Ghost in the Ruins


elliot2_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Ghost in the Ruins
Synopsis Elliot's message to a lost soul turns up someone he wasn't expecting.
Date June 26, 2021

“What does it mean?”

In the day to day, Elliot is generally left to himself. A glance, the barest eye contact during barter or trade for supplies and work. Conversations are in passing or brief, when they happen at all. He's done a right and fair job of blending into the daily drive that passes for civilization within the Pelago. Some might look at him twice, a flicker of unrealized familiarity because maybe he has a face or a build or a manner of saying a certain word that reminds them of another from a decade or longer ago. No one should be directing questions at him, and yet…

“What you painted.” The voice comes from one side and a little behind. A young voice and, at first, not easily locatable. If Elliot has managed to blend in for all of the days he and the others have been at the Pelago, then this voice really belongs. It takes careful scrutiny to pick out the owner, there amongst some crates waiting to be unpacked.

Squeaks is a skinny youth, sitting small on her heels, one arm curled around her knees. The other hovers near her face, holding a dark colored object while blue eyes peer over it, intently watching whatever day work Elliot has found for himself. Brows raise until they're hidden beneath a mop of curly red hair, and she punctuates her query with a bite from the thing in her hand, a stunted but already half eaten, reddish apple by the crunchy sound it makes.

Elliot straightens when he first hears the phantom voice. He turns only half way in the right direction to hide the hand that touches his knife to make sure it's ready if he needs it, but he relaxes as his eyes pick out his tail. He’s surprised that it’s a familiar face; the home Jac Childs has been linked into the network before. Recalling the event brings with it a memory he experiences through five pairs of eyes simultaneously: the deaths at Red Hook Market.

"You don't have the Bat-Signal here?" he asks in a tone that suggests joking, not sarcasm. He wipes grease off of his hands with a rag that spent a previous life as a Looney Tunes themed beach towel. There's a disassembled electric motor on the table behind him, as well as wire and some other tools he's found that should make it work again, despite the operation relying on internet access rather than mechanical aptitude.

He takes a moment to consider all of the information he's been given. This girl tracked him without giving herself away, and either saw him leave the message or found out about it after the fact and tracked him down on her own, also no mean feat. "Not a lot of people can sneak up on me," he admits with respect. "Usually I'm the invisible one."

The man’s observation is met with another cronchy bite of apple and an inquisitive head tilt. Squeaks so far seems every part the same as the Jac Childs he remembers. Except she clearly lacks in recognizing Elliot the same way. “People don't see what they aren't looking for,” she suggests. To her, he's a stranger, and she's small and easily hidden.

Moving on, the girl points out, “There's signals,” in equal parts confused and serious and missing the joke. “There's flares and alarms.” Her tone implies that it's common knowledge, the warning systems around the Pelago. And she's obviously confused how a painting, all hidden away, is a signal.

“What's it mean?” Squeaks tosses aside the apple core and cradles her chin in her hands. “The painting. And what you said… Alalahanin mo ako.” The syllables are unfamiliar, but she must have practiced in secret to not stumble too badly. “Is it a signal? What are you calling here?”

Elliot leans back to rest against the edge of his work bench, discarding the rag. His fingers drum against the lip of the table before his arms cross in contemplation. The local Jac seems to have an investigative mind and a knack for finding people, and truthfully he needs all the help he can get right now. He takes a gamble.

“A long time ago I had a friend who could perfectly remember everything she’d ever seen or heard,” he says conversationally. “She used that CD player to listen to music while she was working in a restaurant in that building, way below the new waterline. Alalahanin mo ako is probably the wrong way to say ‘Remember me?’ in her native language. Filipino.”

“It’s a shot in the dark,” he explains, admitting it to himself as well. “I thought maybe she made it.” Thought maybe she could help save the world.

“You're pretty smart if you remember what's underwater,” is Squeaks’ way of observing, and assuming, Elliot’s age. In short, he's definitely old. Because as far as she can tell, it's been flooded in this world since there were dinosaurs. “And probably you haven't seen your friend in a really, really, really long time.” Because the waters have covered everything since forever.

Straightening, Squeaks tucks her arms behind her back. Her mouth twists to one side, a habit for thinking about things and wondering. “What’s your friend’s name? There's lots of places she could be now. Lowe’s, or any of the ships.” Maybe she traveled with the Travelers, to wherever they went.

Elliot laughs. "I don't know if smart describes me well," he says, after all he came to this world knowing he wasn't going to be given what he was promised for doing so. "And ironically my memories from around that time are kind of garbage. There was a lot going on, times were hard." I didn't survive this particular apocalypse, just passing through.

"Her name is Tala," he says, pausing before adding her last names just in case Tala is a common name in this timeline, "Lualhati Dimatibág." His pronunciation seems far more confident with her name than with the words he foraged from the internet for his graffiti message.

"I've been around Lowe's and no luck finding her there. Haven't been on many ships though," he admits.

“Tala.” Squeaks stretches the name out like she's the expert in knowing all of the things anyone could ever know. It's possible, if Tala exists in this world, that the teenager might know her. But after a couple of seconds, the name dangling like melty taffy, shoulders bounce in a quick shrug. It's also possible that she doesn't know everyone who ever came to the Pelago.

Chancing a step forward, and slightly to the side, Squeaks tilts her head so she can look at the small engine. “Why are you looking for her?” Even though her words are casual, there's a subtle something in her tone. Suspicion, prying. Why are you here?

Elliot steps to the side to provide Jac a better view of his repair work, simultaneously keeping himself out of arm’s reach. “I suppose there’s any number of reasons,” he says. “Reuniting with an old friend would be reward enough for the effort.” Even though he’s never met her, and she, hopefully, has never met him. Never met a him. He evades the spirit of the question for now.

“Just came in on Yeah, Buoy!” he explains. “The last time I was in this city, there was a lot more solid ground. I’ve been looking to see if any of my friends from my old life made it, but things are looking bleak. Hopefully they just made it inland. What’s got you looking for answers in the world of missed connections graffiti?” A why are you here? in return.

“When there was more land here,” Squeaks’ eyes lift off the engine to focus on Elliot, “was like a hundred and eight years ago.” Of course she knows it wasn’t that long ago, but it’s been long enough that she has doubts the man has actually for reals seen the city before all the water. Unless he really is old old. Her eyebrows push up into her hair again, curioser and curioser. But also maybe a little amused.

Like a nosy cat, the skinny redheaded teen slinks closer, she just wants to know about all of the things is what her posture says. “I never saw anything like that before,” is her offer in tones that underscore with and I’ve seen a lot of things. “Did Yeah, Buoy! pick you and your friends up from the water? Did you fall out of the sky to get here?” Squeaks’ questions come with each slowly cautious step and don’t pause long enough to allow for full answers, just fits and starts if Elliot even tries.

“How come you’re here?” Step. “People who never been here before don’t just come here?” She wonders out loud, as she steps this time. “Are you here because you’re in trouble?” A slower step this time. “Do you need help?” The Pelago isn’t what it used to be, which wasn’t much even before the wars with the Sentinels, but there’s real concern in the way the girl asks the last question.

Elliot is surprised at the specific and accurate nature of the barrage of questions. He fights the urge to push himself further down the bench away from Jac’s proximity; almost certain, then certain, that she’s safe. He breathes out a laugh and relaxes.

“She did pick me up out of the water,” he admits, “though technically I fell off of an oil rig more so than from the sky. My group is here to find help crossing the continent to what was once Alaska, where we hope to find information that could help people back home stay safe. We could always use more help.”

“Do you have people here?” he asks. “My group will be heading inland in the not-so-distant future and there’s talk of other locals making the trip with us while there’s still fuel to do so. Hoping for a more permanent living situation where there’s land to grow food. Not sure exactly when, but I know there's going to be a lot more people than just us five.”

While Squeaks doesn't exactly get into Elliot’s personal space, she does get pretty close. With blue eyes pretty intently staring while she absorbs his answers.

“I came here too.” Her exactly direct questions of falling from the sky already implies a knowing about things that not a lot of people do, and her not-quite an answer might even highlight it a little more. “I’ve been part of Ben Ryans’ crew. What’s in Alaska?”

Elliot leans his hip against the bench and drums his fingers on its surface for a moment as he puzzles over the intricacies of inter-timeline information security. "I'm honestly not sure what's there," he says. "We've been told that we need to go there and that what we're looking for is schematics of some kind that people back home need. Things haven't gone exactly to plan so far though."

If she came here too he has an opportunity to learn more about the timelines, his secret special interest from long before he knew there were in fact other timelines. His own blue eyes look distant for a moment as a red-haired woman stands over him, startled at his sudden lurch into consciousness. Megan, he remembers, though not on his own. Her hands are stuffing first aid supplies into the pockets of his jacket. Somebody has put beaten tan work boots on his feet. Sick children and injured refugees are being herded out of the room. Frigid air whistles through the infirmary’s open door. The voice of Benjamin Ryans echoes through the halls, urging people out and away.

Elliot pulls his hand away from
the work table to find grease on his palm, though there wasn't even blood before. That memory hasn't been this clear in nearly a decade, and carries no imprint of the passenger it normally brought with it. He blinks it away, not sure how long he was staring at nothing.

"What's it like," he asks to push the memory from his mind for now, "where you're from?"

Squeaks looks at the engine on the bench and raises her shoulders at the question. “Bad.” It's a simple summary, if not precisely descriptive. Maybe her posture elaborates a little more, with the vague wilting and shying from the subject. It doesn't last very long though, she picks at a scar on the workbench.

“I… can find things.” Her own form of pushing bad memories away comes with abrupt hesitation. It's the polar opposite of her curiosity before.

But it's for good reason. Elliot is a stranger to her, and she doesn't know what he knows or if he secretly works for the Sentinels. Squeaks would bet he probably doesn't, since Captain Ben was cautious but still wondering about all the new arrivals. So it's a good thing that she's careful too. “Hidden things. In all kinds of places.”

Elliot watches Jac push those memories down and feels mentally guilty; he's more than familiar with the price himself. Rather than apologize and keep the murk stirred up in the moment he lets it go settle down to where it should be.

"Me too, in a way," he says instead, looking for something relatable. "Back home my job is getting into places without being noticed and leaving with whatever looks good. Which sounds like a burglar now that I've said it like that, but I wouldn't say my job is burglary. I am very sneaky, though. What do you find when you're getting into hidden places? I don't have much to trade other than labor and knowledge, but if you're good at finding interesting food ingredients, I'm good at turning what's available into good food."

"I'm also not a chef, professionally, but Tala was," he adds. "I don't know if the Tala from this place made it, but if she did I'd love to meet her." He'd love to let her touch the CD Walkman on the table in the 0bservation Room, but he doesn't have high hopes he could ever get her that close to the Switchboard. Not with the current Locks.

“Like a spy.” Squeaks adds a shrug as she directs a side eyeing look at Elliot. “Secret ops, get in and find evidence and get out again.” She means what he does, or did, before being here. “Like for…” The government? She weighs on that for a second, eyes squinting. Then, “Like James Bond?”

The teen huffs, nose wrinkling. She puts both her arms on the workbench, one over the other, and lowers her chin to rest there with her eyes on the engine thing. “I find all kinds of things. Hidden doors, tunnels, people.” Her tone implies that the list is probably long, and she likely doesn't know where it ends.

“Small things,” Squeaks continues, “lost things. Sometimes I can't tell what it is until I find it, but I know it's there.” She pauses, then picks her head up so she can pluck at the assortment of tools scattered about the bench. “One time I fell down a hole and it was so dark.” After one or two seconds, she offers a small plastic sprocket between two pinched fingers to Elliot. “And I couldn't climb up. But I found another way out.”

“A spy encapsulates some of it,” Elliot admits, “Though less Bond, and way less alcohol consumption. That guy has a problem. Technically I’m a military contractor, so most of what we do is supplement the Police when they can’t handle a situation. Which is usually very boring.”

He accepts the sprocket from Jac, holding it up to the natural light to hide the way his eyes lose focus for a moment. “That’s the one,” Wright confirms.

“Huh,” Elliot says, splitting his attention between Jac and the schematics that Wright is paging through a world away. “Thanks, I was beginning to think Davy Jones got this one.” He applies grease with a well-worn toothpick before slotting it on a rod.

“You sound very resourceful,” Elliot says as he begins slowly reassembling the engine. “I’m… not always great with being trapped in small dark spaces.”

“I am. It's hard to hide things from me.” There's no intentional tone of bragging, just simple acknowledgment that Squeaks knows she's resourceful. She ducks her head to watch the sprocket being fitted without getting herself in the way. “Sometimes the dark can be scary, but also sometimes there's more scarier things than small and dark places and then those spaces are good things.”

Straightening, Squeaks looks up at Elliot, eyes squinting a little bit. “Military contractor?” But not Sentinel. Probably. Since he came here kind of like she did, from somewhere else. And not the kind she remembers from the world she left. “That's…” there aren't enough cautious and not committed words to finish her thoughts on that, so…

“What's your name?”

"I'm Elliot," he responds, eyes focused on slotting his engine back together. "Military contractor just means we provide military services as a private company. Usually to the government. We're highly specialized. Fought as a company in a war together and were legitimated by the government after the fact."

He stops, realizing he skipped the appropriate follow up question to her having asked his name. "What do you go by?"

“Everyone calls me Squeaks.” The teen leans forward again, arms folding on the very edge of the workbench and chin resting on them. There’s plenty of space and then some for Elliot to keep working. She’s pretty well practiced in keeping herself out of the way. Her eyes wander back to the engine construction, always curious and interested in learning things.

“Squeaks,” Elliot repeats, though his tone isn’t mocking. “Is that how you prefer to be addressed, or just what everybody calls you? My partner has a strict policy on unapproved nicknames and I’ve found it’s easier to make sure I’m calling people what they actually want to be called.” He drops a long bolt into the casing of the motor and threads a nut onto the opposite end, then tightens it into place with a hex driver and a wrench.

“It's what everyone always has called me.” Squeaks shrugs as she answers. “For almost my whole life now.” It's who she is and she doesn't look like she has an opinion against it.

"Nice to meet you, Squeaks," Elliot says, extending his hand to shake without fear of it being touched.

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