Getting the Band Back Together


eileen_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Getting the Band Back Together
Synopsis A familiar face crawls out of the woodwork.
Date May 1, 2009

Long Island City

Long Island City, a run-down neighborhood on the western edge of Queens, just across the water from Manhattan. From here, the skyline that was changed forever by the bomb is a constant reminder of what once was. A window into the past as well as a scathing reminder of the present. The waterfront is a largely industrial area, riddled with freight train stops, warehouses and shipping companies; the vast majority of which have ceased operations or gone entirely out of business in the wake of the the bomb. While this neighboorhood was spared from the disastrous nuclear fallout, it was crippled by the equally disastrous economic fallout. Businesses closed left and right, leaving blocks of abandoned facilities all across the neighborhood. As the property values took a steep nose dive, so too did crime in the area rise. Now, rife with gangs and refugees, the once bustling region looks more like a ghost town.

Eileen has done a lot of things in her short lifetime that border on the unforgivable. Helping herald in the end of the world sits at the very top of the list, followed closely by more recent infractions that include the betrayal of her loved ones and the coldblooded murder of an unarmed man in a house of innocents.

Last night, she came within a breath of taking the life of a friend in an uncharacteristically violent display of want and passion — had she any less self control, Gabriel Gray's body would be right where she left it, bent and broken, bleeding out onto Eagle Electric's scorched battleground rather than bundled in linens and on its way to Dr. Connor Kinney's.

The early morning hours of May first find Eileen making a similar journey through a labyrinth of abandoned warehouses near an adjacent freight yard that separates Long Island City from the next neighborhood over. Stripped of her woolen coat and favouring one leg over the other, she has a difficult time blending in with her shadowy surroundings as she limps along, her outline defined by the moonlight reflecting off her blood-slicked skin and hair.

In the past, she's been notoriously cautious and particular about which routes to travel and when, making it difficult if not impossible to pin her down, but not today — her current mental state lacks its usual clarity, leaving Eileen vulnerable not only to lapses in judgment but to assault as well.

It may not just be lacking judgment that stands ready to hold Eileen back today. It may also be bad luck, or some sort of karmic retribution for all the things she's done. But it being one instead of another doesn't change the fact that she is being stalked by someone, much in the same way a hungry cat might stalk a flightless bird. And unlike a casual mugger, who might have difficulty surprising her even in her state of disorientation, this stalker moves through the maze alongside her in parallel corridors with practiced precision. Unlike a casual mugger, he knows where he's going not only well enough to stay out of sight, but also to bring himself silently within only a few feet of the girl, just behind her.

Within a few feet until, ducking his head down just slightly, he suddenly advances, and like a cat pouncing, is upon her not to run a knife between her ribs, but to jab a syringe full of sedative into her neck. Wonderful start to a new day.

Flightless does not always have to mean defenseless. Even the tiniest house sparrow, dazed from a fall, can still scratch with claw, slice with beak and buffet with wing — in this respect, Eileen is no different than any one of the songbird legion she once held the power to command.

It could be the scuff of feet on the pavement that gives her attacker's presence away, or it might be the dangerously close proximity of his body to hers. Either way, while she doesn't have enough time to move out of the way before the syringe sinks into her neck, she flicks out a gloved hand the instant it does and seizes her attacker by the arm, fingertips and thumb biting into the lattice of tendon and vein beneath the skin on the soft interior of his wrist.

What gave it away doesn't really matter. Certainly not with a hypodermic needle in your neck. The efforts of Eileen to inflict pain on her attacker are somewhat mitigated by his coat, but also by the simple fact that he is considerably stronger than she is, as well as by his free hand gripping her shoulder, the thumb being forced up into her armpit. Probably not enough, all things considered, to make her double over in agony, but enough at least to force her to loosen her grip on his other arm enough to allow the sedative to be injected more easily. Whatever it is, it's fast acting, and while it's not powerful enough to render her unconscious, it'll take most of the fight out of her before long.

Her legs give out first, sending her knees plummeting down to the concrete beneath her feet. The rest of her body follows soon after in an involuntary slump that knocks her back against her attacker's chest. Whatever she's been injected with, it isn't a drug that's immediately familiar to her, though anyone who's ever had their ability suppressed might recognize the other affects it has on her body's ability to function.

Her power isn't working. Under any other circumstances, this would be a cause for celebration, but on the ground and partially paralyzed, unable to make her muscles move the way she wants them to, Eileen lacks the strength to do anything except roll over onto her side.

Under present circumstances, things might be hard-pressed to get worse for Eileen. Rolling onto her side isn't enough for the other, and a boot is used to gently roll her further, onto her back. Only then, with her assailant crouching down close enough for her Eileen's face to be visible in the reflection of his sunglasses, may the full weight of the situation come crashing in.

"Hi, Munin," asks former Vanguard underboss Jensen Raith, "Remember me? Sorry about your neck, but you see, I value my health, and I'm sure you value not being full of bullets, so really, this is better for both of us. Don't you think so? Anyway, we need to talk. You got a minute?"

She'd been expecting Leeds, maybe Velasquez. Until now, Eileen was under the impression there were only a few of Kazimir's operatives left in New York City, hand-picked individuals that he brought in behind Ethan's back before the fall. Raith's breath on her face and the gravelly sound of his voice are contrary to everything else she believed to be true, so it probably won't surprise him to find her gray-green eyes filled with incredulity.

She hasn't gotten any taller since they last saw one another more than two years ago, and yet she still appears to have grown during that time — if not in height, then in physical presence — and although he's never actually heard her speak, her rasping tone doesn't suit the diminutive, dove-eyed shadow that Kazimir introduced him to when they first met:


"Good." Either Raith intentionally misunderstood what Eileen said, or he just doesn't care what she said. "I've been watching you, you know. For some time, in fact, and oh me, oh my, you've been pretty busy. Never figured you for the bloodthirsty type, I have to admit." He's likely referring to her most recent homicide, although he could just as easily be guessing, stabbing wildly in the dark in the hope that she'll surrender some piece of information. "I mean, that guy the other night was pretty good work, if not very clean. But the other ones? Real A-plus material, kid." He doesn't elaborate on which ones. He simply produces quiet but rapid applause from his gloved hands. "Bravi. Bravi." Applause that is short-lived.

"In fact, let's talk about some of that material, and I don't mean the number you did on Eyebrows back there. Little further back then that. Let's talk about the number you did on the old man back in January."

Someone has been doing his research.

Eileen lets out a slow, rattling breath through her nostrils, head turned away from Raith, mouth moving to form words without sound. The sedative has done its job insofar as neutralizing her powers and her ability to fight back, but it's left her disoriented too — she actually has to stop and squeeze her eyes shut, mentally bulldozing through sluggish trains of thought on her way to her answer.

"Volken's dead," which is just stating the obvious, really, "money's gone, people—"

"People," Raith picks up where Eileen apparently left off, "Are still around, Some of them, like maybe you, are happy that Volken is no longer this nine hundred pound gorilla on their shoulder. Others, like for instance me, are still pretty pissed off that Volken lied to them.

"See, I was under the impression that we were going to save the world. You can doubtlessly understand my confusion over that not working out. In fact, I can't speak for certain, but we may have almost destroyed the world. Not happy about that. Leaves a real sour taste in the mouth, like improperly concocted lemonade, or those sour gummi bears. You know the ones I mean. So, I'm not happy with how Vanguard turned out. You're not happy with how Vanguard turned out. What do you think we should do about that?"

That's a loaded question if Eileen's ever heard one. And she has. Usually, she's the one who's doing the asking. It takes her several long moments of stilted silence for her brain the process what Raith is suggesting, and when it does her response is a low moan ground out through gritted teeth and a clenched jaw.

One of Kazimir's underlings attempting to wrest back control over what remains of the organization is exactly the sort of situation she's sought to avoid. Understandably, this isn't something she wanted to hear.

"Playing the 'dummy' card, huh? Well, that's fine, if you really think it's going to help you. But I'll save you some guess work, because it isn't." Throughout everything, Raith has kept cool and calm, neither of which have anything to do with the weather. "See, Vanguard was a good idea when it was still on paper. But then, Volken made it a reality, and it still sounded pretty good, don't you think?" Apparently tired of crouching, Eileen's captor opts instead to take a seat on the ground. "Find the dangerous ones, and deal with them appropriately. Sounded like a great idea when they first pitched it, right?"

Travel to strange, exciting places. Meet new people. Find acceptance and love in those who want to make a positive difference in the world and won't judge her for past mistakes. Saying that Vanguard was a great idea when Kazimir and Amato first pitched it to Eileen is an understatement so massive Eileen lets out a hoarse bark when Raith suggests it. Her body chokes, convulses, lungs coughing up laughter. She can taste blood in her mouth, mixed with her saliva, though it doesn't occur to her that it belongs to the man she left in Teo's care until she spits it onto the pavement.

"M'not stupid." Second time she's asserted that tonight, if for very different reasons than she told Gabriel. "Not— playing games. Vanguard's done. Over."

"Vanguard is over, you got that right," Raith answers, "And rightly so. Insane leader, mission creep, too big, lots of reasons why it's over. But I'm not talking about Vanguard. Not directly, at least. I'm talking about you, about me. Amato Salucci, Ethan Holden, Wu-Long Zhang, Elias de Luca, Dina Murphy, Sierra Heart. What I'm talking about are the people who made Vanguard." Some names are perhaps conspicuously absent from Raith's list. "Still a lot of them out there floundering. Wondering what to do now that the big boss is dead.

"Now, I say better to give them something to do then leave them to their own devices. Tall order to fill, you know, especially without money. Now, the mercs? They'll be fine. Pick up other contracts, be like nothing ever happened. But the ones who had nothing else coming in except an ideal? That's another matter entirely. You with me so far, or should apply pressure to really pound it into your little beaky skull?"

There aren't a lot of people on that list who are still alive, and the two that are exist primarily as bold question marks at the forefront of Eileen's mind. "Heart's dead," she says. "Holden shot her, left town. Zhang, Murphy and de Luca too. I don't know where Salucci is, or if he even made it out." Which means, at least according to her count, she, Raith and "Eyebrows" are the last three left. She won't touch on Velasquez or Leeds. Never mind Lucrezia Bennati.

Not yet.

"Well, that's too bad," Raith replies, "'cause, see? I was really, really hoping I could find most of you still in town. Cuts down on travel costs. Furthermore, you remember that part where I said I've been watching you for a while, right?" Uh oh?

"Did you think I meant, for the last few minutes? The last couple days? Little longer than that, sweetheart. So, I'm having this little dissonance between what you say, and what I saw. Either I'm crazy, or you're, well, you're not lying. But you've met with people, people that you didn't seem to be on bad terms with. 'cept Eyebrows, I mean. So, maybe you're forgetting some things and you were going to tell me when you remembered them? But if you can't, that's okay, I'll just do something else. Maybe find Eyebrows and finish what you started, for example. Maybe."

A fierceness enters Eileen's expression that wasn't there before, her grayish eyes growing cold and bright like flints, mouth twisting into a silent if toothy snarl that's all curled lip and sneer. That was either the wrong button to push, or exactly the right one.

You can always trust a woman to put priority on the men in her life — especially a woman like Eileen, whose role with the Vanguard centered on making its most violent members softer, gentler. Kazimir's assessment, his words. Not hers.

"Don't." Eileen takes a breath, shuddering with visible effort, and then blows it out again through her nose. It isn't likely that Raith got the dosage wrong when he loaded up the syringe, but she's so very small, and mistakes do happen. There's always the chance— "Who'd you want to know about?"

"Anyone still alive, that you know about, who still wants to make a difference," Raith replies, "Holden especially, if you can. 'cause, I really want to get the band back together, and I need a drummer." Whether that's code for something or not, he doesn't. It had better be code for something.

"See, Munin. Or, is it Eileen now? Eileen? Leen? Leeny? Eily?" Finally, he gives a shrug. "Eily. We could make the world a much better place, we could. I want to, at any rate. But before I can do that, I need people. People who aren't afraid of getting dirty. Capice?"

Eileen fixes Raith with a petulant stare, surlier than anyone called "Leeny" or "Eily" has the right to be. He needs people. A drummer. There are a lot of different ways she can take this, none of them particularly optimistic or sanguine, but it beats getting shot in the back of the head, execution-style, and dumped in a ditch somewhere in the Greenbelt where not even Ethan will be able to find her. Still—

"No promises."

"I don't deal in promises anyway, so that works out just fine for me," Raith replies, standing up from the ground and dusting himself off, "And now, we go to my undisclosed location. I'll just apologize right now." Apologize most likely for an extra dose of sedative, indicated by the second syringe he withdraws from what is almost certainly a metal tube for holding cigars. "But, it is undisclosed." And needs to stay that way.

Without another word, Raith jabs the needle into Eileen's neck, and this time, the dose combined with what's left of the first is enough to knock her out. As consciousness slips away, Eileen will have just enough time to witness Raith withdraw another tube, one that does contain a cigar. Maybe he smokes it, maybe not; she doesn't stay awake long enough to find out. Into the tiger's den we go….

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