Pickup Lines


finn_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Pickup Lines
Synopsis Not that kind. A pair of dads talk about strange happenings while picking up their children from school.
Date January 15, 2021

Winslow Crawford Academy for the Gifted

Southern Roosevelt Island

Parent pick-up at Winslow-Crawford isn’t the same as most schools, but very little is. Older students tend to take a school-provided shuttle to the tram that will take them back over the water; others take a ferry. Once off of Roosevelt, they can get home any variety of ways, depending on where they live. Some of the teenagers take on work as transport guides to help the younger students off the island to chip away at their tuition or earn some spending money.

But for parents who choose to pick up their students in person, there is a very small parking lot some distance away from the school itself, and not run by Winslow-Crawford. The lot is free for all of thirty minutes, and then the rates climb exponentially with every five minutes. The walk to the school is short, thankfully, especially in chilly winter weather.

Finn gets out of the truck he’s driven, the bed loaded up with water jugs and other supplies. The tall man squints up at the sky, peering off to the east where the smoky haze of the Ohio River fire can be seen on the horizon. As he begins the short walk toward the campus, he tugs up the zipper of his coat, and shoves his hands into his pockets. It’s cold today, but at least the cold is bad for fires.

A stark contrast to the truck is the Yamagato Altum that’s just parked a row closer to the school walk; sleek and black and packed with the latest in high technology, the difference between the two vehicles showcasing the broad range of wealth and advancements here in the Safe Zone.

The door swings open just as Finn starts past it, and Richard Cardinal emerges; he’s wearing a suit, but the jacket’s not buttoned and he’s not wearing a tie, which is his version of ‘casual’ when he gets off work but still needs to appear somewhere. The sunglasses, a seemingly permanent touch, are settled on his face despite the haze in the sky.

Catching sight of the other man, it takes a moment for recognition to set in. Then he moves in a brief jog to catch up, calling in affable tones, “Hey- Finn, right?”

Turning at the sound of his name, Finn’s brows are lifted, curious and friendly. The look doesn’t falter when he sees Richard is the owner of the voice, though it turns a touch, from curious to surprised.

He stops so that the other man can catch up quickly, smiling and squinting a little in the hazy afternoon sunshine. “That’s right,” he says. “June’s dad. It seems that’s how everyone introduces themselves around here, like it’s a last name. ‘I’m Bob, Amysdad. I’m Mary, Jasonsmom.” He runs the words together into one so they sound like surnames akin to Robertson. “Only most of the kids have insane names, so it’s more like Paisleysdad or Rhapsodysmom, am I right?”

Before Richard can answer, Finn laughs, and adds, “Not that I can talk. I didn’t name June, but if it were up to me, given how old I was when she was born, she probably would have been something like Inara or Chiana.” He grins. “I was obviously super popular with the ladies.”

“I have three kids here, I guess I’m Rickyliliaurorasdad,” Richard manages to wrap his tongue around the crushed-together words with a twist of amusement in his voice, his head shaking a little, “That’s a mouthful. And in my experience, it’s best to let the mother name the kids. Us menfolk are far too likely to name them something on a whim.”

Fortunately for his kids, he was in a different timeline for all of their births, which meant their mothers got to choose the names. Elsewise they might have ended up with chess-themed names, or worse — Ricky might have been Edward.

He drops into step alongside the other man, asking easily, “Had a question for you, actually.”

The long, imagined surname earns a grin from Finn. “Long enough to be Thai or Basque, that one,” he says, nodding his approval. “And that’s probably wise. I didn’t really have a say in it, but June’s a good name. Suits her.”

If he’s nervous at being asked a question by the CEO of Raytech, either because he’s the CEO of Raytech or a former foe, Finn doesn’t show it. “If you’re going to ask how I manage to get my hair to look like this, I don’t have a good answer for you. I just woke up like this,” he quips, reaching up to brush a hand through his sandy hair.

He grins, but shrugs as they walk along the cultivated path toward the school. “Shoot.” He glances out of the corner of his eyes, lifting his brows. “I don’t mean that literally,” he adds, edging nearer that elephant in the room that has to do with Sunspot.

At the addition, Richard chuckles under his breath. “I don’t shoot people,” he quips, “I have people for that.”

He sounds like he’s kidding, but he might not actually be kidding.

“No, I was wondering what you were talking about at the career day,” he asks, slanting a sidelong look at the other man as they walk, “About some sort of time issue?”

They both know he’s not actually kidding, even if he means to be kidding, but Finn laughs anyway, and it’s only a little nervously.

After all, he’s hard to hit.

“Oh, shit. That, yeah.I really shouldn’t be allowed to ever speak in public. Ever.” He grimaces a little, green eyes widening as he looks over at Richard. “Ms. Whitney’s little boy kept asking me afterwards if I’m a time traveler now and wants to know if I’ve seen dinosaurs. I’d lie to make him happy but I was afraid I’d get us expelled.”

He glances around, to make sure no one else is around to hear the actual truth of the ‘time issue,’ perhaps having learned his lesson, and he lowers his voice even though they seem to be alone.

“Ol’ Provvie’s been having a little bit of the weird about it for a while now. Anomalies, the men in black guys call it?” Finn means the DOE. “Back in September, some of us kind of fell through the rabbit hole into somewhere in the 17th — no, wait, you always go up one — 18th century I think. Like Paul Revere time or something, I shit you not. But we were some big damn heroes, though, saving some little kids with typhoid fever.”

Poor Carver isn’t there to correct him to say ‘it’s typhus’ for the fiftieth time.

At the mention about not speaking in public, Richard chuckles under his breath. “I think I give the men in black heartburn,” he admits easily, “They’re always anywhere I’m making public statements, praying I don’t talk about anything I’m not supposed to. Like, you know, time travel…”

As he lowers his voice, the executive changes his path to walk a little closer as they go. An eyebrow lifts a little, “…hhn. There was a— breach in time-space there during the summer… maybe they’re related. It’d make sense…”

Rueful, “You probably shouldn’t have saved them, but— I would have too. Fortunately you can’t really damage the timeline that way.”

As they come to the front of the school, a plaza where most of the parents wait for the kids, Finn finds a spot to lean against the waist-high concrete sign spelling out Winslow-Crawford Academy. They still have some time before the doors open and the kids spill out to freedom for the weekend.

“Ah, yeah, that. I was there, too. Should be dead, by all rights, but, well, I’m lucky,” the former Providence man says, tucking hands into the pockets of his coat. “Saw some really weird shit that night, but I figured I was concussed at the time, you know?”

Finn lifts his shoulders. “As far as Ye Olde Stockholm goes, I think what we did mostly fell into the ripple category so we should be okay, but maybe somewhere there’s a timeline where rural 17th— no, 18th Century Pennsylvania launched a technological revolution. I bet they have hovercrafts there.”

He shakes his head ruefully.

“Anyway, we were sort of debating it, but one of the Providence doctors wasn’t about to let kids die. We also killed some creepy Frankenbeasts while we were there, so we may have stomped on a couple of butterflies accidentally, but probably not.” Finn looks uncertain and a little worried about it, though.

“Worst case, you splintered off another timeline,” Richard shrugs one shoulder slightly, “The butterflies are more resilient than you might think, though. Time has inertia — you’d have to move a mountain to affect it much. Trust me, I have… experience there.”

He stops near the sign and the other man, and lifts an eyebrow at him. “You were there when the breach formed…? What happened, exactly? We couldn’t find any witnesses…”

The easygoing smile fades and Finn looks down for a moment, brows drawing together as he considers his words. When he looks up again, he sighs.

“Honestly, I don’t know exactly. Praxis was there to negotiate with us, but I was outside, not with Eileen and the others. We were dealing with a shitload of problems, including one of the fucking octopi robots when everything went down, so I got sorta bounced out of the chatroom if you know what I mean. Our comms were out but I remember someone said there was a teleporter before shit went haywire.”

He looks at the building, maybe trying to will the clock to hit 3:00 faster so they can be interrupted by the children, but there’s no such luck. His power doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.

“One of the kids out there, his ability manifested with a forcefield in reaction to the robot shit, but it protected us from whatever the blast was. Shit was surreal there for a bit and it’s like something out of a horror movie, and I was probably half concussed so a lot of it makes even less sense than it already does.” He offers Richard a small, wry smile, lifting his shoulders. “All I really got is that Eileen, Adam Monroe and his cronies, and I think whatever the fuck he was chasing out in Detroit all bashed heads and the result wasn’t pretty.”

“I still want to know where those ‘bots came from…” Richard seems legitimately disturbed by that news, grimacing, “There shouldn’t be any of those…” He brings one hand up, rubbing at the nape of his neck a bit, shaking his head.

“Don’t suppose you know who was out there? Eileen’s not returning my phone calls these days.” That last sentence is about as dry as it can humanly get, with a flicker of irritation to it as well.

“Tell me about it. Playing chicken with them once was enough. I didn’t really need to see them more than that, but, well, I’m lucky I guess.” This time Finn speaks ironically. He rolls his eyes and scuffs at a spot on the sidewalk in front of them. “They weren’t there until after we got there, though. We, I mean those of us who came from out west.”

Finn realizes that sounds sketchy, and glances up with a wide-eyed innocent face that would make the Good Humor man look suspicious. “We didn’t bring them, I swear,” he says, then adds, “They showed up… “ he looks up while he does mental math. “Before Lucille, so two Christmases ago. 2018.”

But at the talk of Eileen, his easygoing smile fades, and he shakes his head. “She’s not answering anyone’s calls, I don’t think, man. Don’t take it personally. As far as who else was there the night of the whatever-the-hell-it-was, the only other person who wasn’t legit Providence was this old guy named Sharrow.”

“Of course you didn’t. They were never built,” says Richard, shaking his head, “It’s another one of those… time things. Which is why it bothers me that they’re here at all, they never even got close to that stage before they got shut down.”

Wryly, he admits, “I don’t take anything Eileen does personally, she’s just like… wait. Sharrow?” His head turns sharply back towards Finn, “An old man named— who was he?”

Finn nods in silent agreement, piecing together some of what he wasn’t told explicitly, why it was so important to Eileen to stop Richard’s efforts in New Mexico. His eyes raise to stare at the doors of the school again.

“The best I got is that these weird time things don’t play by any rules that make sense to us, because we’re just dumb monkeys when it comes to understanding this sort of thing, and I mean that in the collective ‘we,’ so don’t take it personally and send any robots after me, please,” Finn says, but he smiles over at Richard to show he’s kidding. Probably.

“Sharrow. I don’t know. Some old guy, tall and lanky, smelled like listerine and Old Spice when I had to lug his ass around after he got flung from where they were meeting,” he says. “I was sort of half-timing it by then already so I wasn’t there for his meet and greet, you know? I didn’t get the proper introduction, didn’t how-do-you-do and rub elbows with the guy. Lang and me were outside the meeting, so what they were doing, I wasn’t privy to. I was just a loyal foot soldier.”

Finn shrugs his broad shoulders, and stands, rubbing his lower back with a wince from leaning against the cold wall.

“Well, air soldier,” he corrects himself after that beat. “A pilot. As you know.” He grimaces as that edges closer to that topic of New Mexico again. “I only go out there once a month or so now. I owed the people out west a lot, and then that favor sorta transferred to those who came east. I figure by now I’ve paid my dues, though.”

“There are rules,” Richard replies, his tone a bit dry, “Unfortunately I don’t always know who’s playing the game.”

A smile twitches on his lips at the mention of robots. “Don’t worry. We only have one killer robot, and we don’t let it out much.” It was there in New Mexico, though. Big, mean, and with rather large claws.

“Sharrow. Christ,” he swears, looking out over the parking lot, “I thought that old fossil’d be dead by now, if it’s the Sharrow I’m thinking of. I hope that whatever he was selling, Eileen told him to shove it…”

Finn gives Richard a dubious look. He is the CEO of Raytech after all, and Finn’s met his brother. But the rest gets a chuckle.

“Probably. He wasn’t faring all that well when we picked him up, and that was before whatever happened happened. The four of us who were there, we only made it out because, well, I’m lucky,” he keeps saying that, “and this kid’s power decided to kick into gear just in time, forcefield.”

The faint ringing of bells can be heard within the main building. “Batten the hatches,” Finn says, and it’s not more than a few seconds before the first of the students pushes open the door. It’s not the stream of endless children as it would be at a ‘regular’ school, but quite a few start to make their way out, either finding their parents nearby or walking in groups toward the ferry or gondola landings.

Finn turns to offer a hand to Richard. “It was nice meeting you more properly, Mr. Ray. Yi-Min’s a good friend of mine. We’re not all bad.” He grins, brows lifting, and holds that expression in an invitation for Richard to agree with him.

“If you see that old bastard again, I recommend calling Wolfhound. Maybe they’ll give you a cut,” says Richard in dry tones, before reaching out to clasp the offered hand, a smile tugging up on his expression, “And hey, never said you were. I’m not the one that started shooting after all.”

That was Providence.

Then he’s stepping away with a chuckle, “Alright, time to find my swarm of kids. Have a good one, Junesdad.”

“You too…” Finn’s mouth works for a moment as he tries to remember the names of Richard’s brood, but he shakes his head, and ends with a generic, “man,” before turning to spot June in the crowd, and lifting his hand in a wave. “See you around.”

After all, they have at least the dad thing in common.

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