Because you always smell lahke that.” The blonde man returned with a handful of neatly folded towels and a couple of bathrobes. “Didn’t know if he’d wanna showuh too, so A brought plenty.” He handed Croix a couple of towels along with a bathrobe and gave Ahab just one towel with his bathrobe. “The’e ya go. You know whe’e t’go, so A’ll jast show ‘im whe’e he’ll be,” he said to Croix. “C’mon,” he said to Ahab, leaving Croix to find the bath alone. It was obvious she’d been here a few times. The blonde man headed down a hallway and never bothered to look over his shoulder to look Ahab up and down. Weird as Ahab was, mask and all, the blonde man seemed to have no interest in acquainting himself with him. He stopped at a door and pushed it open, holding his arm against it to keep it open for Ahab. “A’ll come back t’get ya clothes t’put ‘em in the wash. The robe’ll keep ya covered in the meantime. Jast call if y’need anythin’.”
He followed along the hallway, semi-antsy about being seperated from Croix. He blinked. Separation anxiety? Really? He shook his head of the thought, fuck that. Ahab was glad the man didn't ask questions at least. He entered the room under the man's guidance, and once he left, took a deep breath. "...I ain't got no clue how th'fuck this shower shit works."
Ahab found out how it worked. After trial and error and a bit of scalding hot water, he stepped out, robed up, and felt...clean. Relaxed, even. Deprived of his mask, however, he was more than a bit anxious. Had the man taken that to clean, too? Would he just throw it out? Oh god, what if they threw all his clothes out? Ahab was so close to 'trash' that he didn't even know if they'd give him new clothes. Bah. He shook his long hair out and heaved a sigh. He needed a shave, too. He at least knew how to do that. And a haircut. His currently-ratty long hair, while it looked good when brushed out and payed attention to, was getting in the goddamn way. So Ahab stood alone in his room, currently...quite unsure what to do. He looked nervous, if anything, semi-gnawing at his lips and whatever parts of his chin he could reach with his long, sabre-like teeth. It was too quiet.
A knock sounded on the door of Ahab’s room, and then it pushed open to reveal the blonde man. With his body leaning in through the threshold, one hand braced on the doorframe and the other holding onto the doorknob, he scrutinized Ahab for a minute and then cocked his head toward the hallway to signal that he follow him. The man was unfazed for all intents and purposes, and it really left one to wonder what kind of freak show passed through here for him to not flinch at the sight of such enormous canines. Ahab would be led through the common area from which he’d entered in from the window, where mildly tacky and old, upholstered cushions were arranged like a normal living area around an old, elaborately carved wooden coffee table, the surface of which remained bare save for a small, out-of-the-place centerpiece of fake fruits. The lighting fixtures were cheap and dated like the aged flower print wallpaper, and the wooden floorboards were so worn, they no longer had a sheen to them like floorboards that might’ve been laid in the last decade. The decorations were impersonal and sparse. Where most homes had their walls and furniture tops littered with elaborate brass- and wood-framed still shots of unsmiling relatives and friends in grey, there were no such decorations here. They passed a wall that had a moderately-sized impressionist painting of a generic park view – or maybe it was a park that used to exist in Ankou? – but it really was forgettable and lacked the allure that required any passerby to inspect it. What was perhaps peculiar about the painting was that it was the only one on otherwise barren walls. What decorations had made their way onto furniture tops were candleholders in antique finish and nothing more. The curtains that had been drawn to let Croix and her companion in were returned to their closed state so that whatever light the night might have offered wouldn’t get through. Their source of light came from the strategically placed candleholders laid along their path and in the sconces along the walls. It was clear this apartment was not dressed to be lived in permanently.
Ahab would be led down an uncomfortably narrow hallway, floorboards creaking loudly as the blonde man led the way in confident and sure stride. He didn’t bother to knock on the door he came to and just pushed it up to let Ahab through. Inside, Croix was robed and seated in front of a well-stocked vanity mirror. Outside of this room, there was the sense of dust on most of the furniture, but the room Croix was seated in was well lit by candles and devoid of any dust. She stared at her reflection in quiet indifference as she ran her ornate brush through wet, black locks of her hair. Her skin was so clean, it seemed to glow in the candlelight, but her black eyes were dull with a hidden sadness. Even so, her expression was composed like ever before, and her eyes flicked up from her reflection to the door behind her. Her teeth weren’t nearly as long as Ahab’s, but they had grown uncomfortably long just as well. “They’re gonna take care of our teeth,” she drawled flatly as she returned to her reflection in the mirror. The blonde man had closed the door behind Ahab and left them to their privacy.
Ahab continued to wait. And wait. When there was a knock on the door, he perked up, though the distinct lack of Croix opening the door caused him to return to the defensive, forcing himself to just watch. He followed the man, towel wrapped around his waist. As unassuming as the place was, Ahab was taking in every detail considering this was the closest to safety he'd had in a while. He thought to himself, if he had a place, he was gonna decorate the hell out of it. Trophies! Yes. He smiled to himself, canines dragging along his chin. Trophies of hunts, and of dead infected. Maybe not...in places the public could see, he reasoned. He'd have to keep up appearances now, wouldn't he...or at the very least not look insane. His attention wavered and as he followed the man, he stopped paying attention and retreated inward. Maybe he was insane. Once he had been lead into Croix's room and the door had shut behind him, he took a moment to take her in before returning her words a bit lackluster, "I used'ta live in a hole. A literal hole." His mind had gone elsewhere temporarily. "...feels weird, bein' back here. West. Though I guess soon it's just gonna be 'Ankou', ain't it...no east, no west, no big ol' wall." He envied the next generation. They'd grow up not knowing nightmares. With that, he leaned by the doorway, unsure of how to approach her, if at all. And remained quiet.
Croix set the brush down and turned in her small vanity seat to face him. “Maybe not as soon as y’think,” she commented. Her hands rested in her lap as she watched him. Though she wore a mask of indifference, she was thinking. “The East won’t in’egrate inta our society so easily. If the wall comes down premature, there’ll be pure anarchy. A lotta people’ll die, the economy will suffah, and no one will be safe for a long tahme.” She turned to the mirror again. “That’s wah we gotta establish some kinda ordah over there before that happens. We needa fahnd a way to provahde for their more basic needs. We gotta earn their trust and improve their lives before that wall comes down, ‘cause when the wall falls, the govuhnment in West Ankou will go with it, and we need measures set in place t’make sure we keep ordah once that happens.”
Ahab kept an eye on her. He'd have to pay attention from now on. The West was far different from his 'home'. He couldn't just...kill his way through. There were rules. "Sounds supiciously t'me like y'got a plan fer that. Or at the very least, the makin's of one. But the other question is how long do we got 'fore th'wall goes t'shit?" He scratched at his head absentmindedly, trying to remain...grateful, at least, that he was alive. And cured. "...'n how the hell do I help? Best I can do is, y'know. Kill shite 'n make sure it don't get back up. 'n kill it more." He at the very least took pride in what he was good at, but... "Can I even fit?"
She set her hand on the brush but stopped there, staring thoughtfully in the mirror to think about how Ahab can fit into it. She could try to give him a role that he was unaccustomed to and could mess up for lack of familiarity with customs of the West, or she could give him a role that would require exactly the skills he’d honed over his life. But for once in her life, Croix wasn’t sure if she wanted to use Ahab’s skills by exposing him anymore to that life he’d known. “You tell me what you wanna do,” she started, looking at him through the mirror. “Ah’m gonna start a route to the East t’get ‘em supplies and build a relationship with the city. We needa give ‘em stuff that’ll not only help them suh-vahve but that’ll make their lahves a hell of a lot easier, too. Ah need an easy way t’transport large amounts of goods. Maybe a wagon and a horse. We’ll give ‘em that on our first trip. We needa fahnd out what they want, too, and then supply them with it regularly.” She let go of the brush and turned to one of her vanity drawers, pulling out a sheet of parchment and then finding an inkwell and a pen. As she scribbled, she carried on to say, “Ah don’t wanna send unexperienced women and men into the East, so it’s bettah if we get people from their city t’travel to the mines to make the pickups themselves. We should help them come up with action plans to improve the East themselves and provahde them with any volunteers they mahght need as they rebuild their society. We needa fahnd out what’s happenin’ to the infected bodies and we needa move ‘em. We needa improve their source of watahs and raise their standards of livin’ as much as we can as cheaply as we can. Ah can think that all up mahself or get some people t’do it for me, but there’s a lot to be done,” she explained, dipping her pen in the inkwell and carrying on writing. Finally, she set the pen down and blew on the paper before folding it up and finding an envelope to place it in. Finding sealing wax and her stamp, she heated the end until red wax dripped onto the flap of the envelope and stamped it with a big, red x. “Ah think the leadah’s name is Mara. She was impossible t’fahnd when we were there, but Ah think she’ll be hard pressed t’hahde from us if we’re offerin’ necessities.”
A beat. He was startled by her telling him that, considering he didn't quite know what he wanted to do. He wanted to live, that's for sure. He wanted to live, to exist, to maybe find peace. But he had no idea what peace was or how to find it. He still stayed where he was, listening intently to her gameplan. Once she was done, he offered up something; "Nobody likes survivors. Westerner's gonna pretend we don't exist." He pushed himself off the wall, approaching her. "Think about yerself for a sec, Croix. I come over the wall, I tell you all the shit I seen, been through, LIVED through...'n y'laughed. Y'didn't believe me." It was a painful truth, but he had to say it. "An' then when y'saw it yerself, now that'cha believe...now y'wanna help the East, save it 'n the people there. I ain't disagreein' with'ya...matter of fact, I'm kinda surprised. But you know they ain't gonna believe you, or me, or anyone who comes on over. Honestly, I want that damn wall to fall. No more curtain, no more hidin', show 'em the real East. But'cher right. Helpin', maybe...helpin' is good. I can get her th'letter." Nobody could hide from him in the East. And maybe he'd need to pay a visit to the Doctor, find out what was happening to the infected now that the cure had been distributed. Now halfway across the room, he stopped himself from going further, muttering under his breath, "Maybe helpin's a good place t'start fer peace." Then he picked up again, "They ain't gonna believe the East is worth savin'. Or helpin'. 'cuz far as they're concerned...there ain't nothin' there but the dead."
He folded his arms, watching her in the mirror curiously. "Wonderin' how y'gonna make 'em believe there's people still livin'. How y'gonna take action." Through persuasion, or through force. They were at a crossroads.
Croix turned in her seat again to look at him. She sat back and tilted her head slightly as she listened to him. What he said to her was true, but it didn’t factor at all into her plans. “Doesn’t mattah what the West thinks or does so long as they keep ignorin’ the East. Bettah fuh us if they do.” She rose then, pulling the sealed envelope with her and approached him. “Ah’m not trynna get the East t’like and trust the West. Ah’m trynna get ‘em t’trust me. The West needs t’stay ignorant about what we’re doin’, ‘cause what we’re about to do is so illegal, we’ll nevah see the light of day again if we get caught. So act with the utmost discretion when you’re in the West. You be absolutely careful when you cross, ‘cause that’ll surely be the end of you and could very well be the end of me.” She held the envelope out to him, barely an inch out from his chest. A single knock came from the door and the blonde man peeked in. “Ready,” he announced in his oddly chipper accent. Croix glanced at Ahab and said, “Keep it safe.” Stepping around him, she followed after the blonde man, looking over her shoulder to make sure Ahab was following as well. She paused at the door and rested her hand on the doorframe. “Tahme t’file those teeth,” she said.
Ahab blinked. He just barely managed to blurt out, "Croix, I got'cher back fer as long as you need if you keep this whole 'fuck the West' thing up, y'beautiful fuckin' woman--" before there was a knock on the door. He heaved a sigh at that, taking the envelope and, for now, tucking it into the shorts he had been wearing under the towel. Discretion. He could do that. And he'd be damned if he was the reason Croix got in deep shit. He nodded once more before turning around to follow her, paling visibly at her final words. "Oh fer fuck's sake, 'n here I was all happy 'n shit 'n y'ruin it with teeth filin'. Yer killin' me, woman." But he was smiling, at least. And his eyes had lit up much the same way someone's does when they talk of something they're passionate for.
Ahab’s excitement had earned him a genuine smile from Croix, which was a rare sight by all measures. “It won’t hurt,” she promised. “We have the hook up.” And with that cryptic claim, she led the way.