Scenic Route


devon3_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif

Scene Title Scenic Route
Synopsis Jaiden takes Devon across the river, and safely out of Manhattan, as the first leg of a new journey for each of them.
Date October 26, 2011

Hudson River

The idea of leaving is always easy until it’s actually time to actually do the leaving. Then the prospects of leaving become something akin to groping about in pitch dark rather than the adventure one originally tried to convince oneself of. Such is especially the case this evening, when the time of departure has finally shown its face.

By all accounts, Devon is prepared, as well as he could make himself prepared. He’s packed a bag with a few clothes and necessities, flashlight, toothbrush, sleeping bag. Normal things that he’ll need while traveling. He’s got a roadmap tucked away, along with a notebook and pens, and a small collection of thumb drives and SD cards. Those last things are well wrapped to keep out moisture and dirt and hidden deep within his backpack.

Everything has been checked and checked again. If there’s anything he’s forgetting, it’ll have to be replaced later. Eventually. Now it’s just a
matter of waiting for Jaiden to arrive.

Devon lingers in the shadows of an abandoned building overlooking the Hudson River, trying to be little more than shadow himself. While he waits for Jaiden, his eyes scan his surroundings, ever cautious. This late in the evening, he doesn’t entirely expect to see many people, most dockworkers should have left for home by now, and even the vagrants have taken to keeping themselves more hidden from the public’s eye.

Moving while packing light is something that Jaiden has gotten used to. It’s something that he’s practiced for a long time, getting the maximum amount of things in the smallest amount of space. Multitaskers are key, with unitaskers - except for a can opener - being left behind to make room for other things. And he did help as much as he could, via text message or word of mouth. Pack this, pack that. No, leave that and what have you.

It’s just after sundown when Jaiden and his boat arrive. He arrives silently, with no motor power, no lights, no nothing, the boat painted with that black rhino-lining stuff to hide the aluminium from view. It’s almost a shadow on the water with Jaiden perched on top, dressed entirely in black. This flat-bottomed aluminum boat was picked up in trade, taken from a scavenger’s pile before it was recycled and repaired, a third-hand motor stuck on the back for speed purposes that, for now, is completely out of the water.

Jaiden pulls out a laser pointer and gives the shadows of the abandoned building three quick flashes - enough to indicate that he’s here and waiting.

If he hadn’t been looking for something — he was told to watch for a signal after all — he would have missed the laser pointer and likely abandoned post to find somewhere better to hide. The derelict old building, for example. But the blinking dot of light, stark against the darkness of the evening and drab surroundings, catches Devon’s attention and soon after he’s peering at the water in earnest.

It’s not until he can just make out the silhouette of Jaiden and the boat that the teenager breaks away from his own semi-concealment. Not without taking quick survey of his surroundings, however. Those days of training with the motley assortment of brains and brawn that have made up their company to this point are almost habit by now, and the boy approaches the water after making certain that the riverside is still empty of ne'er do wells.

Even if they were, Jaiden and he would be able to take care of it with little issue, both mundane and evolved. Thing is - for silence and safety’s sake, doing so would not be a good plan so, as soon as a dark-clad form appears on the shore Jaiden and some surplus night-vision goggles pick him up. “C’mon, Devon.” he says, a soft whisper. “Just walk out. Water’ll support your weight.” One of the magical things about being a hydrokinetic.

Once Devon is on board, Jaiden’s power comes into play, the boat slowly easing away from the shore without a sound, following the current almost except toward the opposite bank. It’ll take a while to get across at this speed but it’s safe and won’t draw any attention.
A backwards look is cast before Devon steps out onto the water and crosses the short distance to the boat. Neither act comes without its own slight hesitation; he trusts Jaiden enough to have his back, but that doesn’t account for how weird it is to walk on water. Not to mention how weird it is to be going one way, while the rest of his team goes another.

Once he’s climbed into the boat, he settles his pack on the floor and himself beside it. He’s quiet, in that thoughtful way of his. There’s little room for brooding, and anyway it wouldn’t do much good. He turns enough to watch the the city creep by for a beat, then angles a look up to Jaiden. His mouth opens as if to say something, but he closes it and shrugs instead.

“I suppose you have a lot of questions.” Jaiden says as he settles down in the boat, crossing his feet, one over the other, his fingers laced over his stomach, leaning on a black military backpack. If it weren’t dark and they weren’t hunted, this would be reminiscent of relaxing on a boat going down a river. “You’ve got a lot of concerns about what’s going on. Why Lizzie an’ Me are heading up to Alaska and you aren’t. Hell, I know you almost as well as you know yourself in that regard. You’re worried - not for yourself, but for everything around.” He pauses, pushing the goggles back, letting his eyes adjust to the dark as they go along the water. “I’ll answer any questions you have, son. We can just talk. Or not. It’s up to you.”

He pauses for a moment, a smile appearing. “Fair warning, though…if you don’t talk, I might, and then you’ll learn all sorts of crazy stuff about growing up in Australia, red-backed spiders, Magpies that attack you during swooping season, and koalas that’re so wasted on eucalyptus that they fall out of the trees.”

“Yeah,” Devon answers. It’s slow in coming, a long moment or two passing in which he could be considering drunken koalas. But it takes that long to assess the question and his own jumbled thoughts. “I mean, kind of. I made the choice to not go when Liz actually made me stop and think about …what’s being planned.”

The boy turns again, to look at the water moving around the boat. “I know I could’ve gone to Alaska with you. But it might’ve been a liability, Liz worrying about me and stuff. Staying in the city’s just as bad. Sooner or later someone’ll find me, probably while you and everyone’s gone, and then I’d end up in Eltingville. So I chose to take all the intel on what’s been happening and hide, until everyone’s back from Alaska. And hopefully the team’ll fix things and I won’t need to go further with all that info.”

“It’s not that we couldn’t use you.” Jaiden says, his voice low, almost hidden by the sound of waves as they push along the river. “It’s just….it’s so dangerous, where we’re going, and Lizzie loves you so much, that she didn’t want to see everyone put into the maw. I didn’t want you to go either, to be truthful, because I want you to try and have a life outside of this whole…thing. A chance for something normal. A chance to meet someone, to fall in love, to go to college…or not. Out of the line of fire.”

Jaiden reaches over to give the boy’s knee a light squeeze and a pat, leaning back into the boat to look out over the water. “You’re our insurance policy. Our chance that, just in case, we can still do some damage to those who need it.” He reaches back behind him for a small leather satchel, setting it on the seat between the pair of them. “I know you packed. I packed you some things too, just in case.

Opening the bag, a flash from a red flashlight reveals a sheaf of papers, a few plastic bags, and a few small bundles. “In here you’ve got papers. Texas driver’s license in the name of James Carr with your picture on it and a Social Security Number - James Carr again - an infant who died a little bit before you were born. About five grand in cash - mostly twenties - and the keys to one of my last safe houses, a cabin in Snowshoe, West Virginia, as well as addresses and key codes to get into the lockers in the back. Hopefully you won’t need it but….” He leans back, leaving the small satchel there for you to take.

“I know,” Devon begins almost as soon as Jaiden starts in on his explanations. Anything else he may have had to say is swallowed back and he simply listens to the older man’s words. There’s no denying the truth, not that he’d planned to try. It was the same discussion he’d had several days prior and the statements remain the same. He’s the new future, however difficult it is to send him into the unknown, alone.

He finds himself nodding, reluctance borne of adolescence heeding to the wisdom of adulthood. And understanding. It was the same reasoning that led him to making the decision to leave.

Devon’s attention moves off the creeping water to Jaiden when he produces the satchel. Surprise scribes itself across his face when the contents are explained and he leans forward slightly to boyishly study the contents in the muted red glow of the flashlight. With none of the excitement, however, the surprise melts to something else; grief and gratitude and apprehension by turns, manifesting into hands clasping behind his neck and forehead coming to rest on his knees.

“Thank you,” he says quietly, after a beat. “This is… I… just…” As words fail, Dev’s shoulders rise and fall and he looks up at Jaiden again. There’s still fear and anxiety in his expression, evident as always to those who know him best no matter his efforts to hide it, but also a little bit of hope. And sadness.

Reaching out, Jaiden takes hold of Devon’s wrist and pulls him into a tight hug, the boat continuing its journey across the river despite all of that. Jaiden’s got fairly nice control of his powers, it seems. “I know, Devon. I know. It’s all I can do. If I could do more, I would. Hell, if I could go with you, if I could snap my fingers and make it go away, I would. But I can’t.”

Jaiden leans back, hands still on his shoulders. “I can’t be with you anymore. Lizzie can’t be with you anymore. God knows we want to. The future…if we had a precog, maybe we could get an idea of what might be coming but it’s as dark as pitch. We’re driving on a dark road with one good headlight and we can only hope that we make it through until the end.”

He pulls Devon into another tight hug, clapping him on the back twice before leaning back, wiping his eyes. “I love you, kiddo.”

He doesn’t resist when Jaiden pulls him into a hug, uncharacteristically allowing himself to be drawn in. Such is the depths of grief and pain over leaving. Devon had found belonging and a void made by the terrors and tyrants running New York City had been filled. His arms tighten around the older man as though hanging onto a lifeline. It’s brief, though, and as Jaiden speaks again, he sinks backward.

“Precogs and dark futures,” he scoffs, mumbling. Not a fan of either. He doesn’t hug the man as tightly as he’s pulled in a second time, trying to recover that brave facade he’s worn so easily over the past six or so months. “We’re regrouping after everything,” he tells Jaiden, looking up again. “Once… once it’s all taken care of. You’ve got to make sure everyone makes it back.” It’s his way of expressing his faith and respect in the other man.

“You know we damn sure are going to try.” Jaiden says softly, the boat getting close to the opposite shore. “I’m not planning on leaving anyone behind. I’ve only gotten shot once, so I’m hoping to keep my streak of uninjured missions alive. We’re going to go save the world, Devon. And yes…I know that I haven’t promised…I can’t. I don’t know and I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”

Disappointment casts a shadow across Devon’s expression. He knows that it’s impossible to promise everyone come back, but, like the boy he is, there’s still some small part of him that had still hoped to hear some assurances. He’s still just a kid in so many ways. Pushing those negative feelings deep down and away, he nods acceptance of the answer. He doesn’t like it, that much is obvious even in the dark, but there’s no argument or begging.

The boy begins gathering his things, what few things there are to gather. The satchel, taken with hesitant hands, is held in front of him, eyes staring at the case as if there were answers hidden in the worn leather. And if he found any, he doesn’t say, but he does draw the strap over his head to hang from a shoulder and across his chest.

The backpack follows, and Devon maintains his silence for the few moments it takes to get his cargo adjusted on his shoulders. “You’re the brother I wish I’d had,” he finally says, angling a look to Jaiden then away, to the approaching shore. “You never tried to push me one way or another, but you always looked out for me…” There may have been more, but his voice trails off and he turns to be ready to climb out of the boat and begin his own journey.

The trip, the short remainder of it all, doesn’t take a lot of time. The boat settles against the shore - a small park with a little jetty poking out into the water with a gravel-covered swimming beach next to it, the hull hissing softly as the boat moves against the water-polished stones.
“It wasn’t my job to tell you what to do or how to do it.” Jaiden finally says when the boat comes to a rest. “Too many people in too many places do that. They think they know better and, y’know, they might be right in some cases.” He pauses, looking over the water before he speaks again. “The thing is? I don’t see myself as any better or worse than anyone in the world. I’ve got experiences, sure, but that doesn’t make me more. And unless you’re ready to hear what I want to say, anything I say might do as much good as throwing seed in a field of weeds. My job was to help give you the tools to succeed, to be there to cheer when you did, and to help you up if you stumbled. And when it’s time, it’s my job to send you off into the world to make your mark.” He stands, getting up and out of the boat, the water staying away from him and out of his boots like an obedient pup, clearing out around the pair so Devon is able to walk along the gravel bottom with Jaiden to the shore, side-by side.

It’s not until they’re standing on the sand that Jaiden does anything else, the big man offering his hand for Devon to shake. “I’m more than a brother to you, Devon. I’m your friend. I’m your Mate. Nothing will ever change that. Fate or random chance crashed us together and we chose to be together. Starting under that dome, you an’ me…” He trails off, lost in memories for a moment, tongue-tied.

“We’re Mates, Devon.” Jaiden finally says, looking at the boy with a solemn look. “If you look that up on Wikipedia on your travels, you’ll see what I mean but I think you know. Up here..” He taps his head. “And here.” He taps his heart.

“I’ll contact you as soon as we’re out. Be careful, and take care of yourself, Mate. Make your mark.”

Once the boat comes to a hushed stop and Jaiden stands, so does Devon. He’s silent, thoughtfully silent, while listening to the older man speak as he leads the way onto shore. He stares at the hand that’s offered to him, then lifts his gaze to look at the man offering it. To think where they’d each started and what brought them both to this point, this night…

“Mates,” the teenager agrees as he clasps hands with the hydrokinetic, sealing the statement with a firm handshake. More than friends, or even just simply brothers.

With a final shake, Devon releases Jaiden’s and turns away. Hands briefly go to adjust straps as he takes those first few steps away, shifting his cargo as it settles with his stride. After a half dozen or so steps, he’s on his way in earnest, leaving the city, the river, and the older man behind him, with only a final wave in farewell.

When Devon lifts his hand to wave goodbye, the man on the beach lifts his in response, standing there, watching Devon dwindle into the darkness. It’s only when Devon is out of sight that he lowers his hand and climbs into the boat, his power sending him back across the river. And, as he goes, he finds himself scrubbing his eyes with the back of his hand to fight off the tears, only truly letting go when he is back home in Elizabeth’s arms.

Mate : Noun /meɪt/ An Australian cultural idiom. Mateship is a concept that can be traced back to early colonial times. The harsh environment in which convicts and new settlers found themselves meant that men and women closely relied on each other for all sorts of help. In Australia, a 'mate' is more than just a friend. It's a term that implies a sense of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance.

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