Ducking Spooks


chris_icon.gif corbin_icon.gif emily_icon.gif

Scene Title Ducking Spooks
Synopsis After learning of the existence of a Chris Ayers, Corbin investigates to see if it's the Chris he thought died years ago.
Date December 3, 2019


Patrolling the borders is just a way of life when one lives outside what most people refer to as civilization. Fuck them for not considering the settlement of Providence civilized. It’s just as much civil as anywhere else, just with less of the asinine rules and more of the ability to live life as one sees fit. Which basically comes down to: Don’t be a douche. Of course, this only loosely applies to Chris, which is why he’s out patrolling instead of enjoying the fineries of the uncivilized ways of Providence.

“At least it isn’t fucking raining.”

Jester, the tri-color paint, offers no response to the young man’s comments. He wouldn’t, since he’s a horse. Instead, he scuffs a hoof at the semi-frozen ground. Probably in hopes of finding something edible among the frost and crystalized snow. Not that the beast needs to eat just now, but since they’re not currently moving there’s nothing better to do than browse.

They haven’t traveled far. The gateway that opens to the yard in which the old factory sits is still within view, if a few hundred yards off. The tunnel opens like a maw with the dirt packed road its tongue stretching out into the surrounding forests. Chris is alone, except for his horse, and patrolling alone means he can do it however he damn well wants so long as he covers ground and ensures the safety of the claimed territory. That’s why he’s on foot, with Jester properly ignoring him like the fucking horse he is, taking his sweet ass time to study the sky and listen to the sounds of nothingness.

And at least it isn’t fucking raining.

Unless one considers feds popping out of a suspicious unknown car raining. Emily had warned him that they were approaching a place that could be armed, but as soon as they are through the gateway, he stops the car and prepares to get out, without even reaching for his sidearm. Probably for the best, in a few ways, cause he isn’t even visibly armed.

Except he is. SESA agents are probably not unarmed. But he does, suspiciously, look like a spook. In the weeks after the strange explosion, they had seen their fair share of them. They’d left, but it would appear. The car door closes behind him, breaking that silence even more than when the vehicle rolled up. He wasn’t even listening to the protests that the young lady in the passenger seat might make. He’s suddenly on a mission, one he’d been on half a decade ago, but had given up.

Had Hokuto known about him?

Maybe he should have asked her to help him look, but he didn’t want to ask something like that of her.

And maybe part of him hadn’t wanted to know for sure. Now he does, though. Really, there probably were a half dozen Chris Ayers in the world— but perhaps…

Blue eyes fall on the horse and rider.

Make no mistake— there was protest made on the drive up. Emily Epstein boisterously made the case for not driving right up to this place if not for not wanting to get shot for coming up unannounced, then for accidentally driving over a landmine in the unkempt grasses leading away from the road.

Luckily, they're both still alive. But Emily sits inside the vehicle simmering, glaring out at Corbin… and at the man they've rode up on.

She'll be even less happy if Corbin gets drawn on for his efforts, but she also can't deny there wouldn't be a certain satisfaction of I told you so.

He had to have heard the vehicle approach, since it's just wildlife sounds out here. No city noise, the rare car and truck can be heard from miles away on most days. But Chris doesn't turn to look. He stands, still admiring the sky in spite of the faint squeal of brakes, unresponsive to the shutting door, the crunch of frozen gravel underfoot.

“Providence is about twenty minutes that way,” he says a full minute after silence has returned. A hand points the way, opposite where anyone would need to go to get to the settlement. “If you're looking to settle. No giant ball of yarn or any world’s largest bullshit around here except maybe Charity’s pile of word vomit.”

His head tilts downward, eyes first landing on the car and passenger. There's a bored sort of expression, or maybe that's just how he always looks, like anything he could be doing would be better than what he's doing right now. Chris then draws his attention to Corbin. “What the fuck.” His expression hasn't changed much, and his tone still has a deadpan edge, but that's not a face he was expecting to see. “Aren't you supposed to be dead?” What is it with these woods and people just walking along like Death fucking forgot them when he came through the first time.

Still in one piece! No explosions, no getting shot, Corbin looks mighty pleased, though he’s sure at some point Emily will get the chance to say she told him so. He just doesn’t care right now. He thought his whole family was gone, after all, it was a nice surprise to know he had a relative left, even if it was his brother’s kid. His brother who had always been kind of a jerk.

While the boy has changed drastically in the years since he’d last seen him, Corbin hadn’t really changed that much. A few gray hairs and actually some lost weight, but the face and suit and all that still remains the same. Older people don’t change as much as a boy does when they grew into a man. “That’s what I was going to say,” he responds, an amused sound to his voice as he steps a little forward.

“Not dead— I did fake my death all those years ago to avoid the Institute coming after me, but that was an exaggeration.” He’d even had a gravestone. It was probably still there somewhere in Manhattan. He’d done it in hopes that his family would be left alone if they thought he was dead, and they were for the most part. The war, though, not so much. That had been a little too close to where they had lived. “Heard there was a Chris Ayers who lived around here and had to see for myself.”

Curiosity doesn’t let Emily stay in the car. The passenger door swings open with a click and she sets one foot down, hand bracing on the roof of the car as she lifts herself out. She keeps one foot in the car, very clearly listening while still trying to provide the two some semblance of privacy. She’s trying to eavesdrop, after all, not interrupt.

Some exaggeration. “They came after Cooper instead.” And Chris himself, by circumstance. It's likely he never learned the whole story, just enough to avoid the people he should and keep his mouth shut around the rest. It's probably wisdom he could use reminding of today, but fuck all like that's going to happen.

“I don't know if he's still alive. Haven't seen him since… fucking near the end of the war I guess.” A shrug lifts his shoulders.

That bored look rolls over to Emily and the car, then returns to Corbin. “The fuck are you doing all the way out here? You and your kid thinking of settling?” He means Emily, though they're likely about the same age. “Providence isn't much, it isn't fucking Little House on the Prairie, but it doesn't have much for tech.” And we like it that way.

”Your Kid”.

Corbin might have laughed if he hadn’t been suddenly deeply concerned about what had actually happened to his brother in the last years. He’d figured the Institute or the government could have gone after him, which is why he tried to fake his death in the first place. There’s a hint of a sigh, sadness overcoming his relief at seeing the son alive at least.

He had failed to protect what family he’d had. Ironically the only one he’d managed to get to safety had been his ex-wife. He shook his head a little. There was nothing he could do about all that now. With a glance toward the car, he spots Emily and nods a little. “She works with me. We were in Providence to ask a few questions for— “ He trails off. Well. Might as well say it.

His vehicle did look like something a fed would drive. “I work with SESA now. She’s an intern.”

At this, Emily’s hand lifts off the roof, fingers splaying in a hello from afar. She looks a little displeased at the thought of being mistaken for Corbin’s kid. Then again, maybe it’d be a trade up in fathers.

She arches an eyebrow at Chris from afar, chin lifting in a gesture to him. “What’re you doing wasting your time out here still if the war’s over?” If she’s going to be mentioned, she might as well get herself a question answered in the process. “Safe Zone’s about sixty miles that way, you know.” Wrist rotating, she thumbs in the general direction of north and northeast.

Intern.” Well that's as much an unexpected turn of events as… “Fuck. SESA?” Those nosy mouth-breathers still lurking around, it seems. Chris tilts his head up to the sky as though to plead Lord, have mercy. He sighs heavily. It's a heavy burden to bear. Not that he's bearing anything, let alone any sort of burden. But fuck if SESA is back to knocking on doors.

He completely disregards the look from Emily. No fucks to give if she's displeased over an assumption. “What fucking business is it of yours,” he counters, addressing her question first. Last he checked it was still a free country.

Corbin is given a look then. Patronizing. Bless the intern’s heart for trying.

Behind him, Jester whickers at an unyielding ground. Chris ignores it. Damn horse had been told the browsing wasn't good, and supper isn't until they return. “So, you're out here knocking on doors. We had one of yours out here asking questions. Do we think the government cares or other such bullshit.” He doesn't care. “Finding any good answers?”

For a moment, Corbin looks mildly stunned, as if he hadn’t thought this would go the way it has, but then he shakes his head and mutters something to “himself” under his breath, before looking back at Chris. The boy’s too much like his father. But he doesn’t say that. “No, it’s fair, Emily. Some people don’t want to give up their freedoms for presumed safety from a government entity when the government was what betrayed them the first time. I get it.” He didn’t expect to find the boy at all, much less in the Safe Zone. It was difficult to trust that something would be better than what had come before.

It was one of the many reasons he’d joined SESA in the first place. Cause he didn’t trust it either. He just needed to be more hands-on about it.

“But sorry. I got— overzealous when I heard there was a Chris Ayers in the area.” Yes, Emily, you were probably right. But he doesn’t say that. Instead, he reaches— to get his wallet— and pulls out two small cards, then holds them outward in an offer. “It’s not fair to show up like this on you suddenly. You’re a grown man now.” Even if he still remembers him when he was THIS TALL… “Here’s my number and address and other ways to contact me if you ever want to travel the sixty miles.”

Give the young man some time to digest this whole thing? That seems to be his goal. For now.

"Yes," Emily replies drolly to the assertion that living out here is going to make a difference if the government rises up against its people again. "I'm sure there will be a Paul Revere kind enough to give you advance warning out here if shit goes pear-shaped again. Maybe this time they'll light a lamp, too. 'One if by fighter jet, two if by drone.' I'm sure whoever's riding horseback will get that message out in time."

She slides her hand off the top of the car, brow popping. "But if you want to deprive yourself of running water, electricity, and Internet for the false notion of increased safety, suit yourself." Her head cants to the side briefly, an amused smile nowhere but her eyes. "Nice meeting you, Chris."

Emily lowers herself back into the car and pulls the door shut behind her, picking up her phone from the cupholder in the car to start browsing the games she has downloaded. She doesn't so much as glance back up to the conversation outside. Corbin doesn't seem like he'll get himself blown up or shot, after all, and that's good enough.

“Deprived.” Chris tests the word, feeling it out like he would a puzzle piece that doesn't fit anywhere. Because they aren't deprived. You don't need to have running water or regular electricity to have a good life. Fuck. He doesn't even need Internet. That was a luxury not afforded to him or his dad on the road. Too many bitches trying to track them or whatever.

He angles a questioning look at Corbin, head tilting toward the car. Is she for real? Does she not think those safe zones are likely a trap waiting to be sprung soon as the fuckers who think they're in control decide they want to ensure their control?

He sighs, “What the shit,” and takes the cards that are offered to him. “So that's it, you hear a name and actually find me, then give me a… what is this?” Chris lifts the cards to look at them. “Business cards. Then just like that you're gonna go off again and… fuck, I don't know. Not even a stop by for a beer or… Shit. Jester.”

The younger man turns to the horse he's been mostly ignoring. Hands expertly, and unnecessarily, fuss with a buckle and check a strap. It's as good an excuse as any to mask the sudden onslaught of thoughts and questions and feelings he'd rather approach as if none of it mattered. Why the duck should it? His dad dragged him all over the country when they thought his uncle had died, and now here's Corbin: obviously not fucking dead.

Eyes following Emily, Corbin presses his lips together in a half-smile. He understands both points, though it was more the lack of proper medicine and sanitation that he would have argued about. The dangers of the wild frontier aside, it seemed like a recipe for a disease if too many people took the same ideas. Disease, lack of resources and the natural conflict that follows when people fought over them.

But he did also enjoy the internet. Not everyone did.

With a raise of his eyebrow, the Agent looks back at Chris, watching the response. Yes, this young man had grown up to be too much like his father. He’d hoped that the child would have taken after his mother or something, but he didn’t even really know her. She might have had the same personality for all he’d known. “I’m letting you decide what you want to do. But I probably will come by and check on you a few times when I have a day off, even if you don’t decide to follow up on it.”

He wished he had the time to take a few days off and stay with the young man, at least until they figured things out.

“I, unfortunately, have jobs to take care of, and I’m not sure Miss Epstein would appreciate me taking an extra hour of personal time when I should be driving her back.”

He’d already taken an hour just doing this offroad search, pretty much. But he’d had to confirm.

It's difficult to tell if Chris is listening. He must be, even while he's got his attention plastered all over buckling and unbuckling a pack near Jester’s withers, and his shoulders turned just enough so he's not even facing Corbin or the car or the obnoxious kid in the car. So much for it not raining.

He'd probably continue wasting time in such a manner, all to avoid facing his uncle and everything that could mean — he doesn't even know what it could mean! — right up until the older man decides to leave. Emotions are complicated, why are they even a thing? And he can't even figure out what to do about his. Is it anger? Sadness? Definitely not hunger. It's going to take some time to figure it out.

Except the horse only has so much patience and if things aren't being taken out of the pack…

“Ass.” The complaint could be for Corbin, but it's more likely for Jester who's seized on the opportunity to bite the younger man in the hip. Fucking horse. “Your father was a jackass.” Still talking to the horse, who's pulled away from idle hands to wander, of all things, toward the road. Fucker.

But it prompts Chris to dismiss the beast and turn to look at his uncle. “Yeah well… Come around whenever. Or…” He doesn't know. His shoulders shrug. “I go with the farmers to the market sometimes, in your safe zone.”

Emily is all for ignoring any human ongoings outside the car. But when the horse starts ambling onto the road, in the direction of the vehicle, she looks up blank-faced, phone still in one hand. It’s an expression that largely persists, save for a vague discomfort that builds the closer the horse gets to the car.

She’s a domestic-animal-only type of person.

She freely shoots a worried look back in Corbin’s direction. Do they need to be worried about that horse? She’s seen videos of angry moose taking on cars. Did ornery horses behave similarly?

There’s a hint of relief from the way Corbin’s shoulders settle down. He’s not worried about the horse, it would seem. Not that he knew much about horses, but he had grown up in New York before the world blew up, and they’d had horses on the streets sometimes. Carriages for the tourists and married couples and even some ridden by police. They hadn’t been terribly scary to him. “I’ll check out the market every so often then, see if you’re in town.” He might even call in a favor to have someone give him a ring if the Providence people dropped in. He knew a few people down at the market.

“Sorry to drop all this on you out of nowhere when I really didn’t have the time to sit down and find out everything,” he says in an apology, though he had briefly considered just picking the young man up and taking him home— that plan had disappeared before it even really formed, though. Cause he wasn’t the young boy that he remembered.

And he had a pet that probably wouldn’t be allowed at his place, too.

“We’ll see each other again, Chris,” he adds, before stepping backward toward the car.

Really, it should be Chris who's worried about the horse. He hardly seems to notice that Jester has started wandering off. He's still looking at Corbin like he can't figure out if this is all real or some elaborate joke. It's one thing for people in his life to leave for various reasons — death usually being the stakeholder — it's something entirely different for anyone to come back.

It's why getting attached just isn't worth it. Right? Fucking nonsense.

It takes him a minute to rouse out of that fog and find his voice once his uncle starts heading back to his car. “Right.” They'll see each other again. “I mean… it's a lot is all.” He’ll probably do a little surveillance on Corbin too. Because this is all just fucking weird. “So… Drive safe.”

“I usually try to drive safe, when there’s actual roads,” Corbin responds with a side grin that’s thrown backwards at the boy and his horse. It isn’t as easy this far from the safe zone, which is why he’s not in his own car. It’s not entirely off roading, thankfully, though if they’d had to go further it would have been. The roads were much better for horses than cars. He steps over to open the door to the car, before pausing a moment to add over the open door, “See you soon, kid.”

Then the door closes and the car starts up and he’s going in reverse until he can turn around and drive out of sight. Taking a few shrubs out at the same time.

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