Misstep, Part I


daphne_icon.gif delia_icon.gif koshka_icon.gif

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Scene Title Misstep, Part I
Synopsis Eltingville residents feel the fires burn hotter when a Ferry recon team comes too close to the borders for their own safety.
Date August 16, 2011

Eltingville Blocks

The day is warm, muggy, and mostly clear — a break in the sporadic rain draws people out of doors and Daphne Millbrook is among them. Out of sheer boredom, and also because the guards tend to frown on her speeding, she is jogging.

Like a normal person.

Any other jogger in the humid day would likely be sweating up a storm, but for the pixyish speedster, it's as strenuous as a walk, really. She has headphones in her ears that help her keep to the tempo rather than a much much faster pace.

It's hard work being normal.

She stops to bend and retie her shoe — the good thing about walking or jogging is they don't wear out so fast, at least.

Along the fenceline is where the best wildflowers grow. One of the girls at St. Clare's should be celebrating a birthday but she's working today. Whether or not she wants to work is irrelevant to the dreamwalker, all she knows is that she found out in the morning and has been caught without a gift. The small party is already over, before working hours began. Still, the redhead still feels more guilt for forgetting than the confessionals can wipe away.

It could have something to do with the fact that no actual priest is listening.

A basket that overflows with different colored posies hangs off one arm, each one of them the most pefect specimen she can find in the area. Like jewels among the weeds that grow out in the thicker areas, they're hard to find but very precious. The dreamwalkers long legs pick through the tall grass like a deer stalking through a field. She's trying to be careful not to step on anything dangerous, like a spent needle or something of the like. It's hard with all the overgrowth.

It's a bit early to be checking the route, but it has to be done if she wants to continue holding up her end of the bargain. Besides, Koshka can't find fault with the chance to go beyond the gates, even through surreptitious means and for shady reasons. Which really is why she needs to make sure the way is still clear.

The way is almost second nature by now. The teenage girl skirts past main thoroughfares to cut across several yards. From there it's just down an alley and around a couple of abandoned buildings. Koshka takes her time in the open spaces, on the look out for anyone who could possibly be watching her before moving on. No need to raise suspicion. If she's caught it's her neck that's on the line and no one else's. But except for a casual glance, none of the residents pay her any mind and soon the fence, with its access to something akin to freedom, is within unhindered sight.

A flutter of wings like whispering leaves flashes gray in Delia's periphery, and a falcon drops onto the top of the fence a few yards away from a cluster of small indigo blooms. It smooths its glossy feathers, sleek and dark, and ducks its head to pick at its feet, which are sheathed in silver and gleam like knives when it adjusts its footing and flakes off pieces of brick under the blade. The claws are attached to its talons using twists of soft leather — this is not an ordinary bird, and the interest it takes in Daphne's approaching shape and the shadows of the guards posted at the corner on the opposite side of the street that Koshka is about to cut across is not ordinary either.

Heller does not provide his men with everything that they'd like. The two soldiers have to share one cigarette between them and are speaking in low voices too quiet to hear over the drone of buzzing insects on the other side of the wall where tall trees offer shade and respite from the sweltering summer heat made all the worse by the humidity in the air. The pavement gleams black, still wet from the last thunder shower that swept through only a few hours ago. The grass leaves Delia's feet and calves sopping.

Despite her quick reflexes, Daphne doesn't notice the bird — or at least doesn't give it a second glance, not noticing anything afoot. Her dark eyes narrow on the soldiers as she finishes retying her shoe, then adjusts the sock beneath the anklet she wears, wincing a little at the sore skin beneath. It really wasn't designed for running in — quite the opposite, at least in Daphne's case.

"Oy, kid," she calls to Koshka, eyes narrowing in suspicion as to that girl's destination — she can probably guess only too well. Using her body as a shield, she holds a finger against her chest to point to the two men passing the cigarette between them, just in case the teen has any ideas. "Long time no see," she adds to cover up her reason for calling to the teenager.

Shaking one of her feet off, Delia grimaces at the wet feeling between her toes and whispers promises herself some sort of pampering once she's home again. Scabs that have grown waterlogged and soft rub off, exposing new skin and old self inflicted wounds that sting when the cuff rubs against them. She stops, leaning one hand against the wall to balance herself as she lifts her foot. Already a few little trails of blood have collected more insects than she'd care to count.

A spark of sunlight that reflects off the silver talons of the bird catches her eye, like a Christmas ornament in the wrong season. Looking up at the tree, Delia smiles to the bird and lifts her arm to offer it up as a different perch. On the off chance that it's tame, the expression on her face is telltale that she’s looking forward to the little thrill of having a raptor on her arm. Even if it's just for a few seconds.

Lesson learned, you should always check twice before crossing the street. Koshka's steps slow as she's called, bringing up a grin that masks any intentions, her mind working to come up with a plausible reason for being out this way. But as she spots Daphne and follows the speedster's gesture with a flick of her eyes, weak relief settles in her chest. That would have been a messy mistake.

"Hey," the teen calls back, her grin unwavering and tone remaining mostly upbeat. "I've been busy. Parents and… all that." Koshka shrugs and angles her course to intercept Daphne, or try to fall in step beside her. Her eyes stray toward the fence again, careful to not linger on the break that gives access to the woods beyond, then slant back to the Daphne.

I don't think you'd like that, says the bird in a voice that Delia will recognize without needing to make an effort to place it. I might cut you.

The soldiers might look at her askance, too, and the last thing Eileen wants is to place more suspicion on Delia that her family ties already have. She waits to be sure that their focus is on Koshka and Daphne instead before speaking again, and although whispering isn't required when she communicates in this fashion her tone is nevertheless gentle, cautious. Would you have a little chat with Logan on my behalf?

The soldier with the cigarette blows smoke from his nostrils. He's seen them both around Eltingville before, as has his companion, though never together. He pauses, scrubs at his nose with his sleeve. If he was more attentive, he might notice that Koshka's eyes keep coming back to a particular spot, but he's young and he's green and he's probably wishing he'd been stationed outside the brothel this afternoon instead.

Most of them do.

"Yeah. So much to do here," Daphne says a little sarcastically, pulling earbuds out of her ears to talk to the teen a bit better; her eyes flit to the movement in the brush closer to the fenceline, noticing Delia, then back to Koshka.

"Listen," she breathes quietly enough that her voice doesn't carry to the soldiers, "you need to not be risking your neck on the other side of that fence again. Did you hear about the woman they strung up from a tree last week? Do you want that to be you? Whatever it is on the other side of that fence isn't worth getting your neck broken over. We were lucky last time — don't think you're gonna be a third time. Three strikes and you're not only out — you're a freakin' piñata."

Delia's head jerks in surprise at the voice inside of her head. She contains the expression quickly after a quick peek over her shoulder. Not certain of how good the falcon's hearing and not willing to risk being caught, she bends down in the tall weeds picking at random blades and flowers to put into her basket.

From her spot, she nods up to the bird before giving it a verbal answer in the lowest tone she figures she can. "Uh huh.." The generic sound could be passed off as a piece a song or just a mumble to herself if the guards happen to pay any attention to her.

"It's fine," Koshka replies, and she could be responding to Daphne's cynical remark of the activities offered instead of to the warnings. Her head tips forward, looking from the speedster and to anything else. Delia catches her attention briefly, a brow arching at the red head picking flowers and a bird of sorts sitting on the fence. But she doesn't comment for it.

"I can't tell you why," Koshka continues, her voice pitching more quietly, "but as long as I'm not seen, it's okay." Her voice picks up a little, closer to normal tones. "We had tacos last night. For dinner. You should come over some time, Ernesto makes the best tacos."

Wonderful, Eileen says. We're working on getting you out, but there aren't many ways to safely do it — it's going to take a few weeks for us to establish where Heller's troops are and when. Less if Logan is willing to lend us his eyes on the inside. I need you to be patient, Delia, and while you're waiting find out how many other people want to leave. Our approach depends entirely on—

The Englishwoman probably wasn't going to say gunfire, but that's what cuts the explanation for her visit short. On the other side of the wall, two rifle shots snap off, followed by the rolling, popping chain of a machine gun being fired into the trees. A flock of sparrows fills the dust-blue sky like a swarm of hornets, but when they spread out over the forest's canopy it's in a formation that suggests a retreat instead of an attack.

The soldiers heft their rifles in response but do not budge from the curb. They have their orders and the men on the other side of the wall have theirs. All three women can hear them being barked out, not over the radios the guards have holstered at their hips, but shouted somewhere off in the distance.

The Ferrymen come to do reconnaissance today got unlucky, and if Koshka doubted what Daphne told her before now then she shouldn't anymore. If she'd left home only a few minutes earlier and slipped through the hole in the fence, it would be her in the line of Heller's fire.

Whatever Daphne was about to say is also cut off by the gunfire, and the platinum blond grabs Koshka to speed back and away from the fence a few yards before letting go again — just in case the soldiers mistake that speedy retreat as an escape attempt.

Her eyes are wide as she glances to Delia to be sure the redhead is all right, then back to the guards. "What's going on?" she asks, one arm out in front of Koshka defensively, like a mother might stretch an arm across a child in the passenger seat of a car when coming to too-fast of a stop. "What's going on?" she calls to the guards — in an attempt to distract them from whoever is causing trouble on the other side.

She hopes whoever it is is escaping.

The shots echoing through the air have only one response from the redhead on the other side. She drops against the ground in a turtle formation with her arms protecting her head. Delia's breathing is nervous and shaky. When she looks up at the bird again, her face screws up into an unpleasant grimace that betrays the tears that might errupt at any moment. The only answer the bird gets for all of its instruction is a quick nod of understanding.

She doesn't call to the guards as the speedster does. It's hard enough not bringing attention to herself as she scrambles to a stand and tries to make a run deeper into her own side of the fence. The basket she carries creates a breadcrumb trail of cut flowers, broken by her duck to the ground.

Likewise, the teenager's attention is riveted to the gunfire. Her heart makes a leap into her chest and if not for Daphne's efforts to move her away from the fence, Koshka would have remained standing, a deer caught in the headlights. Her hands come up to grip the speedster's arm as her eyes go to Delia again. "What… where was that," she asks in a whisper, darting a look from Delia to Daphne, then to the fence and what lays beyond.

One guard has his radio to his ear. The other is already ushering other civilians off the street and into a nearby building with open doors that might be a barber's shop — the doorway is too crowded with panicked people for either Daphne or Koshka to see what's inside except for the tops of heads. "They have a visual on Beauchamp," says the soldier with the radio to the other. "Spurling. We don't know how many others. Heller wants everyone inside."

"Inside!" echoes his partner in a much louder, booming voice, and if Koshka and Daphne don't get the idea then he's more than happy to gesture them with his rifle. The falcon on the ledge lifts off, its inky eyes less sharp than they were a few moments ago, its movements sluggish and heavy as if just waking from a dream. Eileen isn't there anymore, and she has no words of encouragement for Delia as she breaks away from the fence.

The guards, however, do. "Come on, Red! Skinny ass over here!"

Those are names that Daphne knows, and she gasps softly before pushing Koshka forward

"Go on. Don't stop for me, all right?" the speedster whispers, nudging the girl toward the building and making as if to follow.

A few feet behind Koshka then, she suddenly tumbles to the ground, as if her legs have gone rubbery and useless. "I can't… I … sometimes if I get nervous my ability stops working," she cries out to the guards, face screwed up like a petulant toddler's. "I need help…"

Maybe at least one gunman will be taken out of the hunting party.

The soldier doesn't receive an argument from Delia. By now, everyone within the walls knows what the consequences are for disobedience. Keeping her head hung low to avoid eye contact, much like she does at the brothel when she passes them by, the redhead files toward the building with the rest of the citizens on the inside.

The basket of flowers is clutched tightly to her torso with one hand over the remains of what was once going to be a beautiful present. Her other hand sweeps a few curls behind her ear, giving the soldier a view of her profile. The risk of recognition has two sides of the coin. She could either be recognized as one of the girls at St. Clare's or by her lineage— and thus her connection to the names over the radio.

The name is mouthed, though Koshka seems unsure about it. However, she lets Daphne push her toward building. Several steps are taken, woodenly, she half turns to follow the flow into the building. When the speedster falls, the teenager stops in her tracks, torn between following the instruction or going to help the blond-ish woman. Her head turns, a quick glance from soldiers to building, then back to Daphne, a full step of the retreat recovered.

The guard with the radio stoops to grab Daphne by the collar of her shirt, though she can be almost certain there's a moment where he's considering pulling her up by a fistful of platinum blonde hair instead. His other arm loops around her waist. Fortunately for Delia, she as much Logan's property as she is her father's daughter, and the soldiers herding civilians into the shop are well aware of his relationship with the Colonel; you do not rough up someone who belongs to one of the community's leaders, and you especially do not rough up someone who belongs to one of the community leaders that your superior favours.

The guard hauling Daphne shoves aside any grudges he might have against the Ryans', and passes the blonde off onto the girl with the basket. "Take her," he orders Delia gruffly. Then, to his partner: "Barricade the doors. We're holding our position."

She's not an actress by any means, but having spent more than two-thirds of her life "crippled," this is an act she can pull off. Daphne lets her feet drag as the guard hauls her, wincing at the collar tugging around her neck. When she is passed off to Delia, she loops an arm around the taller woman's neck to help (something she wasn't about to do with the guard).

Delia will be able to feel Daphne's trembling and pounding heart, combining no doubt with her own. "Sorry," she whispers — though she doesn't admit to faking. She doesn't know Delia has allies on the other side of the fence, too.

The basket is adjusted and hooked into one elbow to facilitate the catch of the tiny speedster. The tall redhead just gives a slight nod to the soldier and keeps her eyes forward, trying not to look at either of them for what could be considered too long… or even too short. The expression on her face is, in the simplest terms, worried.

"It's okay.." she whispers to Daphne, circling her waist with one arm to support the woman's dead weight. Delia keeps quiet after that, with her lips pressed into a thin line to keep herself from crying. What Daphne can feel while pressed against her side is the shaky breath that she's attempting to control.

Rescued, if that's what it could be called, from stepping too far out of bounds of the soldiers' directions, Koshka waits until Daphne is passed off to Delia before she moves again. This time, she sidles to the speedster's other side, falling in with several backward glances. To the guards, the fence, and the treetops beyond. Only when she's crossing into the building does the teenager turn her attention truly to what lies ahead, bracing for the press of people and the sounds of the doors closing behind.

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