The Cat's Cradle


tamara_icon.gif rami_icon.gif

Scene Title The Cat's Cradle
Synopsis Rami goes to the trailer farm undercover in search of an Evolved with an out-of-control power. He meets Tamara. There are string games
Date November 27, 2008

Thomas Jefferson Trailer Farm

Before the bomb, this was Thomas Jefferson Park. Some of it still is, stretches of grass and trees that far fewer people visit than once did.
Some of it is not.
Faced with the sheer number of people displaced from their homes after the bomb, but too stubborn — or without the means — to move from Manhattan, this is one of the many places the city and various federal agencies have given over to shelter the refugees. As such, what was once meticulously maintained greensward has been turned into dirt road and trailer lots. The grass has been worn thin by the repetitive passing of hundreds of feet. Trailers sit all but side-by-side, with room only for a car and perhaps a few chairs to be parked in between. Younger children run around underfoot, seemingly undeterred from their games; older ones might slink behind the trailers with hungry eyes, resentful of those who have more, while the adults seem more heart-weary and worn-down than not. These are the people who have nowhere else to go; some have jobs, but many do not, surviving on as little as possible. Alcohol and drugs are common; so is suicide, for those who have passed from desperation into surrender.

The Trailer Farm. Not somewhere a Company agent would choose to be. And that's precisely the point - Rami doesn't choose to be here. His current case involves the chasing down of a particularly destructive Evolved who seems to have lost control of his projective empathy. The man started a small riot by projecting his anger and nearly drove a young woman to suicide through projected depression. The man needs to be found and brought in for the safety of the public.
Rami is not himself right now. People in this area of the city don't respond well to a man in a suit with a gun. So he's taken a page from his CIA days and has donned an identity. "Did you see this man Tim? He has the hair of red and is short. Money, he owes me money. He paid for half a knife and took it. I need money. My daughter is sick." He holds out a picture, crumpled, that shows an image of the man he's after. It looks like a polaroid candid. He speaks with a rolling Arabic accent and says his name is Hazim, a former shopkeeper who now deals in salvaged goods from his trailer. It is rather stereotypical, which is precisely why people don't question it. He wears the rough, barely serviceable clothes of a refugee as he moves from trailer to trailer.'

The girl a short ways down this particular line of trailers is not a refugee. However, you wouldn't really know it to look at her. The mickey-mouse sweatshirt is relatively new, though the jeans are fraying at their cuffs and her sneakers are decidedly worn — but her hair suffers from perennial neglect, and she seems not to be aware of the smear of dirt decorating one cheekbone.
Seated on an upturned plastic crate, Tamara holds a length of string in her hands, looping the knotted cord over and around her fingers in the patterns of the age-old game 'cat's cradle'. She looks up, watching the 'Arabic' man wander from one to the next in search of information; blue eyes peer from beneath a thin veil of tangled blond hair, gaze curious in the manner of a child rather younger than this teen.

As this is New York and disasters and hard times can bring out the worst in people, 'Hazim' is not just brushed off in all cases. Oh, some people murmur polite apologies that they haven't seen him, or haven't seen him in a long time. Still others simply ignore him. But one trailer - the one nearest to where Tamara is, is kicked open and a rifle barrel is shoved nearly -on- to his forehead. He startles - and that's not just an act. "Fine, fine. I go. Go back inside with your…deer heads and Garth Brooks." And then he mutters something unkind sounding in Arabic and moves away. The man, thankfully, withdraws back into the trailer.
Rami glances around and happens to catch sight of Tamara. She looks like a far less violent target. He walks over to her and bends down to eye level. "Excuse me, have you seen this man?" He holds up the picture. "He stole from me."

Tamara shakes the hair back out of her face as Rami comes over, holding out the picture for her perusal. "Did he?" She plucks the string from about her fingers and wads it up in one palm, fingertips of the other hand brushing lightly over the photograph. Violent, the teenager decidedly isn't. "Stealing's bad. But some people need to. And some things are worse," she observes. Blue eyes consider their surroundings, as if looking for the person who matches the picture. Meanwhile, she loops the knotted string back around her fingers. "I don't think he's here," Tamara finally concludes, looking back at Rami. She holds up her hands, cat's-cradle pattern strung between them.

"No? If you see him, would you tell me?" Rami reaches out and pinches the string for the second part of the puzzle. "My sister taught me this. Car rides. As children. We could go very far." That part is true. His tone gentles and he watches her with a searching gaze. He may be a cold bastard, but that doesn't mean he's completely heartless. "This place is not pleasant to live, is it?" He holds out the puzzle for her to bring it to the next stage.

She watches him manipulate the strings, and deftly picks out the points that'll move it to the next configuration. Tamara holds the threads up, looking across them at Rami. "What places were pleasant?" she asks, with an oddly detached curiosity. The girl blinks slowly; quiet, she considers Rami for a long moment, gaze going distant. Considering options, perhaps; what to say to this complete stranger. "Very far; and not far enough. He's not here. But maybe he'd come back later?"

"This city was not so bad before the destruction. Not as bad as it is now. Do you only remember it like this?" It's not unheard of. Rami considers the strings for a moment, then it clicks. "Ah. I remember." And he makes the next move. He grins at her. He looks more serious when she speaks again. "Mmm. It would be better for this man if he went very far indeed." Then he'll be in someone else's jurisdiction and he can get on with the next case. "He is a dangerous man."

"Sometimes better. Sometimes worse." That ambiguous answer is followed by a very brief — very transient — study of the threads. She picks the right points, and extends the next stage for Rami's consideration. "There you go." Tamara looks over at the man, expression as ingenuous as her tone. "Aren't you?" As if all men might be considered dangerous — and yet she's sitting here playing a child's game with Rami.

Rami doesn't know what causes him to be honest. He's always been good at reading people, and something tells him Tamara is not an ordinary girl. That's why he's still here, instead of moving on to the next trailer. "I am," he answers. He holds out the puzzle towards her. He looks her in the eye. "There are no warm hugs in this city. Not anymore. Not at the moment. Not ones that last." What a cynical thing to say to a girl. "This man. This Tim. He makes people feel worse."

The change in Rami's demeanor towards her… seems to pass without so much as a blink from the girl. She just picks at the strings and continues the sequence, calm and unruffled. "There are. You just have to look hard enough. Past the dust and darkness." Maybe it's madness. Maybe it's insight. Tamara lifts her gaze to meet his. "Everything's a mess, but messes can be cleaned up," she assures the agent, with all the faith of apparent naivete that it just takes a little desire and some elbow grease to set the world right.

"Maybe," says Rami. "But people have to work for it. And stop hurting each other." He continues the puzzle. With each new configuration, he seems to solve it quicker. Memory returns. Hundreds of games on lazy Sundays, long car rides - even in their first days in New York. Good memories. Unlike so many that came after. "People need to learn to control themselves." Or be controlled.

Tamara's fingers seem to move without conscious direction, her gaze never leaving Rami's face even as she moves the puzzle forward. Her expression is somber, perhaps even regretful. "Some never learn. Some can't learn. And some don't work. That doesn't change." A brief pause. "You should probably come back tomorrow."

"Yes. Some are broken," Rami says, quietly. Although his accent remains, he's let some of the character drop. Why? He doesn't know himself. "I will. I will keep coming back until I find Tim. If I don't, someone might die."

The game is not continued, and Tamara lets her hands rest on her knees. "Everything's broken." She strips the strings from her fingers, the knot holding the cord in a loop coming loose as if to emphasize the girl's spoken point. Silent, she looks at him for a long moment, expression faintly wary.

Rami returns the gaze. He's not uncomfortable with moments of eye contact with no words. His eyes are not particularly kind, but nor are they sharp and soulless. They are…searching, curious. Then, at last he says, "I should go."

Curiosity unexpressed, Tamara lets it pass without response. Safer that way, if only slightly. "You probably should," the girl agrees. She stands up from her seat, gently pushing the upturned crate back a few inches with her foot. "Getting late to stay out. But don't forget to come back."

"I won't," says Rami. He stands. Others in this situation might ask after where she sleeps, her family, if she feels safe. But something in his gut tells him he doesn't need to do that here. Or if he does, he won't get an answer that's worth anything. He rocks back a step, then zips his jacket up tighter and pushes up the threadbare hood. He gives her one last look, then starts out of the farm. He pulls out a slick black cell phone and calls for a car to come pick him up, somewhere less conspicuous.

November 27th: Something To Be Thankful For

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 27th: Sad Turkey
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