Greener Pastures


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Scene Title Greener Pastures
Synopsis On Christmas night, the criminal element of the Hub unites to find a way out of their purgatory.
Date December 25, 2011


The Hub

It isn’t often that K-Mart closes its doors. But the metal cargo door that leads to the stairs down to the subterranean vault of one Kain Zarek is shut, a paper-plate taped to the door reads Closed for the Night in blue marker. Down below the concrete steps, in the tall, cold room half partitioned by chain link fence, festooned with the detritus of life before the end of the world, a conference is underway.

Oil lamps light the otherwise dark concrete space, interspersed with chemical lamps and one portable kerosene heater. A table of plywood has been erected, sitting on a stack of four plastic crates at each corner. The cage door to the stores is left open, propped that way by a pair of bricks. Its from within that Kain Zarek emerges, carrying a bright pink backpack with colorful cartoon ponies on it. The bag is hefted down onto the table, and money — better for little else than wiping one’s own ass in this world — is taken out in stacks.

Afterward, Kain slings a second backpack off of his shoulder, setting it down on the table and removing boxes of ammunition from within. Bullets, worth more than gold to those who have to go topside. “Ladies an’ Dickie,” Kain folds his arms over his chest and lowers his brows, “Ah’ve been thinkin’ this is a long time comin’.” Scanning the handful of his most trusted confidants, Kain’s mouth crooks into a smile. “It’s ‘bout high time we talked about the elephant in th’ room.”

Looking down to the ammo and money he’s left on the table, Kain clarifies. “It’s time t’talk about how we’re gettin’ out of this here nightmare.”

Ling Chao has spent most of the last few weeks - ever since their "new arrivals" showed up in their proverbial doorstep - quiet. Keeping to herself. Watching, listening. Slipping in between the cracks of doors and walls when she hasn't been negated - not having a corporeal, biological form has it's perks, after all. It's allowed her to hear a lot. To learn a lot. For what all she could - or would - do with it, but stalking people through the halls was one of the few subtle pleasures the smoke woman has left.

Sitting on a large box, legs crossed, she stares at her fingernails as she feigns disinterest. "You know better than to give people hope, Kain." Her eyes flick up to look at him, before returning to whatever on her dirty hands has captured her attention so well. Fingers curl into a fist. She's negated at this moment, so no smoke drifts from her fingers. They know well how this puts her on edge. An old fashioned, long stemmed cigarette holder - one of her only personal effects from her former life, and one of the few things that might constitute something she holds dear - sits in her other hand, a poor substitute for what comes naturally.

She looks up at the others, and then over at Kain. She has thoughts on this. Most of them involve - well, the fact that they're all going to die anyway. So instead, she stares at him. "What insanity do you have in mind this time."

The formerly blue hair of Peyton Whitney is now a bright magenta, thanks to a newly-found box of “Hot Hot Pink” dye on one of the recent scavenging trips. It clashes merrily with the pumpkin orange polish that the former socialite is painting her nails with — nail polish remover, she doesn’t have, though, so the orange is just going on top of the remnants of the black polish still there.

“For what it’s worth, I actually believe their crazy stories. And as much as I hate to say it, because I’m not a fucking Pollyanna type, there might be some hope,” Peyton says, looking up from her polish to the ammunition that Kain’s pulling from storage. “Do we need all that for this plan? You might need to show me how to use a gun. I mean, I get the basics, but it probably isn’t as easy as it looks.”

She caps the polish and lifts her hand to blow on the polish.

“So do I,” Richard Cardinal admits, leaning back against one wall not far from the table with arms folded across his chest, watching their ‘boss’ drag out the money, the ammo, and stack it on the table from behind dark shades. One hand comes up, scratching at the stubble shadowing his jaw, “They know things they couldn’t, otherwise. Things about me. About Peyton. Magnes even fucking knew Hana on sight.”

A long pause, and he adds, “She’s alive, by the way. For now, anyway. Since you all probably thought she wasn’t.”

“It's real,” is all Kain affirms to the question. “They’re real. Ah’ don’really know how, don't care t’find out. All Ah’ know is that they came from somewhere or somewhen other than here, and that's where we’re going when they leave.”

Turning his back on the others, Kain walks over to one of the tarp covered stacks of crates and reveals wooden crates marked life preservers in a spray paint stencil. He takes up a nearby crowbar and priest the top of each crate off, revealing AK-47s packed in wood shavings. “Been holding on to these for a while. Best guns we got down here. We’re gonna need ‘em.”

Kain takes one for each of the people gathered and carries them back over to the table, setting them down. “Now the way Ah’ heard it, ol Blue Eyes has promised the visitors that when they find a way home they get t’be but damn heroes and rescue everyone. But Ah’ know that bug-eyes motherfucker is just looking out for himself.”

Picking up one of the assault rifles, Kain snaps out the magazine and starts to load it with ammo from one of the boxes. “Mr. Ed ain't got a way t’move everyone in here out. Mah’ plan’s a simple one. When they figure out how t’get outta’ here, we make them take us. An’ if Gollum tries t’stop us, Ah’ve got an ace up mah sleeve t’fix him.”

Kain’s brows furrow. “But these guns ain't for threatenin’, they're for earnin’. They've been making a plan t’rescue a girl named Gillian from the Vanguard. Probably gonna need all the hands and guns they can get. We get in good with them, ingratiate ourselves.” Kain flashes a Cheshire smile, “then they either make sure we’re at the front of the line, or things can get messy after. But Ah’ ain't getting stranded her on Gilligan’s Apocalypse.”

LIng looks between the three of them, bewildered. "You think…" She chuckles. "Well. I admit, I am at a bit of a loss." Because she didn't - and still doesn't - believe them. A look over to the crate of AK-47s, and Ling lets out a bit of a yawn. "Alright." A hand brushes at unkempt hair, eyes squaring on Kain. "It sounds like, one way or another, they are looking to die." A thin smile crosses her lips, and slowly she reaches down to her boots - worn, scavenged black boots to go with the black suit she's often seen wearing. Her hands slips inside, and when it reemerges, she holds a knife in hand.

"Perhaps I can get a look ahead." Smoke rises from the cigarette holder, before she lifts it up and takes a long drag. She doesn't break eye contact with Kain, blowing out smoke in his direct, and once it's thick in front of her, she speaks up again. "And feed you the information. To give to them." She rises up to her feet, serious expression on her face. "Because if they manage not to die, I agree. We should profit."

A grin, and a small shrug. "And if they don't? It's not like anyone expects anything else."

“Oh, shit,” says Peyton, standing from where she was sitting to stare down at the weapons. She doesn’t look all that pleased to see the assault rifles, and doesn’t reach to touch them, but instead puts her hands nervously behind herself, one hand clasping the other’s wrist.

Her eyes move to Ling’s face as she speaks of getting a look ahead and feeding people information. “I can…” she pauses, glancing at Kain, then Cardinal, before continuing, “probably help with that.” The corner of her mouth curves upward into a self-pleased sort of smirk.

“As far as ingratiating ourselves, I think Liz and Magnes’ll be easy. They already care about us because they already know us. But if it’s preferred status, hell yeah, we need to be sure we’re in the front.”

A long, low whistle passes Cardinal’s lips as the assault rifles are revealed, his brows going up well over the edge of those shades he’s wearing. “Well, well, well, you’ve been holding out on us, K-man,” he half-accuses, half-compliments, reaching out a hand to lift one of the rifles up. Keeping his finger off the trigger he shoulders it and turns away from the others, sweeping its aim across the wall, testing the feel of it. It’s heavy, unfamiliar, but with automatic weapons you don’t need a lot of skill.

Slowly he sets it back down, gloved hand drawing off it. “They’re the real thing. And it turns out that I’m Harrison’s lover wherever she’s from, so— “ He flashes a rogue’s grin, “She’s got a reason to hurry me, at least, to the front of that line. I think we’ve got an in, but you’re right, we need to keep pushing that until we’re on the other side.”

He tilts his chin up over to Ling at her words, suggesting, “Pretty sure the two of us can smuggle these babies into wherever they’re holding Gillian — take the place apart from the inside, the one place they’re not expecting an attack from. We won’t even need radios to relay what we find when we run recon.”

A sidelong glance to Peyton, a smirk back to her smirk.

“Now who’s been holdin’ out on who, Dicky?” Kain slants the fellow criminal a lopsided smile. “You plowin’ some alternate reality prime rib? Ah’ didn't think you were much fer older ladies.” Though he raises his brows in teasing amusement, he goes only that far for the sake of not getting his mouth slapped off by Peyton.

Demuring, Kain flashes an amused smile and gently leans up against the table. “They got some plan brewin’, so yeah. We gotta be in on it. Ah’ll volunteer t’help folks with the heavy lifting, Peepers can work with Dicky on scouting for whatever cockamamie plan they've got in mind. Dingaling can come with me, because Ah’ ain't risking any part’f mah ass without backup.”

“We earn our place, an’ if that doesn't cut it…” Kain shrugs helplessly, hefting his rifle to his shoulder. “We talent by force.”

Ling's expression is flat, eyes moving between Kain and Cardinal. "Alright." She grins wide, drumming her fingers as smoke rises from her cigarette holder. "I haven't been out since they sent me after the girl." Her and the Ghost. The knife slips between fingers, turned so the blade faces downwards, and gripped tight.

She holds the blade up, inspecting it's dirty sheen. "I'll even be a pack mule," she opines, "if it helps get us out of here." She's always spent a lot of time letting everyone know they were all doomed. She doesn't have hope - but she can at least enjoy herself. And maybe there's the off chance this works and they don't all die even more horribly.

She has her doubts, though. "Alright," she repeats. "Might as well have some fun. And if they want to make it hard?" The knife is suddenly thrust into the crate she sits on. "Well."

Glancing between the men and their guns and Ling and her knife, Peyton raises a brow. “Am I the only one here who doesn’t get off by the sight of weapons?”

She rolls her eyes when Richard talks about Liz and narrows them at Kain’s comments, though the smirk hasn’t faded so she doesn’t seem too upset by the declaration or the ribbing.

“Honestly I’m not sure wherever they’re from is better, even if there’s no plague. I’m apparently knocked up with some megalomaniac’s baby, according to the kid,” she says, with a shake of her head. “Gross.

She turns to Kain, though, lifting her brows and a shoulder. Taking things by force isn’t her forte, but she has other ways to make herself useful. “Lemme know if you want eyes on the old boy’s club. But if I see them doing anything weird that requires brain bleach, you’re going to owe me big, K.”

A bark of laughter from Cardinal, and he flashes a grin over at Kain. "Maybe other me's got a yen for pianists. I've got my hands full trying to beat a megalomaniac to the punch," he observes, expecting to get smacked for that particular comment.

"Sounds like a plan, though, boss," he shrugs one shoulder, glancing over to Peyton, "Keep an eye on 'em if you can, in case they decide to pull a runner. I'm ninety-nine percent sure they're fuckin' white-hatted idealists, but you never know."

Peyton earns all of Kain’s attention as he levels a blue-eyed stare over in her direction. Gun down on the makeshift table, he walks over to her with brows furrowed and head tilted to the side. “Maybe you’ve been in your own head too long, kid, but Ah’d take a prison cell over this bullshit any day of th’ week. So some other you’s got baby daddy issues, so what? You’re your own person,” he waves one hand up and down at her. “An’ you’re a motherfuckin’ survivor. Some knocked up trust-fund baby ain’t gonna be able t’hold a candle t’you there, darlin’.”

Arms crossed over his chest, he gives her a flat look with raised brows for a moment. “We live in a fuckin’ sewer in constant threat of either turnin’ into a puddle of soup, dyin’ of disease like we’re on the Oregon fuckin’ Trail, or gettin’ our heads blown off.” Kain surveys the others, one hand raised. “Show’f hands who’s willin’ t’see if the grass is really greener on th’ other side?”

Ling gives an amused grin over to Peyton. She doesn't offer a comment, instead she flips the knife in her hand so that she grips the flat sides of the blade - and the hilt is offered out to Peyton, for her to take.

To what end, who knows. Ling is a strange one.

The other hand, though, rises upwards. "If I am going to die," Ling starts, leaning back a bit, "I would rather it be on my terms." Because even if they are going to die, virus or otherwise, that doesn't mean Ling doesn't want to be in control of her fate. There have been no mentions of her from their world, as far as she's heard, and while she's not conceited enough to believe that she should be that important - it does make her wonder. It makes her want control, for what little that has ever mattered.

She's not one to grasp on to hope. But opportunity? She can ride that wave far.

“Please. No one wants to see how screwed up either of us are as parents,” Peyton tells Richards with a smirk.

Kain’s head tilt and furrowed brows are mirrored by Peyton, though without irony — she isn’t mimicking him to mock or tease him. She glances over at Ling offering her knife, then back to Kain as if she might think of using it on him now that he’s gone so serious.

“Jesus, I was kidding, K,” before glancing at Ling. “This is how you know he’s serious. He’s lost his sense of humor,” she asides, before lifting her hand in a perfunctory sort of way. “Of course it has to be greener on the other side. The fact there’s even an outside with grass to see is better than here.”

“I don’t think either me’re the smoke girl here are eager to find out how long we’ll survive in a dead world as ghosts, Kain,” Richard Cardinal observes with a shake of his head, hands spreading a little, “You know I’m in. Let’s see if we can get out of this shit-hole of a world and into a better one.”

Slanting a look between Ling, Peyton and Cardinal, Kain cracks a lopsided smile. He slips away from the table, walking into his storage cage and is gone for a minute or two. When he comes back, it's with a mostly full bottle of whiskey — a gift-slash-bribe from Kaylee — and four glasses of mismatched design.

One by one Kain lays the glasses out and pours two fingers of whiskey into each, and he raises his glass with a more predatory smile than he'd had before. A return to form, after a fashion.

“T’greener pastures,” Kain toasts with his glass held up.

“May they be incrementally less shitty.”

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