Kara's No Good Very Bad Day


eileen2_icon.gif finn_icon.gif kara_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Kara's No Good Very Bad Day
Synopsis It gets worse.
Date March 3, 2019

Near the Pine Barrens

Eileen is quiet.

That’s normal. But also: She’s the one in the driver’s seat. Finn and Kara could count on their combined fingers the number of words she’s spoken since their rendezvous on the edge of the Safe Zone a little more than an hour ago, and most of those were used to introduce the stranger crowded into the back seat with Kara while Finn’s extra long legs take up room in the front.

Her name is Yi-Min Yeh. Once upon a time, she was a member of Kazimir Volken’s Vanguard, but now she’s back where she belongs: home.

It’s a curious turn of events, although it’s difficult to know whether this is the reason for the troubled expression darkening the Englishwoman’s face in the rear view mirror, or if she’s worrying about the mess Kara and Finn left behind (no thanks to Lucille Ryans).

Her eyes are on the long stretch of abandoned road unwinding ahead of them, and the distant sea of pine trees looming on the horizon.

It will be at least another hour before they reach their destination. Thankfully, the radio still works, and fills the truck’s cabin with the rhythmic crooning of the Mamas & the Papas, interspersed with an occasional crackle of static.

Hector should probably have that looked at.

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is grey

I've been for a walk

On a winter's day

I'd be safe and warm

If I was in L.A.

California dreamin’

On such a winter’s day

To this introduction, Yi-Min had added: “I worked out of Shanghai,” in her mild but crisp accent, rounding out at least that aspect of Eileen's short explanation. One inevitable question answered, though there would undoubtedly be more.

“It is good to meet Eileen's… friends here.”

Such as they were.

Though she does not have much room to work with, Yi-Min's modest frame does not need it, her small hands tucked in her lap and both legs neatly folded beneath her. She also appears far less uneasy than Eileen does, her dark, unperturbed eyes alternately settling between the path being swept out by the truck's headlights and - noticeably, but rarely - the face of the tall American woman occupying the back seat with her.

"Did something happen to you?" she nonchalantly asks without taking her gaze off the darkened length of road, tone probingly curious. The residual winces of pain had been difficult to ignore upon first meeting, regardless of the degree to which Kara may or may not have tried to hide them.

For once, Finn is quiet, his head tipped against the glass, watching trees and fields and dilapidated buildings roll by on his right, the ribbon of road being eaten up by the truck to his front. His handgun rests on his knee, loosely held in hand but ready to be taken up should there be the slightest sign of trouble.

Now and then his green-eyed gaze flits to the mirrored visor to look at the two women in the backseat — one a stranger and one possibly estranged thanks to how they’ve spent their off-time in the market — and then back to Eileen in the driver side, before returning to what seems the safer view of the road or the side of the road.

Yi-Min’s question draws a huff of a laugh from him, but he doesn’t reply, leaving it to Kara to explain.

The question draws some life out of the statue that is Kara, chin lifting while an eyebrow arches. Her eyes shoot to the rearview for a moment to issue Finn a brief look with magnitude, one that's broken as she adjusts her posture to sit up straighter. She can only assume Yi-Min means her current physical state. "Nothing that won't look worse by tomorrow," she assures with a dry sense of cheer.

There really was going to be no hiding from it. Not after that last hit she took to the face.

One hand frees from folded arms to touch at her jaw, prodding the already-tender skin. She shakes her head openly, still feeling the soreness through her neck and shoulders from where flared nerves had caused her agony only a short while ago. It also might be from having been thrown through a table, or having the back of her head slammed against the ground.

… But that all damage would be less visible than the bruise that was already starting to settle in.

"Chivalry happened." Kara summarizes the event succinctly, turning to look at Yi-Min for the first time since she'd made that odd comment about meeting Eileen's friends. The Taiwanese woman can see the glint of light from the dash shift in her eye as she's looked up and down. "What about you?" she asks deadpan, some distance to it. "Aren't you a little surprise out of nowhere." Leaning back on her elbow against the door panel, Kara tilts her head and lets her gaze flit to the mirror again, this time seeking out Eileen in it.

She's infrequently a fan of outsiders and slow to warming up, something extended to even former Vanguard members. Perhaps especially to former Vanguard members, when they didn't share a certain bond with Kara.

"She's not like us, is she," is a question directed to the driver, open and plain since it's a small audience, even though it lacks typical inquisitive intonation.

But who knew, maybe deadly robots and Richard Ray's girlfriend weren't the only things that fell out of interdimensional portals lately.


Yi-Min isn’t like them. Eileen flicks an apologetic glance at Finn in the rear view mirror, which is to say: Yi-Min is like him.

It’s not entirely the truth, but it isn’t entirely a lie either; Eileen’s body is not of this world, even if her mind is very much native to the surroundings zipping by through the truck’s windows. She reaches up, tangles her fingers in the blonde wig she wears on the crown of her head, and tugs it off with an air of distaste.

Exposed bobby pins glint in the cabin’s low light. She deposits the fair mop in her lap with one hand while the other remains firm on the wheel. There’s no need for it outside the Safe Zone.

“Our world isn’t so different from this one,” she reminds Kara gently. “A few years gone astray. That’s all.”

"Chivalry? For who… for him?" Yi-Min's tone turns keen, just the lightest brush of entertainment overtaking it as the echo becomes a guess. It is not unkind, either: merely a completely unabashed inquiry of truth as she almost imperceptibly tilts her chin towards the seat in front of her.

If it is true, it's quite cute.

But then, Yi-Min's gaze joins Kara's in seeking an unobstructed view of Eileen in the rearview mirror. "Yes. The world has changed while I've been gone," she says delicately of the statement that just hints at an accusation, watching as that wig comes off and Eileen's much more familiar, nearly-black hair comes tumbling down. "And I've been gone for too long."

She does not respond, in movement or otherwise, to the affirmation that she is not like them— but her eyes do take on a more settled and distant sheen in the darkness of the vehicle. ‘Only a few years gone astray,’ is one way to put it.

The answer chivalry draws a raised brow from the man in the front seat. He doesn’t turn to look back at the ladies in the back, given part of the reason he sits up front is because it’s better for him — for them — if he can see the road and their surroundings. It’s not all because of his long legs, after all.

“Kara made the mistake of defending my honor when it turns out I don’t have any. White knight versus White Rose,” he explains with a small smirk, though Yi-Min probably doesn’t know who White Rose is. Eileen most likely does, and most likely did the knight he lost to Lucille Ryans at the Crucible. “My hero,” he says, fluttering lashes at Kara in his visor mirror, before Yi-Min’s words draw his eyes to her next.

“Where’ve you been, Rip Van Winkle?” he asks, though there’s something about the tone that already assumes he won’t get the full answer. Such is his life.

"Just a world order and a civil war apart, Gray." Kara replies just as mildly to Eileen's reminder. The words feel odd flying from her, but also right. Sentiment conjured forth from the haze of memory from that time before she ended up here. She remembers the there, the emergence of Humanis First, and then blinking years into the future where everything had only gotten worse. There was an in between she's vaguely aware of, too, but — where was this coming from all of a sudden?

Maybe she hit her head harder than she thought.

Kara shakes her head slowly like it's at the comment rather than herself, attention returning to the other half of the conversation instead. The here was a lot easier to address.

So she grins lopsidedly at Finn's summary, leaning forward with a half-hearted sneer at being his hero before she lets out a laugh under her breath. "I don't know," she muses quietly, an almost sing-song quality to her voice. "Things went well until she popped off with that ability of hers." She might have a little more sympathy for his loss at the Crucible, now, having experienced it herself. But she'll not say as much, not directly.

"And of course I went to defend your honor. That …" Another bite of breath tears from her as she pre-emptively realizes she's going to be criticized for her word choice. "trollop honestly thought she could make eyes at you after what she put you through. Worse, you were going to let her." Her brow arches almost in a dare to say otherwise.

Settling back into her seat, Kara turns to look at Yi-Min in the hopes of encouraging her into providing a more full answer. "Have you been off-grid this entire time, or did you find someplace else to call home?" Perhaps more questions will encourage her to provide specifics.

Stopped into a church

I passed along the way

Well, I got down on my knees

And I pretend to pray

You know the preacher like the cold

He knows I'm gonna stay

Eileen offers no counter-argument. Kara is right, after all; there is the not-insignificant matter of the Second American Civil War that distinguishes her world from this one, and the evidence is all around them.

Their truck passes an overturned semi covered in last year’s tangle of withered ivy, and skirts along a three foot deep crater in the road where a landmine went off some years ago. The semi’s contents have long since been scavenged, but its rusted carcass remains like a strange skeletal monument to that particular time in history.

She does not answer the questions directed at Yi-Min on the older woman’s behalf, either.

That’s not her story to tell.

Finn is correct: Yi-Min does not know who White Rose is. Given the context however, she can draw a mental line to the deduction that these are, perhaps, fighting names. "You are lucky to have her, no?" she asserts in a candid inhalation of laughter. Her eyes flicker away from his back as she notes once again, with no less appreciation than before, the signs of the apparent beating that Kara had sustained.

There is a split second of hesitation before tackling the next array of questions, but only just. "Another former Vanguard operative took me in after… Shanghai went wrong. I've spent the last ten years working for Praxis in China." Went to hell in a handbasket would have been more apt, if the two knew anything at all about the Vanguard of the East. Regardless, though it is blunt, it’s a more complete answer than Finn might have been expecting— Yi-Min is not fond of unnecessarily dancing around details. It’s also a refutation of the man’s allusion that she had been lax during the time she had spent away from here.

While wheels of curiosity have been turning in the West, the rest of the world has not been idling.

“No slut shaming. I expect more from you. Besides, the heart wants what the heart wants, right?” is Finn’s answer, delivered with a grin, over his shoulder to Kara. “Also gold stars for using trollop in a sentence. Ten points for Hufflepuff.”

His eyes return to the mirror to listen to Yi-Min’s explanation, and his brows lift before he glances at Eileen, for any input, verbal or otherwise, from their taciturn leader. His gaze slants back to the mirror to find Yi-Min.

“Well, that’s interesting. Do they know you’re here, Rip?” he asks.

Kara's brow raises as Finn all but wags his finger at her, a cycle of visible reactions gone through as she works on an answer to that. By the time he gets to his Harry Potter reference, an involuntary, if not embarrassed laugh flies from her. Really? "Hufflepuff?" she asks incredulously. Loudly, given the confined space of the truck.

It makes the silence louder when Praxis is brought up. She doesn't turn to stare at Yi-Min, not anything so forward, but she settles back in her seat with a sudden discomfort. She blinks slowly, wondering if there's an angle to this woman's reappearance she's somehow missed until now — that Eileen might have missed due to their past history together.

She clears her throat. "So, don't suppose you knew Mr. Shih."

Abruptly and without warning, Eileen slams on the brakes. The truck’s wheels grind to a halt, but the vehicle itself slides for another several hundred feet with banshee scream, carried forward by a combination of its massive weight, momentum, and the slick layer of icy rainwater shining on the pavement beneath.

When it does eventually come to a stop, she keeps both her hands on the wheel and her eyes focused on the darkness ahead of them. Her grip tightens, knuckles raised and whitening.

Make no mistake: This isn’t a I’ll turn this car right around situation. Up ahead, a flock of small, flickering birds of an indeterminate species threads out of the trees on the right hand side of the road, visible only for the brief moment they scissor into the headlights.

Something in the woods makes the trees seem to shudder.

Eileen snaps off the headlights and kills the engine.

Now the world outside is black.

“Don’t move.”

"I—" Yi-Min is saved from having to answer either Kara or Finn more completely by the truck careening to a long standstill: she is pitched forward by the momentum, hands flung against the back of Finn's headrest in front of her. Deftly regaining balance using one, she nigh-instantaneously frees the other to stretch for the implements and firearm hiding within her coat.

Even as she rests there, slowly drawing herself up from this new adjusted position, her eyes are struggling to follow her only hint of what is happening in the onfall of gloom.

The birds.

Yi-Min does not move.

Finn shrugs amiably at the incredulous Hufflepuff. “Maybe you just remind me of a badger,” he manages to get out, before the slam on the brakes has him turning back to front, one hand reaching out to brace against the dashboard. He shuts up, though, eyes scanning the darkness for whatever it is that has alerted Eileen — has alerted the birds.

The safety is silently slid to off — but he has a bad feeling the small weapon won’t do much good. He stays frozen but for his eyes, which slide from watching the side of the road closest to him, to the windshield, and finally to Eileen. His brows draw together and his mouth moves, almost in a silent, mouthed what?.

One could forgive Kara for thinking perhaps the dramatic shift in vehicle speed might be due to remembering a traumatic event, like the name Mr. Shih might invoke. After all, Eileen had a particularly strong reaction that night as well.

Hands bracing along the frame of the truck, she lets out a half-formed curse under her breath as the vehicle slides to a halt. They fall to the back of the seat before her, head swinging around to get a better look at Eileen. She fits the image Kara has in her mind; white-knuckled, wide-eyed as she is. "Gray," she tries to reassure her, "Everything's—"

In the moment before the lights and engine are killed, she can see the flicker of birds, the shake of the trees. The particular memory she has in mind right now isn't helping her imagination as to what could be making them shudder like that.

"—fine." Kara trails off into a whisper, her grip around the seatback tightening.

She takes in a slow breath after that, not bothering to reach for a weapon. She has a particularly bad feeling that leads her to believe her sidearm won't be nearly enough. Killing the engine was a risk. Kara feels, but doesn't say. Eileen might have said don't move, but she also feels the need to be silent.

A low, mechanical groan erupts from the treeline. Branches the width of steel beams snap like twigs and crash into the deadfall, sending more birds splintering into the sky. Two deer fly across the road ahead of the source of the disturbance without looking back.

In the absence of the headlights, it’s difficult to make out the details of the cephalopod’s massive form, but everyone whose attention is turned toward the windows sees the moonlight reflecting off its dense exoskeleton. A hazy red light pulsating somewhere near the center of its body allows them to track its progress as too many arms haul it lazily up the embankment on the righthand side of the road.

It’s moving much slower than the last time Kara encountered it.

The thought occurs to Yi-Min that this is something her employers would be very interested in, on account of it being unlike anything she has ever seen before.

There are hunterbots, and then there’s this.

In the middle of the road, it rises up to its full height, towering on a swivel high above even the tallest of pine trees. Motors click and whirr. That red light sweeps the foliage on the other side of the road, searching frostbitten ferns and withered tangles of last year’s blackberry bushes for any signs of life within its immediate reach.

Whatever technology gives the cephalopod its purpose has also picked up on the fact that there are at least three unique SLC-E signatures nearby.

Eileen practices what she preaches. Her breathing slows, growing thin.

The observation about what Praxis would think about this is, in fact, the single one to make it inside Yi-Min's mind fully formed: it's a swift and intrusive lance of reality she cannot ignore. Myriads of other raw thoughts arise within her just as quickly, but none of these manage to grow past a state of stagnant nascence, all arrested by the sheer overriding urgency of staying still.

Predominant among Yi-Min’s visible emotions is surprise— it is detectable in the way her mouth has sealed itself in too thin a line. The reaction is a muted one as far as things go, but she has clearly been taken off guard. Her dark shape remains deathly quiet even as she tries to glean whatever facets she can of the behemoth already far too close to them.

Her fingers are crooked around an obsidian-black knife handle inside her lapel, though something about the grip suggests she may already suspect this will be futile.

Any good-natured humor that was still on Finn’s face has slipped off now, and he stares at the thing moving in front of them on far too many legs. He stares it, taking in its components — the legs, the swivel, that seeking red light that adds to the nightmare feel as it paints the bushes at pines with its eerie red light.

The what is answered, though not by Eileen. His green eyes slide her way again as he waits for a direction other than don’t move. He might be able to get a one-in-a-million shot off — but to even try that means moving, even if slightly and slowly, and rolling down a window.

His eyes move farther to their corners to indicate behind them, before darting to the gear shift. Reverse the truck?

Kara tenses when the machine rears, clutching the seatback more tightly. It's in the middle of the road. Who knows how far it can see. It had still somehow seen before, despite being shot in its face. She's not interested in tempting fate.

"Eileen," she whispers. First name now. "Get us out." Her hand shifts to rest on the driver's shoulder as encouragement. "Now."

A good leader does not dictate. A good leader surrounds themselves with people whose advice they value. Eileen keeps Finn and Kara close because she trusts them with her own life, as well as the lives of others; she doesn’t need to be told twice to turn the key in the ignition and gently shift the truck into reverse.

Her foot applies just enough pressure on the gas pedal to inch them backward, silent except for the crackle of ice under the truck’s wheels and the quiet chugg of its engine.

The headlights remain off.

Kara feels the tension wound spring-tight in Eileen’s shoulder, even as the cephalopod’s shape grows smaller and darker through the front windshield.

That’s when it happens.


The back of the truck taps against something square in the middle of the road behind them that wasn’t there before. A glance in the rear view mirror yields an enormous red orb dipping down to peer inquisitively into the back window, mere inches from Yi-Min’s face.

Robots don’t blink.

Yi-Min feels it just before she can see it, slowly becoming aware of a halo of red light dimly blossoming into being just over her right shoulder and then growing to subsume the entirety of the windshield behind her. Her blood has run utterly cold.

"Drive," she whispers aloud with deadly calm, eyes frozen straight ahead on what is staring at them through the rearview mirror. It’s a reiteration of what has been said before, but the dire nature of the situation has just skyrocketed.


"Drive, now."

Through the corner of his eyes, Finn sees that red light as well; his eyes widen almost comically, if it were not a very serious situation. He turns forward again, eyes narrowing as he takes in their predicament — between a rock and a hard place.

Or a scylla and a charybdis.

Or a killer robot and another fucking killer robot.

Finn leans in closer to Eileen, wrapping one arm around the back of her seat. It’s not a time to get fresh (if it ever is, with Eileen Gray), but perhaps if he’s close enough, the strange forces that protect his lucky ass will extend to the driver — and maybe the truck as a whole.

“Forward, fast. Through the legs. Avoid straight lines,” he advises. He might try to shoot it, too, but for now, escape seems the better option. “We need to outsmart them.” That’s her job.

Sitting right next to Yi-Min, Kara is also dangerously close to the inhuman red eye that observes the cab. She shakes Eileen's shoulder quickly before drawing her hand back, letting Finn get closer. She shifts her eyes his direction instead with a firm nod, her current state of helplessness alleviated partially by him trying to influence the situation. In the meantime, she's still a skilled driver stuck in the back seat.

Driving straight at the one ahead seems like the smartest choice, given the other option is to stay directly next to this other monstrosity. Driving through its legs seems like a tall order, given it could just … sit back down and block their path forward.

But maybe they had luck on their side.

Eileen scoots the gearshift back into the drive position.

She decides she ought to handle the truck like she handles a motorcycle: by pretending her life is the only one that’s at risk.

Tires shrill. The smell of burning rubber fills the cabin’s interior and billows smoke out from beneath the truck as the Englishwoman presses the accelerator all the way to the floor.

The truck lurches forward with enough momentum to slam all four occupants against the back of their seats, including the driver, whose arms have to go rigid and long.

Finn recommended that she avoid straight lines.

She agrees.

As the truck barrels down the center of the road toward the first cephalopod, Eileen mentally counts down the seconds, mouthing the numbers without making any sound. Not that anyone could hear her if she was speaking, anyway.

The radio is back.

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is grey

I've been for a walk

On a winter's day

If I didn't tell her

I could leave today

A tentacle lashes out, making a grab for the truck’s front bumper. It has apparently learned since its last encounter with the Remnant, but Eileen swings the wheel right in the same instant and sends the truck fishtailing through the gap between two of its other limbs.

The driver’s side mirror snaps off in a spray of sparks.

Temporarily clamping the handle of her knife between her teeth— who knows, it may yet have an opportunity to come in handy somehow— Yi-Min is just in the process of going for the window next to her when she is unceremoniously thrown backwards in the vehicle along with all three of the others. "Gan n'niang ji-bai," escapes her in a visceral expletive as she is winded, much more at the situation generally than at Eileen's driving, even as she draws a revolver from within her coat in a fluid recovery motion.

Taking advantage of that brief opening of time as the truck picks up straightforward momentum, Yi-Min peels down the glass just far enough for her to lean out and squeeze off several rounds directly at the center of that baleful red eye, disengaging just before the truck vacillates wildly again and then it becomes impossible to aim whatsoever.

She does not have the benefit of Finn's extra luck, but perhaps something will stick.

“Go speed racer!” Finn chimes out — this is fun, right? No, but he defaults to mindless humor to deal with stress.

Or life in general.

He has the same idea as Yi-Min, and his other arm snakes around past Eileen’s torso to reach for the button to lower the window a few inches. This would work better to try from the other side, but he still wants to trick his ability into thinking he’s the one driving. Craning his neck, he loses that amiable goofy expression he usually wears, as his eyes narrow into something much more focused. He stares at the closest of the cephalopods, his brows drawing together.
The hand that’s draped across the backseat still grips his gun. This, he slides out of the gap between glass and gasket, and angles, perpendicular to his arm to point at the robot. Not exactly a strategy taught at the shooting range, but beggars can’t choose. He fires at that swivel at the core of the body.

“What sort of shampoo do you use?” he murmurs into Eileen’s ear. “Asking for a friend.”

Kara does not engage in any gunplay of her own, not keen on being thrown around in the backseat once the swerving starts. She watches Finn and Yi-Min take their shots, her own pistol burning a hole in its holster. Instead, though, she holds onto the back of the seat, attention slowly swiveling forward again to watch the monster of a robot they charge at.

When the machine lashes out and strikes the driver's side, she clings to the seatback to keep herself in place and also winces. Yes, that went about as well as she expected there. "Doing great, Eileen." she says a little more loudly than would be expected, attempting to keep the driver focused … which she strongly feels asking her about her shampoo does not do.

Eileen could evangelize the honey, clay masks, and reetha-based cleansers she uses in her hair — except now is not the time. A healthy debate about homoepathic alternatives will have to wait for a point at which they aren’t all in danger of dying.

It’s impossible to know whose shot splinters the cephalopod’s sensor without having a postcognitive onhand, only that someone’s aim is true. With a piercing whine of alarm, the robot rears back as if in pain — does it feel pain? — giving the truck extra room to clear the tangle of its legs.

In the time it takes either Finn or Yi-Min to realize one of them has struck it, its injured, wilting shape is already shrinking in the truck’s remaining rear view mirror.

Not that Eileen is letting up on the gas.

Following the trajectory of their combined gunshots as best she can in the immediacy of the onslaught, Yi-Min does not much personally care whose strike it is that had been the lucky one: the sound and sight of their quarry recoiling in the throes of something analogous to agony is reward enough to her. She grips her revolver in a more conservative stance, staring with deadened eyes at the wounded cephalopod that is dropping away in distance behind them.

Though they seem to have received the gift of some amount of breathing room, the spectacle is far too fresh for Yi-Min to begin to relax, and she takes the opportunity to cut a comment towards Eileen without turning her head away from the outlines of both creatures. Her voice is stunned, yet also dry.

"—When you mentioned unwelcome visitors, I didn't think this is quite what you meant, meimei."

Something a bit less sci-fi monster film, maybe.

“Take that, Squidward,” Finn mutters but doesn’t relent, shooting again to emphasize the message that the current inhabitants of the truck will not go easily into its grasps.

“I haven’t seen that particular model before. Thought that shit was behind us. Did it follow Hector back from Fort Irwin?” he says, finally turning to watch through the windshield as Eileen drives — the more he sees, the safer his power keeps him. He looks to the rearview mirror and then to the passenger windows, and back out the back window, where he also makes contact with Kara.

“Never a dull moment, right?” he asks — despite the easygoing comments, there is some tension in his posture and around his eyes. He’s ready to move, muscles spring loaded.

"Oh, you know," Kara mutters in reply to Finn. "Build a church in the morning, barfights by afternoon, and then…" She turns to look back at the machines they've hopefully juked. "… whatever that just was."

And she hopes that's the end of it.

A sigh finally explodes from her and she looks back to Finn, brow arched. "That was what happened to us on Staten. Though there was only one of them, at the time." She's on the verge of saying more about the nature of them, but she pauses, tongue to cheek. Her eyes dart to Eileen in the rearview instead, waiting to see what she'll say about the matter.

Eileen doesn’t have anything to say at all.

There will be time for that later, when the twin red lights in the distance behind them have disappeared over the horizon.

Maybe not even then.

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