Vim & Vigor – Interlude Cienna
(A Worm/Bioshock Fanfic)
The Market, April 10th
“You did the right thing,” Cienna told herself as she walked through the alley with her hood up, covering her long hair. She had to say it aloud to drown out the phantom voice chastising her for giving back the pudgy, geeky-looking boy named Greg Veder his wallet back.
It was a moment of weakness that drove her to take it in the first place. She could see it there, hanging out of his pocket and practically begging her to take it. So she did, simple as that.
Staring down at the I.D. of the boy who was a few years her junior, she saw that his name and his address, which was a good distance from where they were. He’d never come looking for her even if he knew that she had taken it. It was a clean steal overall.
The kid didn’t have much money. But there was more than enough for a couple of drinks. It would have been so easy to have taken everything from the wallet and then toss it. The only reason she hadn’t was because of her father’s voice whispering in the back of her head saying that he probably deserved it for being careless. That gave her pause.
Her father didn’t use to be so bad. In fact, she could proudly say that he was the best dad in the world before the accident cost him his job and one of his arms. He started drinking more and more, trying to cope with the loss of his pride and meaning in life that came from working. Then he turned mean—not to her, but to her mother.
Her mother wasn’t a saint either. In fact, Cienna had more than once wanted her father to just leave her and the two of them could go someplace else. But the abuse only made things worse in the end for everyone involved.
A few months later, he got himself killed in a bar brawl. And her mother… no, there was no point in thinking about it. Her mother made her choice that night. And so did her lousy ex-boyfriend a few weeks later.
Either way, her father’s voice made realize how far she was about to go to slake her thirst. Guilt followed as the moment of weakness passed. It would have been the first step down a bad path. One she’d witnessed personally. So she gave him the wallet back and then went on her way after spotting him at the bus stop.
“I did the right thing,” she told herself again as she fumbled through her pockets, brushing over the plastic canister holding a bunch of rusty nails, a few wrinkled dollars, a cheap cell-phone that she owned. It was useless to her at the moment since she hadn’t bought minutes on it and the twenty dollars in smaller bills she had was better spent on alcohol or food rather an hour of talk time when she didn’t have anyone to call.
Cienna sat down in that alley, out of sight and with her back against the wall. Then she closed her eyes to think. It had only been roughly two months since she’d been on the streets and she was reaching a point where she was getting desperate.
How much longer could she last as things stood? How much longer would it be before she’d resort to taking from others wantonly to deal with her own issues? Even if she didn’t know exactly when, she knew that point was getting closer.
She couldn’t be the person she used to be if she wanted to survive for much longer. But she didn’t think she could live with the type of person she would have to become either. Her throat felt patched the more she thought about it and she almost yearned for a drink to help her forget everything.
It turned out her justification for not tipping over and robbing people was a Cape. She recognized his face as he lay on the ground with his mask displaced. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that she didn’t steal from him.
As the female villain who’d threatened her life groaned from getting hit by a blast of electricity, Cienna shook Greg a few times to try and wake him up. He was out like a blown light bulb. There was nothing she could do to wake him it seemed.
A moment of time froze as Cienna considered her options. The smart thing to do would be to run away and hide. She could probably get enough distance since she knew these streets like the back of her hand.
But she couldn’t leave him. Not because she was altruistic. If this was just another fight between rival Capes or gangbangers, she would leave them to kill one another off. But he told her to run away and surrendered to try and give her a chance to escape.
That meant a lot to her on a deeper level considering how she’d been mostly treated since ending up on the streets. People saw you as mostly a fixture or something to exploit, and maybe one out of thirty would give her loose change if she resorted panhandling. Less than that as the scent of alcohol grew worse by the day.
Plus, he’d owe her for saving his life. She could use that to make things better for herself somehow. Everyone looked out for themselves, and this was her way of doing that. If she needed to make herself feel better about it later on, she could use the fact that he tried to help her and told her to get away meant he was a good person and she was doing a good thing.
Her mind made up, Cienna flipped the switch on her power as she crouched down low. It would take her power a few seconds to ramp-up. But the villain wouldn’t be able to get close to her again. Not unless she wanted to be stripped naked and then torn to shreds once she put up the first layer of defense.
Cienna grabbed his mask and shoved it into her pocket before she picked the boy up. Or at least she tried to. He weighed a lot more than she was used to lifting, so it took a minute to get him into a position where she could drag him off somewhere private.
That’s when the villain got onto her feet and threw knives at Cienna. The blades cut through the air, points positioned to hit them both. Then they entered the range of her power and started spiraling around in an orbit around Cienna. “The hell?”
Unbeknownst to the villain, Cienna was now the eye of a slowly building invisible telekinetic field that would grab everything not nailed down around her and spin it faster and faster as the base momentum increased. She hadn’t really found a limit the highest speeds, mostly because she didn’t want to attract attention and didn’t like using her power unless necessary.
Reaching into her pocket after she managed to get the boy onto her shoulders, Cienna added to the storm of dust that built up speed by pulling out a small plastic canister of nails, rusted and worn. Her power only worked on non-living things, meaning that if the villain was willing to sacrifice their clothing then they could enter the eye and then kill them both before she had built up enough cover. That threat ended once the nails were added, unless they were a Brute.
“That’s not going to save you,” the villain said as she pulled out a gas torch. Cienna recalled the flames that she saw coming for her before, only to be blocked by the geeky boy in her arms. Given he was unconscious there would be no second save like that, so Cienna ejected the knives back from the field orbiting her.
The added momentum sent them sailing forward with lethal intent, and while the villain was nimble enough to avoid one after spotting the glinting and sharpened steel coming for her, the other found flesh. It sunk into her arm point-first with a wet thunk and had enough momentum that it buried itself up to the hilt. With a pained rasp, the villain dropped the torch.
Cienna took that as her cue to go for the alley that they ran through before. Broken bits of glass, paper, discarded refuse and trash, everything that could be caught was as she neared it. She gave them two rotations within the vortex and then ejected them in the direction of the villain, whose arm was limp as the knife vanished and blood poured from the wound.
Whether it was because of the blood-loss, the unexpected encounter with a parahuman, or the mounting injuries from the earlier lightning blast, the villain turned tail and ran out the opposite direction. But Cienna didn’t think she was out of trouble just yet, since the villain could always come back and had seen her face. She couldn’t stay around here anymore.
Looking down to the boy she was dragging along, she mulled over what to do with him. In the end, she decided she didn’t have any other choice but to bring him with her someplace where they could hide. If she was going this far to save him already, she may as well see it through to the end.
Cienna knew one place that she could go that they’d be safe in, an abandoned building that was once of a shut-down Chinese food restaurant. It was constantly getting broken into because—well, they were close to Merchant territory after all and the ABB had a stranglehold on places closer to their own domain, so the owners cut their losses.
She’d take him there and wait for him to wake up. Then she would extract a price for services rendered. If she was on some villain’s kill-list now because of this kid, she was at least going to make things better for herself in the process.
End Notes: Say hello to Whirlygig’s OC Stand-In. Her power is largely the same, with the added bonus of being aware of what enters the orbit and being able to choose what she can eject from it.