Door Duty


brewster_icon.gif chris_icon.gif reena_icon.gif sieghilde_icon.gif

Scene Title Door Duty
Synopsis A couple of uniformed SESA grunts do door duty investigating disturbances out in Providence, because glory and justice, and this is that montage. Featuring a lot of cowpats and local sass.
Date June 29, 2019 — July 4, 2019

Providence, New Jersey: Pine Barrens

Providence is a small settlement nestled inside the Pine Barren's long shadows that first came into being during the Second American Civil War. Amish families, who had already been living off the grid, banded together within the forest's protective shelter, hoping to wait out the fighting and resume their way of life at the war's end, regardless of the victor. They were joined by others: refugees fleeing from bombed out cities, deserters, and former supporters of both sides ready to set aside their ideologies in exchange for a return to normalcy.

Today, the community covers an area of roughly ten square miles, although its population density is centered around its church and surrounding homesteads, which include family-run sheep and goat farms, a blacksmith, doctor, mill, and a communally farmed cranberry bog. It isn't uncommon to find horses appearing to roam free; closer inspection, through tangles of low, thorny bushes, reveals repurposed barbed wire fencing that keeps the livestock contained.

Residents of Providence who are SLC-Expressive contribute to the community by using their abilities to circumvent many of the obstacles posed by the area's acidic, nutrient-poor soil, allowing them to grow and cultivate crops, redirect waterways, and lay down rudimentary piping for hydraulic wells. Buildings here are a collection of both old and new, repurposed or rebuilt without the aid of an electric grid of any kind. Candles and gas lanterns are more common than lamps, even if diesel-fueled generators are not unheard of among those considered more affluent than most.

The settlement is connected by a winding, interlocked series of pathways and old cement roads in need of repair. Simple signage marks the safe thruways, cleared of land mines and other forgotten wartime hazards, while yellow paint serves as a warning for areas that still harbor some danger — and there are many.

Bright and early, Sieghilde and Brewster get into the Pine Barrens. Brewster is a bear of a man, not in the gay colloquialism sense, but the breadth of his shoulders around which the seams of his black suit seem to creak.SESA uniforms never look so out-of-place as they do when you're doing grunt work in the field, but when you hold the rank of either of these two particular agents, it's commonplace. You get used to it. They leave undercover to the people who go to the long briefings in the big room.

They're just here to follow up on civilian noise concerns. Neither Brewster nor Sieghilde can wait until the New York Police Department is back, in some form or another, but until then: here they are. Drinking diet sodas out of tall cups and taking turns driving whenever they stop for the restroom. (Which is somewhat often: Brewster has a small but distinctly inconvenient prostate problem. Supposedly, he’s no medication for that) "It's pretty out here," Brewster observes. "I need to piss again."

"Next time, we aren't getting sodas," Sigi says.

"Coffee is a diuretic," Brewster answers, serenely. "It'd be even worse. And you owe me soda for a year. That was the deal. Welcome to your life, Ozean."

"Fuckin'," Sieghilde says. "Fine."

There's a house right there, anyway. She pulls off the road. The car noses gently over the dirt and gravel. There’s a device attached to the front bumper of it, mostly metal, broad, clamped to the frame. You don't have to know very much about the Second Civil War to know that it left behind more live threats than only the sentient ones. (Sigi has no plans to share this information any time soon but: she needs to pee, too.)

Pine Barrens - Providence, New Jersey: Reena's Home

Knock knock.

Brewster is sitting back fifteen feet, on the side of the car. Between the two of them, Sieghilde appears less threatening, being: small, blonde, Asian. So she gets to do the honors which, in the case of door duty, will inevitably mean getting cussed out and hit by flyscreens, but it's fine. “Hello," says Sieghilde. Her voice is a solid alto. "Hellooo—oo. Sorry to bother you."

The Zheung farm is a well kept place, for all that this is far away from any proper city. The home is circled by a patio, keeping the sun off the two agents as they knock on the door. It isn't too long a wait before the door opens and the lady of the house takes a look at the pair. She's also Asian, but tall and with dark hair— the balancer to Sieghilde, really. She's dressed in dirt-stained jeans and boots, with a t-shirt that is definitely also for work. She pushes open the screen as well, because it's just dirty enough to be difficult to see through.

"Hello," she says, no small amount of suspicion in her voice, "how can I help you?" It just barely counts as hospitable.

They haven't been shot. Brewster inwardly congratulates himself, while Sigi isn't quite ready to start that yet. She is oddly, automatically heartened to see another East Asian woman right here. Having been adopted and raised by white people in the United States, as well as an Evolved girl long before the SLC-E entered the common lexicon, there's always that reflexive sense of kinship, followed instantly by an assumption of othering. Her face stays schooled into polite, professional friendliness; not too many teeth. That's also weird.

"We were hoping to use your restroom. And uh," Sieghilde gives her jacket a slight tug. Hesitating for a moment, on the off-chance that this second part jeopardizes the viability of her initial request, but that's the fucking job, so. So, she steels herself. "Completely separate from that, my partner and I are here on behalf of the SLC-Expressive Services Agency. Just asking a few questions about recent events, making sure the neighborhood is safe. We can produce identification," she jerks a thumb over her shoulder at the huge guy leaning against the car. (Mostly, he's leaning because he really needs to pee.) "just, uh."

A beat.

"Just, we'd really appreciate using your restroom," Sigi adds.

Reena's expression remains flat while Sigi talks. Her gaze travels to Brewster, who is probably a more striking figure when he doesn't have to pee. She looks back to Sigi at those last words and can't help the bark of a laugh that follows. "Yeah, there's not a proper rest stop for miles." It's possible that kinship goes both ways, because Reena pushes the door open wider in invitation. "You're both welcome to come in. I feel I should warn you, though, people who live out here do so to avoid people who work for government agencies."

But she is letting them in, so that's something. They'll see that there is a shotgun resting near the door, but Reena is letting it stay there. They're— presumably— not here to rob her or hurt her animals, so they're probably safe.

There is a swift but invisible rock-paper-scissors between Sieghilde and her partner. Her partner wins. Plus he has a bigger bladder, a greater prospective mess. He thanks Reena and heads in, is bound to be quick about it. As he passes by the homesteader, he gives Sieghilde a brief Look. Don't do anything weird while I pee. It's going to be like two minutes, don't do anything weird in two minutes. (They're both taking Reena's words to heart.)

"We didn't know that," Sigi says. She rests her back against the wall, keeping her shoulders loose, her stance neutral. Having a shotgun seems terribly pragmatic rather than pointedly threatening, if only in part because a knock on the door is like to be pointedly threatening. She is trying not to be. "Fact is, we aren't here to investigate the people who live out here, long as they aren't making life hard for the rest of you who do. We received a couple of reports from people looking for unoccupied territory about this place. Not just that it's occupied," she tries to look earnest.

She does a decent job, as long as you aren't the type of judge heavy eyeliner.

"But that the occupants seemed to be having trouble. Strange noises, maybe violence." Sieghilde straightens. "We following up, trying to keep the citizens safe. Just trying to gather some information. Not to fu—" she corrects herself quick, "not to get in the way of your lives here."

Reena watches Brewster head toward the bathroom, lifting an eyebrow at the look between them before she settles back on Sieghilde. "There's always a little trouble. We have local protection." She steps back a little, ushering the agent in toward actual seating with a sweep of her arm. She chooses a wooden chair— easier to clean from the dirt she's tracking along with her— but there are more comfortable choices, too.

"Sometimes we get thieves coming in, trying to find something to take. Sometimes people looking for a way to cause trouble. Lately, the town's been talking about groups of militia trying to move in. Hard to say how true that is or if it's been blown out of proportion." Rumors, gossip, worries, they all seem to grow as words slip from one person to the next. "How are you all hearing about it? Didn't think your office was paying attention out here."

Sieghilde manages to hide her surprise at the other woman's response, mostly. Her eyes move across Reena's face. She's glad. But Sigi is like that; accustomed to being a woman in a man's world, an Asian woman in a country run by white people, less than rich in a world where the rich succeed best, and SLC-Expressive in a society where their privileges had led to terror and secrecy, marginalization and war.

In the Army, women said to each other without any irony whatsoever: you're either a bitch or a slut. In the context that every woman she knew in the army had faced sexual harassment at one time or another, you figured out pretty fucking quick which one you needed to try to be. Being part of SESA is different, but the old mindset is hard to shake; she expects everybody to be a bitch, some way or another, and Reena's words, while certainly not overly-friendly and likely expecting an informational tit-for-tat, doesn't represent as hostile a welcome as she'd had in the US Armed Forces once upon a time.

"To be honest," Sigi says, in the tone of admission, "we wouldn'tve. But a couple of the people who reported disturbances just happened to be Evolved. NYPD hasn't started up, the National Parks Service is an empty department. Not even the Fire or Energy departments can afford to come out here without hard confirmation about gas explosions or shooting flames, so…" Sieghilde sucks in a breath, offers a crooked smile.

"SESA doing our best, without going outside our lane." She pulls a small notepad out of her pocket to jot down notes, making a point to do so before even knowing Reena's name. In the meantime, both can hear a flusssssh from the back. "Do you feel safe under local protection?"

The explanation is accepted with a firm nod— she's aware of how rough things are in the Safe Zone at the moment. She glances away at the flush, then back again at the question.

"Yes and no. Enough not to be afraid every day, not so much that I don't have my own protection here." She spreads her hands there. That's just how things are for those who have chosen to live away from places with proper law enforcement. Or any real amenities. "I don't know how far I trust local protection, but they're doing as they promised they would so far. I don't particularly trust anyone with a gun except myself," she says, the last coming with a hint of a crooked smile. "Like anyone with power, you always have to keep one eye on them, at least."

Sieghilde feels concerned. That seems like an awfully fair assessment, convincing, and made by a woman who clearly does not tend to experience cowardice or insecurity to an excess. She is the first that they've met out here, thanks to needing to potty, and the going impression is 'matter-of-fact frontierswoman.' But Sigi is only concerned in the context that Reena is probably close to the best of us, the best of those who have to or choose to live outside the Safe Zone, and no one's safe. Not really. Not like we used to pretend that we were, in the United States.

Sieghilde nods her head, jotting down her bullet points. Local protection: Limited trust, Power, FA. That would be shorthand for 'Firearms.' "Are you aware of any SLC-Expressive individuals living in your community, and," man. How to word this in a way that looks okay on paper, and offers proper help, but nonetheless shows that she respects Reena's right to an 'out?' "whether. or. not. There are government aide resources that the said community," incidentally including SLC-Expressives, "might benefit from."

There. Grammatically a nightmare. Down the hallway, Brewster pokes his head out of the bathroom and gives her a Look, and she Looks back at him, before poising her pen!

That is quite the question, carefully put, and Reena does appreciate the position that these agents are in here. But still, when she responds, it's with a shake of her head. "I couldn't say," she says, hands spreading helplessly. She gestures, then, toward Brewster. "Seems like the bathroom's open," she says. Her gaze settles on Brewster, too, after a moment. "Can I get you something to drink? A snack? It must have been a long drive." A look shifts to Sigi, including her in the offer, as well. After she's used the facilities, one might imagine.

"Kitchen's this way," she says, with a nod in its direction.

A moment's consideration, and Sigi nods. She scratches out a line that seems to make sense on her notepad:

Aide: ambivalent

And then she claps Brewster on the shoulder, stepping past him in order to go to the bathroom, disappearing down the same way he had come from. The huge man glances back at her, nodding affectionately as his companion goes. In the meantime, he is going to go ahead and follow Reena into the kitchen, glad of her hospitality. He glances around, appreciating the way she has set up and maintained her home. It's a far cry from New York City, but that's not necessarily bad.

"Snack would be nice," Brewster says. "I mean, whatever you got, but if you have something home-grown, it's been a minute since I ate anything that wasn't frozen or pre-made. I'm Brewster Coburn, by the way." He offers his hand, once she's at an angle to see it.

"Reena Zheung," she says as she takes his hand for a handshake that's firm, but friendly. "Good to meet you." She turns, getting out some tea for him and for Sigi, as well as a small collection of vegetables. It's a judgment of his frozen meals, assuming he's in need of something healthy. "Not all grown here, but all local."

She picks up her own glass and leans against the counter as she looks over at him. "Did you two piss off the wrong person? This doesn't seem like the sort of detail they give to the favorites."

At this, Brewster laughs. Lucky he hasn't yet received his tea or it would come shooting out of his nose and burn up all of the membranes inside his head on its way out. He shakes his head, mostly at himself afterward. "Well, for a woman who maybe doesn't want the government interfering with her business, you understand how it works," he says. He's not indelicate; he wonders if she's going to pass this information along to someone else. Is the truth of it damaging? He spares only a split moment to think about it.

"Not a special person. More like…" he tips one big, meaty paw in the air. "I didn't make the right people happy, I guess. But a steady job with SESA, benefits for my whole family, it's nothing to complain about.

"As for that one," Brewster nods his head over at the hallway they just came out of. He moves toward the table, managing his huge frame carefully, so as not to accidentally knock over or shift any of her things. He puts his hand on top of one of her chairs and makes a question with the peaks of his eyebrows, 'If I might sit?' "Maybe something between those two?" Why not? #branding. Besides, Sigi wears a Preposterous amount of eyeliner, she might as well have neon signs posted around her saying, I'm nonconformingggg. "Some people are better at playing the game than others. How about you? What's your role here?"

Yes. Brewster knows that that is not really the exact equivalent of what she just asked him.

Reena gives him a nod to sit and comes over to sit as well. "It seems like she would make work interesting. No chance of wallowing in obscurity, for better or worse." He may not wear the eyeliner, but he isn't exactly easy to ignore, either, on a purely physical level.

"I guess I'm a supplier. We produce here and I sell some of it in the Safe Zone, bring back things we need but can't make ourselves. Sometimes I take care of other people's animals, too. I studied to be a veterinarian." As roles go, it's loosely defined, but she seems content with that. Maybe she prefers it that way.

A step in the hall, and Sieghilde emerges again. She's straightening her blonde ponytail behind her head, pulling on the left and right halves, one in each hand. "Thanks, Ms. Zheung. Appreciate it. Has Brews been giving you a hard time?" When she walks past behind the big man's chair, she thumps him on the back.

Brewster winces slightly, but it's probably just a funny joke. Maybe about how well she washed her hands. "Reena's a supplier," he says. "Between the Safe Zone. And a veterinarian, for all intents and purposes."

"That's cool. I wouldn't last five minutes out here," Sigi says, heartfelt. And when there's tea, she says, "Thanks," wrapping her slender fingers around the walls of the cup. They have a few ordinary questions for Reena after that. About whether there are children, enough vaccinations, heat, any instances of botulism she has heard of, illnesses in the livestock. They repeat very gently, not insisting, that there will be help if the people of Providence need it. Hell, they'll be in the local area for a few weeks yet.

In the end, Sigi produces a card. There had been some invisible exchange between the two, Brewster and Sieghilde, and they decided on her.

Field Agent
Registered SLC-Expressive
SLC-Expressive Services Agency (SESA)

"If any of you need help. Local protection or no," Brewster says.

Pine Barrens - Providence, New Jersey: Yet Another Home

"My husband had prostate problems too," says Corinne, the tiny old lady, stripping gardening gloves off her hands. She seems far too old to be living independently on the ragged edge of the new frontier, which probably means she's fucking with them. She said she was too deaf to hear gun violence, then asked 'Whaaat?' four times when they asked about winter safety and heating.

"It's very annoying," Brewster says. He's repeatedly fighting the urge to lean against the chicken coop. They don't need chicken shit in the car. "You'd think medical problems would cut us a break when we have to worry about war and aftermath, but I guess that's not how life works." Somehow, the huge non-Evolved man decided to take point on this one. Sigi's standing back, deferring to the maestro, who had insisted that Medical Problems are a bonding point for everyone over the age of forty-five. The secret language of ageing gracefully. "But as I was saying, do you recall any incidence of black-outs or brown-outs in this neigh — ?"

"Then he died," Corinne drawls. "Of the cancer."

"Oh," says Brewster. "That's not what I have."

"Are you sure?" Corinne asks, bending her head to examine the glistening eggs in her basket. "Sometimes you don't know, until you put a finger up there."

Behind the woman, Sieghielde pantomimes hanging herself with her tie, then jabs a silent finger at him, a huge grin on her face. Brewster shoots her a look that means murder. Corinne pretends not to see. She also pretends not to be able to read the business card they leave her.

Pine Barrens - Providence, New Jersey: A Mobile Home

There are eight DO NOT TRESPASS posted around this one, which is remarkable, considering the mobile home has less walls than that. And despite that there are a significant number of random, uprooted sinks, tarp-covered copper pipes, old tires, and plastic flamingos cluttering the 'yard,' there is no visible boundary line to speak of.

One of the lawn ornaments actually has a sign. So does the door. And the post where the huge black dog is chained up.

"You think anyone's home?" Sieghilde asks, slowing down the car. "Maybe no one's home. I want a flamingo." They both lean over, peeking through the windshield. No movement through the screened door, shadows behind the windows.

Right up until there is. The man is smaller than Brewster, but he does have a shotgun and the gesture is hard to mistake for any other meaning.

It is a Federal offense to threaten a SESA agent, but this seems like a spectacularly stupid hill to die on, even given they have nearly died on it eight times already, probably. Brewster slaps her on the arm, and she's already reversing, waving. They both nearly shit themselves when the mine-detector in front of the car goes off, and Sieghilde skews the car left. Nothing happens. Nothing happened. Brewster says 'Goddamnit' a lot for the next ten minutes, but they're fine, even if they did not acquire any decorative lawn flamingos.

Pine Barrens: Dirt Road

Day four.

They're driving up on a young man walking along the road. In another life, Sieghilde was a soldier in the Army of the United States, and the image is oddly familiar. It was weird as fuck being in Iraq, Afghanistan, how the convoy would have been rolling for hours with not so much as a shed in sight, and amid the shrub and cold sunlight, you would see a little boy out there, wearing a rifle across his back, not even on the road. Where the fuck is he going? She remembers asking the question three times, four times. Seven times. Before she saw so many of them that she stopped wondering anymore.

Providence is different, of course. It's very lush, very green. There are landmines that keep setting off the device installed on the nose of the car. And the kid is walking on the road, and maybe too old to actually be a kid? She and Brewster exchange looks, nod. They pull up beside him.

"Hey," Sieghilde calls out. "Hey, we're from SESA, assessing for safety and aide needs out here. You have a minute?"

Chris Ayers angles a suspicious sideways glance at the vehicle as it gets close. It's not a vehicle he recognizes, and strange to see one so far out that isn't familiar. He keeps walking, steady pace, not heel dragging.

It isn't cars that are uncommon, it's the people in them stopping for a chat.

The voice calling, first, makes his head turn slightly more toward the source. Then SESA gets mentioned. He's got a few words for that group that'll never make it passed the censors.

But she asked politely. Mostly. She did forget to say please.

Chris makes a show of looking up at the sky like he's checking the position of the sun. His walk continues for a few more steps, about a baker’s dozen. Then he stops and turns to rightly face the car, and the woman wanting his time. “I can spare a minute.”

"Great," says Sieghilde, gesturing at her partner.

That would be Brewster. The huge man beside her keeps his eyes on Chris, but smiles at the younger man; there's nothing actually hostile about his expression, it's just a function of common sense for one of them to have their eyes on strangers out here. Brewster waves at the kid. In the meantime, Sieghilde pulls the car over onto the side of the dirt track. Slowly, so that the device riding on the front of the vehicle has time to register any potential landmind-shaped threats out here, because that is, apparently, something that happens in Providence.

Clonk. Clonk. Both agents get out of the car and almost immediately sink half an inch into the sod. It's — awesome. They manage not to grimace, but it's obvious they're out of place here, in their black-and-white suits. "I'm Sieghilde Ozean, and this is Brewster Coburn. Pleasure to meet you." She extricates one foot from the squishy dirt, then the other, her face held into a stiff, rigid smile so as not to disguise her internal screaming about there was probably cow poop. She is: a city person. "Do you consider yourself part of the community here?"

Brewster, in the meantime, takes out his notepad. There's a little choreography involved in the division of their roles. It makes them look less threatening, in theory.

The older man’s smile isn't returned. The look Chris returns, the look he's given Sieghilde since she first voiced pleasure? Acceptance at least, when he agreed, it's a flat look. Not bored, not unamused, flat. There is even a second where he rolls his eyes. That's as the car is turned around, so it's probably not even noticed.

“Agent Scully, Mulder.” Yeah, Chris just reassigned their names once finally seeing them in their MIB finest. And he'll let them figure out who is who on their own time. There's a hint of amusement at the squelching sound, but no comment.

He's sure her shoes are going to smell, and it won't all be from foot fungus.

“Do I feel like part of the community.” He stares at Sieghilde, then Brewster, then Sieghilde, then Brewster. “I feel like wanting to know what a couple of 10-ply reporters are doing out here. SESA not got its fingers in enough holes now they want to start probing cow and pig holes.”

There's a long pause where Brewster don't look at each other, but mostly just because they don't have to. They've been working with each other for a minute. Brewster glances down at his paper and he writes his best guess:

Resident: ✓

After all, it's consistent with what Reena had described, if certainly not consistent with the manner in which Reena had described it.

Sigi does a reasonable job stamping down her initial response, which you can tell took some amount of willpower because her mouth opens once, then shuts again, then reopens when she has something marginally more respectful to say. "You're a little young to be referencing the X-Files," is — not as bad as it could have been, but it's bad enough that Brewster's eyes do cut toward her. She keeps talking anyway, pretending not to feel the weight of her partner's regard: "If there's something other than ditches and 90s television we can help you with, we're here to do it. But if you're not a resident, those are different questions."

“You're a little old for me to care,” Chris returns casually. Poke at his age, will you, he's gonna poke right back. He shifts his weight, leaning more to one foot in a relaxed kind of way. He probably wouldn't look out of place if he had a beer in hand. He could probably even use a beer. He gives the pair a serious look over. At least it looks serious, his brows pinch and his mouth sets just so. Thoughtful.

It's probably feigned.

“We got some cows needing some care.” He studies the suits they're wearing, then rolls an exaggerated shrug. It's likely to be a messy job, however, “More hands make less work,” Chris explains. “Folks around here don't like the M-I-B creeping around and asking questions. You want to help, then help. Start with the cows. One of them’s impacted pretty bad. It's been a few days.”

Brewster's concerns are mounting. His eyes tennis match between his female partner and the young man. The latter of whom is annoying, mind you, but certainly nothing you wouldn't encounter literally anywhere else in any kind of public service. Even if all you do is serve burgers, someone's going to find a way to be a dick about it, everybody with their own rationale. "Si—"

"Great." Sigi snaps her notepad, pretending she had not heard Brewster starting to shut her down. "Let's go see your cow, old man."

Somehow, the older SESA resists the urge to roll his eyes to the heavens. He incidentally notices a murder of ravens circling in the distance, which seems foreboding. "We don't have to see the cows," he says, patiently. "And we're aware they have an on-site veterinarian. The M.I.B. had a job to do, and we're trying to do ours."

"No," Sieghilde says, stepping up to the young man. She studies his face. "Let's go see your little assfucked cow, farmboy," and that, is at last, enough to have the big man step up behind her, setting a hand large enough to contain two steaks on her tiny shoulder. No matter how nonchalant the tone, how carefully she avoided grammatically constructing a sentence that called Chris any names, Brewster can see where this is going. He gives the young man an apologetic look.

“And I'm trying to do mine.” Whatever that could possibly mean. Chris is, after all, walking from somewhere to someplace and giving grief to a couple of suits who stopped him. He doesn't seem bothered at all by the return from Sieghilde, doesn't go looking for an apology. He seems both amused and bored at the same time. A shrug drags his shoulders up again though, and he half turns in the same direction he'd been headed.

“The girls are this way. It's about a mile though.” He looks the pair up and down. “I guess I could answer your questions while we walk there.” The young man even shifts his weight, fully intending to take the two to whatever constipated cows he knows about. “You both have rubber gloves, right? Long ones?” He motions toward his armpit to show just how long he means. “We might have extras, but you're going to want gloves. The smell is a pain in the ass to get rid of.”

Brewster's fingers tighten on his partner's shoulder, but he ends up talking over her anyway.

"Actually, a rectal suppository, enemas, or pharmaceuticals administered orally would be more productive than sticking your entire arm all the way," he says, his voice a gravelly sort of polite. He studies the young man curiously, deciding against a self-deprecating joke as to how he knows so much about medical impaction. "But you either know that, or you're new to farming. Or you're new to the concept of constipation generally. Any road, we'd be more than happy to direct Ms. Reena Zheung to you." This is in some ways a hint. He doesn't actually believe that everybody in Providence knows one another, but she had held herself with gravitas, and claimed an influence, at least to animal husbandry.

"Let me guess." Sigi had at least paused long enough to allow her partner to finish. "You don't know what a car is?" is quite a waste of air from Sieghilde's direction, but she gestures toward the vehicle anyway, parked as it is by road side. "Or what, the new narrative is, farmers prefer pedestrian living? We should let the rural Midwest know that driving's over." She is: aggravated. Being delbierately antagonized by young people who can't appreciate the state of the country, or the needs of their fellows, is frustrating, and she's either not jaded enough — or too jaded to let it roll off her back, as Brewster is doing. At least the old biddy at the other farmstead had had the decency to talk about her dead husband.

Small wonder they were assigned each other as partners, really.

"Do you need Ms. Zheung's contact information?" Brewster inquires, as if Sieghilde had not spoken at all.

“A rectal suppository or an enema works, yes, however a little assistance is never undervalued.” Chris leans with an air of vague boredom. A farmhand clearly uninterested in picking nits or semantics with city folk. The delay is probably because neither cares to risk getting that smell on themselves. Obviously there's no getting to the cows any time soon, if there even are cows to be tended.

He narrows his focus in on Sieghilde. “A car is an automobile, used as transportation for people as well as goods.” He shows nothing to indicate that he's felt attacked in some way. He could even be enjoying the word jockeying. “The first motorized automobile was first tested in 1879 then manufactured in 1886. But I don't have a car or automobile of any kind. I have a horse.”

Chris pauses for half a beat. “Is that your all-important government questioning, Agent Scully? Or is there more?”

"We have a lot of important government questions," Brewster says, talking over his partner quite plainly now that it's apparent that rudeness! is how this particular encounter is going to go. "About witnesses to violence, medical assistance, and climate control. We're concerned about brushfires particularly in the next few years, preventative strategies."

"He doesn't give a shit," Sieghilde says, tossing off her partner's arm. He doesn't try to claim it again, but mostly because he sees her turn on one (grimy) heel and start back toward the car (which was manufactured more recently, but still). "He doesn't give a shit about any of these people."

Brewster glances after her just briefly, but doesn't go immediately to follow. He has been on the job long enough to know that even annoying people are informative in how annoying they are. He has also been on the job long enough to know that Sigi isn't about to drive off without him. Probably. Surely. There's a loud clunk when she shuts the door behind her. "Also, small groups of vagrants have been passing through the roads a few miles from here, looking for unclaimed territory to settle. Obviously they didn't find any." He gestures at the attractive fence someone built over there. Probably for actual cow pasture. "Some have said they've heard gunfire and other sounds of violence. They got scared and made a report.

"Do you know anything about that?"

There's not even a touch of smugness from Chris when Sieghilde storms off. If it's a form of amusement, he doesn't show, nor does he seem ruffled in the slightest by her claims. He cares for a great many things, but clearly not for government interlopers who are likely spying under the pretense of caring for an outlying community. The whole reason most people are settled in Providence is to get away from that kind of oversight.

Keeping their uninvited nosy neighbors at bay is his concern.

“There's rogue militia all over the country,” Chris chooses to answer. He tilts a look to Brewster. He doesn't regard the older man, or his partner, as obvious threats, but mild annoyances. Like the flies that harass the horses. “We sometimes get them trying to raid the settlement, but we take care of our own. Got all kinds here, like you said. Doctors, priests, farmers… even got our own patrol and protection. It's a symbiotic relationship, we keep the pests out, keep the settlement and residents safe, help with the work as needed. Everyone does their share.”

Brewster smiles faintly. There are a range of condescending questions he could ask — not the least of which, if they have factories for the manufacture and refinement of antibiotics, surgical theaters, other modern amenities.

But unlike his partner, Brewster doesn't care for the fight, even when it's being picked, gauntlet flung or not. And he's clear-minded enough to see that there's little point in highlighting the limitations of life in Providence. "Sounds like a good setup," he says. "Pretty consistent with what a couple of other residents told us. I'll make another note. Can I get a name or alias? Contact information. You may feel free to decline." There's a lopsided smile. Brewster has very little doubt that Chris would decline regardless of permission given. He gets out his notebook and his pen, prepared to jot down whatever Chris decides to manufacture in Providence-style.

In the meantime, Sieghilde is the paragon of professional manners and she finally: blasts the horn from the car. Raises a hand up, a one-shoulder shrug, very Are you coming?

Brewster ignores her.

The blat from the horn produces a smirk. The first of the afternoon, since the conversation began. Chris throws a lazy look in the direction of the car, then settles it onto Brewster after a moment. “Impatient.” The word is used to summarize his entire opinion of the woman.

“Chris Ayers.” No need for an alias, he's pretty sure no one is looking for him for any reason. “And if you need me, I live out that way.” That way is directed with a tip of his head, miles off from where they stand now. “Old factory building. A few of us live there together, but don't come unannounced. It's rude.”

Well, it wasn't Farty McButtface. An alias the likes of which Brewster has had to write down many times before in his various careers. He records Chris Ayers this time, wondering briefly what life this kid must have led to put him here, living in an abandoned factory where unannounced visitors are unwelcome, in a larger community that fled interference. Less unusual now than it was before the Second American Civil War, surely.

Brewster shuts his notebook. Out of his other big, meaty hand, he produces a business card. Steadfastly delaying response to his partner, of course. "If you need to reach us," he says.

Field Agent
Registered Non-SLC-Expressive
SLC-Expressive Services Agency (SESA)

"You take care of yourself and Bessie," Brewster says. "Or whatever you call the girls." He isn't making his exeunt very subtle, which has the unfortunate effect of Sigi bip-bip-bipping the horn at him from behind.

Chris could point out which house belongs to Farty McButtface but, fortunately for Brewster, he's got a pretty tight lid on most of his answers. He takes the card and slides it into a breast pocket without even reading it. There's a 50/50 chance he'll hang onto it for later use. Like as a bookmark, since some people piss and moan about pages being dog eared.

“They've all got their own names,” he points out as he takes a few steps away. “Names, personalities, likes and dislikes.” Not that anyone from the city would know that. So says the look he gives the woman in the car and then the man standing outside.

“Remember, you come by the factory and you'd be smart to announce yourself.” Chris smiles, and it would be a pleasant thing if not for the twist toward a smirk. He raises a hand to wave at Sigheilde, since he can't properly say goodbye what with her being in the car and blasting the horn. Brewster gets a tipped nod, and the younger man turns to be on his way.

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