All We Hear Is Radio Ga-Ga


lance_icon.gif walter_icon.gif

Scene Title All We Hear is Radio Ga-Ga
Synopsis Lance and Walter are met by an unexpected return.
Date May 2, 2019

WSZR Building

“Here, say something into the microphone,” Lance is sitting on the floor cross-legged near a sound console in jeans and a sleeveless grey hoodie, offering a walkie-talkie style mic to the child while depressing the button with an enthusiastic grin, “I can play it back for you and you can hear how it sounds with different filters.”

He’s been entertaining the youngster by showing him the various equipment they have around without actually disrupting the functioning of the radio station - having to step away now and then to make sure music’s still playing or the right ads are queued up. It’s not exactly a hard job to do though, so he hasn’t lost little Walter’s attention just yet.

Plus, the station is just filled with cool stuff.

Walter has been here a few times before, but only to hang out in the airtime booth or pick out a record with Mr. Pines; he's a welcome face, of course, and probably some effusing of childish energy for Martin. Delilah is off working on council business, and Lance has been more than accommodating.

This time is the first time he's gotten to play with things, which seems to have taken. Maybe the academy will start an A/V Club. Walter is sprawled out with the young man, in a too-big sweatshirt that flaps around over his hands. There's a hole in his jeans, because he's eight.

"Ground control to Major Tooommmm- -" The boy speak-sings into the receiver from opposite Lance, and instead of continuing the wheedling, Walter just laughs it out instead. That's all Lance has to work with. It's enough.

As the child sings out the old song, Lance can’t help but grin even wider. “Good choice, kiddo,” he teases as he releases the button on the receiver, and then adjusts a knob before playing it back.

Walter’s own voice sings out that attempt at lyrics. “That’s you, buddy,” the teenager informs him, “That’s your voice!”

"Can you make me sound like a robot?" Lance's attempts at keeping Walter busy are always effective; the boy takes a peek at the console and its knobs. "Or all deep like a monster?" The boy laughs, tugging one sleeve into the mouth of the other like a large mitten muff. "I sound pretty good right? I'm not really a good singer yet but- -"

“Yep!” Lance grins, reaching out to rewind the tape - and then adjusts one of the knobs, slowing it down and deepening the voice. “Grrrrounnnd connnntrolll to Majorrrr Tooooommmmmm….” speaks the recording, and he raises both brows, “Or we could go the other way!”

The ‘other way’ squeaks like a hyperactive chipmunk, as it turns out.

"Well, that's- -" Walter isn't sure what to think about the chipmunk voice. He has never known an Alvin in his life. "Weird." is what he settles on after a pause. "Maybe we sound like that to aliens. Skeek skeek skeek." The boy mimes a chipmunk himself, snickering all the way.

"Can you make it go backwards?" He pushes his hair out of his eyes as he sits back up straight and leans into Lance.

“Sure, but don’t blame me if you hear demonic messages,” Lance laughs, reaching over to key the device into reverse with a few presses of switches, “And maybe if they were sloth aliens. Big slow alien dudes that taaaaalk liiiiiike thiiiis.”

Click! There goes Walter’s voice in reverse, as the teenager watches with a grin.

Ginger brows lift hiiigh when Lance plays back his voice this time.

"Maybe no more of those ones!" Walter's blue eyes search more of the equipment. "Now I feel spooky. I bet some ghosts live here. I wonder if they understand backwards singing…" Maybe a few more.

“Pretty sure that’s not what an alien sounds like.”


The interruption comes from the doorway to the radio room, where a familiar — but long absent — woman stands with her arms crossed over her chest leaning up against the door frame. Her smile is as lopsided as her posture. Dyed red hair falls down over her shoulders, brows furrowed and green eyes squared on the two trespassers in her work space. “Pretty sure they’ll sound like big fish,” is her tongue-in-cheek response, because Jolene Childs is in a good mood.

As she steps in through the doorway, Lance can immediately tell something is different. She’s walking without the aid of a cane, there’s no pain in her expression when she’s standing. In fact, there’s just an unmitigated confidence that reminds him more of the faint memories of Jolene he has from before the war. “Boy, you guys must’ve been hard up, hiring Walter here to replace me.”

Lene looks down at Walter, smiling as fondly as she can. “Hey, Fox.”

“Ghosts, huh? Well— “ Lance’s head lifts at the interruption, and he grins, pushing himself up to his feet in a single quick hop of motion. “‘Lene! Dee dropped off the kiddo for baby-sitting, I’ve been showing him— wait.”

The differences strike him, then. The lack of the cane. The lack of strain in her face. That easy step of hers. Eyes widen in shock as it all hits him at once.

“‘lene, did you— did you find a healer, or— ?” Excitement runs through the teenager, grin widening as he moves to pace around her in a circle like a Labrador wondering if something is safe to get close to, “What happened?!”

Walter looks up as Jolene makes herself known, blinking. He snickers at her reply on the topic of aliens, and it seems like he might be too distracted to notice- - until Lance points out everything for him, and she comments on his taking her job.

Lene says hello. The little Fox gasps.

"Oh my god! Lene!" It's a little familiar, even now, that sudden and wide-eyed look; Walter stumbles to his feet, sweater arms getting pushed as far up as they can go. It hardly matters, because they are down at his thumbs again when he zooms up and puts spindly arms around her waist. "You're walking okay! Lance!! Look!" LOOK. He's already looking.

Bringing a hand down on top of Walter’s head, Lene cracks a hesitant smile and looks up to Lance. “Alright, okay, easy… easy.” Her hand moves to land down on Walter’s shoulder, reassuringly, and she briefly looks down at him with an intense mixture of emotions. Bittersweet, all of them. Looking back up to Lance, Jolene’s smile turns a bit more wry. “I bought new legs, snap-on, they’re all the rave in Japan.” But then she snorts, shaking her head and looking down at Walter, growing momentarily silent.

“I didn’t find a healer,” Lene confides, “a healer found me. Somebody we rescued from the Arcology, way back when.” She upturns green eyes back to Lance. “She wanted to repay the favor. Debt. Whatever.” Her brows crease together, and it seems like she’s still working through it all herself. “Mom helped, you know, add pepper to the stew. It required a lot.” Of pepper.

“Mom’s good at that,” Lance replies with a broad grin, his eyes bright—

And then he can’t hold himself back anymore and he steps over to throw his arms around her in a hug. And, if she doesn’t stop him, pick her right up off the ground and spin around like the lunatic teenager he is. “I’m so fucking happy for you,” he crows, “I’ve been so worried!”

“When you were gone I was worried that you were sick or you’d gotten worse, and you’ve been so depressed and— “ Okay, now he’s rambling.

Walter is used to having Jolene look at him that way; he doesn't know why, exactly, but Delilah just offered the explanation that people are different. So when she does it again, he brightens for her.

"One found you? Whoa." He deems this impressive apparently. "Wait, why would your mom make—" A squint, "What did she have the pepper for?" As Lance goes in for the hug, Walter steps a half pace back, eyes on Lene. "Your eyes are brighter now I think.."

He doesn't know the metaphor- he is being quite literal. A light that's back that he hasn't been old enough to see.

A soft, gentle laugh slips out of Lene as she tousles Walter’s hair again and leans in to Lance’s hug. “Sorry,” she says softly, “after it all happened— I just had to take some time for myself. I don’t think I’d felt like myself for years, it’d been so hard. But now,” she looks over at Lance, finally returning the hug with a strength he’s never known her to have as an adult. “Now, things are gonna be different.”

Only then does Lene disengage from the hug, offering a bittersweet smile down to Walter, then a look over to Lance. “Looks like you didn’t burn the whole place down while I was gone, so that’s cool.” She says with a crooked smile. “What’re you and Fox up to?” She asks, looking over at Walter, then back to Lance.

“Nah, I haven’t been around enough to burn it down,” Lance admits as he drops back a step, rocking on his heels and still grinning broadly, “I’ve mostly been spending time at my new job, but I’ve been trying to come by when I can to make sure Martin doesn’t get overwhelmed or anything— “

He motions a bit with a hand to the radio that he was playing with, “I was just showing the kiddo some of the equipment and letting him hear his voice played back and all.” Then he’s rolling his eyes at Walter in teenaged exasperation, “Not actual pepper, mom’s a augmentor. She makes powers bigger.”

The hand in his hair is taken in stride; people really like to do that, he's noticed. Walter's hair is just so soft and orange! Must tousle. For a short time he lets the grown-ups(ha) talk, looking up as Lene looks back down to him, then a laugh for Lance, followed by an oh.

"Mom says sometimes people need quiet time so that's okay. I'm glad you're back now, though," Walter decides this, no questions otherwise. "Yeah! We were just playin'. And I still want to see if we can send something to the girl! I bet she's listening and it'll be primal, what if she answers?!" Arms and sleeves flapping, the boy goes bouncing back to where they were sitting, crouching down and picking up a well-loved notebook. A lot of scribbles, but open to a page of words in his unpracticed writing. Notes. Totally. "Did you hear about her, Lene? It's this girl that talks on the radio sometimes… she's mostly sad."

“I feel called out,” Lene jests, then cracks a smile and shakes her head. “I’ve been out of touch of basically everything. I went back up the Adirondacks route we took, back during the evacuation… before the war. I went back up to the Canadian border, to those cabins by the water.” Once Lance spent months in before being ferried across to safety himself. “Way too far to pick up WSZR.”

Hands tucked into her pockets, Lene steps around Walter and moves past Lance and goes to look at the broadcast equipment, then back over to the two. “Is it… it’s not someone who works here. So, what, amateur radio fan or something? Do you know what frequency she’d broadcasting on and what time perameters?” Lene wrinkles her nose and looks up at the ceiling. “Actually…”

Lene walks back past Lance and Walter, a gleam in her eyes. “Pines has an old attenuator and a directional antenna somewhere around here. We could use that with one of the portable receivers and — I mean if you want to — we could triangulate where the broadcast is coming from.” Lene raises her brows and flashes a smile. “I mean, we’d have to be looking when she broadcasts, but… It’s a thing that can be done.”

“Yeah, me and Squeaks were trying to talk back to her, and I guess she heard,” Lance admits, “But not really two way… whoa, really? Primal!” He grins broadly, brows raising, “That’d be great, she really seems like she needs someone to talk to…”

“She’s an orphan, like— well, like the rest of the Lighthouse and me, so,” he admits, “She’s kind of one of us. If you could help us get that set up that’d be primal— ”

A grin, “Might even be a skill that helps me out later in life, since I’m going to be a secret agent and shit.”

Walter hands Lance his notebook; they both have scribbled in it, more for Walter's benefit than Lance's- - but it has the numbers and such she wants, at least so far.

"She kinda just starts talking, and people've been listening." is what the boy offers to Jolene, mouth working in an uncertain expression. "You can really do that with all this old stuff?" Sorry, Mr. Pines, but it is. GPS was only getting a groove when he was born! It's all he knows! "I think mister Raquelle did it too, like you and Squeaks. But he's way better at that kinda stuff." You know. Talking.

Lene stares at Lance, long and vacant. “Secret agent.” She deadpans. “Right. And Paul’s going to be an astronaut.” Rolling her eyes and smiling, it’s clear that Lene has no idea about the SESA application. “I can get the old junk running, thankfully that’s something I’m actually good at.” One arm wrapped around her midsection, Lene shifts her weight to one foot and rests a hand at her chin. “Do we… know like, anything about this chick?”

Looking down to Walter, then over to Lance she can’t help but feel both weirdly disoriented and confusingly nostalgic. She tries to let it pass and focus on their own schemes, which in and of itself is strangely nostalgic of her. “Are we sure this isn’t just some like, radio play or something? River Styx fanfiction?”

“Hey!” Lance sounds almost hurt, although he isn’t really hurt, mumbling something about ‘crying wolf’ under his breath as he digs out his wallet, the notebook from Walter tucked under one arm. “So she, uh, she used to live in a cabin out in the boonies she said - used to want to dance as a kid, ballet I think, she mentioned Peridance. So maybe upstate, or in the Barrens. They were on the move during the war - Colorado, Idaho, around there. Utah. Got sick at some point. She’s here in the Safe Zone, we know that, her parents are dead now I think. Late twenties, maybe thirties, she doesn’t sound older than that… ha.”

He pulls out his SESA ID card, brandishing it towards Jolene with a shit-eating grin, “Bam.”

Walter is about to pipe up about Lance and SESA when he pulls out his ID, and the boy snickers in Lance's shadow.

"He told you so!" See?? "So you can really fix it?" Walter pretty much double checks once more, to be certain Jolene knows what she's doing in the way only kids can be skeptical. "Yeah, there's all kinds of things about her, I dunno if someone could make all that up, could they?" Thoughtful looks up at the adults have him fussing with his sleeves, finger poking through a hole in the cuff, et al. "And what's 'fanfiction'?"

Lene's brows rise sharply. “Walter Trafford!” she exclaims, pointedly — frustratingly — ignoring Lance’s proof. “Your mother hasn't taught you what fanfiction is?” Her hands are up in the air, wildly gesturing. “I grew up in a— ” Her eyes go wide, and her words clamped off. Suddenly her exuberation dies down and she slouches some, then looks down to the ground for a moment.

Magnes taught me what fanfiction is,” Lene explains with a distant smile. “He's a friend of your mom’s, they go way back.” But then she remembers the explanation Magnes gave and all the color drains out of her face. “Uh— But don't— it's… it's like, if someone tells you a story, but you don't like the ending, or you don't want it to end so you write the rest yourself.”

Shooting a worried glance to Lance that all but screams help me be an adult, Lene shifts her weight from one foot to the other and rakes her hair back from her face. She finally squares a look down at Lance’s ID card, eyes narrowed and cheeks puffed out. Eyes down to the card. Eyes up. Eyes down to the card. Eyes up. “Secret agent,” she says flatly in a small, begrudging voice. “We’re doomed.”

As the subject of fanfiction comes up, Lance’s brows go up with it. He tries not to grin, but he fails entirely, observing in a sing-song, “He’s~ on-ly eight~ Jo-lene…” Clearly far too young to understand what a ‘lemon’ is when it’s not a yellow fruit being used as flavoring.

Then he’s flipping the card back into his wallet with a sniff at her reaction. “Rude,” he observes, tucking the wallet back into a pocket before pointing an accusatory finger at her, “You’re supposed to be supportive here. You’re walking okay now, you know, I can kick your ass and not feel bad about it.”

Despite the words, he’s grinning still.

Walter looks startled when Jolene implies that he should already know what it is. He seems even more apprehensive until he hears Magnes' name.

"Oh. Magnes was staying with us, he was telling me about how he used to do stuff like that… I just thought it was making stories." He can piece the word together, now. Fan. Fiction. Just so. "Is it the same if I make stories about Spider-man?" At this point, Walter is wondering out loud, but also seeking something of an answer. "I think I get it." He mumbles, looking sharply up at Lance.

"Hey, no kicking anyone's ass, Lance." For a second he sounds like Delilah when she scolds, except in this case it's followed by a prompt, pitchy kid laugh. "She just got better!"

"I don't think we're doomed. Lance is great at that kinda stuff."

Jolene’s expression looks wrong for the moment. She’s looking past Lance and Walter, off into the middle distance, as if she can’t actually hear either of them. A second into an awkward silence between the three of them, her brows scrunch together and she looks down at Walter with a patient and gentle expression. “Mom… told me about Magnes and Liz,” she says mostly to herself, turning her attention away from Walter to Lance. There’s a knowing look there. Gillian told her. Everything.

“We should…” The thought has distracted Lene, and she scrubs one hand at the back of her neck, looking around the old mill space. “I should go into the basement, try and dig up some of the radio equipment we’ll need. It’ll probably take me a few days of work to actually get it all running again, and there’s some… other stuff I want to take care of here. But…” She looks back to Walter, then Lance. “We’ll go looking for this mystery radio lady,” she affirms.

Maybe not Walter. After all, he’s~ on-ly eight~.

“I can’t comment on classified information,” Lance quips in response to the observation that Gillian told her everything, although he’s watching her with a suddenly worried expression.

“Alright,” he says, brows lifting a little, “Can we help? A few more pairs of hands can’t hurt, and— I mean, if you need anything else…?”

He grins, then, “We should get everyone together for pizza or something, celebrate. I’ll even go make Cash stop being antisocial long enough to show up.”

"Oh you mean about the black hole and stuff?"

ExCUse mE?

Walter is not quiiite getting that it's supposed to be classified. BUT, after a few seconds he does realize that just maybe he shouldn't know as much as he does. Freckles crinkle when his face contorts into a whole hearted grimace, teeth clenching in a smile. His eyes are everywhere else. That face - - Jolene has seen it plenty on the older one. Just before awkwardly sliding back into the hedges.

The look Jolene gives little Walter, then Lance, is one that accompanies the color draining out of her face. She smiles, wearily and nervously, and looks between the two for a moment. “Maybe…” Jolene makes a small motion with her hands at Walter, as though she were trying to sculpt a box around him, “we should bring Walter home…” Lene looks back up to Lance with an awkward smile.

“Before he accidentally commits treason.”

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