Date: April 25, 2010
Max invites himself over.
"Monsters of New York"
Erin's Old Apartment
The apartment is not as it was left. The door is unlocked and cracked open. Just inside, a gift has been proudly displayed in a chaotic arrangement across the living room floor.
Photos of Erin. Dozens of 8X10 photograps in high resolution and glossy print. Pictures of her at home. At work. Shopping. Cooking. Eating. In the shower. Someone has been watching. Closely.
Erin hasn't actually been living in her apartment lately, but now that she can freely go to and from it, she's been going back for some of her material possessions. Ah, it's the little comforts that really… Make…
Her door's open. She's sure she closed it when she left the last time. Logic would dictate that she leave the premesis and call the goddamn police! Then again, it's the authorities who captured her in the first place. Or, rather, the quote-unquote authorities, who were supposed to protect the world, taking her captive. So.
She pushes open the door, only to see the many, many photographs lying out on her floor. Closing the door, she backs against it so that no one can attack her from behind. While her eyes are still on the photos, she flips on the nearest overhead light, which doesn't cover much space, but lights up the photos quite nicely. From her purse, she pulls a small handgun. Yeah, yeah, she could get busted for that, but she'd rather be safe than sorry. It's not the only weapon she's carrying, either.
When the light comes on, Max steps out of the corner where he'd been waiting for Erin to arrive. Smiling, he spreads his gloved hands and spins in a slow circle, clearly proud of the handiwork that he's put on display. "These are the good ones, you know," he confides. "There are more. Many more."
He's attired as suitably for night work as his tastes allow. Black on black suit, no tie, top two buttons of his shirt left comfortably open. Matte black shoes with sturdy soles.
He takes one step closer. Another. Clearly, he doesn't feel threatened by the gun. "It's good to see you again." Smirk. "Face to face, I mean."
Ever since Cody gave Erin the go-ahead, she's been looking for him, intending to catch him and kill him, or something worse. Of course, she never was able to get on his trail, probably because he'd already found her. Terrifying. He could have gotten to her at any point, which is probably exactly the scare-tactic he'd been going for.
Despite having a plan for when she found him, which is why she's carrying weapons at all, she didn't expect to see her torturer in the livingroom of her own apartment… In her head, she always pictured herself coming up behind him, catching him completely by surprise, and then sinking a knife between his shoulder blades.
With him already here, though, she can hardly draw a breath. She's already shaking as she points the gun at him.
Think. Think! SHE CAN'T.
Max's smile is intended to be disarming, but there's something disconcerting about it. Predatory. He's showing too many of his teeth. There's too much pleasure in his eyes. "I'm glad you like my little present," he murmurs, his voice low and smoky. "Shh. Don't be frightened. If I were going to kill you, I would've done it weeks ago. I just want to talk. I think we could be very good friends, you and I…"
Supremely confident in his ability to charm and intimidate, he takes another step forward. Boldly, he reaches out with one hand to brush his gloved fingertips against Erin's cheek.
Perhaps Max's charm is working on Erin. The weapon drops from her fingers, hitting the floor with a heavy thud, after which, a brief silence descends on the room. It almost seems as if the actress is relaxing, perhaps relieved by the fact that Max isn't after her to kill her.
Tai-Chi is just as much about the mind as it is the body. Without it, Erin never would have recovered from the torture she went through. Her threshhold for what she could bear was, admittedly, a lot lower than some… Others, stronger in fortitude, might have been able to shrug the hours and hours of noise off. Not Erin, though. Erin would have been damaged for the rest of her life if not for Cody and Tai-Chi.
That same discipline allows her to calm her thoughts, relaxing enough so that she can think more clearly. Her heart is almost audible; the rhythm can clearly be felt at this proximity.
She backs away from his touch, just a step. Her hand grapples for her purse again, reaching into it. "Rh— really? You think after wh—what you did to me??" Her voice is broken. Her mouth feels dry. Fear is… Extraordinarily powerful, and it causes her to lose control of her power again. Instead of quelling it, though, she allows it to happen. It's a defensive mechanism, and right now, she needs all the help she can get.
At first, Max isn't about to let Erin get away from him. You see, fear is a foreign emotion for him. The tiniest hint of it sparks something far more familiar. Anger.
"What I did to you?" He hisses through clenched teeth. His steel fingers clamp down mercilessly on either side of Erin's chin, forcing her to look him in the eye. "What I did for you, you ungrateful twit! You could change the world! I want— You could—"
Something's happening. Something unpleasant. A gnawing, sour sensation grips Max's gut. Beads of cold sweat spring up at his brow. He releases Erin and staggers backward, one arm flailing until it finds a wall for support. With his head bowed, he clutches at his belly and lets out a low, sepulcral moan. "Please. Don't hurt me."
With his head bowed, the sickly, corpselike smile on his face is impossible to see.
NO NO NO NO NO—
The memories of her dream come pouring back into her consciousness as soon as he touches her. Visions that she can't escape, that turn Max, even before her very eyes, into the monster he's become to her. No longer a man, no longer a person that should be treated with any sort of basic human decency. He is nobody but a predator, with fangs and claws and the ability to destroy the self-conficence Erin so prided herself on. As soon as he forces her to look him in the eyes, she sees the devil-red pupils devoid of any soul that came for her time and time again in her sleep…
And she's not hearing him anymore. The knife is drawn from her purse. It's not metal - it's a custom-made piece, sculpted from ceramic, glossy, shiny, meant to be a decorative trophy in someone's curio cabinet. Erin's been carrying it ever since she deciphered Cody's book. A ceramic knife. Sharp-edged, ever as painful as one made of metal.
Perhaps she should wait. Perhaps a human being would wait. But not someone possessed of the fury that she is, right now. In that moment, she becomes just as bad as Max as she brings the knife down on him.
Much of Max's condition is very real. What he's going through is terrifying. Fear so strong that it provokes a physical response… Even as he suffers, his scientist's mind is taking note of every sensation and filing away every shred of information for future dissimilation. He almost doesn't notice the knife.
An instant before impact, his face takes on a calm, zenlike cast. He shifts his weight, angling his body just enough that the blade takes him in the chest rather than the neck.
Logistically, stabbing a person is much easier than you'd think. With that much pressure focused on such a fine point, a blade will punch through a man with very little effort. This is no exception. Erin's ceramic knife sinks in just below Max's collar on his right side, leaving a painful and messy wound.
Her eyes light up brightly in the fairly dim light of the apartment. It hasn't stopped yet; whatever part of her allows her to make people sick continues on, forcing viruses to multiply within Max's body at a rapid rate - much more quickly than natural. She tries to curb it before it wears her out, as well. Who knows what he'll do to her if she passes out.
Before she realises what she's doing, she gives the knife a painful twist, before ripping it out, holding it aloft, ready to strike again…
Then she sees the blood.
Erin's killed before - twice - though both times were essentially hands-off events that she could walk away from without ever feeling the hot blood of another person. "Uh— "
Is about all she manages before the screaming starts. "Look what you made me do! LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!" The fear is quite quickly replaced by anger, though this is much more focused. The viruses that she's already started to propogate in Max's system shift subtly to something more deadly. Rabies. "LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!!"
The ceramic knife is still held in the air above him, but is, for now, apparently forgotten. Now what the hell is she going to do!?
"Ahhhhh…" Max groans weakly when the knife is spun and torn from his body. Blood immediately soaks through his suit and puddles on his chest as he slumps the rest of the way to the floor. He presses a hand over the wound and lets out a sharp, hoarse noise of dismay as his body is wracked not only by his injury, but by the magnified illnesses. At this point, his fear is genuine and entirely his own.
Despite all of his agonies, Max is rapidly forming a plan. He shields his injured torso with his steel hand hand crabs awkwardly away from Erin. His eyes narrow slightly. "Don't kill me," he coughs. "I won't try to get away, but please don't kill me."
Erin backs away, a couple steps, bringing the knife down and half-cowering as she stares at the torn body of her torturer. That's about when it occurs to her that she has him. It's very hard to see, but it's something that Erin can feel - her eye twitches just slightly; their roles are reversed. She has him! She did it! Briefly, she looks to the floor, where the blood-splattered pictures he captured of her remain. She makes no move to gather them up. Let them carpet his cage.
She can instruct the virus to stop multiplying so quickly, which she does, keeping him rabid, just at the point of no return where his system can barely take the onslaught. As tempted as she is to kill him, it's too fast.
"I want you to hurt," she says. "I want you to feel. Every. Second. Of what you did to me." As he crawls away, she directs a fairly strong kick at his ribcage. Her eyes close, and she gently tweaks the rabiesvirus, causing it to go into a hibernation of sorts. Normal for viruses.
"You've got twenty-four hours to live if you leave. If you're not here when I come back for you tomorrow, that virus in your system will multiply out of control until you're dead. You hear that!? DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!" The last word is screamed, and she charges at him, as if to kick him again, but stops short. "Dead. If— If you're here, I'll reset the clock. I'll… You can't… Cure rabies. You can't. You stay here 'til I know what to do with you."
Max rolls with the kick, flopping over on his back and panting for air. He stares at the ceiling through wide, gaping eyes. After a few seconds, he squirms back over onto his hands and knees. He nods vigorously with his chin tucked against his chest and the top of his head toward Erin.
"I'll be here," he gasps. "I'll do whatever you say. I promise."
He coughs, chokes, and then catches his breath in a spray of blood. And then, against all odds, he smiles with the stained carpet as his only witness.
She isn't quite calm yet, but her thought patterns are becoming somewhat more rational. She needs a plan… She'll have to go tell Cody that she took him down, definitely. Cody's the only person she'd trust with that information. She can even tell her roommate that she killed Max, which would be entirely believable.
With the man out of commission, at least for the moment, she has less to worry about. While Max is smiling at the carpet, Erin is, too. She has him. She took him down! "Hah— haha. I can't believe Cody actually… I can't believe she loved you. How? You're nothing but a… a…" She can't think of the words right now, but it doesn't matter. She'll let her foot speak for her, and kicks him again.
It does occur to her that she should make sure he doesn't have any weapons. "You're gonna tell me the truth when I ask, or I'm going to end this now," she says. "What do you have on you? I want it."
Grunting, Max rolls over on to his back again. This time he stays there. With shaking hands, he reaches inside his jacket and pulls out a small nylon bandolier. Rather than being loaded with ammunition, this one has been packed with a trio of syringes. "To u-use on you," he says. He tosses it to the floor along with two lengths of steel chain.
The third chain is still secreted inside his coat. After all, it wouldn't do to be too cooperative too soon.
"I'll do whatever you want," he repeats, scrubbing his sleeve across his sweaty, bloody brow. "I swear, I just came here to talk. I never planned to hurt you. I promise."
Erin eyes the offered items before leaning down to pick them up, placing them out of his reach. "I fully intend on hurting you as much as a possibly can," she admits. It … didn't really take much provocation to get her to this point. As frightened as she is at first, Erin's absolutely confident that she has Max right where she wanted him. It's just too bad she doesn't have a tape of some grating noise to play over and over until she returns.
She's no cop, so she doesn't think to check for more. A mistake? Perhaps. But the implication of having a dormant virus that'll kill him in a day kind of means that if he messes with Erin, his cure is pretty much gone.
"Didn't expect the company, so I don't have anything to tie you up with." She doesn't even think of using the chains. She is not a moron. There has to be something, though…
Ah, the thin nylon cords that open and close her blinds. Not ideal, but at least it's something. Her eyes remain on the former Protocol agent as she uses the ceramic knife to easily cut through the makeshift bindings at the top and bottom. "Hands behind your back," she commands.
Slowly, painfully, Max hauls himself up off of the floor. He complies unhappily with Erin's orders. "This really isn't necessary," he insists. There's a pause as he wipes his mouth on his shoulder. "I don't mean you any harm. I really did come here to talk. I just—"
Abruptly, his knees buckle. He sags backward with only Erin behind him to support his weight. Right behind him. As yet untied, he clutches at her arm with one hand. Gritting his teeth, he ekes out a tiny, pathetic whimper. Pulled and stretched by the motion, his stab wound bleeds determinedly.
"I mean you harm!" she says. It's desperate, like the voice of a woman who's trying to sound calm and collected, but really isn't entirely. Not in the least. This is essentially what Max managed to do to her in the short time she was under his care. Erin imagines he's proud of it.
When Max falls back onto her, she can only imagine that this is some sort of attack, some trick, like they say in the movies. This better not be a trick! But it is. And the person on the receiving end is Erin. Thankfully for Max, she's got the knife turned in such a way so that when she seeks to stab at him again, he's only beaten soundly - once - by the pommel of the knife. "T— touching! TOUCHING! You don't…" She hits him again, pulling her arm out of his grip. "TOUCH ME. Ever!" She pauses, then adds for emphasis, "No touching! Ever!" And shivers, because he had the audacity to — to—
"What was that?" she asks. She reaches for the glove, intent to pull it off. Something about that grip didn't seem right.
Unsupported, Max falls to the floor. He allows his arm to sag limply as his glove is stripped away, revealing the unnaturally smooth and polished surface of his prosthetic hand. He holds it up palm out, displaying it to Erin like a shield. "Ahhhh! Stop," he cries, flinching away from her blow submissively. He has flowed seamlessly into the role of cowed and suppressed prisoner.
Then, abruptly, he shifts tactics. When you've been taken hostage, sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Time to see how far he can push his captor. He looks up at her and winks. "You're so pretty when you shout," he murmurs, his voice barely above a groan. "Are you sure you don't want to be friends?"
His compliments would probably work better if this wasn't the closest to outright insane anger that Erin's ever been. Her eyes still maintain that bright glow as she stares at him, the knife - turned around so she can use the blade more effectively - still brandished in one hand. The compliment takes her off guard, but she's more distracted by the metal prosthetic.
Calm? Is she calm? Her stance changes as she ponders her options. How sweet. How… potentially valuable a friendship could be. She keeps him rabid, and he has to rely on her to stay alive. "It…" Her eyes close. What is she doing? She could have handled this way better from the start.
Eying the arm again, she says, "I'm going to cut it off," as if she's just commenting on the weather, or the fact that the sky is blue. She'll thrust the knife forward again after that, in order to embed it in his shoulder.
No metal in his shoulders. Max grunts from low in his belly as he takes his second stab wound of the evening. Dehumanizing someone is hard work.
Then, in defiance of Erin's previous order, he reaches up and grabs her hand. Groaning all the while, he uses his grip to jerk the knife free. "God…" he mutters under his breath, sinking back to the floor. Between the illness and the blood loss, he doesn't have much left to offer. He's still smiling, though. This time he makes no attempt to hide it.
It feels good this time when the knife sinks in. She's almost savoring it… And she hates herself for it. She should just end it now. That's how she killed Hamm. That's how she killed that faceless, nameless agent at the studio. He touches her again, and Erin jerks her hand back, letting him have th eknife - for now. He's too weak to use it, she hopes.
"What are you smiling about?" she asks incredulously. That worries her. He's … Got something planned. He's hiding something. Even without the virus, she's fully capable of murder, though she realy wouldn't consider this murder. More like defending society against this lunatic. If it's possible, Max will start to feel sicker, throat closing as his system protests the virus. "Goodbye, Max," she says easily.
Possibly not part of his plan. Then again, death never is. "Better talk fast. You only have a couple minutes."
"I… I can't talk if you…" Max's voice trails off to a strangled whisper. "…don't stop… choking me."
He's turning a spectacular shade of purple.
Her eyes close. She sees the viruses taking over, destroying him, and she's ready to let it happen. Except for the fact that he didn't actually let her die so soon. This hasn't gone on long eough yet. She wants him to feel every second, maybe more…
She lets up on the destruction just enough so that he can breathe. It's not a lot. Not quite enough. Any strenuous movement will cause his airways to seriously constrict until he rested again. This state is torturous enough, but she can do one better.
Taking the cord she cut earlier, Erin ties Max's non-metal arm to both of his legs. Then, she disappears from the living room, only to return with a king-sized sheet and another cord from her bedroom. The sheet is wraped around the metal arm, and tied closed at a point above where she can no longer feel metal. Then, she ties this to the other cord binding his other arm and feet. It kind of looks like he went through a spider web.
Notably, it's not very expert. If Max wanted to, he could probably just break free. "I'll be back. You. Stay." That said, Erin heads for the door.
Playing ball seems wise at this point. Max allows himself to be bound, such as it is. As precariously close to bleeding out as he is, the sheet is actually a blessing. It gives him something to staunch his wounds as he presses his arm against his chest. "I stay," he echoes weakly.
At this point he's broken into Erin's apartment, proved that he's been expertly stalking her for weeks, gotten stabbed twice, and caused her to scream more than a parade of banshees.
Not bad for a day's work.