2010-01-30: In the Jungle



Guest Starring:


(played by Serotonin)

Date: January 30th, 2010


Character development is not for the faint of heart, or those averse to foul language.

"In the Jungle"

Six Months Ago…

Just as Gabriel goes to open another drawer, a small bell on the other side of the room announces the presence of Lena, followed shortly by what she blurts out. Whipping around, Gabriel brings his hand up with him, picking Lena up off of the floor and slamming her into the nearby wall. Telekinesis has its purposes. Advancing forward, all thoughts of the watch abandoned for the moment, Gabriel cocks his head slightly to the side, brow furrowed. Speaking slowly, but clearly, he addresses the new person who just walked into his watchshop. "Who the hell are you?"

Simple fact: throw a girl against a wall with invisible hands, and you're going to get screamed at. Lena doesn't disappoint, although it's a strangled, squeaky sort of scream. She stares wide-eyed at the supposed burgler through the mess of her bangs, twitching in a vain struggle to free herself.

"I guess there's always been a part of me that knew I was a junkie. Sure, I can't get hooked on my own shit, or anyone else's. But since I woke up that morning doing what I could do, I've been chasing other people, looking for someone to take care of me, to make me feel safe and special. That's what we all want, right? To be safe, to be special. Turns out they don't really go together too well, you know?"

Three Weeks Ago…

"«Do not touch the pretty girl,» orders Samedi in French. The latter comment earns confused looks from his men. Not an order they're used to. The man himself backs out of the container, shielding his face with his arm. He plucks an assault rifle from the top of a crate, shoulders it and steps outside, shaking his head, blinking, shaking off the effects of Lena's drugs. He hauls the door of the container solidly down, leaving Lena and his men in darkness.

Inside, one devotee of the warlord winds through the cargo and shines a flashlight in her face, squinting, while the other tries to approach and hit her with the butt of his rifle.

When Samedi staggers away, Lena's shaggy head pops up over the edge of the crate, just in time to see the two gun-toting men approaching before the door behind them slams shut.

Darkness. Like a switch that's been flipped, she goes from angry to terrified.

Lena's scream of protest would be muffled, outside, lost behind a wall of metal. But inside the container it echoes loudly as she lifts the watergun and begins to empty it in a wide sweep towards the flashlight. Hoping, even through her panic, that it strikes the men but missing the riflebutt that descends to connect with her temple. Plastic clatters against the floor as she slumps back into the crate, landing boneless against the other girl.

As Lena slumps, the flashlight clatters to the floor. Its metallic crash is followed by a loud thud. The flashlight spins, casting its glare into the face of the man who just collapsed, felled by Lena's unlikely weapon. His comatose eyes and agape, drooling mouth the only illuminated spot in the container until his pal picks up the light.

The girl beside Lena curls up into a ball and sobs, terrified.

"I look back at what's happened since I woke up as a drug-lab, and it's like…I've just been running from one person to another, looking for a rescue. It took getting kidnapped and knocked around that last time for me to figure it out. Even the folks who really do care about me aren't always going to be able to make it better, just 'cause I want them to.

"I gotta make it better for me."

Dominican Republic, One Week Ago…

Who knows what island this is, but one thing is for certain: it's not a good place to be by yourself. A tangle of a jungle is spread out across much of it, obscuring what lies beyond. Tropical, it's hot and overbearing, the temperature sticking around a humid 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The wet season has passed, but the weather is stubborn. Rain has recently fallen regardless, and water drips from the dark, leafy flora of the Dominican jungle.

The farther one goes from any sort of encampment, the less sense the jungle makes. The only paths on the ground are those made by the animals, and only the animals and the best of trackers understand their faint, zigzagging meanings.

Dusk seems to approach far sooner than usual because of the grey rain clouds — not that much of them can be seen. Not here. Not under the trees when it's slowly getting dark.

It starts to thunder again.

Lena pushes through the dense foliage, the verdant mass of leaves and vines making it difficult for the feeling girl to achieve true speed. But she tries, even when the flora cuts the arms and legs left bare by the white dress she was given in the camp. The simple, unembellished cotton has been stained and torn, made a rag by her flight through the jungle.

But still she runs.

When the thunder rolls overhead, she stops and leans over with hands on her knees. Her chest heaves, great gulps of air sucked down. One dirty hand pushes a limp wing of hair from her eyes. She looks up, the squint she glares at the sky doing nothing to stop the storm that's threatening. "Fuck you too," Lena mutters.

Then she pushes forward again, clambering over a fallen log and pushing through a veil of fern fronds. In search of a path, or the coast, or anything that isn't jungle.

Lena doesn't find refuge — she finds gunfire.

It explodes into the jungle in a rash of hollow pops and bangs. It almost sounds like play-toys. Play guns. But the bullets speed into the jungle and crack into trees with very real force, and with very tangible danger, whiz over the head of the very out-of-place girl in the white dress.

The sky takes this moment to open up and let rain pour down.

In the pause in gunfire that follows, voices seem to blend into the thunder, but to closely-listening ears, they lie far to Lena's left. "Allez, allez! Obtenez-la!"

A smart girl would do her damndest to avoid giving away her position. Lena's a little too bedraggled to manage smart. She screams as the bullets whistle by, and leaf fragments shower down on her ducked head. It's doubtful her arms would do much to block those projectiles but they come up in a protective gesture anyway, even as she ducks around a tree and then veers right. The tangle of vines on the ground are suddenly much less a hindrance; the brunette runs like a deer away from those voices.

"Please God," she pants as she flees, "Please God, I promise…please. I promise…" To be good. To build a church. To donate only clean money to charities. Please please please.

"Of course, taking care of yourself is a bitch when you're out of practice and have like some subconscious kink about getting yourself into suicidal situations…"

The gunfire picks up as Lena runs. The hunt is on. In their haste, the men who chase her, though unseen through the thick slew of trees, no longer bother to hide the cracks and footfalls their boots make. They shout and holler in rapid, excitable French as they run. Whatever they're saying, it's probably not good or clean.

But one man is much more silent.

A figure steps out from, seemingly in the chaos, nowhere, straight into Lena's path. It's a purposeful block. Tall and solid as a wall, he immediately grabs for her, a dark, long-fingered hand moving to clamp over her screaming mouth. With his other hand, he brings his finger to his own mouth. Shhh.

Scream becomes squeal becomes silence, Lena's eyes showing white all around the blue as she startles then stares up at the man. Shhh? No! A muffled exclamation escapes around the palm pressed to her lips, and she points back in the direction she'd come from to indicate the near proximity of her pursuers. Then the squirming begins, and a jerk of her head to free it of that hand.

"Don't touch me!" she hisses, "You'll…" He'll what? It dawns on the girl that he's showing none of the signs of intoxication that he should be.

That, more than the hand, earns her silence as well as another stare. Then she looks anxiously over her shoulder, face lighting once more with the fear of a prey animal. "They're coming. They've got guns, man. We gotta run."

The man pulls Lena aside, behind a thick tree to hide, temporarily, from the pursuers. It won't be a functional hiding spot for more than a few seconds. Once he is assured that Lena does not think him a threat, or at least not one of the men who chase her, though he does look very much like the Haitian men Samedi has under his powerful sway, he lets go. Like her, looks to have been running through the jungle for some time; he's covered in grime, and slick with sweat and rain. He, too, is weaponless, save for his power. Around his neck is a necklace on a leather strap; a symbol of some kind, the helix.

"Stay with me, and you will be safe," he says in the same accent as the men who have been holding Lena prisoner. Unlike them, his voice holds no threat, only absolute seriousness. "I know the way," is all he says before nodding quickly — now! — and striking off into the jungle away from the gunfire. But not without Lena.

Lena uses the brief reprieve to swipe at her face again, to clear it of the strands of hair plastered against her brow and cheeks. She peeps around the edge of the tree before looking back up at the fellow, blinking rapidly to keep rain from her eyes. Something about his appearance causes a double-take. "Hey!" she blurts, "I've got—" But then he's on the move again.

The word safe stands out. Safe is good. The girl spares one last look for the jungle, through the silver curtain of the downpour, then pushes away from the tree to follow.

The short breather makes it easier to run, this time. Her second wind has come and soon he'd sense her at his elbow, keeping pace but breathing like a horse on the last length of a race.

Rain pounding down, the Haitian runs, putting a strong hand to Lena's back to make sure she's with him the whole time. . He's strong, obviously so what with his muscled arms, but he doesn't go faster than the young woman can keep up with. Even so; adrenaline pushes almost everyone to their limits, no matter how tired they are, does it not?

The gunfire gradually becomes more distant, and stops once their targets are out of range. That's not to say they're not pursuing even still, but the way he said he knew is true: it leads away from the men, presumably the way he got here. A small waterfall flowing into a small pool is what they come upon. "Here — rest. For a moment." His pack is shifted from his back and a canteen is held toward Lena. "You were taken. Was it the man known as Baron Samedi?" He must know— he has to, it seems. Anger flashes in his eyes.

Lena collapses to her knees the moment word is given that it's safe to do so. She bends over, arms wrapped over her belly, and wheezes at first. Air is more important than answering. When she finally does look up again, some of the panic has left her eyes. It helps, to not be alone.

"Y-yeah…big guy? Can't…can't get hurt. Got away, drugged the guard, ran," she pants, reaching up to take the canteen. A long swallow helps with some of the rawness making her throat burn. "I…I got one of those…" Her free hand scrubs at her mouth, clearing away drops of water spilled from the drink, then gestures at the pendant worn by the Haitian. "It's…what I do, it can't stop him. I tried. And…and you either, it's…"

She looks down at the mouth of the canteen and then up at Rene again, face twisted in a skeptical look as the container is extended to him. "I think I been hit in the head too much, I'm broken. You…what're you doing out here?"

Rene looks down at the symbol, and again at Lena. He doesn't have to ask; he seems to innately understand what she means. "I came here to stop him. I stopped him once; it is my responsibility to do it again," he replies with an unwavering fervor. The canteen is taken back. He drinks from it without effect from Lena's touch. "What is it that you do?"

"Drugs. I make drugs." The answer is curt, muttered beneath the groan she gives while hauling herself back to her feet. Lena looks down at the ruin that is what was probably once a very pretty dress then cuts a glance into the surrounding jungle. "He got us in New York, me and a couple other girls. It's…jesus. I couldn't get them out too, they had me alone, 'cause I…I…"

The young woman grimaces when she looks back at the tall man. "It's my fault. The Protocol had him, this government group. They had me too and when we got busted out, he was on the same truck…he knew I could do something, found me, and…" She gestures, as if to say 'and that was that'. "He can't be stopped. You don't get it, dude, it's like…I put people in comas and this guy just kind of blinked at me. How'd you stop him if he can take that?"

"I stopped you — didn't I?" The man flashes a brief, white smile; it's tense. He's weighed down by his purpose. "I can stop anyone. That is what I do." The canteen is shoved succinctly away, replaced by an energy bar that he hands to Lena; who knows the last time she was allowed to eat. "He would exploit you. Use you. Sell you. I know what he is capable of. You did good— escaping. Samedi was locked away— he should have been locked away forever." The words start to come out in hisses in a rare show of emotion. "I will stop him." …and his whole army? "The women who were with you, they will be freed. But first, you must go home. Are you strong enough to climb?"

"You…?" Lena performs the blinking exercise again before, quite against her will, she finds herself returning that grin. "Jesus, man, where've you been my whole life?"

Yes, even in a jungle, far from home, mud-spattered, rain-soaked and exhausted, she has the strength to throw a quip. Maybe there's hope for the girl yet.

The food is taken, the wrapper torn open and the bar inside eaten quickly, with frequent glances back in the direction they'd come from. She's straining to listen for sounds of pursuit, for gunshots. "I didn't know him for that long but yeah, I got that feeling…you…you want me to just go? What, leave you here? I…okay. Yeah. Yeah, I can climb. I gotta get back, Pete is…god, this is seriously fucked up. You gonna be okay taking this guy on by yourself? I mean, I could maybe help, but…"

"It's my battle to fight." Rene is firm on this point; besides which, Lena looks like she needs rest more than another moment in the jungle. "There are people at home who need you." On that knowing note, the man turns, his tall form moving away from Lena toward the rock wall beside the falls. Slick with rain and mud from the cliff above, it's choked by vines — their way up. Their way out. It is, thankfully, not a lengthy climb. He gestures her over, to help her up.

"Whatever curls your toes, I guess." It is only polite to appear reluctant to leave the scene of epic battle in order to save her own hide. And he does have a point about where she needs to be. So Lena is not slow in following the man to that tapestry of vines, eyeing it with critical attention before reaching to find a good handhold. As promised, the girl can climb, and does, fingers and toes working their way into every available niche to haul her up that rockface to the escape that seems promised beyond it.

Between deep, ragged breaths, she remarks, "You know, you oughta…look me up if you…don't die and ever get to New York. Less…bugs. Air…conditioning…McDonalds…"

"But sometimes, when you really want to change, and you really ask for help, God answers. It hits you…sometimes you gotta take that hand up, there's no other way. But you better be willing to put in just as much you got. And I am. Not that I didn't want to before but…I didn't think I was good enough, maybe. No…definitely. Now though…"

Lena is helped with that push up, and then the Haitian is following. He comes to stand overlooking the new vista.

Up here, the coast can be seen in the distance. Far away, the sky is blue, not grey as it is above them. An embankment leads steeply downward, and beyond is a small church along a narrow, rough road to a village.

Rene, stoic, unanswering of Lena's comments, speaks without moving his gaze from the church down below. "The church down there fears Samedi. But his influence is not as strong here as it is in Haiti; the people dont fear him as much. The pastor will help you. Smuggle you back into the States."

And so Lena's prayers are answered; God has reached out and set his hand on her life, in the form of one tall, angry warrior and a distant church. She rests with hands on her knees, once more waiting for her lungs to cease their gasping, and looks down on salvation.

It brings a smile to her face.

"Thank you. I hope you kick his…uh. I hope you win, man." There's a brief hesitation as the girl straightens up, then she seizes the Haitian's hand and gives it a hard, grateful squeeze. "I'm Lena. Seriously, if you do make it…"

But the offer's been made, and there's no time to dawdle. She grips his hand tightly, as grateful for the chance to do so without drugging someone as she is for the help he's given, then lets go to begin scrambling down the embankment in the direction of the road.

"I couldn't do much to help the big guy with taking down that kidnapping bastard Samedi. He was right, I've got people who need me at home and I think he meant it when he said he'd be okay.

They've been there for me, stood up for me, gave me that hand up I needed. I may not be safe, but I'm special.

It's my turn now. It's my turn to be a motherfucking hero."

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