In The Jungle


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Scene Title In The Jungle
Synopsis While a hunterbot guards its capture, two souls venture across its path.
Date January 17, 2011

Ruins of Midtown

Melting snow clogs gutters and muffles out the sharper edges of a black Midtown evening as the clock pushes on beyond the time when most citizens are meant to be behind doors, if they have doors to be behind. Most areas of town are in danger of being run through with roving police cars and even the odd military vehicle, but the closer one gets to Midtown and its rotten core, the farther away from getting arrested for no real reason one seems to be as authoritarian presence thins out.

At least it's not snowing, but a cloudy, starless evening threatens it. It's cold enough that there may as well be drifting ice flakes shaken into the air.

Somewhere more north, beyond the famous crater and probably towards the bottom end of Central Park, there's the howl of a klaxon, distinct from the norm of sirens and loud enough to travel all the way, even if it's only faint further south. The street is empty, with concrete barricades on either end that have been long since felled by people taking this rather common detour through the fringes of the ruins to get where they're going quicker, whether it's in further towards the Ruins, or out of it again. Closed down business and condemned buildings loom on either side, black and grey.

Empty is probably the wrong word for it, come to that. In the dark, there is a strange shape that stands bold in the centre of the street. It's a statue, judging by the way it's entirely still — an immense cat-like creation, with a spiny back and a skull-shape head dipped low. A tail made of mobile silver rings is poised, raised. It's entirely unmoving, and a faint, greenish glow basks around its eye sockets.

As chance would have it, something lies at its feet — a man, sprawled unconscious on his stomach. Maybe a drunk. He almost seems to be guarded by this frozen piece of artwork.

The klaxon, in the distant north, wails on.

Ziadie is walking through the detour, at a slow enough pace overall and thoughtful, though with deliberate speed. The older man hugs to the sides of ruined buildings, pausing to look ahead at intervals at where he is going, in dark clothing that makes him a generally dark frame moving through the nighttime shadows.

Leaning against a half-pillar of concrete, Ziadie slowly, carefully ducks down, also leaning on his cane. He's as quiet as he can possibly be, unbuttoning his coat and reaching under it, then looking around the pillar, watching the statue.

It's a crime of fashion, a crime of passion, a dare from another drunk at the bar and the outfit of a hooker. Save the boots. Dressed in a silver sequin tank top that stretches out over his muscled torso and does a fabulous job of highlighting his ample pectorals, Edgar tugs down at the bottom hem of the little jersey skirt that barely covers his jewels. On his feet are a pair of old leather workboots, of the construction variety, and on his head a blonde curly wig. His beard is marred by red stains of lipstick that cover his face. Oh what a night~

He's not very speedy, in fact, the speedster is ambling through toward home. Unfortunately he's going to wrong way. Thanks to his fast metabolism, the copius amounts of alcohol that he's consumed are already leeching to a hangover of epic proportions. The good news is, he won't be drunk when he gets home to his wife. The bad news is, he'll have to explain where his clothes are again and what he's doing wearing hooker clothes. Too bad he doesn't have a $20 bill to show for it.

Statues don't move. It is a well known fact.

Thus, the thing out there cannot be a statue, because, with liquid silence, its head rises up — it's an insectile, jerky motion that belies the feline-like shape its creator has given it. Into the chilly air, steam abruptly plumes out its rib-cage-like sides in deathly white, dispersing almost as soon as it's ejected. With a lurch, it begins to back away from the crumpled body, which doesn't react to the thing of iron and steel, maybe six foot long from nose to tail tip, slinking back from it.

The thing pauses. And on the end of its long neck, turns its skullish head in the general direction of where one man huddles near a pillar, and another wanders fabulously in roughly the same direction. Without fanfare, the twin points of green light seem to flare brighter.

The older man leans on the pillar, having forgotten entirely about the cane he had been using for support. It's on the ground now. He can always get another one anyway. He seems to busy himself shoving his scarf down into the wool coat, and buttoning the wool coat again, but the flare of light doesn't escape him. Hastily, he shoves a flask that had been brought to his lips back into an outer jacket.

There's a faint click, and in motion that is so very long forgotten, Ziadie leans against the pillar once again and turns to look around at what he had thought was a shadow. The older man winces but remains still, overall. The Smith & Wesson that he drew from underneath his coat is held carefully, his hands shaking slightly.

"Well looki'" Edgar slurs a little while weaving his way closer to the mechanical cat. "S'ah wee kitty~ Here kitty kitty~" He extends one hand toward it, rubbing his fingers together like he's got money… or a treat. "Wha' I wouldn' like teh do wi' yer brothers an' sisters oo've taken over me 'ome, eh?" The recovering drunk guy stumbles backward a bit and rights himself against a nearby pile of concrete, sitting heavily on it.

With the juggler's legs now fanned out, it's a good thing he's wearing underwear tonight otherwise the kitty kitty might get a little show. "So kitty, wha've yeh go' there? A man? Yeh bringin' a man 'ome teh yer missus? My missus wouldn' like tha' too much… See.." He hiccups and then lets loose a rather foul belch before continuing, "I said I'd be goin' ou' fer milk… Y'know?" Yes, Edgar is talking to a cat.

The cat isn't talking back. Unless you can count its eyes bleeding red as lucid response. Because this what they do, except that in giant robot cat world, red doesn't mean 'stop'. It just means that it has two targets as picked up by whatever mysterious force they radiate as SLC having citizens, and one confirmed visual. As Edgar nears, he'll see the thing that Ziadie did not need to see before taking out his gun — a long needle glinting silver, protuding past metallic silver fangs.

By the time Edgar is seated— and he doesn't even have to get that close— to feel the heat radiating off the machine, where it glows hot in places, and honed sharp in others. A soft whirr of machinery far too advanced for 2011, in many people's opinion, has the thing suddenly moving directly for Edgar in its choppy, puppetish motions.

Momentum is gained, and it leaps, needle glinting.

When the other man gets closer, the retired cop winces, but Ziadie is honestly more concerned with his own cover. He drops to one knee behind the protective pillar of concrete, waiting. He's also spending far too much of his mental effort keeping a rationale for the existence of robot cats for any hint of conversation.

When the strange robot moves, Ziadie reaches around the concrete, firing several shots at the robot cat. Towards the glow, in fact, the only part of it Ziadie can see enough to target at the moment. Then he leans back against the concrete, looking to see how much further away from the robot his cover goes. Unfortunately, not very far.

In a blur of motion, where the cat lands isn't where the speedster is anymore. There's a tsk sound and a click of a tongue as Edgar stops in front of the downed man, crouched over him to feel for a pulse. "I'd 'ave teh say, bad kitty… very bad kitty… My wife wouldn' like you so much. So I s'pose ets the pillow sack an' river for yeh, eh?"

In another blur, he's gone only to reappear next to a piece of rebar that's sticking out of the ground. He pulls and pries at it, trying to break it loose from its mooring. All the while he keeps a close watch on the cat. Hopefully, it can't go as fast as he can. Hopefully, he can get the bar loose before—

His foot skids alongside a loose, baseball sized piece of concrete and he smiles. Faster than the eye can see, he's got it picked up, tossing it in his hand to weigh it before he winds up for a superspeed pitch.

Bullets send sparks, one going wild and tinging off one fin-like spine that doesn't seem to do much to slow the damn thing. Concrete cracks under foot as the cat lands where there was once a man, needle hovering inches from icy asphalt before it begins to back up. Animals would be confused by this, perhaps. The robot simply registers that something was now is not, and begins to turn its head towards—

A bullet shatters one glowing red eye, swinging its head under the blow, but the robot simply corrects itself with a sort of fluid instinct hardwired into its programming. These things don't get knocked down.

It almost does as rebar and concrete alike connect against its iron side, too fast to be seen. Concrete shatters like ice, the twang if the rebar's rebounding sounding nearly piercing as it goes spiraling off into the street. If it were a beast of any kind, made of more than metals and hidden plastics, it might growl. Bellow. It does neither of these things — it sets its previously buckled leg beneath it, shoves itself back onto all fours, and ponderously begins to turn.

From beneath its ribcage exterior, like the great exhale of a dragon, oily yellow smoke begins to billow out in great clouds.

At the same time, there's a sliding sound of metal as something is folded up. Turret protusions make up its black silhouette in the yellow smoke, and, beginning from where Edgar stands and rotating around towards where Ziadie hides, it begins to fire with blaring muzzle flash and deafening machine gun ratatats. Bullets shred apart concrete beyond.

Ziadie huddles against the concrete for a moment, with a curse as he hears the thing still moving. Blinding it? Good in idea, not so much in practise. Finally, he sees another building, close enough that the older man can get to it, though he'll be paying for the exertion for it tomorrow. It's even in the general direction he was going to begin with. He ducks into the second shelter barely before the machine gun fire, and then there's more cursing.

Once again, he glances towards Edgar, shaking his head when he sees the yellow gas rolling over the area. The gun is still out, reloaded and held at ready, despite the nagging gut instinct that it's not going to do Ziadie any good.

A curse hisses through Edgar's clenched teeth at nearly the same time as the old man who is well out of his way. Recognizing negation gas isn't a far stretch for him, being exposed to almost every form of negation there is available. From the human variety down to the injectables. Back up out of the way of the bullets, the speedster zips closer to the edge of the crater before grabbing a few more rocks and chunks of debris.

Taking careful aim for where he thinks the head of the beast might be, he begins throwing his projectiles as fast as he possibly can. Rock after rock is thrown as he keeps well away from the cloud of gas. The flash of the muzzle allows the carnie to guage where the back of the thing is, a matter of throwing just ahead and just behind is where his problem lies. During one windup, the side of his black skirt comes open and flutters off him, leaving him just in boxers and a sequin tank top.

The thing about machines is that, unchecked, they tend to just keep going. Sometimes at their own detriment, sometimes to that of other people. Golem-like, the cat lurches forward after spending bullets, trailing its spreading wisps of yellow gas like a poison in the air, although now that it is quite convinced that surely by now this much negation gas and these many bullets will have incapacitated its nemeses — for all that it would not have expected, would not have been programmed to expect, that anyone would recognise it for it is.

And Edgar moves too goddamn fast.

Which is why it is moving towards Ziadie with a casual certainty of his position within the building he just ducked into. In its strange, robotic motion, it prowls towards the cement and brick face of the building, errant puffs of negation gas keeping its hide as well protected as the heating that fizzles it into steam when the vapour makes contact.

Thrown rocks plink and thump off metal noisily, occasionally inspiring it to pause and hunker down against assault, before continuing on its way after Ziadie's scent, as it were. A single eye glows red, and the snow melts around its 'paws' with each crunching step.

The unconscious bum it left behind remains unconscious, save for involuntary snuffles when he inhales snow.

Northwards, the klaxon finally cut out, but there's a new sound, finally. It isn't a roar, but the casual approach of simple truck engine, still some distance away itself, but closing in on the area.

More cursing when Ziadie hears the thing still moving, and he turns around the corner, firing the next round of bullets towards the robot cat, before moving through the half-ruined building to come out at least on the other side of a half-wall of concrete from the robot cat. And incidentally, he's moving towards Edgar, at least somewhat.

With the wall of concrete and a small distance between him and the cat, Ziadie shoots once more. This time, the aim is not for the remaining eye. At this point, he's forcing himself to keep moving, biting back the effects of the gas, and cursing loudly now. "Fucking hell robots. 'E never mentioned anything about robots!"

Smaller chunks are doing nothing to inhibit the movement of the creature and with the purr of the engine that's coming closer, Edgar settles for more desparate measures against this vicious foe. Racing through the street, he picks up an abandoned tire and zooms back toward the cat. He didn't take discus in high school gym class, in fact, he never went to gym class… or high school for that matter… Holding the weighty piece of rubber, he spins around in a circle as fast as he is able before letting it go in the direction of the mechanical pet.

"Kiss rubber, yeh li'l bitch…" he mutters as he weebles dizzily. Spinning in a circle at nearly 700mph— after a few staggered steps, he falls to the ground on his side. For the second or two it takes to regain his balance, he watches between the cat and sound of the motor. It's likely going to cut close. The distance between him and the bum… and then the older bum that's shooting… is judged as he slowly picks himself up.

A bullet, finally, loosed from Ziadie's pistol, lands home — it sinks somewhere obscure, the partially exposed workings of limbs, and a fore leg buckles beneath its torso, freezing up stiffling and machinery hissing.

Jetting steam, pure and white, floods out from its ribcage with trails of errant negation gas as the hunter bot pauses some several feet from where Ziadie is hiding. Pauses, but not encouragingly. Its weight rocks back on its powerful metallic haunches in preparation to leap and fling its tonne of weight into the wall if necessary, just as spinning black rubber comes whizzing like some kind of bizarre if intensely industrial UFO. Knocking skullish head leftwards, its awkward, heavy leap is thrown off just enough for it to go crashing through concrete without particular aim or intention.

Dust rises in billowing clouds as the thing lands with an earth trembling shatter of broken concrete and grinding metal, brickwork crumbling over Ziadie — which is better than the immense feline machine landing on him instead. The robot is still.

If not for long. Already, there is the working whirr of machinery as it assess itself. In the dust, its remaining eye suddenly glints green.

Cutting around the corner, a military vehicle cruises around, not really expecting to find much that is interesting — probably, they were expecting to see exactly what Edgar and Ziadie encountered, the robot idling by its capture, and it slows. It's not open roofed, tank-like in vision with slanted sides to protect it from hypothetical gunfire, but truckish in practice. The city has seen a lot of these around.

Crawling through rubble is not the old man's strong point. In fact, he's starting to get towards the point where moving isn't much of his strong suit at all — he'd expected to be back home soon, out of the cold, and out of the weather. "Fucking hell." The exclamation is loud, followed by another one. "Owww." He manages to free himself from most of the rubble around him, easing into a sitting position and digging through an outer pocket to reload the gun.

Like he doesn't have enough problems. Refitting the curly blonde wig on his head, Edgar scrambles toward the prone bum, the initial capture. "C'mon Cousin, time teh go— " There's a grunt as he hefts the unconscious man over his shoulder and chances a glance back toward the old guy. "Ef yer a smar' man, you'll run righ' abou' now an' no' look back."

Apparently that's what the speedster's going to do.

Crouching enough to get a good balance on his passenger, Edgar wraps his calloused hands around one leg and one arm to secure him in a fireman's carry. He doesn't stay to chat with the nice tank people, "I'm sure you're good company fer tea~" He shouts toward the tank as he tests his boots for traction. "Bu' me talents aren't in readin' leaves, so I 'ope you'll fergive me if I take my leave now." One foot over the other, he begins to run with the bum on his back. If they have a camera, they might get a picture of his little cartoon rugby player boxers, they were a Christmas gift from his wife.

There's no bark of where the fuck did it go? but if one were to make out the expressions of the soldiers that climb out of the truck, that is what they were be saying if they weren't so professional and all. There's no facetious taunts right back at the very handsome if deep voiced woman so suddenly zooming away — gunfire flashes in Edgar's wake, a brief blast from two assault rifles before it quiets. Instructions bark, and there's the growl of the truck surging back to life in short-lived pursuit.

Three men on the ground are left behind, and they spread out in a sort of calculated way of brisk searching, with the dust cloud settled enough in the cold air that Ziadie's position in the wreckage is not immediate uncovered — and everything is a little broken out here. Flashlights beam across broken brick and iron.

Ziadie tenses at the gunfire, and rolls, ducking behind another piece of concrete. It's a relatively low position, and shielded somewhat from the beams of light, but though he bites his lip, there's a lot of cursing, and he's likely easy enough to find.

The wind is a little nippy on the jumblies and the vent in the front of the boxers really does nothing for the speedster's comfort. When he's a good distance away, Harlem edge of the Upper West Side will do nicely, the carnie slows to a stop and gently places the bum down near a heated grate. "Easy does i', cousin, yer good'n safe now." He pauses for a moment, eying the other man's pants for a long while.

Some distance away there's a clothesline strung between two buildings with a jackpot of laundry hanging from it. "'Ere, less 'ave a trade then?" Before the unconscious man knows it, he's stripped down to his skivvies and wrapped up in a sheet. With the blonde wig added for effect, he looks like he's sleeping off a great toga party.

Before long there's a man fitting the description of that downed bum in Midtown zooming back through the streets. He takes the long way around because he's not in that big of a hurry at his speed. Two lengths of rebar are procured and held at his sides as weapons… Lucky three left behind!

There's an eruption of movement just near Ziadie, and from his hiding space, he can see the robot collect itself. Rubble comes careening off its superheated sides as it gets to its all fours, and three flashlight beams whip around to observe the machine in its ascent. "What do we do with these things again?" is mumbled just audible to Ziadie.

"It's in retreat mode. Just get the fuck out of its way."

There's a thud as the thing blindly slams its head into concrete, and a hiss of a curse from one of the soldiers as they watch the thing buckle back down again with a whirr. Despite the fact that it's not retreating jjjust yet, not a single one of them steps forward to inspect it. There's mutter into a radio then, asking for a little help over here, rattling off the address and recommending a technician. "Bodies and scrap metal," is murmured after out is announced, pacing away to resume search. "The hell do we look like, garbage men?"

The other two soldiers glance at each other, do sort of silent negotiation with their eyebrows to determine who is gonna be searching around the robot, when the loser made evident by his approach— approaches.

Ziadie can hear, through the hissing steam of the idling robot, military boots scrape closer through the rubble. They pause when the sound of Ziadie's mumured cursing is detected, and then there's a fabricy shift sound of arms raising to point weapon. "Hey," he barks. "Out and hands where I can see 'em."

That someone is blurring their way probably won't register until it— hits them.

Ziadie's sigh is audible, but there's the distinct sound of the gun he'd held being unloaded, and assumably right after that put away. Unfortunately it'd seem that by rolling over into the shelter he found, he also managed to get himself rather stuck. "Can't move," he calls out, one hand reaching up and over as he starts to struggle back to sitting.

"Couldn't stand up anyway," he continues, his voice calm and level. Or it was, until he hisses loudly, the calm giving way to a long string of expletives, presumably as he tried to move.

It's the kind of thing he lives for, really, when it comes down to it. Edgar raises one of the pieces of rebar up as he passes the first of the men and whirls around him, cracking him soundly between his neck and shoulder. It's good to be alive! That's the thought running through Edgar's head as he whizzes toward the second soldier near Ziadie.

Much like the first, the loud crack of the metal bar is heard first against the rifle as it's brought up underneath it in an attempt to disarm the man. Then the second bar is smacked in the very same spot he hit the other man. No killing tonight, unless they're a little too fragile, or unable to handle the speed at which the carnie smacks them up.

Not pausing, the speedster races for the third man and disables him a little quicker. The robot is up and without much information, the carnie is working on his own special combination of caution and chaos. Only when the third man is down do Edgar's boots skid to a halt, right near the old man.

One hand is grabbed up and he's hefted to his feet before the juggler bends to swing him around his shoulders, carrying him much like the previous bum. "I 'ope you've go' a strong stomach, cousin…" his ride mutters low, "'Cause we ain' stoppin' 'til we're out've 'ere." And he's off again, leaving the robot to its own retreat.

This was not what Ziadie was expecting, but in terms of rescue, he can't really think of something better. "I…" the sentence doesn't finish, but Ziadie does manage to hook an arm onto Edgar for his own sense of security. "Owe you." That's close enough, really.

Soldiers go down, and the robot is getting up. It, as to thrown rocks, as to the elements in general, remains unhelpfully impassive to both their attack as well as Ziadie's rescue, whatever mode it is in now meaning that the presence of the two Evolved men does nothing to make its remaining eye run red.

By the time the truck is rounding its way back, and military men are hastily leaping out its sliding hatch to tend to their brothers in arms, the robot staggers out of the wreckage with a weave that if it were organic could be interpretted as drunk. But nothing about it is particularly organic. Or at all organic.

Uncaring where its kill ended up, uncaring where its fight went away, as it is no longer its mission, the green eyed robot ambles down the street to some designated location, dragging its fore limb in lurching steps to be repaired to hunt another day.

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