The Complete History of Civilization in Four Sentences


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Scene Title The Complete History of Civilization in Four Sentences
Synopsis An old soldier and a new soldier discuss the nature of war.
Date February 3, 2011

Bannerman's Castle - Dining Hall

The room converted into Bannerman's dining hall, although long and narrow, can accommodate up to one hundred people, but despite the amount of use that it sees, it isn't hooked up to the castle's electrical grid, which means that after dark it's lit up by gas lanterns strategically positioned on the wooden tables with bench-style seating that occupy the space. A giant hearth set into one of its walls provides the hall with additional light and warmth, as well as a place for the castle's residents to convene when it isn't in use during the hours when breakfast and dinner are being taken.

The walls themselves are bare stone with no decoration except for the four windows opposite the fireplace, and these are covered with heavy pieces of plain canvas cloth at night to prevent the light from leaking outside, where it might be visible from the shore or the air. During the day the canvas is pulled back to brighten the room and make the gas lanterns unnecessary, but on mornings and afternoons when the sky is overcast, there is very little to combat the gloom and so the fuel is burned anyway.

She can't sleep. And is it really any wonder? Rue Lancaster is dressed in a nightie of all things, though it's over a pair of thermal leggings and under a fluffy, but heavy teal robe. The floors are too cold for stocking feet or slippers, so it's the rubber soles of black Chucks that quietly sound as she wanders the corridors to the dining hall. Her blue eyes are wide, perhaps wider than usual, and exceptionally haunted as her fingers curl around the frame to the opening that leads into the hall itself.

Maybe it will come as a surprise to Rue that the dining hall, even at a late hour when the island is in a state of active mourning, is not empty. Not completely, at least. Jensen Raith is here, completely oblivious to Rue's entrance into the space he has temporarily claimed as his, his attention fully focused on the mostly empty table in front of him. Mostly empty because part of it is covered by a large map that, if she draws close enough, she will see is a map of the local area. Parts of the forest that lies beyond the eastern shore are covered with pencil marks, all of them arranged in a vague sort of pattern that indicates… absolutely nothing. The ex-spy is perhaps trying to figure out where the army is hiding out there. Or maybe just trying to figure out where he made a mistake in arranging the patrol routes.

Another, much smaller part of the table is occupied by a bottle of whiskey- secreted away when some shipment of supplies had come to the island for emergencies just like this one. To Raith's credit, it's almost completely full. Almost. The air is blanketed with the smell of tobacco smoke, a half-finished cigar resting halfway off the table's edge so any ash that happens to fall off lands on the floor. It's been a rough day for everyone, and Raith is no exception to this. Whether that's good or bad is less clear.

For a moment, Rue expected the other figure in the dining hall to belong to Benji Foster. It was him the last time she ventured out here for a little solitude, only to find it occupied. That her mind registers Jensen Raith after a moment of blinking in the dim light doesn't surprise her.

"Mister Raith?" Rue approaches the table cautiously, pulling her robe closed absently and cinching the tie at her waist tightly. "Could… I join you?" Something about seeing that he can't (or won't) sleep either comforts her in a way.

It's when Rue speaks that Raith finally directs his attention to her, and although it's largely with apathy the he acknowledges her presence, at least it's not an unwelcoming sort of apathy. After a moment, the man shrugs and gestures towards the kitchen. "Grab a glass." Sounds like a 'yes,' but Raith doesn't bother gauging the girl's reaction. His attention falls back to the map in front of him, even though he's made all the sense of it that he can.

There's a quick glance given to the whiskey before the girl decides this is a gift horse she's not about to look in the mouth. Rue retrieves a glass and quickly settles herself down across from Raith at the table. She doesn't presume to pour for herself, however. She leaves her glass sit near enough to the bottle to indicate that she'll accept his hospitality, however generous he wants to be with it.

"I said I wanted to help out around here and… And do things for the network. Make things better for people." Ginger curls reluctantly slide free of the fuzzy fibres at her shoulders when Rue shakes her head. "Both times I've been out on real…" She lifts a hand to make a nebulous sort of gesture, hoping he realises the word she wants even if she can't find it with her lips. "People have died. Is it like this all the time?"

With a soft 'pop,' Raith removes the stopper from the whiskey bottle and, lifting it up, pours Rue what would amount to a good-sized swallow of alcohol, if she were to drink it all at once. He does so in silence, quietly placing the bottle back on the table-top, although he does not stopper it or release it. "You came to us," he says finally, "During a dark transition. Is it like this all the time? No. It used to be rare that it was like this. Always dangerous, sure, but hardly anybody had to worry about dying." A brief pause and a nod. And then, like so many other times, Raith decides he's not quite done talking.

"And then, some very, very stupid people. Stupid, rich people with influence thought they could break the rules of the game without consequences. And then we went to war." How ever Rue sees things, this is how Raith sees them, how he's seen them for a long time. Stupid people with power and privilege do stupid things with that power and privilege, and then all the people without power and privilege have to pay for it and then clean up the mess. The complete history of civilization in four sentences.

Rue takes a sip from her glass as Raith speaks, wincing a bit at the way the liquor burns going down. She could man up and take it all in one gulp, but taking it in sips makes her mind feel like it's lighting up. Makes her feel more alert, for all that it will eventually leave her feeling languid, if she consumes enough.

Her lips part, one corner of her asymmetrical mouth quirking upward in a toothy grin at her own expense. "I think I must be insane," Rue tells the man across from her. "I didn't… even need to be here after the riots. Brian came and got me because Samara was worried for me. After things stopped being so crazy, I could have gone home…" The smile fades, and she presses her lips into a line as she drops her gaze to the map on the table between them. "But after what I'd seen here… I couldn't leave. If I'd gone back to my life as if I'd never been here, it…" She takes another sip of whiskey, resisting the urge to cough afterward. She settles for clearing her throat. "It would have been the worst thing I'd ever done in my life."

This time, it's Rue's turn to not be quite finished speaking, even after she's trailed off, and paused. "I have this aunt… I've looked up to her since I was so little. She's fought in wars and jumped out of planes and all sorts of crazy shit in the name of her country, and I wanted to be as cool as my Auntie Adrianne someday." Blue eyes lid heavily, and this time when she brings the glass to her lips, she tips it and her head back until she's swallowed down the amber remnants. It thunks heavily on the table again when she lowers her arm.

"Being a soldier isn't cool."

For a few moments, Raith simply watches Rue. The name 'Adrianne,' however, doesn't strike a particular chord with him other than to make him think, however briefly, 'One Hundred First, maybe.' "It sure looks like it is in the commercials, doesn't it?" he asks. "But it never is. Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, they were all different on paper, but on the ground, it's all the same. Here and now, it's all the same. That, out there?" With a single finger, Raith points towards the exit. "That's what war looks like, always. I was a Ranger, and that's what war looked like, and I was there. Then I was the King of Swords, and that's what war looked like, and I was there. Now I'm King Nothing, and guess what? War still looks like that, and I'm still there. Takes a certain kind of nut to go to war, you see. Some people can do it. But if you can't, don't. Do something worthwhile."

"This is worthwhile." Rue insists with a solemn expression, finding Raith's eyes when she says it. "If I walk away, people will still die. The war will still continue. There will just be one less body on our side, and either someone else is going to have to fuck up their life to take my place, or…" She sighs quietly. "I don't sleep at night now. And I won't sleep at night if I walk away." Pale brows come together, questioning. "Do you sleep?"

"Everybody does, sooner or later." Words that are probably less reassuring that they are maybe intended to be. "Everything in life is about choices, whether good ones or bad ones. You can choose to walk away, and only one person will fault you for it. But you can also choose to stay, and only one person will fault you for it. You have to do what you feel is right. It felt right to leave the Army. It felt right to leave the CIA. It feels right to stay here, so I'm staying. At the end of the day, all that matters is doing what feels right by you." And, for just a moment, Jensen Raith has finished talking. With a lop-sided grin, he raises the bottle up once again.

"To choices."

"Sooner or later," the young woman repeats absently, a rueful tug of her lips coming to something like a smile. (And not one meant to be a play on words.) The wisdom born of Raith's experience brings comfort and solace. Rue mirrors that grin of his and holds out her glass for a refill. "To choices."

She's made hers.

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