Siblings In Seedy Back Alleys


hailey_icon.gif lance_icon.gif

Scene Title Siblings in Seedy Back Alleys
Synopsis Lance catches up to Haley to find out where she's been and to ask for help with her favorite animal.
Date September 22, 2018

Down a Different Street From the Bar

Away from the Five-Oh, brother.

“Hailey, wait up,” Lance complains as he jogs several quick steps down the alley - a block or two away from the near-riot outside the bar now, messenger bag thumping against his side with each long stride, a trickle of blood running unnoticed down the side of his face from where the chair leg’d bounced off his scalp. “Cops are way back there, I think we’re clear, and anyway we didn’t do anything…”

The lack of power means the darkness in these back streets is almost palpable, thick shadows draping every doorway and cul-de-sac, even the windows of the buildings they’re moving past like empty eye-sockets, gaping and empty of light.

Even though the sound of the sirens can still be heard in the distance, the lights aren't visible and that alone calms Hailey just enough. Cats, rats, dogs, racoons, monkey all slow down as she stops and turns to walk back toward her brother.

"It's a riot, Johnny Law, don't tell me to calm my tits," she addresses Lance in a firm tone. Her expression goes quickly from perturbed to worried as she spies the blood running down the side of his face. "Jeebus Lance! How the heck…" She leans in and like an amateur, lightly pokes at the quickly forming goose egg. "We should get you to the hospital before you turn white as a ghost and feint."

Patting down her pockets, she comes up with a semi-clean cloth that she offers him to wipe up. By this time, the rest of the animals have stopped as well and the braver ones have come up to sniff at Lance. The bravest, one banded raccoon, risks a grab at his pant leg.

At the poke to his head, Lance winces. “Ow,” he verbalizes, half-raising a hand towards it as well that’s probably easily pushed away, “I think it was a chair leg— who the fuck literally carries a chair leg around? That’s some cliche’d cartoon bullshit, there. I’m fine, though, I don’t need the hospital. Been hurt worse before…”

The cloth’s taken as she offers it, and he brings it up to wipe blindly at his face. He gets some of the blood, anyway. The tug at his pant leg has him looking down, then, a brow crooking up, “What’s up, li’l dude?”

He regrets raising the eyebrow a moment later as the headache worsens by a degree or two, and he winces.

He's brave but not that brave. When addressed, the raccoon bristles with alarm, jumps back, and hisses.

"Oh, he's not tame," comes the casual, yet informative, statement. "But probably(?) not rabid if that makes you feel any better." There's a slight pause before she suddenly frowns and balls up a fist. "What the heck are you doing out this late anyway? And outside a bar?! Lance Gerken, what would Gillian think."

She narrows her eyes a little and leans in, sniffing. Probably for the distinct scent of alcohol. "You'd better not be taking up the bottle, you're smarter than that."

“Eh, raccoons tend to be pretty chill, they’re urban animals,” is Lance’s opinion, the hiss bringing a wry smile as he watches the animal hop back, “It’s when they’re not that I’d be worried— and what?”

The acoustikinetic’s brow knits as he looks back at his sister, “What are you, mom all of a sudden? I stay out late sometimes— and I wasn’t going to a bar, for chrissake, I was going to meet Justin over at the college. He’s in town, by the way, if you hadn’t seen him yet.”

He snorts, dabbing the cloth on his face some more to mop up some more of the sticky blood, “You’re talking like you’re not someone I should be worrying about, Bronx-zoo-girl.”

"Hey, at least I live clean," Hailey chirps back defensively, "no carbon footprint here." Because carbon footprints really matter in the post-apocalyptic nightmare they seem to live in sometimes. Plus, she's not starving mostly.

On the matter of zoos…

"Besides… I'm on the road to getting a real ID." On the road. "Once I get my ducks in order." Is she being literal or figurative? It could be both. "I just have to figure out how to get my herd, flock, and pack through without any of them getting shot or killed for eating." She has been looking around.

“If it wasn’t for the food shortage I’d say you could open a zoo,” Lance says dryly, only half-kidding, “But yeah, the way things are now, getting killed for meat’s a real possibility.”

The bloodied cloth falls in his hand to one side, and he hesitates - clearly trying to figure out how to explain something before he says, “We could— use your help, actually. We found something weird.”

Really weird. And it’s right up your alley.”

Is that a joke?

Looking a tad confused, Hailey jams her balled fist into the shoulder slung bag at her side. There's a lot of different things in there from a lot of different alleys. From in here, out there, pretty much everywhere. Feeling confident in her ability to navigate around, during the day and at night.

"Which one?" Hailey asks, apparently not sure and trying to determine if it is or not. "There's a lot of them around here and I've been through them all."

“What? I— no, that’s, it’s a figure of speech, sis, Jesus,” Lance rubs his free hand against the nape of his neck as he regards her, “You really need to spend more time around people, you know that, right?”

That left off, he shakes his head, “No, uh— we’ve been investigating the food shortage, and we found out who did it. It was rats. Lots, and lots of rats.”

Dramatic pause, “Slice rats.”

"That's impossible, there's no su-" Hailey starts and then quickly stops to think. It wasn't that long ago human slices were a work of fiction. She turns to look at Jim, he turns to look at her. He grins. She turns back to Lance. "I haven't come across any, that I know of anyway."

Then again, she hasn't been looking for that.

"How do you know?" Next logical question in her mind. They haven't come across anything like this before that she knows of. A few of the dogs and cats have wandered away, content with tonight's hunt and off on their own again. When the raccoon wanders off, her eyes follow its footsteps until it disappears around the corner. "What can they do?"

“Trust me, they’re real,” Lance shakes his head, watching the raccoon meandering away before looking back to his sister, “We’ve been working with SESA— well, okay, mostly their investigation keeps finding us getting places first— to try and figure out what the hell’s going on.”

It’s an exciting topic, the sort of thing he’d normally be hyped about looking into, but he seems pretty uncharacteristically serious about it. At least, uncharacteristically until he explains.

“They’re electromorphs. The rats, they can all turn into electricity and back, and— they didn’t only eat the food stores,” he says grimly, “They’ve eaten a lot of people, too, Homeless people living down in the sewers, everyone they run into when they want food. Kids, too.”

Bored with the conversation that he just can’t understand except for the worry he feels from his best friend, Jim hops down and toddles toward Lance. That messenger bag is closed and he is very interested in opening it. Lance will feel a tug on his side as Jim begins the climb of the tall man and then a heavy weight as he settles on the top of the bag. His little paws grip the strap and shake it furiously as he cheeps up at its owner.

Hailey doesn’t seem to mind the manners of her monkey. He’s fine.

Rubbing the side of her head, Hailey is silent for a long time, the sirens interrupt her thoughts but not so much that eventually she does answer. “So… rats.” It has to be rats. She hates rats. “There’s a lot of them here, like a lot. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to tell the slices from the normies. But…” The shrug that follows is accompanied by a sheepish half smile, a set of wide eyes, and raised eyebrows. It’s the look she used to get when they were young.

She’ll try.

“Hey— no, Jim,” Lance closes his other hand over the flap of the messenger bag, giving the cheeping monkey a stern look, “This is my bag, it’s not for monkeys.”

As he defends his belongings from the primate, he glances back up with a faint smile and a bit of worry knitting his brow. “I mean, I don’t expect you to find them or control them of anything, it’s— more that if we go trying to figure out where they come from, I thought maybe you could at least— “ Another tug on the bag as he continues the fight with the monkey, “— keep them from turning us into picked-over skeletons, scare them or something, you know?”

“Oh!” Visible relief is painted all over Hailey’s expression as Lance explains further. That is within her wheelhouse, ask Dr. Kozlow or Julie at the Elmhurst hospital, she’s great at making rats panic. “Yeah, you have a where and when? Or are we doing this now?” It seems as though an answer for either will do fine. It also seems like Hailey isn’t the least bit tired, maybe it’s all of the nightly dumpster diving.

“Or you can leave a message at Gillian’s,” she says again, implying that she might not be there anymore. At least not as frequently, due to the population inside of the house. When she is there, it’s only to catch some sleep and then leave again without anyone noticing. She hopes. For the past three days, she’s been roaming the alleys between the safe zone and the Bronx Zoo. Which might be more worrisome for Lance. Drifting is less desirable than her former home.

“It’s mostly the whole ‘we want to go investigate but we don’t want to get eaten’ thing,” Lance says a bit dryly, one hand coming up to prod at the swelling bruise— wincing as he does so, “We already almost got killed once down there. The good news is, when they panic they tend to run rather than attack, from what we’ve seen… and not right now, no.”

He looks over with a frown, “We’re trying to deal with another issue first, but soon, we just didn’t want to go down without you… and where’re you staying now? Tell me you’re not back at the zoo.”

“Oh.. here and there..” she says, not admitting to staying at the zoo, at Gillian’s, or anywhere else. Changing the subject, “Is your place still full and gross or did you guys learn how to clean?” Because the housekeeping standards of her little brother is a way better topic of discussion than where Hailey might be living.

Her grimace is hidden when the empath presses her lips together, preferring to display a grim expression. “What’s the other issue? Are Joe and Brynn okay? They didn’t get married and run off and leave you alone with the rent, did they?” She knows they wouldn’t, but she’s gotta tease.

“You literally were living in animal filth,” Lance points out with a roll of his eyes, “Please tell me you’re still staying with mom, or at least somewhere with a bed…”

Then he shakes his head, “Nah, they’re fine, they’re— so, I don’t remember if you’ve met Squeaks? She’s another street kid, a little younger. Like— maybe Lucy’s age? We adopted her.” They do that. “She got grabbed by the same assholes that grabbed you. She got away, but— “

He grimaces openly, then, giving her a serious look, “We can’t just let this shit keep happening. What happens when one of us doesn’t get lucky?”

"I was not," Hailey replies all too quickly and angrily, obviously insulted. "I had a home I made myself, a bed I made myself, and a whole lot of stuff you guys don't get here. Like… like… cheese every day and fresh bread. Just because my place wasn't sanctioned by the man doesn't make it less of a place than any of the ones in like.. Park Slope."

Out there, she had a routine. In here, she's been struggling to do the same. "And yeah, I met Jac, she's staying at Gillian's." She doesn't argue with the sense or legality of three young adults barely able to take care of themselves adopting someone only a few years younger. That can wait for another time. "So when and where do you want me to meet you for that? I owe a little payback to the Pure Earth jerks anyway.”

Just because Squeaks’ adoption wasn’t sanctioned by the man

“We’re still gathering intel,” admits Lance, “They’re— a pretty strong group. Honestly it’s all I can do to stop Joe from literally going over there and starting to stalk and kill them one on one. I don’t think that’d end well for him or us.” He wrinkles his nose, “I’m trying to figure out a better way of dealing with this that doesn’t involve any of us getting shot.”

"How big is that bubble of yours now?" Hailey asks curiously, there's a slight upward tug at one corner of her mouth. The gears are working. Jim seems a little agitated and once again he starts reefing on the strap of Lance's messenger bag. His chirps turn a little more insistent and a couple of whines get interjected. Something is afoot.

The flash of lights causes the older Gerken's head to jerk toward around and then she motions Lance to continue walking instead of standing where they are. "Let's head to your place, I think I might have an idea."

At the flash of lights, Lance starts walking down the alleyway— peering down at Jim as he makes that whining sound, he frowns, unbuckling the bag as he does (against his better judgement) and opening it up to show books and papers for the most part, and a bag of jerky tucked to one side. “What?”

“Sure,” he tells his sister absently as he walks, “Let’s go.”

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