2020-06-14 - Language Barrier


Posse comes to Mutant Town to find the Hunter. They need to talk. Of course talking to the laconic Hunter is quite the challenge. For both of them.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sun Jun 14 01:37:15 2020
Location: Mutant Town

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Theme Song



Ava paces with a smooth, well-balanced walk down a nothing-special sidewalk of East Village and her green eyes glance across the street from the shade of the slanted flat cap helping to keep the hot sun off her head. The sound of a basketball draws her attention but only for a moment. The tall, tall, tall young man with green hair and equally green skin is always out playing at this hour and the off-duty officer pays him no more mind. He's become background noise like much of the neighborhood. Over enough patrols and enough "walks" during her off hours, the steely-eyed woman has committed this little corner of the Big Apple to her memory, learning its tastes and its rhythms and its foibles. With so much to take in around her at any one instant, it was the only way to make sense of it all.

And it's also why, as she proceeds deeper into the unofficial "mutant town", that her hands rest comfortably hooked in the corners of her jacket pockets. She's wearing the same denim jacket she favored in Spring, just to make it a little easier for the eyes that peep out of barred windows and alleys as she passes. And yes, she's looking for "her" again.

Mutant Town is tense, and that tension has only grown tighter and harsher in recent days. The police are aware of several disappearances in the area, and have been rather stymied by the locals' unwillingness to talk to them or work with them. Mutant Town is full of the disenfranchised, and they refuse to depend on the boys and girls in blue. Their faith is only in others like themselves. And that means the Pride.

A known figure, Ava is noticed as she walks the streets. No one approaches her, trying to run her off. Unlike many, she has earned a measure of respect here, if not automatically trust. She has treated them with honor, and they treat her with the same. Yet still, while they watch, and some nod to acknowledge her especially if greeted in turn, none come to her, none talk to her. None offer her the answers she seeks.

When her path finally takes Ava by the food kitchen, a few of the workers there will nod to her, acknowledging as usual. One of them, a young black man who always seems as if he is semi-liquid, his features running as if melted and glorping a bit as he walks - he is known as Tarbaby for good reasons - steps out of the back of the kitchen to the alleyway there, where they load in supplies when they arrive. "Hey, 'borg lady. What're you up to, today?"

The tawny woman with the scar across her left eye offers a wordless acknowledgement back to anyone that makes the effort as she passes. Her bonds here weren't easily nor quickly cultivated and so aren't taken for granted. Ava's consciously being friendlier than her nature. Everything to carve away, little by little, that when a town hall meeting ends with a clip of mutant prejudice or the local precinct cuts its patrols further back, the cyborg is spared the axe of public opinion - not the city's cop, their cop.

Given the choice she might not be an officer at all, but that is news - she hopes - that hasn't reached far beyond a certain taciturn blonde. Speaking of which…

"Ey, Tar'by. Followin' the breeze and lookin' for Hunter," she replies to the dark-skinned mutant, unhooking one hand to offer him a wave as she dips into the shadowed alley to steal an escape from the summer sun. "We had a tic what needs drunk over. You seen her?"

Tarbaby snorts a little, but good-naturedly. "C'mon, now, 'borg lady. Don' nobody see the Hunter 'lessin' she wan' be seen, y'know?" He's smiling, not at all offended. Some people come here looking for the Hunter. Those of the Pride take no offense in this. Most will play dumb unless they know the seeker. Ava is known, and has proven a woman - a cyborg - of her word. There are no warnings issued on her amongst the Pride. So Tarbaby gives the honest answer. "I'll pass the word, tho. She'll hear."

That said, Tarbaby continues his efforts, picking up supplies from the back of a pickup and carrying them into the kitchen of the food kitchen. "You want any water, anythin'? We got it, in 'ere." Tarbaby offers, as he comes out after dropping off his latest load.

Ava smirks at the reaction she gets. The blonde's elusiveness isn't unknown to her. Waving away the offer, she walks closer and reaches across the pick-up bed to grab one of the boxes. "Sure 'nough she will. Let me help ya with that," she offers only after beginning to then adds, "Pass on I brought a drink but it doesn't like hot. Sooner's good - or bring ice."

There's really no evidence Tarbaby passes anything along at all. Of course, they weren't whispering, so others likely heard what was said and know Ava is seeking Hunter. No one seems to be going out of their way to pass the message along; they're all just unloading boxes, putting things away, and prepping food in the massve industrial kitchen space.

About ten minutes later, just as Ava and Tarbaby have finished unloading the truck, a little girl - at most ten years old - comes walking into the kitchen from the seating area beyond. She looks up at Ava with a bit of widened eyes, and walks over closer, touching her leg gently, skittishly. Then she tugs very gently on the pant leg, trying to encourage Ava to pay attention to her.

The bionic woman moves ably while unloading though not betraying anything exceptional in the process. Yes she has a metal arm and yes it can lift a /lot/ comfortably but Ava is helping not trying to show off. The time passes quickly for her with light manual labor and as she dusts off a hand of skin with one of carbon alloy, her head turns at the little girl's tug.

"Hey little one," she greets softly so as not to scare the doe-like youth.

The little girl lifts her hand, curling her finger towards herself as her hand faces Posse, clearly trying to summon the grown woman down to her level. And as Ava does lean down, the girl - whose hair seems to move around herself heedless of air currents or gravity - whispers, "Miss Hunter, she says to visit the old ruined church, Miss." Big doe eyes watch Ava, making sure her message has been heard, has been understood. And then the girl beams a smile and scampers off with child-like glee, like she has earned a yummy treat.

Ava squats down as instructed and nods back to acknowledge the message. "Thanks," she replies with a smile before standing back up to watch the child run off. The cyborg's eyes turn foggy just before the girl disappears, perhaps lost in a memory, before she snaps out of it and tugs her jacket straight. "Cute kid. Back to my walkin."

Tarbaby nods. "Y'all have a good day, lady 'borg." That said, he just keeps on working with the others. Now that everything is unloaded from the truck, he will help get things opened up and put away. Chances are Tarbaby stays well clear of attempting to cook; he'd likely drip into something.

The abandoned church is damaged, but still standing, and its steeple is the highest point still standing in all of Mutant Town. It has not been an active church in over half a decade. But the place is still something of a secret sanctuary, because the Pride uses the old, very solid building as a safehouse. It is where the Pride go when they simply must hole up.

So of course it is the place where the Hunter sometimes hides out. Usually she does so from up on the roof. But now knowing that Ava is coming, she is leaning against the stairs out front, watching the street.

Ava covers ground to the church the same way she arrived at the food kitchen, aware of her surroundings but with a measure of comfort. She still recognizes most of the faces and all of the streets.

Finding the familiar fair-skinned recluse buried in her military surplus like a ragged renegade colonel, Ava's eyes glint from far away when they first spot one another. The woman's distinctive and of course, by now, the cyborg is expected.

A lazy one-handed wave is offered before they enter speaking distance and the bionic woman pauses briefly to look both ways before crossing the street.

The homeless ragamuffin - for that is the visage she shows the world - of a woman nods when Ava waves, acknowledging her wordless greeting. And proof of her willingness to receive the cyborg, she remains where she is and allows her to approach, when Ava knows all too well - now better than ever - she would not have to be if she did not wish it.

"Sergeant Ava, RESCUE." the matted, dank, unclean homeless woman offers in her soft mush-mouthed voice as Ava crosses the street to her. But it is all she says. Hunter is not one much for words, so those words must have been very, very important to her. Parceled out precious gems, glittering in the afternoon sunshine.

Hearing a title and her company in Hunter's taciturn greeting causes the cyborg to sigh as she smiles remorsefully. "Ya got me. I'm not here all on a pleasure cruise," the bionic vet confesses as she stops a comfortable distance away and looks the blonde eye to eye. Her smile evaporates from atop a layer of dull fatigue. She clearly doesn't enjoy what's brought her before the Pride's leader this time. "Ya know why I'm here so let's just go have it out. I brought a drink to share after," Ava says as she rests one hand upon the side of her jacket where its fabric contours around a tall bottle.

Hunter sideeyes the cyborg for a bit, clearly weighing her. With those senses of hers, one has to wonder what all she can read from another. After a few long, pregnant moments she shrugs, a roll of her shoulders, and turns to walk up the steps, pushing aside the heavy wooden door and stepping into the unlit darkness of the former sanctuary. There are lamps here and there around the space, but they are unlit; Hunter does not need them, and moves over to a pew in the rear, sitting down.

The place is oddly clean for being as unused as one expects it might be. The Pride still take care of this place. Indeed, even the artworks and statuary here that were not already gone have been saved. There has been no looting.

Taking the unspoken offer Ava tucks in behind, following Hunter up the steps and into the church. She looks around once the door shuts behind her, observing its damage from the inside as well as what's still whole. The dim light filtering in doesn't seem to bother her either. "Nice place," she murmurs and her voice echoes off the stone walls.

Scooting into a pew close by, the cyborg reaches under her jacket and pulls out a tall bottle of rum then sets it one row further up before sitting down with Hunter. "So what's the story behind that freak-out?" she asks without further preamble. The former sergeant is as blunt and direct as ever.

And Diya just looks at Ava calmly, impassively. Were she anyone else, she might ask 'what freak out'? Or 'what do you really want to know'? But she asks none of that. She's just not that talkative.

It becomes a silent stand-off for a while. Finally she just tilts her head, making a clear expression of 'hunh?' without saying a word. Clearly someone here has had thoughts about what needs to be said and about what. But apparently only one of them.

Ava's brow quirks in reply. 'Really?'. Yes, she's equally surprised that one missed its mark.

"With the screamers and pepper grenades. What was all that?" she tries again. "We were /on your side/ and you picked a fight over some grenades?"

To Hunter, all of this is over, nearly a month past. SHe has moved on. There are bigger issues at stake. But she sighs as Ava decides to make clear what the issue is. "You saw." she offers. Just two words, almost dismissively, as if Ava cannot be so clueless as to not realize why she would pick a fight over such things after what she has seen.

"Yeah I saw you meta-up into some kind of cat. I didn't see the imminent threat you saw when you charged my squad," the cyborg replies to make her point clearer. It has been a while since they've seen one another but some things the sergeant doesn't let rest easy.

And just like that, hand moving with blurring speed, Diya snatches a K-Bar-like knife from somewhere inside that voluminous coat … and slaps it into Ava's hand handle-first. Then she pulls that hand up, and aims the blade at her ear as she stares with blazing intent into the other woman's eyes. "Toys? This."

Ava's eyes snap alertly wide and track the motion even at its speed while subtly shifting her body to evade if—

The anticipated dodge doesn't come when the knife is passed handle-first. The cyborg's face screws up in surprise and concern in the time it takes Hunter to puppet her hand up by the woman's own ear. It's another couple seconds before she grasps the gesture's meaning.

Then the woman's jaw clenches. "Are you *#679#in serious…" she mumbles in disbelief and /wrenches/ the knife back and away then slams it flat-down on the bench between them before standing up half a step further back. "Do I have to break this down Barney style for you? /Imminent/ threat. That means 'right now, this very moment, motive, means, and intent'! Tell me whose hand was on their safety pin, who flagged you with their muzzle? Who and what was the /clear and present danger/ and how were you about to get hit?"

"Is." Hunter answers, softly-spoken. "Was." She takes the knife, throws out the back of her coat and stuffs the blade into a scabbard back there somewhere. She points an empty-handed finger at Ava. 'You' goes unspoken. Then she makes 'air quotes with both hands. "Non-lethal." She turns, and spits over the back of the pew. Then points … right at Ava's eye, just an inch away. "See?" And then points at herself. "Madness. Not non-lethal."

Ava's hand comes up to intercept Hunter's arm, brushing it aside and catching her wrist, deflecting just far enough that the woman is pointing at air while the cyborg glares down the path it came from. "And I don't give a if they were /nuclear/. Do you do that to your Pride too? Anyone in this neighborhood walks around with something more dangerous than a wet gym sock and you go after them?"

Deflected, Diya growls and gets up, walking away from Ava, turning her back on her. Usually she can make herself understood. Most people are not so obtuse. But admittedly, most people have sense enough to get it. This woman … she wants to challenge Hunter. She doesn't mean to be a threat; if she did, Hunter would just fight her, and end it. But she wants something from Diya, and does not know how to ask for it. The homeless vet stalks across the width of the sanctuary to the far wall, well away from Ava, and still that odd subsonic rumbling is in the air. Dimmed by distance, but present.

It is one that Ava has heard before.

Ava watches the woman retreat and exhales a hot breath before sucking a fresh one slow and deep. She's due for a tactical breath. It's time to calm back down.

Standing straight beside the rear pews the cyborg cranes her head back to study the windows overhead that in this late hour offer the only light in the broad room. Its stone and plaster archways make the rumble spread even more, as if coming from the building itself.

"Go on, get it out of your system. Yell back, I don't care. I said 'have it out'; no hard feelings."

Hunter turns, looking at the other woman, her eyes blazing golden in the dim light. "Explained." she offers. She's not a big chatter, and she has already said what she had to say about this. She shakes her head. "Not non-lethal. To them."

That catches the cyborg curiously. "How's that? Your cat doesn't like loud noises?" Ava questions. The eyes are noticed, perhaps even appreciated, but thankfully don't seem to put the vet back on edge. The tactical breathing helped.

Hunter is definitely not used to someone as obtusely difficult as Ava is being. The woman is clearly used to people who speak far more than Diya has a willingness to do. The homeless woman shakes head. Points to her temple with a dirty finger. The same hand then splays over her upper chest. "Hurt? Kill." The tiger doesn't think, she feels. And if she feels pain, she kills those causing the pain.

Hunter considers Ava at a distance. She points at her own chest. "Take." Then she points at Ava "No use." Then Diya gestures widely towards Ava and around her. "Save lives."

"Flashbangs make ya kill stuff, so you were tryin' to take them from us so that wouldn't happen," the cyborg translates in a deadpan that betrays exactly how much she's enjoying Hunter's extreme austerity of speech. She pauses just in case the woman has any corrections to give then continues. "So now we're back to my question: why didn't you say that, or pantomime it, or do anything but come at us like that? You /know/ better than that… don't you?" the former sergeant implores, and here something else seeps out. Not frustration, not anger, not impatience, but wounded hope. She'd expected better from the feral sniper. For some reason, that hurt.

Hunter considers Ava for a while. She does not respond immediately. It takes time to figure out how to communicate with someone who is not finely attuned to her austerity of speech.

First, Hunter tries to explain something … very difficult. She puts up one hand, closed into a fist, in front of her chest. "Sun." Then she holds up another hand in a fist. "Earth." She rotates the Earth fist around the Sun fist seven times. Seven years.

Then Hunter points at her feet, then waves outward, around her, all around her in a wide, sweeping gesture. Seven years, here on the streets of Mutant Town.

The homeless woman snaps a smart salute … and then tosses that hand down and away, as if throwing away filthy trash on the ground. Seven years here, having thrown away her military career and life. She reaches up her hand, tugging at the collar to her Army surplus jacket. Threadbare. Worn. Unclean. Not at all what a strac soldier would wear.

Diya lifts her other hand, forming a 'beak' of thumb against forefingers, and moving it beside her mouth. Then she just shakes her head. She doesn't use words. She doesn't talk. That's not how she does things. She lifts her hand, pointing at Ava. Then pointing at phantom others, one at a time. Then her hand snaps around, pointing at her eyes, and then sweeping around at that imaginary crowd. "Do. No say." And everyone follows her example.

That is how the Hunter has survived, and become what she is, in over half a decade.

The sheer time it takes Diya to answers seems to help her cyborg conversation partner, or perhaps it's just the concentration needed to translate her gestures and half-speech. There's a twitch of the eye at the woman's salute and how brusquely it's discarded but her message seems to be received - even if it doesn't completely answer what Ava wants to know. Still, it's progress.

"Well thank you for your service," the green-eyed woman replies from across the church in a voice that echoes off the walls and arches. Her heels slide closer together, unconsciously standing a little straighter. "It clearly *$!@ed you up."

The homeless woman offers just a sharp nod. Yes. Yes it did mess her up. And she knows it. Knows it, and lives with it every day. Though she imagines if this woman truly understood she might be a mite less thankful for her service.

"Some VA benefits, huh?" Ava quips with a sardonic smile at first then her expression slips and her brow furrows. "Geez I've been out almost as long as you…" she realizes, shaking her head. To preempt the wordless question, the cyborg lifts her left arm, showing the prosthetic hand poking out of her sleeve. "Took a ride in a lawn dart. I got better."

Hunter shakes her head. VA benefits? Even if there were such a thing for Russian soldiers, she would get nothing from them; to their authority she is AWOL. If they even acknowledge she is alive, that she is 'human' for some meaning of it, they would simply consider her a deserter and a traitor.

The Hunter considers Posse carefully, glowing golden eyes taking in the cybernetic limbs she has seen at much closer range before. Then she gestures at herself, at her eyes - she knows they are reflecting light now. "Cat. Shred." She shrugs. "Lived." Such an antiseptic description for the Hell of the tiger's attack, all those years ago.

Ava's breathing stops for a moment as a cold sinking feeling settles into the pit of her stomach. It's a big piece of the puzzle and as something bad enough to warrant a discharge…

"What'd you shred?" she asks and in the light falling through the glass mosaic her scarred left eye glimmers back a sibling green.

Hunter tilts her head, considering Ava curiously. Then she shorts and shakes her head. "Cat. Shred. Me." And she lived. Whether Ava can understand that the only way she could survive something like that would be if she had herself contracted the curse that created said cat? Diya cannot say. But she doesn't say much anyway, so who knows?

"Oh shit, like a werewolf?" Yet more questions from the cyborg but at least she seems to be following along now.

Diya nods, once, very sharply. "Very." Now they're having Diya's kind of conversation. Single words carrying whole paragraphs of information. Yay!

"That must've sucked," Ava cracks bluntly. "Then they slapped you with Chapter 61?"

The homeless vet shakes her head, sharply. "Wanted." She turns and spits over her shoulder. "Tests. Study. Slave." She makes that moving symbol again: the smart salute, and throwing it away like trash beside her. "Team. Silent."

A long, pregnant pause. "Ran."

Can an obviously proud veteran understand why she would do that? Different militaries, yes. But the same traditions. And before she did it, Diya certainly never could have imagined that being the 'right' thing to do. Could not have imagined accepting another who had done so.

Ava's eyes swell and the bionic vet visibly bristles at what she's hearing. Her jaw sets, nostrils flare, and an ultrasonic whine betrays cybernetics tensing up. Both eyes natural and prosthetic flash in anger. "The hell they were! What kind of dog-shit unit were you serving in?"

And there is true, deep, unrelenting abiding sadness in the other vet's shining eyes as she lowers them, sighing. "Loyal. To state." She was so proud to be a member of the Spetznaz. She had honed herself for years to be and become the best of the best. To serve and protect the people of her nation. To be the best warrior and defender she could be. Those in her unit were her family. Her brethren.

Diya just never realized that their first loyalty, for all of them, would be to the state over each other. Until it was too late.

"Oh… that is just way too fucked up…" Ava begins but doesn't end as she walks hesitantly closer, wanting to help somehow. Any pretense of sternness or conflict with her fellow vet is washed out of the church. The idea is too unfathomable for her. Yes, maybe, that might happen somewhere else in the army but not in /her/ unit. Never in hers…

"'Never leave a fallen comrade' and 'member of a /team/' - it's right in the fucking creeds!" she recites heatedly. "Which platoon were you in? Seven years back I can sure as there are Marines in hell find their posts and get their asses lit so brightly you'll see it from the steeples."

The Hunter is torn between a desire to get away, and a desire to make a connection. In the end her paranoia emerges victorius, as she backs away along the wall rather than let Ava get too much closer. She just shakes her head. She was very close to repeating her creed and platoon codes, in Russian. Instead, Diya shakes her head. No. "Over. Gone." She murmurs quietly, eyes downcast. There is an aching shame in that tone.

"Trust me I can do SLRs too," Ava assures, but seeing the woman's reticence she stops and gives Diya her space. "Armed forces don't need toxic shit like that…" she mutters hotly before letting her temper go before the wounded vet in front of her. A deep breath and a tense sigh signal another tactical breath. The white-haired amputee cringes sympathetically then bids in a gentler voice, "Hey… we're way too deep into this to be stone cold sober. Let's get back to that pew and start drinkin," she offers while extending her flesh and blood hand for the blonde to take.

Diya cannot really be affected by alcohol. She usually does not bother. But she remembers what it was like to share such things with her comrades. She walks quietly back to the pews with Ava, sitting down. Before the bottle is opened, though, she reaches out to touch the cybernetic arm. "Understand, now?"

Ava scoots back into the her seat and retrieves her bottle. It's a nicer brand of rum and, if the woman has any concerns about opening it in a house of worship… well Diya chose the local.

Her attention diverts down when the blonde touches her sleeve. There's fabric at first, then the feeling of solid metal underneath. "Yes, better," she admits with a kind smile. That much more than their burger chat was bonding for the white-haired woman. No more stern sergeant, at least for now. "You're fucked in the head, sister, but I'm pretty fucked up too," she assures with a little chuckle as she reaches into her jacket and pulls out a short stack of paper cups. Only the finest for the occasion it seems.

Both are offered to Diya to free up her hands before Ava works the bottle open and the sharp but fruity smell of a sweet, mellow rum wafts into the air between them. "I wanted to do the full twenty years and then some, go lifer." And the first pour goes to the blonde.

Diya does take both cups and hold them. She does not get any closer than reach, but she stays there, holding steady, as Ava fills both cups. She nods when Ava says she's messed up in the head; she is, and she knows it. She also nods when Ava mentions wanting to be a lifer. "Thirty." she murmurs in that mush-mouthed accent of hers. Careful, now. Don't give it all away.

Once Ava is done pouring, Diya hands over a cup, and then taps their paper cups together. "Life." And then she sips.

"Thirty?! Hell and I thought I had young genes," the white-haired vet cracks mirthfully as she accepts her cup. Light-hearted banter. That's a new one from her. Something about their conversation really has opened the stoic cyborg up. Maybe it's the feeling of drinking with kin.

"To life," Ava echoes as taps cups and then taps down against the pew before taking her drink.

Diya has to bite down on the instinct to answer, 'Na Zdorovie.' It's not easy, but she does it, as she always has. That is how she has survived so long, the illegal alien on the streets of New York. "Absent comrades." she answers instead. Then she takes another drink.

"Too damn many," Ava affirms solemnly after letting the sweet and spiced burn of the rum flow across her tongue and down her throat. True to its scent it's a fruity variety with a complex but not overpowering sweetness and what, for a liquor, is a mild kick.

The Hunter offers a short, sharp nod in answer to that. Indeed, far too many. But she finds no need to give words to any of that; her gesture is enough.

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