From Scraps To Schemes


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Scene Title From Scraps to Schemes
Synopsis A scavenged car stereo finds a new use when a precocious teen seeks lessons in destruction and other mischief from Matches Mackenzie.
Date August 15, 2016

The Sterling Hills Haven

Sterling Hills Mines

Ogdensburg, NJ

In the common area, the loud cacophony of dozens of voices in almost as many conversations is the norm. With the news brought by Asi about the impending construction, a new urgency can be heard in their tones, a new fervor in their pitch. Some sound more hopeful and others more cynical, but one way or another, almost everyone is talking about it.

Not talking about it is one of the harbingers — or at least, an escort of the harbinger. Nova sits at a table with an electronics mess in front of her. It looks like she’s stripping useful parts from a car stereo to be repurposed, maybe sold to those who need the bits and baubles of wires and scrap pieces.

The teenager wears one earbud, its neon pink cord attached to an old iPod Shuffle,of all things, and she nods her head to it now and then. The tinny notes coming from the dangling end sound like it might be “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”

Matches Mackenzie had come back to the Haven in the hopes of finding some supplies and some soup and maybe a place to rest up for awhile, after his last bout of work. Instead, he'd found himself stepping right into a full-on Mad Eve war rally.

And now someone's sitting at his table. Great. Perfect.

He's tempted, for a moment, to do a fade and scare the living shit out of them. But… it's a teenaged girl. Nova, as it turns out. Well. He can play nice. Sometimes. So instead of going in under full stealth, he just slides into a seat, regarding Nova's work with a flat look… albeit one that transitions into mild interest after a moment's examination. A car stereo's got a lot of good parts on it, the kinds of things that are useful in his line of work. The sound of Guns and Roses coming from her earbuds doesn't hurt, either.

"Good find. Got any buyers lined up yet?"

Despite keeping one ear free, Nova was in that rare almost-meditational zone that comes with such work, and she startles ever so slightly when Matches takes the seat across from her. She tries to hide the little twitch of muscles by shifting a bit, tucking one booted foot up under herself on the seat, as if to get a better view of her deconstruction project.

She peers up at him under a lock of dark hair. The question of a buyer makes her tip her head thoughtfully.

“I usually just sell to Stella but she always claims she doesn’t need any of it and underpays. Keep the good bits for myself these days,” Nova says, with a shrug. “You interested?” she wonders, oh-so-nonchalantly compared to her fan girling earlier, as she picks up a pair of needle-nosed pliers to work at one of the components.

Matches regards Nova thoughtfully. "For the right price. What I do ain't cheap. Big payoffs, but you gotta keep your expenses under control if you want to get decent bang for your buck."

Though Nova's words have piqued his curiosity despite himself. "What exactly do you do with 'em, though?"

The teen grins at the word bang coming from the explosives expert. “For you, that isn’t just a metaphor, right?” Nova asks, eyes on her work until she finishes dislodging the coil and sets it next to the other items she’s already pulled.

She sets the pliers down, pushes her hair out of her face again and trains her wide blue eyes on him. “The last thing I made was a little radio scanner for when I’m on the outside.” She lifts a shoulder. “Not the most useful thing but it was more to see if I could. I made a remote control car for the little kids before that. That wasn’t very useful at all but worth it.”

Nova tips her head. “I’ll give it to you, no cost,” she says, gesturing to the stereo and all the already-stripped components, “if you show me how to do whatever you will use it for.”

No, in this case: the 'bang' is definitely not a metaphor. He meet's Nova's wide-eyed gaze with a bland stare of his own. "Whatever I'll use it for is a pretty vague mandate," he says blandly. "For all you know, I'm just wanting to make a gizmo to prank Wells."

Which is admittedly not terribly likely… although teaching Nova to make some prank gizmos would be pretty hilarious, now that he thinks about it. He hasn't really felt puckish in a long time, but he isn't above occasionally throwing the cat among the pigeons to see them scatter.

Nova laughs, an exuberant and bright giggle that cuts a sharp juxtaposition to their surroundings and their reality, and likely serves as a reminder that she is still a child, though one on the edge of adulthood.

“I would either make a terrible or wonderful dictator, then. People would do both great and horrible things thanks to my vague mandates, and I would either take all the credit or all the blame for the word done in my name,” the teen says, her own eyes sparkling a bit impishly. “Or I’d get in trouble with the fairies who like to trick a person if their language isn’t…what’s the word…” she looks around for a moment, as if it might appear in mid-air, “precise.”

But the talk of gizmos draws her mouth closed in a thoughtful pursing. “He is the one who stole my knife,” she asks, her brows lifting. She got it back, but the little jab to her ego in the guise of a life lesson still aches. “This I think I can get behind. Though I did think you might make it into a bomb, and I’d like to learn that, too.”

Before he protests, she adds, with a little bit of a teen’s plaintive tone, “I promise I won’t try to make one on my own. I’m impetuous, not suicidal or dumb.”

He regards her with that same impassive look as she talks… though he actually has to work to keep his lips from twitching into a grin, and he maybe isn't entirely successful at keeping his amusement out of his eyes.

She's precocious. And bright. Reminds him a little of himself at that age, or of —

Nope! He slams the door on that line of thought before it gets a chance to ambush him… but he ends up barking a chuckle despite himself when she reveals she's in on pranking Wells.

But then to business.

"No," he sighs. "I don't think you're dumb. Or suicidal," he says, his voice heavy as he considers his words. "Thing is… bright people can do dumb shit. Bein' bright means you get a little better view of things. See a little further… so it's easy to miss things that are close, and get tripped up over somethin' basic…" His tone is still one of consideration, though, rather than denial.

He thinks it over for a few moments longer, then sighs. "Alright. I can use these parts to build a detonator, a timer, and… maybe one or two gizmos you can use to have some fun with people who annoy you," he grudgingly concedes. "I'm okay with showin' you that."

"As to things beyond that," he says sternly, only to sigh again. "We'll see. If it's okay with whoever looks after you… maybe you can hang around while I cook. Maybe I'll even talk to myself a little. Point out stuff you might not catch." He hesitates again. "Maybe you could even teach me a little Japanese or something."

He may try to hide his smile, but hers is a bright, toothy thing when he calls her bright. Or suggests that she is. But Nova nods at the words of warning. “I like that explanation,” she says after a moment. “To see a little further…Miss things that are close.”

Nova’s wide eyes have a faraway look in them as she muses over that particular sentiment. Clearly it resonates with her. Her lips twitch into a small smile again. “Usually people give that forest and trees analogy and I get it, but that’s not always the problem. For some people, sure. The other problem I think with many smart people is just… what’s the word…” she waves her hand again. “They’re cocky.”

Her head tips as she looks at the stereo, considering its parts and the things he can make out of it. “That is a good find. I’ll make sure you are first on my list next time I get one of these.” She shakes her head at the parental approval clause he invokes. “I look out for myself. But yes.”

Nova offers him her hand, slim and a little dirty. “Taisho.

He raises an eyebrow at Nova's assertion. She's not entirely wrong about cleverness and cockiness going hand in hand, but knowing that is one thing, and knowing it — truly internalizing it — is another. And cockiness, in Matches' opinion, is more the province of the young than the old.

Guess we'll see how deep she's got that one down, he reflects. If she looks after herself, she's already got some responsibility under her belt, at least. "Taisho," he agrees, her slim and slightly dirty hand engulfed in his rough, calloused one as he shakes on it.

"But I'm holdin' you to your promise about not makin' bombs on your own. Not yet, anyway. Peg legs and hook hands are only cool in pirate stories," he says, his eyes serious… though he does let a hint of a grin touch his lips.

Another girlish giggle and Nova shakes her head, her thick dark hair falling back into her eyes. “I’m pretty sure they aren’t that cool for the people who have them, even in pirate stories. Look at poor Captain Hook. If he was happy with his hook hand, he wouldn’t be so traumatized by that crocodile, yeah?’

The teen looks at her hand, wiggling the fingers for a moment. “A hook wouldn’t be very useful anyway. Even if I was limited to scrap metal I’d at least make a basic pincher. More crab claw, less bird talon. Useful, but still dangerous. Right?”

Planting her elbows on the table,Nova folds her hands together to rest her chin on, the very picture of the most avid pupil and teacher’s pet, minus a shiny red apple to give Matches.

“So how are we going to prank Wells?” That is the burning question.

"Touche," Matches acknowledges. "And yeah, a claw'd be better. Maybe something with a locking grip on it, so you could set it to hold something and keep your good hand free." Honestly, with all the crazy robots out running around murdering people, it seems like it'd be easy to make a pretty functional prosthetic. Except they've got all the money and resources and we're out here clawing for scraps, he thinks.

Nova's question pops his brewing sour mood like a soap bubble, though, drawing a huff of air that's almost a chuckle from him. "You really do have a one-track mind, huh?" he observes, shaking his head in amusement.

"Alright, then. What I am gonna do is use some of this," he gestures to the pile of parts,"and a few other parts I've got to build a tiny little gizmo that will make annoying beeping noises at randomized three to thirty minute intervals. What you choose to do with it — such as, for instance, hiding it in someone's belongings — is entirely up to you. Okay?" he asks, arching an eyebrow at her.

Nova lowers her lashes and flutters them at Matches coyly. “You know what they say… all teenage girls want one thing.” Her faux-sultry look, seductive pout and all, tips upward into her big Disney-Princess smile once again. “To get even.”

His devilish scheme draws a laugh and the teenager nods earnestly. “That would be annoying, yeah. But only if you don’t need those parts for more important things, like blowing up the patriarchy and the government.”

Clearly, she’s trying to be responsible. Mature. A logical and rational part of the Resistance. Not just a kid. But still…

“Can you time it so like… it doesn’t start until the middle of the night or something? After he’s all cozy and comfortable and it sucks to get out of bed?”

Matches snorts at Nova's Disney Princess/Evil Queen-in-Training act; points for trying to be somewhat responsible with this, at least. The delay thing is pure evil, though. He approves.

"Little more complicated. Doable, though," he says, opting to answer the last question first. "As for the parts… they'd be handy, but I'm pretty good at making due in a pinch. Worst comes to worst I can probably buy replacements for a couple pipe bombs or something. Maybe even buy 'em back off Wells, if need be," he says. One of his hands is already reaching over to Nova's pile of parts and picking through for the ones he needs, while the other fishes some electrical tape out of an inside pocket. "Anyway. First lesson time. Watch close."

Sugoi!” Nova says, apparently planning to keep up her end of the bargain and grinning as he agrees to the extra step in this new fresh hell they’re devising for Wells. “It’s like the fire alarms when the batteries go out, and you can’t figure out which one. Always at three in the morning. My father broke one of them with a broom handle trying to get it to stop because we didn’t have any new batteries.”

She reaches into her bag to find a notebook and a stub of a pencil, ready to take notes. She points to the electrical tape Matches pulls out.


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