Bringing Color


colette_icon.gif jaiden_icon.gif

Scene Title Bringing Color
Synopsis Years after the battle at Mount Natazhat, two former freedom-fighters cross paths again.
Date February 19, 2018

Red Hook Market

The Red Hook Market in the Safe Zone is the place where you can get anything you want if you know where to go, who to ask, and have enough of what they want to give it to you. Anything that could be found in the ruins of New York eventually makes its way here, tucked inside dusty corners, racks, and shelves, but the thing that Jaiden is searching for today is simple. A cup of coffee.

You would think that coffee would be ubiquitous, but in the middle of the safe zone, after a war, in the middle of reconstruction, finding someone with a pot for sale proved to be a little challenging. Still, brewing coffee does tend to attract people and, at the large corner facing the main street, someone has set up a stall selling coffee and other small baked goods with a few tables in front. French Press, espresso with real milk, cappuccino… it all can be found in this little stall manned by a smiling woman and her surly son. The smell gets a lot of good attention, with people wandering by simply to smell and remember the better times, when coffee wasn’t a luxury, but a staple to be enjoyed every day.

Jaiden had found this place a little after nine in the morning and decided to set up shop here, just to people watch. After purchasing one cup of the stuff and finding it tasty and acceptable, he passes the proprietor a stack of bills and settles into a pocket of shade at the corner, refilling his cup now and again. If he didn’t know this was New York, he’d think this was downtown Calcutta, near the slums, or Baghdad, or some other third world nation that the United States would never have become if not for an insane decade that’ll take many more to even begin to recover from.

He’s not hiding himself, or making any effort to. The market is a good place to be anonymous and, for Jaiden, it’s nice to be a face in the crowd for a little while.

Across from the small cafe is a collection of tiny merchant booths selling paper products: envelopes, notepads, binders. Note office supplies, but something more like a craft store might prior to the war. Most of the goods are damaged, likely scavenged from former big box stores and exchanged hands during the war. The stalls don’t get a prodigious amount of traffic, just one today, in fact.

New York used to be a place where you’d rarely see the same two people twice, even in the same neighborhood. But in a city as confined as the Safe Zone, that’s changed. As Colette Demsky emerges from the small booths across from the open-air cafe, she pauses inspection of the paper-wrapped package in her hand and turns blind eyes in the direction of a familiar broad-shouldered shape by the barista. Dark brows knit together with thoughtful inspection, and after a moment of what looks like quiet contemplation she carries herself across the way with long, booted strides.

Mortlock?” Comes from over Jaiden’s shoulder, and the somewhat raspy timber of Colette’s voice is only passingly familiar after all this time. Photographs and second hand stories of her from the war conveyed her personal path in a different context, but now the young woman is an adult, and the recognizable wolf’s head patch on her right shoulder carrying more notoriety than her familiarly blind eyes. “Jesus Christ, it’s been a while…” Colette lays whatever it is she’d purchased up on the counter to keep it out of her way, and cracks a lopsided smile. “The fuck’ve you been up to?”

He’s in the middle of taking a sip of coffee when the short-haired woman calls his name, the big man taking too big of a sip and nearly spilling the precious liquid down his shirt. Dabbing a little off his chin with a handkerchief, he shifts, setting the porcelain cup on the cast iron table in front of him with a soft clink before he turns to see who exactly called his name. The voice is certainly familiar, but there’s a moment of thought as he scrolls through the faces he knows. Finally, he settles on one particular image he remembers, passed to him during the war of a much younger-looking dark haired woman that is remarkably similar to the woman he helped rescue from the Mallett device all those years ago, before this whole mess started. Ah, that’s it. “Demsky. Colette Demsky.” he responds with a nod, his face breaking in a grin. “Been a while, hasn’t it?”

Jaiden shifts, leg coming down, hand going to his cane, helping him to rise and greet her properly, offering her a hand to shake and gesturing to the seat opposite him if she comes closer. “It has been a while. Nearly…what? Eight years?” He favors his right leg, his left not bearing nearly as much weight as the other. “Care to join me for a cup? Eleanor, there, actually got fresh beans in from Columbia the other day and roasted them herself. Wonderful stuff. Uses purified water. As good as the pre-war stuff, if you believe that.” Eleanor, an older woman with her hair pulled back into a tight bun can’t help but smile a little, perking up at the compliment before dealing with her next customer.

“Doesn’t smell like it was brewed in a sock,” Colette admits with a smirk, “so, yeah.” She steps up onto one of the stool beside the coffee bar, settling an elbow down beside her wrapped package. “Coffee’s coffee, but— fuck, gotta have standards sometimes, right?” Her blind eyes move, as though seeing, over to the barista. “Just regular, black.” Her other hand moves into her olive drab jacket as she turns her attention back to Jaiden.

“So…” Colette’s brows raise practically into her hairline. “Boring seven years, huh?” She produces a ratty wallet, flipping through it for a five dollar bill and slides it across the counter to the barista. Her eyes avert down to something in the wallet, expression shifting subtly, and then she looks back up to Jaiden. “I… never really got a chance to thank you, y’know, formally? For pulling my ass out’f that mess.”

Looking to the side, Colette stares off into the middle-distance of the market. When she does, he can see the tattoo on the side of her neck where there was a bleeding surgical wound back during her rescue. It’s, perhaps ironically, an EKG pulse with a semicolon at a point of flatline, before the pulse picks up again. “Means a lot. I know we didn’t really, like, know each other well?” Those blind eyes flick back to Jaiden, brows furrowed again. “Takes a lot for somebody t’risk their lives for a near-stranger. Right thing t’do or not.”

“Hey now - Don’t go disparaging sock coffee. It may taste like hell and give you breath that’ll peel paint off an airplane, but it gets you going in a pinch.” Whether or not he’s kidding now or not, really isn’t clear, but that really doesn't matter much. Jaiden lowers himself to the stool that he had claimed earlier, leaning his cane against the bar now so he can turn to watch the crowd and Colette and the market all at the same time, his back literally to the wall where no-one can ambush him without some serious explosives or powers. A throwback to the war that, even now, he can’t keep from shaking.

When she produces his wallet for the rumpled bill, he wordlessly plucks it from the bar and tucks it into Eleanor’s tip jar, waving his hand, pointing to himself as the little woman starts work on Colette’s cup. This one is apparently on him and he won’t hear any complaints about it. “Yeah. Boring.” There’s a hitch of his shoulders at a soft chuckle, a smirk appearing for a moment or two, then vanishing as he turns to rest, elbow on the counter, looking into the crowds moving through, doing their shopping, living their lives.

For a moment, Jaiden is quiet and then he nods singly. “That means a lot, Colette. Being told thanks.” His Australian accent has mellowed over the years, making him sound a lot like a college professor or a lawyer. “We weren’t exactly sure what we’d find when we got up there, but…we couldn’t just leave you there. We couldn’t leave anyone behind in the middle of all that mess. There really wasn’t any other choice but to succeed.”

Eleanor brings Colette her coffee, ducking back into the bar to grind some more beans using what sounds like a blender pulsing a few times.

“While it’s true we don’t know each other very well,” Jaiden looks over to Colette on her stool. “I think we know each other better than most. Shared experiences. We’re part of the same crew, you and I, in more ways than one.” One hand goes up to brush through his short hair, salt-and-pepper brown on the sides. “We were both in the Ferry for all those years. I mean, I still remember that day in August when you, Quinn, and Tasha all showed up in my garage, led on by Elieen and Raith, to check me out, see if I was a good fit, but that wasn’t why. I’m…..” he trails off, thinking, before he speaks again. “I saw people in trouble and couldn’t just walk past and ignore it. Someone had to help and…” He shrugs his shoulders. “I guess my way of helping at that particular moment was conjuring a giant wall of water to short out a world-ending machine.”

Colette shifts to sit more forward at the bar, mouthing a silent word of appreciation as her coffee is handed over in a chipped old mug. She cradles it in her hands, warm against the cool chill of February air creeping its way down into the market. “I… completely forgot that,” Colette notes on the check-up she’d been asked to do. “That… fuck, that was a long goddamn time ago.” She stares down into her coffee, fingers of steam lilting up from beyond the brim.

“Suppose I owe you an apology,” Colette offers with a lopsided smile. “If we’d just let you be, you might… I dunno,” her head quirks to the side. “Picket fences or something.” There’s a derisive snort at that, and Colette shifts her attention from whatever auguries people do to the surfaces of their coffee to the hydrokinetic. “Heard your name come up a couple times during the war, when I was at the airfield in Kansas. Nothing specific, just folks drinking around a fire.”

She takes a sip of her coffee, pointedly ignoring any talk of what happened at Mount Natazhat. “Your buddy Devon talked about you a lot,” is a little softer. “Always wondered what happened when things went bad for the Ferry.” There’s a moment where her brows furrow together, eyes close and she shakes her head. “So, ah…” her tone changes, “you— living in the Safe Zone now, or just passing through doing one of those documentaries?” A brow lifts, is this one the record goes unasked.

As Evolved, certain terms don’t come up. Specifically ‘Evolved,’ ‘Powers,’ or anything of the sort. Yes, people know that Evolved are around, but those that are actually gifted with these powers don’t see a reason to advertise it in public so…most of them don’t. Even now, in this conversation, the experience at Mount Natazhat is just that - spoken of in broad terms. Living through them gives the context, and those outside really don’t need to understand it.

Safer that way, you see?

Jaiden bobs his head. “You might have forgotten, but it was what started me down this long road. What helped shape my life into what it is now. Sure…if you hadn’t shown up and tapped me, I might have had a nice, quiet life in my garage in the middle of New York and died during the war. All the wrongs would have been left alone to happen and… what… we might have ended up in the middle of the whole thing no matter what.” He chuckles quietly. “Now, don’t be that way. I had some idea of what I was getting into, though. Freedom usually requires a few sacrifices, here and there and we all put our pound of flesh in.” The coffee cup twists a little beneath his fingers, the sound of porcelain against the countertop similar to a knife being sharpened. “I guess coming out of it with just one bullet hole and a raft of experiences meant I came out better than most.” He lifts his cup a bit above his eyes. “To the lost.” A soft toast, his cup lowered to take a sip, setting it back down on the counter and pushing it forward to be refilled the next time Eleanor gets around to it.

The mention of Devon gives Jaiden a moment of pause. “If they were good stories of heroism and the like, they’re all true. If they weren’t… well… they’re probably true too. Ever since the Dome incident here in New York in January of 11, he and I kind of hit it off. Close friends. Probably closer to Father and Son, if you really get down to brass tacks. I’m actually here, hoping to see him.” The big man admits. “He’s always so busy with his team, after all. No rest for the weary and all that.”

The mention of the Ferry gives another sobering moment or two of quiet. “Well.” Jaiden looks up. “Originally it was about getting people out, to safety, but when the riots hit in ‘10, pretty much everyone was picked up. Basically we had Grand Central, Pollepel, and a couple of safe houses left, so we shifted to survival mode more than anything. A few of us started moving into other groups - ENDGAME for me, for example - as a way to keep afloat but…yeah, not good at all, what happened.”

“Just visiting today, hoping to see Devon, meet a few friends, arranging a talk at Yamagato later this month. Nothing major. I’ll be around every once in a while. The girls need Daddy to make an appearance every once in a while, you know.” Jaiden nods slightly. “No documentary work today. No notes or recordings. Just…visiting. Catching up.”

Jaiden talks a lot when he’s given an outlet. Poor Colette.

In the span of time that Jaiden is talking, Colette is quietly listening and drinking down her coffee in measured sips. It’s cradled, more often than not, in hands warmed both by its contents and her borrowed fingerless wool gloves with little owls embroidered on them. She doesn’t join in the toast, more so than with a passing smile. Reminiscing like this seems to be harder than she’d expected. At times Colette’s expression is distant, others more attentive. “Father and son?” Is what Colette latches on to, followed by a look away, brows briefly furrowed, then back again. “I— totally misread that,” she says in a half-laughing apologetic tone.

“Anyway,” Colette adds with teeth drawn over her bottom lip, trying to slide past her misconceptions of their dynamic. “I remember how it all went down,” Colette admits in a rueful tone, and leaves it at that. She takes another sip of her coffee, sets the now empty cup down on the countertop and pushes it aside with fingertips pink from cold.

Taking in a deep breath, Colette reaches up and takes her package, letting it sit in her lap as she plucks at the corners of the paper idly. “You still do photography?” Those blind eyes come back to square on Jaiden rather than the floor. “Shit’s all over the place here, and I’ve been looking for a good camera. Haven’t found anyone selling one down here that isn’t a shitty old point-and-shoot.” Then, before he can start asking her specific questions she adds. “I— don’t know much about cameras, mind you. It’s, uh, for a gift.”

Jaiden waves a hand with a chuckle, Eleanor re-filling Colette’s cup with a clicking of her tongue. “No, nothing like that between Devon and me.” Jaiden snickers. “Father and Son is as close as we get to anything like that. After the dome, he hung out with me for… well, a long time. Years.” There are volumes of story that aren’t being told there, but Jaiden is quite good at keeping a source’s private life private.

“Yeah, I do.” Jaiden bends down to pluck his bag from the floor, lifting the corner of the stool to unloop it from around the leg so no-one could run up and grab it without him noticing and responding. It’s placed carefully on the counter with a thud, the bronze buckles unfastened with a soft rattling, a soft-sided case pulled from the bag and unzipped. Nestled inside are a pair of cameras - and a handgun - which is hidden beneath a flap but the shape is distinct. “One of the advantages of being a guy like me is that I generally prepare for just about anything.” Elastic webbing is detached from around one of the camera bodies, the digital screen flipped out and studied for a second before it’s snapped shut again. “I live and die by these guys.” The camera is placed on the bar with a gentle thunk, a simple 35mm lens already attached. “Basically bulletproof, rechargeable replaceable batteries that can be swapped out with AA’s in a pinch, and plenty of speed and the like for action photography. Uses SD cards that you can find anywhere cheap. This one’s brother took a bullet for me in one of the last battles leading up to the assault on the Rock.” He looks to Colette for a moment. “If you’d like, I can get you one of these pretty easy. I come in and out of the city, now and again, so finding stuff like this out there is…well, it’s not easy, easy. But it’s easier than here, and it’s probably not had a building dropped on it, either.” He pushes the camera closer to where she sits. “Or you can just take this one for a while, get your friend to know how it works and then give it back once I find you a better one.”

Eyeing the camera, Colette extends one leg off the stool and balances herself with a booted toe on the cement floor. She turns the camera around, nods a couple times. “This might be a good step up from what I want to start with. I'm thinking physical film, but it's harder to find right now. It'd be for like, small shooting?” She looks up to Jaiden and back down to the camera. “Personal stuff, developing would be part of the ritual. It's for a former art student who’s kinda let that go.”

With a faint smile, Colette gently moves the camera back toward Jaiden. “But, if another one of these falls off the back of a truck? Let me know how much it'll cost me, and I'll be good for it. I'm usually around here or up in Rochester with Devon and the others. So it shouldn't be hard to track me down.”

Colette slides the rest of the way off the stool and grabs her wrapped package, carefully tucking it under one arm. “I've gotta get going, shitload more to do before I hit home. But…” tilting her head to the side, Colette offers out a hand to Jaiden. “It was good to actually see you again.”

Film cameras….wow, that is a little harder. His brows raise slightly at that admission but he does nod. “Film film is tough. With the radiation around here, you'll get little pops and streaks in your image, and that's after finding the film itself. Afterimages and things like that show up from the particles. It shouldn't hurt your image sensor or lens but your pictures might be a little more animated than you’d expect. The ritual, though. That I know. It's tough to get right, but you get such a punch of joy watching the images bleed in, and with you? Coloring will be a snap.” He slides the camera back into its slot in the zippered pouch and tucks it away in his bag.

“I'll see what I can come up with for your friend. It'll be the next time I come in at least, but I think I got what you need in one of my little hidey holes. Shouldn't cost more than a few cups of coffee. Films a bit trickier, and chemicals….I'm sure you have sources for developing stuff somewhere.”

He takes the extended hand and gives it a firm shake. “It's wonderful seeing you up and about too, Colette. Bringing more color into the world on your skin, and fighting the good fight at the same time. If you see Devon, let him know I'm in town? I would call, but you lot seem to have issues with people using your secure channels to chat with agents in the field.” He’s teasing, of course.

“Stay safe.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License