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This World Belongs to the Mad; open
Topic Started: Oct 3 2016, 03:14 PM (1,485 Views)
Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
(Alex Tarquin ENTER: from now is the winter of our discontent)

A true actor must master their stage entirely.

A million things may go wrong during a performance. You may be sick, but decide to carry on. Your other players may be sick, and forget a line, or a cue, or some part of their blocking. A light could go out. A prop could be unexpectedly broken. You must be ready to adapt to every changing circumstance. The show must go on!

And if you intend to play the villain? If you intend to be a figure of menace and dread, and inspire fear in those you face? If you intend to be the finest example of a monster preying upon the weak that this wretched game has ever known?

Alex Tarquin is facing a problem. The problem has truly, seriously occurred to him now, for the first time in his life. It has been attacked before, certainly. He no longer overtly professes his belief in the world of musicals and martial arts movies, of effortless choreography and moments of masterful movement too magnificent for mere reality. But he still believes it, on some level. In the idea of men and women who transcend reality's paltry limits.

Or at least, he did believe it. But the girl is dead. Rea was her name, apparently. That's what Tracen Danya said, droning on in those announcements. Rea, the woman he killed.

Rea, the first of many.

He sliced her open while playing pretend, imagining he could use a weapon made for slicing and killing for something besides slicing and killing. He imagined he could be such a master, such a hero. He understands better now. When the blade slices through the air, no one can really stop it cleaving flesh. It's kill or be killed. It's survival.

A hero cannot exist. But a villain might be equally impossible. To be intimidating and compelling, the villain must have a compelling allure of invincibility. In order for there to be dramatic tension, the heroes must think their cause is hopeless. They must face incredible odds.

But Alex is just a man. How can he become that villain? How can he be a creature of such terrible, fatal grace that he compels the attention of his audience.

The answer, of course, is in the stage. Master the stage, and you can adapt and improvise to the unexpected.

There are only two people on the island who know that he is a killer, that have borne witness to his start of darkness. That gives him time. Before word spreads, he must prepare.

He spent all that remained of his first bloody day wandering the island and studying his map. As he moved, he was gathering supplies. He had half-formed ideas already, though of course these would change based on the nature of the stage and the nature of the tools he might find.

Well. Truth be told, he already had a stage in mind.

As dark drew a heavy curtain across the island, Alex returned to the place where he'd found the leather jacket. He started to lie on one of the creaking, musty mattresses, then decided against it. Instead he rolled beneath it, pulling the mattress down so he was obscured. That was where he'd been when the announcements had started.

The world knew now. So it was time to get to work.

The asylum seemed ideal for his purposes. It had to have been built for security, he reasoned, and besides that there was the symbolism of the place. If he could master it, learn its ins and outs, he could use it as a weapon just as effectively as any of his swords. He wandered its halls, hesitated at the sounds of voices, kept finding new halls, new paths, until...

Until in a little corridor of heavy doors, he found Conrad.

He stared at the shredded remains of the man still pinned to the wall. He remembered the Announcements. Who had done this? Isabel? Did he remember an Isabel? He thought he recalled one, he thought--a small, almost mousy girl, who...

Who had done this?

One monster among many is part of the background. How to be a monster they can't forget?

He stared at the body, and thought of Isabel, and almost didn't notice that it was the shredded corpse of a man he'd once known.

He felt like vomiting, but he would not allow it. What monster would vomit? How to make himself stand out?

"Fascinating," he said, leaning forward and drinking deep of the blood-and-shit smell of the shredded, tortured corpse.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
A voice, out of the dark.

Alex whirled, a sharp cold shock stopping his heart and spasming across his body. It would have reached his face, to show his naked terror: it took every instinct he had to instead make his eyes flash into an appraising glare. Surprised, yes: he might be larger than life, but he could have his flaws. But scared? A villain couldn't be scared. A monster couldn't be scared.

How to be a monster that exceeds this?

He allowed (forced) a small smile to flicker beneath his glaring eyes.

"You presume wrong," Alex said. "We all understand it. Some of us are just more willing to admit that fact."

He gestured towards the broken body with his machete. He tried to make the gesture as casual as possible, as though he was not conscious of the thing in his hand as a weapon that had already killed a woman.

"You already know why he died," Alex said. "Now the question is: why was he killed? More to the point: why was he killed like this?"
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"You think so?" Alex asked, glancing back over his shoulder (and making sure he could see the other man from the corner of his eye). "I couldn't tell. I thought perhaps he'd been desecrated after the fact. Each would raise some interesting questions."

He pondered the body, and he pondered the man, too. Jeremy...something. He couldn't remember the last name. Bit of an introvert, but Alex had seen him down in the pit on a few shows.

"And each shows a frightful lack of control, doesn't it?" Alex asked. "One way or another, it was important for her to dominate the body. Either by pain or by mocking the corpse. Hardly seems like she could be the fittest, does it?"

Ah, interesting. That was a motivation, wasn't it? It could turn him into something of an anti-villain. A man determined to win, but also to be the example of what honorable victory looked like. Clean. Precise. Why else had he cut down Rea?

Because you were scared.

"I think someone will have to educate Ms. Ramirez," Alex mused, glancing down at his sword and squelching the whisper in his mind. "On how to properly kill."
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
“I think so. Not sure what the point would be of doing it after he died.”

"No?" Alex asked, turning to face Jeremy fully once again, pretending that the thick and awful stench of the shredded body didn't make his stomach curdle, pretending he was the creature of iron confidence that Sabrina Luz had believed in. "I should think it was obvious. It's the same motive she'd have if she'd tortured him. It's control." This was bullshit, wasn't it? But it sounded like compelling bullshit. It sounded like the kind of bullshit that meant he didn't have to slice this man down where he was standing.

Any difference between him and Rea?

Rea's already dead.


"If he's alive, she wants control by inflicting pain. By turning him into more than a victim. If he's dead, then she robs him of any dignity. Either way, she comes out the superior. A desperate need for that superiority." He pursed his lips. "Sounds dangerous, no?"

“Burn bright, burn fast,” Jeremy said, taking one or two steps closer. “They might have all the screentime now, but it’d be odd if they lasted much longer than that."

Alex almost took a step back, but caught himself in time, turning it into an appraising stare, leaning back to survey the man in front of him. To step back would make him look frightened, caught off-guard. If he was going to show his fear, it would only be when the show was over. He did not intend to burn fast. But still, Jeremy's words struck oddly close to home. Thoughts of screentime, and performance.

“So,” Jeremy said, as he leaned his left shoulder on the wall. “I’m assuming that someone is you?”

"It could be," Alex mused, turning the machete each way, examining the edge of the blade. He saw the faintest trace of red where it had sliced into Rea. Imagined spilling Jeremy's blood the same way. "I do intend to win this game." And if that's your line, Alex, why aren't you killing Jeremy now. "But it aggravates me that they want me to win on their terms." He turned glaring eyes to the camera in the corner of the room. "They create the game, but refuse to play it. When I win, I intend to test their fitness." He remained like that, glaring at the camera, Jeremy still visible from the corner of his eye.

A mad idea popped into his head. An idea that brought to life every one of the fears he'd had when talking to Tara and Lizzie. An idea borne of the same tree that had slet him cut down Rea.

"But I don't see any reason why we can't be civil about it," Alex said, turning back to Jeremy. "I intend to be the fittest. Here, that is defined by the last person able to survive. If you think you can fill that role, you're welcome to join me. We can cut each other down when there's no one else left."
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
For a moment, Alex said nothing. Mostly because he didn't know what to say.

He was forging on blind into unfamiliar territory. He was a killer now. There was blood on him, metaphorically and literally. He had fought to kill. And now he had assumed his role. He would be the villain you could love. The villain you might almost want to win.

But that required envy. And what do men and women of all stripes envy? Freedom. Freedom from consequence, freedom from moral restraints, freedom from the common things that compel every man and woman to bite their tongue and bend their heads. Everyone wants the Nietzschean Superman. So how to become that creature? How to be that man?

So he slowly raised his machete, and pointed it at Jeremy.

"You cowards!" he snarled. He advanced two steps forwards, glaring into Jeremy's eyes. "You enter this place, you survive this long, and you will not admit what is expected of you? What is required of you?" He leaned closer. "Survival of the Fittest. Say it with me. And we must aspire to fitness. We must be stronger and better than the others. We must be better than this."

He jerked his head back towards the shredded corpse against the wall. "Is that who you want to win?" he asked. "Is that the future you want for mankind?" He sneered. "Or should we all be such cowards that we would fear so swing the blade when it is required of us?"

His stomach felt queasy. His legs felt shaky, but he refused to show it. His eyes were watering, but he kept them narrowed into a derisive glare. He was the villain in full. Let no one think otherwise.

"If you don't have the guts," Alex said. "Then run before I cut you down myself."
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Another precarious moment where Alex hung suspended between what he'd decided to be and what he actually was.

The ringing of the bell? Tolling across the island, calling for attention? Bold, true. It did take guts. Calling for attention. It was big and it was bold and it meant something, but...

But did Alex think that? Or did Alex David Tarquin, the man who would be the fittest, think that?

"So let me see if I understand you," Alex said. "You rang a bell, and you think qualifies as courage? What exactly did you gain from that, Jeremy? What point did it serve?" He gestured back to the corpse. "This? This is a sign of weakness. But what do you imagine ringing a bell accomplishes? What do you think it proves?"

His machete had slowly dropped, however. He was studying Jeremy with naked curiosity on his face. Both the man and the role would benefit from knowing what point Jeremy was trying to make.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The scene expands. New players take the stage. New potentials. New stories. So many interesting narratives for the crafty villain to exploit.

I really must learn the name of Rea's friend. He'd make an excellent hero. I hope.

And what timing, too! This woman enters the scene just as the man is joined to Alex's compelling cause! Yes, very good! No easy victories! If he is to become the villain of this tale, he must earn his place.

"You know," he said, smiling. "We've got about a half-dozen killers now, myself included. Our plan might sound like stupidity, but surprising armed men? I think that's a very special breed of stupid. Not very fit of you." His smile widened, and he tried to show a little teeth. Tried to look like a snarling animal.

"But you're not wrong," he conceded, glancing back to Jeremy. "I'm afraid you haven't quite understood my plan."

He gestured to the camera in the corner of the room. "Our captors have designed a crucible," he said. "They want us to believe in betrayal. They wish to select the fittest from our ranks. I don't think I disagree. But we will do it on our terms." He gestured casually with the machete, indicating Lily, Jeremy, and himself. "A coalition of the like-minded, until we are all that remains. And then we shall test ourselves properly. We will play their game, but we do it by our rules." The smile was wider, a little maniacal. "We decide who is the fittest."
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
[whoops sorry guys somehow did not realize Medic had posted]

A grin flashed across Alex's face. He forced his eyes to burn with resolve he didn't feel. He crossed to Jeremy and clapped him on the shoulder. "Excellent," he said. "Excellent! We will put an end to the lunatics like Isabel! We will-!"

But Lily spoke again. Alex's grin widened. He forced it to, because Lily was right. Because he knew that gun was there. Because it could end him in an instant, for all his pretending.

Except...could it? One guy had already fired, a bullet scraping against his skull. How much was pretend, and how much was real? What was the line?

A true actor inhabits their stage.

He turned towards Lily, raised his free hand to his headband, pulled it up to show the long, blood-crusted scrape. "A man with a gun already tried," he said. "I'm still standing." His grin faded slightly, and he added, "It takes more than a gun. It requires the will to use it. And the luck to hit your target. For all we know, Jeremy has neither. For all we know, he's less fit than you are."

He took a step towards her and away from Jeremy. "I did not offer you a place in our company. I do not think I want you. Look at you. You're like a scared animal. You came to investigate and now you're rearing up to make yourself bigger because you cannot hurt us and you know we can hurt you. You want us to imagine that you are some fount of truth or insight. You're nothing. You're a speck."

He made sure he still had Jeremy in his peripheral vision, and allowed his grin to die entirely. Now there was just the terrible burning of his eyes. He felt them prickling with tears, but he could not allow them to fall. He used them, gave them that laughing cast that looked so mad and so dangerous. Because if he did this, he was committed to his path. There would be no turning back.

But there was no turning back already. None that left him a road to glory.

The stench of Conrad's corpse hung heavy over him. He wondered how much worse it would become, if they added a second body to the mix.

"Jeremy," he said, keeping his voice conversational. He stared fixedly at the girl, but conscious of the other man with the gun on his periphery, conscious for any sign of dangerous or threatening movement. "Do you think we should kill her?"
Edited by Grim Wolf, Oct 25 2016, 06:11 PM.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The first, hilarious thought was to insult her further: Really? I don't see a mirror in here. But maybe that was idiotic. No, scratch that: that was definitely idiotic. He had a role to play. Insulting her? Being petty? That would turn him into a caricature. That would make any audience want to see him go, so that they did not have to bear with him any more. He had to feel dangerous. Wasn't that what made Hannibal Lecter so fascinating? That he could be reasoned with, but that he would dispose of you in a heartbeat to suit his own ghastly ends.

He would have opportunity to prove the latter. Hell, he'd already done so, in the battle against Rea's friend yesterday. Now, he had to prove the former.

"Lunatic, she says." Alex chuckled, raising his voice so that Jeremy could hear him. "But only after she reminded me of her family. Did you notice that? Perfectly willing to talk high-minded concepts, but only after you try to threaten me by pretending to be part of some pack."

He jerked his head back towards the body rotting on the wall. "The woman who did that is monstrous," he said. "And I intend to deal with her, if she crosses my path. But then, when all is said and done, your family has to be dead if I'm to be the fittest. Maybe not by my hand, but they will be dead. Yourself included."

He paused, cocking his head thoughtfully, as though considering her. Truth was, he was considering how to play this. He didn't want to kill Lily. The thought made him sicker than the smell coming off of Conrad's body. He wasn't sure he could do it. He wasn't sure he could swing this blade intentionally. He clutched the handle of his machete reflexively, but forced himself to relax. Had to appear the perfect image of cool poise. Allow himself to become desperate in a fight, certainly. But outside of a fight, he had to look at ease.

"I'm not worried," Alex said. "You wandered blind into this place, and you scrabble to turn us against each other or find some threatening growl that will convince me you're dangerous. But you're not dangerous, are you?" He shrugged. "Let the others chase you down, if they choose," he said. "It's a waste of effort. Hell, it's a waste of a bullet. You'll kill yourself before you kill anyone else." He turned away from her and turned his head slightly to smile at Jeremy--and so that she was still in the corner of his gaze. "That's just my opinion, of course. If you disagree, feel free."
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Empty words that refused engagement. Alex was satisfied. Whatever her parting jibes, any objective observer would clearly see that Alex had been in complete control of the situation. That she had managed to get the last word might even play to his advantage: it gave her an air of desperation, which he imagined would be neatly juxtaposed against his cool, terrifying gaze, his exposed back a taunt that she could not address.

The first real scene since the death of Rea

(since I killed her)

and he thought it had gone rather well.

"Bad and good are arbitrary distinctions, Jeremy," he said. "But you're not wrong, either. We do need to think about our visual. We do not yet have the reputation to protect us from reprisals." He began pulling objects out of his pack--fishing line and empty cans rescued from a fallen dumpster. He frowned at the cans and began probing one of them with his machete. "We need to be aware of anyone coming," he said. "If we can-"

And suddenly there was a new presence on the scene, a mocking voice and joking words, and Alex felt his heart lurch in his chest.

Crowe. Of course it was Crowe. Wannabe tough-guy, paintball opponent, always dropping jokes. In Kingman, all of that added up to a fairly entertaining man, albeit one who could get on your nerves. But here? Here the story was quite different. Here, Crowe was a problem.

Start with what he has just said, implying that one of them had shit themselves. But the problem is that a proper villain doesn't do that. A proper villain is always in control, often bested, never beaten. If Crowe makes such jokes, and if Alex lets him...

His confrontation with Lily was fraught with potential violence, potential danger. By making it clear he was capable of such action and then daring her to seize an opportunity, Alex had won. The power had belonged to him.

But really consider Crowe. There are only a few options here. He stays, or he goes. If he stays, it will be a never-ending series of such jokes. It will be constant mockery. He will undercut the seriousness of your position at every turn. He will turn you into someone petty that no one can take seriously. If there is any hope for glory or grandeur here, he will take it from you.

But if you react with anger--if you make it seem, even for a moment, that Crowe has gotten under your skin with his idiotic jibes--then you are lost.

He turned his head slowly, to see the other man pulling the toilet paper from his bag. He rose, with deliberate care, to his feet. He lifted his machete.

"Wipe what?" he asked, aware that this was dangerous, aware that just by acknowledging the joke he might be seen as agreeing to his premise. Aware that he walked a tight rope and if he erred even a little he would never recover. "My sword?" He waved it back and forth in front of his face, as though he couldn't even see Crowe. He ran a finger along the red still staining the blade. "You're right, I probably should have," he admitted. "But I was in a hurry."

Jesus Christ Alex what are you even saying.

"Now, Michael," he said. "I understand you may be scared shitless, if you'll pardon the pun-" Ah, good! Move into the humor of the situation, without ever letting it undercut your danger (Fly away, little Starling. Fly fly fly)! "-but if you think you can relax around me for even a moment I will cut you down faster than I did Rea."

He took a step towards Crowe.
Edited by Grim Wolf, Nov 2 2016, 02:57 AM.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
[skipping with permission as well]

Oh, Alex, what have you done?

You drove Lily away, but Lily had no weapon. You killed Rea, but Rea was running. You survived your fight with the man with the gun, but you had to run. You broke down. You had the epiphany that must now guide everything you do (in public, and in private). And now Crowe--Crowe who you like, Crowe who dueled with you in the dark of Kingman, laughing just as hard as you as you sprayed paintballs through a place you knew you shouldn't be--has his weapon at the ready because you dared him to.

Jeremy is right behind you with his gun. If Jeremy shoots you both down now, he will walk away covered in glory, and you will be another betrayed child who trusted the wrong man. But a proper villain, a complex villain who holds the attention of the audience, he cannot just strike down every man and woman he comes across. He has to have a code. The audience must, in some small way, hope he can win. Wilson Fisk is compelling because he risks as much as Daredevil and for a similar cause. A villain who you can't understand is a villain who you cannot idolize.

So many ways this scene can play out. You can talk, and shoot down all his petty, petulant accusations. You can strike down, and leave everyone at home thinking that what he said was true, that it touched a nerve, that you were out of control and you needed to regain control. You can't become a psycho. You've already painted Isabel that way. You must be distinct.

Above all else: you must be unflappable. You must always have the visual fixed firmly in your head. You knew that even before Rea.

So Crowe talks and jibes and mocks, and you allow yourself to smile. No, more than that: you start to chuckle. Remember, though: restraint! If you allow yourself to cackle like a maniac, you will look like a maniac. You have to look right. Like a man who is so struck by the absurdity of what he is seeing that there is no other choice but to laugh. You have to make the audience think the same thing. In tone alone, you have to say, Look at how fucking stupid this things is! Laugh with me! Laugh, because if you see something different, maybe you're just as stupid as he is!

"Hot shit," he repeated, still chuckling. "Mike, do you actually think you're tough? Was that supposed to be intimidating? Was it supposed to make me feel something?" He allowed himself to laugh harder, though he was conscious of Jeremy behind him, conscious of the axe in front. "I guess it did, but I don't think it's what you were going for."

Alex really liked the works of Aaron Sorkin, but the problem with Sorkin--as it the problem with so many TV writers--is that they don't prepare you for reality. No one is every so brilliantly, inarguably right that they floor their opponent in an argument. No one delivers the perfect one-liner that ends the fight and drives the other off in shame. It was the hardest lesson Alex ever had to learn in Debate. You see yourself as the protagonist, but so does your opponent. No matter how devastating you, are no matter how insightful, your opponent will argue. You will never win.

Alex had just been reminded of this fact by his conflict with Lily. He was pretty sure he'd come out ahead. Any contest where you called your opponent a scared rabbit and she actually ran...well, how could he not win? But the visual was still important here. If he was to win, it would not be clear or unambiguous. He simply had to come off better than his raving opponent.

He had to look and sound better than Crowe.

"Rea is dead," Alex said, his laugh fading even though his smile remained. "Because at the moment it mattered most, she was weak, and I was strong." (Christ, that sounds so much better than, "Because I was picturing The Raid in my head and she surprised me.") "And Mike, all your jokes and all your fake courage aren't going to change the fact that that's all that's going to matter. Who's weak, and who's strong. Who's fit, and who's unfit."

Alex pointed his machete towards Crowe. He remembered Rea, and the machete skidding across the floor mere moments before she'd appeared. The only reason she'd died. The only reason. And Alex knew that. Alex would never not know that. Alex knew how scared he was, knew how desperately afraid he was of dying, how haunted he was by the image at every moment.

But the character he was playing? Alexander David Tarquin, The Man Who Would Be the Fittest? Alexander David Tarquin, who would prove just how dangerous this game was? Alexander David Tarquin needed more than that. Alexander David Tarquin needed glory. Alexander David Tarquin needed to be a creature from beyond reality. A man with the poise and sincerity of a Whedon villain and the razor wit of a Sorkin hero.

He dropped the machete. It clattered to the floor. Alex's heart thrilled in his chest and ice dripped through his veins and he was still smiling. He betrayed no hint of the total terror suffusing every inch of him. He let his eyes bore into Mike's.

He took another step, so he was within the range of Crowe's axe. He felt like a bow string pulled taut.

"I know which I am," Alex said. "Which are you?"

Another step.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
[suggest we just switch to Alex-->Mike-->Jeremy-->, barring any more skips]

Crowe lowered his axe, and put a hand on his shoulder. Alex folded his hands into his pockets, and lifted his eyebrows. "Funny," he said. "I might have said the same.

Crowe turned away, and Alex closed his eyes. He allowed a slight smile to play across his lips. The closing of his eyes was a moment of relief, as he realized he would manage to escape with his image intact and without Crowe's blood on his hands. The smile was artifice, to preserve his air of cool command.

And the world exploded, and Alex collapsed to the floor, the heavy weight of the huge sword on his back bringing him down even as it dug painfully into his skin.

He remembered the gunshot in the warehouse, the white-hot pain of a bullet scraping across his skull. He remembered thinking he was dead. He thought so again now. He thought the axe had been swung in his moment of careless inattention, and that eyes and skull were split and blood and brains ran out and oh god how inglorious, how-

How similar getting an axe to the face felt like getting a punch to the face.

He'd been hit before. Of course he'd been hit before. Not this hard, but Alex was insufferable in martial arts classes, and he knew it too. Just a punch to the face. Crowe had punched him in the face. He had laid down his weapon, and Crowe had punched him in the face.

He hurt, and he wanted to hurt Crowe for this. He wanted to rise to his feet. No, he needed to rise to his feet. He needed to regain control of the situation, restore his image, he needed to make Crowe hurt for hurting him, the bastard had hurt his face, his face, the face he needed preserved, the face that would become famous, the face he loved and took pride in, he needed the sonofabitch to pay-!

And if Alex did it wrong, he would look even worse. He would become the same kind of monster preying on the weak that he accused Isabel of being. He would...

Too much risk to describe. Never lose your cool. Never break. No more Reas.

So instead, he started laughing.

The timing was perfect, though he didn't know it. He hadn't even registered that Crowe was babbling, too lost in the thick fog of pain and rage. He caught only the tail-end of his words--"-in your fuckin' sleep...just think this through!"

He rolled to his feet with all the grace he could muster, even though his nose felt crooked. As he rose, he pulled the enormous sword from his back in one clean move. He wobbled a little on his feet and turned the moment's clumsiness into a manic jig.

"A punch!" he shouted, laughing still. "A fist, not an axe! Interesting, interesting, interesting!" Alex had no way of knowing this, but he looked demented: blood trickled from the corner of his grinning mouth, showing off red-stained teeth, and his eyes burned above the steady stream of blood flowing freely from his nose. The enormous sword rested casually on his shoulders, so long it almost scraped the other wall.

"Why the fist?" he asked, leaning forwards. "Why not just try to kill me?"
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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Grim Wolf
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
So, here's the problem.

Michael Crowe is speaking his language. Michael Crowe is offering himself up as the hero to his villain. And that is a powerful narrative, no two ways about it. He's right: it does have a strong pull to it, a McClane/Gruber vibe. The confident, unshakeable villain, and the brash, trash-talking hero. And given how timeless Alan Rickman's performance is, how pervasive an icon Bruce Willis became, that narrative has tremendous appeal.

There's just one problem. Well, two, if Alex is being honest.

The first is this: Alex isn't Gruber, and Crowe isn't McClane. Alexand David Tarquin may not know this fact, but Alex has to. Everything he does has to be grounded in reality, while giving Alexander David Tarquin the tools he needs to look far grander than he really is. The odds that one of them makes it to the finale are already low enough: the odds that both of them will are minuscule. Alexander David Tarquin cannot acknowledge this reality, but Alex has to. Alex has to know that if he lets an enemy walk away now, he may lose--not just the game, but also the character he's trying to cling to, the glory and admiration he can't stand to lose.

The second: Crowe had punched him in the face. Crowe had already ruined the illusion, by striking at Alex when his guard was down.

The narrative isn't simple anymore. We live in a world so saturated with storytelling devices that even the most plebian member of your audience is going to expect the common cliches. Die Hard is a product of its time. It is an iconic product, on par with other classics, but its devices have been borrowed and innovated on countless times. If he intends to build on the narrative, if he intends to make it something worth watching, he has to be very careful about how he acts. And about the reasons he gives.

"I see," Alex said. "I suppose my only question is: which of us is Max, and which is Toecutter? Which is Deckard, and which is Roy? Which of us do you think is the hero, Crowe?"

The blood was running down his face. There was a gun in Jeremy's hand.

"We're not leaving," Alex said to Jeremy, carefully sheathing his giant sword. "This is our place, and we have work to do. But Mike can go if he likes. I'd like to know how long he keeps his illusion of heroes and villains." Alex extended a hand, and saw the moment's hesitation in the other's face. Then a return to McClane brashness, reaching out to take the hand.

Alex struck then, before his frayed nerves could get the better of him. He twisted the arm, hooked his leg beneath Crowe's so the other man pitched to the ground, catching himself on splayed fingers. And Alex was rising again with the machete in hand, the machete was swinging again, Rea was falling in front of his eyes again, but this time it was deliberate, this time he knew exactly what he was doing, and his nerves were singing and his stomach quivering but he trusted in the body he'd spent so long training, the hand-eye coordination he'd developed working backstage and shadowboxing.

The machete snicked neatly through the pinky of the hand that had struck Alex. Crowe gasped, stared down at his hand in disbelief, then moved for his axe. Alex's foot was already on the handle: he stood above him, the machete wet with Crowe's blood and pointed towards his throat.

"You can go," Alex said. "And when they ask you what happened to your hand, tell them you dared strike Alexander David Tarquin when he had laid down his arms. Tell them it was your punishment for weakness and cowardice. Tell them I wanted to make it clear just how unfit you were."

Alex lifted his foot and his blade, and turned away from Crowe. He stared straight ahead with his best attempt at regal imperiousness, trying to hide the tears in his eyes, the bile in his throat.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Alex did not look back as Michael spit his vitriol and fled. He did not look back as Jeremy gasped and breathed like he was hyperventilating, until his breathing slowed. Until he spoke words of calm command.

How lucky, to find a man who could be so calm and cool. How lucky, to find an earnest ally, who believed his bullshit.

He looked down at the blood from Michael's severed finger. He wondered where he had found the courage to commit such madness. But he knew. Nothing else remained to him. An accident had set him on this path. A moment's psychosis. Now he had to make it part of his character.

"Alright," Alex agreed. He moved to the corps, dug at the weapon pinning Conrad to the wall, felt bile rising in his throat again at the awful stench, at the sickening squelch of blades and spikes in flesh. He fished it free, and lowered the rusting, bloodsoaked weapon to his side.

No, if he meant what he had said, he would have killed Crowe. But there was no time for that. And no spirit for that. He knew that about himself now. He had to kill in the heat of the moment. He could not kill coldly.

And now? Now Crowe had motivation. If he returned, it would be a proper conflict, a battle between them to decide who was stronger. To decide who was fit.

Alex had to create the narratives. If he was killed by some random asshole, it would mean nothing. But now? Now, if Crowe returned, minus a finger with axe in hand? If Luke Skywalker killed Darth Vader.

And Alex had taken that finger. He had done it confidently, easily. He had done it as though he were slicing a vegetable.

We are but meat the strong do eat.

You can't make this right, Alex. But then, the clock's counting down, isn't it? You could die any day, couldn't you?

He held the mancatcher in his hand. He stared down at the broken body of Conrad Herrod. He could smell the death and blood in this room. Most of it had been done by Isabel. Most, but not all.

He dropped his weapons. He finished what he'd begun: the can, and the string. To make sure he would know what was to come. To make sure he and Jeremy were never caught off-guard. To make sure the stage was his to command.

He finished his work, and stood up. He looked back to the door. He felt sick. He felt weak. His hands were trembling, though he concealed this fact by burying them in his pockets.

"Thank you," Alex said. "Let's go."

(EXIT: ALEX TARQUIN to Woof Woof, I'm a Dog. Kill your Friends.)
Edited by Grim Wolf, Nov 8 2016, 03:48 PM.
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V6 Players

Tara Behzad: "They don't get to decide how I die."

Lizzie Luz: "I don't want to go."

Alex Tarquin: "No more masks."

V5 Players


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