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He flicked the toothpick out from his fingers and slid his bandana back into place. He put a lot of careful thought into the color he chose. Red was too obvious - black, too nefarious. If he simply made Xavier a martyr, or himself a terrorist, no one would see the truth

He had eventually settled on a dark blue, the color of the sky reflected in the ocean. It had been Enrique's favorite color after all. 

All of this - the city at night, the warm summer air, the gentle music and laughter swirling up from the sidewalk below - seemed like a gentle mockery of all that Enrique had loved.

It was a night like this that he had found Enrique. The neon green light reflected hollow in the pool of blood, getting trapped in the foam that stained his lover's lips. The lively grin that Phillip had loved so much, now distorted into a grimace of death. 

His phone buzzed, announcing the beginning of the final count down. 

The beginning of the end. The thought made Phillip smile as he straightened. 

From his vantage point, the people below him were little more than vague smudges on the ground. As a child, the heights of the Nouveau Noir building had terrified him. Now, it exhilarated him. 


He walked to the door on the opposite end of the roof, careful to keep his body cast in shadow. True, the cameras would record him. Facial recognition would churn out a name, date of birth, occupation, even home address. There were no secrets from men this wealthy. But unlike them, Phillip didn't fear recognition. In fact, he welcomed it. After today, every household in the world would be whispering his name. 

He blinked, activating the Life Capture he was wearing like a contact lens. There was no way to be sure, of course, if anyone was really watching him. Phillip was struck by a sudden wave of doubt. 

Was he really sure that this was the only option left? That, in the end, it would make any difference at all?

Phillip shook his head, dispelling the doubt back into the shadows. He had to try. 



The door, propped open with a simple wad of cloth, slid open at his touch. Metal rattled around him as Phillip made his way down the scrawny staircase. The lights flickered on as he moved in, their bulbs dull and cracked with time. 

The staircase was meant for service use only, if ever the elevator froze halfway up its lonely tunnel or if the vents grew clogged with corporate bullshit. If it wasn't for the building plans, Phillip would never have known that the staircase was there at all. But now it granted him some relative secrecy; there were no cameras here, only dusty cobwebs and the smell of metal left to age in the dark. 

He didn't have far to go; Mowen Burness lived high up in his web, like a spider grown fat on easy prey. 

Phillip paused before the doorway to the normal hallway. Someone had left a mirror leaning against one of the pipes - a cast away prop once used to see hard to reach places. Now it revealed Phillip in the ghostly light of the staircase. 

The blue bandana came up above his nose and traced under his eyes, underscoring the deep bags worn in from lack of sleep. Grief had drained the color away, making his normally dark hair appear grey and his green eyes seem like glass. 

He was dressed in dark clothes, the thin clothes layered on top of each other to help keep some semblance of warmth. The truth was, the cold had fixed itself into the marrow of his bones. Phillip doubted he'd ever feel truly warm again. 

He forced himself to tear his gaze away and pushed his way into the hallway. 

As he expected, the halls were dark and empty. It was so late, even the night guards were trapped between obligation and sleep, their eyes half shut and their minds clouded beyond reason. Phillip wouldn't have been surprised to learn that a few were partaking in lagneia (alt: exousia). The potent drug was as seductive as it was addictive. The miracle cure that had stolen as many lives as it had saved, granting the plague survivors a half life of dependency & yearnin




It was the same drug that set Phillip on this quest.


The door to Xavier's office was slightly ajar as he crept closer. Phillip slid his knife into the palm of his hand, the thin blade sending a thrill up his arm. 

He slid through the door, the great mahogany slab barely creaking as he crossed the threshold. 

Mowen's office was more expansive than an average apartment. The towering floor to ceiling windows were so seamless it looked as if Phillip could reach out and grab the distant buildings in the palm of his hand. The room itself was scarce, with light walls, a marble desk, and a razor thin monitor. The high backed leather chair was empty and turned towards Phillip, as if expecting him to take a seat in it. Though the lights were turned off, the room was still occupied. 

Mowen stood with his hands clasped behind his back, the light from the city reflecting on his face and bald head. The navy blue suit he wore was clean cut and untouched down to the pearl cufflinks, as if he had simply slipped it on right out of the seamstress's hands. There was a faint bulge at the shoulders and a slenderness to the hips that hinted at Xavier's physical prowess. Phillip's skin crawled with sudden self awareness and loathing. It was impossible to deny that Xavier Burness was a handsome man. 

"You know it's funny," Xavier spoke up, startling Phillip so badly he almost dropped his knife. "I always expected the grim reaper to look a little older."

Phillip straightened out of his crouch, drawing his shoulders back to show off his true height. "You know why I'm here then."

Xavier chuckled and half-turned, casting the right side of his face in shadow. "Only a fool remains unaware of the obvious."

"And only a coward keeps his face turned away from his enemies."

The challenge only seemed to amuse Xavier more. When he turned to fully face Phillip, the gesture seemed to be more one of placating rather than fear. 


The grey streaks in Xavier's beard formed perfect slivers on either side of his face, but they were the only signs of edge other than a faint crinkle at the corner of his eyes. 

Phillip raised the point of his knife so that it was level with Xavier's throat. 

"Judgement day has come, killer. Pray to whichever deity you deem fit."

"Ooh," Xavier pretended to shiver. "That was actually quite good. Did you practice that before you came to face me?"

Phillip tightened his grip on his knife. "I swear, Burness-"

"Then do it!" Xavier's smile vanished as his voice lashed out like a whip. "End my life! Place the dagger in my fingers and convince the world you are a hero." 

Phillip hesitated. This was... wrong. There must be some be sort of catch or something.

Xavier took a step towards Phillip, his blue eyes glinting. "What are you waiting for? This is what you want, right? My head on a plate - my pride at your mercy."

"Not like this," Phillip's voice could barely be heard in his own ears. He backed up a step, his courage deflating with confusion. 

"You will never get this chance again," warned Xavier. "You know that if I live, I will destroy you. I will make you wish I had only killed you. I own this city, this province, this entire country - it all dangles by threads I control. So if you're going to attack, you better try it now. Or maybe you just want me to kill someone else you love."

The anger, black and burning and blinding, rose then. Without a second thought, Phillip had crossed the room and had Xavier by the throat. He could feel the blade sinking into the soft tissue, feel the release of blood, hot and wet, burst from the wound. Phillip gritted his teeth as he brought the knife up, digging it deeper into Xavier's stomach. Xavier slumped against him, the fire flooding from him as death came rushing upon him. 

And just like that, the anger vanished. Phillip stumbled back, leaving Xavier to fall to his hands and knees. 


The white shirt he wore under his suit glowed crimson with blood. His lips were flecked with it, staining his teeth the same ghastly color. 

For a brief moment, the powerful man's composure cracked and a tear slipped down his face. Then the man slumped onto his side, leaving Phillip alone in the darkness.

For a moment, Phillip could only state at the corpse in front of him. His head reeled, trying to make sense of what he had just seen. Had Xavier been... relieved?

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