lisa_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Augur
Synopsis verb; \ ˈȯ-gər \ ; to be a sign of especially good or bad things in the future.
Date April 11, 2019

At a distance, parts of the NYC Safe Zone are reminiscent of Calcutta.

During the daytime hours in densely populated neighborhoods the streets are choked with pedestrian traffic. Electric busses supplied by Yamagato Industries whirr softly through the overwhelming noise of voices and the handful of gasoline-powered vehicles on the streets. Bicycle and horseback travel is a more commonplace affair, but it makes for slow going in those big rectangles of public transportation.

The busses are crowded but clean, insulated from the noise of the outside world by thick sheets of tinted glass. The inward-facing seats provide ample standing room, making them feel more like a subway car or an airport shuttle than a traditional bus. Transit distances simply aren’t that great given the Safe Zone’s small borders.

Zachery Miller has never been to Calcutta, but he’s seen photographs. The grimy city beyond those pristine windows is reminiscent of those photographs and, at present, feel just as far away.

NYC Safe Zone


April 11th

5:12 pm

The woman seated next to Zachery — at most thirty but probably younger — listens to headphones loud enough that he can hear the non-aggressive House music blasting through her earbuds. She’s shielded her peripheral vision from the doctor with a curtain of blonde hair, a book open in her lap and bag tucked square between her feet.

«Flushing at Woodward», an automatic message calls in a soothing woman’s voice over the bus intercom. The vehicle rolls to a stop and the bus driver opens the front and rear doors, letting passengers on and off. It’s only three more stops before Zachery is home from Elmhurst Hospital, only three more stops before he’s off the crowded streets and away from the people of the Safe Zone.

“Hey,” suddenly comes from the woman he’s seated next to, and she turns to look up at Zachery over the dark frames of her glasses that have slouched down the bridge of her nose. “You lived here long? In the Safe Zone?” She pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nos as punctuation.

There was a time when people on the bus were quiet. Wasn't there? It's been so long that Zachery wouldn't be surprised if he's remembering the public transport etiquette of the wrong country. Both countries and the world at large have changed enough, either way, for it not to matter. The question reaches his with a wrinkle of his nose and, to a lesser extent, the white patch stuck over his left eye.

He's been sitting slouched forward and staring down for a while now, head canted just to the side so as to center his vision on his hands gently bobbing up and down just between his knees. His glance up to the woman next to him is brief and notably delayed, coming only after his hands come together to press fingertips hard against knuckles. "Few months." The words are spoken as if he's giving her the time, shrugging his shoulders up a pinch through his black pea coat. As if he's hoping that it's not the right one, and she'll turn to whatever sap is on the other side.

“Okay so, not as green as me…. but still pretty green,” she says, plucking her earbuds out and stuffing them into a pocket in her bag. “So… did you wind up in the settler’s park down by the water or did you luck out with an actual tenement building residence? The way I've heard it is most new settlers live in those trailers…” She looks up at Zachery, threading a lock of her hair behind one ear as she zippers her backpack closed. “But they stuffed me into an apartment day one.”

Pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose, she offers a hand out to Zachery with a broad and crooked smile. “Lisa, by the way. Bradbury. Sorry for ambushing you.”

The speed at which Zachery's attention shifts from his own hands to the one entering what's left of his peripheral vision should tell Lisa how unexpected this gesture is. Unexpected, but… apparently not unwanted. Or maybe he's just incapable of turning one of these down. It remains to be seen whether he ever does because the next thing he does is lean one shoulder back to meet her hand with his. One handshake of thousands he's given, what's the harm.

"You're lucky," he says, where one might offer their name. His sidelong glance to her is more of a lingering one, now, focusing on what he can catch of her eyes and expression behind those glasses. "I've had the trailers, but fortunately not for long. Had a shithole assigned to me for work, then, and now I'm in more of a…" He pauses, before straightening fully against the back of his seat to look ahead rather than down. "Private business arrangement. Still a shithole, but it's mine."

The subtlety of Zachery’s ability is an art in and of itself lost on most of the world. With something as simple as accepting a handshake, Zachery has spread open the book of Lisa’s physical well-being to its long index. She has cartilage loss in both knees from physical strain, probably running. Her lungs and blood shows evidence of past siderosis which has reduced her lung capacity. She furthermore is recovering from symptoms of extreme malnutrition and vitamin-D deficiency. If Zacehery were a betting man, he’d lump those symptoms up into someone who spent the war confined to a rusting metal trailer eating canned beans with the blinds drawn.

As Lisa withdraws her handshake, her nickname for him in lieu of a proper name jogs Zachery back to the moment. “Well, Mr. Shithole, it’s a pleasure t’make your acquaintance. I suppose I’m lucky enough, and if you want to call me Lucky I’ll take that as a nickname. I can give you a better one too, if you give me something more to work with.” That smirk creeps up again.

… It takes him a few seconds of staring ahead, but his delayed response comes with a smirk back, even if a little weakly. "Dr. Shithole, actually, thanks." The remark leaves him flatly, though he does add with a little more life to his tone, "Zachery will do."

His hands pull separate in his lap again, palms down, fingers arched just enough for him to tap an absentminded pattern onto his leg. "An apartment on day one," his words come as an idle muse, though distraction pulls at his tone. "So, which day is it today?" Seventh? Twentieth? Thirty-first?

Lisa doesn’t seem to notice the delay, distracted by the lurch of the bus picking up and continuing on to its next stop. Her stare flicks over to an older woman who drops a plastic water bottle onto the floor with a thunk, and Lisa quickly sticks her leg out and stops it with her foot. Without really disengaging from the conversation she slides out of her seat, picks the bottle up and returns it to the woman and then settles back down next to Zachery again.

“The what now?” Lisa asks with wide and vacant eyes a split-second before remembering what was asked. She gasps, softly, at her own absent-mindedness and pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose with one finger. “Oh, I moved here in February. I’d been— out west for a while, the Dead Zone.” Her brows furrow when she makes that assertion. “Electricity, even with rolling blackouts, is kind of a novelty to me still.”

Reaching down to make sure her bag hasn’t shifted, Lisa continues. “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you’re not from around here,” she says with a look up to Zachery. “So what’s your draw? Why come to the land of blackouts and— ” the bus jostles violently, “ — potholes?”

As Lisa moves, so too does Zachery, but only just to keep an eye on her, shifting his weight to allow him to hunch forward again, fingers interweaving.

When she speaks of the Dead Zone, he gives a few nods— as if her words confirm a guess. An educated guess, but still. Soon after, his brows come down in what may well be a show of concern for a fellow human being! Maybe. The smirk that pulls at his mouth at the mention of potholes is a lot more genuine, even as his shoulders bunch higher up under his coat at the jostle. "I wasn't born here, no." Subconsciously, probably, the subject causes his London accent to creep slightly further into his words, where previously it had been buried deeper. That one visible eye is narrowed as he thinks. This is not a question he's asked himself in a while.

"I came here for studies, work, a long time ago," is what he finally settles on. "And then again, after a… break, three and a half years ago. It's always been a little like quicksand, to me. In the sense that you're fairly safe in the stuff, as long as you don't struggle and sink deeper still." Up his eyebrows go again, and he shoots Lisa a look as if to say, 'whatcha gonna do about it.'

Lisa nods, snorting out a laugh as she does. “Yeah,” she agrees. “I left New York a long time ago, and I never thought I’d ever be back… it’s surreal.” Glancing up to the illuminated signage indicating the bus’ next destination, Lisa seems to become momentarily tense.

Hey,” Lisa says abruptly, “do— you know anybody who’s good with cars? I mean like— a mechanic. I don’t have a car but I’ve got a bike that doesn’t work. Most of the mechanics I know charge an arm and a leg… wasn’t sure if you knew somebody who knew somebody or something” Lisa offers an awkward smile at that. “Shot in the dark,” is how she frames it all.

"I, ah," Zachery starts, lifting a had to scrub at his jaw before his palm comes to rest against the side of his neck. His gaze rolls up toward the ceiling for a moment, then out the window to check what street they're heading through at the moment. "A place opened up last month, actually. Not too far from here. Hell, if you get out at the next stop you should be able to find it."

His head lowers again, angled so as to keep Lisa in the center of his vision. "Can't promise you the price is right, though. I've been meaning to stop by with an old car of mine but just haven't had the time." A halfshrug indicates some prior judgment. "They seem like bikers." This, coming from him, sounds on the slippery side of neutral. Certainly not positive. But she's got a bike, right, so there. He's being helpful.

A quick smile flits across Lisa’s lips. “I really appreciate that,” she notes with almost too much earnesty. “You don’t seem like the biker type, though…” she notes with a raise of one brow, threading an errant lock of hair behind one ear as she glances at the automated sign by the doors again. “What kind of work do you do? Are you a surgeon, doctor?” Lisa asks half-jokingly.

Did the bus jostle again? No? Because there go Zachery's shoulders again, twitching upward as though he's fairly sure that it DID. His smirk wanes, and teeth grit. He opens his mouth, though the tightened muscles in his jaw send not words but a sneer over instead.

It doesn't last long, swallowed back into a more acceptable expression soon enough, though he never breaks his gaze fixed on Lisa's face. Almost accusatory. His voice is colder now, a little lower, but calm. "I used to be. I've branched out, since. I do a lot of things now." A beat's pause, then half-jokingly returned, "Why, were you looking for one?"

“Not me,” Lisa says quietly, picking up her bag by a strap and slowly rising to her feet in anticipation of taking the next stop. “But I’ve got this good friend who runs a tech company up in Jackson Heights, I know he’s been wanting to delve out into cybernetics and transhumanism kinds of research — implants and the like…”

Lisa shrugs, sliding her back over one shoulder as she does. “His name is Richard Ray, he’s got an operation called Raytech. They’re always hiring, and— come to think of it— I hear they’ve got an employee campus with power and water, too. Might beat your, uh, current accommodations.”

The bus slowly comes to a crawling halt, magnetic brakes making a soft humming sound until the vehicle is fully stationary. «Pennsylvania Ave. at Pitkin Ave.,» the automated announcement chimes cheerfully, followed by the doors sliding open. Lisa takes two steps back, brows kicked up over the rims of her glasses as she gives a small one handed wave to Zachery.

“Guess this is my stop, though,” she says with a crooked smile.

Just as quickly as Zachery's behaviour budged previously into defensive lockdown, it reverts. Like something snaps into place inside that head of his, and he actually seems stunned into silence until the jerk of the bus coming to a stop nearly sends him crashing into the adjacent seat.

These bus rides just keep on giving, don't they.

He catches himself with an elbow on a metal railing, fingers wrapping tightly around the cold surface. With a furrowed brow and somewhat lopsided grin that looks like it fights it way to the surface of its own accord, the 'surgeon and then some' turns his head to follow Lisa's path to the door. Whatever's going on in that head, though, seems to have robbed him of all the possible appropriate responses. Like 'thank you for the tip'. Or 'wow I guess I really give off that jobless vibe these days, huh'.

Ultimately, he simply settles on a pensive but pleasantly intrigued, "… See you around, Lucky Lisa Bradbury."

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