Search For Friends

Participants:

brynn_icon.gif caspian_icon.gif gillian_icon.gif hailey_icon.gif joe_icon.gif lance_icon.gif

Scene Title Search For Friends
Synopsis The Lighthouse !Kids, their former guardian, and a new friend set out to help Hailey find her lost loved ones.
Date February 25, 2018

Ruins of the Bronx


They’d left Hailey near the hole in the wall that she knew and drove north, through Jackson Heights. Gillian flashed her ID and a smile to get them through the check point to head into the un-Safe part of Queens. Once they made it past the checkpoint with their small, truck, they moved much slower. Debris on the road, broken buildings— they had to adjust their plan to get to the Bronx more than once. Hailey, on foot, would beat them to the meet up place.

Once they were out of the Safe Zone, she’d handed out guns from a locked box she’d put in the back. All, suspiciously, revolvers of various sizes. Her friend Eve had given her many a gun for birthdays and Christmases, even if she strongly prefer not to use them. Don’t shoot unless we need to.

The old Whitestone bridge still stood. One of the few bridges that managed to weather the war, the bombs and everything else. It could use repairs, but they drove the small truck over it without fear of it suddenly collapsing. The rendezvous had been decided with a grin. A location called ‘Old Ferry Point’. In the Bronx. Gillian had smiled when she pointed it out, and asked Hailey if she knew where it was—

Just south of an old golf course. She turns the engine off, and opens the door to look around for the young empath. “Hopefully she didn’t beat us by too much.”

From the south, Hailey leads her brother and Joe through a tangle of bush. She’s keeping out of view, crouched low, and skipping along the path like a rodent would along a wall. The empath refused a pistol, using her arm as an excuse, but her brother knows the real reason she won’t touch them again.

Even though they’re still quite a few miles away from where she was shot and taken, her nerves are bare and frazzled. She has no idea if they will even find the monkey at all and she knows the first stop they have to make is the block Brady stole her from. Hailey moves a little slower now that they’re in the Bronx, paying more attention to her ability than the ground underneath her. The rats are nervous, she can feel it, but they’re not afraid. That’s a good sign.

The Bronx.

It’s not somewhere Caspian ever really planned to go.

With the roving bands of villians that people say are outside the safe zone walls and, really, not having a good reason to even explore a blasted landscape populated by those who weren’t lucky enough to find themselves in the safe zone, exploring here was one of those bucket list things. Sure, he’d be able to find some great graffiti spots, but fear of unexploded ordinance does tend to make one a little more careful about what’s going on. Still, he was able to get out of the safe zone fairly easily - not having to use streets, walking on invisible trails over walls from building to building does help, meeting up with the truck a little past the last checkpoint, leaping into the bed and crouching down, nervously gripping the side of the battered vehicle as it rumbles along towards its final destination. He had his own pistol, but he hoped he wouldn’t have to use the thing. Ammunition is fairly valuable, as far as things go, and each shot could feed him for a day or so.

Brynn climbs out of the car on the other side of Gillian, and she waves off a firearm at first… and then with a sigh, she takes it, checks the rounds in it with an experienced flick of her hands, and then tucks it in the back of her pants. With her hands then free, she turns to look around the area — she hasn’t seen this part of the city since she returned. She isn’t sure she remembers a lot of it. A great many of her memories are filled with hiding. When she spots Caspian joining them, she snaps her fingers for Gillian and points. But she doesn’t see Hailey and the boys yet, and she shifts her weight nervously as they wait.

Joe went slinking along with Lance and Hailey, through the fence to the meetup. He brought is own gun. A simple well maintained Glock 9 millimeter. Nothing fancy, but if you're accurate with the thing you don't need a bigger gun. Or so Brian told him. Drilled into him really. Right now it's mission time, and Joe is quiet. A stark change from his normal talkative self. More like he was when he was little, always quiet around the adults, listening to everything they said. But it's game time right now. They have an objective in potentially hostile territory. They sneak along, utterly soundless thanks to Lance, but even if they didn't have a Lance they would make very little noise. They were well trained. So when they do emerge from the shadows it's like the shadows come alive for a moment before the figures of the two boys and Hailey can be made out. He's dressed in simple blue jeans and a gray hoodie, with his gun tucked away out of sight.

"Hey." Lance offers a confident smile to the others as the group all gathers up once more, straightening up; he's wearing a hoodie done in urban camo, hood up to shadow his features. His cargo pants match. Neither garment comes in that pattern normally, but that's the benefit of having Brynn around!

He did accept the revolver from 'Aunt Gillian' and he's got it ready tucked into his belt as he looks over the others. "Okay. So, mission parameters…"

Suddenly he's a tactical squad leader?

"We get the monkey, get any more of Hailey's stuff that she needs, and get the fuck out of here. Any disagreement there?"

As Lance takes charge, his ‘aunt’ smiles. Gillian doesn’t keep her hand anywhere near her own revolver, which sits in a holster at her hip. She’s still not sure she’ll be able to use it if it came down to it, even if her kids were in trouble. “If there’s any trouble, leave it to me and him,” she gestures at Caspian. “I can increase the power of your forcefields if it comes down to it.” That’s what she intends to do.

“Though I suppose we could let Joe disarm anyone who shows up, too.” She isn’t sure how invulnerable the boy would become if she boosted him, but she’s willing to find out if it’s necessary. She just hopes that they leave the fighting to the adults…

And maybe the kid who can’t be injured.

“Hopefully they’ll take one look at this small convoy and decide it’s too much to take a bite out of, though.” That’s what she’s counting on. Safety in numbers. At Hailey, she holds her hand out. “Let’s see if we can’t find your Jim.” Even before the girl takes her hand, Gillian’s eyes have already started to glow, violet colored. Should they make contact, that glow will spread to her arm, and into Hailey’s hand. But even before that, the girl will feel energy, power, pushed into her, increasing the strength of that empathic ability that she had lost just days ago.

Before taking Gillian’s hand, Hailey raises hers in protest to Lance’s plan. “I have chores to do before we can leave,” she has responsibilities, she’s been repeating that over and over. “We have to make sure everyone has enough to eat and drink.” Only then does she slip her hand into Gillian’s.

Like a puddle of milk on the floor, she begins to feel everything in a much larger radius than before. She begins honing in on herbivores and in the wasted city, there aren’t that many. “Can we go to the place I was shot at? I want to start there. I can’t feel him yet.”

“My fields are pretty strong to begin with, but let’s hope this is just a clean in and out sort of thing.” Caspian peeks over the roof of the truck, narrowing his eyes to see as well as he can in the dark. Mostly full, the moon casts shadows and puddles of light, allowing concealment and bringing the darkness into view in the most inopportune moments. He reaches down and rubs the backs of his hands, concentrating, a little field appearing, glinting momentarily in the light so he can pull it up at a much faster speed than if he’s just asked to do it on the fly. Priming the pump, as it were.

Looking to Hailey, Caspian sighs and shakes his head. “Feeding animals too. Gotcha.” And with that, he crouches, quiet, waiting. “Care to give this a little color, Brynn?” he asks with a smirk, his arm with the field on the back extended to her.

As soon as the small group is fully gathered, there’s a subtle shift in Brynn’s body language. Lance speaks of mission parameters, and the teens are all ‘on’ in the way a small team of soldiers automatically reacts to one another when they’re on-duty. Her gray eyes are watchful of the surroundings as she yanks her dark hair back into a ponytail, but more than that… she has her particular place in the squad and as they make ready to move, she automatically falls in just to Lance’s left and back, out of the way of combat but close enough to see all hand signals made immediately.

Her gaze skims over her ‘aunt’ and over Hailey, keeping steady on the other girl’s mouth as she speaks, and then Brynn is signing. How many animals are we putting out feed for, Hailey? Are they all within proximity to one another, or are we going to have to split up?

When Cas extends his field to her, she tilts her head curiously. Then she jerks her chin ever so subtly to Joe, making sure he’s watching as she signs for Caspian, Why would you want it colored? Invisible is tactically more useful to us. It’s a very different tone than perhaps he’s seen from her. Very businesslike. I can’t change the colors of something like that, though — only solids and liquids. But if you’re worried you’ll stand out, I can do some fast shifting of patches of your jacket. Her own sweatshirt holds the same sort of camouflage pattern that the others have — clearly she’s been at work on their gear.

"Mission parameters are Lance and I are the forward scouts. We'll engage silently if we can, but if we can't I'll be the bait and distraction, Lance will sneak up on them and take them down. Hailey can you keep an eye out via critters for us? They'll tell us if anyone else is getting close besides us after all." He offers Hailey a quick grin, then looks around at the group. "But like I gave Cas the run down for last night… if it does come to combat I'm gonna distract the heck out of em and you guys take them down. Good?"

He looks around at the group, then over to Lance, his partner in crime. "All that good by you ninja man?" He looks down at his clothes, then over to Brynn grinning at her and gesturing at his clothes. He signs at her to request she recolor his garb for camo patterns while he translates for her with Caspian. “She said coloring it doesn’t make sense cuz it makes it way more visible, but if battle does start a brightly colored shield makes for a good target.” This is hand signaled back to Brynn as well. ”Also she can’t change the colors of your force field. Only solids and liquids. But she’ll color shift your jacket if you want.”

And then if everyone is ready to go they're off. Joe can move very silently when he wants or needs to, and right now is one of those times. He's careful of everywhere he steps and moves, and is alert. He most definitely resembles a soldier as he moves out. Brian's training at work.

"Joe."

Lance clears his throat as he steps over to the truck, hauling himself up and into it before calling after the other teenager, "Joe, we're getting into the truck. I mean, if you want to walk, I'm pretty sure the truck will win the race, though…" There's a brief grin as he drops down low in the back, pulling out the revolver. His eyes close for a moment, he takes a breath, and then opens them before calling forward, "We're in the quiet, Gillian. Ain't nobody hearing this truck."

Which means Joe isn't hearing them right now, but he'll probably be right back.

With her mouth opened to protest, Gillian stops when Lance continues to speak, nodding at his words. “Good, I don’t think the Co-op would allow me to borrow a truck if we left this one out in the open.” She’d been about to pull out the ‘mom voice’. But luckily she didn’t need to. She’s actually gotten quite good at it over the years despite not having had any kids. Technically. Future baby from an aborted past that is only six years younger than her doesn’t really count.

But Jolene gets the mom voice the most.

Before she continues, she tosses a pair of keys toward Caspian. “You, will drive the truck. Keep it slow and if you have any doubt about the road, we’ll take it on foot from that point on, in which case, Brynn, will camo it.” She slows down her speech and looks at Brynn for that last part, even though she’s sure that Lance will relay if she doesn’t seem to understand.

“Hailey and I will ride in the cab so that Hailey can keep her feelers out for her monkey as well as lead us to the place she was ambushed.” She gestures to the back of the truck. “The rest of just keep an eye out from the back. Let Joe protect you if it becomes necessary.” She would have asked Lance to keep them quiet, but he’s ahead of her on that, and she has to give him a proud look for a moment, before she moves to get into the cab with Hailey.

“Navigate us the way there,” she says to the young woman with a smile. “We’ll find your monkey.”

Hailey just rolls her eyes and lets loose a very exasperated sigh. “Joe, buddy, I can’t see through them… I can only feel what they feel. They can be nervous or scared of us or other people, they don’t know the difference.” She would point to the truck, but her good hand is being used to hold Gillian’s. She carefully manages to get into the cab, thanks to her guardian’s help, and keeping her ‘feelers on navigates with one word directions to the place where she was taken.

The way there is uneventful and once they reach the place, the empath gives Gillian a look of dismay and a shake of her head. No Jim here. She presses her lips together tightly to keep from breaking into a sob, taking shaky breaths in and releasing them before allowing them to continue on their way. “Let’s go to the zoo,” she chokes out and nods in the direction that Caspian needs to drive.

Driving is something Caspian can do.

The keys are caught when tossed, Caspian slipping into the driver’s seat, tucking his pistol in the pocket by the door before firing up the truck with a twist of the key. He looks at the gathered people and nods, just having to trust that Lance’s magical, mysterious power is keeping the silence from getting any further than the truck. Putting the truck into gear, he starts to drive in the directions indicated, stopping at Hailey’s first destination - a ruined place that looks kind of like every other ruined place here in the Bronx. Leaning forward to peer out of the grimy windshield, Caspian looks over as the empath gives a shake of her head and nods, putting the truck in reverse and carefully backing out, turning down the barely cleared street and motoring towards the zoo. Even with a silence field in effect, he remains quiet, his attention on driving, not hitting any giant obstacles, going around obstacles that he can, going over ones he can with a murmured warning to ‘hang on’ as the truck bumps over a pile of rubble, the rutted tracks from countless other vehicles giving a strange looping path towards the zoo.

“I hope that the roads are a little more clear leading up to the zoo.” Caspian says after one particularly hard bump that bottoms out the truck, requiring a little rocking back and forth combined with a force field ramp to get it free. “Getting out of here at a speed faster than we’re going now might rattle our teeth out of our heads.”

Sitting in the bed of the truck, jouncing around like a ping pong ball though she’s holding onto the side, Brynn’s got her eyes peeled for trouble. At least she has a decent view. She’s next to invisible in the dark, having made sure that they’re all going to have a low reflective index in the dark. When the truck bottoms out, even she is thrown into the air with a bit of a squeak, slamming into Lance before righting herself and grabbing the side wall of the truck bed again. Kneeling on the bottom, she signs to Lance rather indignantly, I thought he didn’t know Brian!!! There are a few naughty words thrown into the signs at that point, and she makes a scowl face at the back window — not that the driver can see it.

Joe knows this of course. That Hailey can't see through them. But well… he forgets. Or more likely he just doesn't get it. That's probably it. All these years together and he still doesn't get it. Or he just teases her. That's very probably as well. What he doesn't know, or realize is that they're taking the truck. So he starts to sneak off being all stealthy doing his commando thing and Lance RUINS it. Joe stops and turns around looking more than a lot confused. "But.. I… I mean.." He looks in the direction he was going, then back to the truck, then back, then back again before he huffs out a heavy sigh. "Fiiiiiine. We'll take the truck. Gotta ruin all my fun. Can't just let me go commando once! Not even once! I mean, commando commando not like no underwear. That's just weird. I guess it would chafe, though not me. I mean… I guess? Don't want to find out though." He ambles back over to the truck and sighs as he pulls himself up into it, still grumbling.

He rides along, not at all silently, constantly chattering about something or another. At one point he pulls his gun out to check over it and make sure it's good. Though he's probably checked it 8 times since he woke up. More Brian training. Hey you take that back. Brian is a great driver. Joe teasing Brynn with a wide grin on his face. He just bounces along with no issues himself, if anything the bumps make the ride more fun. Since you know… he doesn't get bruised. Unlike his friends, and his aunt, and the Caspian.

"Oh my God, Joe, I don't want to hear about your underwear. I have to /see/ it often enough since you don't put your laundry away," Lance complains with a roll of his eyes. As they start to drive he holds onto the edge of the back of the truck, keeping a wary eye on their surroundings as he maintains the silence field around the vehicle.

Somewhere out there's the man who shot his sister…

“I’m sure he made his way back to the zoo, Hailey,” the older woman says in her most reassuring voice, keeping her hand on the girl’s so that she can increase her range with that soft violet glow that emits from her hand. Gillian’s already feeling the strain of a consistent augmentation, but she is keeping energy back, and will say so if it gets too much. But she does hope they find the monkey soon.

“We’re not in a hurry,” she assures the driver as well. “As long as we make it back before dark, we should be fine.” Passing the checkpoint after dark would be difficult, though they would probably still allow a member of the Citizen Watch to pass. She mostly just doesn’t want Hailey and the others to go through her hole in the fence after that hour.

The road continues to have bumps and difficulties, but they are able to continue on without having to do much more than use those force fields some as assistance. She keeps her eyes peeled ahead to point out any major divots, offering a small boost if his forcefields need it. She does, after all, have two hands.

She’s just going to need a lot of sleep at the end of the day.

As they approach the zoo, Hailey closes her eyes. Her lips moves as she counts the animals there, as she identifies them one by one… right down to the mice. What she doesn’t find, is the one she’s most worried about. “STOP!” She yells to Caspian and immediately lets go of Gillian’s hand. She wrestles with the handle of the door and leaps out of the still moving truck, barely landing on her feet.

And she’s off running.

The pillars to the Bronx Zoo are up ahead, the letters faded from too much exposure to weather and other harsh conditions. The worn and rusted gate, hanging off its hinges in a permanently open position inside… but Hailey is running the other way. Brynn, Joe, and Lance can see her, one arm pumping, as she hightails it down the fence line. She’s fast, but not faster than either her brother or her brother from another mother. And after a few minutes, the fire in her lungs and sick feeling in her stomach cause her to slow to a stop and double over.

They’re only going about ten to fifteen miles per hour in this old truck. At Gillian’s prompting Caspian slows, taking the bumps a little slower, since the terrain won't let them go any faster without major structural damage to the truck and the contents inside. Hailey’s shriek causes him to slam on the brakes, the front wheels locking and turned to the right, nearly sliding into a burned out tour bus, the man turning just in time to see Hailey spring from the car and run into the wreckage of the zoo.

Twisting the key off, killing the lights and putting it into gear, Caspian grabs his pistol as he gets out of the driver’s door, finger near the trigger, safety off. “Where did she go? Where did she go?” Caspian scans the ruins, looking to see if Joe or Lance ran off in a direction before climbing into the bed, offering Brynn a hand to get to her feet before waving a hand to get her attention. Caspian points to her, then to the truck. “Please do your magic.” He says, hoping she gets the gist before he leaps out to the ground, boots crunching silently in the refuse on the street. His left arm comes up, a transparent shield forming about the height and width of him, the gun in his right hand at the ready, watching.

What the hell?? Brynn grabs the side of the truck as it slides and suddenly Hailey’s out and running. Letting the boys give chase, Brynn scrambles upright with the extra hand from Caspian, and then she climbs up onto the roof the truck itself to see farther. The boys will catch her, she signs, though neither of the other two remaining with her can understand the signs. When Cas speaks to her, she shifts her attention to where he’s pointing and then obligingly begins simply shifting random, irregular patches that she touches into various colors that will help the truck meld into the background of the city.

Then she’s back up to the rooftop, taking a post on her belly to watch. Her pistol is not out as yet, but as she lays up there, her own colors shift so that she melds pretty easily with the rooftop and is not a target. Random swatches of solid colors take very little time and break up her outline nicely.

Joe well, Joe sees Hailey tear off running and he divebombs right out of the truck, leaping from the vehicle. He goes tumbling across the ground and springs up to his feet and takes off running after his sister. There might not be blood involved but damnit both Brynn and Hailey are his siblings. And Lance too. Sometimes. Most of the time. He tears off after her, not shouting and hollering, not wanting to draw any attention to themselves, but he can move when need be. He catches up with her, but doesn't try to stop her, just keeps pace with her as they run, and then she's doubling over. He pauses to take a knee next to her and make sure she's okay. "Hails you okay? Is he in danger? Should Lance and I go ahead?" Short clipped questions. Communication is key. Brian training. He doesn't have his gun out, that's left tucked away, because he doesn't need his gun, but he does look over at Lance who has surely kept pace, if not outpaced him. Lance is fast.

Just a handful of moments after Hailey's leapt out of the moving vehicle, Lance has done the same — hurdling over the side of the truck, hitting the ground in a forward tumble and rolling up to an already-running pace. The teenager's an acrobatic little mo-fo, that's for sure.

One arm comes up, moves in a very military sort of gesture that means follow when able before he's off like a shot alongside Joe. When his sister drops, he's right there as well, reaching out to offer support as he pants out, "What's going on? Is Jim hurt or something?" An animal being hurt is the only thing he can imagine her being this desperate about. He glances over her to Joe, nodding once sharply.

The truck comes to an abrupt stop and before Gillian can even register much, Hailey’s off and running. “Damnit,” she mutters the light kind of curse she had started to adopt around the same time she became a kind of mom to these kids. They might even recall a time when she cursed a lot more… And didn’t use the softer words, either. Those times seem long gone, now.

Getting out of the truck, Gillian slaps her hand down on the roof to get Brynn’s attention before she says, slowly to make it easier to read, “Once you’ve camo’d the truck, we’ll follow.”

She hopes they left enough of a trail to follow, but she thinks if they just go straight in the direction Hailey had, they will catch up eventually. She seemed too panicked to have taken any route other than a straight line.

“Dayton is that way,” Hailey says, still doubled over from her sprint but she straightens after a moment, wincing through the pain of the muscle stitch in her side. She continues to walk along the sidewalk that borders the outside of the zoo and when she feels up to it, nods to Lance and Joe before taking off into another sprint.

Before long, they come upon the roan beast tangled in a fence and screaming every few minutes. When it sees the trio it lets out a chuff and paws at the ground with its right front leg, the only one free. Hailey rushes toward it obviously distraught. The horse has been hurt, badly, there are gouges out of its left flank and tears at his neck. “Dogs,” Hailey murmurs, as she places a hand on the gelding’s nose to calm it. “Sssshhhh sssshhhhe Dayton I’m here now, it’s okay.” Slowly, the horse calms enough to allow Joe and Lance near it too, though the whites of its eyes still show wild and when they get too close, Dayton struggles.

Looking to Joe and Lance, she nods toward the combination of wire, post, and bramble that has her friend caught. “Can you get it off? Please?”

Once the truck is suitably camouflaged, blending into the ruins surrounding it like a lump of rusted steel, Caspian sticks with Gillian and Brynn, starting to advance slowly, his shield lowered, his gun in his right hand, following the trails left by Joe, Lance, and Hailey. Sprinting wild in one direction leaves marks - scuffs, overturned dirt, and the like - so finding them isn’t as hard as one might think. The horse’s shrieks help, too, in their own odd way.
After a few moments of walking, Caspian approaches the horse, his back to the group, watching the ruins around them for movement, his shield at the ready. “I don’t think we’ll have room in the truck for…” A quick glance. “Him. Is there a park or open pasture anywhere around here?”

Brynn makes the recognition signal back to Lance, merely nodding at her foster ‘aunt.’ The camo is done in quick and dirty fashion, the same way she did her own — merely splotches of solid colors that are irregular and meld into one another randomly, breaking up the clean outlines of the vehicle. Then she slides off the rooftop of the vehicle, touching other random parts here and there as she moves, clearly only able to manage a certain radius with her ability.

Once on the ground, she tucks the pistol back into her belt for now, and signs for Gillian. Lance said follow. They can’t be too far. Do you want to bring the truck with us up that direction? Her gray eyes follow Caspian as he moves to follow the boys, and there’s worry in her gaze. He’s not trained, Aunt Gilly. I don’t know how good he is with that gun. Unable to hear the horse crying out, it’s left to the others to let her know that something has been found. But she remains close to Gillian as the group moves forward. She is, generally speaking, not the one they want running in there full speed.

Joe sprints along with Hailey and Lance as they eat up ground, moving in the direction of… the horse. “Oh god…” Joe whispers as he spots the horse all tangled up. Hailey doesn’t even have to ask, and Joe isn’t worried about getting kicked. He goes in there, stripping his hoodie off, as well as the shoulder ring he was wearing underneath it so it doesn’t all get torn up or tangled with the fence, and he jumps right in, his hands moving against sharp wire and metal, slowly and very carefully unwrapping it from around the horse.

He doesn’t have to worry about cutting himself, so he untangles the fencing himself, feeding what he gets untangled to Lance. He’s more nimble and can get it out of the way better than Joe can, and Joe won’t risk hurting himself. As he unentangles the horse he’s careful not to pull against the fencing, just lifting it away from the horse where he can, and warning Hailey before he has to do any tugging or pulling metal out of flesh.

"Oh, shit," Lance breathes out at the sight of the injured horse, his steps slowly as he approaches. He keeps his distance as Hailey calms the equine down, and then he carefully steps forward.

At the mention of dogs, he grimaces. He's not fond of dogs, really. Not since Denisa.

Joe's the one that's untangling the fence, and he stays a step away to take the fencing and pull it further back when it's passed over, silencing the creaks and groans of the metal. As Caspian strolls up, he glances back, "I think normally he's okay in the zoo."

The ASL is a little hard for Gillian to follow, but she catches enough of it that she nods, looking back at the cab, where the keys remain inside. She nods toward the passenger side, “Get in.” Without waiting another moment, she jumps into the driver’s seat and starts the engine again, well aware that it will no longer be masked in silence. They can at least get the vehicle closer.

Once Brynn is in the passenger seat, she’s driving, careful to use the four wheel drive even as she starts to crunch through underbrush and have to avoid trees. Thankfully, the ground is cold and dry. They hear the truck long before they see it.

And Caspian is right. The horse won’t fit in the bed of the truck.

Once set loose, the horse bucks, kicking its hind legs out from under it and nearly clipping Joe in the process. “Dayton, you stop that, they’re not trying to hurt you,” Hailey scolds the horse, who oddly enough… seems to listen and quiets enough for the young woman to stroke its velvety nose some more. It doesn’t need the bed of a truck, it can walk, but it is ripped up in a few places.

“I’m going to walk him back,” Hailey announces to the rest, “he’ll follow me, you guys can drive beside us or meet us up at the zoo.” She isn’t looking at any of them, she’s studying the damage the dogs have done to her friend and feeling its pain compounded with her own. It’s enough to want another pill but she resists. When she walks, the horse follows with its head bent low to the ground, trailing slowly after the empath.

With the truck heading this direction and Hailey declaring that the horse would be okay in the zoo, Caspian holsters his pistol and straightens, blowing out a breath in the frigid air. “It might be best for everyone to stick together instead of splitting up. Too many bad movies start with the party each going their own way. How far do we have to go before the zoo? I’ve…um…never been to New York. Or a Zoo, even a ruined one, since like ten years before the war.”

He starts to walk along behind and to the right of Dayton and Hailey, his shield up just in case the horse gets it into his head to kick. Joe may be invincible, but Caspian isn’t when his shields aren’t involved. With the truck behind, he pays attention to the world around him, squinting a little to try and see any movement that might herald bad things in the ruins.

From the truck, Brynn can see the horse and her eyes go wide. Holy hell! Hailey’s … yeah. She’s Hailey. She, at this point, is mainly along for the moral support — can’t leave her siblings out here alone! But as long as we’re not being shot at and whatnot, she’s good!

Joe doesn’t worry about getting clipped. Sure it’d knock him sideways, but it wouldn’t hurt him, but he does give the horse some light pettings once it’s free before backing off to let Hailey handle the animal. He’s walking along, eyes casting about as he asks softly. “Hailey would the dogs in the area hurt you?” Like the others that were there for Denisa’s death he… is actually not much of a dog person. Sadly.

"Drive alongside, Cas?" Lance looks back to the other man, flashing him a faint smile, "I don't want to split up either, uh— the zoo's not too far, I think. Shouldn't be too long before we're there."

He doesn't ask about the dogs, but he moves to walk near his sister, her horse, and the Joe. One hand near his gun, although he doesn't pull it.

They arrive just in time to hear what Hailey is proposing. Walking. “We’ll drive alongside you, but we should have you in the back, Lance. To keep the truck quiet.” Gillian has already been wincing at every crash and sound they’ve made trying to drive off the roads and into what can only be described as suburban sprawl. “Caspian, walk with Hailey. If it looks like the truck’s going to get stuck, we’ll use your force fields to keep going.”

Everyone else tried to give orders before, but now she’s giving them. “Joe, you stay with Hailey too.” Protection. And someone she knows knows how to use a gun.

The walk back to the zoo is perhaps ten or fifteen minutes with Hailey lagging in order to check on her horse every once in a while. The horse limps, obviously, due to the injuries on its flank but it seems happy enough to just be in the empath’s vicinity.

That’s one animal down, four to go.

Once inside the gates of the zoo, the path becomes too narrow for the truck to drive through. “It’s not far,” the young blonde says in a low tone. Her eyes flit from one area to the other and she’s being much more cautious now. “Be careful everyone, the wolves are nervous….” she stops and frowns at the guns, “and if you shoot them, I will be really really mad.”

The walk back to the zoo takes ten to fifteen minutes, yes, but those are ten minutes of silence, of stress, of tension, like a bowstring pulled back, ready to snap or fire its arrow into the darkness. Caspian is careful, walking slowly alongside the driver’s side of the truck, one hand on the blotchy, indistinct vehicle, the other with a shield up around himself, the door, and the front windshield, preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

“If they try to eat us, I think it’s a little bit their fault if we shoot at them, even if they’re just doing what they need to do to survive.” Caspian’s gun remains holstered, though, the shield going to more man-sized as he steps away from the truck, using it as cover from behind while he watches where they came from. “What are we doing with the wolves? I mean…just letting them out to go hunt, or do you have a big bag of wolf chow in there somewhere that we’re supposed to put into big steel bowls?”

It’s a legitimate question.

The wolves are freaking nervous??? Brynn eyes Hailey skeptically. Wolves brings Brynn’s pistol out of the back of her waistband. Sorry, Hailey. She won’t shoot — and Hailey knows it — unless there’s no other choice. Brynn doesn’t like guns. But she’s not going to take chances with nervous wolves either.

She remains close to Gillian as they all move cautiously. Lance said ‘stay near Caspian’ for the defense positions, and she’s good with that position. Two military gestures for querying, which direction? and Who goes? to the team leader are made, so that Brynn can keep track of who’s where, but other than that, she merely keeps a rear guard.

“Hails if the wolves attack us we will have to defend ourselves. So… try to make sure they don’t? Link up with Aunt Gillian for a power boost if you need it. But we don’t want to hurt the wolves okay?” Joe offers Hailey a small smile, walking along beside her and the horse. Stick close. He gestures back at Brynn, then looks over to Lance. “You know the way, do you want to scout ahead? I mean… the wolves can still smell you but not hear you. Nevermind. Dumb suggestion. Very dumb suggestion. I’d say we just stick close together.” Joe comments softly as they walk along. Mission time is about the only time that Joe’s mouth actually stops so he can breathe.

At the call from Gillian, Lance looks back - and hesitates. He clearly wants to stay near his sister, but tactically she's correct. "Keep an eye on her," he murmurs to Joe, heading back to clamber up onto the truck so as to mask its noise again, settling in, keeping a wary eye on their surroundings but occasionally looking forward to make sure the horse and Hailey and Joe and Caspian are alright.

He dismounts from the truck once they reach the zoo, and he does pull his gun now. Not for the wolves, though. "It's way easier for people to hide in here, so keep alert," he says quietly, "In case someone else had Hailey's idea. Or they tracked her back here."

Once they reach the gate, Gillian turns the truck off and pockets the keys. “Time to camo this thing. Though hopefully no humans are nearby.” One would hope. She doesn’t like the sound of wolves for sure, having also been mauled nearly to death during the same extra long winter that they lost Denisa. She’d have the scars from it, if she hadn’t accidentally augmented a healer.

What she does have are mental scars. She never has liked dogs since.

“Strength in numbers sounds best for everyone,” she adds with a nod, waiting for Brynn before she joins the others. Hopefully they will remember what the truck looked like so they can restore the paint job when they make it back to the Safe Zone.

“Lead the way, Hailey. Is Jim in there?”

Hailey is quiet as the stranger, Caspian, and Joe voice their sentiments about attacking wolves. She knows exactly where they are, in the bushes, watching, waiting for the parade to pass by. The fact that Hailey is with them is possibly the only reason they don’t lunge out. But they know the empath, they know her horse. Even though they can smell the blood and are salivating for it, when the group is out of sight, they trot back to their den to hide until nightfall.

The paddock that Hailey lives in is overgrown and hidden by dead vines and twisted trees, in the summer it would be invisible, right now it looks like a giant bramble. She opens the gate, a sturdy thing made of thick iron bars with fresh weld to keep it secure, and allows the horse to pass through before the rest of the people. Then she closes and chains the gate behind them.

Inside is the pasture that Caspian was asking about. Three reindeer, no worse for wear from their three days without shelter, lift their heads. A stag, with an impressive rack of horns, squeals a greeting that is answered by the horse and a wave from Hailey. The doe keeps eating while the fawn jumps and kicks in excitement to see more than one person in the paddock. It isn’t afraid like the rest.

In answer to Gillian’s question, Hailey can only shake her head.

She can’t feel him at all.

It's not something you see every day.

Approaching the paddock, Caspian the stranger remains silent, watching as the gate is opened, the injured horse herded inside to join several more animals that, by all means, should not be alive at this point. War is a horrible thing, and things that can be turned into food often are in the early days of the fighting but these…

He leans on the fence, just watching them, horn-heavy heads swinging to and fro, to regard their new companion and the ones that brought him home safely, he little fawn coming to curiously investigate. And it's only after the gate is closed and locked behind them that he turns to look at the gathered group, looking at the closely gathered faces. “So no Jim. Have….um…the wolves smelled him? I mean….can you ask them if they know where Jim went, or which way the people went that took him? Or something? Is that how it works?”

Brynn’s been quiet the whole way, and now as they reach the paddock… even she is enthralled by her ‘sister’s’ animals. Because she hasn’t been out here to see them — or really even gotten to see Hailey except for the night the went to Gillian’s. It brings a soft smile to her lips as she watches the other girl with the creatures. Hailey’s ability is one that Brynn has always thought amazing.

When the youngster romps over to take a curious sniff, Brynn moves carefully — Hailey will keep the parents from getting protective, but she’s gentle with the baby anyway. He’s large! She keeps her eye on Hailey, though, and can tell by the expression that Jim’s still not registering. She signs worriedly, Hailey… could he just be out of range? Because the alternative — that Jim the monkey is gone is just horrifying to the petite teen’s heart. Not merely because of the fact that he’s an innocent creature but because of the absolute anguish and hurt it will bring her foster sister.

Joe is… quiet now. He stands near the entrance to the paddock, standing guard really. He lets his eyes roam constantly, his head on a swivel, letting Hailey tend to her animals, and the others do as they will. He? He’s staying alert and on guard. There are wolves out there, and the people who shot Hailey. It’s not a time for him to let his guard down. So he doesn’t. He still leaves his gun put up, there’s no need for it yet, he just stands and watches.

"My sister, Snow White," Lance quips as they arrive, letting Hailey go about her rounds; if she needs help, he's sure she won't hesitate to ask them. Animals are her thing. He hasn't the faintest clue how to take care of them himself. The excitable fawn gets a grin, and he crouches down to be more at its level, offering out a palm-up hand.

"Doesn't quite work that way," he explains to Caspian, "And if they could smell Jim, then she could sense him, especially with Aunt Gillian's help. So he's gotta be somewhere else." Or dead is the part he skips saying out loud.

“Let’s help Hailey out. She’s only got one arm to do all this work with, we can search for Jim after. He might still wander home.” Gillian responds, trying to not voice the thing she is sure many of them are thinking. That Jim isn’t going to come home. She had no choice but to take the girl to a hospital and try to keep her for a day or two to heal up.

“Tell us what you need us to do, Hailey. But stay in groups and within shouting range, in case anyone shows up.” She looks at Brynn. “You stay with Joe, alright?” It’s weird how, even after all these years, she still trusts Joe to take care of any of the Lighthouse Kids. She fully believes he would jump on a grenade if he had to.

Though she hopes he never will have to do anything like that, obviously.

Hailey points to Lance as he answers Caspian’s questions about her ability. “Animals don’t talk, they’re animals.” She says in a low tone. Yes, she is closer to them than she is most people but she has no delusions about her friends. Then as she’s leading Dayton away, he lifts his tail and drops a few apples on the ground. “Dayton, that was seriously rude, you could have waited to get to the paddock.”

In reply, the horse knickers.

Lifting her chin to Joe and Brynn, she angles her head toward one of the two sheds on the property. “There’s shovels in there, we need to clear the pens and put some fresh straw down for bedding, otherwise they’ll get sick from laying in the mud.” Looking over at Lance, “How do you feel about milking a reindeer?” Then she reconsiders the request, “Actually, nevermind… I’ll do it one handed.”

After leading the horse inside the paddock, she waves both Lance and Gillian over. “Can you clean up the bite marks on Dayton? He’s not feeling so good, so I’d like to get him inside as soon as possible.”

“I meant an impression of what they thought, or something…” Caspian trails off, listening and nodding after a moment as Hailey gives instructions. Hard work is something Caspian never shied away from. Moving away from the group, even without being told, he heads towards the shed and, after a flash of light from a small flashlight to open the latch and get the lay of the land, out comes a wheelbarrow, a big shovel, and a couple of heavy rakes. “Let’s get going, then. I’ll take the…ahem…crappy job.” He puts the handles of the wheelbarrow down and takes the shovel, moving to clean up the pile that Dayton left, putting it in the wheelbarrow and scanning for other piles that need to be cleaned up, the rakes at the ready for more cleanup.

“Miss Hailey?” Polite, isn’t he? “Once I get this part done and they’re done raking up the paddocks, where’s the straw? I can get that, too.”

Brynn nods immediately to Gillian's order, flanking Joe with the ease of having done so many times. Though there is still not weapon in her hands, she is signing for her brother as she moves. Joe, Hailey would know if there were any extra animals; should we take a full round of the paddock and make sure there aren't any more people?

Oh there’s no doubt about it. Joe would absolutely jump on a grenade to save one of the other Lighthouse Kids. He’s not sure he’d survive an explosion that close and that concentrated against him. He hopes he would, but he’d jump on that grenade without a second thought regardless. We should probably take a quick look around yes. He lets out a sharp whistle for Lance’s attention and once the ninja looks his way he’ll sign at him to let him know they’re going to do a quick patrol of the immediate area.

Then he sets off at an even paced walk, moving alongside Brynn and signing to her as they go. I hope Jim is okay. Hailey will be devastated if she loses that stupid monkey. Of course he waits until his hands won’t be seen by said Hailey for he signs that. Hopefully there’s no trouble and we can get out of here and back soon. And find Jim of course. She is not going to leave here until we find Jim one way or another. There’s worry in his stance and on his face, pulling his normal smile down into a slight frown.

Lance just stares at his sister for a long moment as she asks that question. Then he’s grinning broadly, “I’ve never milked a reindeer. Show me? You don’t want to do it one-handed, you might hurt the poor thing. Gillian can clean up Dayton, right?”

He glances back to Gillian for confirmation, then back to Hailey. It’s reindeer milking time! Hey, he gets excited for new experiences. And he knows his sister will kill him if he hurts the animals.

“I’ll take care of Dayton,” Gillian responds after a moment, willing to give it a try— it can’t be too difficult, right? Well, she’ll find out, either way. Hopefully the horse won’t kick her in the face for touching him. But she does want Lance to help his sister, so she will do what she can by herself. It’s just washing some wounds, right? How hard can it be?

Wounds on an already spooked horse…

She feels bad for the monkey, and feels bad for Hailey most of all. But they have more animals to take care of.

“Let’s get to work. We want to try to be back by night fall.”


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