A Few Bent Laws


eileen_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title A Few Bent Laws
Synopsis Jaiden's charitable nature attracts some unexpected attention.
Date August 5, 2010

Jaiden's Garage

It's a bit after 5:00pm on a Thursday night. The heat of the day has mercifully been lessened by the scattered clouds blocking the sun, making those who work with their hands and bodies without the blessings of central heat and air conditioning thank their lucky stars. Jaiden sits, quietly, on the front stoop of his garage, a recliner scavenged from somewhere with a missing arm and stained . The doors are half-closed, the florescent lights mostly off, casting the interior of the garage in a muted half-light. A radio plays softly, NPR's Fresh Air with Terri Gross, doing an interview with a notable person of the day - mainly background noise to keep thoughts at bay.

Jaiden is dressed in his work clothes, his work shirt tied around his waist, his undershirt stained with grease and sweat as he drinks a coke from a glass bottle.

It's a bit after 5:00pm on a Thursday night when the sound of silence around the garage- or at least, what passes for silence in it- is broken by the sound of a heavy, diesel engine that comes rolling off the street and challenges the front of the garage with its deep growl. The truck idles while the driver-side door opens and the driver hops out, an angry buzz emitting from within the cabin as the vehicle alerts him that hey, asshole, you left the keys in the ignition. The truck's other occupant, still in the passenger seat, is left to suffer the noise.

Jensen Raith walks around the front of his vehicle and, regarding Jaiden briefly, before regarding the half-closed doors and turning his attention back to the lone mechanic. "We too late?" he asks, "Or you still seeing customers?

The truck's window is dirty enough that only the silhouette of Raith's passenger is visible, but their profile's angles are unmistakably feminine and include a long, slim nose, delicate chin and a neck like a waterbird's. There's a hand resting on the dashboard and another folded across the passenger's lap — whoever she is, and she's definitely a she, she appears content to remain where she is for the time being.

When the truck pulls into the driveway, Jaiden straightens slightly, taking another unhurried sip from his soda, as if this intrusion on his afternoon is an everyday and expected occurance. He stands and stretches as the man walks across and inquires about whether or not he's closed, and as an answer, Jaiden reaches behind him and flips a switch. With a hum the florescent lights click on and the red and blue neon OPEN sign (over the banner of an australian flag) clicks on. "Bein' the boss ensures that I'm open whenever I'm here, and I'm not one to turn away business. Want a drink while you and your friend tell me what the problem happens to be?"

Jaiden offers a drink, and Raith offers a shrug. "Why not?" he asks, before giving the engine three loud knocks and proceeding to immediately ignore what he just did. Perhaps a signal to his passenger of some sort. "Runs fine at speed, but the idle's a little rough," says Jaiden's newest customer in explanation of just why he is a customer, "And she loses power going uphill. She's a '61, so I don't expect there to be a computer onboard, hope that's not a problem."

The passenger's side door pops open, and a slim leg with a small, tapered foot appears in the gap. A moment later, a diminutive woman in a pale gray dress worn under a lightweight black cardigan of softest wool climbs out of the truck and touches the bottom of a white cane to the curb. Slim fingers seek the edge of the door, which she closes behind her with just enough force to ensure that it sticks. She looks young, but young is a relative term: she could be anywhere in her twenties, or a very gently-aged thirty. Her dark hair is swept up into a twist at the back of her held and held in place with a flower that has petals as wan and washed-out as she is, while the only make-up she wears is India ink black and outlines the shape of glassy green eyes.

Eileen is quiet, saying nothing.

"You say that like it's a bad thing." Jaiden chuckles, "These old trucks are pretty much bulletproof and only require a flat edge and an adjustable spanner to take down to the frame. Rough idle is normally carburetor or fuel filter adjustments - nothing really too hard." There's a brief pause. "Ma'am." A simple greeting to the woman dressed in gray. "About two meters in front of you is a wall, and to the right, a bench, if you'd like to take a seat. I've got sodas and water - the real sugar ones because I can't stand that corn-flavored garbage."

"How about that, someone who actually knows something about soft drinks," Raith remarks, "I figured the idle was something easy, but the power loss is a little more serious. I do a lot of transport and towing, so, you know. It could be a problem of some magnitude down the line." He is, apparently, one of those guys: Needs his truck for day-to-day activities, but doesn't know enough, never needed to know enough to diagnose the problem himself.

"Thank you," Eileen says, voice touched with a sleek accent that's distinctly European but difficult to identify with only a handful of syllables to go off of. As she speaks, a catbird with feathers the same colour as her dress drops down from the concrete lip of the adjacent building, snaps out its wings at the last possible moment and alights on the garage's stoop. They're not uncommon in New York, but their drab, gloomy plumage makes it easy for them to be overlooked. Even pigeons have threads of deep violet and iridescent green woven through their little capes.

She locates the bench without incident, but passes on something to drink.

"I know enough to know what I like. It's worth the effort to find the good stuff, even if it is a little more expensive. Pop the hood." This is said as Jaiden walks into the garage, returning a moment later with a small four-wheeled cart and a light. "Power loss can be a lot of things….all pretty easy to take care of as long as it's not major like a head gasket. I bet if we adjust the timing just a little we'll be able to get everything going pretty easily."

The bird's landing is glanced up at but otherwise left unremarked upon.

While Jaiden retreats into the garage, Raith treks back around to the driver's side and pops the latch holding the hood shut, before again walking around to the front and raising it up, propping it opened with a metal rod just as Jaiden returns. "Thanks, I appreciate it," he says, "Seeing as it's kind of late in the day and all. Here, listen, I can't, can't really place where you're from. I mean, I got some guesses, but you can only stand being wrong so many times before you just ask people, you know? Hope you don't mind me asking, either."

Stilt legs hop across the stoop, and a flutter of the catbird's wings brings it closer to the garage doors. It tilts its head and looks around the corner, tracking Jaiden's movement with small black eyes that glitter with a predator's curiosity in the dying afternoon light.

Jaiden blinks, rummaging through the top of the cart for a screwdriver, finding the one he's looking for stuck to a nicely-sized magnet which is slapped on the side of the cart to hang there - a tiny tool caddy. "Well, I'm not originally from these parts, if you can tell from the accent. Did help a few folk during the ice storm…nothing major." He shrugs and pops the air filter off the top of the engine, pulling it and the rest of the assembly away to reveal the carb. "Throw out your guesses. I've been all over the world at one point or another. We might have bumped into each other somewhere."

"Well, you never know, I guess." Raith, however, is quite certain they have not bumped into each other, but it works for him to play along for the moment. "You used to be a ship mechanic?" he ventures, "I figure that's closer to this than a jet is. In the navy? Or maybe the army?"

The catbird's attention flicks between Jaiden's back and his place of business, a keen interest taken in a fenced-in generator on the far right of the garage. If it has any use for a machine that produces electricity, however, the specifics are one of the world's great mysteries — satisfied with what it can see from the garage's threshold, it cranes a look over its shoulder at Eileen on the bench as if to make sure she's still there, then turns back to watch the mechanic work.

Jaiden's already got the carb adjusted slightly and, bridging a pair of connectors on the starter with a really long screwdriver, the engine whiirs and then rumbles to life. There's a bit of a cough as he adjusts the choke, the idle smoothing out a bit, and then silence as he sits up, removing the screwdriver, the engine dying with a cough. "Australian army, actually. Did my time there before I hit my knee and got it out of whack. Then photojournalism. Now here."

"Photojournalism, huh?" Raith asks, interest slightly piqued. While Jaiden is occupied with the still growling engine, now growling with less irritation, Raith looks momentarily not to Eileen, but up at the bird perched over them, before turning his attention back to the mechanic. "That's still journalism, so I just, I have to ask. What's your take on the news these days, with all the Evolved stuff? Am I just nuts for wishing they get back to showing more baseball and less, flying people, or whatever?"

Raith's question has Eileen's lips curving into an indecipherable expression. She offers the catbird her wrist, and without hesitation it wings up onto her hand and hooks sharp feet into tendon and bone between the dark network of blue and purple veins visible where her skin is thinnest. Her other hand adjusts its grip on her cane, now resting across her lap. A subtle arch of her brows betrays her interest in Jaiden's answer.

If Jaiden were paying attention to the observation around him and not the engine in front of him, he might actually catch these glances back and forth, but no, the engine in front of him has his attention, at least until the question of his views on the evolved are asked.

"Well, that depends. If you're the politician I'm trying to get my citizenship papers from, I fully support the views of the United States government. If you're a real person?" He grabs a red rag from the cart, wiping some grease off of his hands, spreading it around more than anything. "I'm a humanist." There's a pause as he lets that sink in. "Other than a quirk of genetic fate, the Evolved are just people, like me and you. They don't deserve the shit that gets piled on top of 'em."

Jaiden makes a face and grabs for his soda, taking a few gulps, tossing the bottle in the recycling barrel next to the garage door, his hands going idle for a moment. "What's happening here…it's a model to the rest of the world. This country was founded on freedom and liberty from oppression, an' now it's what's going on. It needs to be splashed across the news. It's ugly, and sick, and goes against everything this country was founded on, and if it knocks a little more baseball off the screens to tell the story, so be it." He sighs, looking up into the overcast sky. "Storm's coming." he observes quietly.

Raith doesn't reply to Jaiden's comment. Maybe it would be less unnerving, if it's unnerving at all, if he took a stance against Jaiden's view. At least then, he would have taken a stance instead of casting his gaze to Eileen before saying, of the approaching storm, "Sure is." Rather than watching Jaiden, he's watching his companion, as if he were waiting for some signal, or more likely just watching her to watch her.

Eileen can feel the change in the air, energy building in the clouds that churn in New York City's summer sky like smoke. She smells ozone, the promising reek of wet earth and oily concrete. A cooler breeze teases the few flyaway strands of dark brown hair that have escaped the twist at the back of her head.

Jaiden is right. About more than the weather. "What are your views on Messiah, Mr. Mortlock?" she asks in a voice just loud enough to cross the distance between them above a distant ripple of far-off thunder.

Jaiden's hand rests on the edge of his cart, a large wrench easily in reach. He doesn't pick it up, though - it's just there, ready, just in case. "I…I can't say I've heard too much about them. I'm just a mechanic, after all."

"Well, what about what you have heard, then?" Raith asks, "They've been making the news a bit, and you seem to follow the news. Surely, you've heard something about them, good or not-so-good." And then, raising a hand to his face as if to shield his next comment from eagerly-listening ears, the ex-spy adds in a half-whisper, "Leader's a total queen."

"You don't give yourself enough credit, Sergeant," says Eileen. "Sarajevo, Darfur, Somalia, North Korea — please, be less modest. That's quite an impressive list, and it's hardly complete." She transfers the catbird from her wrist to her narrow shoulder, coaxing it from one perch to the next with lift of her ring finger and a subtle gesture that the animal seems to instinctively understand.

"I'm a follower of your work," she explains, because at this point — thank you, Raith — an explanation is officially overdue. "Don't mind him. I was wondering if you could tell me why it is you've stopped writing?"

Jaiden stands there, quietly, listening, looking from the blind woman to her companion and then back again, seeming to war with himself on what the proper procedure at this point is. "You have me at a loss, Ma'am…you seem to be very familiar with me, but I know nothing of you or your companion, other than the fact that this truck's diesel is from 1972 instead of 61, like previously stated." The catbird on her wrist gets a perfunctory look, as does Raith, before he speaks again. "After the bomb….after the stories from that were sent back in, there was really no-where to go but down. I wanted to let some grass grow beneath my feet and going back home was something I wasn't looking forward to, so…I opened the garage. There have been plenty of stories to tell, but, strangely, the world may not be ready for 'em."

"I've stopped writing to disappear, as best I could. Makes it easier."

"'72, huh?" Raith shoots a glance at the engine, and then just shrugs. "Disappearing has it's advantages. Sometimes, it's a little bit easier to do things, when you're invisible, you know? No one notices so much. Maybe not so great if you're trying to tell the stories no one else will, but otherwise, it's not a bad gig." For the moment, Raith elects to back off and let Eileen take over again.

"I suppose that's true," Eileen concedes, rising from the bench with both bird and cane, "but I also don't imagine someone as opinionated as you finds much gratification just keeping your head down with your face turned the other way. That's why you opened this garage to anyone who needed a warm place to stay during the blizzards, isn't it?"

"I couldn't just let people freeze to death. I had a place and they needed help, so I did what anyone in my situation would do. I opened my doors and let them come." Jaiden chuckles softly. "Lucky I had this set up for just such an occasion, isn't it?"

"It is lucky you had it set up," Raith says in agreement, "A lot of people died on account of that snow. A lot of people that didn't have to die. That's the way of the world, isn't it? People dying that don't have to die. Some people are just lucky that there's people like you out in the world. Someone who'll look out for them. Help them when they need it. The world needs people like that. People like you. Don't you think?"

"My associate and I are part of an organization that gives help to those who aren't capable of helping themselves. It's dangerous work. Unlawful. But you're no stranger to risk, and you have the experience to understand that lawful does not necessarily mean correct." Eileen's footsteps carry her back toward the truck. Her pragmatic black flats lend her only a sliver of extra height. "If you'd be interested in opening your doors a little wider, so to speak, I'd like to send a few of our operatives to meet with you and discuss what we might be able to do for each other. If not, certainly no hard feelings: you won't hear from us again. We're not with the government."

And suddenly, to Jaiden, it all becomes a little clearer. "Send 'em by." His voice is soft, barely carrying over the sound of the thunder rolling overhead. "Won't be the first time I've bent a few laws in the country I'm in. Hell, won't be the first time this month."

"Glad to hear it." Raith turns his attention at the engine, and then back to Jaiden. "Thanks for the tune-up. Sorry to jet, but lately, things have been kind of, crazy. Lot of loose ends that need tying up before the city gets strangled. How much for the service?" Because, even if they've come to offer Jaiden a job, Raith isn't about to go galavanting off without fairly compensating him for his time.

Eileen places the tips of her fingers on the passenger's side handle but does not yet open the door. The catbird, its task complete, lifts off her shoulder, skips its wings across the truck's roof and disappears into the high branches of skinny tree on the other side of the street. Her head is bowed, expression unreadable. She waits.

"Don't worry about it. Just a few twists of the screwdriver." Jaiden leans on his cart, one hand in his pocket, the other on the edge, precariously balancing on one foot. "Just be sure they're discreet when they come. I don't talk much about what I did before the storm for the reasons you mentioned and a few others. I knew some others were doin' what I was doin', but I never found them or they never found me. I guess that's changed."

"The times, they are a-changin'," Raith half-says, half-sings while he pulls the rod down and allows the hood of the truck to close. "We'll be seeing you around, friend." With one more thump on the hood, the ex-spy treks back around to the driver's door and climbs into the truck, giving the body a small shake as the distribution of weight changes. With a creak and a slam, he has once more secured himself inside the vehicle.

"Discretion is our specialty, Jaiden," Eileen says, opening her door. First Mr. Mortlock, then Sergeant, and now she's using the name his mother gave him even though she apparently lacks the grace offer her own in exchange. "Have a good evening."

The door swings smoothly shut behind her.

Jaiden makes his way back to the porch of his garage, dragging the cart of tools out of the threatening weather, and re-takes his seat, flipping the switch to turn everything off again save for a few sputtering florescent bulbs. "Pleasure meetin' you too, Sheila." He chuckles, giving the truck a wave.

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