2008-02-10: A Happy Ending

Starring:

Ndugu_icon.gif Charlotte_icon.gif DaphneM_icon.gif

Summary: The happy result of Pineheart's reclaiming of the tribe children.

Date It Happened: February 10th, 2008

A Happy Ending


Deep in the Congo some more…

PREVIOUSLY ON HEROESMUSH:

And inside the heavier, sturdier, more secure building — bingo. Through the viewpoint of a small, rectangular window covered by netting, is a dark room where children — as young as five, as old as sixteen — are lined up on cots. They're starting to stir, some leaping up faster than others after the gunfire. For half of them, their trained reaction is to grab weapons of their own, some of them straight from underneath their makeshift pillows.

All over the encampment, rebels are waking up and firing at everything they can see that isn't one of their own soldiers. Some climb on the take cover behind the vehicles scattered about, some behind shanties, in doorways. Their aim may not be precise, some of them are sluggish, but they are quickly fuelled on by anger, shouting. It wakes them up fast. The man on the roof of the center building is certainly very awake, staggering near the edge to immediately take aim at the first thing he sees, which happens to be an out-of-place swathe of wild platinum blonde. His first slew of bullets goes too far to the left. The second might not.

Daphne is testing at the netting separating her from the kids when the noise of gunshots gets rather close indeed. A splatter into the dirt to her side and then the familiar whizz of something speeding—only, since that's a bullet flying past her ear, Daphne takes the cue and ditches her spot by the window. It's likely she can beat this guy, but she'd rather not have him firing off rounds every time she ducks into the building, so the speedster doubles back in her loop, picking up a few rocks along the way. She's no ace shot, but enough of them tossed at him at high enough speeds and, hey, maybe she'll get lucky. Either way, her next move is into the window, shredding netting as she goes until she's by some kid's bed. Some armed kid. Seriously, they start firing on her, too, and she's getting a raise.

The man on the roof is spotted and, given that he's preventing the children from being saved in short order, Ndugu turns his attention to him. He stops his approach, moving behind a barrel set towards the middle of the compound to check the rifle in his hands. Satisfied, he levels it against his shoulder and squeezes off several rounds towards the rebel on the roof who happens to be firing at Daphne.

AND NOW, THE THRILLING CONCLUSION:

Overall, the children are too flabbergasted by the appearance of Daphne to use their weapons against her — although some point guns in her direction and start yelling in an unintelligible language. A boy of about ten with a splotchy shaved head and a bright smile starts to jump up and down, however. "Charlotta, Charlotta?" he shouts excitedly, associating Daphne's pale skin with Charlotte, assuming her to be a friend of the mysterious teleporter.

The rebel on the roof is struck in a meaty part of his pecs near his shoulder and he swings his rifle, a spray of bullets firing into the jungle and then at Ndugu and his band. He clutches at his own bullet wound a moment later, though, and staggers backward over his lawn chair.

Charlotte cannot hear the children calling her name. There's too much going on. Instead, the woman remains crouched by the edge of the shanty building, peering around the corner for a sign of Daphne's return or the children. A rogue bullet ricochettes by her off the building, and the woman almost falls back, blinking. Ooookay.

Daphne raises her hands cautiously at the sight of moving weapons but the eager shouting almost makes her smile — almost — and she gives a nod, "That's right. Charlotte." She presses a hand to her chest, "Daphne," and then points to the enthusiastic kid, "And you?"

Outside, Ndugu hisses through his teeth as one of the errant bullets grazes his arm and leaves a bloody tear in the fabric of his shirt. He remains undeterred, however, keeping his weapon trained on the roof-rebel until he's certain he won't be firing again. That done, he begins to move towards the brick building once again. Way out in the open.

"Jonah!" the boy says. He's a bright one, seeming to catch on to Daphne's purpose fast. "You— " He waves an arm at the woman, then back at the other kids. "Help?" he questions. "Help?" Nod, nod, nod. "This way!" he says in his rough but enthusiastic English, running to the door that leads to an adjacent room where shuffling and more childish tittering can be heard. It's locked from the outside, but an older boy solves that by firing at it until the handle breaks off and he can reach inside, jimmying it open from the other side.

Gunfire sails past Ndugu, but the black-clad security team is doing a good job at covering him; some of their men approach more open areas in an effort to cover ground, and two skirt the brick building to flank the doors so Ndugu has a safer chance at getting inside. One of the team kneels, suddenly, beside Charlotte — it's the leader. "Get outta the open, kid," he says, hauling on her arm.

Charlotte turns her head quickly to see the man in black tugging at her arm. She raises to follow. "Have you found them yet?" She asks, eyes dancing wild with concern. She hates feeling useless, but unfortunatly armed conflict isn't her forte. She's more of a search-and-seizure kind of girl, herself. Still, the question stands, it is even restated. "Have you found the children yet?"

"Help, yeah… help," Daphne repeats, a little dryly, because there seems little else to say in the face of the kid's sudden call to action. She follows to the door, wincing a bit at the shoot-it-first tactics but otherwise approving of getting in to the other room. "Jonah," she says, trying to find the same kid again, "Can you… get everyone," a gesture to the room of others and the room just opened, "in here?" She points to the floor, "Then Charlotte'll come."

Ndugu moves immediately to the door once he's clear to do so, checking the handle for a moment before he shoots at the lock - that shoot-it-first mentality may be common in the village. The lock broken, he kicks the door heavily and steps inside with the rifle raised and a stern look on his face.

The leader shoots off a few inquiries into his walkie-talkie. "Targets acquired? Confirm."

Meanwhile, his colleagues fend off two rebels who seek to follow Ndugu, whose journey will lead him straight to Daphne and the child soldiers.

Jonah shouts into the other room. What starts out as a friendly call to the other children becomes a sharp barking of orders — a testament to his time spent here. The baker's dozen doubling as some girls, moving sluggishly, along with some younger boys as they all trail in. Some of them are alert enough to notice Ndugu and rush toward him.

Charlotte grabs the leader's arm. "Where are they?" She asks, not about let the man go as she waits to hear where they are. She doesn't ask all the questions she might like to, such as how many are alive, how many are intact, how many aren't high. She keeps it as simple as possible.

Daphne likes the sound of that barking and the sight of a man with a gun on their side enough to figure everyone'll be okay for the micro-second she has to split. So, with the heavy door now unlocked, she speeds her way back to where she left Charlotte. The teleporter has hence moved, but it only takes a second and another quick Daphne-streak to get the two girls together again. "Congratulations, you're the proud owner of… like, a bunch of kids," she informs Charlotte before grabbing the girl's arm to take her back to the brick building room. Hi, leader - bye, leader!

As the children move towards him, Ndugu reacts with what can only be described as the air of a military commander. He points at the eldest and most capable of the kidnapped children, signalling him to round up the other children. He then lifts a finger up in front of his mouth, signing for them to be quiet. He then turns around to move back towards the entrance - he has business with whoever is responsible for this.

The squad leader, left in the dust (literally), remains frozen in a brief moment of vulnerability as he stares at the spot the two girls just were, holding his walkie in front of his mouth. A Congolese rebel takes that opportunity to clock him on the back of the head with the butt of a machete. Fighting ensues!

The children do as they're told by Ndugu and the eldest boy, for the most part. Some of the younger ones take some coercing, but, wide-eyed, they eventually quiet, peering up at their saviours.

As for the man responsible… one of the rigged-up trucks outside has revved its engine. A few men crouch in the bed of the truck, rifles pointed out the back, another out the passenger side as it attempts to rumble into the jungle.

Charlotte yelps as she's yanked along with the blonde, stumbling as they come to a stop inside the shanty where the children can be found. But by then, many of hte youngest children are already running towards her. "Charlotta!" Screams and shouts of happiness can be heard echoing through the room. Charlotte bends, wrapping her arms around the children. "Shhh! Tranquilite!" She says, using what little French she's learned from these people. "Come here, everyone!" She turns her eyes back to Daphne, shaking her head. "I can't carry them all at once."

Probably Daphne should have recognized French. Probably. But it's not like she's spent a lot of time in any country standing still. But that's an issue for another day. Now, the speedster returns Charlotte's look with a little lip-bite of her own, "Okay. How many can you take? I can do a couple… maybe more if they're smaller, but nothing mighty."

The jeep is leaving? Not if Ndugu can help it. He's confident that the women can rescue the children, and he's also determined that something like this never happens again. He gestures for the rest of his team from the village to fire on the truck, lifting his own rifle to spray in the direction of the cabin and the driver within. He's not aiming for the leader just yet - he's got something else in mind for him.

The vehicle keeps rumbling on, but one man falls off onto the narrow dirt path and the other lurches back, bloody and out of sight. The hail of gunfire overtakes the truck, in the end — the driver slumps over and his dead weight steers it off-road into a tree. The passenger — the monster responsible for this operation — is now solitary. A man matching Ndugu in height, strength and years, though he has not aged half as well, he is not about to give up. But he's cornered, and he takes cover, rummaging under the truck seat as he does.

Charlotte thinks. "Eight or nine, maybe. Here, leave me the bigger ones. Jonas! Step back, hunny, I'll be coming back for you." As she tells some of the older children, too young too fight but older still, to grasp hands with each other, Charlotte's concerned gaze turns to Daphne as the two talk quickly to get this over with ASAP. "Do you know the way back to the village?"

"Point me in the right direction and tell me what I'm looking for," Daphne gives for an answer, in turn gesturing for some of the smaller kids to stand near her. "Let's say I pick a kid up and you tell 'em to hang on without choking me? I could hold two other hands. But nothing more than that, I just can't do it."

Ndugu moves towards the truck as it crashes into the tree, breaking into a sprint as he hears the engine struggling to start again. He rushes towards the driver's side of the cabin, attempting to pull the door open and drag the man out with little regard for his life. He points the rifle at him with one hand, his frame big enough to support it in such a fashion.

Done and done. The driver is hauled out, only half-conscious at this point in the game anyway. It's the leader that's looking to cause some trouble, working at loading more ammunition. «You'll never get all the children away before we catch up with you! You think you are heroic — but you spit on your country!»

Charlotte cocks her head to the side as she looks at Daphne, bending and picking up a very small child and setting him on Daphne's back. The little fellow clings like a chimp around her shoulders, wraping his legs around her middle - or as much aroudn as his little legs cna reach. "They're African children, clinging to an adult is basic survival for them. Just step outside and take a left, it's only about 20 miles." Once Daphne is properly saddled, she grabs a few more kids. "Everybody ready? Un…due….!"

This is… this is weird. Daphne shifts a little under the weirdness of the kid on her back before she makes an impatient gesture for two more to take her open hands. "Yeah, okay, whatever," she says for their survival nature, though she's secretly glad. The last thing she wanted to think about was accidentally ditching a small child mid-run. Good thing 20 miles might as well be no miles in speedster measurements. Even before Charlotte's gotten to counting, the blonde tightens her grip on her travelers' hands and then zooms outside and immediately to the left. Next stop: that other village out there.

Ndugu pays no mind to what the leader says to him. In fact, he says nothing. He simply climbs up into the truck and moves across the empty driver's seat towards him, rifle still pointed as he reaches out to try and place a hand on the man's forehead. His face is nigh-expressionless, eyes beginning to cloud over as his hand nears contact with the other man.

The rifle is loaded and ready to go, but the other weapon aimed at the rebel leader causes him to hesitate. A few shots ring out, shattering the truck's already cracked windshield, as the man, grimacing cruelly at Ndugu, is touched by him. Wild eyes flash, enraged, and he tries to nail the villager with the end of his rifle.

… Instead, he starts to scream. Raw, horrified screams of pure agony and terror that start to sound inhuman the more he yells. The rebel thrashes about in the cab of the truck, kicking out, the rifle clattering over the gearshift. His head falls back, eyes remaining glued open, twitching, twitching.

He doesn't move anymore.

And Charlotte is gone. The children begin to yell, some too young to realize that they haven't been left behind. But Charlotte won't be gone long, she comes back just in time to hear the screaming. Of course, she pokes her head outside, eyes finding the source just in time to watch Ndugu's work take it's full and permanent effect. The children are seperating themselves into a second group, understanding now what's happening.

Daphne ran into a little bit of trouble getting the back-hugger off her back, but she's okay now and there pretty much isn't a second where she isn't a blur — running fairly nonstop from one village to the other with whichever kids are most readily available when she's at the brick building. With both of the girls' efforts, it really shouldn't be much longer at all.

Ndugu climbs out of the passenger side of the truck, letting the leader in his catatonic state fall roughly to the dirt road before he steps over him and makes his way back towards the rebel encampment. The rest of the team from the village moving amidst the fallen rebels and checking for familiar faces and the like. Ndugu himself has done what he came here to do, moving towards Charlotte. He finally speaks.

"You have kept your end of the deal."

Charlotte looks up at Ndugu. Her eyes flit down to his graze wound, then back up to the man. She shakes her head. "Not yet." She responds, stepping back and taking the hands of the children around her. More or less the rest, after what Daphne's going to take. "I'll be right back for you." She promises, fizzling away again to take the rest of the children home.

Whoosh-whoosh. That was Daphne. And the last of the children. She ends up hanging out where Charlotte usually teleports in, with her arms crossed, to see if she can't go home now.

Charlotte nods to Daphne. "Just give me one minute. I need to go and get Ndugu." She explains, dissapearing agian. She appears near Ndugu, touching him and bringing him back to the village. Already, the fires are burning, mothers and screaming and crying and dancing with their children, happier than ever. Charlotte, Ndugu and Daphne are all swarmed with hands and people, petting them, shouting 'Merci!' 'Thank you!'

Despite everything that has happened, Ndugu does not appear to be all that happy - or if he is, the stoic expression on his face fails to show it. He turns to look at Charlotte, voice low, "I am ready to leave now."

This is weird, too. Daphne doesn't want to be here. She kind of takes the hands and smiles in stride, but it's obvious that this isn't her type of environment; it's even a little claustrophobic after a while. Screw this— "Whoo, happy ending. Your deal now, Char." Zoom-zoom! Villagers are left patting at the open air where Daphne once was.

Charlotte was going to take Daphne back! But if she wants to walk…. Charlotte nods. "Bye Da-" Well that was pointless. She didn't even get out a 'nice to meet you!' Her attention turns to Ndugu and she nods, offering her hand, palm up. "I can always bring you back whenever you want, Mr. Ndugu." She says, trying to help relax the man.

"No. We will go now."

Sure, Ndugu might be the one being ferried around but he can be quite demanding when he wants to. He spares little in the way of acknowledgment for the rest of the villagers. He reaches up and puts a hand on Charlotte's shoulder expectantly.

Charlotte lowers her own hand, since he touched her shoulder instead. "Adieu!" She calls, looking up at Ndugu. "I hope you don't mind the cold, Mr. Ndugu. New York is silly with it." And the two begin to dissapear… fading from one continent and arriving in another.

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