Would-Be Guardian Angels


chris_icon.gif bf_kara_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Would-Be Guardian Angels
Synopsis Chris, Kara, and Yi-Min try to make sense of what they saw at The Old Barn
Date April 8, 2019

The edges of Providence

Between the three horses, the five children had been safely delivered to a neighbor's home. Somewhere between all the worrying, minor injuries were dressed and faces were wiped clean and warmth was provided to the unexpected, shivering guests. Between prayers for the lost, prayers for the living, and thanks given partly in a language they understand — and partly in a language none of them do— they eventually come to a point where they state they need to leave. The three members of Remnant who had uncovered the tragedy at the Kaufman homestead, who still need to figure out how to frame what they've seen and learned once they return home, have remounted their horses and are heading home.

There's a stab of irony that the chilly skies have ceased their rainfall only now, water sitting in pools and divots along the mainly-dirt road disturbed by the hooves that beat new paths in the mud. It feels cold enough that their breath should be visible, if only just, and that perhaps might become the case the closer it gets to nightfall.

Kara rides in silence, gaze swiveling from one horizon to the other intermittently as she keeps her eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. It travels more than usual, her alertness not what it normally is. She can't get her mind off of the scene at the old barn, can't forget what the children said had prompted its destruction, and cannot begin to fathom what kind of person would do that to an innocent family.

Silence is okay for a time. After all the noise between the the family integrating the orphaned children into their fold, the prayers, the celebration, the silence is even welcomed.

For a time.

“What the shit is going on.” Chris’ voice finally cuts into the gentle plod of hooves on wet earth. It’s not angry, in spite of the frustrated words he chooses. That’s just his way. “Who the fuck…” Jester tosses his head and dances two steps to the side to avoid a rut.

“Who the fuck does that?” He looks at Kara and Yi-Min, but doesn’t allow for them to speculate an answer. “Fucking locking anyone up on a cellar and setting a fucking machine loose to murder people. What the actual shit.”

Yi-Min had never been one to speak words merely to fill a silence, the graceful swaying canter of Parable beneath her the chief sight and sound that comes of her presence for a long time. The lucid clearness within her eyes, the slightly forlorn way in which she lifts her chin to the clearing skies— both of these might be misinterpreted as signs that she is in fact occupied with enjoying the cold scenery, if there were not also a lack of softness to her features that betrays that what she is actually doing is thinking.

It would have only been a matter of time before one among the trio broke the peace, and so this, just as with the events that had come before, is something that Yi-Min takes in stride. And in this case, with expectation.

"Clearly, it would seem, someone who wishes violence done against those with abilities," she says calmly once Chris is done with his piece, returning his glance only briefly. "What is important is that this not happen again. It will do us good to make a note of the Evolved who live within Providence. If the machines are drawn to raw numbers, they must be warned not to congregate."

Cruel as the 'test' had been, it had also made clear vital information.

Expressing vocal disbelief about the events that had passed would be pointless, Kara figures silently. The events had happened. Chris's question is on the nose with asking what kind of person would do that.

"Someone who cares about results rather than who it hurts," she echoes in relative agreement to what Yi-Min posits. "Maybe their own people had been attacked by it before and they were trying to figure out how many needed to be in one spot to draw it. Trying to figure out if it was like the bots the Administration used, or something different. They wouldn't use their own people for that."

Kara adjusts her grip on the horse's reins loosely. "Why would they?"

A glance back at Yi-Min is accompanied with a nod. Tragic as this was, it let them learn vital information as well. "I don't think all the families know their status. We'll need to find or steal some field kits to get them tested." Like perhaps the intruders did to know who to lock in the barn and who to put in the cellar, but Kara leaves that thought aside, unspoken.

"It was too much to hope that thing would keep marching West," she finally says, the only visible sign of frustration she shows. Not for the first time lately, she wishes they'd kept Warren Ray chained in the basement so he could turn his swirly eyes on that.

There was a certain amount of accepted risk that came with being off the grid with a finite amount of resources. Not always knowing what lay beyond their border was a part of that. The responsibility for the incident is impossible to lay on anyone, because no one could have anticipated this kind of heinous act bring committed. It won't stop Kara from analysing, figuring out what could have been done better, what will be done better.

"If we'll be asking the community to split themselves apart until the threat is dealt with, we need to ask ourselves how we will spread ourselves to protect them until the threat is dealt with."

Interestingly, maybe even surprisingly, the answers and speculation quells Chris’ outward display of frustration. At least temporarily. He makes a sort of grunt sound, neither denying nor confirming what either woman says but taking it at face value. It allows them to continue along the road home in relative silence. Just the cream of leathers and the rhythmic thudding of hooves on wet earth, perhaps a bird or two in the trees.


“Fucking robots and shit. People using other people to test their theories, fucking embarrassing.”

He pulls suddenly on the reins and turns Jester part way around. The horse bawls a complaint in motion and stamps his displeasure. Chris looks at Karan and Yi-Min. “How many families we got?” Not their own kinships but their community. “How big is the factory, and how fortified? If we need to pull them in — temporarily — can we do it?”

The perpetrators testing only on behalf of their own people seems like an optimistic theory to Yi-Min. "Mm," is the unconvinced judgment she gives of Kara's theory. "More likely it is someone with a vendetta against the Evolved, testing the waters of a useful tool." Though it is a much worse alternative, it would bring her no surprise; it was a strategy an earlier version of herself would have approved of. Adherents of Pure Earth may not be centralized under a single banner, as the Vanguard had been, but that does not make meeting potential members less dangerous.

Parable, too, signals dissatisfaction at the jarring commotion Jester had been put through. His rider is less fazed, lightly blinking away amusement at the nature of Chris' interjections. But her answer to his questions is immediate and firm.

"We could, but it would be a terrible idea. We only just discovered the dangers of grouping like along with like; did you forget already? Herding everyone into one place like lambs to a slaughter should only be done with specific purpose, and as a last resort. Not the factory, either. There is too much to lose there." Materiel, vehicles, other equipment. The sum of their means to fight back.

The suggestion to acquire SLC-E test kits, however, is a good one and Yi-Min files it away. To Kara's last remark, "I do not think it will be possible to split ourselves effectively for very long. The best answer may be to go on the offensive, the moment we find ourselves capable."

Chris's enthusiasm in approaching the situation head on is met with a nod from Kara. She steers her steed with a gentle turn of the rein, walking around the stoppage and continuing them on. It was a slow-going effort enough as it was without stopping again.

"We reveal the factory location to the whole community only as a last resort," she echoes. "But getting everyone together, at least one person from each homestead to disseminate what we know… The church is a good site for that. Some people will need the comfort of the steeples to deal with this, anyway."

The horrors of the war were supposed to be gone, after all.

"I've not got a clear census on how many families," Kara is straightforward in admitting. "I'd guess in all of Providence, upward of fifty? Some homesteads have ten or fifteen people while some barely reach two or three." She's confident in the ballpark, if nothing else. While she might not have inventoried it, she and the rest of the Remnant had met everyone in the community at one point or another. "The factory itself isn't fortified against something like the robot, not right at this moment. And as for holing anyone up there…"

Kara clicks her tongue softly. "Maybe room enough for the children," she concedes.

“Sometimes grouping them together is sound strategy,” Chris counters. “Grouping them together funnels the enemy, funneling creates a bottleneck. Bottlenecking the enemy puts them into a more vulnerable position. If we bottleneck, we have the ability to fight on our terms, stack the enemies on each other or — if they're as destructive to inanimate shit like we saw back there, perhaps they'll destroy themselves from the back while we hold them off at the front.”

See, he has been thinking about it.

Leaning forward, he pats Jester’s shoulder as an apology for the abrupt turn. “Better than fucking leaving them out there to fucking fend for themselves.” That last bit is muttered as he nudges the horse into motion again. The paint stamps and shakes his head, deciding no, he's going to stand right here now.

“If not the factory, somewhere.” That's louder, and given as Chris slides out of the saddle and starts walking. Jester’ll follow eventually. “The church,” he gives a nod over to Kara’s suggestion, although the factory could stand up to an assault longer.

"It is, but it is still an unnecessary risk," Yi-Min says, the mild look in her eyes signaling that she is allowing for the idea. "I have… high doubts they would simply 'destroy themselves,' nice as this would be. The church makes sense as a possible gathering point, but again, this must be a last resort. Collecting together so many Evolved in one little place might serve to bring down every robot on our head all at once."

And it does not need to be said why that would be undesirable when they do not yet reliably possess the means to deal with one.

There is a blink of dissatisfaction from her, but this is directed at the sight of Chris slipping off of his horse to to decelerate into a walking pace— what feels like a snail's crawl, in comparison to that of other two horses. Accordingly, she adjusts Parable into something marginally slower and closer to a trot with a light tug on the reins, but only to get well clear of the obstruction that he presents.

Normally she is a little more forgiving of the desire to meander, but less so tonight. A lovely evening stroll back to the Factory is not something that seems appropriate when time for preparation is of an issue.

"It must only have a certain range to it — otherwise, it'd have not bothered with us in favor of larger cities," Kara thinks aloud. "Like New York." Her brow furrows in thought at that, and she looks back at the other two, slowing her horse up. It's not something she'll have the patience for for long. "We won't let them fend for themselves," she states, treating it as a fact. She doesn't go far as to make something so passionate as a swear, a promise to defend them. They will look out for the community.

Otherwise, what kind of guardian angels were they?

Chris can’t easily keep up with the horses, being on foot, but fuck no is he going to sit there trying to make the fool paint move. He marches along like nothing is amiss while Jester snorts and watches his rider walk off. Stupid mule.

“Civilization’s built on unnecessary risks,” he calls after Yi-Min. “Sciences too.” He’s not wrong, without unnecessary risks, a lot of things would never have been achieved.

Behind, after he’s several meters away from the stubborn paint, Jester’s finally decided to follow. Chris doesn’t look back when he hears the gently thump of hooves approaching, but shakes his head at Kara and Yi-Min. The former of the two, at least, would recognize the paint’s strong personality quirks, as annoying as they can be.

"Yes." A note of concurrence from Yi-Min to Kara, not to Chris. The idea of the robots having limited range seems evident enough, given that the Safe Zone hasn't yet dealt with a Tokyo-esque invasion. "Unfortunately they know exactly where we are, if they didn't before. If say, they have some method of luring— or controlling the robots…" This is a line of thought that she will have to think on, given the number of diverging possibilities it entails, and she falls quieter in order to do so.

To Chris, she only gives a cool, dismissive little look over one shoulder. "You should get that ride of yours under control," she says airily, and it isn't only because of the similar commitment that has been required to get onto a wavelength with her stereotypically much too-clever Arabian.

One of these days, it may end up becoming a lethal factor.

Kara is thankful that she doesn't have any problems with her current horse, not like the ones the two of them are facing. No — when it wasn't raining, she just had to worry about the stubborn beast stopping to eat every ten paces. It knew what it wanted, she would joke and shrug and deal with.

What she is now, though, is losing patience. They needed to get back, and she doesn't have the time or patience for Jester's antics, even if the grumpy child had finally changed its mind about being left behind. "We need to get back. See if Finn can catch sight of where it went before it gets dark," Though even as Kara says it, she can see the sky growing dimmer. It spurs her to want to get back to the Factory even more than before.

"Chris, you get back safe." Kara bids her abrupt farewell, flicking the reins in her hand. "I'm going to head on ahead," she calls back, as if that wasn't obvious from how she's taking off.

“Fuck you, Yi-Min. Me and Jester’ll ride circles around you until you until you’re wound up so fucking tight you make Kara seem loose by comparison.”

Speaking of Jester, four legs are faster than two and the stubborn paint has caught up to Chris’ walking pace. A well placed nose pushes the young man forward a couple of steps, so that his attention turns off Yi-Min long enough to stare at the beast. “Fuck you, fucking mule.” It’s not unkindly, and it may be even vaguely amused.

A foot slides into a stirrup and Chris swings his leg over the saddle. “You know what I say to this,” he calls up to Yi-Min. “Get your finger out’ve your ass. That’s what I say. Who the fuck do you think trained your horse. You slap his ass wrong and he’ll get stubborn on you too.” He would know, he had a hand in training most of the horses. As he settles in the saddle, he nudges Jester into an easy walk. Looks like he’s going to take however damn long he wants now to get home.

Beneath the focus of everything else she is thinking on, it is interesting that this is apparently what sets Chris off. Yi-Min tucks the tidbit away, even as the overreaction is taken in stride. What she had said had only been meant practically, and yet here they are.

Barely worth an answer though it is: "I had not taken you for a fool," she says very simply about everything especially that last comment, the stillness of her posture in the jostling cadence of the saddle conveying the slightest of metaphorical eyerolls. How did he think her time with the stallion had begun? Chris may have begun Parable's training, but it was she who had brought the process to completion, and it is not the white Arabian who had lost his rider.

She only has a few more impassive parting words for him just before she goads Parable back into the rhythmic beat of a canter, catching up on the road behind Kara's wake. "See you next week, if you are back by then." Petulant child.

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