The Heart Of A Revolutionary


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Scene Title The Heart of a Revolutionary
Synopsis Two men without countries, standing with the closest thing to a countryman they can have.
Date May 11, 2009

Staten Island

There's something about the fringes of Staten Island that will always inspire sentiments of unease. After the bomb, much of Staten Island has fallen into glorious disrepair, so much so that places that were already in stages of decay look more like monuments to entropy than once urban settlements in decline. While much of the island was suburban residential areas before the bomb, there were two crowning moments that drove this borough of New York into an early grave. The first was the mass exodus of survivors and panicked people fleeing Manhattan. They came by foot, bicycle and car across the bridges to Staten Island, all manner of desperate and frightened people flooding into a crowded place. While some fled through to New Jersey, others simply couldn't — or wouldn't — go further. This, like in Queens, led to an eventual chaos that would in time eclipse the pandemonium in the eastern edge of New York after the bomb.

Staten Island was in the direct path of the fallout from the explosion, and after thousands fled to the island, the entire populace was forcibly evacuated. Those few that managed to stay, clung to their homes desperately, and those few who did would suffer from radiation sickness and the ever-escalating crime rate. By the time Staten Island got the "all clear" from the government, the damage had already been done.

What was one suburban neighborhoods and parklands is now a monument to decay. Houses lie in various states of disuse and ruin, and like much of New York has seen property values nosedive. Few want to move out to a formerly irradiated zone, and even fewer want to return to a place so rife to violent crime. Now, much of Staten Island lies in various states of decay. Houses abandoned by families that fled the city, were forced into forclosure and were never resold, or simply places where entire families went missing and are now squatted in by any number of transients line the once peaceful streets. Staten Island is a home to crumbling infrastructure, spotty electricity, and people who wish to remain undiscovered by law enforcement. Few police will willingly go into this now infamous island.

Decaying, nearly empty and all but forgotten, Staten Island is, as far as many are concerned, the End of the Earth; nothing beyond it, and no hope for those that trespass there. The perfect place for society's detritus to make its roost, far from the watchful eyes of legitimate government, and even further from the cares of the common man. A cemetery for everything that no longer holds any meaning to the world.

But even if it is a cemetery, it's not a morgue, and of all the things the world has tried to bury there, many of them are still very much alive. Alive enough to know pain and surprise, and at the moment, Jensen Raith knows both of them as he crashes into one of the still intact tables of the abandoned pub an old face was temporarily using as shelter. Intact, at least, until the man's weight finally causes the distended, aged wood to finally pull free from the nail and screws that were holding it together, sending both itself and him to the floor in a pile of timber and flesh.

He isn't stunned for long, however, before he launches a verbal retort to his attacker. "The fuck, man!" he shouts, practically spitting venom as he does, "Nice to see you, too, Judo Jack." He was expecting a fist, or a knife or headbutt. He would have even expecting a deck of cards or pyrotechnics. But when it comes to dealing with Rico Velasquez, being thrown was about the last thing Raith was expecting to be.

"I was aiming for the window, senior." Rico's rough voice calls out from where he stands atop the bar, a booted foot knocking a half full bottle of Jack Daniels down to the ground with a sloshing clunk. He hops down, landing in a crouch before rising and brushing off his olive drab army jacket. "So, you sure picked a good time to end up not dead." The Puerto-Rican's brown eyes sweep around the room, looking for more ghosts of unfortunate past association to come filing in.

Reaching into his jacket, it isn't a weapon, but a cigar that Rico produces, followed by a lighter. The cigarette is rested between his lips, looking to have been halfway smoked already. "M'thinkin'… that you had best start giving me reasons to not reach for anything else in this jacket." Grimy fingers flip open the top of his lighter, rolling over the flint to create a spark that ignites the end of the cigar. Rico's focus is trained down on the glowing ember at the end as he continues to talk, cigar wobbling up and down in his mouth.

"Because— m'not sure if you heard— but th' old man is dead, an' I think it won't be too long before the rest of us are, ya?" Dark eyes look up from the cigar thorugh the wafting waves of smoke to Raith. "Sooner rather than later if you run across Ethan."

"Hey! The fuck are you doing? Ne-argh!" Raith's chastisement is cut short when he tries to push himself to his feet, placing his hand atop a particularly pointy piece of table. A mistake he quickly corrects by moving his hand to the most less pointy floor. "Never! Light a cigar with a cigarette lighter, I thought I told you this." It's not a weapon that Raith is seeking to find in his own jacket, and if nothing else, Rico probably knows him well enough to reach that conclusion even before he does come up with the object of his search. "What, are matches really that hard to come across these days? Jesus Christ on a saltine cracker….

"And hey, yeah, let's talk about Mister Shaggy Dog, since I was hoping maybe you knew something about him. Like where his ass is hiding out."

Rico flips the top of the lighter open and closed in one hand, the other keeping the cigar pinched between his lips, one eye squinted a bit more than the other as the scruffy man takes Jensen's appearance in more. "All these years, an' you're still giving me shit about that?" There's a snorted laugh, part of it does seem almost like a fit of whimsy, a touch of nostalgia for the old times ringing true in Rico's words, but they're passing.

"Th' last time I saw Holden…" He has to really think on that, head canting to one side as his cigar is pulled out from his lips to gesture vaguely in the air, creating a tiny hoop of smoke. "I think he was playing sniper on Kazakova's men down in Jersey." There's a narrowing of his eyes, "He's a crafty son of a bitch, changed his face and everything." Rico waves the cigar around his own face, creating a haze of smoke to emphasize his point.

"Honestly, I'm not even sure you're you," His thick brows rise, "an' not Holden in disguise."

"Well, that's probably a legitimate concern, Rico. But, really, whether or not I'm Ethan, which I had better not be, else I've been scamming myself since before I was born." Somehow, Raith could have scamming himself before he was even born. "Let's face the facts. You ain't dead, so why's it matter if Jensen Holden or not? Or, Ethan Raith… fuck, hold on…." And as serious as any situation like this can possibly be, Raith actually stops, looking down towards the floor for a few moments while he, apparently, carefully thinks over exactly what it is that he means. "Ethan Holden or Jensen Raith, that's the one," he finally decides, "And hey, in fact, let's talk about you, too. There's this sort of trend I've been noticing when I run into you cocksuckers, lately." Pulling a chair over to himself Raith remembers that first, he ought to test it and make sure it will support his weight. When it does, he sits down in it, leaning forward against its back. "So, I'm going to ask you the same question I asked all of them, and see if you give the same answer they did.

"Sounds like a real blast, yeah? Glad you agree."

Rico exhales a deep breath of smoke slowly, letting it drift lazily out of his mouth in that prolonged exhalation. "Not even Holden likes to hear himself talk this much," he squints one eye again, taking a few steps back before straddling one of the bar stools, leaving one leg partly extended, the toe of his boot touching the floor, "I forgot how much of a mouth you have,"

The cigar is put back between Rico's lips, and he takes a slow drag off of it, the ember burning brightly as he does. Rico's other hand, still holding the closed lighter, waves it back and forth in the air in a gesture defined more as a get on with it than anything. In some ways, this distraction is welcomed.

Happy to see that Rico has accepted that, really, he has no choice in the matter, Raith watches him intently as he forms and asks his question, one finger pointed skyward as if to indicate this is the first question of several, or perhaps that this is the first 'strike' that Rico gets in regards to answers that aren't satisfactory.

"Did you win?"

Coughing on his cigar, Rico breaks out into a wheezing laugh as he withdraws it from his lips. "You're fucking kidding me right?" His brows furrow, "Who've you been talking to? Salucci? Ruskin?" There's a bitter sound to Rico's voice as a scowl comes down over his features. Flicking the nearly finished cigar aside to the floor, he folds hia arms across his chest. "I drank the fucking kool-aid for my entire life, and finally at the last minute I maybe had some remorse about killing every single fucking man woman and child on earth."

Narrowing his eyes, Rico stares for a long while at Raith, "Mattias fucking went down with his ship, I pretty much assumed everyone that stuck on with the old man died for the cause. But— I wasn't about to have my lasting contribution to history being the epitaph of humanity, si?"

Pushing himself off of the stool, Rico smooth one hand down over his beard. "Because, you know, maybe I grew a fucking conscience after all'a this? Maybe?"

There's a snort, "I don't fucking know. I was in this for the money from day one, and to honor mi padre. But there was no honor in what happened, no honor in any of that."

"Well, your reasons for joining are whatever, as you know," Raith replies, dropping his hand to rest atop the other on the chair's back. "But let's face it, we won. Well, you won, I just got my people out of the blast radius, but fucking won. Pissed off about how it went down, but won. You were pissed off about it, I know. You wouldn't have won if you didn't like the direction it was going. Ditto here, so we'll go with that. We picked a side, and it was a fucking stupid choice we found out at the end of it.

"So let's talk about how we can make that string of fuck-ups, up to the world… yeah. I mean, fuck, let's face it, is the world really that safe a place? How many incredibly exploding men are still out there? Was it really that bad an idea trying to give their bodies some new air conditioning? You sort of see what I'm maybe diving towards as we leap from the cliff of ignorance towards the sea of reason, trying to avoid the jagged rocks of 'oh shit what the fuck is that' on the way down?"

"You're out of your fucking mind." Rico spits out, affixing a rather judgemental stare on Raith. "It was a terrible idea, the killing— all of it! Kazimir— " it's hard for Rico to really say that name with an angry tone, after the father-like figure he was to him. "He— he was wrong. We were all on the wrong side of the fence. I have spent my entire life killing people, teaching you little bambinos to kill." Rico's brows lower as that scowl returns. "I'm fucking done. I've had it with the mercenary lifestyle — I — "

Shaking his head, Rico paces back and forth across the floor. "I don't know what the fuck to do with my life, but I know I've enough blood under my nails that they'll never come clean. You— you and whoever else of our people are alive?" He squints, staring for a moment at Raith, trying to figure him out. It's a task he could never accomplish years earlier either. It's like staring into the sun, you're just going to hurt yourself.

"Take your fucking vendetta somewhere else, Jensen." Rico makes the mistake of turning halfway from Raith, looking out one of the side windows of the bar to the street, "your argument 'bout protecting everyone from the bad ones? It ain't got a leg to stand on, an' you an' I both know it."

"On the contrary, it has plenty leg to stand on," Raith remarks, "Just a matter of which leg that is. So we go after the living bombs. Great. Big deal. The world is slightly less likely to explode accidentally. Now, answer me honestly. Out of all the people in the world, who are you more concerned about? The guy who might explode but is otherwise a productive member of society? Or the snake charmer who talks his way out of being arrested, despite the fact that he's got two twelve year-old girls in his closet and ten more buried under his lawn? What about the one that just waltzes in off the street into someone's house and walks out with his hard-earned money, and the guy doesn't put up a fight because his wife's face'll get melted if he does? Or what about…

"What about the guy who dupes everyone around him into thinking he's the second coming of Jesus fucking Christ, when all he's really interested in is turning the world into his personal clubhouse before someone tries to stop him when they realize the ends don't justify the means anymore?"

The way Rico sulks is all too familiar body-language that spells out in no uncertain terms, you're right but I hate you for it. It's a look Raith's used to getting, espescially from Rico Velasquez. "Not my problem," he mutters, "I did my fuckin' part for this world, you expect me to give a shit about anyone on it? If half of the people alive today knew what I did, I'd be hanged with the rest of us."

There's a scoff next, and Rico reaches up to draw his beret off of his head, raking fingers thorugh his hair. "Fuck, Jensen. Are you really that eager, that loco to get to the bloodletting again? That you want to stir up this hornet's nest of lunatics?" That same eye squints again, "Most of the crazy ones might be gone, but there's probably still plenty of zealots out there following the old man's orders — Grigori, Daiyu, Breigh — you really want to give them a loaded gun and say have at?"

"Ah." Once more, Raith raises a finger skyward, and then taps his nose with it three times. Jackpot, Rico. "Both of us, we've seen first hand what happens when you give a bunch of goons free reign to conduct operations as they please. Seen what happens when the Cool Kids' Club gets so big, you don't have a choice except to let the goons do what they want, make a mess, get innocent people killed. No, you want to cut the cancer out of the world, you don't use a chain saw. You use a scalpel. Vanguard was a chain saw. Big, clumsy, uncontrollable. I want a scalpel. Small, agile. Disciplined.

"Look at New York, and what do you see?" Raith, in a clumsy and uncontrolled manner, gestures all around him with his arms. "Freaks everywhere. Fucking sideshow. Fuck the freaks. I don't care about the guy who can turn his fingers into knives. I are about the guy who singles out women afraid of the guy who can turn his fingers into knives and dumps what's left of them out in the Catskills. When that happens, do you go after the freak or the murderer? The weird-looking but benign growth, or the normal-looking but malignant one? That's an easy choice, really. Any disciplined doctor can make that call. But all the discipline in the world don't matter if you use a chain saw to do the surgery. Scalpel, Rico. Small, agile and disciplined."

"Again." Rico points one grubby finger towards Raith, "You're thinking I give two shits about any of this. I told you, already, Jensen, I'm done." He waves his hand in one broad arc, representing everything. "Retired, quit, done, over — I'm almost fifty fucking years old, I'm done with measuring milestones by how many bullet scars I have in my body."

A scowl drags down the corners of Rico's mouth again, and he seems compelled to brush his hand down along his out of control beard. "You want to raise your militia? You want to play fucking grim reaper or hero or whatever gets your jollies these days?" Both of Rico's hands go up into the air, shoulders rising in a helpless shrug, "Fine."

But then his tone becomes a bit more adamant, and less aloof, "But I am out. I'm done. And if I ever see your smirking fucking face again, I will come out of retirement to cut it off."

Not what Raith was hoping to hear, but all the same, he purses his lips and nods. "Gotta be nice, not having any ideology," he says, standing up from his chair, "Plan for the glorious future doesn't seem to be working, and you can leave any time you want to for a better-paying gig. Also means you don't have to commit to anything when you're afraid it might be a bad decision. Hedge your bets, I know." His piece said, he begins approaching the door, his path very clearly taking him past Rico, but not at him. No enemy, here.

But just as he passes him, Raith stops and turns his head, making very deliberate eye contact. "You know, paisano. Camarada. Maybe I have ideology, and you don't, but we aren't that different. Turned our back on our families. On our countries, both of us. Because we knew there was something better out there something…" His gaze drifts towards the wall, head nodding left and right just slightly, as if he were tasting his words to see if they were palatable. "Something that we had to do, ideology or not." Once more, Jensen Raith looks at Rico Velasquez. Two men without countries, standing with the closest thing to a countryman they can have.

"But something I never once turned my back on, was you."

That wounds Rico more than most things could have. Pride is something that he tries not to tout, but something he values. Taking off his beter again, Rico closes his eyes and rakes his fingers thorugh his hair one more time, before finally stepping down on the smoldering butt of the cigar he had discarded to the floor.

As much as it hates to admit it, as much as he's loathe to think that any member of the Vanguard can be right about the best interests of the world, there is some small part of him that agrees. It's the part of Rico Velasquez that scares him, the part that Kazimir nurtured, and the part that Jensen Raith has rekindeled.

"Jensen." Rico looks over his shoulder to the man in the doorway, "There's a helicopter — fully fueled — and some munitions I've been collecting from depots Kazimir left around the city. The munitions ares stashed in the Staten subway tunnel on the north shore, the chopper's got a camouflage netting over it in the woods nearby."

Rolling his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Rico furrows his brows. "Take it… and get the hell out of my face."

It's a start.

Raith smiles. Not his usual smile, sardonic and satirical, but genuine. Even warm. A smile for a friend. "Viva," he says, once more moving through the doorway. Even under all the years of cynicism at the world, and even the recent distrust of his former comrades, deep within the chest of Rico Velasquez beats the heart of a revolutionary. "O, paisano," he adds, as if he'd just remembered something he'd forgotten earlier. "El Hombre de la Carne. Watch out for the Meat Man." Familiar nonsense, if it is, in fact, nonsense.

Raith doesn't stay around to explain. With his final, cryptic warning, he vanishes again into the shadows and dust with little more than the scuff of one of his boots.

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