Fuck 'Em


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Scene Title Fuck 'Em
Synopsis Jac turns to an unlikely friend for advice in a time of need.
Date January 22, 2021

Pick any bar in America that is open in the early afternoon and you’ll find the same, strange atmosphere. Daylight shining through unblinded windows onto floors that don’t look nearly as dirty under cover of darkness. The people who congregate in these places tend to be waiting for happy hour, the kinds of day-drinkers that turn bad life choices into bad lifestyles. A dive bar down in Sheepshead Bay is no different.

In the harsh light of day, even an overcast one like today, the bar feels unwelcomingly lit. The scarred concrete floor looks like an unfinished construction site and two of the three patrons are middle-aged men running from something. The third patron, Clover Hull, isn’t running from anything in particular today. If nothing else, she’s running backwards to build up momentum for that forward dive into the unknown. This trip to the bar is just a side trek for a curious acquaintance.

Hunched at a table by the window, Hull compulsively checks her phone for an update on something, then sets it back down on the table. Right around then, that curious acquaintance comes walking in to a place she absolutely doesn’t belong.

Dirty Pool Pub
Sheepshead Bay

January 22nd
2:15 pm

The dingy smell of the Dirty Pool Pub assails Jac Childs’ senses the moment she sets foot into the bar. The two broad-shouldered and pot-bellied men seated at the bar aren’t who she’s here to see, though both look at her with a mixture of uncertainty and suspicion the moment she walks in. Jac catches Hull’s narrow silhouette in her periphery, and the teal-haired technopath raises one hand in signal and greeting.

Hull and Jac had missed running into one-another at the arcology in Praxia, but there was no time like the present to make new first impressions.

As with previous visits into the dank pub, and there's only been one or two, Jac makes a slight face at the smell. Just a small wrinkling of her nose, a squint in her eyes. It unapologetically lingers as her eyes pass over the men at the bar, and fades once she's spotted Hull. Everyone else is dismissed as the teen approaches the table already occupied by the technopath.

“Hi,” is her quiet offering, just before she pulls a chair out to sit across from the woman. And that's all Jac seems able to offer at first. She seems unsure where to start, remembering only the unclaimed offer for rescue a million days ago. “Thanks… thank you for meeting me.”

“Bunch of close calls there,” Hull says as she sets her phone face down on the table. There’s a half-empty bottle of locally-brewed beer sitting in front of her. “Us running into each other, I mean. I stayed back when things went sideways in Detroit, but I was there… maybe a thousand feet from where you were. Fucking… insane, wasn’t it?”

Hull is so much younger than Jac expected from her digital persona. She’s /somewhere in her late twenties, but looks more like Jac’s age from youthful features and her brightly colored hair. “So, what’s up? And if you’re going to ask about Monroe, I don’t have a damned idea. I’ve been looking for him non-stop and turning up nothing. Government is too. We’re both of the mind he isn’t gone.” She tilts her head to the side, one brow raised.

Fucking insane is one way of putting it, and Jac actually grins faintly as she sinks into the chair. “I’m glad you got out of there safe,” she returns as she scoots closer to the table. Surprise flickers on her face as she looks up at Hull and realizes the technopath isn’t quite what she expected — this woman could be part of the Lighthouse — but she recovers less than a beat later. Leaning forward, her arms fold one over the other and rest on the edge of the table.

“Detroit was a mess and a half, but this isn’t about him,” she explains. Looking at the table, her left hand taps against her right forearm, her head sways subtly between her shoulders like she may lay her head on the table. “It’s actually about… what you can do.” The teen lifts her head, studying Hull.

“You remember the plane crash in July?” Jac’s shoulders lift slightly at the unspoken implication that she was one of the survivors. “There’ve… been developments. Things are getting worse.” The girl lifts a hand and rubs her fingers against her forehead. A breath escapes, almost a sigh, and she shakes her head. “We found tech. And I was hoping you… that you would help.”

“Well, you’re in luck. If it’s powered on and connected to a network I can dig in.” Hull says, taking a swig of her beer and then setting it aside on a cork coaster. “All of us work differently,” she continues, speaking in hushed tones. “I know we’re kinda’ rare, so the nuance gets lost. My speciality is networked systems, anything that is actively communicating. I can access and manipulate data.”

“So,” Hull makes a gimme motion with one hand across the table, “show me what you’ve got and I’ll see if I can be of any help. If not, I might know someone who can.”

“That's… kind of…” Jac drags her hand from her forehead to press against her right brow. Her eyes half squint as if bothered by the dingy light. “It's inside,” she explains on a tight sigh. The teen glances toward the bar and the men sitting there and, for a second after, looks pained just from moving her eyes.

“There's chips in our brains.” Jac keeps her voice close to a whisper. “We found that a few weeks ago when a few survivors had strokes because their chips malfunctioned. The chips might be… an identification tracking tag?” She's not sure that's close to accurate, but it fits with what she remembers. “And it maybe runs off its own power source? Like a battery.”

The teen looks up at Hull, right eye narrowed a fraction further than the left, tight with pain. “Could you try with mine? I don't know if… if it can be removed now. I think it's malfunctioned too, but… Can you try?”

Hull pauses for only a moment to purse her lips and stare wide-eyed at Jac. “A chip? A— someone put a fucking chip in your head?” She whispers sharply, jumping to the immediate perpetrators in her mind. “Why the fuck would Praxis do that? Weren’t you with them voluntarily? Who else— what’s— ”

Hull suddenly reaches out in a lunge and snatches Jac’s hand from across the table in a tight grip. Her irises flicker softly with a bioluminescent glow and brows knit together. She releases her grip almost as quickly as she started it. “I’m getting nothing,” she says with a squint. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything there, it just means it isn’t networked. Or if it is, the networking functions are disabled. I need an opening to interact with anything.”

Withdrawing her hand and leaning back in her seat, Hull considers the possibilities.

“It wasn't Praxis,” Jac manages before she's grabbed. Without time to react to the sudden motion, she's left staring until she's released. The teen gives her hand a small shake, then tucks it into the fold of her arms. Nothing there, or at least not in a way that a technopath can find. Her head lowers to her arms, looking less hopeful as Hull shares her findings.

She sits that way for a moment, quiet and staring at the table top like the years of scarring would rearrange itself into clues toward a solution. Of course those scars in the wooden top are worse than useless and just sit there doing nothing. The teen sighs and raises her eyes to look across at Hull. “What if…” Jac lifts her head slowly, for a beat looking vaguely dizzied by the movement.

“What if… if a probe was sent in to connect the chip to… something? A computer?” It’s a topic that's a little outside of her understanding; she has no idea if it's even possible to hack into the chip that way. The teen shakes her head even after suggesting it. “If it's worth trying. I'm just…” Her brows furrow, fear swelling within and filling her eyes with tears. She might be dying.

“Maybe?” Hull says with a hint of uncertainty, suspicious still clear in her eyes. She grabs her beer and takes a long draw off of it before pulling it away from her mouth and gasping softly. “I cannot fucking believe you have…” She closes her eyes and shakes her head. Change of thoughts.

“I’d have to know how it worked to say for sure on any of that. We’re all different, though.” Hull says with an incline of her head to the side. “Technopaths, I mean. I’m good with networked systems, but Robin Hood is better. Still, he needs an access point just like me. You know who could really help you?” Hull smiles, and Jac’s heart sinks.

The Oni.” Hull smiles. “Japanese technopath, super talented. She was on the ground when we attacked Praxis. Her name’s Asi something.” Jac’s worst fear. The technopath best-suited to help her is without a power.

Jac’s face pales in panic when Hull suggests Asi. Her eyes squeeze closed, sending the tears that had gathered spilling down her cheeks. “She can't.” Her heart hammers in her chest with every path seeming a dead end. “She was taken too.”

Pain stabs a persistent counter beat to her pounding heart. Her left hand pressed against her right eye. Without Asi… New tears catch on the lashes of her left. Without Asi, what choices are left?

“Drill a hole in my head and take mine,” the teen offers softly, but not lightly. She knows what she's saying, and what could happen. “Take it, figure out… figure out how to save the others.”

Hull is silent for a good long while, grappling with both the revelation that one of the most world-renowned technopaths had been taken, but also that she no longer has her ability. Furthermore, Hull is horrified by Jac’s request.

“Whoa hey, no way,” Hull says in a sing-song rhyming tone that isn’t intentional. “No-no-no way no how, I’m not a fucking doctor. You find one who is willing to put a hole in your head I’ll look at whatever they take but there’s no way I’m performing some kind of back-alley lobotomy on you, kid.”

“Honestly it sounds like you need a machine empath,” Hull suggests, one hand at her chin. “But I only know that kind of ability exists in theory, never actually met one before. They’re like technopaths, but they work on everything from a toaster to a jet fighter. But I…” Hull looks down at her beer, “I wouldn’t know where to even start to look to find one.”

Something in Jac's chest loosens and unravels when Hull refuses to take her up on her offer. Conviction to follow through remains, but she's noticeably relieved that the technopath put a hard no on the idea. With shoulders slumping, her hand takes the weight of her head and she sags forward. "I've never even heard of… mechanical empathy?" She doesn't doubt it's a possible thing, it just sounds like something out of a storybook. It only adds to the already impossible, never ending nightmare.

The teen's uncovered eye closes, brow furrowing. Her head throbs mercilessly, but she lifts her gaze to Hull after a second.

"I know a doctor who might… it's not what you're suggesting." Jac takes a slow breath. Her fingers curl so it's her fist resting against her right eye. "Doctor Pride might have some ideas, and a place to work. And if we work together maybe… we can find something that's not just…" She motions between herself and Hull helplessly.

“Maybe,” Hull whispers, forcing a smile to maintain Jac’s thread of hope. “I mean, if that happens… yeah. You can get in touch with me. I’ll do whatever I can. I just—I feel kinda’ helpless here. I know you’re probably feeling the same way.” Moving her beer aside, Hull reaches a hand out across the table, palm up.

“How’re you doing?” Hull asks, searching Jac’s eyes. “I thought shit would’ve gotten easier for you after… after Praxis. After it was all over.” But Hull’s tone shows that she understands, now, that it didn’t get any easier at all. It got so, so much worse.

Maybe is a whole lot better than no, and it shows in a weak grin and weary blue eyes. It's a tiny candle that's still burning in the middle of a storm.

Jac stretches a hand over the table to grasp Hull’s as the topic is shifted, with tears forming again. “I'm… not okay,” she hears herself admitting slowly, and with her eyes angling away. Her teeth catch her lower lip, brows knitting as examines her own answer. She isn't okay, and hasn't been for nearly a year.

“I'm trying, but…” There've been good moments, but it's felt like for every step forward there've been ten more backward. Jac swallows and looks up at Hull. “I don't know. Just with everything… and my head feels like it’s trying to invert.”

Hull pokes two fingers against Jac’s head. “Maybe it is?” She says with an attempted levity injection. Her own crooked expression shows how awkward the attempt is. “I don’t know how to really help with those kinds of things. I… I’m not really all that great at sorting them out myself.”

Slouching back into her seat, Hull picks up her beer. “I’m sure you’ve got a truckload of people to turn to anyway, this is just business.” She spreads her hands, then takes a swig of the beer. “So, yeah. I don’t know what to tell you, Jac. But whoever did this to you? They’re gonna go down. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. Shit like this never stays quiet forever. Eventually someone is going to fuck up, and I’ll be there… boots laced up, ready to kick some teeth in.”

“I guess there's people,” Jac replies without commitment. Anyone she might turn to is in the same sad situation, and most of them haven't been too eager to involve her in much. “Everyone has just been blindly trying anything they could think of, and… I don't know anymore. I thought, maybe…” Maybe there would be something Hull could find that hasn't been found yet.

Jac musters a small grin, something that lasts barely a second and doesn’t do much to brighten her expression. “Maybe someday.” A shrug follows, and she leans back in her chair. “Sorry, that you came out here for nothing. But… thanks for trying.”

“It wasn’t for nothing,” Hull says with a tightness and certainty in her voice, “it was for somebody who’s been where I have before.” This time she reaches out across the table to rather forcibly take Jac’s hand. “I know what it’s like to have your life turned upside down, to not know who you are, to not understand what anything means.”

Squeezing Jac’s hand, Hull shakes her head. “I’ll give you the same advice somebody gave me: Stop trying to look for answers, and start trying to live.” She brushes her thumb over the back of Jac’s hand. “It doesn’t mean give up, it just… means take a step back and wait. Because maybe there’s something you overlooked, and you can only see it with a fresh pair of eyes.”

With lips folding in over her teeth, Jac raises her eyes to meet Hull's. She takes a breath that's meant to be steadying, but she's already shown the cracks in her facade and the breath is uneven, hitching twice before she's filled her lungs. "I'm trying," she says, once sure she can speak without drawing attention to their table. There's a waver in her words, but she keeps her voice small.

"I really have been. It's just…" Everything is shit right now might best describe the injured twist of Jac's expression. "So much happened, and keeps happening, that… it's hard. And I'm scared."

Hull looks around briefly, checking the bar and the door to make sure no one is eavesdropping before adding a second hand to Jac’s, reinforcing her grip on the girl. “Yeah that’s pretty normal, all things considered. But it doesn’t make it any less awful.” She looks down at the table, to the scuff marks in the laminate surface, attention lingering and voice hanging.

“Jac,” Hull says with a blink of her eyes up to the teen. “What is it you’re scared of most?” It’s such a direct question, encouraged by a squeeze of the teen’s hand, as if to say don’t think too hard about it.

It’s a question that strikes its own chord of uneasiness, even if Jac tries to not think too hard about it. She’s faced a lot of frightening things without being able to put words to why, driven by (running from) something even more terrifying. Even now, as she tries to form an answer, she feels a strong urge to avoid facing it. “I don’t…” Her head shakes, eyes dropping with something close to shame. “I don’t know. I’m afraid… of…” Still shaking her head, the teen angles a reluctant glance up at Hull.

“I’m afraid… Of… of failing and… because if I fail then… if I can't do something they won't want me.”

“Sure.” Hull says, squeezing Jac’s hands. “Then you spit in their faces and tell them they never deserved you.” There’s no humor in her voice when she says that. “Life’s too short to be held on a fucking leash by people who only want you around when you’re useful. Find people who really care about you and hold on to them for dear life.”

“Anyone who abandons you when you fail…” Hull shakes her head, “…fuck 'em. Them leaving is just saving you grief later on.”

It might be said with a straight face, but there's something so radical enough in what Hull recommends that Jac’s face cracks with a teary-eyed grin. Maybe it's all of the stress, the compounded interest of every bad day since February, finding release in something so simple but very profound. She almost laughs, just imagining spitting in someone’s face. And there are a few people she might actually feel justified doing something so extreme — and kind of childish — to.

“Yeah.” Jac sobers a little as she voices that she heard, actually heard, what Hull is saying. Of course she can't just go spitting on people, but she can look out for herself.

Hull gives Jac’s hands one more quick squeeze and then withdraws across the table. “Look, I’m not far away. I’m down in Providence for… the time being. I’ve got a pretty good thing going on back there, and somebody has to keep an eye out on Bennet’s dumb ass.” She rolls her eyes and grabs her beer, finishing it. “You think of something else, or you just need someone to talk to? You know how.”

Hull sits back in her chair, hands in her lap, cradling the now empty beer bottle. She considers something, then looks at the bar. “You want a drink?” Hull asks, knowing full well how young Jac is. “They don’t card if you tip good.”

Hull’s offer obviously means something, with how Jac mellows further. Except for a small grin over the lamentation of Noah Bennet, she nods and watches Hull, searching. Her brows tick up at the second offer, blue eyes flick to the bar and back. She's not sure of wisdom in it, but her shoulders rise and fall with a casual shrug.


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