A Community That Actually Cares


elliot2_icon.gif robyn7_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon4.gif

Scene Title A Community That Actually Cares
Synopsis Squeaks confronts a bad memory from a bad place.
Date July 1, 2021

Near the outskirts of the Rat Market, the shops are spaced further apart and the people trying to barter for goods are spread thinner. The noise and chaos is a little bit less than the main drag of the marketplace, even though voices are still raised with everyone trying to get the best price and payment they possibly can. The selection is obviously not as good here, but that doesn’t really stop anyone from trying to make or break a buck.

It’s easily not the place to go, either, to get lost in the crowd and be more readily found by one’s group. Probably that’s why Squeaks chose to linger here, while the rest of the travelers finished up their hunt for supplies and necessities. She’s already done what she could, trading an extra pair of too-large rubber boots and a good leather belt for an extra jacket. It has a hood and so many pockets. That score was followed by a bonus, a vendor willing to part with some kind of skewered, roasted fish on a stick for a pocketful of random bolts and washers and nuts.

Perched on an overturned crate that’s easily seen better days, the redheaded teenager sits with elbows braced against knees. The skewer of fish is clutched in one hand, sort of temporarily forgotten as she watches the goings on at a nearby stand. What some people bring to trade is a curiosity.

Amongst the people milling about the market, Squeaks can make out one familiar face - Robyn Quinn, to her at least. She stands in front of one stand with a distant look on her face as she rummages through an odd assortment of knicklnacks and items for anything that may catch her eye. Of which there doesn't seem to be much in the Ratmarket, prompting her to let out an exasperated sigh as she backs away from the stand and shakes her head.

For the moment, she doesn't seem to notice that Squeaks near by, even as she turns and faces in her direction, ready to make her way deeper into the market, or maybe back to where she's sleeping for the night.

Elliot didn't plan on being in the same part of the market as Squeaks. When she fled at the sight of Robyn earlier, he assumed she'd been making her way to Captain Ryans. But then Robyn had begun moving in the same direction and his compulsion to keep teenagers from experiencing further trauma led him that way as well. He hasn't been hiding from his teammate, just shopping in the same areas. So far he's made few useful trades, most of them just preserved foods with potent flavors to serve as accents to the meager fare they'll have along their road trip.

Spotting Squeaks changes the dynamic. He crosses the storage casually, scuffing his boots on gravel as he approaches to alert her to his presence. If nothing else, he can serve as a buffer to prevent her from fleeing further from the group if her trauma is triggered again. "Find anything good?" he asks.

For a good whole twelve seconds, Squeaks doesn't register either Robyn or Elliot. She's busy being nosy. But as she remembers her snack, her eyes wander from the nearest tradings. She's half way to taking a bite, teeth just barely touching the skewered meat, when she spots Robyn.

And the teenager freezes.

Squeaks doesn't even look up at Elliot, because if she doesn't move she won't be noticed, right? Sure. At least she starts that way. As soon as Elliot speaks, the red headed kid pulls her feet up onto the crate, very slowly, and starts to stand. Also very slowly. The whole time her eyes are on Robyn. And once she's standing she quietly, voice shaking even though her body is rigid, states with all authority as it's a matter of fact, “She's dead.”

Squeak's comment doesn't seem to have made it to Quinn's ears, at least. Instead, she continues rooting around through a big box of what mostly seems to be junk, at least judging from what she pulls out. A little water damaged toy in one hand, and then some sort of hand made ball and paddle. Even from here, though, Elliot and Squeaks can see her face light up as she reaches deep into the box and pulls out - a record of the vinyl variety.

Of course.

It lacks any sort of label, probably long damaged and removed, and it's certainly not in its original sleeve. Rather, it rests in some sort of makeshift cardboard container. Despite this, she seems pleased with this find, reaching into her bag and pulling out some sort of small box she offers in trade. The deal is accepted, and with a wide smile, she turns away.

Which, in turn, finally brings her to the direction her two companions are in, offering the pair of them a wave but not immediately starting over to join them.

"That's Robyn," Elliot says, glancing from the distressed girl to his coworker. His greatest worry is that Squeaks has been afraid of the version of Robyn who was apparently a serial killer, but this reaction doesn't give him much to determine if that's the problem. "She's part of my team. We came to this place together from… where we're from. As far as I'm aware, she's never been dead."

"No." Squeaks interjects, not exactly forcefully but she's definitely arguing. The way she remembers it, Elliot is wrong. "No, she… no I saw it." She saw enough to know, heard the whole thing. She still hears it sometimes, the heavy gunfire, the screams of dying people and witnesses, the guard captain's dangerous voice. " I was there. I — "

Squeaks cuts off when Robyn looks her way. The crate under her feet rocks as she shifts her weight, but she holds her perch. At the same time the stick of fish slips from her grip and falls, getting lost on the ground. She remembers that day, as clearly as if it happened a minute ago. And all the panic and confusion of that moment slowly starts writing itself into this moment.

“Hey,” Elliot says softly, holding up his hand to suggest Squeaks come back down from towering above him. “You’re here right now, you’re not back there. Nobody is being hurt. Well, your fish stick may be done for.” His attempt at levity is really to draw her attention back into the here and now, because he’s been where her mind is going. He can see the shine in her eyes; a Bad Memory coming up from her own BLACK BLACK BLACK.

“I can ask Robyn to give you some space,” he continues, his hand still offered up to her. “But I’m sure she’d like to make this right. Or I can tell you about her, how we came here together and what it’s like where we came from. I know you came from some place bad. Our place didn’t turn out as badly.”

Her face turns part way towards Elliot, but Squeaks' eyes stay on Robyn for a while longer. "From your place?" It isn't exactly a question — she remembers it being said before too, Robyn and Elliot work together somehow — but her tone lifts at the end making it sound like one.

Still moving slowly, because maybe faster moves are dangerous in the space between now and before, she lifts fingers to the right side of her neck. "It's not bad there." It still sounds like a question, even though she's echoing reassurances. This Robyn isn't the same Robyn she saw murdered. Her fingers press against the small scar beneath them, and she finally slides a side eyed look over to Elliot. "She fell from the sky — you," her eyes swing back to Robyn. "You fell… Else picked you up from the water."

Unfortunately, giving either of them space doesn't seem to be in Quinn's immediate plans, holding the record she's managed to acquire close as she turns and starts slowly in their direction, practically preening with happiness.

Once again she waves, drawing the attention of several onlookers as she calls out to them. "Elliot! Jac!" Oops, she's forgotten that Squeaks still goes by her nickname here. "There's a few stalls with some wild things here. One said they had a few cassette tapes earlier, but they're gone now!" She's not shouting, but she's certainly talking loud enough for her voice to carry as she approaches.

“Not Else,” Elliot says with a wave of greeting to Robyn. He lowers his hand a bit now that Squeaks seems to be avoiding a complete spiral. “We did fall in the water, but we got picked up by Nova, Yeah, Buoy’s captain. She’s on the convoy with us.”

As Robyn finally gains ground on them, Elliot waves an introduction between the two. “Squeaks, this is Special Agent Robyn Roux,” he says at a volume not suitable for local listeners. It seems important to emphasize that Robyn is her own person here.

“Nova,” precedes a quieter “Jac.” While it's her real name, it isn't one she goes by, and someone using it is puzzling. “I'm Squeaks,” is a touch louder, maybe only enough for Elliot to hear, and given with her eyes still following Robyn’s approach. “She looks just like…” But they aren't the same, and the teen does know about other selves from other places. She's never seen her own here, but she also never went looking.

Anything else that could maybe be said, conversational or otherwise, is stuffed away. Wariness and suspicion clings to her. Because maybe those people, the DoEA people, reanimated Robyn. Squeaks is pretty sure that didn't happen, not to anyone who's Evo, who they hunted. Her eyes dart over to Elliot and then back to Robyn.

Robyn's wide smile softens as she catches up to the two, laughing as she hears Elliot's introduction. "I think here, I'm just Robyn Quinn," she offers, turning over to Squeaks and smiling at her. "No agency here, and the name Robyn Roux was already taken." She looks up at Elliot and nods - she appreciates him remembering from their introduction, at least.

A hand rises up, running back through her hair in a manner that makes her facial scar even more visible to them both, holding her record up. "I found what I'm hoping is buried treasure. No labels or sleeves, so I just have to hope my father has a record player when we get to Alaska." Looking just pleased as punch, she turns her attention back to Squeaks. "I wasn't expecting to see you among our group, Jac, I have to admit. What brought you along with us?" Besides the story they've been selling about how things will better in Anchor.

"Just illustrating the differences between possible versions of the self," Elliot tells Robyn. "Squeaks here isn't native either, and I've been assuring her that the two of you have never met." He gives Robyn a meaningful look to convey patience and kindness.

“I’m Squeaks.” Quiet, but persistent. She isn't usually called Jac by anyone and it's weird to be called that now. Like when the toe seam on your sock gets twisted just slightly. As to how not from here she is, the details are left alone. She just bounces her shoulders slightly with a shrug.

As to why the teen is on the cross continent trip, “I chose to go. I did what I needed to on Cerberus and now…” Eyebrows raise, and Squeaks’ shoulders follow a second later.

"Oh." There's a moment of puzzlement, but Quinn smiles and nods at Squeaks, looking a bit embarrassed. Eyes flick over to Elliot as she parses his comment. Not native, and given the speaker, that implication is pretty easy to pick up on. "Ah. I'm sorry, that's… what I call the variant of you where I come from," she offers in a low voice. Another difference between her and the Robyn Quinn Squeaks knew, at least.

Looking between the two, she regards them with curiosity. "But no, I can certainly say I haven't met you before today, Squeaks. Not you you at least." Her hands clasp together, held in front of her as she keeps that vinyl record close. "Do you mind if I ask where you come from?" She looks back up at Elliot, uncertainty on her face. "Is that a faux pas? I don't know if we have proper etiquette for something like this, I'm just…" Dreadfully curious which Robyn it is Squeaks knew, and desperately hoping it isn't who she worries it may have been.

Elliot gives Robyn a subtle shrug of ignorance; he’s been wondering as well. He doesn’t interject, tucking his hands into his pockets to lean back casually. As though they weren’t all a bunch of traumatized people from alternate timelines hanging out in a rat-infested post-apocalyptic market. He does turn his head back toward the table Robyn had only just vacated, wondering if there might be any movies he can peruse.

Squeaks eases herself off the crate, one foot at a time and half crowding into Elliot’s space as a way to keep more out of Robyn’s. She’s sure about the whole traveling from other times thing, she’s done it herself. But it’s hard to shake off that feeling of seeing someone who died, who was literally actually murdered right in front of her. It’s those memories that linger and whisper at her, that make the teenager more uncomfortable than just Robyn herself. “Bad place,” she answers only after her feet are back on real ground.

The frown that forms on Robyn's face is marked with worry, eyes flicking over to Elliot. Bad place could mean a lot of things, and the way it combines with Squeak's reticence to Interact with Robyn makes her fear the worst. To her credit, she manages to avoid showing it too much as she sucks in a deep breath.

"I see," she offers quietly. "Well… I hope this world is treating you better, and I assure that, whatever you knew of me- and anyone else in our group- from there? We're aren't them." Carefully spoke, thoughtfully given as she tries to smile. "Either way, I'm glad you're among our group." Despite this, it's not impossible to tell that Robyn is the one who feels uncomfortable now.

Elliot gives a slight step back to let Squeaks have room to maneuver around him. He isn't uncomfortable being near her, she's safe. She seems to be maintaining her footing in the here and now, he sees less of the panic in her eyes. Again he doesn't press for a description of her home beyond bad. Maybe he'll never learn, and likely it will never matter. There's a bad place of his own to worry about, and it's much closer than hers will ever be.

"Where did you find your lunch?" he asks, nodding toward what's left of it on the ground. "I could eat, and you should probably leave that one to the rats." He looks between Squeaks and Robyn, including both in an unvoiced suggestion that they may find something to eat together, so long as they're already here and tensions are cooling.

“Better,” Squeaks echoes quietly, half squinting up at Robyn. She's probably not completely convinced it's not the same who she saw murdered. Or it's the similarities are too close it's making her suspicious. “Just me. Not lots made it out.”

The prompting from Elliot has Squeaks slowly peeling her cautious curiosity of Robyn so she can look down at her dropped snack. “Oh.” Vague discomfort flips easily to ponderous tones and she nudges the skewer with the toe of her boot. “Over there.” A general answer at best is at least accompanied by a hand pointing and the teen actually looking in the same direction.

"Ah, um…" Robyn seems a bit lost for words as she looks back up at Elliot, and then down at the ground for a moment and pointedly away from Squeaks. A quick glance up in the direction she indicates, and then back down at the ground.

"I ate already," she lies, lips pressed thin as she rolls her shoulders. "I think…" A hand runs back through her hair, eyes flicking over towards Squeaks and then to Elliot, the latter of whom she offers an apologetic smile. "I think I'll be on my way." If nothing else, the nervous energy that seems to have possessed Robyn is a stark contrast to the boisterous and reckless woman Squeaks had known. "Make sure this gets put loaded up somewhere safe," she adds as she holds up the vinyl again.

"Ah well, some other time then" Elliot tells Robyn, taking the offered vinyl. His features don't entirely match his words, his look conveying understanding. "I'll let you know if I find anything regarding our earlier conversation." They've barely talked today, though Robyn did previously tell him that one of her alternate selves was apparently a serial killer. The rest is communicated through a hand pointing at Squeaks but hidden from the girl's view. Convoy life would be difficult if somebody thought there was an active murderer among them.

Turning to Squeaks, he remains affable and inviting. "I can grab you a replacement lunch if you want," he offers, "unless you've got places to be as well." An invitation to hang out until she's comfortable or to slink away into the market once again, no pressure.

“No,” sounds almost like a question. And, from Squeaks, maybe it is by somehow serving the purpose of stalling Robyn or trying to ease her fears and at the same time telling Elliot that she doesn't have anywhere else to be. Not until they're all gathering at the convoy. “Wait.” That's definitely more to Robyn than Elliot, and she points toward the food stand again. “Please. I won't say you're dead, because you aren't and you're different.”

"W-What?" Robyn seems a bit taken aback by this additional information, blinking as she stares blankly for a moment. "Dead?" After a moment, her eyes widen, a hand moving over her mouth. "Oh. Oh." It seems she's putting something together in that moment, swallowing as she looks down at Squeaks - and then, abruptly, she leans down and hugs the younger woman.

Elliot feels relieved that someone knows what's happening now, even if it isn't him. He takes a reflexive half step back to keep distance from Robyn, but otherwise doesn't interfere. With Squeaks trying to reach out to deal with the discomfort, he doesn't worry too much that her trauma will send her running deeper into this rat-infested hell hole.

Squeaks stiffens with surprise and casts side eyes all over. But she pats Robyn’s shoulders after a second, even if she doesn't exactly hug back. “Okay. But we should get lunch too,” she adds almost as soon as her hands move.

The fact that Squeaks doesn't hug back leaves Robyn with just a lingering bit of unease, but largely, she almost immediately seems less anxious than she was a moment ago, keeping a hand on Squeak's shoulder as she stands back straight. "It's fine. I get it now." Or she thinks she does at least, but she's not going to question it further out loud.

"We can talk about it later, if you want," is whispered just loud enough for Elliot to hear - in theory, at least. She musters a small smile, exhaling sharply. "Little late for lunch now, I think, but… sure, why not." Her eyes drift over to the vinyl, smirking as she motions for Elliot to hand it back to her.

Elliot is happy to return the record, and smiles as the conversation doesn't devolve into further trauma responses. Robyn gets a nod, he's not impatient to learn and the current moment seems more important to both her and Squeaks. He straightens up, looking in the direction that Squeaks indicated for food. "Do you think they have any beef teriyaki?" he asks, "or should I have Wright order some for dinner so I can just taste some vicariously through her later?"

“It’s probably fish teriyaki,” Squeaks proclaims, following closely after that with, “it’s never too late for lunch!” If she heard anything, she’s obviously chosen to ignore it, since she keeps any side eyes or squints to herself. Along with a tug at Robyn’s arm and plucking at Elliot’s jacket sleeve, she turns the way to the food stand she’d visited earlier. “Who is Wright and how does her dinner be vicarious?”

The mention of fish teriyaki is enough to get Robyn look askance over to Elliot, the look on her face screaming an amused do we have to without ever speaking it. The tug at her arm, however, catches her off guard, Robyn looking down at Squeaks with momentary surprise, before letting out one of the fullest laughs she has since arriving in the Pelago. Reaching over, she ruffles Squeak's hair with one hand, still chuckling. "Lord. Is this what I have to look forward to when my son's your age?

Just a light bit of teasing, now that things are on more even keel. "I'll take a good beef substitute, at least. I think I'm fish'd out for a bit." Robyn would never survive in this world for too long if that's her attitude.

Elliot is relieved for the break in tensions, and smiles back at Robyn as the woman is vibrantly happy for a moment. “Honestly, I’ll take teriyaki anything at this point,” Elliot says, patting down his pockets for what flavors he was able to procure for later. “Spices and seasoning here aren’t what I’m accustomed to and I like to make an impression in the kitchen.”

To Squeaks he explains only what he’s comfortable saying in front of the rat mafia. “Wright is my partner, she’s back home.” He’s confident that the girl can extrapolate enough meaning from that, but nods to direct her eyes to the dozens in the area which see for someone else.

“Oh right.” Squeaks catches a meaning from the look, but the question lingers on her face for a whole half second longer. “Okay, but…” she starts off in the direction of the stalls, fairly sure that Elliot and Robyn will follow her. “But we're still close to the big waters, so it's fish. But maybe bird meat too. Sometimes it's better just to not ask,” or maybe that's in the Pelago, but her rule is, “but also just get when you recognize.”

"Well, beggars and choosers then, I suppose." Still smiling wide. "Chicken teriyaki if we're really luck sounds like a good reward for surviving this long, right?" Adjusting the satchel slung over her shoulder, she looks over to Elliot and offers an arm to him - seems like three of them are going out to lunch, and Robyn's in the mood to play it up a bit.

"I'm going to take you and Wright up on that offer once we get on the road, though. I'm going to need a moment to savour something that doesn't taste like trail mix." She winks at him, before looking down at Squeaks. "Lead the way, Squeaks."

Elliot takes a moment to straighten his jacket and hood, buying time while he runs through all the evidence that Robyn is safe to touch. She's aware he doesn't like to be touched unexpectedly, so he appreciates the fact that she didn't. Satisfied for now, he offers his arm in return. "Seagull is a subspecies of chicken, right?" he asks.

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