Less Than 1%


colette_icon.gif eimi_icon.gif

Scene Title Less Than 1%
Synopsis On a routine day in the Safe Zone, Colette Demsky encounters a marginal statistic.
Date February 20, 2018

Bay Ridge

Noon day sun shines down bright and warm against the otherwise cold air coming in off of the Hudson River. Steam rises up from sewer grates in the cracked asphalt of Bay Ridge Ave, a major thoroughfare that cuts through the western side of the Bay Ridge neighborhood, emptying out into what has become a thriving waterfront district within spitting distance of the Brooklyn Army Terminal where the Safe Zone’s military police are based out of.

In the middle of the day, the waterfront of Bay Ridge Ave is bustling with activity. Piers extending out into the river are packed with boats of all shapes and sizes. Shipments of new goods are hauled in by forklift and lalettes both from corporate deliveries, Red Cross relief supplies, and personal donations hauled in off of private vessels.

The converted buildings around the waterfront now serve as a bazaar, extending from the overfull Red Hook Market. Many of these businesses are packed closely together in tiny bodegas, others are street vendors selling meat on a stick, mobile ramen carts, and even shipping containers converted into makeshift storefronts.

On a clear day like today, anyone can see straight across the Hudson to the jagged silhouette of the Midtown Exclusion Zone and Staten Island across the glittering water. But in a bustling, multi-cultural market like this even the shadow of the war can't stifle the industrious spirit of the Safe Zone’s inhabitants.

In these crowded streets full of pedestrians and overflowing with merchants and merchandise, the city feels unbelievably alive.

Among the crowd, seated at one of the outdoor noodle stands, a woman in an olive drab jacket with a wolf’s head patch on the shoulder eats alone. Colette Demsky is hunched over her bowl of steaming noodles, broth, vegetables and what she hopes is pork. Short, dark hair is windblown and unkempt, and one hand occupied with a pair of cheap wood chopsticks.

The chef at the stand pays her little mind, chopping vegetables on a cutting board and keeping an eye on an enormous kettle of boiling water as he does. His sole patron, slurping her noodles, entertains herself by thumbing through a battered paperback book entitled Above Top Secret: The Company Dossiers.

Crowds are useful things sometimes. Enough people pushing through to get from point a to point b that no one notices as one of those people, a teenager with a leather jacket and a worn out satchel slung over her shoulder, appears and disappears next to various tables, moving down the street. When a small item or piece of fruit here and there disappears off a table with her.

Eventually, it's in the small shade and shadow of in between the noodle stand and it's neighbour that Eimi reappears this time, a half-shuffling step backwards as she finally pauses, an apple drawn out from the satchel and bitten into even as a vendor down the street starts to notice that there's a paperback book missing from his table and looks around for the erstwhile thief.

Colette slurps up another mouthful of noodles, flipping to the next page in her book, which is a bullet-pointed wall of text opposite of a grainy black and white group photograph. She turns the book on its side, looking at the picture with notable curiosity. Then, righting the book, she starts to read.

Down the busy street, the merchant is pitching a fit, and his laborious frustration attracts attention from other street vendors. They, too, seem to notice wares are missing and accusatory fingers are pointed around at more adjacent passers by than the actual culprit.

Flipping to the next page, Colette lays her chopsticks across the bowl and splays fingers across the book, then dog-ears a page entitled Daniel Linderman’s Crime Empire. She closes her book and reaches out for a plastic teacup beside her meal, taking a quick sip.

“What's your range?” Colette asks pointedly and clearly to, presumably, the air as far as anyone around is concerned. At this angle Eimi can see that she appears blind, both eyes a milky white color and vacantly staring at somewhere behind the cart. Yet, she was also reading a book.

Being addressed — being noticed in the first place — gets Eimi to take another half step further back and out of sight, crouching down. One more bite of the apple and a plastic bag is pulled out of the satchel and wrapped around it before she shoves it back away. "Huh," she mutters to herself and shakes her head, and Colette is eyed warily.

A moment later, though, when the flow of traffic allows it, Eimi walks out into the street, the few feet over to pull up a second chair to Colette's table and sits half on the edge of the chair.

"My range?" she repeats back as a question. "How did you…" The second bit trails off and isn't even a full-fledged question as Eimi ventures a half glance back towards the vendors. Their frustrated accusations don't extend this far down the block of shops and carts, and her attention returns to Colette and she shakes her head a moment. "It depends."

The teenager's answer is evasive, and she's clearly nervous, but not quite nervous enough to leave. Instead she sits there, on the edge of the chair. "I won't do it again, just don't…" The soft statement trails off, and the leather jacket is tugged closed as if that will somehow help.

Blind eyes flick over to Eimi as though they see, and Colette takes another sip from her tea. “M’not a cop,” not that there even are cops in the Safe Zone, so to speak, but it's a casually imprecise language. “But someone who can do what you do shouldn't need to steal to get by, y’know?”

Turning to look in Eimi’s direction, Colette cracks a lopsided smile. “It's cool. I've never actually known a teleporter, personally. Heard stories about plenty of ‘em. I could uh,” he hand moves slowly in the air, “kinda feel you disrupting the way light scatters. However it is you do what you do, it bends stuff a little.” Gently, she offers something personal. “Light’s what I do.”

Then, eyeing the apple, Colette looks to her bowl of noodles and then back to Eimi. “Hungry?”

The girl scoots a bit more onto the chair and lets out the breath she'd been unconsciously holding.

"A little bit, yeah," she says. "I've got the apple and I had some soup last night, but…" Her shoulders lift in a shrug, and then after another moment she answers the first question.

"My range is as far as I can see," she adds, quietly. "The farther away it is the longer it takes me to make the jump, but it's kind of like an…" There's another pause as the first thought trails off and segues into the second. "I can take stuff with me. Or people. And I don't usually take anything that anyone's going to miss…" There's a slight glance towards the vendors again, "much." Her eyes settle on the bowl of noodles as well, just for a moment. "But, I don't have anything so this is how I've got to get by, how I've had for a long time."

“Most people miss food,” Colette opines, motioning to the cook and her bowl and then to Eimi. “People miss most things, it's just… easier t’justify it when you aren't around t’see the repercussions.” Her tone is casual, in spite of the topic. Wistful, in a way.

Brushing an errant lock of hair from her face, Colette watches the crowds pass as she talks. “When I was sixteen, I stole too. I was a ward of the State of New York, right after the bomb. Buncha kids all lived in a communal space in a church rec hall out on Manhattan. Back when that was a place.”

Colette looks over at the girl, brows furrowed. “I stole a laptop, iPod, whatever I ‘needed’ to get by. Did that for too long, honestly. I still feel shitty about it.” By the time she's reached that part of the story, the chef sets down a bowl of hot ramen in front of Eimi. Salty umami scents waft from the bowl, noodles twist in the light broth with a handful of vegetables. A pair of chopsticks in a paper sleeve rest atop the bowl.

Nodding to the food, Colette turns her attention away from the girl to give her the semblance of privacy while she eats. “My ability is vision-based too,” she says as she changes the topic away from a moral lesson. Her hand comes up, and over her palm a glittering collection of ephemeral watercolor butterflies appear, flirting in the air and shedding vibrant neon-blue light.

“Whatever light does, I do.” Then, Colette flexes her hand closed and the butterflies distort into a flat disc of warped light in the air. She sends it drifting near the girl, and everything viewed through that warped disc in the air looks magnified like through binoculars or a telescope.

The arrival of the bowl of noodles gets most of Eimi's attention, although she is still listening. "I'm…" she pauses, furrows her brows, and then admits, "I don't really know, actually. I stopped counting when." When what goes unsaid, and instead the chopsticks are awkwardly fumbled with until she can get some of the noodles, bending such to minimize the distance between her mouth and the bowl.

Eimi eats with the lack of grace of a hungry dog who is being watched even now that she isn't being as exactly watched, but not too-too quickly.

Especially when the butterflies appear and the disc after it, the latter of which gets particular interest. All of it proves to be a distraction from the food, such that for a moment the chopsticks are just gripped loosely in her hands and she fumbles again with them at the end. "Those're pretty," she says. And then continues, "But you're…" blind is the likely end of the questioning statement, and it goes unsaid. Instead, then teenager shakes her head, pulls her jacket a little closer around her shoulders and looks back down at the bowl of noodles.

"I'm… sorry to… pry." The words take some time to string into a sentence, conversation is not a skill that Eimi has had time or inclination to cultivate living on her own. "That was… rude, and you've been nice to me."

Colette shakes her head, lifting one hand up and dismisses the need for apology. “It's fine. I used t’be you, I get it.” Turning her back to the counter, Colette props her elbows up on the countertop as she leans back. “My eyes are blind,” she clarifies. “Side effect of over-exerting my ability. But, turns out I don't really need them. My whole body is one big light sensor. I learned how to see after I burned myself out the first time. When…” she eyes the girl. “I was probably your age, maybe a little younger.”

“I'm the one prying, too. Really, it's ok.” Watching the crowd go by, Colette looks sideways at Eimi in what she now knows is an entirely vestigial gesture. The way she eats is familiar, enough to bring a pang of anxiety into the middle of the older woman’s chest of memories forgotten.

After a little while of silence in which Eimi can focus on eating, Colette picks up again. “Not being nice, either. I mean, maybe comparatively to…” she lifts a hand to vaguely gesture around, indicating the city as a whole. “You're special. Last I read people who can teleport number less than one percent of all SLC-Expressive humans. That makes you more valuable than gold.”

Colette turns, keeping one elbow on the bar, resting her other hand at her hip. “A kid with your ability could have whatever she wants out of life. I don't know if you've ever had proper instruction, if you go to one of the fancy self-education courses at Brooklyn College or not.” She wagers on the or not.

“But when I was you, I had help.” Colette reaches inside of her jacket and pulls out her wallet, flipping it open Eimi sees an old, scratched and battered NYPD detective badge inside. There's no NYPD anymore, so it's obviously an artifact of some kind. One kept close to the heart.

Colette isn't showing it off the old badge, instead she's removing a slate gray card form inside. On it, there's a logo matching the patch on her shoulder, a stylized wolf’s head. Below it reads in black print Wolfhound Private Military Company, Rochester NY. Below that First-Lieutenant Colette Demsky which is somewhat out of date, and then a phone number.

“You seem like an ok person. And… I know what it's like to live like this in a world that's gone upside-the fuck-down.” Colette presses the card to the bar, slides it over to Eimi. “If you ever want someone to give you a hand, you know— with whatever. Even if it's just t’have someone t’talk to? You can call that number. My address here in the Safe Zone is on the back if you don't have a phone.”

Withdrawing her hand from the card, Colette’s expression shifts in subtle movements. Bittersweet to wary, back around to uncertain. She remembers being the timid one, alone in a horrible city. She remembers the people that took in a feral child and made her someone worthwhile too. She can't just carry that badge of his without earning it.

There is a nod as Colette speaks, as Eimi finally settles into being able to multitask, able to listen and eat at the same time. And as much as she stretches out the act of eating, sooner than not the bowl in front of her is empty.

Then, Eimi notes, even as the card is carefully tucked into a pocket of her sweatshirt, inside her jacket, "You need papers to go to college." You need papers to be in the safe zone too, but that's not mentioned. Plenty of people slip in and out without them and teleportation certainly makes a simple fence less of a barrier. It's a statement of fact, followed up with an offered, quiet introduction. "Eimi," she says, a half a nod indication of herself and no wasted words in the process. "And… thank you." A pause, "I'll… think about it."

There's a shy grin that follows though. and then she asks, "Is it really that rare? Teleporting?"

“I've been around people like us for a long time. Saw… more people than I could count come through the Ferrymen, back when that was a thing.” Colette looks up, focused on the sky now more so than anywhere else. “In all that time, between then and now, I've heard of… maybe five? Only ever seen two of them personally.”

Still watching the wispy clouds streak through the sky, Colette inclined her head to the side. “I read a paper recently,” because that's apparently a thing she does now. Reads papers. “About the percentage of spatio-temporal ability registration. It's the smallest area of registration by a large margin. And sure, maybe a bunch of folks aren't registering.” Blind eyes briefly flick to Eimi, tellingly. “But it tracks with what I've seen personally. There's just not a lot of people who can do what you do. It makes you important, makes you valuable…”

Then, something Epstein once told her rings in the back of her mind. She filters it through a different lens for Eimi. “To the wrong people, it can make you a target.” Brows knit together, Colette measures how she delivers that idea. “There's less of them now, than us. But the world won't be a better place overnight. Being safe’s… fifty percent being smart,” then she looks back to the sky again. “Fifty percent who you're friends with.”

Another nod from the younger girl, and the jacket is pulled around her shoulders a bit more. A half glance to the empty bowl, and a faint smile follows. "I've… been on my own a while. And never… got a chance to Register. Not even sure if I should," she says quietly. "If I could. It didn't matter when I was out in Ohio and… whatever that other state is. On the way here."

"I walked here. Well, and." And teleported.

"There's a lot of people here, compared to out there."

And then just as quickly as she'd opened up, Eimi shuts the walls again, glances at Colette, a slightly flat affect to her voice when she manages to speak again. "Thank you, for the food. For." A breath in and the girl stands and takes a step away, and for half a moment Eimi teleports in place just a few times, moving maybe a fraction of an inch to each side until she calms herself.

"I should go," she adds as that happens, "before someone… misses something. Too much."

The movement elicits a flick of Colette’s eyes from side to side, draws her attention back to the here and now rather than the past. Sliding off her stool, Colette comes to stand but doesn’t pursue Eimi. “Remember,” her brows raise. “Anyone gives you trouble, or you just need a warm place to crash… I’ll make myself available.”

She doesn’t wait for a response, doesn’t need one either. Those shoes Eimi wears would’ve fit her at that age, and have been down a lot of the same roads from the looks of it. Colette turns her back first, gives the young girl the opportunity to leave unwatched. Instead, she checks her wallet again and looks at the battered NYPD badge inside of it. Her brows knit together, and she flips the wallet closed.

“See you ‘round, kid.”

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