You're Dead


hana_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title You're Dead
Synopsis Hana Gitelman continues to teach defence. In the face of repeated failure, Rue Lancaster shows determination.
Date January 29, 2011

Northern Staten Island

When people speak of the Forgotten Borough and tell stories about the desolation and rampant crime on Staten Island, they are speaking of its northern half. Everything north of the Staten Island Expressway was the worst hit by the fallout and the first region of the island to be evacuated afterward. It is a highly urbanized region of the island with tightly packed residential homes, apartment buildings and businesses juxtaposed with factories and desolate stretches of abandoned highway, rail yards and miles upon miles of abandoned buildings.

Everything east Route 440 into Jersey City, also known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway has fallen into a state of sickening revitalization under the monicker of the "Rookery", a neighborhood rife with drug dealers, rapists, murderers and criminals who had come to pick on the corpse of Staten Island after it had been evacuated, and simply never left.

West of the expressway are miles of residential buildings, factories and railyards that once connected Jersey City and Staten Island, now sitting in disrepair amidst rusting tracks and derelict train cars. This while northern end of Staten Island is still largely a no-man's-land, and only on the New Jersey side of the Bayonne Bridge that croses north into Jersey City has a police checkpoint designed to keep motorists out of Staten Island.

Northern Staten Island is more abandoned than occupied, buildings dark, windows as often broken as not, weeds encroaching upon asphalt and concrete, insidiously eroding both surfaces. Empty railroad cars sit on unused tracks, waiting with inhuman patience for someone, anyone, to come and claim them; to put them to use doing anything but rusting in isolation. Some have been pried open by the inquisitive, the adventurous, or the desperate; most have been graffitied to a fare-thee-well, their original colors visible around the edges of what might dubiously be called art.

The morning is coldly overcast, wan light leaching what color winter has left to the scene; too early for trees and unkempt shrubbery to leaf out, the gray gravel and dark iron tracks just as drab as their skeletal forms. If it snows this afternoon, as the sky forebodes, the lack of color will only seem greater. The woman who strides along the row of wooden ties fits this monochromatic view all too well — black leather jacket and black denim jeans, dark hair drawn across darker eyes by the biting breeze. She's obviously armed, as befits the lawless portion of Staten Island; and more comfortable for it, which speaks volumes about the colors of Hana's world.

As if in direct defiance of the monochrome, Rue Lancaster with her ginger curls (already an automatic strike against the colour scheme) is dressed brightly, in comparison. Pale blue denim, a looser fit than her usual skinny jeans, and a peek of a teal shirt beneath a red jacket that's light enough to keep her movements from being restricted, but heavy enough to provide protection from the cold.

Her chin lifts as she approaches her mentor, a faint smile touching her lips. "Morning, Ms" Mizz, "Gitelman." Then it turns to a toothy grin. "Ready to kick the crap outta me again?" Rue asks cheekily. Her body is a bit of a mass of bruises beneath the cover of fabric. Some are fading, green-yellow, and other are fresh, purple blossoms. In her defence (or perhaps Hana's), the fair-skinned girl bruises easily.

Despite all this, she keeps showing up every morning Hana will allow, begging for more. Even if she walks around sore for the rest of the day.

Hana watches Rue's approach from the periphery of her vision — it's impossible to miss that jacket. She only looks directly at the young woman once Rue's spoken, her head tipping slightly to one side. "If you haven't figured out how to avoid it," is her flat, dry response to the cheeky query. But even after she speaks, Hana continues to walk, gravel crunching under each forceful stride. Perhaps she just doesn't consider the railway appropriate training ground — yet the location was her idea.

Stepping off the tracks to go around a column of derelict freight cars, Hana lets silence stand almost tangibly, the third and invisible member of this expedition. Small talk never has seemed her style, and the Israeli shows no inclination to break that pattern. Past the cars, the trees come to an end, the corridor they frame opening out onto a large expanse of gravel, metal track, and clumps of abandoned cars — a disused railroad yard, and all the hazards thereof.

It's not going to be a kind terrain to practice on.

As they walk, Rue tugs off the bright knit gloves she was wearing to match her jacket and swaps them for a pair of thick, brown leather ones. She had a feeling they'd come in handy today. Hopefully she'll avoid the worst of the scrapes this way.

The silence doesn't bother her, it seems. Maybe it used to the first day or two, but even though she's a social butterfly herself, she's used to people who don't have much to say. Or at least only speak when it's worth speaking. "I think I'm getting better," Rue posits. "I may not be able to knock you down yet, but I'm not knocking myself over as much!" Which is a plus. Fingers crossed.

Hana's head dips slightly, what may be considered a nod. "We'll find out if that's true," she replies. A few more strides put distance between them and the line of tracks they'd been following; a distance mirrored on the other side to the next-closest row. Bracing her feet in a comfortable, solid position — not a stance as might be named; not an obvious sign to prepare for battle, but then again Hana eschews such signs anyway. Even — especially — in training. "You have one goal today, Lancaster," she says, regarding the girl steadily, "and it's not to knock me down.

"It's to not get hurt."

Oh, boy. Rue nods her head once as she meanders to a stop, puffing out her cheeks with a particularly heavy exhale that's somehow not a sigh. "I will do my best." As she always does. Or says she does.

Wandering over to one of the open box cars, she empties her pockets. A cell phone (turned off), a small tube of chapstick, her wallet, and a set of keys are set inside where they won't go tumbling around, get broken, or lost in a scuffle. Stretching her arms up over her head briefly until there's a quiet pop in one shoulder, she wanders back toward the nebulous practice area. "Bring it on," she invites with perhaps a bit more enthusiasm than she ought.

Definitely more enthusiasm than she 'ought' to have. Nonetheless, Hana's lips twitch faintly sideways at the invitation, the challenge it almost amounts to. "Stick to avoiding and blocking," mentor instructs student. "Counter if — and only if — you think you have a very good opening." She shifts position to squarely face Rue.

"Focus on your footwork, awareness of your surroundings." Not tripping over tracks or ties, not running into boxcars. And not getting hit. "But don't disengage."

Gravel crunches as Hana shifts her weight forward, jabbing forward with a punch towards Rue's torso, following with a second from the other side. The rules are set; the exercise begins.

"Oh right. Like you'll leave me an opening a novice like me can find," the student teases. She won't discount the possibility of Hana intentionally leaving herself open to see if she goes for it, but Rue isn't going to expect such an opportunity. "Don't get hit, don't trip on your own feet, and don't run away like a coward. Got it."

When Hana shifts forward, Rue is prepared, jumping back a step and shifting her weight to pivot on one foot and swing to one side to avoid the second jab as well. It's gotten easier with practise, though the footwork is by no means expert. So far so good. A self-satisfied smile flickers briefly over her lips, pleased that she didn't blow the exercise on the first punch.

The smile doesn't go without notice — and Hana's response is to step up her next attack, moving in to prevent the distance from opening up. She continues to press forward, aiming a kick at Rue's feet — to actually hit or just tangle up the girl's feet, either outcome is acceptable — and a palm-strike for her shoulder, distraction and potential reinforcement both.

Don't get smug.

There's more hazards on the ground than just Hana.

"Oh—" Rue recognises her mistake a moment too late. She'll grumble about how she totally asked for that later. Right now, she doesn't manage to avoid the kick entirely, but she flows with the momentum as she tumbles downward, allowing her to miss the palm strike.

It's a bit of a somersault move (there's another correlation between dance and combat in here that would leave one woman grinning and the other rolling her eyes), and it leaves her with snow and gravel in her hair. Rue scrambles to her feet, sprinting ahead to put distance between herself and Hana before she turns around again to prepare for the next move.

Hana holds back a space, allowing Rue room in which to scramble up; she's not out to get the younger woman, after all, just to push her. But she doesn't let her run. Or rather, doesn't let the student open distance between them — when Rue sprints away, Hana follows right on her heels. The noise of gravel underfoot is clear indicator of pursuit, but nonetheless, when Rue turns back, Hana is right there.

She channels the forward momentum from that sprint into a grab at Rue's arm, a snatch and twist that would temporarily tangle them together. Success would give Hana another chance to sweep the girl's feet out from under her; but she'll settle for driving her backwards towards the webwork of train tracks.

Rue pushes herself to just run a little faster when she realises Hana's in pursuit. (Of course she is.) But she can't quite prepare herself for the grab, since what she was expecting was another jab.

A strangled cry leaves her lips as she's snared, but Rue attempts to hook her leg around the back of Hana's first, hoping to upset her balance just enough to break free from the grapple before she has to worry about blindly navigating the tracks she knows she's headed into.

What did Hana say about countering? …Though one could make an argument that this is part of Rue's 'footwork'.

Either way, there isn't really a decision as such — Hana just follows through. When Rue attempts to go for her feet, Hana twists her arm the other way and shoves back on the younger woman's shoulder with a sharply expelled breath, coinciding with that moment where Rue's weight is supported by only one foot. Her own remain squarely braced, the move she would have attempted died aborning.

This is why Hana tells you not to do things, Rue. Because you can't do them. When she's shoved, Rue throws her weight toward the ground, hoping to either pull the other woman with her, or to get her arm free. It's a move that would have worked far better if she had both feet planted on the ground for leverage. An exhaled curse accompanies the effort made.

The arm is freed: Hana lets go as Rue topples over. She rocks her weight back on her heels, not exactly a step, or even a half-step, back, but a moment's pause that suggests Rue will be allowed to get back up and dust herself off without interference. One slender eyebrow arches, an expression that may be read as silent rebuke — whether it's meant so or not.

There's a crunch and a whud! when Rue's back connects with gravel and track, the air leaving her lungs. She stares up at Hana for a moment and catches her breath. "Do I get to ask how I should have handled that, or is this a hold my questions until the end of class sort of lesson?" She pushes herself up to sit slowly, only the barest of winces as she rolls her shoulders back and arches until her spine gives a soft pop! for her efforts.

That eyebrow settles back down to neutral position as Rue sits up. "Biggest mistake you made was running away," Hana supplies promptly, tone as neutral as her expression. "Run towards something you can use to advantage; don't run away unless you really mean not to stop." She shifts her feet, settles her weight, grating gravel and the whisper of frigid wind filling the silence between sentences. "If you've managed to get a lead, the worst thing you can do is surrender that initiative."

That ginger head bobs up and down once to denote her understanding. "Thank you," she offers sincerely in return for the explanation. After another deep breath, Rue pushes herself to her feet again and wastes no time in bringing on the second round. "Okay. Let's go again."

Hana looks at the younger woman for a long moment, then nods slightly, not much more than a minute dip of her chin. She steps forward, seeing the tracery of tracks in peripheral vision, considering in that moment's silence how to use them to her advantage — or rather, to Rue's disadvantage.

This time, as Hana begins her offensive, she chooses attacks to draw out Rue's repertoire of blocks — they're not here just to eat gravel the whole while, after all. But although she doesn't act to bring down the redhead, the former agent maintains a steadily aggressive pace, both testing Rue's endurance and endeavoring to drive her back.

For as much as she seems to lack in skill with her dodges and her footwork, Rue's apparently managed to learn something about blocking. If not about wearing a poker face when she acquires what will be a new bruise on her forearm for her efforts.

With the burden of advance being on Hana, Rue gives her ground slowly, but only in calculated steps that have her slowly trying to manoeuvre so the tracks are no longer at her back.

Unfortunately for Rue, Hana isn't going to let her retreat out of the railyard — and short of leaving, there isn't any direction that won't have railway behind her somewhere.

She does let Rue shift their progress to some extent, in the give-and-take of engagement; retains intent focus on the younger woman, with no flicker of eyes or expression to suggest she knows they're coming up on a row of ties. Neither does Hana change pace or tactics; she wouldn't want to make the student suspicious.

For now, she just waits to see how Rue fares with the added element.

The back of Rue's heel comes into contact with the edge of one rail, so she stops her backward retreat, focusing on holding her ground while she tries to process what she should do next. It shows in her eyes, uncertainty, but tempered with determination. They also give her away when they slant to one side to check where she intents to go next.

Trying a revision of her earlier move, Rue throws herself forward, but to one side with the intention of tumbling away from Hana and pulling to her feet again. Keep the obstacle in her periphery, Hana to her front… And at least this time she's glanced at what's at her back. Whether she can process to to count steps before she's in trouble again (aside from Hana herself) remains to be seen.

That's one response.

The time it takes Rue to tumble gives Hana opportunity to estimate trajectory, predict where the dancer is likely to come out; that she quite obviously looked first is just one more item entered into the subconscious calculation. She has time to put herself in position, adjust her stance — and make another attack at Rue's feet while the younger woman is straightening herself out again.

"Fuck!" Rue shouts as her regained footing is quickly swept out from under her again and she goes down. This time, she grabs a handful of gravel in her gloved hand and hurls it upward toward Hana's face with a frustrated growl before she scrambles to her feet again. Whether the move was motivated by anger, or a calculated attempt to buy herself time to actually anchor herself again is up for debate.

Hana closes her eyes as small stones hurtle towards her face, but she doesn't exhibit the normal reflex to raise hands and ward them away. Rather, she ducks her head slightly and presses forward, banking on hearing and the half-second-old image of Rue burned on the inside of her eyelids for direction. Closing with the rising girl, Hana grabs blindly for her clothes; attempts to bring a heel down on where Rue's foot probably is, and blinks dark eyes open again. The next move would be a strike at Rue's throat, presuming no more pressing need to block arises.

When Hana's eyes close, Rue is elated. She should have employed the tactic before. Except that she couldn't relegate Hana from mentor, and friendly (in a sense), to attacker. Not until she got mad enough at her own ineffectiveness.

Rue actually moves forward rather than try to put distance between them again, sweeping one arm to block the grab for her jacket and seeking to hook her own leg around the back of the one Hana poised to stomp on her foot.

With Rue's sole offensive action being to try and topple Hana at her ankles — again — there's nothing preventing the older woman from setting her hand to the dancer's throat. The knuckle of her index finger touches against the curve of Rue's windpipe, fingertip and thumb curving around to touch either side. Because it's an inherently risky grasp, she deflects Rue's sweep with a kick to her shin.

"You're dead," mentor informs student, without inflection.

Rue's eyes close heavily when misses the most important move in the set Hana just made. She heaves a sigh and withdraws her own limbs, but doesn't retreat until she's allowed to do so. "Were you ever… You make it look so easy. Were you born like this or something? I bet you killed someone with a rattle." The young girl looks discouraged, but mostly angry with herself. "Were you ever like me? Did you ever actually not know how to do this?"

Relinquishing her hold, allowing Rue to retreat, Hana lets her own hands drop to her sides. She also resettles her raised foot, gravel shifting with muted noise beneath it. It's the only noise Hana makes. Shuttered dark eyes and an expressionless face regard the younger woman for a long, long moment, silence stretching past awkward until it becomes a rebuke in its own right.

Her chin lifts, as slight as the nod conferred previously and opposite in direction; Hana's lips thin in a distinctly bitter fashion. For a beat, it seems she might answer — but that moment passes when the Israeli breathes out a huff, pivots noisily on the gravel, and strides some distance away.

Once upon a time, she didn't need to know.

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