2010-08-16: The Bullet




August 16, 2010


Alexandra — South Africa


When a man meets catastrophe on the road, he looks in his purse, but a woman looks in her mirror. —Margaret Turnbull

Construction sites dominate an entire area of the township of Alexandra, all courtesy of the Alexandra Renewal Project. Being one of the poorest settlements of all of South Africa, but also the home of some of the nations most famous people, it has gone through numerous changes within the past decade. In an effort to revitalize the area, many tall buildings have started being erected. Unfortunately, most of the sites have since been abandoned due to lack of funding or lack of skilled labor.

Though security patrols come through every once in a while, they never investigate strange lights or reports of trespassers. It's too dangerous a job for the limited night patrols, thus whoever finds their way onto a site is generally left alone.

It is in one of the abandoned trailers in one such site that Porter has chosen to hole up for the night. His princess of a companion isn't amused, not by a long shot. "Perhaps you need lessons in kidnapping women properly," she remarks casually as she pulls her fingers through her hair. She would take a shower, but there seems to be a man attached to her wrist with no plans of going anywhere.

Porter had the presence of mind to procure more clothing from the coat room before they left the arcade. His own outfit is respectable enough. White boating trousers and a pale blue button-down shirt to cover his armored vest. Vasha's is slightly more risque. The black skirt he passes her is loose and simple, but is slit provocatively high on one hip. The top is modest in design, at least, with three-quarter sleeves and a high neckline. It'll be a bit snug, though.

"Best I could do on short notice," he says, referring to both the clothing and his choice in location. He grins not-so-apologetically. "Not a lot of ladies your size playing video poker, I guess."

The skirt and shirt are eyed with no appreciation whatsoever, then tossed unceremoniously onto the cot. "I suppose not," is her simple reply. She makes no move to put them on, not right now. Instead she gets up and pulls on her chain, glaring at Porter to follow her. There's no worded request, just that expectant, low brow stare. When he doesn't respond right away, she yanks a little harder and just begins walking the few feet to the tiny cubicle that labels itself the lavatory. They are cuffed by the wrong hand for the man to wait outside, so when she enters, he is forced to either stretch his arm as far as it will go or follow behind her.

Using her free hand, Vasha twists the two taps to the sink. There's a loud gron from the pipes and a few spurts of thick rusty muck before some yellow water pours through. For this, Porter also receives a stare. The shirt she is wearing is peeled off to reveal a camisol underneath. Both are blood stained and grungy, but she's not about to strip in front of him. The shirt is passed under the water until it's soaking and then Vasha begins to wash her arms and neck. "You have yet to tell me why it is that you have kidnapped me."

Though he lets out a puff of air when he sees where they're headed, Porter allows himself to be led toward the bathroom. He follows her in, and by twisting his body awkwardly he's able to afford her some measure of privacy while still leaving her room to move her cuffed hand.

"What?" he queries. "Oh. Well, I'm told you killed six US citizens, including a Justice of the Supreme Court. Your government wasn't willing to extradite, so mine sent me to… facilitate."

She stares at his reflection in the mirror, not saying anything for a while before emitting a very low, "I see." Slowly, the soaking cloth is moved up her arm again, this time it's gingerly dabbed around the slice of skin that went missing when the bullet grazed across her bicep. Vasha's muscles tense with pain when she gets a little too close to the wound.

The shirt is dropped back into the sink with a wet slap and the woman hunches over the basin. "How nice that they have sent you, to do this. In a way, you are finishing that you began so many years ago, huh?"

"Don't be churlish," Porter chides. "I'm doing my job, just like you do yours. I would've shot you a long time ago if this were personal. It certainly would've been easier than following you over a waterfall." A few silent seconds pass, then he softens slightly and glances at Vasha over his shoulder. "For what it's worth, I don't think you're guilty. Wholesale slaughter never was your style. When we get where we're going, I'll make sure you're treated fairly."

He briefly makes eye contact and his mouth pulls into a lopsided, self-depricating smile. Though he doesn't say it out loud, his next thought doesn't really need to be spoken.

I owe you one.

Hazel eyes squint back at dark brown ones but for a breath of a moment while they stare at each other in the mirror. It's not a hostile move, far from it. She's weighing what he says carefully, her thought process is almost visible. Then there's the jerk of his arm as she forcibly pulls her hand to her face, uncaring of his comfort or how quickly he needs to twist again to avoid a dislocated elbow or shoulder.

She's not crying, though her deep breaths would indicate that she's close. This could be the first sign of 'weakness' aside from physical that he's ever seen from her, except for that one moment years ago. "I will not be treated fairly, Captain. Foreign terrorists are not treated well by the Americans. I have read and seen enough of your news to know this."

Porter winces, both at her words and the sudden pressure on his joints. He twists and pulls in return, not unkindly, but enough to reassert himself. "Maybe," he allows. "This is a dangerous time to be accused of a political murder."

It seems he's willing to leave it at that. He turns his back on Vasha again. "You almost done with the mirror? You're not the only one who got banged up."

"It would be much simpler if you would release me from my chain." Instead of pushing the snide comment, she turns to look at him and studies the back of his head for a moment. Then, without another word, Vasha pivots and turns a lazy circle around him in the tight quarters to end with them standing side by side at the mirror. She's not done yet, apparently.

"It is small, but we can both use it. Do not let the water touch any of your open wounds, it is unclean." One of the dangers of being in a pverty stricken township, their utilities are far from standard. A few seconds pass by before her downcast eyes lift to meet Porter's again.

After a few moments of busying himself in front of the mirror, Porter swivels his head to look directly at Vasha. He doesn't speak, he just raises an eyebrow and makes it clear that he's aware of being watched. Then he turns back to the dirty looking glass and resumes his cleanup.

His vest is unstrapped and dropped gracelessly to the floor. As soon as he's free of it, he lets out a sigh of relief and plucks his sweaty undershirt away from his skin. In the end, he gives it up as a lost cause. It's torn down the middle and removed, exposing the purple, palm-sized welt that's the mainstay of a man struck by a bullet while wearing armor. The bruise is gruesome, with cracked ribs beneath, but it's still just a bruise.

Porter struggles into his purloined shirt and buttons it, covering up the point of impact. Unlike Vasha, he doesn't avail himself of the rusty water. In fact, he stays as far from it as possible.

Vasha stares back at him, unflinching. Her eyes sweep over his frame, fixing on the bruise for as long as his fingers are on it and then back up to his face. Whatever Porter's reservation about the water, one thing is for certain, it is much cleaner than the woman standing beside him. For that reason alone, she continues to scrub the smudges of dirt and blood off of her body.

"How long will we be staying here?" she asks, there's a hint of weariness in her voice. Darkness is quickly approaching and the shadows inside of the trailer are getting longer and longer. "If you believe she will not find us tonight, I would much rather stay here than risk … " She quiets and an expression of concern fixes itself on her featuers as she looks at him.

"We stay for tonight," Porter agrees. Once his shirt is buttoned and his collar is properly adjusted, he shoots another glance at Vasha. "We both need the rest. We'll leave in a few hours. Start looking for a radio. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a chopper to take me any-damn-where but here."

With his fresh trousers in his free hand, he looks pointedly down at his soiled jeans, then back up at Vasha and her inquisitive gaze. He's not entirely able to conceal a laugh. "Do you mind?" he asks politely.

A smirk spreads across her lips and the narrow eyed glare that she gives him is a sardonic expression in response to the laugh. "Perhaps we should leave now, I would be glad to be rid of you so that I might find my way home."

Appeasing his more bashful side, though, she does step out the door of the room. Vasha stretches her arm out far enough to allow him to be comfortable, a reciprocating measure that he allowed her a few moments ago. While he is changing in the tiny bathroom, she is stripping her clothing outside of it.

The blouse and skirt are given a small sneer in favor of the light jacket. When she replaces her boots, she simply throws the coat over her body and ties it off. Paired with the boots, she could be wearing practically anything underneath.

For his part, Porter shimmies out of his dirtied denims and tosses them aside disgustedly. He's more than happy to replace them with the boating pants, which are loose, comfortable, and far better suited to the heat. Once the drawstring is cinched, he turns to face Vasha and peers at her quizzically. "Are you wearing anything under that?" he asks. Abruptly he holds out both hands. "Nevermind. Don't answer that."

The cut along his cheek is dabbed at absently, but there's little that can be done without clean water and some decent bandages. It's stopped oozing, at least, but it doesn't add to his already bruised and scraped ambiance.

"Very well, I will not." Vasha answers, that same expression crossing her features again as she speaks to him. Her free hand moves to her bound wrist and she rubs it a little, relieving some of the pain from bruising caused by the metal's pressure. A quick glance is given to the cot, and then Porter before she makes a move to claim it for her own.

She doesn't lie down immediately, preferring to sit on it first as she contemplates removing her boots. Her hand brushes past the zippers twice before she pulls it back, apparently deciding against the action. "Tomorrow, we must find a shower. I will not make my entrance to America looking like this."

"I'll do a lot of things for the flag," Porter replies dryly. "But I draw the line at sharing bathing facilities. I'll find you some wet naps and you'll have to make do."

Unsurprised to see her staking a claim on the cot, Porter drags a chair up next to it and plops down unceremoniously. "We're stuck with each other until we get to Israel, at least," he continues. "Don't make this harder than it has to be. There's a reason I saved my last bullet."