2011-01-30: Soulless


Rashmi_icon.jpg Travis_icon.jpg

Special Guest - Nero

Summary: Travis finally gives into Nero and is given his first test, Rashmi is witness to it and her life is on the line.

Date: January 30, 2011

Log Title: Soulless

Rating: R (Graphic Violence)

Africa - Nero's Camp

Where the camp begins, all other life ends. Hard dirt with muddy puddles fill the road as it grows close to Nero's camp. This dirt road is much more commonly used than the rest. The gate is closed with cyclone fencing, and wooden watch towers look over the forest, guarded at all times by soldiers.
Inside the fence several stone buildings can be found. Trucks and LAV's move about, soldiers training at most hours of the day. Complete with running water and electricity powered by a nearby wind plant, it could be called the one trace of 'civilization' here. Nero's home away from home is here as well, a large mansion of a building with its own sets of guards to protect the warlord when he comes to visit. A helipad can even be found near the palace, his common method of entry and exit.

The name of the log and the lyrics below are taken from Soulless by Ravenous

You've been driven into hell
By necessity
What choice was there indeed
But consort with demons

There is a soulless man at your side
Who deals in blood and carnage
He looks you over with delight
Like a hunter at his catch

It's late when Nero comes to answer Travis' call. So he wants to see the warlord, this should be interesting. He has brought an escort, as well. Rashmi has still not received any clothes to wear, even several days later, mostly because of her defiant attitude. The beatings she received after Travis' last encounter with Nero are obvious, bruises have been inflicted by a rod, and with only her underwear to cover her, most of them ar visible. It's pouring down rain, but the rain doesn't bother the warlord. He walks across the grounds from the palace, no umbrella, nor one for Rashmi. Still, he is accompanied by three body guards, all carrying AK-47s.

As much as the welts and bruises from the beatings pain Rashmi — and by the way she walks, they do very much — it seems to be the rain that tops the list of Unpleasant Things this day… largely because her underwear, being utilitarian white cotton, tends to make life difficult for those of a more modest bent, and trying to balance the protests of her abused skin and muscle, the pace at which Nero chooses to move through his camp, and keeping her hands firmly clasped together over her hips, taken all together, is a task of Sisyphean proportions… however, throughout the entire trip, she says nothing, keeping her eyes on the ground ahead of her and her mind elsewhere.

Travis has come to a decision and has been sitting in the same area of the cell he usually sits at. He's asked to speak to Nero he it's been a rough several hours while he just waits. It's not easy for him to decide what he has and when he sees who he's brought, it makes it even harder for him. He rushes up to the bars of the cell and yells out to her. "Rashmi!" He sees all the bruises and welts on the girl and it reinforces his decision. "Nero…I'll do it." He says to the man as he hangs his head, defeated.

Nero arches his brow, and slowly a smile creeps across his face. He looks back at Rashmi. "You see," he says to Rashmi, having told her earlier in the day that Travis was, in fact alive. "Your friend cares for you very much." He steps underneath the cover of the building. "You will do…it?" he asks, pretending that he doesn't know what Travis is referring to. "What is it?" He wants to hear Travis say it.

Rashmi's eyes flick up in Nero's direction, from her place slightly behind the warlord, and clenchis the top hand in front of her into a fist, briefly, opening it and moving her index finger in a short, sharp arc, an attempt to send a subtle, emphatic message; *No.* Looking at Travis from the fringe of her matted bangs, she attempts to lock eyes with the six-armed mutant, the steel in her eyes visible. For all the suffering she's been dealing with, she's not nearly done fighting, and is perfectly willing to take her lumps in the process.

Travis is avoiding Rashmi's gaze and drops to his knees. "What ever you want, just…if I do something wrong, blame me, not her." He says quietly. "I'll do what you want as long as you leave her alone. This is just between you and me now." He says as Nero has finally found his breaking point. Travis can't stand to think about her suffering for his misdoings and he can't fight anymore.

"Good," Nero answers Travis. He nods to the guard, who opens the cell door. "Come," he says. "I will allow you to prove it." The guards don't come in to get Travis, they let him come out on his own. Something is said to one of the guards in Hausa. He takes off running, shouting into the camp. "As a show of good faith," he says to Travis. "You may speak to her." Nero reaches out to take Rashmi by the arm, pulling her forward. "But she has not learned yet, she may not speak back. Once she has learned, she will be allowed to speak to you as well." He wants to make certain that the parameters are established.

Rashmi's face tightens, as Nero's grip finds a welt on her upper arm, but says nothing, allowing herself to be pulled forward. Once in front of the now-open door, she locks her eyes on Travis' head, working hard to find his eyes, not saying a word as per Nero's instructions. But by the way her fingers curl and uncurl around the hand keeping the shreds of her modesty in place, she's taken it as a challenge; speak without speaking. Such has been the way of her behavior in the camp since David had brought her lunch; adhere as closely as possible to the letter of her orders, circumventing them without pause whenever an opening presents itself.

Travis looks up at Rashmi and there are a few tears to his eyes. "I'm sorry Rashmi." He whispers to her four of his hands grasping tightly to the bars. "Stay strong, please." He says to her taking a deep breath. There's more he wants to say but he doesn't feel comfortable saying it in front of Nero. His eyes meet hers and there's shame and guilt on his face at the same time he tries to imply that he cares about her with a look. He holds her gaze for a while without saying anything before closing his eyes and lowering his head with another whisper. "I'm sorry."

Nero respects the moment, showing a shred at least of respect for their relationship. The men begin to gather at the center of the camp, a sand filled ring. Rashmi might recognize it as where the fight was taking place when she arrived. Both of them are led to the pit. The soldiers are cheering. They want to see blood. Each of them at one point were like Rashmi and Travis, but now they are bloodthirsty monsters. They want to see the fight.

Rashmi says all she can say, given the current parameters. Her hand comes up, touching the teen's upper right forearm, her expression miserable, pained… but the tiny, sad smile that tugs at the corners of her mouth, the way she squeezes his arm, carries the most important message; I'm sorry too, and I already forgive you. The moment, and the softness of her face, both are shattered when the time comes to move to the pit, and anger smolders in the depths of her eyes, gaze flicking from soldier to soldier, quietly seeking faces seen through the guard window of the door, faces that seem less than fully eager to see the bloodsport.

The touch from Rashmi and her small smile are something Travis needed, he knows he's not alone. As he's lead to the pit he isn't sure what it's for but he doesn't think what's about to happen is good. His stomach feels like lead and he's nervous as Travis knows he's turned down a path there's no returning from.

Another combatant is dragged to the fight. The young man is about the same height as Travis, but his features look rather young, still. He's taken to the opposite end of the ring, and one of the commanders under Nero holds a lead pipe up. He explains something in Hausa, and then repeats it in English for Travis. "One of you may leave this ring alive. If you lose dis fight, you die. If you win da fight, and do not kill your enemy, you will die." The other young man looks terrified, but seems to be psyching himself up. He has to go against a man with six arms, that's rather intimidating.
"Dis will be your test," Nero says. "Kill him, and she will live." The implication: Travis' life isn't the only one he will be fighting for. "Kill him, and I will no longer punish her for your failures, except for insubordination." In other words, you can't accidentally cause her suffering.

Rashmi's brow furrows at Nero's orders, eyes rising to meet Travis' again, narrowing briefly. That he's been beating her for Travis' mistakes is clear, but she seems to value that less than the idea of Travis fighting simply to stay alive. The idea of Nero dragging her into it, very nearly an affront to sensibilities somewhat warped by the current predicament.

If it was just his life on the line, Travis would probably opt to let the other guy win, but it's not just his. He pales quite visibly and takes a few deep breaths to keep from getting sick. He doesn't say anything but just gives a small nod of acknowledgement. He doesn't know if he'll be able to do this and shakes ever so slightly. Right before stepping out into the pit, Travis looks up to the sky and says ever so softly. "Dad…I hope you're watching out for me."

The pipe is dropped into the center of the ring, and it hasn't even hit the ground before the other young man sprints forward. He's making a dash for that pipe, the only weapon that is immediately available on the field. He lets out a roar. He may be frightened as well, but he knows there's only one way that he's going to live to see tomorrow, and he's willing to take it.

"You are a monster," Rashmi murmurs to Nero, eyes narrowed as she watches Travis step into the pit. For all that she hurts, is shivering from the rain, and nauseated by the bloodsport about to happen, she's visibly forcing herself to watch the fight unfold. After all, the back of her mind whispers, if Travis is going to be forced to endure this violation of his innocence, the least she can do is to bear witness.

Travis isn't ready for the fight to begin but when the other rushes forward he rushes to meet his opponent head on. He had some training at Barnes but that was when he had his powers. With the collar he may still have six arms but the coordination is quite off. He uses all six hands to fight the other boy not trying for brute force but more to grapple him. He's trying to push back his emotions and just focus on the fight right now, take it one punch at a time.

The young man grabs on to the pipe, but as Travis takes ahold of him, he finds himself having trouble using it. He squirms in Travis' grasp, unable to match the number of arms Travis has at his disposal. It's a significant disadvantage. He reaches up with a foot, and kicks hard against Travis' chest, trying to break free from the grab.
Nero shoots a glance back at Rashmi. "Is that so?" he asks. "It is better to be the monster that lives, then the monster that dies." He nods toward Travis and the other boy. "Do you think that your friend will be the monster that lives, or the one who dies?" he taunts, reaching a hand back to run it through Rashmi's hair.

"I think that Travis will do what he has to to survive," Rashmi answers, "and when we leave, will be given the time he needs to heal." The prospect of their leaving, casually stated, as though remarking that the rain is wet. "And I think you'll remember that I warned you what will happen."

Travis is kicked in the stomach and staggers back a bit, his hold breaking. It takes maybe a second before he rushes back in with a kick aimed at the other's shin. As his opponent's leg is kicked out from under him, Travis aims a punch with his middle right hand at his face, with a follow up of a left hand in the kicks stomach and a third right hand to punch at the chin in rapid succession. That way if one or two punches are blocked, there's that third coming in as well.

"Haha," Nero laughs, "Remind me that I have something to show you, later," he tells Rashmi. "I do not think you will be eager to see your friends rescue when you see it."
The first two punches are stopped, but indeed the third rings true. Only the man caught the second, dropping the pipe for the moment. After he takes the fist to the chin, he twises Travis' middle left hand, trying to put him in a submission hold and drop him to the ground. He's trying to reduce the number of arms that his opponent has to work with. He's quite the spry combatant, most likely he hasn't been captive for very long. Also likely from someplace other than Hosea's village.

"I think you will be surprised," Rashmi counters, leaving it at that as she watches the fight drag on, the redhead sick with fear for the six-armed mutant. Please, she says at the back of her mind to any who would listen, be they powerful telepath or watching deity, please let him live. The rest we can figure out, but please… let him live to see it.

The middle left hand is twisted and he's put into a sort of submission hold and dragged to the ground, though there are still five other arms the other has to deal with. He grabs onto the other kid with his bottom two hands and tries to grab onto him anyway possible. Both his top hands reach forward and up behind him to double punch the kid in the face. He wants to get the guy off of him and if he does, reverse the grapple so that he can get a hold of the teen.

The opponent continues to hold onto the hand, rolling in the sand with Travis as he's abused by punch after punch. This isn't the MMA, though. There isn't a ref, there isn't a tap out. The other young man kicks hard back against Travis' head while maintaining the hold. He looses the torque to break the arm, in the process, but decides on the next best thing. He peels back Travis' fingers, getting a grip on the middle finger, separating it from the rest. He reaches his teeth down, and bites. Hard. Teeth clench, and it should be shortly clear to Travis that he's not just biting to cause pain.
Nero laughs, "I do love your cheeky responses," he tells her. "It is adorable." His hand moves from her hair to the small of her back. "I have seen much, you would have to work hard to surprise me. I did not gain what I have today by being easily taken off guard."

Rashmi moves a fraction of a step to the side, away from Nero's hand. Not enough to even hope to be mistaken for an escape attempt, but enough to show that his touch is not wanted or welcome. "I don't know… I think you simply like the excuse to have me beaten. Otherwise, you wouldn't *be* where you are today."

The kick to the head disorients Travis for a bit but the bite to the finger snaps him right back out of it. The skin is broken and it's bleeding pretty decently and it hurts and he knows he has to get the finger free. He grabs onto what hair he can of the other and pulls back, hard, to get the head away. While doing that he throws another several punches to the kid's face hoping to daze the guy a bit.

There isn't much hair to grab, leaving the alternative to pull back on the man's head itself. The punches knock the mouth free, and the young man facing off against Travis scrambles back, his nose bleeding, his eye swelling. He's taking a lot of blows to the face. He knows he's losing, too. So he takes another opportunity for a dirty maneuver. Travis is closer to the pipe, now, but the young man spots a large knife on the hip of one of the cheering spectators. He makes a lunge, tearing the knife from the man's sheath before he can realize what is happening. The soldier starts to pull a gun but another stops him. Now Travis is facing a man with a large knife. He doesn't waste any time, but charges forward, slashing for Travis' chest desperately.
"It will be nice when you heal," Nero says. "Because your skin will be soft once again, and more pleasant to the touch. Right now you are ugly. I do not desire to see you beaten, only that you submit to me as you should." He laughs as the man steals the knife from his soldier. "Hah, he is vedy resourceful. You may not live to heal."

While she tries very hard not to show it, the presence of the knife makes Rashmi's gut twist with terror. "…At least I'll still die knowing you couldn't break me," she murmurs, biting on her lower lip and watching, eyes wide.

Travis finally makes the decision to grab the pipe and once it's in his hand he turns to see the large knife. He tries to dodge away from the knife slash but he moves just enough for the slash to not be fatal as a large gash opens up across his chest. With the pipe in hand he moves forward to swing it down on the knife arm using two hands to grip the pipe. After the swing he brings up a foot to kick guy back as hard as he can. Right now the adrenaline pumping through him keeps him from feeling much of the pain.

The satisfying gash across Travis' chest is shortlived, for the pipe comes down and removes the weapon from his hand. The kick lands squarely on the attacker's throat, due to the position he found himself after the knife slash. The man lands flat on his back, gasping for breath and holding his throat. There is an opening here.
"A small consolation when you are dead," Nero counters. He suddenly applauds with laughter as the blows are exchanged. "That is what this should look like!" he yells out to Travis, all the maturity of a boy at a sporting event."

"But a large poke in your eye to accomplish," Rashmi says, sick fear pushing her to snap the words. "Guess which matters more?"

Travis brings down the pipe once to smack the teen on the side of the head with the intent to knock him out, not kill him. After the hit he dives on the kid and wraps four arms around his torso to pin his arms to his chest. With the last two arms he uses the pipe to cut off the air supply of his opponent. He wants to do it when the other guy is unconscious and in the least brutal way he can considering the circumstances. There's a look of terror on his face as he chokes the boy.

"Be silent," Nero growls. "A woman should not speak back to a man like this. He pulls a knife from his belt, and grabs Rashmi's hair to tug back on her head, forcing her to expose her neck. "You throw your life away for the sake of an insult?" he asks her, bringing the knife up against the skin. It's sharp, and he doesn't press lightly, drawing a slight amount of blood. Rashmi has clearly come to the end of her metaphorical leash.
The young man takes the blow to his head, his senses reeling. He isn't quite unconscious, but he isn't lucid either. As his air supply is cut off, he wriggles desperately, uncoordinatedly, and helplessly against Travis' strength. His eyes start to stare straight into Travis' eyes, or maybe through them. The first look is disconnected, lacking an understanding of what is happening around him, but as he realizes his moments are his last, it gives way to fear. Adrenaline surges as he bucks with the last of his strength for one final and futile attempt, and then he goes silent. The body stays tense for several seconds, the last signal from the brain lingering before it finally relaxes. The fight is over.

The rough tug on her hair forces a short, sharp cry from Rashmi, her body going stiff and rigid as the knife is pressed against her throat. For a long moment, she says nothing, finally managing a small, whispered "no, sir," before silencing completely. However being what she is, at least one current of thought breaks through the fear, smiling to itself as it contemplates the boundary discovered. Another rule to work within, and more room than expected.

Travis whispers an apology to the teen before he ends his life. He drops the pipe and just stays there shaking. It takes him a bit to stand up as what just happens eats at him. He looks over at Nero and Rashmi to see the knife held to her throat. "Nero, leave her alone. I did what you asked." Travis says before falling to one knee as the adrenaline starts to fade and all his injuries start to hurt combined with what he did really sinking in.

Nero looks back at Travis. "You see what you did?" he says to Rashmi. "I missed the best part." He pulls the knife away from her throat. "You will not order me, boy," he challenges. That one stipulation, Travis must not be insubordinate. Indeed, there's nothing to force Nero to honor the agreement at all. "I never promised I would spare her from her own punishment." He steps into the pit, looking over the dead body, covered in Travis' blood. He looks back at Travis' chest, and then back to his face. "Good," he says. The soldiers surrounding the event cheer wildly with the victory.
Nero motions with his knife at the body. "Now take that and throw it in the burning pile outside of camp. My men will show you where. Then they will give you new clothes and something to eat." A reward for killing, not just the evasion of punishment, but Travis is about to get the first real meal he's had since he arrived.
Suddenly there is the crack of a pistol. Near the mass cells for the normal prisoners, a woman falls to the ground, and a guard laughs at another one. He indicates the distance he has to walk now to carry the body, calling him a fool. It appears that Travis wasn't the only one fighting to save the life of someone he loved.

Rashmi rubs her throat, tears standing in her eyes as she looks down at the blood on her fingers, shivering with reaction as it begins to sink in just how close she came to dying, this moment… Looking back up at Travis' face, she starts to mouth something… but jumps as the pistol goes off and another woman dies, her face paling at the realization that Travis, today, ended two lives, one by his own hand. The look of dawning horror in her eyes, as she turns back to Travis, is not for what he's done… but the full weight of what was forced on him.

Travis picks up the body and holds the man gently and with some care before the pistol goes off. There's a look of shock on his face and he stumbles a bit before he turns to look at Nero. His entire body visibly shakes as he stares at the man with utter contempt, a few silent tears fall down his face, staining his cheeks. "Just because I agreed to do what you say doesn't mean I respect you or will ever be like them." Meaning the spectators, Nero's men. "You're a bastard Nero, and I can't wait for you to get what's coming to you." Even though he'll be offered a real meal tonight, Travis won't be able to enjoy it due to the sick feeling in his stomach.

Now you have to remind yourself
That the world you've known is still out there
But there was no better offer
You had to leave it all behind

There is still so much to learn
About human cruelty
Never thought how far it goes
Until it hits you

There is a soulless man at your side
Who deals in blood and carnage
He looks you over with delight
Like a hunter at his catch

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License