Sticks and Scrap Metal


koshka_icon.gif sasha2_icon.gif

Scene Title Sticks and Scrap Metal
Synopsis Koshka's injury is assessed and some advice given.
Date April 14, 2011

Eltingville Blocks

School is out for the afternoon, but the neighborhood lacks in the controlled chaos that would be adolescents escaped from the confines of the building assigned for learning. Very few of the youths enrolled in classes at Harbor Court are seen meandering the streets. In fact, really only one is, a teenager with a slight hitch and limp to her gait, and every effort to make it seem nonexistent.

Koshka, or Bethany Ruslan as she's known by the authoritative types around these blocks, is heading toward home in a sort of round about way. Only one book in tow, she can afford some dallying before facing home and homework. The book is carried, hugged against her chest as she trails along the road. Her eyes flick and pass over the houses that line either side, a mark of caution mixed with inherent and idle curiosity.

There is a small, squat house that Koshka frequently passes on this stretch of road, and although the curtains are usually drawn shut, they're open this afternoon, allowing sunlight to spill through the dusty windows and into the living room. Koshka can't see inside — the sun's glare on the glass is too strong — but what's inside does not particularly matter.

The front door is opening, and admits a tall, broad-shouldered man with a lean, almost wiry, wolfish build into his frame. He wears a leather jacket but carries a doctor's bag and has legs clad in slacks that end in polished shoes. Beneath his gingery beard, trimmed close to hard, square jaw, he might be conventionally handsome, but it's impossible to tell.

"Pneumonia," he is saying to a woman standing on the threshold, her small hands knit with worry, "and acute encephalitis — this is inflammation of the brain, but not a worry, I think. In these developed countries, the fatality rate — it is not very high. Rest, yes. Ibuprofen, yes. Nothing you can do for measles. Come and see me if things change."

Quick to pick out the house that usually stands looking far more abandoned than its neighbors, Koshka's steps slow. Like nearly all teenagers, she's a creature more comfortable with finding things as they should be, but the one that stands out could be worth noting. Her eyes squint against the glare of light refracting off the window, not really trying to glimpse what's inside but watch for anything remarkable.

The girl's steps slow further as the words float in her direction, piquing interest. Koshka can't help but eventually stop and risk being caught staring, or pass the house entirely and look really silly walking backward to continue her observations. Not just his clean appearance in the ghetto is cause for some excitement, but his accoutrements as well.

The conversation's conclusion is too low for Koshka to catch. Soon, the door is swinging shut and the man moving down the wooden steps that lead up to the porch, the handle of his bag gripped in one hand while the other loosens his collar by popping out the topmost button. He stops at the bottom step to do the same for his cuffs.

It's been more than a year since Sasha Kozlow was a practicing doctor in Ryazan. He's not sure the shoes fit anymore.

The figurative ones, anyway. What's on his feet now are fine. Blue eyes dart a quick glance in Koshka's direction, but rather than skipping past her, his gaze holds.

After what seems like an endless second, Koshka manages to drop her gaze and pull it aside. Her feet, however, don't follow and show no signs of listening to her desires. The book, while glued to the spot, is clenched more tightly to her chest and her eyes flick upward again to see the man still standing. Not for the first time does she second guess her choices, but at least this man seems helpful unlike the robot kitty from hell.

"S-sorry," Koshka calls to him. "I… um…" Her mind races to come up with an excuse, fumbling and rifling through the rumors and whispers that make up the halls of the school and youth center. He's a doctor, not all doctors are evil, right? And she'd heard something… "I didn't… I just… The bag, your bag I mean. And them, that house. Is it… I was just curious."

Sasha's long legs close the distance between them in only a few moments, but his pace is leisurely and his posture relaxed. "Is it?" he prompts on his way, head cocked at a canine angle. No grin, though, to accompany it — or even a smile. His mouth is neutral. Brows lift.

If he's a doctor — and he is — then he probably has other places to be and patients to see, and he steers himself as though he's about to pass Koshka. Does pass Koshka, but not without tipping a look back over his shoulder, which he lifts into an inviting shrug as if to say: Come.

It's almost like looking at her own father again, had she been caught in some kind of mischief. Koshka manages to offer a shrug in response, not entirely certain herself what she'd been trying to say or imply. That tends to happen when she's nervous or unsure. Or being stared at by seemingly emotionless Russians.

Turning slightly to keep Sasha in front of her, Koshka watches him pass without any further explanation offered. If she's lucky, her spying will be shrugged off. Though the shrug that does come isn't dismissive so much as summoning. Hesitant, the girl follows, staring at the doctor's back and trying to come up with an reason to have been staring. The cause for her limp could be reason enough, but the trouble it could bring gives her pause.

He notices the limp first. The colour of her eyes and her bone structure second. She's a little young for him, which is probably why his attention goes back to her limp after he acknowledges (to himself) that she's pretty — maybe a good companion for his Tania, he thinks — and he allows the corner of his mouth to crook up into an expression that would be sly if the concern behind his own eyes wasn't so obvious.

"Do you have parents?" he asks her then, and there's gentle familiarity in his voice when he poses it. She's not the first teen he's had to ask, in Eltingville or otherwise, and he knows there are orphans here.

"Yeah," Koshka replies, with a small shrug. It's a question she gets a lot and it's since lost any sting. "My dad's somewhere, he left town for some reason and I haven't seen him since." Her gaze lifts a little, briefly meeting his before scooting back downward again. Not entirely of timidity, either, it's more a normal reaction to interacting with strangers.

Brows furrowing slightly, Koshka glances upward again. "But I have people who take care of me. Kind of like parents." Inside Eltingville even, which is why she's in the adult housing district rather than idling where the majority of teenagers are kept.

Sasha wrinkles his nose at Koshka's phrasing. "People who take care of you," he repeats after a moment, and the sound of his feet striking the pavement fills the short pause that follows it. "Maybe not good enough." He indicates her leg with his eyes and a slight lift of his bearded chin. "No substitute for parents. Your leg — how was it hurt?"

"He left," Koshka says, quietly defensive. "And my mom's out of the picture. And the people who take care of me are like parents. Even grounded me once." The clinging to her school book is tightened slightly once again, but only as her shoulders rise and fall with a shrug. "It's… kind of a funny story." Her eyes lift up to Sasha again, watching him before continuing. "See, some kids from school and I were out running around and I fell on this stick." Which, while an easily offered lie, hopefully covers half the problem.

"You fell on a stick." It's not an unbelievable story. As a child, Sasha did his fair share of running around and falling on things, and while he doesn't remember a stick being among them — there are not a lot of sticks laying around in St. Petersburg — he's shredded his hands on broken glass and once put his foot through a rotten floorboard, spraining an ankle. "Did it bleed?" The wound, he means. Not the stick.

Koshka stares up at the man for a moment, disbelieving of the question. "Yeah," she says slowly, and very typical of a teenager. "It bled a lot. I put a bandaid on it." She's never fallen on sticks either, but it seemed like a viable answer. Far better than explaining a sentinel bot hooked her leg with some monstrously huge needle. "I bruised my hip too, when I fell. Hit the pavement or something." Another falsity, but she seems nonchalant in her reasoning.

"Bandaid," Sasha says, "stitches." What's the difference? his tone implies. Unfortunately, English is his second language and sarcasm is something he hasn't quite mastered yet. He does not push. "Six-oh-nine, Tennyson Drive. My address. If you need another bandaid," and this time there's no mistaking the dubiousness in his tone, "you come see me yeah? My name is Kozlow, Aleksandr. My sister — she calls me Sasha. She is your age, I think. There are no soldiers and we are good secret-keepers."

"It's not bad," Koshka says with a shrug. She even stops following to prove her assumptions, kneeling to pull up her pant leg and bare the calf that had been subject to the robotic cat. It's worse than she'd let on, an industrial sized needle jammed into then broken off in the muscle. Her head comes up at the the offer, name and address both. "I'm Bethany Ruslan," she offers in return. "Most… most people call me Koshka."

Sasha puzzles in silence over how one might derive Koshka from Bethany Ruslan. "«But do you speak any of the language?»" he wants to know. In Russian, of course, most of the stiltedness (but not all) gone from his speech. He is not the best speaker, even in his native tongue.

"«Of course,»" Koshka replies, almost naturally slipping into Russian. It's her second language, and as such she lacks a bit in the flavor of accent that a naturally born speaker would have. "«I learned when I was very young, from my father.»"

"«Very good.»" There are other people on the street, though none of them are paying much attention to the pair, and Sasha doubts that even one speaks Russian. "«That doesn't seem the work of a stick to me,»" he says, "«if we're being honest.»"

After another look at the damage to her leg, Koshka lets out a sigh. "«If we're being honest,»" she echoes, tugging her pant leg back into place. "«It was a… needle. From… one of the robots.»" Her shoulders rise and fall, eyes dropping to the ground while shoulders rise.

Sasha has heard the rumours. He has not, however, seen any of the robots for himself and presses his lips into a hard line, dubious, though that's not to say he disbelieves her entirely.

At any rate, it makes more sense than her original story when he compares it to the wound. "«It should be cleaned if it hasn't already. You might not need the stitches, but I like to take precautions. If someone else asks you how you came by it, switch out a piece of scrap metal for the stick and they won't give you any trouble.»"

Glancing up at Sasha, Koshka nods slowly, disbelieving over the seemingly good stroke of luck. She was expecting worse to come from the truth than the simple tale of a stick. "«Yes.. scrap metal,»" she agrees haltingly, regarding the doctor anew. "Um.. «Thank you. I… it's ..I'll clean it again. Before homework, soon as I get home.»"

"«Then come and see me for your stitches,»" Sasha says, "«and your antibiotics. Two weeks worth, I think — twice a day with food and water, never on an empty stomach. Keep the bottle hidden.»" Presumably to be safe. He isn't feeling very out in the open, and reaches out to place a hand on her back between her shoulder blades to usher her along. "«You can tell your caretakers where it is you're going. The man I live with is a part of the watch. If the soldiers hold you up, tell them you're on your way to John Logan's.»"

Koshka's mouth opens, but words don't come out immediately. If Sasha were at all able to read her mind, he'd hear a lot of protesting against any kinds of medication, very typical of children and adolescents alike. Traces of such rebellious thoughts might be noticeable in her expression, though none of it is actually spoken aloud. "Oh man," is what she utters instead, over a sigh and a reluctant nod. "«Yes, sir,»" she agrees as she's herded along.

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