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Needles and Pins; Semi-Private
Topic Started: Aug 18 2016, 10:21 PM (1,711 Views)
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Who is this sassy lost child
[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
""Good grief, this place is a total hellhole."

((Raina Rose continued from World's End Girlfriend))

The above-ground levels of the asylum were thankfully dry, but hardly in any better condition than the basement. Also, they were in an asylum. Joy of joys, with an extra little sprinkling of irony on top.

Even so, Raina, Johnny, and Alice hadn't encountered anything actually threatening yet despite the building's forbidding atmosphere. Raina thought she caught the sound of voices once or twice, but she didn't bring them up or go to investigate and neither did Johnny or Alice. Staying inside and away from others seemed like a good first step towards securing a safe hideout where they could plan their next moves. Raina had never been one for the outdoors, anyway.

Though they hadn't run into any people so far, there were definitely signs that someone had been here before them. On the second floor, there were a few doors standing open; one of them looked into a room that had been trashed, furniture overturned and broken. Raina caught sight of was looked like blood spatter among the mess and decided to quickly move on.

Good to know that somebody had already lost their shit. Less sarcastically, good for the three of them to be on their guard.

Raina was so on guard, in fact, that she nearly clocked Beaks when she rounded the corner and suddenly came face to face with him. Instead, she caught herself and wheeled back a step, instinctively bringing her hands up. "Holy- watch where you're going!"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Raina took a step back and pressed one of her raised hands over her heart, as if to still it. "Jesus, Beaks, you scared me."

Johnny's reaction was right the opposite, pulling Beaks into a rough hug. Raina gave Scarlett a friendly nod rather than following suit. Personal space, and all that. She'd let Johnny and Beaks do their dude-hug thing and then get back to business.

"We were just coming up looking for a place to chill for a while, actually," she said. Too casual? Possibly too casual, given the circumstances. Ah well, it fit the mood that Beaks seemed to bring with him wherever he showed his pointy little face. He and Johnny were practically half a petting zoo all on their own.

"The stairs are back that way, and there's a front entrance on the ground floor. Dunno if I'd really want to head out there, but I guess this place is enough of a wreck that outside seems kind of nice." Nice and exposed, if nothing else. Raina reached up to rub at the back of her neck, absently. The strap of the bag was starting to rub irritatingly against her skin.

"Stay out of the basement, though. It's full of water and completely nasty." Actually, if Scarlett and Beaks had been wandering around here for who knew how long looking for the way down, they might know what had happened to make such a mess, or where other students were. Time to mine this potential well of info. Not that one mined wells, but... you get the point.

"Did you guys wake up here, then? Have you seen anybody else? You know who trashed that room back there?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Raina raised her eyebrows in confusion at Aiden's spiel about leaving. "Yeah, we saw the way out, but we want to sit and plan for a bit before heading anywhere else. Just running around here blind without any idea of what you're doing isn't a great idea, Beaks."

Beaks seemed off, somehow. Nervous, like he was really trying to convince them of something without having actually made an argument. For a fleeting moment, Raina's mind flew back to the trashed room again and wondered if maybe he didn't know more about that than he was letting on. But no, that was ridiculous. Beaks and Scarlett were both tiny and neither one looked like they'd been in a fight. So what was going on here?

"We do have an idea of what's going on here," she said slowly, trying to gauge Aiden's reaction. "We were all there, remember? There's not too many different ways to interpret this." Even bringing up the memory of the sick orientation they'd gone through made a knot form in Raina's stomach. Surely Beaks couldn't be in denial about their situation, not after what every one of them had seen and heard.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Well, this had all gone downhill faster than expected.

Raina bit her lip while she watched Beaks freak out, torn between backing away and stepping forward to... comfort him? Shake him and tell him to get a grip? She didn't know how he'd react to either of those things, if he'd lash out, and cold realization settled in her stomach that she might never be able to really anticipate how someone would react and whether it would be dangerous to her again.

As soon as that intrusive thought surfaced, Raina shoved it down again. Of course she would. Not now, not in this situation, but she wouldn't be here forever. She wouldn't let herself, her story, end in this place.

With that thought as her armor and her weapon, she stepped forward and crouched by Beaks, resting her elbows on her knees. It put her lower than him, nonthreatening. It also put her at the perfect level to punch him in the crotch if he freaked out on her harder.

"Beaks, listen," she started, trying to keep her voice gentle. He uncovered his ears and met her eyes for just a moment before dropping his gaze to the floor again. "We're not messing with you, you know we're not assholes like that. This is... super fucked up, I know. But we're all in the same boat here, yeah? We can figure something out, but we have to be smart about it, and that means acknowledging what's going on here."

Raina took a deep breath. "It's Survival of the Fittest. You know that. You're not dumb or delusional." And maybe some of Aiden's grades could contest that, and maybe the second part could be qualified with a "yet", and oh god she'd said it and made it real. But she had to. She had to.

You can't fix anything if you try to live in a fantasy world where nothing is wrong. Hadn't she been saying as much to her classmates on this issue or that for years?
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Raina had to stop herself from biting her lip again. Honestly, what had she expected? They'd kick down the walls of Aiden's little fantasy land and he'd just accept it? Of course not, people never did. In here or out in the real world, people couldn't change that much.

Poor Beaks. He was completely crushed by this whole thing, practically given up already. No wonder he didn't want to hear what they were saying. Raina had just started to formulate her response when sudden movement behind her made her whirl to see what was happening, heart suddenly leaping into her throat. She managed to just catch a glimpse of Alice bolting down the stairs and out of view.

"Damn it all..." Raina muttered. First beaks had a breakdown and now Alice had jumped ship, probably because of said breakdown and her role in it. Sometimes you just had to fight your way through the awkwardness, girl. Raina would be sure to tell Alice that if - when - they bumped into her again.

She stayed awkwardly crouched there for a moment, trying to figure out what to do. Scarlett and Johnny were offering no help, and Beaks was a wreck, so like usual it fell to her to be the voice of reason.

"Aiden," she began, using his real name instead of his nickname for once. "Aiden, look. You're not dead yet. Nobody is. We're not going to die here." And saying it out loud sounded so small and laughable in this dark and terrible place, but she meant it. Goddamn it, she meant it more than she'd ever meant anything in her life. "We'll think of something." Her words, her rock in the storm. Arthur C. Clarke's words, actually, but they were hers now. Screw intellectual properly law, this was an emergency.

Raina touched Aiden's wrist lightly, trying to be reassuring. "Okay? We'll think of something."

The bell rang out and reverberated through them, as if to punctuate her statement.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Who is this sassy lost child
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If Raina had cared enough, she'd have reminded Johnny that the superhero genre wasn't the subset of science fiction that she was into. She didn't care right now, though. They'd just been deserted by every halfway friendly face they'd encountered so far, and she was somewhere between worried and seething.

Alice, okay, sure. Raina had more or less expected her to run off sooner rather than later, or at least insist on staying wherever it was they holed up while she and Johnny got to work on whatever they were going to work on, when they had a plan.

Beaks was teetering on the edge, that much was obvious, but Raina had thought - hoped - that they would be able to bring him around. He could be annoying, and he wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, but even then she hadn't thought that he was just go charging off into the unknown after Scarlett.

Speaking of which: what the hell was up with Scarlett? Running around like the proverbial headless chicken, like Johnny had said, because a bell rang? All the bell meant was that a church or a chapel or something was standing somewhere nearby, and somebody there knew how to pull a rope. Maybe the stress had been getting to her just like Beaks and she'd just been keeping a lid on it better until the bell. Raina didn't know.

She hardly knew anything now, and she detested not knowing.

She let out a heavy sigh, crossing her arms as she looked down the hall where Aiden and Scarlett disappeared. "No," she said finally. "We shouldn't be running all over the place. I'd say we should stay away from the bell, actually. People will be going to check it out and see what's going on, and too much of a crowd will get out of control quickly." Raina had been in enough group arguments to be familiar with that peculiar quality of human intelligence where it was exponentially diminished the more people there were involved. If there was some kind of mob descending on the bell tower, she wanted no part of that.

After another moment of consideration, she turned to face Johnny. "Is there anyone in particular you want to see? Because if not, we should just focus on the people we come across on a case-by-case basis. That's easier." Less baggage. Fewer distractions.

Raina glanced back over her shoulder down the hall again. "I know Beaks is your friend and all... we can follow for now and tell the two of them to stop acting like idiots when we catch up with them, but if they can't get it together, we need to move on."

And that was cold. Maybe it was heartless. But this wasn't the kind of place where you could get bogged down on the details, not unless those details were going to solve the problem they all shared of the collars and the cameras and the fact that nobody knew where they were or what had happened to them. This wasn't the kind of place where Raina could insist on nobody being left behind, especially if the people she was trying to help out decided to go running off at the slightest unexpected happening. Everyone was entitled to help if they needed it, yes, but you couldn't help someone unwilling to help themselves.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Let them go.

That was the answer Raina had been expecting, more or less. You never knew when Johnny would get a wild hair and some kind of idea about what all he was obligated to do beyond the status quo maximum of "as little as possible", but he'd stuck to her expectations this time.

His bringing up Darren jarred her, though. She hadn't thought about her family until Johnny mentioned his. She didn't want to think about her family. Hell, they probably hadn't even noticed she was gone. Her parents were buried in their work, Cameron was knee-deep in final exams at Yale, and Leila was thirteen, enough said. Johnny's parents probably hadn't noticed either. She hadn't missed the way he'd forgone them for Darren. That was status quo too.

Johnny's whole spiel after that might have been the tiniest bit cliched, but it got the point across. He was putting his trust in her. The responsibility of getting them back to their families was on Raina's shoulders now.

Well. She'd think of something.

Raina lifted her chin and met Johnny's gaze steadily. "Alright." Hardly a grand declaration, but it did the job.

"No chasing, then. We might as well hole up here anyway, these rooms are probably as comfy as it gets. If anyone comes along and is friendly and helpful, they can hang. If not, they can buzz off." If they were violent... Raina wasn't sure what they would do. Johnny could posture all he wanted but, as far as either of them could tell so far they were unarmed, and a skinny trailer park rat and out-of-shape nerd were hardly intimidating without anything to back it up.

All the better reason to come up with a plan as soon as possible.

And all of that aside, she wanted to sit down and get this bulky bag off her shoulder. Her hair and clothes were still damp from the tub she'd woken up in. She had no relief from the clothes; she hadn't packed any extra for the day trip, and taking them off to let them dry was right out since the idea of changing in front of Johnny was almost more intolerable than the millions of anonymous eyes that would be watching her from behind the cameras. She could let her hair down and comb it out some, though. More than anything, Raina just wanted to collect her thoughts.

She made a sweeping gesture at the hallway around them. "Take your pick," she said, before remembering that they'd just agreed this wasn't a democracy. "Or I'll pick." She walked to the nearest door and pushed it open, revealing a modest bedroom like the others they'd seen. No broken furniture or blood here, though, so that was a start.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Who is this sassy lost child
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Raina did a full 360, turning all around to look at the room they'd picked. Johnny had made himself comfortable immediately and she didn't feel like more wandering, so she supposed this was it for now.

"I guess so."

She could have done without all the dust and the bars on the windows, but this would do for now. This was a room for planning and thinking, not relaxing. Raina set her bag on the floor and crouched next to it, pulling the zipper open. "We should see what we've actually got in these." She rooted around in the bag, pulling things out and setting them aside. Assorted dry foods, water, map, first aid kit.

Grenade.

Raina stopped with her hands halfway in the bag, hovering over the small, greenish-gray object sitting innocuously inside it. There was no mistaking what it was, especially not with the slip of paper confirming it.

Holy shit, Raina had suddenly gotten some serious fire power.

"Hey Johnny," she said in a low voice, "close the door, will you?"

She had a grenade. She had a weapon. Anybody else they came across could have something equally, if not more destructive.

All of a sudden, the idea of being clearly visible from the outside didn't appeal to her.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Who is this sassy lost child
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Raina waited until after she heard the door click shut to touch the grenade. She cupped both hands around it, carefully, and lifted it so that Johnny would be able to see it clearly. Part of her was glad now that Scarlett and Beaks had bailed; she didn't think she wanted anyone in that fragile sort of state around explosives.

God, she was holding an explosive. She could drop it and it might kill both of them. Raina had a dizzying and entirely pretentious urge to quote whoever that had been that made the famous statement concerning the invention of the nuclear bomb. Now I am become death.

A small giggle with just an edge of hysteria escaped Raina's lips and she lowered the grenade back into the bag as quickly as she dared, pulling her hands back to the center of her body as if burned. Her knees were starting to protest from kneeling for so long, and she rearranged herself to sit on the floor.

"So," she said finally, looking up at Johnny and failing to keep a normal tone, "what've you got?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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"Sure." Raina's voice sounded faint and far away to her own ears. "Hold onto the radio, it might be useful," she added absently.

She closed her eyes for a moment, felt the edge of hysteria threatening to overtake her.

"Okay," she said out loud, ignoring the tremble in her voice once again and relying on Johnny to do the same. "Let's chill for a minute. Sort all of this out. We should pool our resources and... and, maximize productivity, or something. Something useful."

Breathe in deep, get oxygen to the brain. That's all you've got here, all you can rely on. Can't rely on people if they're not already with you, can't rely on them to know what's best for themselves.

Raina opened her eyes and focused on Johnny again. "It's better than nothing. We should stay here for a while and figure out how everything works. Maybe wait until we have more information." The urge to hesitate and hide crept up cunningly, tempting her. It wouldn't do. Not now. They couldn't cling to delusion like Aiden had or encourage it like Scarlett.

"We should... make a list of people we'd want to join up with. We can't spend too much time looking, but if we come across them, we'll know we want them. And then..."

She steeled herself, made her expression and her voice firm. "Then we start figuring out a way out of here."
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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"I'm going to be miserable no matter what, Johnny."

Raina clasped her hands in her lap, frowning down at them. "I'm gonna be miserable, because we're here and people aren't going to keep it together, and we all know that. But I'm not going to just sit around and think about how miserable I am, I'm going to do something about it. And to do that, we need to be pragmatic."

She looked back up at Johnny, eyes imploring him to understand, or to at least practice what he'd been preaching just a while ago and let her take the reins. "I'm not saying we'll turn everyone away who we're not best friends with or whatever, but we can't spend our time searching for people or trying to get everyone to hold hands around a campfire and get along or something if they don't want to. You said it yourself: let them go."

Raina looked back down at the bag, where the grenade just barely peeked out. "We need to focus on the big picture. That means deciding who and what we need, not what we want."
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Johnny didn't look particularly convinced, but he couldn't come up with much of a counterargument either. They'd agreed that she would be the leader, after all.

Big picture. Let them go.




Big words didn't always translate to equally big actions. The two of them stayed holed up in their room under the pretense of planning or getting their bearings for the rest of the day. They slept in turns and talked a little, but not about important things.

On the second morning, Raina's big picture ideology was put to the test.

Scarlett was dead. Nancy from the anime club had killed her. No word on what had happened to Beaks.

Tina Luz, Crisanto's cousin, was dead.

Jasmine Reed, also from the anime club, had killed too.

Let them go.

Think of the bigger picture.

Let them go.




On the third morning, Raina had to admit that she'd failed to put any sort of plan in motion. She'd hidden away, told herself she was just brainstorming, and look where it had gotten them. Stuck in the same dingy room they'd found the first day, paralyzed.

Another one of Cris's cousins was down for the count. Nancy, of all people, was a triple killer. Samuel, Penelope's sweet boyfriend, was dead.

And Raina had sequestered herself away in a hidey-hole when she should have been figuring out how to save their lives.

Big picture. Think of what you've lost only to drive you forward. And then let them go.

"Alright, that's enough of that. Let's get the hell out of here and find what we're looking for, Johnny. We're wasting time." She thought he might have been worried about her. She didn't know what to say about it, so she ignored it. She shouldered her bag, careful not to jostle it too much, mindful of the grenade inside. Insurance.

That's all it was. Everything they had could serve a purpose. Take a step back, look at the big picture.

Let them go.

((Raina Rose and Johnny McKay continued elsewhere))
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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