Remnants Of A Railroad


jaiden_icon.gif megan_icon.gif

with cameo by:


Scene Title Remnants of a Railroad
Synopsis Jaiden and Megan run into one another in the Marketplace.
Date February 20, 2018


Megan Young has come to view the bazaar in much the same light as such marketplaces are viewed in the Middle East. The Marketplace draws everyone. How could it not? It’s the hub of all things commercial and community, really. Although the war years have been over for some time, the reconstruction (for some people) hasn’t made them less in demand. The redhead is one of those — unable to simply leave well enough alone, she returned to New York City as soon as people were allowed, and here she cares for whoever needs medical treatment. She is a well-known face, if the greetings and smiles shot her way are any indication as she makes her way through the stalls.

Pausing for a moment in front of a stall that, somewhat incongruously, seems to be selling bolts of cloth and thread (Did someone raid a crafts store?), Megan fingers a long length of plain linen. Then she waves off the merchant and continues on her way across the square seeking the one thing that practically everyone comes for — a coffee stand. It’s a well-known fact that street food is always good in the third world markets, and this place is no different. New York street fare was pretty well known even before the war. Finding what she seeks, the redhead finally takes the cup and makes her way toward a low wall where she can observe what’s going on while being out of the main line of traffic.

The coffee stand, being what is is, is the hub of activity in the marketplace. A corner stand has been claimed facing the square with a bar, several small tables, and an older woman named Eleanor running the whole shebang. Word of her coffee has gotten around the market - she somehow managed to get a couple of bags of actual coffee beans imported and, with the help of a very good water purifier, is in the process of making some of the best coffee New York has had in ages. Roasting her own beans in small batches in a cast iron pot over a wood fire, grinding them in a blender, and using actual coffee filters for each pot means that it’s a taste of what was once before. The hand-stenciled sign states that here can be found the mythical ‘Best Coffee in the Safe Zone’ and most people can’t argue that fact. Even better than the stuff you can get in the park.

Jaiden has made it a point to visit places like this as much as he can. This is his second day in the Safe Zone and, after waking in his hotel room, the Skinny Brickfront he used to call home still being worked on, he made his way into the city and simply started walking. It was something he did when he visited cities that had stories. New Delhi, Baghdad, Shanghai, all he would do is wake up, get his things and start walking in a direction and, when someone stopped him, they’d talk. It was a great way to get the pulse of things and, today, his journey led him to the coffee stand in Red Hook again.

Claiming a spot at one of the tables near the bar, he’s got a cup of coffee and a home-baked bit of pastry that he’s munching on, his tell-tale akubra hat perched on his head, a bag near his left foot, wrapped around the base of the chair, and a cane resting near his right hand. He’s sitting quietly, not hiding, but not calling attention to himself, either.

It’s the hat that draws her eye. It’s not the first such hat she’s seen or anything, but it’s a little different than most. Tilting her head a bit, a faint frown creases the bridge of her nose and then Megan is on her feet, heading across the corner of the square with the long, ground-eating strides she always uses. “Jaiden Mortlock, is that you?” the redhead peers around to make sure. And then a grin creases her cheeks into a happy expression. “Well, now, you’re a face I didn’t really expect to see around these parts. Did you decide to leave the backwoods and come back to stay or are you just visiting?”

She moves easily, taking over the chair on the other side of his table without bothering to wait for an invitation, setting her coffee down. Megan is readily comfortable in most settings, so her casual demeanor seems the norm.

No reason to wait for an invitation - it was going to come the second she came into view, whether she liked it or not. “I’ll be stuffed. It’s Megan Young.” Jaiden shifts in his seat a little, pushing his hat back to look at the woman with a smile. He’s dressed for the weather - jacket, long pants, boots and the like, gloves tucked into the pocket of his jumper, his hands kept warm with the cup of coffee cradled in between them.

“Aye, it’s me. In the flesh, as it were, out of my little hidey hole in the backwoods. Just visiting. I’ll probably be here as I’m needed. The girls…they like it up there in Kabetogama. If Broadway were running, I’d take them to a show but…” he shrugs. “That may take a bit.” What isn’t necessary to say is that the backwoods is now front and center for a lot of important things. Or, at least, it was during the war, so while it may be out of the way, it’s by no means backwards. He reaches out to take her hands, to give them a squeeze in his before he takes up his coffee cup again, sipping the perfectly brewed cup, blowing out a breath. “It’s been…what….eight or nine years since I saw you last? That group of six, you brought through the Underground on their way up north.”

Megan squeezes his hands in return and then settles back with her coffee as well. There’s a tip of her chin upward as she considers. “I don’t think it’s as much as eight yet. I’m pretty sure it was around late 2012, so… five? Who knows, though. I swear the calendar runs faster every year.” She sips from the steaming beverage and is very pleasantly surprised at how good it is. “Wow… she’s going to run out of supplies quick, I bet,” she observes with a grin.

“It’s good to hear that your girls are doing well. That last group I ran through your place was actually one of the last groups I ran with — there was a bit of an incident not too long after that, and it requires every bit of skill I ever had at my disposal to sit on Ryans and make him heal up before going back out.” She rolls her eyes on a laugh. “By that point, I just wanted to get a full clinic set up for all of them anyway, so the last half the war I set up the clinic and just made runs from there to the north, pretty much kept myself behind the lines.” Insofar as anything was actually behind the lines on that one. “Being here…” She glances around and admits with a grimace. “Well.. it’s better than Afghanistan, I suppose.”

“I hope not. It’s good coffee. I’m helping out, now and again, by getting her some fairly pure water. She does all of the work, though, and has a supply of beans from somewhere…” Jaiden looks over his shoulder at the old woman, happily puttering around behind the counter, making another cup of coffee for #85 in line, starting on #86. Unlike before, people take their time now….there’s no real rush to get anywhere so they wait. He turns back to look at Megan and smiles, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Victoria and Lisette are doing great. Spending time with their mother, working on their lessons. Victoria’s gotten into hockey, of all things, and Lisette is my little artist, drawing on anything that sits still long enough to get her hands on.” He chuckles softly to himself, listening to her tale. “I remember them. It was five…no, six kids? That one little girl with the shining eyes, the one I gave the teddy bear too. I hope she turned out okay. I hope they all did.” It’s a common thing for ex-ferry to wonder about their charges but, in the consideration of safety, anything more than first names were left unknown. The few pictures Jaiden has were the only record of some of the kids that the Ferry moved north.

“Sitting on Ryans long enough for him to heal must have been a chore. Lots of leather straps to keep him in the bed must have been required or enough benadryl to keep him in a perpetual coma.” He clinks his cup against hers. “It’s good that you got somewhere safe. The front lines weren’t very pretty. Lots of nasty stuff, here and there. The fewer eyes that had to experience it first hand, the better, although you probably got a lot of the results.”

“Better than afghanistan? Yeah, it is. At least you’re not in a full-body burqa and can be out without your father or brother chaperoning you.” he takes another sip of his coffee, settling back in his chair with a smile. “What’re you up to now?”

Megan almost snorts the coffee she just took a mouthful of out her nose when Jaiden comments on leather straps and Benadryl! She laughs outright, thoroughly enjoying that imagery even as she coughs a bit with the inhaled brew, and touches her cup to his. Well played! “You clearly know him better than I realized,” she chuckles.

Settling back in her seat again, Megan shrugs easily. “Same old shit, different day,” is the succinct reply. “Running a clinic to handle whatever is needed, keeping my fingers on the pulse of the populace.” There’s a subtle undertone there, as if she wants to believe that they won, but… it’s difficult to really think things have changed so much. Megan is a patriot… learning what her government was doing broke that trust and there is perhaps a part of her that will always be waiting now for the other shoe. “It’s been interesting to watch the city trying to come back.”

“Yeah.” A simple reply to her simple reply but with volumes left unspoken between them.

“I come into the city, every few days from out in the wilderness. If you’d like, I might be able to find you a couple of things, using my contacts, that you may not be able to easily find. I even have a stock of antibiotics and the like left that’s starting to get close to expiration, and I figure that you might be able to use them here. Better have them go to use rather than expire and, well…not get used when they could be helpful. Just let me know if there’s anything you can use and I’ll see if I can’t get some of it to you.” In the city for two days and already he’s offering help - first to Colette and now to Megan. Jaiden chuckles to himself, shaking his head a little, reaching out to adjust the coffee cup on its little saucer with a screeching sound of porcelain rubbing against itself.

“You’re doing God’s work, Megan. Lots of the doctors fled the country. During the worst of it, they actually had to tap me to stitch wounds and the like. Before I got stuck in, of course.” Less about what happened then said the better - he wrote a book on it, after all, and testified for nearly three weeks at the War Crimes Tribunal.

Megan merely shrugs at his assertion. “I’m doing my work,” she replies. “It’s just what I do. I can’t not help.” There’s a pause and she smirks at him. “Rather like a few other people I know. If the supplies of medications are nearing expiration, by all means send them here. We can always use more. If they’ve already hit expiration, though, trash anything liquid. The chemical structure shifts after a while; they’re ineffective at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Hard pill forms are more stable and can be used for up to a couple of years past the date, though sometimes with less efficacy than usual.”

Megan stops. “Sorry. Old habits,” she ruefully tells him.

“I learned from the best, don’t you worry. Been cycling my stash as best I can, restocking from Canada when I get across the border. Stuff that’s about to go out, before the reconstruction, I traded - the liquid stuff. The pills I kept for a few months before trading those away, too.” He chuckles, tapping his nose. “I know, I know. Old habits die hard…” Jaiden trails off, taking a notepad from his breast pocket, the nub of a pencil from the crown of his hat. “You have an address I can send them, or do I need to get some strapping youths to haul stuff from the airport to your doorstep in exchange for a good meal and a few bucks each?”

Megan gives him the address and comments, “We might be better served by the strapping youths, however.” Her amusement is clear. “Mail is a strange and wonderful oddity still. Sometimes things come. Sometimes….” She gives him the who knows? face.

“What are you going to be working on while you’re here?” The subject change is casual; she’s pretty curious. “Got a new article or angle on the reconstruction, maybe?”

Jaiden jots down the address in that strange shorthand of his, tucking the notepad away in its pocket and leans back in his seat. “Just here finding stories, as usual. A few distribution sites for the BBC have contacted me about doing something about the reconstruction in New York. There are a lot of stories going on in here….present company included, of course…that could benefit by having the world know more about them. Make what happened here more personal than vague ‘this happened here’ stuff. Little details other than giant overarching storylines. Things like that make it more real.”

“As far as the medicines…gotcha. I’ll see about getting it here for you. I’ll need a little help from the airport to your place, though.” He lifts the cane to underline the need. “Ever since Alaska, I’ve been laid up a little, working through thanks to a knee brace and a boatload of painkillers. Thankfully I’m down to plain tylenol now to manage when it aches, but what I wouldn’t give for an evolved healer to get their hands on me for a while.”

Megan shakes her head adamantly in the negative. “Lord, don’t be putting me in articles and TV. I’m finally to the point where people mostly leave me alone and don’t ask. But I’ll definitely send people to the airport.” She smiles a little, sipping her coffee. “I wish that I could point you toward one,” she tells him regretfully. “Abigail was a godsend. I don’t even think I know whether Deckard still has the ability,” she admits. “I lost track of him even before the war, really. He helped us out after the Beach Street Sade House was raided by Humanis First, and I think that might have been the last I heard of him.”

There’s a long sigh as she sips her coffee, and then she smiles. “It’s really good to see you again, Jaiden. I’m really glad I ran into you.”

“Off the record. Gotcha.” Always taking notes Jaiden is. Mentally, of course, but at this point, it’s as if Megan was never here. They never met and, as a journalist, her confidentiality is worth a little more than his own. “Of course, of course. I was thinking about doing a story on Eleanor and her coffee, bringing life to the markets of New York.” He thinks for a moment. “You think they’ll call it New New York once it’s all rebuilt? The safe zone can’t help but spread out once things are fixed, so, eventually, there’s going to be a broadway. A wall street. A times square.” Sure, not as opulent as they were before, but they’ll be there, in spirit as much as anything.

“I’ll get by. I’m sure that one’ll roam across my path at some point, and I can have them doctor me up.” Talking about healing as if it were magic - what a crazy world they live in now. “You keep up with any of the old crew? Met Colette the other day, and then my usual band of misfits up by the lake and in the surrounding countryside….”

“Well,” Megan replies, savoring her coffee, “I know where a lot of them are. I don’t get up to Rochester, but a number of them come down here and I do catch up when I can. I wish it were a little more, I guess, but… it’s hard sometimes, seeing one another.” She glances at him, knowing he’ll understand the sentiment. “I don’t always know what to say. It seems so long ago that ‘normal’ was anything but a trauma unit or reconstruction.” She shrugs. “I do hope someday they’ll have some of those things back. Maybe someday someone will have the ability to help negate all the radiation and then we’ll actually be able to reclaim the whole city.” Likely it’s a pipe dream, but… who knows? Stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

Stranger things happening is a constant in this world. When not dealing with time-travelling alternate selves, preventing the murder of a friend while she’s unaware of what she might become in the future at a hockey game, and various people who can bend the world to their whims, yeah, stranger things are the only constant.

Jaiden nods, finishing his cup of coffee and tucking a bill into Eleanor’s tip jar, getting a word of thanks from the little woman. “It would be nice to touch base with a couple of them, just to let them know i’m still around in case they’re not, and to offer help in case they need it. Times are tough around here…I had it pretty good in the middle of nowhere. Still do, in fact, since the fighting never got that far north. Kind of feel guilty for planning and surviving as well as I did, honestly.” That’s a frank admission from the man, glancing at Megan for a moment before he continues. “Turns out my planning did a lot of good, though, so….yeah. I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do, seeing the hell that people have gone through. Like I could have done more, but didn’t. It’s not rational, but it’s a feeling I have. Dunno.” Jaiden gives a one shouldered shrug.

“A radiation-eating Evo might hit, but more’n likely it’ll be bulldozers, hard work, and early deaths from cancer. Rebuilding new york is a problem that requires a lot of people to be thrown into the meat grinder. I guess I’ll tell their stories when they start.

Megan reaches out immediately, resting one hand on his forearm. “Don’t,” she tells him firmly. “Don’t do that to yourself. You planned, you chose wisely where to put your survival gear, and you were smart about it. You cannot worry about the fact that other people were not or did not. You did everything that you could possibly do, for as many people as you could do it. No one holds it against you that you couldn’t help everyone, I promise you.”

She squeezes his arm for a long moment, making sure he at least hears her although she clearly knows that he’s going to feel whatever he feels. But she nods slightly when she has his eyes. “I think telling the stories of the next few years is going to be really important. And I think you are just the guy who can do it.” She sits back to finish her own coffee. “You have a gift for making it all real without drama. I look forward to seeing that gift in use.”

“So many years of bad news. Might be good to have a few years of good coming out. There is always dark in the world. That's easy to find. The tough part is finding those flowers on the battlefields that give hope to those who have none. That's my job.” Jaiden actually cracks a smile. “Be nice getting back to that part of my job. No smuggling, no getting kids out of the states because of how they were born…just telling stories again, making days seem less dark.”

Jaiden glances up to Meagan after a bit. “If you ever need some time away, come out to the house. Ferry always has a spot on the lake. Beer’s cold, food is plentiful, skies are blue. Suggest the summer, though. Right now you can get frostbite standing on the porch for more than a few minutes.”

“And I won't even write about you until you tell me you're good and ready. When you need the publicity.”

Megan chuckles softly. “I might take you up on that, Jaiden. Sometime.” The blue eyes look around the square and she admits, “I’m not sure the time will ever come that I will feel like it’s okay to step away. Which… is fairly ironic, given how much I nagged some people.” She shakes her head on a bit of a smile. She finishes the last of her coffee and then moves to stand. “I should get back. If you want to meet up again, here…” She pulls a pen from one of the many pockets in her cargo pants and jots a phone number down on the one small napkin that she took from the coffee stand. “You can get me.” She rolls her eyes. “Sometimes the signal isn’t so great and all, but we’re not ENTIRELY cut off.”

In a previous moment, this would be the time to swap business cards. Eleanor’s napkins do the job just fine. Jaiden takes Megan's and jots his down as well, offering it to her with both hands, tucking her number away. “Make a date. Promise yourself. Mark it on the calendar and force yourself to take time. Burning at both ends is the fastest way to burn out. I'm sure you know that better than most.” Jaiden pushes himself to his feet, offering Megan his hand. “Really good to see you, Megan. Give me a call sometime and we'll see if there are any decent restaurants here in town anymore. My treat.”

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