The Kids Are All Right


rocket_icon.gif simon_icon.gif zuleyka_icon.gif

Also featuring:

A Cute But Potentially Irritating Dog

Scene Title The Kids Are All Right
Synopsis A fire, a trapped pooch, three crazy kids: this can only end well.
Date April 15, 2009

The Rookery

After the bomb, Staten Island grew to become a haven for undesirables. If the Island is their home, then the Rookery is their playplace. Equal parts gritty and decadent, it boasts dark alleys, bright lights, and every pleasure that one could imagine. Provided you know where to ask, of course.

Some areas have fared better than the rest of the island; some have fared far worse. For each well-tended brothel or gaming house, there's at least one creaky, crumbling structure left over from the days of pre-bomb suburban glory.

The population is considered universally distasteful, even by much of the rest of Staten Island. Criminals, refugees, victims of radiation poisoning… Those who have nowhere else to go often end up here. The most common method of getting out is to have your body dropped in the river, followed closely by being left wherever it is you got killed.

Good luck.

Smoke eats into the sky, contorted into the shape like a fat, gray, furred rat writhing up, higher, clawing, chasing after the rock candy moon. It's ugly as fuck, its misshapen haunches perched on the rooftop of what was formerly the Coppertown apartment complex. Some parts of it can probably still qualify under that name and registration. The incontrovertible fact remains, however, that—

There's a building in the Rookery on fucking fire.

Two stories are already burning a lambent, acid-bright miasma of orange flames massed up, devouring wood, plaster, aged stone or at least the accumulation of filth across its surface. Above it, the remaining floor is burning slower. There's a small dog in one window. One of those useless, frilly, purse-kept confections, its pink feet pressed to the glass and nose flat to it. Its yap is moving, but the noise is locked up inside. They're saying that everybody got out. They didn't mean pets.

Outside, dozens of Staten Island's residents stand and stare behind an demarcation marked only by the furthest, hurtling arc of litter from the two windows that had exploded, their faces upturned and lit. Someone has called a fire engine, but no one really expects them to be doing much there.

"Holy shit! Look at that!" The thin fingers of Rocket's right hand haul on Simon's sleeve. His left is flung out to its full extension, pointing at the flickering light at the end of the street. "Man you can fucking smell it from here."

Dog. Oh, fucking hell, there's a dog in there. Zu's more piratical than ever - scarlet silk sash with pistol and knife looped around her denim clad waist. There's no one coming, this is Staten. She's in the midst of the gawkers, the bystanders, like this is the midway on the carnival in Hell. And so she doesn't tell anyone what she intends, beg for help. She just heads for the wall, and starts sinking fingers into the already rotten brick, trying to find a way to freehand up to rescue Fifi.

Fire snakes up the side of the old building, looking like a malignant torch light in the distance. Its reflection shows in Simon's wide eyes, pinpoints of orange and red. He reacts the same way most people do when faced with something as raw and unexpected as this. He stands there and gawks. The tug at his sleeve keeps him moving, though, and a look over at Rocket rips his attention from the flames.

"Let's go," he tells the other kid as he starts to move towards the crowd and the chaos. Are there people inside? What started the fire? Who's going to put it out? These are the questions that run through his head.

Closer to the fire and Zuleyka is on the move. Being the only one who's actually trying to get inside the building, she gets Simon's full attention. "What the hell is she doing?" His arm shoots out, finger aimed (accurately, of course) at the girl.

When he manages to focus his line of sight on Simon's pointy finger, an uncharacteristic confetti burst of curses pops out of Rocket's curly head at a register somewhat higher than his tenor usually goes. It fizzles into somewhat less conventionally offensive but no less helpful verbiage as he follows. "Dude! She's climbing the building with her bare hands" he waves a bare hand in case Simon was unaware of what this was, " and it's on fucking fire. I—

"ZULEYKA!" The boys crowd into the snarl of squinty spectators, and the Tucker boy cups his hands around his round mouth, stretches his jaws around the magnitude of volume that still just barely manages to carry above the rising crackle and groan of incinerating masonry. "WHADDARYADOIN'?"

Her voice won't carry above the sound of the crowd, and the crackle of flames. So Zu just points where the unfortunate beast is about to be turned into a Frankfurter. God, this is stupid. But on she goes, face gleaming with sweat, reddened from heat and exertion, now edging along to try and get near that window.

The crowd around Simon is thick and smells like musk, gunpowder, and several different kinds of smoke. It's enough to make someone's stomach hurl if they didn't deal with it on a regular basis. Pungent odors aren't enough to keep Simon from watching Zuleyka, though, and he glances up when she motions towards a window that is apparently where she wants to go. A dog. A TOY dog.

Simon mumbles something under his breath as he pushes his way through the crowd of onlookers. "He's not looking to join Zuleyka in her climb, because he knows he'll either get roasted or fall to his death. Either way, it's not how he wants to leave this world. He just wants to get closer and out of the crowd.

"What! No, let's hang on a— Zu—" Incapable of speech to correctly define the magnitude of his Feelings, Rocket settles for seizing his head briefly, then motioning through the fetid, stinging air as if it somehow responsible for this crap.

"Oh, this is great!" he announces, in pointless sarcasm. He shoulders his way through the crowd in Simon's wake. Narrower of build than the older boy, it takes him considerably less effort to leech on. "This is so lame! It's just a dog! What is this, a chick thing? Do chicks do this back on Manhattan? These buildings are old, man. Old as shit! It's going to fall and she's going to die and Brian's gonna… Rocket," addressing himself suddenly, he puts a fist to the side of his own head. "Rocket, shut the fuck up. I—"

Three things happen almost in simultaneity, then. Almost. First, the second floor finally disinherits its windows: a storm of broken glass and fragmented furniture hurled out against the smoke-choked chill of night. Second, Zuleyka's right foothold gives abruptly, when a fat crack snaking from her toe up under her straining torso, stopping just—


—short of her clinging hands. Thirdly, Simon's seized, hauled back with all the whippet strength in his younger companion's body, throwing them both off-balance in the brief, clicking splatter of hailed plaster and sharp-edged glass. The split instant later, a severed table slams into the pavement Simon had occupied, denting stone, cracking into jagged parts.

Zu gives a little whimper, blessedly unheard, as her weight abruptly dangles from her hands, and a slipping foot. Suddenly, this doesn't seem like the wisest of ideas, does it? But she looks up again,, pulling her sheathed knife. The dog's window on the third floor is still there, though those on the second have blown out. She looks down, once - foolishly - it has her swallowing hard and going pale, before she turns up, again. And starts groping for a further handhold.

All of Rocket's racket is almost drowned out by the noise of everything that's going on around them. Almost doesn't quite cut it, though, and Simon is about to turn around to say something about what is becoming dangerously close to whining when the slight explosion happens. He freezes, eyes stuck on Zuleyka as her foothold gives way. Then he's on the ground, tangled in Rocket-arms and thanking all sorts of holy ghosts for avoiding the deadly table.

He knows he can't stay down long, though, or there is a possibility he and his friend might be tangled. "Get up," yells, pushing against the ground to lift himself up. "Come on, man. Someone has to be there in case she falls," He tells Rocket, offering him a hand once he gets to his feet.

Momentarily more like a turtle than a boy, Rocket does need the hand up. He struggles back upright, his eyes going everywhere at once and gaining no clear read of anything as a result. "What!

"What are we going to do if she falls?" he squawks back in what he believes is completely warranted panic. "I" His eyelids are pulled so far back from his eyes that the surrounding skin looks pinched, and his ducts begin to water. He'd skinned his knees, but he doesn't care a lot! He can still run with skinned knees. "I" he turns his head; shouts at the edge of Simon's face, "I can tell you if she's gonna fall, but I— after that, I don't know—?"

Zuleyka's fist closes on the edge of the window. It's hot. Hurts: burning hot. Smoke wheezes up inside her pant legs and blurs the sight out of her eyes with an infinite array of needling teeth, deepening bites. She can hear the dog through the glass. Yip-yap-yap, before it breaks into whimpers, crawls a tiny circle on the kitchen counter upon which it found its footing.

Behind the dog and the counter, there is no floor.

That's okay. Pressed frantically to the brick, she strikes the panes with the butt of the knife, gripping the sheath with sweating fingers. Once she's smashed through, she simply lets it fall to the ground beneath her, and gropes around for that retarded little dog. Fido had better be grateful. Tears are running freely, as is her nose. It'l lbe the getting down with a little canine stuffed into her shirt that's really the tough pat.

"You can?" is Simon's response to Rocket's comment on Zuleyka and her falling. He doesn't actually know anything about the other kid's ability, so he just shakes his head and then motions for Rocket to follow him. "Spit it out, then. We can - " he thinks a moment, wrinkles creasing across his brow. " - catch her something."

Then Simon is on the move, his steps crunching on shards of glass and bits of broken brick. Zuleyka's falling knife is eyed, but it hits the ground far from Simon and bounces away harmlessly. "Careful," he yells up to her, watching to see if she grabs the dog or not. It's small enough where he's certain he can catch it. Zuleyka on the other hand…well, he can always break her fall.

Upturned, Rocket's face is a clumsily rendered picture of blotched red and panic-white. He almost misses it when he's signaled to follow, but he doesn't. Barely, stumbles off in Simon's wake, his hands out, his feet spread into something of waddle, braced.

"About seven seconds," he hollers back. "Seven seconds head-start."

It's a difficult trick for the boys to get any kind of handle on, getting close enough to the building to see the girl, but not so close that she's blocked out by that selfsame fire licking out of the windows like infernal worms out of a rotted apple. He's beginning to cough. His nose is running. He puts his sleeve up in front of it, starts to speak when, abruptly, he's ducking, swerving away from a massive man who's parted from the crowd. Flannel shirt, faded jeans.

"You kids gotta get away from here!" he yells, reaching instead for Simon. "The crazy girl's gonna have to deal with this herself, there's no sense in you all dying over one damn dog."

The damn dog in question is eager to cede its tiny person to Zuleyka's grasp, although it's makes for an uncomfortable passenger inside her shirt. Scratching toes, its shrill voice tearing at what's left of her hearing. Its sobs and complaints sound exactly alike, though the pain in the girl's fingers dwarfs both and even the worsening blindness.

Zu starts to monkey her way down. It's almost a controlled fall, fingertips skittering raw on the brick, feet stuttering. She doesn't let go entirely, though, or manage to squash the little beast between her body and the building. Jake is so going to kill her for this. Stupid dog. She falls the last little ways, just under a story, body curled around the pup.

"Seven seconds until what?" Simon yells back to Rocket as he maneuvers his way through the crowd. He doesn't slow down until the man in flannel blocks his way, which is when his movement ends abruptly. "I know her, it's fine," He tells the man before trying to move around him, as if he's some kind of VIP at a rock show.

Whether he's stopped or not, he'll be happy to see Zuleyka making her way safely to the ground with the dog. He turns back to Rocket with a smile on his face. "That wasn't so bad, right?" So far, nobody has gotten hurt, but Simon instantly wonders if he just jinxed them all by saying what he did.


Rocket doesn't even answer. He shoves past the older boy, two-handed, barrels past the flannel-clad man in a crazy dervish, knotting-unknotting of knobby joints and slender limbs. He crashes into the ground at the girl's side, his hands bent into boxy fists on her shoulders, pulling at her with surprising strength. "Gotta go!" he tells her, his voice high with unpleasant terror, its soundwaves threading a squeaky amplitude through the heavy static of rumbling and crackling. "We gotta goooo—!"

Because the second story floor, tenuous under the added weight of the molten third story floor, is about to crash into the first story floor. Four seconds until that, now, and counting, even as the burly thug in flannel decides to leave the reckless midgets on their own and beat a hasty retreat back into the crowd. Out of the further distance, comes the pathetic whine of approaching fire engines. Or, at least one.

Yeah. They do have to go. And Zu takes her pup pancake, staggers to her feet (not forgetting to snatch up her knife) and bumbles as far and as fast as she can, letting Rocket lead. Time neither to argue nor dispute, considering - she's half-blind from smoke, dizzied from inhalation, and wobbling like a new colt herself.

WIth Rocket bulldozing path straight for Zuleyka and flannel man running past him, away from the building, it suddenly dawns on Simon that not everything is ok. The building groans as it's support system is overstrained and it threatens to fall apart at any moment. Simon doesn't turn though, not yet. Not until his friends are safe. He takes a few steps forward and the retreating crowd barrels into him, knocking against his shoulders and arms as the push past him.

A sharp whistle rings out in the air, escaping through Simons pursed lips. "Yo, Rocket, Zuyleka. Let's get the hell out of here," he yells, kicking himself that all he can do is wait and hope they all don't get trapped in the wreckage that is sure to start raining down on them at any moment.

It might be enough that Simon doesn't simply leave. Later on, Rocket and Zuleyka might ruminate about it. How, in their time of stupendously bad decision-making and self-combusting consequences, the Allistair boy didn't simply go away. Led the way, actually. There's whistling, sharp in the muffle of background noise. There will be poems and songs.

For now, however, Rocket's just yelling. Nothing useful. Not even words, really, just a protracted Ohhhhh squeezing out of his lungs, his shoulders hiked, his right arm flung in an ill-fitting yoke around Zuleyka that bangs into her a lot when their strides don't sync properly, and his shoes scratching pavement. Behind them, the first section of sandwiched floors drops, collides, spits sparks and enough depressurizing smoke to obliterate the rest of their escape from view.

She's coughing and spitting, relying on Rocket to lead them, ducking her head against the fall of the debris. The pup is still alive, and whimpers in protest, tiny feet pedalling, tearing at the inside of her shirt.

They're close now, and the crowd is thinning out. The building is collapsing and Simon is becoming acutely aware of a burning sensation in his lungs. The result of smoke inhalation, no doubt. Through teary eyes, he spots an easy exit for the three teens. A weak spot in the slowly retreating crowd. He moves towards it and starts to work at carving a way through people, using his hands to gently nudge them aside. Or maybe not so gently. There's some panic in Simon's movements, which makes them rough and full of haste.

His head snaps around to get a beam on Rocket and Zuleyka and an arm raises above the mostly bigger people to grab their attention. 'Over here!' it seems to say. The building is eyed as well for a moment before Simon turns again and continues to get as far away as possible.

Hilariously, it is fire engines that ultimately block Simon's view of the disintegrating ruin after a red rubber screech of braking friction. Hoses unspooling, out at ready. Heavy yellow rubber coats flashing their neon yellow nocturnal safety strips on the sleeves and panels. Those would have been good for any of the three kids to have worn.

Cleaner air, when it comes at the end of their staggering sprint, is barely recognizable through the grime of sweat-sauced carcinogens and cells killed en masse by heat. The puppy is a whimpering ball in Zuleyka's arms by then, its panic diminished with the proximity of danger, seeking comfort even as it gives it, its belly silken on the girl's skin. Rocket lets go of her eventually, walks into Simon partially by accident and somewhat on purpose.

He puts his hands on his knees, partially to make coughing easier, and partially to hide his streaming eyes.

Once there's somewhere to sit out of traffic, Zu summarily collapses. It's not quite a faint, but she's definitely woozy, even as she gropes to try and soothe the dog. Like she has a third breast that's gone rogue and is trying to escape her shirt - it finally pokes its head out and licks her chin. Perhaps to reassure. Perhaps because she tastes like smoky barbecue goodness.

The firemen are watched with a sigh and a cough as Simon slows down and the others catch up with him. Rocket is poked with an elbow after he runs into Simon, and the older boy bends his knees to rest some. Not that he did a whole lot of work or anything. "You ok?" he asks Zuleyka, eyeing her and then the dog that's tasting her face. That gets a laugh from Simon, although it's a nervous one.

"Blehhh," Rocket replies. "Yeeeaaah." He drops into a squat, his weight strung precariously between his locked heels. He roughs his fingers across his nose, looks up. Blinks rapidly at Zuleyka's crumpled corpus, and scatters a few lopsided footsteps along the ground to return to her side. To the left side of her head, anyway. "You guys— hurt?" His gaze strays either to her boobs or the dog in it. Possibly he is including the pup in the population of his query.

"Just smoke," she says, voice roughened, made coarse. "I…listen. We need water," she says, with increasing authority, looking up and peering out of streaming eyes at the pair of them. A little imperious motion of her hand.

Simon blinks a few time, gaze wavering between the others, including the pup. He nods to Zuleyka's request and stands, the muscles in his legs feeling tense for a moment. "Water, right," he says as he looks around. Shooters isn't far off, and much closer than the Lighthouse. "Come on, I'll grab us some water from the bar, then we can head back to the Lighthouse. No use trying to make it there like this. He offers a slight smile, then turns and heads for the dive bar as if it were a desert oasis, with urgency and enthusiasm.

The fire is beginning to be quelled by the uniformed men, though the battered building continues to cry out in agony. It certainly won't be used again anytime soon, if ever. It will likely just become another scar on the Rookery.

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