2011-04-22: A History Lesson


Rashmi_icon.jpg Tabitha_icon.jpg

Summary: Rashmi tells a tale from her past, and Tabitha learns how to listen.

Log Title: A History Lesson

Rating: PG

This log directly follows When Rats Fly

Barnes Academy - Dashenka, Rashmi and Tabitha's Suite

A standard teenager suite, this room is basically a combination living room and dining room. There are two doors leading off to the sides, each to it's own bedroom and personal bathroom for the people who live here. The TV is good quality and easily accessible for video games or movie systems.


Tabitha eventually makes her way back to the suite; and she's performing quite the juggling act when she shows up. Her right hand, held out palm-up, carries two burgers and a soda balanced one on top of the other, as she opens the door and closes it behind her. Once that's done, she plucks the soda off the top and flicks the metal cap off with her thumb, and has a swig while she walks through to the table.

Rashmi exits her room, scrubbing at her face with a hand towel. Back in her usual civilian wear, which at this time of year is a light blouse and grey cotton skirt, she makes her way to the couch. "So… you okay to listen? It's, um…. not really a good story over meat, just so you know. Just warning you."

Tabitha sets out the burgers in front of her, and plants the soda down just beyond them. "Err… Yeah, I'm okay to listen." She unwraps one of the burgers, and hoists it up before her. "I'll eat fast. …Ever sine I got rat-ified, my appetite has been like… Iunoo, double? It's ridiculous." She makes good on her word, tearing a ig bite out of the burger, and chewing it up quickly before swallowing. "Anyway, don't mind me. …I'm all ears for you, right now."

Rashmi drops onto the couch, taking a moment before pulling the tab on her soda. "…You ever talk to missionaries all that much, Tabitha? You know, people who go off for like a bunch of years trying to help people who can't afford to help themselves, or don't know to?"

Tabitha swallows another bite of her burger, before shaking her head slowly. "No… not really," she admits. "I grew up in a small town in the middle of Idaho. There were churches and stuff, but my family wasn't all that religious, so we never went much. Just for Christmas and stuff like that." She shrugs her shoulders lightly, "Is that why you went?"

"Sort of," Rashmi answers, voice quiet. "See… One of the kids from my other school… He came from Nigeria. …He used to be a child soldier for this warlord, Nero." Theres an audible pause over the name, as though it has to be forced out. "…But then he found God, and tried to find a better life. …Then he came to Xavier's. …So a few months ago, he says he'd like to visit, again. And the school said, sure! We'd love to help you! And we'll even send supplies and things the village needs, too! And they asked me if I wanted to go with, because they trusted me to keep track of everything. And so I asked Travis if *he* wanted to come with. Just… y'know. Help people, do something that made a *difference.*"

Tabitha tears off a big bite of the burger in her hand while she listens to the opening of Rashmi's story, and her eyebrow rise as she chews and swallows. "…Wow, and I thought I had it rough. I've heard about child soldiers in Africa… definitely not cool, but I'm glad he found a way out of that life. Most people… well, they find a way out alright, but it's not a good way." She bobs her head. "Lemme guess… things didn't go quite as planned, did they?" Her voice lowers, and her brow creases with concern. "I mean… I know Star said she got mixed up with someone called Sugarman. But… go on?"

Rashmi nods. "Yeah, I'm getting to that… See. Hosea was a mutant. He was a child soldier, and a *mutant.* People like Nero… that's important. Mutant soldiers? That's *power,* Tabitha… So he'd been… collecting them. Kidnapping people from other villages… mutants, normal, didn't make a difference. All that mattered was that he gets more soldiers and more wives for them. He'd brainwash you, break you, and make it so all you wanted was to make him happy… to do anything because he wanted it done…"

Tabitha is just finishing off her first burger, and chases it down with a long swig from her soda, as Rashmi gets to the part about brainwashing. "He… brainwashed you?" Her eyebrows rise, and she coughs softly. "Was Nero a mutant, or did he just… do his brainwashing the old fashioned way?" She shakes her head, as she goes about unwrapping her second burger. "He sounds like a prime asshole. Not that the world isn't full of those, mind you."

"Worse than the old-fashioned way… but I'll get to that. Travis was caught on the first attack," Rashmi says quietly, turning the open can in her hands, staring down at nothing in particular. "So Hosea and I, and Connor — he's another friend of mine from there — we try to go in, maybe get him out… get as many people out as we can. It… didn't go well. I was caught. Hosea and Connor, they can teleport… they had to go back. Had to get help, figure out a way to free everyone. I don't blame them… I couldn't. It's what they had to do. … …So I woke up, in my underwear, in this little room. Just a mat to sleep on and two guards at the door."

The Rat Girl destroys her second burger in short order; probably determined to get it eaten before Rashmi's story reaches the part where it isn't good to be eating meat while listening, though the effect is a quiet belch, and a fierce reddening of her ears. "Pardon me," she mumbles, looking sheepish. "Sorry. …Uhm, right." She shakes her head. "If you ever have to leave me behind to get help? I totally will understand, I promise. If they'd gotten caught it doesn't sound like they would've been much help." She pauses, and taps her lips lightly. "So Nero's a pervert as well as an asshole, it sounds like."

Rashmi closes her eyes, rubbing at the bridge of her nose. "Tabitha… just… listen, okay? This is kind of an important story, and it's *still* hard for me to tell. I don't… I don't *like* remembering, and it's only getting *easier* to stop thinking about it when I remember."

Tabitha's jaw drops, and she looks down as she clamps her mouth shut. "Sorry," she murmurs. "Didn't mean to be rude." She coughs softly, and pokes at the glass. "Anyway, I'll shut up."

Rashmi shakes her head. "No, it's okay… really. Just… It's easier to tell if I can just go from start to finish. I don't mind questions, just… Trust me. It's not something you can really get unless you were *there.* So… I was captured. Nero wanted an American wife. That'd be me. … …But he wanted me broken, first. So… the brainwashing. He makes you do things… things you can't possibly manage to handle. Like, give you a can of paint and tell you to paint the whole building. Or dig a big hole before sundown. …And then he has you beaten when you don't do it. You see people working so hard, trying their best to just not get beaten, or maybe get enough food to not be hungry… but it's impossible. You're going to fail, and you're going to suffer."

Tabitha keeps true to her word, and keeps quiet while the story continues; the only sound being her fingers toying with the soda, but the rat girl somehow feeling guilty about the idea of drinking it while such suffering is being described. Her tail flicks across the floor behind her, and her ears, so good at betraying who she's paying attention to, keep locked on Rashmi throughout.

"So that's how it was, for me, the first few days," Rashmi says quietly. "…Then he brings me to see Travis. I'm not allowed to talk… mostly because I'd lip off at him whatever chance I got, until he'd threaten to kill someone… or me… just to shut me up. So Travis is trying to be strong, when Nero drops the news. The day before, I took twenty-seven lashes with a cane. Because Travis said twenty-seven words in defiance of him. …I was being held hostage against his good behavior. Travis… God, I felt so bad for him… he folded, right there. Said he'd do whatever Nero wanted, just don't hurt me anymore. …So Travis got taken to the pits so he could fight another man to the death. And they all watched, like it was a baseball game."

The Rat Girl pushes her soda aside, and it scrapes acrossthe table to a new resting place out of the way. Tabitha's expression contorts, and her jaw drops once again, though this time in disbelief. "That's *Horrible*," she declares, unable to hold it in any longer. "How could… just… why?" She shakes her head slowly, and quietly clamps her jaws shut once more. She brushes her fingertips over her forehead and under one of her eyes, as she resumes the role of silent listening.

"Because that's all that matters to people like him," Rashmi answers, the faint edge of something hard peeking through in her voice. "You get power by making people loyal to you. You make them loyal by making them terrified of you. You break down everything that makes them human, until you're surrounded by dogs that hate so much they'll be happy to destroy anything… and then you make them love you by giving them all the victims you can steal. And if you have mutants, you control them by taking away their powers until you say it's okay to use them. That's where the Sugar Man comes in… Nero made a deal with him. Nero didn't just want mutants… he wanted mutant *slaves.* Sugar Man knew how to make them… how to make mutants out of *normal* people. … Like he did to one of the people from the school. Like Star said he was going to do to her… Just as soon as he got his hands on her twin brother."

Tabitha's attention is rapt, and the soda remains forgotten, off to one side. She brushes the paper wrappings that held the burgers out of the way, before resting her chin on her hands. The rat girl licks her lips; one ear swivels briefly to catch the sound of someone walking by outside the door, before her full attention returns straight to Rashmi. She swallows, and waits for the next part of the story.

"I still don't remember how long we were there," Rashmi says quietly. "Not long. Couple weeks, maybe. And… I know it could have been easier, for me. All I had to do was give in. Stop fighting. Do as he asks, be a good little prisoner. But no. I never even tried. If I could get away with mouthing off, I would. If I could make him look even a little weak to his soldiers, I would. I remember… Once I was being dragged back to my room. They'd just given me a beating for, Iunno. Not building a wall high enough or something. I couldn't even stand up on my own. But I knew that one of the soldiers that guarded me spoke English. So just before they put me in my room, here he could hear it, I laughed a little, even though it hurt… and said 'I win again.'"

"…I admire you," comes Tabitha's reply, spoken barely above a whisper. "I can't imagine going through all that. I'm sure I would have broken." She brushes a strand of hair behind one of her ears, and shakes her head slowly. "Actually, before Mr. Stark found me, I definitely would've broken. …Anyway, sorry to interupt."

Rashmi shakes her head. "It's not something to admire… I just… couldn't stop. And… when everything finally happened…" She closes her eyes for a moment, drawing in a deep, shuddery breath. "…All that mattered was the fight, by then. And when Nero switched on the machine that turned off everyone's powers… the collars fell off. He didn't need them. And all the mutants that came to free us, they were just normal people around a base full of soldiers with guns. I was *so scared,* Tabitha… I mean, when you're watching *Magneto* fall out of the sky and become just another person… it really hits home. But I just… couldn't… stop. He said he couldn't understand why could still defy him. And so… I told him. I told him everything I've been through, everything I've ever endured… and all he could do was kill me, so what was he to me."

Tabitha perks an eyebrow upwards. "That's why I admire you," she murmurs. "Because you're *strong*, Rashmi… no matter what the situation, you find the strength to be a rock for everyone around you. You did for me in the park when my wings were bursting out, and… and it sounds like you did before, in Africa." She finally gets around to picking up her soda, and having a swig. She sets the bottle down carefully, so as to hardly make a sound as she resumes listening.

Rashmi lifts a shoulder. "Well, Iunno about that. All I was doing was fighting him, and… it almost didn't make a difference at all. Because, then? That's when he shrugged, and went 'All right, you win.' and pulled out his gun. He would have killed me, Tabitha, and it wouldn't have made any difference to him. He beat me, held me hostage to keep my friend quiet… he cut off all my hair… and then even after all that, it would have been nothing to him to make me dead. The only reason he didn't? A *meteor* hit the camp."

Tabitha sits up straight at that. "A meteor? …Was that someone's mutant power, to… bring down meteors? Or was it just a lucky break?" She pauses, and shrugs her shoulders. "I guess it doesn't really matter all that much, actually, I'm just… I'm really glad you're here, Rashmi. I mean I'm *really* glad you're here."

Rashmi laughs quietly. "No… Just a meteor. Like God's own finger smashing the camp. That's when it all turned around. We all had our powers back, and… I couldn't even think, Tabitha. All I knew was that I wanted to *hurt* this man. To *murder him,* if I had the chance. I almost did… if he hadn't been making Sugar Man give him powers… I probably would have. My powers, they… like I said, I just control them by wanting them to go places. And in that moment, I… I *wanted* them, to go to the other side of Nero, as fast as I could make them."

Tabitha shakes her head slowly, "And I wouldn't have blamed you if you had killed him," she observes. "After everything he put you through… how could you not have been angry and upset? That being an understatement, of course." She stands up, and crosses the floor to sit on the couch beside Rashmi, carefully tucking her wings out of the way, and looking up at the other girl with big, concerned eyes.

Rashmi draws in a deep breath, finally raising her soda can to take a drink. "…I would have, though… Because, honestly? If I had… it would have meant he'd won. That he got exactly what he wanted when he started doing all this to me… to show me that everything I held dear was useless… a *lie.* But I didn't have to. Travis and Connor and Lucas and Hosea… That's when they found us. I don't know much about what happened after, Connor took me away practically the moment he could touch me. …But I know Nero's caught. That he's going to stand trial by the UN. …And every day, it gets a little easier to tell that part of me that I never even knew existed until then… that it's better this way. Because it's not just about me."

Tabitha doesn't speak, once the conclusion to the story is laid out. The rat girl just leans over sideways, and puts her arms around Rashmi, reaching over and around to clasp on her opposite shoulder. She rests her head on the other girl's shoulder, and closes her eyes in a silent display of support and friendship, after the difficult account; a soft sigh is the only sound she makes.

Rashmi rests her head on Tabitha's shoulder, wrapping her arms around the girl's waist and squeezing tightly. "…Y'know," she murmurs after a moment, sniffling once and pulling away from the hug. "As bad as It was? I wonder if Star didn't have it worse." The can is tipped back, the redhead finishing off what remains. "I mean," she says as she slips off the couch, "I knew what was going to happen. Every day, I knew. I had enough freedom to decide how it was going to go. Star…? From everything she's told me… They just locked her in a dark room and forgot about her, except when Sugar Man wanted to taunt her." Shaking her head, she drops the can in the trash and walks to her door. "…I know what that's like… And I meant it when I asked Nero what he was to me. Some things…? You can't wish on anyone, if you've been there."

Tabitha shrugs her shoulders lightly. "I've lived with a monster, too," she murmurs. "I just didn't know it. But he brainwashed me too; he just did it sweetly, with kind words and fatherly advice." She stretches, and clasps her hands behind her head as she looks up at Rashmi. "I don't know which one of you had it worse… but, I think you bear it better. It really hit Star hard… and it still does. And… and I wish there was something I could do, to make it better for her."

"So do I, Tabitha," Rashmi answers with a weary sigh. "I just haven't figured out how, yet. G'night… Try to sleep well, okay?"

Tabitha manages a smile, and bobs her head. "I'll try," she replies. "I'll sleep on my side, like you said. You sleep well too, though, okay? I'll see you in the morning."

~ Fin ~

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