Damned City


kailin_icon.gif rocket_icon.gif zuleyka_icon.gif

Scene Title Damned City
Synopsis Even here, much to Kailin's surprise— and curiosity, there are children playing.
Date May 22, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Her male comrades are in Japan. Leaving Zuzu at loose ends, if better provided for than she has been since the Bomb. At the moment, though, she's gone back to her old habits - roaming the ruins, though not seeking to ragpick and scavenge as eagerly as she once did. Playing, in fact, funnily enough. She's apparently alone, but her call of "MARCO!" echoes brassily down the concrete canyons.

Kailin is picking his way through the fringes of the disaaster site, observing the people that have taken up in the area. Carefully he makes his way aroud the area, carefully keeping aware of his surroundings while he takes mental note of the health care concerns in this particular area. The shout is one that catches his attention and his hear shoots up, wondering if he really heard what he heard. Thinking it might be someone actually looking for someone named Marco he dismisses it and goes about surveying the area, but his curiosity gets the better of him and he drifts in that direction as casually as possible.

"Marco!" Now there's an edge of impatience to her tone. The sound of footsteps, the skitter of falling rubble like the herald ofa manmade avalanche. No following rumble of debris, though. There's that impatient scoffing noise that women make when the relevant man is just being too retarded, and Zu heaves into sight around the corner of a fallen bank.

A second call of the same name makes it nearly impossible for Kailin to ignore and he turns towards it, trying to track it down. Careful to keep his footing over ground that has been distubred in so many different ways, he begins to pick his path across the ruinous land when Zu suddenly makes her appearance. His right hand flies into his jacket and around to the small of his back as he instinctively reacts, one step coming forward to give only a profile of himself in Zu's' direction. And just as quickly as that is done, he relaxes, his left hand comes up as if to shield something from his eyes and get a better look at Zu. "Is that you making all that noise? You looking for someone?" He pauses for a moment and asks with a raise of a dark brow, "Are you lost?"

Yeah, it's damn near high noon in the ruins of Midtown. Because she's more or less diving for cover at the same time she goes for her own pistol. "I'm not lost," she says, refusing to peek out again. Not yet. Her tone is grumbly from sheer embarassment.

Finally, finally, there comes the tinkling and scratch of unsteady sneakers over concrete dust: a gait that Zuleyka is, by now, intimately acquainted with. "Polo?" Absurdly, her boy companion's response comes in the form of an inquiry. Quite possibly because it's been five, ten minutes since he expected to hear from his friend, which means either she's lost or he's doing it wrong. As ever, Rocket comes down on the latter half of the equation.

Kailin nods and takes his hand from behind his back, removing it from the shadow of his long jacket. In his hand is a wallet. "You kind of jumped out at me. I thought I was about to get mugged. Someone told me that might happen. Are you going to mug me?" He motions the wallet around and says, "I'd prefer that you didn't, of course…" He raises an eyebrow again, arching it over his refelctive shades, obviously a little confused at the situation when someone responds to Zu's original call. "But are you really playing a game… here?"

"Rocket. Over here." It's not quite a drillsergeant bark, but it is very close. Zu dares stand up, slowly. "Sorry," she says, witha a complete lack of actual apology in her voice. "No." Kai gets a quick, wary looking over. "Yeah, we were."

One abrupt breath of a moment, the boy bobs out to join the girl. He's lankier than she is, his limbs stretched out awkwardly around the framework of post-pubescent growth without any of an adult's expected muscular mass. A head of brown curls, round eyes to go with the round, Cheeri-o oh frozen silent on his mouth. His gaze darts between his friend and the big black man with the wallet, before settling on the latter, narrowed into a glare.

"Hey," he says, loudly, a jolt of noise through the skeletal ruins. "Put that thing away, man. She's not a hooker."

Kailin nods with a chuckle at Rocket's words and returns his wallet to his back pocket, straightening his long jacket around him. "No problem. Misunderstanding, I guess." He looks from Zuleyka to Rocket and back again. "That's better than an actual mugging." He motions around and says, "Are you supposed to be playing over here? It's still supposed to be dangerous around here with all the radiation and what not." He shakes his head and says, "I'm not from here, so I don't know the rules regarding national disasters."

She all but glares at that comment, more at Rocket than at Kailin. "Thanks, kid," she says, drily. "Listen, this is a no man's land, and I lived here for…way too long," She's trying not to abandon manners entirely. "So, really, we're fine," she assures the older man.

Of course, Rocket wilts like someone had flipped a switch. Wilts. Like a plant with the fluid sucked out, you know: his shoulders sort of invert and he essays backward half a step, his gaze swinging feebly between girl and man one more time, before dropping to the ground.

The default paranoia with which he's approached this field trip to Manhattan— indeed, with which he approaches all adults, ever— is offset somewhat by the healthy distance between them and Kailin, and the fact that. You know. He is armed with a Zuleyka.

Kailin crosses his arms over his chest, looking down towards the girl, interested. "You live here? It… doesn't look all that livable. Where do you stay? I'm guessing since you've been here a while this place is no long covered with radiation. Nothing that would show effects after a few years anyway…" He rests his hands on his hips and nods towards Rocket. "What about you? You live around here too?" He looks then between both of them. "And the government doesn't mind? Better yet, the government doesn't care? They don't provide you with a better alternative? Or did you just choose not to take it?"

"What, 're you with the Times?" Zu's little face is crumpled in irritation, like a toddler confronted with a whole plate of peas. "I don't….where I live isn't your business, mister," she says. "The government….well, they talk a good game,but when it comes to actually doing much good for the refugees…." She snorts, scornfully.

There's an echo of that snort from the boy, radiating disdain that isn't actually a disingenuous knock-off of Zuleyka's in any way. "Naw, not here here.

"I mean this is a shithole too, but we come from Stat" Hoghggoops. Rocket shuts his trap about half a sentence too late, a fist stuffed into the gap between his teeth as he does so. Furtively, he starts to glance toward Zuleyka, before the magnetic repulsion of fear spins his eyes in a completely irrelevant direction. Wordlessly, he jogs his other hand in a vague pointy-gesture over at that uh, broken half of a wall— over there

"I'm just trying to figure out what the fuck is going on around here." Kailin fixes Zuleyka with a firm look - besides from the fact that his eyes are hidden with reflective shades - and speaks quite plainly. He isn't annoyed, but he does seem serious about piecing together the essence of what is going on here. "Like you said, the government talks a good game, so it wouldn't do me much good to go ask them why there are so many people living out here practically homeless. I figured I'd come down to the source and check it out for myself." He motions back towards the last group of people he passed. "I'm trying to get some basic medical services out to parts of the city that could use it and this place was on my list, so I came to see what could be used - that's when I ran into you."

His look slides to Rocket and he chuckles lightly. "Staten Island? Yeah, I heard the government just wrote that place off and left it to rot. I know the government twisted the truth like a ball of yarn, but this shit is ridiculous. How do they really expect people to live when they're leaving people to these conditions?" He pauses and asks Rocket itha shrug of his broad shoulders. "How do you guys get by?"

"Same as refugees everywhere. Any way we can," There's a flat finality in Zuleyka's voice that should never be present in any teenager's, let alone one raised and living in the US of A. She flicks a contemptuous gesture with one hand, taking in the whole sweep of wreckage. "What group're you with?" she asks, sidling over towards Rocket.

And Rocket doesn't mistake that shuffle of the girl's feet as redirecting the query for him to answer. He acknowledges it with a faint nod and pulls his hand out of his mouth. There are tiny, shallow crescent-shaped grooves along the back of his hand where his teeth had buried into his pale skin. His fingers go into his pockets, the next moment.

Likely, to find a knife. Just in case. "Cops are s'posed to have partners," he adds aloud, hunching his shoulders up around his ears. Posturing, not hackling.

"Group?" Kailin shakes his head and says, "I'm not with any group. This is something I'm putting together on my own - well, with the help of some doctors and volunteers in the area. We just want to help out a bit since clearly the people in charge haven't done enough and every little bit will help." He looks to Rocket and shakes his head, unfolding his arms. "I'm not a cop. And even if I were, I wouldn't waste my time trying to bust some kids playing Marco Polo. I think part of the problem - from an outsider's perspective - is that the people that can actually affect change in this city are so focused on particular problems that they've forgotten about all of the others." He motions around to indicate the entire site.

Zuleyka purses lips at that. "You a doc, yourself?" she wonders, looking him over skeptically, folding her arms. "Or what?" There's that sneering edge sneaking into her voice. She gives Rocket a scolding look.

Aaaa Rocket didn't do anything. He nevertheless looks appropriately mollified. The whites show ringed all the way around his irises as he takes in the exchange between the stranger and his miniature Lady Goddess of War like the continuation of a tennis match. "I dunno, man. I think you're wasting your time with Midtown anyway. No offense.

"But people who live here do it 'cause they don't want to be taken care of by— whoever you are. Soup kitchen's that way." He jerks his thumb over his shoulder, in no particular direction through the rubble and chaos.

Kailin waffles a hand back and forth to Zuleyka. "Kind of. Not officially. I trained in the Army after high school. I went to medical training and all that, so I can patch up pretty good and do some minor surgery, but I'm no professional doctor. But I ran a similar medical program before when I was stationed overseas and I thought it might work here. But…"

He sighs and nods towards Rocket. "I don't know. The more I see, the less optimistic I am that we can make a substantial difference. I don't know how the politicians can stand up day after day and talk about moving in the right direction when they haven't even gotten the city back in working order. Seriously, you'd think this was some rundown country in Eastern Europe." He makes a small motion of his head towards Rocket and asks, "You think if people came in to give some medical care they wouldn't want it? What's the deal about taking help from other people?"

"There are places that will accept your help," Zu says, more gently. "The trailer park. This….unitl it's cleaned up, it is no man's land. For the true incorrigibles. Those who prefer it ruined."

There's a nod of agreement from the boy. "Not here," he repeats. "I hear St. John's Cathedral is good about that stuff, though." And a crawling nest of Ferrymen, but neither he nor the well-meaning Knight are privvy to that particular tidbit of information. Uneasily, Rocket then almost— sort of— starts to defend their government's flagging leadership, shifting awkwardly on his feet. "Iunno.

"Plenty of murders and robberies and unemployment going on even where the street lights and hot water work, aren't there? I mean, helloooo. The 36." He blinks hard, once, aborting into a brief, brusque silence, before he answers the man's last question, shortly. "Strings."

Kailin folds his arms over his chest again, listening to the two youngsters who know what's going on in the streets by living it. "Why would people want it to stay ruined?" He waves a hand to Zuleyka, dismissing the question right after he's asked it. "Nevermind, I'm sure some people have their reasons, but I would just think that there would be more people that wanted it fixed, the people with the money, power, and means to actually get it fixed. Councilmen, House Reps, Senators. There are a lot of policitians with the means to get this place straight."

"Strings?" There is a shift towards Rocket as it seems he's familiar with that particular example. "What kind of strings do people put on other people trying to get help with recovery?" He motions towards one of the more stable parts of town. "As for the murders and robberies where the lights are, I don't know what is really going on but I have to think its not people walking outside their own front door and killing folks then heading back inside. There's got to be people coming over from these places that everyone has written off, like Staten Island, and doing those things before heading back. I mean, if you're gonna rob people, you don't go to rob a shack, right? You go rob people that have something worth robbing. And maybe if those areas got fixed up, the people there wouldn't need to resort to robbing and murdering. I don't know. It is a big clusterfuck of problems all at once. Maybe its too big even for the politicians. Maybe I'll have to find one and ask them…" Kailin pauses then, considering that option seriously for the first time.

"Good luck with that," Rocket offers querulously, reaching over to gra— pu— pinch two fingers shut on the very tip of Zuleyka's sleeve hem, and tug her toward a retreat. "When you're done saving that world, I'm gonna wanna move there."

There's a furtive tangle of sentiment on his round face: one part disbelief, five parts paranoia, two parts some vague, good nature intended in the general direction of Kailin Knight and his sweet intentions. It folds away under a squint at the girl the next moment, a heated whisper underneath his breath. Their salutations are mumbled. They dart off like hunted rabbits, and leave Kailin alone to suffer the affections of the desiccated wind blowing through his coat.

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