Quae Currus


huruma_icon.gif young-ryans_icon.gif

Scene Title Quae Currus
Synopsis One fine, dry day, an agent and his apprentice encounters a dangerous target; the encounter changes both of them at a present cost, and sets into motion a future cog that will come to change them a second time.
Date January 1997

Menongue, Angola; January 1997

It's empty in the valley of your heart,

The sun, it rises slowly as you walk,

Away from all the fears,

And all the faults you've left behind…

The harvest left no food for you to eat,

You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see,

But I have seen the same,

I know the shame in your defeat…

Menongue was never a city, by first world standards. In its native Angola, it stood as a hub of rural activity north of the southern border, and on the outskirts of what soon turns into the Kalahari desert. When strangers come to certain parts of town, they stick out like sore thumbs, as simple as that. When she first noticed them, it was much earlier in the week, before the hot and dry morning rolled into an equally hot and dry afternoon; two of these strangers, seemingly out of place were it not for the confidence that they carried themselves with. They had come for something important to them, that much was clear. She had no idea that it was as duty until days later, when the sticky sensations of beaded sweat on bodies would start to chill with the slow and laborious descent of the sun onto an early horizon. Regardless of her later feelings, the first reactions that they garnered not only from her, but the locals as well, was a feeling of vague hostility. Polite enough so that not a soul would tell them to leave, though none willing to assist or to advise on their own. Money helped to lubricate the matter, especially if it was in a dollar amount instead of the native kwanza. A few dollars in American money could buy a man's way out of a country torn by an ongoing civil war.

But I will hold on hope,

And I won't let you choke,

On the noose around your neck…

And I'll find strength in pain,

And I will change my ways,

I'll know my name as it's called again…

Still, buying advice has an uncanny way of coming back to haunt you. For the two American men, it was beneficial only until the word got out about their ability to shell out cash for virtually nothing. All that they seemed interested in was a woman; they were, of course, mistaken at least twice over when men would offer them other services for those interested in a woman. Unfortunately for any entrepreneurs, it was purely business to do with one in particular and they would certainly not be swayed, neither by these men or by men that sought them out to offer less than true advice. Perhaps the ability to buy those in town came as secondarily detrimental, in that it may have been the thing to point them out as singularly different.

Because I have other things to fill my time,

You take what is yours and I'll take mine,

Now let me at the truth,

Which will refresh my broken mind…

So tie me to a post and block my ears,

I can see widows and orphans through my tears,

I know my call despite my faults,

And despite my growing fears…

The daytime in Menongue consists of things on wheels and people on feet moving to and from on dusty, tanned roads that offer at least an old layer of asphalt underneath of the reddish dirt. Asses pull on carts, passed on the roads by rickety cars and trucks from decades before. The airport and trains are the busiest, for travelers, while locals seem to stick to what few clean, swept streets that they can find, and to what buildings find themselves to be sturdy and stonebuilt, rather than ramshackle and rusted. The school, a church, the promenade that lies close to the city center- apart from the dives that may or may not serve poisonous shine, many of the people of the town find themselves humbled by one certain thing- and that is that the town is also serving as a stronghold for some of the military. While sometimes, one can find the baby blue helmets of United Nations military police, the Angolan military seems to keep to their camps on the outskirts of town. The town's location is more important than the town itself; it is at the mercy of this fact that the citizens here have to live.

But I will hold on hope,

And I won't let you choke,

On the noose around your neck…

And I'll find strength in pain,

And I will change my ways,

I'll know my name as it's called again…

It took them around four days to first locate Huruma in the messy layout of Menongue; despite the description of her that they received from intelligence, the city seemed to be unresponsive to finding a tall black woman. The main feature that they would find themselves asking around for in increasing numbers, was of her eyes. The descriptors were nothing special until you got to the color of her eyes- the lack thereof, according to the notes. Asking for a woman with her eyes and stature lead them with more grace and certainty than before, and over another day and a half they were able to track down her trail through the city, staying on her own or keeping walkabout on the roads that led out of Menongue.

A couple more days cycled through before they were able to see her, rather than hints of her presence in word or track. Huruma was, like they were told, very tall, and quite dark from the sun; filled with the vigor and recklessness of youth, her eyes shone ivory in her face, and her figure was as slender as a tree's. Something about her gave off an intense hunger- it could have been her underweight frame, or it could have been the cause of those notations on the mission report that frankly, made his partner shudder.

If they didn't move when they found her, they may never have found her again; Huruma could feel them tailing her, vaguely familiar and strange presences on the field of vision provided by something not her sight. So she led herself out of town on the hot path of road, and when they began to follow her, Huruma took it upon herself to take them far. With the rage of youth there also comes a general sense of inexperience; thinking that your pursuers have none is part of it. As they followed jeep to rickety jeep down the dusty trail into countryside, their target was the first to veer straight off the road and crash noisily through the brush and wheat colored grass.

With a yank of the wheel and a whine of the motor, the two men turn off as well, bouncing as the worn shocks on the jeep do barely anything to stop them from feeling everything through the wheels. It takes both hands of the driver to keep it steady.

Blue eyes are shaded from the sun by his father's old fedora, his suit feeling out of place in the environment. Made more for corporate meetings, then running around in the bush.

All he can thing is he missed Lucille's birthday for this. Eight years old. Benjamin Ryans was here in the middle of nowhere. Of course, all his family knew was he was in Odessa on business.

He didn't like it. Missing his oldest's birthday and the fact that this target seemed to be dragging them out. Far out. She must know they are there, yet, they couldn't afford to leave off this chase.

"She knows," He states the obvious, giving his newer partner a glance. He already missed the old one, his best friend. This younger kid was good, but they were still feeling each other out. It just worked with his old partner. They had worked long enough and had been in each other's lives enough. It was a team. "Be ready."

"God. Ben you know I'm always ready." The younger man grins at him. A confident flash of white teeth is sent Ryans way. "I will mess her up. You just watch."

This one was always cocky. Ben hated that.

"Relax, partner. We got this one in the bag." Robby stated dismissing Ryans obvious concern with a flip of his hand and looking out towards the other jeep they were following. "With my vocal cords and your bitchin' shooting skills. We got this."

Benjamin wasn't convinced, but arguing his his partner wasn't worth it. Maybe he could talk to someone about reassignment when they got back.

Yeah that sounded like a good idea.

Oh, she knows alright. The first vehicle smashes its way through the barriers of dry plants like a stack of toothpicks; the jeep isn't big, but it runs as well as anything. Enough to send it into a wheeling momentum and take the Kenyan woman through the grass parallel to the road. In the late afternoon the patches shine a fine golden orange, crushed to brown as the car carves a path through them on its way from the road and into a grove of scattered, brittle acacias. While flight seemed a good idea at the time, the jeep lays out a clear trail for the two to follow over. For a short while it may just be a test of who can drive the longest.

Inside the jeep, Huruma's starkly boned face is contorted with nothing short of rage. Her muscles already ache, from the last few days of even less to eat. It is high past time that she should have moved onto another location, but something about Menongue kept her there far past expiration date. If she gets away from the tail, she notes silently to herself, then she will owe it to go to a coastal city and stuff her belly full of whatever she can buy from a portside market.

Going so fast through this part of the savanna proves an unstable affair, with no seatbelts, ragged shocks, and too many rocks; the plateau is miles and miles away, but its signs are abundant. Ahead of the Company men, there comes a loud burst, the sound of rubber snapping in twain and flapping its way against the ground.

They can see the jeep, and that Huruma is quick to grab something from the seat and abandon it with great haste. She breaks into a long-legged run, heading for the thicker grove of acacia and tall ficus trees about fifty yards away; the trees are dotted closely as if they had once been a fig orchard that let lie and went wild.

"There she goes!" Roddy crows rather excitedly, hand gripping the edge of the windshield and pulling himself up to stand. He has to grip it hard, to keep his balance, so that he can draw out a gun from it's holster. This is aimed at the running woman.

"Sit down you fool," Ryans snaps, voice growling loudly over the roar of the jeeps engine. He'd grab the kid by the coat tails if it doesn't take everything to keep them going straight on the path. "You're not going to hit her at this range."

The kid doesn't listen, firing shots off even if his arm is waving around with each bounce. "Stay still, bitch." Why did they think this kid would be a good match?

"Hart!" Ryans finally bellows. Target or no, the kid was being reckless about the situation. Benjamin manages to find a smooth length of ground to let go of the wheel with one hand and grab Robby's jacket and yanks him down. "I. Said. Sit!"

That gets him a scowl from his partner, but he remains sitting. He doesn't put the gun away, but he leans out the jeep as they close distance on her. "She's going into the trees. Hurry, Ryans."

Despite her probably knowing that he cannot hit her from this range or situation, the slender woman ducks herself when the shots ring out, and the sound of twigs snapping is loud as she uses her side to crush a passage between the orchard trees and hoping that the driver behind her is not thick enough to try and knock any of it down. A hornbill in one of the fig trees gorging himself lets out a startled, angry woofing- and soon, there are several of them voicing dissent on being disturbed. Smaller passerines take to the air when the gun fires, leaving the trees flapping and the few hornbills tooting and barking.

In a world such as this one, bullets are a commodity to be preserved; Huruma leaves the pistol she carries inside of its holster on her belt. She vaults herself over a large rock that dips into a dried bowl in the ground. In the wet season, the fig trees get watered, and the formation here would be brimming with water. Instead, it is speckled and cracked like the hide of a lizard, peeling underfoot. Her hand goes to the handle of a machete at her hip, as the rest of her hunkers down behind the rock to listen for an approach, should they discard the jeep and move on foot. A short breeze disturbs the interlocked branches above, knocking twigs together with the faintest of rattles.

The jeep skids to a halt, back end skidding around to stop just short of the first trees. The sudden halt in movement just about throws out the younger man of his seat. Which gets a whoop of excitement. Makes Ryans want to grind his teeth.

Benjamin peers into the trees, eyes squinting a little. Searching. Like a predator trying to find that hidden fawn in the brush. Of course, it's more like the lion watching out for the lurking leopard.

While Ryans is carefully watching the grove, his partner is swinging out of the jeep. "We got her. Ben! We got her." He grins at his partner like an impatient little puppy. "Come on, man. Let's get her. Then you can get home."

"Shh," is hissed out of Ryans, a sharp glance sent Robby's way before he eases himself out of the jeep. Shrugging out of his jacket, he leaves it behind to keep it from getting caught on the branches. "Haven't you learned a thing I've been teaching you?" His voice rumbles, a growl of sound. "Never underestimate a target. Especially someone like that." A woman who hunts people… manipulates emotions. "You read the file."

"I skimmed it… yeah." Robby looks mildly guilty, still smug. Probably, doesn't think it matters. He doesn't wait any longer for Benjamin, moving to the thick bramble. Ryans sighs heavily and follows after, gun slowly loosened from the holster.

Huruma waits until she can hear the jeep come to a halt, before moving away from behind the rock and more silently into the trees. She can feel them, and mostly hear them- the muffled, masculine voices that come through as they breach the edge of the grove. Huruma relinquishes her grip on the blade at her side, in favor of using both of her hands to grab onto a low branch of a grown fig tree. She plants her boots on the trunk and hoists herself up onto the branch, crouching back and pulling herself up into the next one, and the next.

Up until now, there have only been a few people to try and hunt her down like this; mostly, it would be villagers, or soldiers, or scorned survivors of something that she had caused. These ones are precise. These ones are different, and not because they sound like Americans. There is something that sticks heavy inside of Huruma's ribcage, knotting in an anxiety that she has not felt in many years. These ones have a chance. But do they want to kill her, or catch her?

Something tough to discern, at the very least. Huruma huddles against the branch she finally stops on, arms and legs wrapped only enough to keep her steady, her eyes peering down through webs of leaves to watch the ground below.

The occasional snap of this twig and that keeps Huruma aware of where they are. Robby is heavier footed then his partner. One would think that a young man who could control sound would be a bit quieter. Or that's what Ryans is thinking as the kid steps on another twig, the snap making the older man grimace.

As they move further in Ryans watches the ground around them, lips pressed in a fine line. With so many tracks and the ground so hard…


Glancing up from the scrutiny of a smudge in the dirt, he finds Robby glancing off into the distance, eyes slightly unfocused. His hand comes up and he gives Ryans the signal to follow. It's the seriousness that has him following. "What?"

"Shh… I hear another heart beat." The words are softly spoken as he motions in the general direction their target is hiding. Ben's brows tick up slightly and he starts that way carefully. Maybe it's the brim of that fedora that keeps him from looking up.

Being silent is a skill that takes years to master properly- Huruma still has a few years to go before she will be able to sneak up on experienced men like this, but that will not give her hesitation to try. Being above, she already has an advantage, watching their shoulders move under clothing, their eyes searching ground level. She can hear Rob as much as the stuff he snaps under his boots; what he says, however, puzzles her. How can he hear a heartbeat?

Maybe he's like you. A distant thought speaks in her head, rumbling around like a bag of stones.

No. He's not like me. He's nothing like me. He's bluffing. Her mouth purses over a sour taste on her tongue. Only when they come within range of the tree, does she finally move. Her hand on the branch near her thigh, it is not a distance to pull a folding knife from her pocket. The noise is only the barest of things- a shift of cloth, then the metallic scrape of a blade springing open. Bare, but he will hear it.

Hear it he does.

Roddy's head jerks up. Alert like a meerkat. From above, she can see his head slowly tilts back to look up into the canopy and there he freezes. Much like a deer in the headlight, breath catching. There is a trill of fear through him. For all the boasting, faced with someone so dangerous, the younger man is scared of her.

The change in his partner's demeanor has Ryans following his gaze until he sees the form in the tree. Fingers tilting the brim of his hat up a little to see up there. "Well well… the cat is caught in the tree." She can hear the sound of the slide being cocked and his gun lifts. "I don't want to have to shoot you. Huruma. Right?" A brow tilts up with the question. "Come with us and you'll get to live." In something like a cage, but she doesn't need to know that. The threat is real… she'll be able to feel it in this one's emotions.

Huruma peers almost owlishly down at the two of them- though her eyelids are narrowed, the sunken parts of her face are bonier than they should be, and lend her that wide-eyed stare regardless of expression. The brandished knife glints in the dulled sunlight filtering through the tree. When she opens her mouth, the accent there is thick, and the English may be practiced, but it is careful.

"Your friend talks too much…" The young woman glares angrily down at them, head canting when she pries invisible fingers into the underbelly of both of their moods, looking and seeking. "Why all th'trouble?" Her shoulders turn with her, words coming velvet soft from the branches, volume at a semi-pleased purr. That she'd be hunted down- oh- well- it is an honor all the same, isn't it?

"Don'bring a gun to a knife fight." Huruma narrows her eyes to slits now, teeth baring with a flicker of ivory in her face. "This is my territory. Leave, or I will kill you. Both of you…" She hisses, speaking only half truths and making a valiant effort to make herself so much larger than she is. It will come to her someday, to do it so easily- to use her ability seamlessly with her words. But that day is not today.

“He's new,” is Benjamin's explanation. Simple and to the point.

“Hey!” That's his partner's reaction.

It's ignored. Ryans eyes are on the dark woman above them. “This might be your territory, but we're here to protect the people you prey on.” Disgust colors words and emotions of the older agent. “So you will be coming with us either way.”

Robby rolls his eyes and adds his own, “What he's saying is get out of the damn tree or we're going to make you.” He grins up at the woman, clearly he wouldn't mind her taking the hard way out. Makes you wonder what his personal life was like.

“Please,” the older man goes the more polite route, even if that light blue gaze is empty. That void that comes from seeing too much. “I'd rather not have to make you.” His emotions ring true, compared to the young man next to him.

A finger is lifted, it moves up and down in a beat, Huruma might notice it seems to follow the pounding of her own heart. Robby's voice is seems to sing as he says, “Bum bump… bum bump… bum bump… I hear the beating of your heart. A wild animal caught by the hunt—”

Hart!” Ryans snaps at the taunting of the other. “Shut… up.” He looks away from Huruma to add a glare to the sharp words. The kid was alright, but on the hunt it was like another person. “So help me I will make you sit in the jeep.” The rumble of words is like the growl of a giant cat, angry and irritated .

The emotions running through the older of the men are harder to pick apart for her; he has practiced them so much that it is a second nature to him now. The younger man, Hart, is far more mercurial than his fellow, and so Huruma is able to read him like an open book.

But all things will come at a price, and this is one of them. She is able to read his emotions well, and that is a double edged sword. The unfortunate part is worse for him, most likely. Huruma crouches above them, her pants bunching at her knees, and the knife in her fingers glittering like a metal tooth. Her lip curls up at the edge, as she listens to the elder, and a slight amusement when he has to admonish the other man. Nostrils flare once at Hart, irritated with his talk and his movement all the same.

“I don’think so.” The young woman puts her shoulders back, putting up her chin and planting one boot on the branch she used to get to the one she is perched on. “And what if I’d prefer not to come with you, then?” She clicks her teeth. “I prey on th’weak. I am thinning th’herd. You should be appreciating me.” Hart is not the only one that is clearly full of himself.

“Maybe he should sit in th’jeep.” Huruma purses her lips and plants her other boot on the lower branch, sidling down onto it and crouching there next. She is closer, but still not within any kind of grasp. If Ryans jumped, he might be able to grab an ankle, being the taller one. Probably a bad idea, though, and he isn’t that stupid. Huruma can seem to tell, because she does not make a move to keep entirely out of the way. “Less distraction for th’grown ups, hm?”

Why yes, she is baiting him.

And he rises for it, like an alligator snapping at a dangled bit of chicken.

Visibly bristling at the insult, Robby’s eyes narrow and she can feel it. “Why you…. Oh, it is on.” He puts his own gun away,shoving it in his holster before jumping up to grab a thick lower branch. Ryans might not be that stupid, but he is. “I gonna bring you down, bitch,” he snarls out, setting his grip, to pull up higher.

His partner realizes what the kid is doing a moment too late. A lunge to grab a the kid’s shirt misses and Robby is up in the tree, staring down their prey. “Hart damn it! I taught you better then this.” Ryans feels a little helpless, he doesn’t dare follow and now he risks shooting his partner, now that he’s in a position to get in the way. Damn.

Still Benjamin trains that gun on her again . “Children are not weak.” He adds in a desperate attempt to distract her. His voice eerily calm for all his heart is pounding in fear for the younger man and the situation. “They deserve a chance to grow and prove their strength. We are not animals, Huruma. Not your personal all-you-can-eat buffet.”

It’s an even more amusing sight, to see a grown man trying to clamber up a tree after anything, much less a woman that is so much more at home. Huruma stands up on the branch when he finally does make his way onto it, her boots firmly planted on the surface. Even Ryans knows it is a mistake to climb a tree with a hungry animal in it; Robby would not be up here long if it were not for the gun trained on her. Her features rankle at the words from below. The expression seems to show that she is taking what he says too personally.

“Men are so foolish. For obvious reasons.” She offers this snide comment to the two of them, though her lantern-white eyes are locked onto Robby. “Humans are so full of themselves. We are animals. W’rose from beasts an’we will die as beasts. That will never change.” Though Huruma’s frame is wiry, and underfed, her voice has a rich and clarion quality to it. A voice too big for the rest of her. A voice that she shall have to also grow into.

Huruma lifts the pointy-end of her knife towards Hart, ticking it back and forth in the air. The motion is snakelike, the blade effectively an extension of her long, lean arm. “Come on, wewe mpumbavu. Let us see what little boys are truly made of.”

Something bursts, like a firework, in the back of Robby’s mind- a fright, shining and abrupt, and meant to shock a physical reaction out of him.

When that wave of fear hits the agent, Hart is already reaching for his firearm with a toothy grin. It catches him off guard, loosening his other hand where it keeps him steady. Then all balance is lost, with a shout of fear and a slip of his sole on the branch. His weapon hits the ground with a soft whomp and he falls back wards into the lower branches. Clothing snags and keeps him from hitting the ground, but blood across his forehead isn’t a good thing. A long gaping gash across his forehead means he hit something good in the fall. It oozes slowly from the cut at his forehead making a sickly thick red lines down one side of his face.

He sure isn’t smiling now.

Down below on the ground, Benjamin’s heart pretty much stops for the time it takes his partner to end up injured and groaning above him. He can’t help but look at the gun on the ground and know his partner is vulnerable.

“Hart! Speak to me!”

Hands grope at branches while he blinks blood out of one eye and tries to focus on the dark figure. It doesn’t take her to make him scared now. “Ben… “ It’s groaned out weakly. “Hurts…”

It’s a hell of a position that Ryans is in. Gun still on the woman, but his focus is clearly on his hurt partner. Torn. He tries to help Hart he risks her getting away. Finally, he decides to try and help Hart, they can always track her down again.

Of course, Robby is above Ben’s head. “Hold on partner.”

Huruma’s eyes dart to and from the elder agent, towards his partner in the branches astride hers. Her lips curled up, she inches forward only when it seems that Ryans starts to pay attention to his partner. Don’t blink.

Though Ryans is torn on giving her an avenue to escape, Huruma is more than willing to deposit herself as an immediate issue. When she jerks forward again, she lets out an abrupt bomb of fright into Benjamin, aiming to get him to think that she is going to simply jump down upon him. Regardless of if this distinctly awkward plan works or not, Huruma bears down onto Hart from the branch just above, a flash of cloth and sinewy arms, the shark-silver of the knife in her hand creeping menacingly right in her grip.

The old tree gives a frustrated creak of branch as she lands, her throat vibrating with a growl. Leaves flush down out of the shaking limb and into the air, and Huruma’s empty hand is snatching for the belt of the man’s trousers to yank him closer over the branch. It is the best place to grab when forcing dead weight anywhere- mostly because of it is the best center of gravity. Maybe she is not worried terribly about being shot- or maybe she is, and has figured out that just maybe he won’t risk shooting his own man if she drags him closer. A lot happens in just a few seconds, and now is the time that one of them needs to act.

The flash of emotion works, if briefly, as Ryans ducks, arms coming up to start to protect his head from an assault that doesn’t come. Then he just feels a fool, as he looks up into the tree as the pained yelp of his partner alerts him to what really happened. He should have known.

Not far from Huruma’s head a bullet bits into the wood of the tree, sending out bits of debris. “Let him go, woman,” he growls out from below, shaking off the remnants of the scare she gave him. Blue eyes are filled with anger and maybe even some worry for his partner, he has no problem meeting her own.

The shot scares Robby even more. “BEN! Don’t shoot!” It’s practically shrieked in fear, as he struggles to get loose from the cannibal, ignoring the creak and snap of the branches. He has nothing but his hands to try and fight off her knife. Even though he’s scared, he tries to put on a brave face, “B-back off bitch!” He looks more helpless then anything with all that blood. It’ll need stitches, probably.

Huruma’s fingers remain clasped around the belt when the shot rings off near her ears- it leaves a tinny sound lingering in her skull, and causes her to turn her face down to Ryans, teeth baring and breath leaving lungs in a snarl. She has the feeling that he missed her only on purpose. Still, it results in simply making her angrier. The branch creaks again, thorny bits between leaves waiting for a chance to scrape against arms or faces.

Nenda kajitombe, mkundu.” The venom that she spits this out with must mean that it was quite colorful, or quite devastating. Perhaps both. Nobody said she had a clean mouth anyway. Youth puts a certain vigor into someone, and many times it can fuse with high emotions and bubble over the edge of the pot. Huruma pulls back the knife and brings it down through the top of Hart’s boot. It is a frivolous stabbing, in that Huruma feels the need to cause him whatever immediate harm presents itself.

Unfortunately, none of them have much time to be pondering over the finer notions of being stabbed; the branch shivers under the weight, dragging slowly down before a crevasse appears, splintering down the wood. The acacia finally buckles where the break forms, sending the whole thick branch tumbling down towards the ground. The sound is a gunshot by itself, snapping the air and leaving behind a wicked jag of stump in the tree.

With the inches of thorns all around them, it is bound to be a messy affair when they hit the shorn grass below. The lucky part is that they are not terribly far off of the ground, considering the might of the other trees, and how high Huruma had been before. Though that itself is also subjective, as she is still latched onto him, and her grip is locked in slight panic around the knife hilt.

Benjamin just manages to get away from the falling bodies, but only just. Still getting hit by some of the branches that come down with the pair, he is knocked off his feet and his arm is left stinging where thorns scrapped long claw like marks, ripping the white — if dusty — fabric of his dress shirt. His father’s fedora laying in the dry grass and dust a short distance away is ignored

The worst is his gun is missing in the mess of dry and brittle branches. Son of a… Frantically, he searches the immediate area for it while calling. “Hart? Still with me?”

Stabbed in the foots and long thorns riddling his body, Hart’s answer comes in the form of a howl of pain… or as best he can with the wind knocked out of him. It comes out more like a groan, but he blearily wishes he could scream.

Finally, Benjamin has to give up on the gun in favor of helping his partner. Shoving away branches, he pushes to his feet, ignoring the fresh scratches he causes. Finding his footing, he can make a grab at the dark woman with a frustrated growl in an attempt to pull her off Robby. “You’re making this more difficult then it has to be.”

Huruma lands in the same jumble, some of the acacia nails scraping against her arms, and one or two actually sinking into her flesh. For the most part, she forces herself over part of the agent, letting him take the brunt of the plant’s defense mechanisms. Still, it leaves her somewhat windless, one hand still curled around the knife. When she feels the set of hands grabbing onto her, she doesn’t let go of it even then; the blade comes raggedly loose from Hart’s boot, and along with her as Ryans heaves her away. She may be tall, but she is also incredibly gangly, and it is not as hard as it may seem to force her anywhere. Weight is one thing, and strength is another, however.

The lines of her arms tense, and the rest of her muscles bunch with adrenaline when she is pulled away. For a moment, she flails some of her limbs, digging her heels into the dirt and unleashing a yowling from deep in her chest. Huruma still has the knife out, and her machete clicks against her hip bone. If she has a gun, he won’t be able to see it.

Niende! Niende!” The yowling turns somewhat intelligible, as Huruma flicks the knife around in her hand to aim it at one of Benjamin’s arms; if that should fail her, she’s always got her legs, and she will kick as hard as a horse with them. Her other arm is trying to find its own purchase on Hart’s ankle as she is dragged off. “Niende, mkundu!”

There’s something else about what she snarls at him- perhaps her own mote of fear, if it were to manifest at a time like this. A strained, stubborn sound- defiant and at the same time, growing terrified.

There is rather loud smack as his palm connects with her knife wielding arm. Fingers wrap around Huruma’s thin wrist like a vice to keep her from driving that wicked length of metal into him. Ben’s other arm goes around her waist and with a snarled grunt of effort, tries to throw her off Hart completely. At this point he’s just hoping to get his partner out alive.

Impaled on thorns as he is, Hart is not in any shape to help out. Every move he makes burns with pain, not to mention the world continues to spin if he shifts too fast. Still despite the pain, the kid makes a valiant effort to get mobile and try to help Ryans.

He just needs a moment to catch his breath.

Huruma lets out a sharp grunt as the arm winds around her, and she is tossed off to the side like an ungainly sack of (kicking, knife-wielding) potatoes. This ends unfortunate for them both, as it gives her a perfect picture when she is able to push herself up on one arm.

Her eyes turn up to look past her brow, lowered with the rest of her features. Mouth opening with a hiss, Huruma shifts forward on her palms and one knee, crouching into a coiled position; she snaps her teeth once, and at the same time comes a wave into both of them. Similar to before, but further from it- not a burst, but a steady flush- not a simple fright, but now instead a bone rattling fear.

It comes, and so does she. Huruma springs forward, knife flashing ahead of her and ivory teeth bared. She will take who she can get; while she aims to scatter Ryans and leap back onto Hart, if the former gets in the way, the knife is diving before the rest of her.

Irrational fear has Benjamin taking a step back away from the oncoming madwoman. The heel of his leather shoe snags on something, branch… maybe a rock. He isn’t in the mind of caring as he lands heavily, rattling his brain a little. It unfortunately leave an opening for Huruma to come at the injured man on the ground.

Robby’s eyes widen when he realizes what is happening, fear — not just of her making — sends adrenaline flooding his body. It allow his basic instinct to flee to take over and make him try to scramble backward despite the injuries. Fingers and heels dig frantically as he tries to propel himself away from his attacker with a panicked cry.

It’s a sound that will cut off suddenly as the dark woman plows into him, knife first.

With the rest of his injuries, Hart can’t even really feel the slim blade as it first slides expertly up between the side of his ribcage. The knife punctures his lung, and with the swiftness of a hornet, slips back out of him. He can see it there in her hand, flashing metallic before it plunges out of his vision again. This time, the blade sinks into his upper thigh. He can feel the first one now, and knowing the second is coming makes it incredibly worse; there is great pain, certainly, but he can also feel his lung filling with blood, and the dizzy feeling that comes with initial hemorrhages. It won’t be getting better, not with his lung drowning, and parts of his femoral blood vessels in tatters.

Huruma stays overtop of him the entire time, her face virtually touching his, and her eyes filled with an unearthly venom. Her lips curl in his sight, now, and the venom turns to mirth. She has enough time to lean into his ear and fill it with a huff of hot breath.

“Th’only way out is through. A pity. You were so…” Huruma murmurs, menacing, soft words somewhere between madness and slavering hunger. “Zealous. Interlopers, however, get no love from me.”

She laughs in his ear, and twists the slick knife hilt in her hand.

Blood speckles Huruma when the young agent coughs, struggling for breath. The sickly wet rattling sound of his breathing is loud and dark red colors his lips. As the blood starts to ooze from the corner of his mouth, his eyes eyes stare at her in fear and knowledge of what is happening. Fingers tremble where they cling to her clothing, strong at first and weakening as he he continues to bleed out from all his injuries.

“N-no… pl-please.” The words are barely intelligible through the liquid choking him, but it’s hard to tell if he’s begging her… or begging not to die. “Please.”

She won’t get to drive that knife in again, as a large hand snags her wrist painfully. Bloodied and ragged, Ryans is furious… he doesn’t even hide it from her. Little does she know that he doesn’t let his emotions rule him very often anymore. He shows barely any mercy as he gives the wrist in his grip a twist and yanks her off his partner with a growled out snarl of sound.

Fingers leave stains of smeared crimson on her clothing, and the wheat-colored grass is suffocated quickly in red that sinks into dusty soil. In the midst of it all, it carves a startling scene on the otherwise peaceful landscape.

Huruma is drawing her tongue up the side of the wounded man’s face when she feels the presence behind her, and the hand around the wrist clutching onto the bloodied knife. Ryans twists her arm from it easily enough- her fingers lose grip, though the knife is half-dislodged, and leaves Hart’s thigh with a sickly wet noise.

In mere moments, the situation has led into what will surely become growling and wresting; Huruma reels on the older man, rather than force herself from his grip and back into the death of the younger. While Benjamin has his deep-chested sound, she twists and lets loose a furious, snarling scream of her own virtually right in his face. For a passing second, all that he can see is Huruma’s face, smeared with red. Teeth flashing, and eyes glittering, her jaw clicks together just a couple of inches away from his cheek.

It’s an image that will surely haunt him for years to come, but right now he is all about survival. To get out of there alive and back to his family. It is what drives him on. Forcing her further from his dying partner, with a twist of his body and hands like steel and unshakable. A hand planted against her collarbone, Benjamin slams her up against the tree, her other hand pinned to rough bark.

Lips pull back from teeth as he growls out gruffly, “I don’t have to bring you in alive, woman. My employer wouldn’t even bat an eye.” The look in his eyes and the sudden calming of his emotions may prove that the man is no stranger to murder or killing in self defense. The hand slides up to grip around her neck, but doesn’t tighten, not yet.

His words are cold with his fury and yet hold calm. “I could kill you” finger tighten out of reflex around her neck “here and now and no one would mourn your passing. There would only be joy that the devil woman is dead.”

Her slightness, despite leanness, is no real match for brute force. One day she’ll be able to hold her own, but as before, that day is not today. Regardless, it is like trying to hold onto a snake; Huruma twists and coils, and he can feel the strong tendons of her wrist and neck writhing under the thin layer of skin. The hand that he isn’t able to grab onto finds the front of his chest, and her nails dig into it, and into the surface below it.

The air in her throat is almost strangled out of it from the force of the pin- it has to funnel in through her nose to escape it. Nostrils flaring, Huruma lets out a new, defiant growl, lips turning upwards towards her high, too-defined cheekbones. She keeps her eyes on his, and they light up from behind with a renewed frenzy that unleashes with a thunderous voice.

“Boo-” Grk. “-hoo. If you wan’t’kill me so badly, DO IT.”

Pinned against the tree, there is no room for her torso to move around; her legs, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. Huruma pushes herself harder onto the acacia bark, her spine straightening out under his hand. The movement is subtle, but the next one is lightning-quick. Both legs fold upward, and she aims a two-heeled kick at his stomach.

Egged on, Huruma will feel the crushing force of those fingers around her neck, the bite of short ragged nails against her rich brown skin. That is until she delivers the rather powerful kick. It drives all the air out of him in an explosive woosh of air through his mouth.

She’s free then, as the force of it sends him stumbling back. Only to trip over the legs of his partner and ending up on his back behind the younger man. Sharp pain warns him of possibly broken ribs, an arm wraps about his stomach as he tries to sit up.

A glance will find his partner… his trainee… looking up at the sky with empty lifeless eyes.

Poor kid.

Regret and guilt flashes only briefly in the storm of emotions that fill the Company agent. Ryans recognizes that now was not the time to think about it, there would be plenty of time for that if he lives through this. In the meantime, he readies himself for the attack he’s sure is coming, facing his attacker with just as much defiance and determination as she has shown.

At least here, the sky is open, and wide, and filled with a dry freshness that cannot be found in the confines of a place like New York City. If he was going to die, it is probably better that it was here, among a sweet-smelling grove of fig trees under a big blue sky, rather than some grimy, rat-infested alleyway in Berlin.

Huruma is not one to pay attention to such poetry at this age; in the future she would come to appreciate her one-sided generosity.

Something nips at the heels of the live agent’s mind, like a rabid dog hot on his trail. Huruma jerks her neck free of a tingling hurt, pushing herself off of the tree. She stares across the grass at him, her front dribbling with Hart’s blood. One hand flicks to her belt to find the dry hilt of that danging machete; she draws it from the cracked leather sheath, hefting the lightweight blade into her hand and stalking forward.

“You are not th’first, an’you are not th’last.” The dark woman speaks low, teeth grinding together inside of her cheeks. “No man may take what is rightfully mine. Never again. So I shall live, an’you shall bleed like th’little pig does.” A gesture comes from the tip of the machete, motioning quickly towards his dead partner.

Blue eyes narrow at her dangerously from where he lays near the body of Robby.“You’ll find this pig isn’t going to die so easily.” There is a dare in those words. “If I’m going to die, I’ll be sure to take you with me into hell.” He plans to make good on that threat too.

He manages to get to a knee, a fist pressed to the dirt the only thing keeping him there, while the other braces against painful ribs. Benjamin’s eyes challenge her from under furrowed brows. For the first time since they came face to face, a smile pulls at the corners of his mouth, showing teeth pink with blood from a split lip. It mocks her much like his words. “Come and get me, Huruma.”

Huruma takes his challenge with bravado in her step. Machete wielded at her side, she descends on him swiftly, and surely; there is something to be said about her practiced movements, but something similar could also be said for how many times that someone such as Benjamin Ryans has seen them. Avoided them. Fought them.

Hii si muda mrefu, mkundu.” She hisses through her teeth, and brandishes the weapon before lunging for him, aiming the pin-sharp machete for his side.

It seems like he is going to let her run him through, Ryans doesn’t move but she can feel him coiling through his emotions. His shoulder tense like he’s expecting the deadly blow. Last moment, the arm around his waist snaps out and connects with her wrist, deflecting the blow. He doesn’t try to stop the rest of her, letting her forward momentum carry them to the ground.

He’s rewarded with intense pain as his back connects with the ground, ribs protesting the abuse, but he doesn’t back down from the fight. Hands try to find purchase on the slim form and to keep the knife from finishing the job, while legs hook around hers, to cage them and make an attempt to roll them both and give him the advantage again.

Though his deflection does not knock the machete from her grasp, it serves enough right that she does go sprawling right into his chest. A little bit like running into a tree, from her perspective. The still wet front of her clothes get stamped onto his, just like some macabre red ink.

The machete, luckily enough, is not made for this close of combat. As a result, it is flaying about at the side, still in her hand, and more likely to cut him up as the acacia might have, than to actually be able to cleave anything. Huruma growls in his ear, writhing her shoulders and trying to worm her way out from under him when he somehow gets into that sidelong position. True to form, it is like trying to hold onto a python. At one point, her leg comes precariously close to being able to buckle up into him, yet it either does not occur to her, or maybe she has something else to consider. Something more like his trying to pin her again.

Haramu.” Huruma hisses again, apparently deciding to change tactics utterly and completely. She drops the machete as they roll about once, and he can feel her hands climbing, clawing up into his back; the rest of her practically forces itself into him, and she is able to weasel her way up enough that her face comes almost level with his-

-though he probably doesn’t realize what she is doing until she does do it. The muscles in her torso and neck twine and shudder against his hands, and the feel of her face digging down past his torn collar is unmistakable.

Huruma sinks her teeth down into the pale flesh of his shoulder, mouth set wide and arms like a vice, pulling him into the bite.

Many people would have a problem with even imagining what it feels like to sink teeth into the flesh of another human being. Ryans has always been disgusted by it, but now he’s living it first hand. But as the victim.

He lets out a hiss of pain and tries to jerk away, which only makes the situation worse. His stomach lurches as he feels the skin and muscle part under her assault, followed by the sensation of warmth as blood flows freely. With no hair to snag and yank her free, the man is forced to try and pry her off his shoulder. A trembling hand presses against her forehead and starts to work to shove her away.

It’s painful and he actually puts voice to it.

He can already feel the weakening in the injured arm as she sinks deeper into the meat of his shoulder. This wasn’t good, he was loosing ground quickly and he couldn’t let that happen. Mary and the girls still needed him. What would happen without him there?

In his struggle to remove the gnawing cannibal, his elbow connects with the hilt of the machete. It’s something… He grabs the weapon, but instead of driving it into her - like she tried to do to him - Benjamin deals her a glancing blow with the hilt. It won’t knock her out, but it might get her to let go.

Huffs of air leave her chest as she clings onto him, lips pulled back into a grimace so that she can breathe better while he pushes at her face to peel her off. He gets as far as she’ll go without actually letting go, though yes, he can feel a part of himself being slowly torn from the rest-

- which, thanks to his backwards wielding of a machete, doesn’t wholly occur. The hilt slams into her jaw, rather than her temple. If it had hit the latter, she probably would not find it in her to let go as she is suddenly forced to. Huruma’s mouth scrapes its way off of his shoulder, taking with it a more superficial chunk of skin, and leaving both his shoulder and her mouth and neck wet with blood.

If she knows it is the machete hilt, her trying to go back for a bite to his neck is foolishness. On the other hand, it is desperation that has her snapping a second time, jolting the back of his brain with a more solidified terror.

Pain and terror are a powerful motivators to flee or at least get away from the source. The emotions she slam him with, force him to stumble away from her, leaving her on the ground so that he can put distance between them. With a small stretch of ground between, Ben is able to face her again. Shoulders curled forward in his discomfort, dark red covers a good portion of the front of him. His dress shirt is no longer white. One arm just about useless from pain. He’s a sight.

Still he holds the machete between them. Defiant, even if his hand shakes a little. Terror makes him jumpy, like a cornered animal, but he keeps his ground and still wields the knife like a man who might be able to use it.

The sight afforded to her is now one of turned tables; his partner lay bleeding freely on the grass, and the man that had seemed so self-assured just minutes ago is now wavering a machete in the air to keep the dark woman at bay.

Huruma turns her eyes to scan the ground- his Company issue gun is not too far from her, though shadowed under the branch of the tree. She moves to her left, feet moving of their own accord, while her eyes and growl center back onto the agent. Provided he keeps himself at a fair distance, she won’t be shooting him when she tucks an arm down through the thorny branches and pulls the pistol back out of the mess, trying to watch Ryans as she does. It leaves her with more scratches than otherwise, but it is worth the trouble.

Rather than do anything with it, she wordlessly lifts it and tucks it into the back of her belt.

For what seems too long, Huruma’s bared teeth seep from her features, left only as a mask before she rankles her nose and spits a bloodied chunk from her mouth. One that would probably fit right over the bite, no less. It falls light into the grass between them.

His eyes don’t move from the dark woman even as the bit of him hits the ground between them. There is a flick as if he might, but he manages to control that urge. The corners of his eyes pinch, when the damaged muscle twitches, trying to work. The disgust is there in his gaze at her display, not letting her think he’s intimidated by that. He’s too worn to hide his emotions, so they show in the shift of his brow or the scowl that tugs at his mouth.

Even he can recognize they are at a stand off, gun or not.

He’s seen where his partner’s gun is… he might get it and shoot her, but she has his own. He’d be just as dead. Fingers, even if a bit shaky, still have the grace to flip the machete around to let it rest along the length of his forearm, with the curve of it pointed out, making it still a dangerous to his opponent.

Through it all, there is still a strength to this foreigner. A steel will that won’t let him give in and flee.

Some stand offs are certainly not as obvious; it shows in her face too, that there is something perhaps wise in removing herself from this fight. Maybe even returning to it someday, if the stars align.

Huruma purses her lips and straightens her spine, staring him down from one soldier to another. She has youth, yes, but she has had to grow up quickly; there is no lie in saying that she’s lived more than one life already. But even living more than another person has not given her wisdom. The only wisdom she needs is the type that comes with age and all that befalls on it. Ryans has it- it comes from all parts of him.

To start on her new, unbeknownst future of gaining such wisdom-

-she resigns this battle. Huruma steps back one pace, and then another, watching him with the subtle, tired sway that heat and adrenaline have gifted her with. Her third step away leads her off, and she slips between the fig trees, the tall, wiry figure flickering out of sight into the dappled sunlight, and finally retreating further into the bush.

He slowly moves as she does, but only to follow her movement. Ryans is tense, expecting her to suddenly come flying at him from another direction. So he doesn’t relax for what seems like ages, standing there, ready to defend.

The sounds of the grove around him return slowly, birds call to each other now that the fight is ended.

Finally, convinced he’s alone his arm falls to his side, machete falling to the ground, followed by Ben. It’s a jarring movement when his knees hit the ground and he has to put out his good hand to catch himself before he crumples completely.

It was a near thing, he knows it.

Poor Robby wasn’t so lucky, but he won’t have to rot there in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country. His mother will have a body to bury… Benjamin Ryans will be sure of that.

So come out of your cave walking on your hands,

And see the world hanging upside down,

You can understand dependence,

When you know the maker's land…

So make your siren's call,

And sing all you want,

I will not hear what you have to say…

Because I need freedom now,

And I need to know how,

To live my life as it's meant to be…

And I will hold on hope,

And I won't let you choke,

On the noose around your neck…

And I'll find strength in pain,

And I will change my ways,

I'll know my name as it's called again…

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