A Better Present


jaiden_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif

Scene Title A Better Present
Synopsis Jaiden gets an unexpected visitor who tells of things that may happen in the past and the future.
Date September 9, 2010

Jaiden's Garage

With the sun settling down beyond the New York skyline and down into the hazy reaches of Jersey City, the clouded skies have turned a fiery shade of purple and orange tinted with streaks of red. Thick, voluminous clouds hang heavy in the air, those furthest south towards Staten Island looking particularly gray and laden with approaching rain.

Down the cracked and ill-tended sidewalk, patent leather shoes scuff softly with each lazy footstep, interspersed with the click of an umbrella's metal tip along the way, used as though it were some sort of makeshift cane. The possessions belong to a young man, teenaged in years but a little wise beyond them from past experiences. Not his past experiences of course, but past experiences never the less.

Halting on the sidewalk, the red-cheeked young man looks down towards a split in the concrete, then up to a sign posted on a telephone pole that reads "No Parking, Any Time Of Day." As if these were somehow ll signifiers of something more than they seem on the surface, the boy turns hia attention towards a specific destination across the street, as if in the hopes that all these portents are lining up as he'd expected.

That there is a garage across the way implies that, yes, things are going according to plan. Offering a self-pleased smile, the teenager glances across both sides of the quiet street, then steps out onto cracked asphalt that bristles with brown grass growing up between the fissures. New York City's public works department is handling road repair poorly these days, between nuclear explosions, near-apocalyptic ice storms and social unrest. Admittedly, topics like these are why the young teenager is headed to a garage just an hour prior to closing time.

The newspaper he has tucked under his arm is also relevant, but that's neither here nor now, quiet literally. As he approaches the garage, the bright-eyed young man looks remarkably out of place in this neighborhood, from his crisp sky blue blazer and black button-down shirt ensemble to the immaculately kept leather shoes and slimming blue jeans, everything about his sense of fashion seems like it was cut out of a magazine more so than what an ordinary person would wear.

Ducking around towards one open garage bay door, the young man arches one brow and peeks inside, tapping the head of his umbrella against the metal runners of the sliding bay door. "Hello!" is called out in a sharp and chipper voice, "I'm looking for a Jaiden Mortlock?"

The garage is open, but quiet. That much is clear from the sound of an air compressor pressurizing somewhere in the back and the fact that the lights are all on, including the open sign backed by a stylized Australian flag. Tools are scattered around haphazardly - not thrown aside like the place was robbed or tossed, but used and then put down. Chances are the man who calls this place home knows exactly where each tool was put down and, if asked, can find one with the greatest of ease.

The place is also well maintained - even the sidewalk outside shows signs of repair. The man who owns this place obviously cares for upkeep and the way things look on the outside. Having pride in ones' appearance shows a well-managed life.

The compressor in the back rattles a few more times then hisses to a halt, a leak in one of the air hoses hissing quietly - an interesting counterpoint to the radio playing NPR in the background. Terri Gross is telling about one of the latest movies being pitched, starring an evolved-hunting team and what that shows on the view a nation holds.

A chair in the office squeaks and the sound of boots hitting a concrete floor echo through the garage. The radio clicks off and the glass doorway, stenciled with the word Office on the glass, opens inward, a man standing there.

He stands there for a moment, blinking, as if he was caught napping, focusing on the man standing on the periphery of his garage. Either he's a salesman or a customer, so better be on good behavior.

"Aye, you've found him. What can I do for you?" His voice is strong and clear, the Australian stepping out of his office, dressed in jeans, steel-toed boots and a work shirt labeled with the name of his garage.

Too young to be a salesman, too young to be a customer, Rhys Bluthner looks just barely old enough to have his learner's permit. "I'm hoping I didn't come at a bad time, Jaiden, but— it looks like you're still in one piece, so I guess I came at just the right time." There's a fond smile that crosses Rhys' lips as he ducks his head in some sort of apologetic nod, then scuffs his way in thorugh the garage bay door, tapping the metal tip of his umbrella on the concrete floor between each step.

"I um, I'm hoping you have a few minutes for me. I know this isn't really what we'd call a traditional meeting, but— I'm here to talk to you about something that I need your help with." There's an earnest expression of apology that comes with the expression. "I um, I was thinking mauybe we could talk in private? Unless you're not expecting anyone else for the night, of course." Brows lifted, Rhys tucks his umbrella under the same arm as the newspaper, then offers out his free hand. "My name's Rhys Bluthner, by the way," offered up to the taller Aussie, "and it's— about a woman named Elisabeth Harrison."
Jaiden's hand goes out automatically, closing around the smaller man's almost like a catcher's mitt and almost as coarse in a few places. He shakes once, twice, and then releases, shaking his head in the negative. "No, no…I was just about to shut down for the evening and take a shower before heading out." Surprisingly candid, but it seems like strange things happening are the order of the day around here, the man taking it rather well.

Or maybe it's the name drop of Elisabeth.

"Private?" Jaiden flips a couple of switches and the lights go off, the door starting to close. "Come on then, down the stairs. No place more private than my place." He closes the office door with a soft *click* and heads to the cage where a staircase leads to the basement. A rattling of keys and the cage is opened, Jaiden leading the way downstairs to a very nicely furnished apartment in the darkened basement of the garage. A few switches are flipped down here and the fans come on, along with a few lights. "Take a seat, if you'd like, Mr. Bluthner." The name doesn't ring any bells, so Jaiden settles into his recliner, a little oragami crane sitting on the table nearby.

"So, Elisabeth needs me? I got a note a morning or two ago…" He nudges the crane with a fingertip, the folds not as sharp as when it was initially made, unfolded and refolded multiple times. "Telling me exactly that."

He fixes the younger man with a piercing gaze. "Could you explain, just a little, before I go to a meeting in the middle of the abandoned zone?"

Grimacing as he looks down to the paper crane, Rhys offers a click of his tongue and a shake of his head. "Yes that's, um, that's some part of the reason why I'm here, actually." Glancing around on consideration of the offer to sit, Rhys instead seems a little too ill at ease to take the offer up, "someone I… work with delivered that to you. His name is Hiro Nakamura, he's— " Rhys' eyes rise to the ceiling, not quite in a roll but in an effort to try and marshall himself to say this without sounding ridiculous. "He's a…" no, he can't manage it.

"Hiro works in insurance," sounds vague, but Rhys' awkward smile seems to imply that he's not happy with how that came out either. "That crane was delivered to you, because Elisabeth needed your help, and you came to help her and— that caused… issues." Predestination can be a difficult topic to handle, especially when the advent of free will comes into play.

"Here," Rhys murmurs, offering out the newspaper to Jaiden, "I know this won't make exactly the right sense to you, but it'll help frame things for what I'm going to do my level best to explain to you without sounding like a crazy person. It um… well," the newspaper unfolds, showing a front-page article showing a building on fire. The title of the newspaper is the Staten Island Advance and the headline reads Harbor Downs Hockey Rink Fire.

"I'm sorry if this isn't, um, making a lot of sense for you right now? I— I'm trying my hardest to put things in the proper order or perspective, but it… kind've isn't easy for me."

His hands work deftly, unfolding the page to reveal Elizabeth's image staring up at him from the badly photocopied page with the missive that she will need his help along with the address of a meeting place that he should go to in a few days. He gazes at it, unblinking, for a few moments before his gaze clicks up to regard Rhys and his newspaper being held at arm's length.

Jaiden shifts slightly in his seat, reaching out to take the paper with his right hand, his left resting on his knee, reading over the names, the dates at the top right. Jaiden doesn't read the paper, but even he, living in his bubble, would hear about a rink fire that happened today. "Okay, so a newspaper tells about a disaster. This didn't happen today." He pops the paper with the back of his hand.

This isn't making a lot of sense to Jaiden. Not in the least. "Why don't you start at the very, very beginning, and use small words. You're talking about something that I've done already, and that caused problems? Okay….I did something….and you're here to….what…explain to me what I did and what I need to do when I do it anyway?" He sounds a little wary, the tone of his voice quiet. "Thank god I enjoy reading philosophy and about time travel….the way you're talking? Sounds like time is going to be involved."

"Okay well, the— the beginning of it is that I'm… like you." That much comes with something of a smile from Rhys, "I can see the past, or— I can see changes to the past. Ripples and distortions, it's… I don't see moments in time, but I can see choices. Decisions that led someone to where they are today, like just looking at you," Rhys notes as his pupils grow dark and wide, "I can see the choices that brought you to New York, that what you did this winter helped put you in the good graces of the people you're associated with now, it— it's hard to explain."

Though, looking down to the newspaper, Rhys can't help but laughing awkwardly. Lifting up one hand, he scratches at the back of his neck, "The newspaper is from January 7th, 1999." Rhys leans forward as he inspects the newspaper, then straightens again and swings his umbrella down tip-first onto the floor, folding his hands on the curved end. "Um, you— I'm pretty sure, caused that fire." Squinting, Rhys clenches his jaws and breathes in deeply, "will cause that fire? I'm— I really don't know the tenses very well. Trying to explain this is like trying to explain how to sneeze, it just— it happens."

Teeth draw across Rhys' bottom lip as the young man shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "There's— someone out there, I don't know who, I— I can't see who, and he's… he's doing something in the past, a lot of somethings, actually. He's causing havoc like a little kid throwing a tantrum in a store. You know, the kid shouts and everyone looks at him, maybe someone a few aisles over stops their conversation because of the shouting. It— one tantrum has a ripple effect?"

Sliding his tongue over his teeth, Rhys looks down to the newspaper. "Someone is going after Elisabeth, there in that Hockey statium, close to that date. I— I think because we sent you that paper crane, you went there and— and saved her, but…" Rhys looks up to Jaiden with his brows furrowed, "I think now, the man who was targeting Elisabeth is going after you."

Apologetically offering a dip of his head, Rhys rubs one palm aainst the back of his neck. "I'm really no good at explaining this, but, unfortunately Hiro isn't much either…"

The Aussie sits there quietly, listening, his eyes closing after a moment. A flow chart may help fix this in his mind a little easier. Ripples on top of ripples. Events in the past changing the present, changing the future, changing the past. Multiple rocks thrown into a still pool causing chaos and then an entirely new surface, unrecognizable from the first.

"So." He lets out a soft breath, his eyes opening. "The question needs to be breached, then. I'm still here, as far as I know, so the ripple either hasn't hit yet or has and I'm not aware of it. Since thinking of stuff like that makes my head hurt…wondering if I'm real, if I'm not, we'll look beyond that and accept things at it's face.' Jaiden sits up. "I'm here, and I go to 1999 to save Elizabeth. I succeed and now, whoever wanted to 'get' Elisabeth for whatever reason wants to 'get' me, since I stopped him from saving Elisabeth by causing…." He scans the article, his eyes widening when he reaches the casualty total. "So many people died….." Because of him?

He holds up the paper, folded over. "This, here, is a potential timeline. Whoever this kid is….that's a problem and Hiro…." HE looks at the picture of Elisabeth, looking blurry in the photocopy, the neat letters at the bottom, looking back up to Rhys.

"I guess the question remains to be seen - should I believe you? This could all be an elaborate story just to mess with my head, but…" He looks at the paper again, at Elisabeth's picture, then to Rhys again. "Hiro picked a good person, I think, to do it." Ex military, experienced in bad situations, with a power that's potentially useful in pretty much any situation. "Will you be at the meeting, or are you just…testing the waters?"

"I'll be there, somebody has to keep Hiro in line," Rhys notes with a bit of inappropriately timed impishness, only belatedly recognized as in poor timing given the serious topic of conversation. Clearing his throat and sweeping a hand over one cheek, Rhys looks down to the floor. "It's all possibilities right now, muddied water, you know? Maybe you go back and save her and maybe this guy who's throwing stones in a big, angry pond decides to take his frustrations out on you."

When Rhys tilts his atention up to Jaiden again, however, he looks like there's still bad news to be relayed. "The other, ah, complication in this is that this newspaper?" Rhys motions down to it, "That's not something plucked out of the past or anything, it's— it's something I had Hiro pull out of a newspaper archive for me. You see it— the fire happens, changing the event of the fire it's like…"

Sliding his tongue over his lips, Rhys breathes in deeply. "The way Hiro explains it, time is like a river. Lots of forks and branches and stuff. Everyone's actions are ripples on the surface, muddying up reflections and the like. Sure, you can swim one way or another downstream and if you're a strong enough swimmer go against the current… but actually diverting a river at a point of your choosing, it isn't easy. Changing the past it— it isn't as simple as just going back and stepping on a butterfly, you know? History has… this tendency to course correct itself. Hiro said that someone once told him that in order to change the past, you have to be able to move mountains."

Rhys looks down to the floor, staring blankly, "I— don't really understand the mountain metaphor in connection to the river metaphor, it— " he looks up to Jaiden with a grimace, "It boils down to this. Bad things are going to happen to you, Jaiden, and it's our fault for getting you involved… and I'm worried that there might not be any way to safeguard against it?"

The Aussie rolls his head back on the cushioned top of his chair, his eyes closing again, letting out a short, barking laugh before a hand goes up to cover his eyes. "Great….it'll be like being a photojournalist again. Biggest story of my life. Mute witness to the horror all over again." He straightens, rubbing his eyes with both hands, squinting hard, trying to drive the visions away for just a moment.

"Okay then…." He lets his hands fall to the arms of the chair, squeezing the leather rhythmically. "The fire happens. Maybe because of me. Maybe not. That doesn't matter right now. What matters is fixing whatever this guy is breaking." Jaiden nods slightly. "And as far as moving the mountain? That I can't do. But moving the river? That's my specialty…"

The corner of Jaiden's mouth quirks up slightly. "When you saw this the first time, did you think this would go as well as it is now? If so, thank god for small miracles."

That confidence seems to reinforce Rhys some, and it has him allowing an easier sigh to slip past his lips as his head dips down into a slow nod. "It doesn't work like that," Rhys comments with a smirk, fair eyes alight to Jaiden's, small hands wringing around the crook of the umbrella. "Truth be told, the jury's still out on whether or not this actually did go well, but— I like to have hope, you know? I like to think that we're doing the right thing. It's not always easy to believe in yourself, but…" there's that smirk again, "I— guess you know that already."

Looking down at his feet, Rhys considers his shoes in silent stare before tapping the tip of his umbrella on the floor and looking up to Jaiden in the same motion. "So, you'll show up? To the," there's a nod to the unfolded crane," to the meeting, I mean? It'll be safe, I know you're just taking my word on that, but— I think you've been taking my word on a lot of things lately. I ah, I— I appreciate you not thinking that I'm completely out of my mind on this too, it really means a lot to me."

Rhys grimaces, "The uh, the not being looked at like I'm crazy thing, I mean. I guess you showing up will mean more to Elisabeth."

The confidence Jaiden shows is built on years and years of having to be strong in the face of adversity. Torture. Horrors. Man's inhumanity to man. Jaiden's seen it all and can still look in the mirror in the morning. He's done the right things in his life and he knows it. But this..

"I know it'd mean a lot to her. Only known her a month or so and she's already one of my closest friends. " Jaiden nods. "I'll show up to the meeting. I'll probably pack a few things, too, just in case I have to go somewhere. A bag of necessities if I can bring it with me. 1999 isn't all that different from today, but I still follow my golden rule."

Jaiden's Golden Rule is printed on a sheet of paper taped to the inside of the door at the bottom of the stairs. In letters that fill the page, it says simply 'Be Polite, Be Professional, Be Efficient, and Have a Plan to Kill Everyone you Meet." Something learned in the military where even the most mundane can be deadly in a matter of seconds.

"Like leaves in the breeze, so are we on the tides of time, helpless to change course but able to see our goal. And as Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”" Jaiden nods. "Let's rock and roll."

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