Neither Pauper Nor Prince


rocket_icon.gif simon_icon.gif

Scene Title Neither Pauper Nor Prince
Synopsis One from Manhattan, one from Staten. An initial pickpocketing attempt aborts into an awkward pepper spray standoff, before both trail toward the Lighthouse.
Date March 25, 2009

Staten Island — Coast

The coast of Staten Island is as much of a presence as its inland, with rivers that invade right into its heart as well as cutting off the circulation of transport from the rest of New York City. The coastal regions reflect a lot of this borough's rural nature, with rough shores and plantlife, broken brick, and general abandonment. The harbors are left to the devices of those that freely come and go, a conspicuous lack of official presence - a number of them notably overrun by the developing crime syndicate, but there are still quite a few, particularly on the coasts nearest to Brooklyn and Manhattan, that are accessible to the lawful public.

March already and it's still below freezing out here. Freakin' A. Thin under thin though layered clothes, Rocket is a hunched figure on the uneven coastline sidewalk, proper little trooper despite the misfortune and poverty of his circumstances.

Less with the poverty than usual tonight, though. Somebody else's money is wadded up dirty and reassuringly green in his pockets, the appropriated wallets they had come from long since discarded and the credit cards traded away for the sneakers he's wearing now. Not worth the risk, to him. The boy isn't so down on his luck that he's willing to risk an electronic trail and shopkeepers' questions. He hasn't even been pirating recently. Things are good.

Just cold.

The approaching sussurration of the sea draws his eyes to the ghostly lines of foam cresting the tides. He turns off, glancing past the pedestrians, aiming his painfully brisk strides down the wind-chapped boardwalk. It's a long walk to the Lighthouse, but the warmth, bed, and kitchen that wait there are better than a pot of gold to a boy with no valid method of currency conversion.

To Simon, Staten Island is worse than he imagined. He's only been here for a few hours and already he's been harassed, cursed at, *actually* spat on and grabbed nonchalantly probably more than he ever has in all of his eighteen years on Earth. So he started to head for the coast to get away from everyone, if that was even possible.

"Stay back you toothless son of a bitch or I'll stick my reason for being here where the sun don't shine," the kid yells at what could become a violently persistent hobo. His tough guy act apparently works, because as he walks closer to the water and farther from "civilization" he isn't followed by a soul. A breath of relief is exhaled and the young man takes a moment to stare out across the water and reflect on why the hell he decided to come here anywhere. A cold breeze blows through, and he's happy that he at least had the foresight to bring his jacket.

Almost unthinkingly, Rocket starts to steer his path toward the other post-adolescent figure loping through the half-light of the boardwalk. He does the brain math without having to think about it too hard — been out here long enough for that.

Simon's threads are pre-tty sweet for a kid fucking around on Staten Island at… ever. An encouraging sign of economic status. Possibly even stupidity. For now, however, Rocket's just canvassing, dark eyes flitting over the cut and pull of the Allistair boy's clothes, trying to determine where this misfit visitor's keeping his cash.

Simon definitely isn't from around here and it looks like he doesn't care. Next time, if there is one, he's going to wear the oldest, most tattered thing he owns and he's not going to bathe for a week. Then he'll fit in just fine. As for the money he's inevitably carrying? It's probably somewhere in the bulge of his back pocket. It looks like there's a wallet living there.

Simon doesn't immediately notice the scrawny youth who's scoping him out, which he might en up kicking himself for latter. No, he's more worried about other things, like where he's going to stay for the night and how he's going to get home. He's got the cash for a boat, but apparently it takes more street smarts than he thought.

There comes a point in every boy's life where he must make a choice. Crossroads. Actually, if one isn't encountering those semi-frequently, one probably isn't doing it right—

But one does not often expect to broach into one upon a physical course, asphalt-paved and subject to ordinary weather, that one has walked over dozens of times before. Wallet's right there. It would be easy. All he'd have to do is stumble-grab, mumble an apology, vanish into the distance of nocturnal darkness.

Leave a little lost rich kid stranded in the slums, and serve him right.

—except you're not supposed to think about it that way, and that makes Rocket hesitate momentarily, loping up behind Simon at trajectory. The stab of guilt. Overthinking it. Bad move; probably going to cost him.

Simon must be doing something right, then, because every day he seems to be at a crossroad. Some days it's more than once. Take today, for example. He had to choose whether or not to come here. Whether or not to actively pursue something he has always feared. And look where that choice led him. oO(Stupid kid), he thinks to himself. Never again.

A shadow plays across in front of him, long and thin, having been cast by the backlights of the Staten Island underground. Simon turns and spots Rocket, the owner of said shadow, not far away. He braces himself and fumbles around inside his coat for something. "What do you want?" he asks, pulling out a can of pepper spray that he just purchased.

"I— what? What. What?" Rocket freezes like a deer in headlights, just like you're not supposed to when you're a pickpocket or a pirate or a resident of Staten Island. The head planted on his thin shoulders has a round face, round brown eyes, and a halo of brown curls; his wide mouth pulls around an expression of Kermit-like surprise. "I— nothing. I don't…

"Is that pepper spray? Man, are you l-like, lost or something?" Backing off, backing off, his shoes scuff fractioned inches in reverse. He doesn't put his hands up in case that makes Simon flip out.

Simon stares at the other kid for a long while, not lowering the wielded pepper spray even and inch. "Yes," he finally says, "I am. And it is." A few steps are taken towards Rocket before Simon stops and relaxes a bit. "I'm going to put this away, because I feel really awkward right now, but I swear if you try and mug me or stab me or if you call me Nancy by, whatever that means, I will burn out your irises. Got it?"

There is silence for a moment, and only the soft waves on top of the ocean are heard, along with the distant noises of the Staten Island residents. Whether an answer is given or not, Simon believes he has made his point, so he slowly places the pepper spray can back where it came from.

Threatened with pepper spray of all things, Rocket doesn't look pleased. Somewhat sullen, in that furtive kind of way to balance out the fact that he nevertheless isn't about to sacrifice his dignity for his pride. Reeling around with scorched irises doesn't sound fun, even if he does have a trick or three to avoid things getting further out of hand. "Fine. Fine, I got it.

"I get it," In spite of himself, he gives his hands an exasperated little skyward flip, only he's nervously constrained the motion and ends up looking merely hummingbird fluttery. He watches pepper spray go away with visible unease, his eyes ringed white. After about three or four seconds, he decides that the departure of the canister from the scene did not do much to decrease the amount of 'really awkward' in the air.


Yes, it's very awkward at the moment. Awkward is the theme of the night. "So" Simon responds, allowing just the inkling of a smile to play across his face. This grows and grows until he's eventually straight up laughing out loud. Not something that makes him seem any more sane. He contains himself after a moment and holds a hand in the air, open with palm facing Rocket.

"I am *so* sorry, man. You have no idea what I've been through today," Simon tells Rocket, stepping forward some more to get a little closer to the boy. "I'm just jumpy, I swear. Your irises are totally safe."

Sanity is, uh, overrated and all. Right? Right. No— maybe. Rocket looks perplexed and rather startled-ungulate still, tilting on his feet like he's either in the middle of a Michael Jackson dance maneuver or about to trip into haphazard flight. He feels the more uneasy for the fact that he'd been about to rob this dude blind.

"Oh, really?" he asks intelligently, his eyeballs wobbling to and fro. He stretches his Kermit mouth around a smile that does not look altogether convincing, docking his hands in his pockets. "Our tourism industry isn't that great I guess.

"I mean, you're not from around here, man. There's like, no road maintenance and the signs are falling off and none of the maps point out the kiddie-porn kidnapping grounds, so…" Aware that that word is seeing overuse, he wrinkles his forehead, trails unevenly into the query: "Why are you here?"

Simon never thought he would see the day where he would question his own sanity like he is right now. It may be overrated, but it's a precious thing in a world of lunatics. On an island of them, it's downright sacred, and probably easy to lose. "Why am I here?" he asks, buying some time to think of an appropriate answer to he nervous kid's question. "I wish I could say," is all he can come up with.

Another breeze blows through and riddles Simon's exposed skin with goosebumps. "Listen, do you know of a hotel or - " he stops himself before finishing the question, because even if there were a hotel around here, he probably wouldn't want to stay there. "Never mind, I'll just find a rock big enough to crawl under."

"Hotels are for c-catching something if you're gonna bring a girl over or feel like getting itchy from somebody else's," Rocket replies. For all their lewd braggadocio, there's an aspect of clumsy oddness to the words he serves up, the jaded bitterness authentic enough, but the harsh frame and slangy terminology of their disclosure— less so. He hesitates visibly, teeters between his feet. Shuffles his shoulders, suddenly, like a pigeon settling inside his poofy gray feathers. It's cold, but it wouldn't be at…

"There's a place that takes care of kids over there. The Lighthouse." He pulls an arm up, points a finger at the distant specter of the coastal edifice. "Free food and heating and beds. It's super cool.

"It was on the news and it's under Linderman's protection so nobody bothers us over there, you don't have to worry about cops or parents or anything. Just Brian." A beat's pause. "You don't have to worry about Brian at all," he clarifies.

Simon turns to follow the direction the pointed finger offers him, eyeing the Lighthouse curiously. He's never heard of it, but that's really no surprise. So much has changed in so little time. He's lucky there's anything at all left of the city he loves so much. There's an itch on his shoulder and he moves to scratch it, while turning back to look at Rocket.

"What the hell are we doing out here then? It's not exactly picturesque," Simon tells the stranger in reference to the rocky coastline with all its trash and lack of charm. To him, at least. "I'm Simon, by the way," he adds as an afterthought, inclining his head a bit towards Rocket, showing some curiosity in who the other kid is.

Stranger comes into your house, bitches about how hideous it is. "Hey," Rocket frowns. "O-okay, I know it doesn't have Central Park's Alice In Wonderland statues or big— stone— castle-office buildings or a zoo or shit, but it's not that bad. Okay? I grew up here. Sheesh.

"At least you don't have Homeland Security snatching kids for experiments around here or whatever." His glare is momentary, if snottily heartfelt. Hiking his shoulders up underneath his ears, he starts to pick his way along the wind-scarred wood, angling toward the Lighthouse's promontory. Despite his short-lived flare of temper, Rocket's pace is companionable, brisk only because of the temperature. "I'm Rocket. My parents weren't hippies, I don't know what happened."

Some people might call Simon spoiled because of the way he grew up. That wouldn't be completely true, but more likely that he's a little ignorant of how the people on Staten Island live and grow up. During Rocket's fit of anger, Simon frowns and reminds himself that he needs to think before he speaks, just like his debate teacher taught him way back when. Know what you're talking about, or shit the hell up.

"Cool name. I didn't mean to talk bad about this place, you know. I've just had a rough day," the teen tries to explain, though it sounds a little forced. At least he's putting some effort into it, right? "You want to check out that Lighthouse place you were telling me about?"

"Yeah. I'm taking you there," Rocket responds in the tone of great authority. "I don't want some cops to come onto Staten Island, crawling around like frigging ants everywhere and messing everything up because a rich dude went on a Staten safari and tripped and fell in a frigging manhole with m-murderers living at the bottom or something!" Like that's going to happen. Cops on Staten Island? Ridiculous.

Rocket is marching at a soldierly pace, though he lags both physically and verbally into momentary silence when he notices the other boy's discomfiture. "It's okay. This place is one… big… waterlocked bad day. I… oh, crap. Ummm. I hope Evolved don't wig you out," he says suddenly, looking up. "Lots of the kids at the Lighthouse are muties."

Simon follows Rocket's pace and narrows his eyes a bit at the kid. "You know, I'm not as rich as you might think, and any money I do have isn't money I want." It's just a poor replacement for his parents, who happened to leave him and his sister well off. That's all he says on the matter, though, considering the two of them even now in terms of possibly/slightly offending each other.

"I don't mind evolved. Does the Lighthouse keep them safe from - who was it? Homeland Security?" It might be obvious that he's fishing for information on the topic, but he doesn't care. News is news no matter how it's gathered.

There's a bob of Rocket's head, obvious affirmitive, but halting from the odd hiccup of reciprocal bad temper that had come from Simon's end of the conversation. Okay. Dirty money. Still money, which is more than enough for your average Staten Island goon to resent, but according to the standards of most, Rocket is a decidedly below par Staten Island goon.

"I think so. Linderman's a big crime boss and the Evolved stuff was all over the papers. HomeSec hasn't shown up so I figure it's as safe as they're gonna get." A quaver-beat's pause. "Sorry, dude." The two words stray into the timing of non-sequitur, but for what it's worth, it's heartfelt. He glances sideways without breaking stride. "I thought Manhattaners like, believe CNN and stuff." 'Trust in the Homeland Security,' whatever.

Simon listens to Rocket with ears wide open, enjoying the fact that someone can give him straight answers about something for once. Leave it to a kid to be the bearer of wisdom. He's heard of Linderman before, but never knew much about him. Being a crime boss, though, makes this Lighthouse place seem shadier, and yet somehow much more interesting.

A smirk forms on his face as he speeds up his pace for a moment to walk alongside Rocket. "You obviously don't get out much," he tells the other kid. "Homeland security is a joke, but now that you're telling me they're the ones abducting people, the joke just got scary."

"Hey, I didn't say they're the only ones abducting people," Rocket points out, stumping along on his new— secondhand new shoes. "I kind of said there's a lot of different people abducting… people… here…" That was poorly handled. His face goes creased with consternation at that. He sounds stupid. He lengthens his stride as the temperature drops still further.

"Are you going home in the morning?" Rocket doesn't look over when he asks.

"You're going to have to explain that to me in more detail sometime. Abducting people is so majorly wrong," Simon tells Rocket as if it's some remarkable discovery he needs to share with people. He doesn't seem all the nervous talk he's getting from Rocket. In fact, he seems much more at ease around him now than when they first met. He's almost completely forgot about the pepper spray and military knife he's hiding for safety purposes.

"I don't know, yet. That all depends on if I find a ride. It's a lot harder than getting here, apparently." He glances over at Rocket, grins, and then turns back to eye the path the two boys are taking. "I'm not really thinking about it. Finding a place to crash for the night is what I'm focusing on."

Cue a Kermit frown across Rocket's face. More detail? Explanations? That seems kind of like, not what you should do if you have alternatives to hanging around and asking random pirate-pickpocket-runaways from about the ins and outs of abducting people and 'major wrong.' Maybe he should be more nervous. For all he knows, Rocket could be leading him into a terrible trap, lined with gunpoint threats and those interested in his fiscal legacy. Rocket could be dangerous.


"I know a dude who does boat rides, takes people across the wat— oh, crap. Oh, I forgot: his boat blew up a few weeks ago," Rocket says, his brow furrowing under the sudden strike of memory. "Uhh, well. Man, dude, well, the going rate is two hundred dollars one way. Fresh Kills Harbor is that way and most of the guys take off from there." A thumb jerked over his shoulder, though he's quick to burrow his hands back into his pockets.

Sure, Rocket could be dangerous. Then again, so could Simon. Both of these young guys could be trained killers, each out for the other one's blood. Simon isn't, though, and he's still too innocent to be really scared or paranoid. "Ouch, everything is blowing up these days," he says, knowing this all too well. "I'll figure it out tomorrow."

Simon looks up at the sky as the walk, moving effortlessly across the ground even when his eyes aren't on it. "Man, am I glad I ran into you, Rocket. I was seriously afraid I would have gotten mugged by now…"

"Got yer back," Rocket replies. Which might be the wrong thing to say to a stranger out here, but honestly, few people are not, honestly. Maybe the Lighthouse has given him a false sense of security regarding random children wandering around. It's possible. Two years, however hard, isn't enough time to completely crush all vestiges of trust or optimism in a kid. After all—

He's neither dead nor alone now, after all. "C'mon," he says, lifting a hand suddenly, angling it at the Lighthouse. They're close enough to make out the windows at its base now, lit up with the merry warmth of incandescent light. "Race you!"

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