eileen4_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Kabam
Synopsis Raith imparts his first lesson on Eileen as her new employer: never let your guard down.
Date August 2, 2009

Inland Staten Island, not far from the Garden

The inland of Staten Island changes dependent on the path you choose, but for the most, it can be described as containing desolate, sprawling suburbia ripped apart from the sudden overpopulation of Bomb survivor refugees, and the subsequent evacuation that took place nearly immediately after. Streets and blocks of houses emptied of families and taken over by squatters; the libraries, the schools, the churches all left behind and taken over by whoever is brave enough to claim it.

The cluster of civilization is namely controlled by a still developing crime population, a neighborhood known as the Rookery. A large portion of the island is taken over by a somewhat wild, unkempt rural landscape known as the Greenbelt, and most of everything, be it structure or vegetation, seems to be in a stay of slow death and decay. Graffiti stains brick walls, glass windows are broken and boarded, and plant life slowly tries to make a feeble reclamation of the land.

This is New York's forgotten borough, and it looks it.

A symphony of crickets, murmuring leaves and the sibilant whisper of the wind blowing through the tall grass can mollify even the most troubled mind. Nicotine helps take the edge off too, which is why Eileen has abandoned the safehouse cottage for the woodland that surrounds it, a lit cigarette dangling between her fingers as she blows smoke and stands in the shadow of a gnarled oak with branches like the arms of a giant and bark carved from thick, sinewy cords of compact muscle.

It's an old tree, veteran of so many blizzards, shrub fires and storms that it pays little heed to the young woman and her burning embers — short of a splitting maul or a portable sawmill, there is nothing the Herculean behemoth wouldn't survive. As Eileen takes another drag from her cigarette, she turns her attention outward and listens to the sounds of the nighttime forest around her, not quite content but something close to it.

There is no better cure for a troubled mind than nature. Even the sound of it can bring ease, but full immersion is the best of all, melting away worries like ice in the sun. Nature is delicate, sensitive to noise, and subtle changes in the chirping of crickets, a snapping twig or rustling grass can tell someone anything they could need to know about their surroundings. All the better for Eileen that none of these things happen. Peace.

Peace, perhaps, but not solitude. There is a rustle of grass and leaves, but it only comes an instant before a dark shadow bolts from behind the old oak, meeting Eileen head-on and pressing her back against the trunk, arms held out of the way, wrists restrained, and legs far too confined to be of any use. Like an animal, trapped, caught by the hunter. The End.

"Nice night for a walk, eh chiquita?" says Jensen Raith, the constant irritation to Eileen that he is. He would be the sort to hang out in the woods, waiting for the chance to pounce; her own personal Big Bad Wolf, and her without her cape.

When Eileen thinks of wolves, Raith is not the first individual who springs to mind. He isn't even the second — the best he can hope for is a bronze medal, or maybe an honourary mention. It happens so fast that she can't even comprehend what's happening until it's over. Her back hits the trunk with a mighty oomph as the breath is expelled from her lungs and her ribcage compresses, crushed beneath a lump sum that's easily twice as heavy as her ninety-odd pounds. She makes a gasping sound like a punctured balloon and hisses out his name between clenched teeth, her voice shriller and more anxious than he's ever heard it.

Cast aside, her cigarette continues to burn harmlessly in the mulch under their feet, its spread contained by the smothering power of damp earth combined with peat moss and sodden leaves. "What are you doing?"

"I think the much better question," Raith replies with a slight growl, "Is just what do you think you're doing? It's night, you're still recovering, you're alone, and you didn't try to conceal yourself in any way. And most of all, you weren't paying attention. It was easy to sneak up on you." As if to emphasize this point, he presses himself into Eileen's body with slightly greater force, compressing her between his bulk and that of the tree. "What if I was a rapist, or murder junkie? Or, here's a real good one-

"What if I was Feng Daiyu? Then where would you be?"

It's late enough and dark enough that Eileen has difficulty making out Raith's face beyond the twin pinpricks of his eyes and the bristle of his beard — there's no way for her to know what expression he's wearing or whether the growl in his voice is just for show. Likewise, apart from the war drum hammer of heart drubbing wildly against his chest, it's impossible to imagine what conclusion his captive has leapt to.

"A shallow grave," she spits, breathless and gasping. "The sixth circle of hell. Valhalla. Take your fucking pick!"

"Dead? You vote for dead? Dream on, superstar," Raith says scoldingly. Perhaps more disturbingly, he slides his hips against Eileen's, just slightly. Disturbing, of course, is exactly the result he wants; school's in session. "Daiyu wouldn't kill you unless he had to, and maybe not even then. Let me ask you something. You ever thought about what it might feel like to have bamboo slivers hammered underneath your fingernails? Think you'd even wait for the hammering to start before you pissed yourself? Or maybe a blowtorch is more his style. Doubt it, though. I like it just fine, but, doesn't hurt enough for a sadist, you see."

As Eileen flexes her fingers, the muscles and tendons in her wrists strain against Raith's grip on them. "You weren't there," she reminds him as her voice splits down the middle, sheared apart. Fear spikes through her, cools blood and chills skin. The only thing it doesn't put on ice is her temper — she's furious. "You don't know shit about what he would or wouldn't do, what lines he'd cross—"

If disturbed is the effect he's going for, then he's succeeding in spades. The pressure exerted by his hips bearing down on hers renews her awareness of his body's proximity and gives Eileen a real reason to struggle, the heel of her bare foot aimed for his ankle. She doesn't like where this is going. At all. "Get off of me!"

Eileen gets her wish. Sort of. The kick to the ankle does indeed make Raith back off. But it also prompts him to let go of her wrists and grab her head and shoulder in a boxing clinch right before he throws his knee up into her abdomen with enough force to rattle her skull a little bit, despite being nowhere near her head. Yanking the much smaller woman away from the tree, he hooks his foot behind her ankle, and with a hard shove, sends her tumbling down onto her back. Just like being shoved against the tree a second time.

"You never were one for doing the smart thing, Eily. For how long you spent surrounded by terrorists and mercenaries, you didn't get much education. There are plenty of things you could have done to avoid that." Moving to her side, Raith winds up and gives her a kick to the ribs that, while painful, fortunately isn't very hard. "That too!"

The past two days have not been kind to Eileen. You'd think that by retreating to the Garden, a place populated by friends and allies, her luck might turn around — she certainly did. It's incidents like these, however, that remind her just how very slight and flimsy the separation between ally and enemy can be. Jensen Raith isn't her friend; she can see why Kazimir decided to keep her close to Ethan and the others instead.

On the ground, she rolls off her back and over onto her side, fingernails raking through dirt as she gropes around for a weapon — or, much more likely, something to grab onto. One hand closes around an exposed section of tree root for support, but rather than use it to right herself, she pushes up just enough to get her face out of the mud.

In a short span of twenty-four hours, she's been shot with volley of rubber bullets, interrogated by a man who claims that Ethan is her father, summarily doped up with heroin and now kicked in the ribs right after getting kneed in the gut. The next thing she does is something almost anyone else in her position might do. She throws up, grateful that there wasn't much in her stomach except for a lot of water, gastric acid and some stale bread she managed to keep down earlier.

"And kabam! Fight's over, I take the prize, the princess, and you get your face rocked. Too bad you weren't smarter, Eily. Whether you like it or not, you don't get to wear the kiddy gloves anymore. I'm stopping, but Daiyu won't ever stop. Not until he's dead, or Holden's dead. And if you end up in the way, tough shit. You'll be dead too. And then, you will really be in a world of shit." Kneeling down next to her, Raith roughly seizes Eileen by her hair and tilts her head back enough so he can, sort of, look her in the eye. "Because you, are not allowed to die without permission. Do you get me?"

There's vomit in her mouth, saliva coating her lips and a glistening mixture of the two dripping from her chin. Eileen lost her kid gloves when the Narrows came down and took out her safety net, but Raith's point isn't one she's physically capable of contending at the moment. Her breaths are hard and ragged, their arduous rhythm interrupted by a series of wet, choking coughs. "M'name isn'— Eily," she rasps in an acerbic voice crackling with emotion, a sliver away from tears. "S'leen."

"You want that name?" Raith asks. Just to show what a total badass he is, he calmly releases Eileen's hair and carefully untangles his fingers from it. "Earn it." And that's that. Raith stands up, dusts himself off and turns to depart. "You can't defend others until you know how to defend yourself. Either earn it, or go back to stamping hands for reentry at Disneyland. You know how to get ahold of me. Ciao, chiquita."

That's it, all there is to it. Raith's made his point, and has no further reason to hang around. Jumping Eileen, after all, was only a nice bonus to compliment his real goal. With nothing further to add, he walks away from the scene, slightly favoring one leg over the other. He'll be icing down his ankle when he gets the chance, make no mistake.

If this world is a world where people have to earn the names they are given at birth by their mothers, Eileen doesn't feel like she wants to live in it right now. As Raith's retreating footsteps crunch through dead leaves and brittle stalks of dried out fescue, she curls in the dirt and withdraws into herself, body involuntarily twisting snakelike into the fetal position.

It will be a few minutes before her composure returns to her, and even longer than that until she's ready to return to the cottage on the other side of the trees. Sometimes it's okay to cry. Other times you have to.

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