Straight On 'Til Morning


huruma_icon.gif megan2_icon.gif scott_icon.gif

Scene Title Straight On 'Til Morning
Synopsis A quiet night out turns into something unexpected.
Date July 22nd, 2020

Castaways is a seedy hole-in-the-wall bar and restaurant hanging off the Sheepshead Bay coast. The vinyl-sided building sits across from a water treatment plant and was once home to the Brooklyn Yacht Club before the war. Now there are rows of motorcycles parked out front, pickup trucks in the dirt parking lot, and a flotilla of mix-and-match ships moored at the dock out back.

The bar is a vestige of a time following the war when Sheepshead Bay wasn’t seen as an up-and-coming college town, but a run down stretch of derelict houses flattened by hurricanes and old warehouses left to rot. The clientele here run the gamut from smugglers to blue-collar workers. The outside deck facing the harbor and the pier is the only hint of class the entire establishment has, as if the string lights overhead could class up what amounts to a biker bar.

But for some people looking to stay true to salt-of-the-earth sensibilities, places like Castaways are the best chance they have at blending in and fading away.

Especially when you’re a war hero.

Castaways Bar & Grill
Sheepshead Bay

July 22nd
10:11 pm

It’s an absolutely beautiful summer night to be out under the stars and those string lights. The deck is packed with bargoers and the air is sticky-sweet with both summer smells and barbecue.

“Remember when we were eating MREs for a week during the food shortage?” Scott Harkness likes to reminisce, even if it’s about moments only a couple of years old. But his question to friends and colleagues isn’t entirely out of the blue, as it comes when he’s delivered a platter of honey-roasted barbecue ribs.

“Because I remember the food lines,” Scott adds with a shake of his head, unfolding a cloth napkin to tuck into his collar like a bib. “I look around the city now, with all these new buildings and all this.” He motions at his plate. “Feels like a bad dream.”

As she swallows some of her beer, Megan’s drawn into the memories of some of the old days just as easily. She doesn’t mention what she was doing during the shortages last year — neither of her companions really need to know how often she gave what little she had to those who needed it more (in her own opinion). “Ah, the triple lie,” she replies, the sight of the ribs a pleasant one — they’re nice ones. Her plate is not nearly as overflowing as some, though. She picks up a hot fry and nibbles on it as she grins. “They’re not meals, they’re not ready, and you can’t eat ‘em,” she completes the thought.

Picking several napkins, some go into her jeans-clad lap while some get put right next to her plate. Ribs are messy business when done right. Her copper hair is less vibrant these days, shading to strawberry and toward the pure white it’ll become in a very few years, but she still wears it pulled up into a bouncy ponytail that brushes just above the nape of her neck to keep it out of the way of dinner. “Let’s hope with the greenhouse up and producing the way it is, the Safe Zone won’t have any more of those shortages. Sitting out here right now… yeah, it’s a little hard to remember,” Megan acknowledges mildly. “You guys getting all settled into the Zone now?” she asks curiously — she knew they were moving operations, and the Hounds have been hella busy lately.

"There were worse." Huruma's answer from the other side of the table is a lazy one, her eyes hooded and one hand spinning ice in her tea with a spoon. At this point a gesture of boredom, abandoned when the hostess comes around. "This one- -" She jerks an elbow towards Megan while she pulls her own plate closer, sucking on the back of her teeth. "Tch, she got so skinny."

No commentary on Raytech's keeping up, however. Huruma figures it's a given. They'll meet what goals they can, for the lot of them. It's the least to be done. She studies the lights and the bay in passing, exhaling the taste of dockside air.

"I think the Bunker is ready to go?" The empath tips her head towards Scott, one arm on the back of her seat. "Or close to it. Bastion is shaping up… renovations, always a blast." Huruma did have fun sledging some walls out.

“Epstein says the deed passes over to some sort of agency that’ll handle the sale at the end of the month,” Scott explains, picking at his plate of ribs. “We’re basically operating out of the Bastion full-time as of last week. But we’ve had people living there since last year. It’s just… going to be weird being back here in New York full time.”

Between his thoughts, Scott works on one of his ribs, stripping it to the bone like a hungry dog. For all that he has the appetite of a junkyard dog, he still has the manners his mother drilled into him. Elbows off the table, fingertips on the rib bone, it’s downright proper. For a man who spends most of his days up to his wrists in engine grease, it’s almost dainty.

Skinny? Please. Megan merely snorts a soft sound at that word. She winks at Huruma as she settles in to eat. "It's not as weird as you think," she tells Scott mildly. After all, she's been doing it for years. "It's still New York… the energy is the same even if it's smaller now."

She eats more slowly, ridiculously neat with a food that is notorious for sauce everywhere. Magic field of sauce-repellant? Between bites, she explains a little. "The resilience of New Yorkers always sort of amazed me, but truly… now more than ever. There are people here who never left through all of it." She enjoys listening to their stories. "They got some… unique … perspectives," she does admit with a grin though.

"I suppose that 'unique' is one way to put it." Likely the kinder way too. Huruma starts on her plate as she speaks, punctuating with the click of her teeth and the run of tongue at the corner of her mouth. "Having one place to sleep is stranger still."

Though as both of them know, more than once she's crashed in the 'office'. Things have been busy, between the move, the restructuring, the new jobs, and even some new faces. No wonder Avi was having the time of his fucking life.

“Sure beats the good old days,” Scott adds with a laugh, adding the rib bone to a side platter, before switching to his beer. “But yeah, Meg’s right. I’ve been here long enough to have seen the city survive 9/11, 11/8, and then all the shit between then and now. We adapt.”

Setting down his beer, Scott looks over to Megan, then up to the night sky. “It’s this,” he says, gesturing up to the sky visible through the string lights, “a summer night? We fought for this, and we fight t’keep it. That’s something. Everyone here, fighting to keep it.”

Picking up his beer again, Scott lifts it off the table and takes a sip. “I love this city. S’why I keep coming back when common sense says I shouldn’t.”

While Scott is talking, Megan makes a small internal observation. Her head is just a little swimmy, the room a little topsy turvy. Not a lot, but it feels like she’s had a little bit too much to drink.

Wiping her fingers after setting a rib on her plate, Megan grins. "You never were one to listen to common sense," she points out to the man as she picks up her beer. Lifting it, she uses the movement to surreptitiously touch a forefinger to the tip of her nose. It's not got that numb feel she associates with being good and buzzed, but…

She takes a swallow of her beer, and as she sets it down, she looks up toward those stars. The glass is tipped as she lets it go, thinking it's flat on the table, and so it spills across the center of the table.

"Oh! Shit!" Megan jumps a bit in her seat, grabbing for more napkins on the table. And knocks over Huruma's tea too. She's not usually such a klutz. Why is everything tilted?

"Mm. The little things." Huruma's agreement is short, a little more passive than usual. The more you don't have, the more you learn to appreciate. She is leant back in her chair, balancing on two legs, when she silently notes a subtle shift in Megan. Curiosity does her some good in this case. The napkin in her own hand is set down in the pooling mix of beer and tea; it settles onto Megan's arm while the other takes up the task of more napkins.

"It's fine." A slow feline blink passes once to Scott and back again.

Scott reaches across the table to pull up a stack of napkins, getting out of his seat to help Megan sop up the spilled drink off the table. It’s right about then that Megan’s world feels off balance, a wave of vertigo hits her that comes with a spinning sensation, like up was down and down was up. A moment later, she feels the sensation of falling and reflexively grips the table.

The sensation of falling doesn’t end for Megan. Instead it intensifies. Scott and Huruma both notice her odd posture, and Scott rests a hand on her shoulder with brows creased together. That’s when Megan’s feet come completely off the floor, and her heart sinks down into the pit of her stomach. Because the back half of her starts to just… float. Like she was in a pool, holding the stairs and kicking her legs.

Other patrons can’t help but notice, and Megan feels like she weighs about as much as a balloon, her whole body wanting to do nothing more than drift away into the sky like an untethered kite on a windy day.

At first, mostly what she feels is ill. Her balance is completely and wildly off kilter and Megan is sure she's going to fall over or throw up or both. Her grip on the table's edge is white-knuckled. "I don't feel so good," she murmurs quietly. Please God, don't let me hurl in public…

And everything shifts. Like she has no personal gravity. The chair is knocked backward by her foot as she literally comes off of it and starts floating. Sheer panic sets in along with the feeling of being dizzy. Convulsively swallowing, she holds on tighter and squeezes her eyes shut, gasping out, "I think I'm hallucinating." Because that's gotta be the answer right!? She's not really floating away! Ohhhhh, she feels so wonky.

Huruma was already worried when Scott reaches out to steady her, and when she confesses her wooziness; when her feet leave the ground, it's all Huruma can do but loop an arm around Megan's waist. Given Meg's clamped eyes, only Scott gets to see the pure, brief seconds of panic in Huruma's.

The dark woman turns her head over one shoulder to the other, halfway into a scowl looking for a culprit. There isn't one she can see, which just makes it worse.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Scott whispers, says, and shouts in precisely that order as he tries to pull Megan back down to Earth. It isn’t hard to manipulate Megan, it feels almost like she weighs nothing at all. But that becomes a harder fact to reconcile when her feet touch the ground and just bob up again like she were too buoyant for this Earth.

Scott is doing exactly as Huruma is, looking around the patio restaurant, trying to find someone who might have caused this intentionally. Most of the people out back are a mixture of concerned or surprised, a couple are amused in the way that someone might be when witnessing a harmlessly comical and embarrassing event in public. Huruma’s perceptions of the surroundings glean no further insights, and her sight goes so much further than Scott’s. She feels amusement, yes, but not that tickled sense of delight that a prankster gets on springing the perfect trap. She’s known plenty to recognize that texture and sense anywhere.

Eliminating the obvious only leaves the impossible.

As Scott looks at Huruma with confusion in his eyes, Megan feels like her world is continuing to slowly spin around out of her control. It’s like being turned around underwater and she can’t tell which way is up anymore. All she knows is that she’s sinking.

Meg makes a sound that is distressingly close to a whimper — not a sound one would usually hear from the nurse. "Please stop the merry-go-round, I really want to get off." She hasn't released the edge of the table, terrified if she does she'll go spinning off into the ether somewhere. If it doesn't stop soon, she really might just puke.

So undignified.

Her eyes flicker open warily — is it better or worse if she can see? "What is happening to me?" The whisper holds just a hint of the fear that Huruma can sense rolling off her. There have only been a few times in all the years they've known one another that Megan has experienced this kind of gut-deep terror. Instinctively the redhead tries to put her feet toward the ground, but she feels rather like a helium balloon and 'down' still has no meaning. It's like being in zero gravity, she'd have to imagine.

"…Give me your hands." Huruma knows that Megan does not want to let go of the tether, and it doesn't keep her from putting firm hands around the other woman's wrists. The panic with which she had been searching the place hasn't gone yet. There is no-one to pin this on, which- - if Huruma can't find them here, they don't exist at all.

"Keep your eyes open." It almost sounds like a warning. "Look at me." Step by step warnings. Huruma's nerves remain, but that panic has warped into something new.

“We’ve got you, don’t worry,” Scott says in a tone that implies he is a little bit worried. “Just hang on.” He looks around, scanning the crowd still, trying to find something that will help. Some people are on their phones now, others have started to come over with worried looks on their faces.

We’re not gonna let you float awa— ”

Forty-Five Minutes Later

Out Front of Castaways Bar & Grill
Sheepshead Bay

11:07 pm

Red and blue flashing lights illuminate the front of Castaways. An ambulance parked behind a squad car has its rear doors open. Megan Young sits in the back of the ambulance, legs hanging out and dangling, missing one shoe. Scott Harkness is nearby, the vomit stain on his shirt still somewhat damp but mostly cleaned up.

An RCPD officer stands a few feet away from the ambulance, talking to Huruma and going over what happened, getting a basic report. There’s no charges to file and no one did anything wrong, but he still has paperwork to handle.

The EMT in the back of the ambulance behind Megan offers her a supportive smile. Looking down to a small electronic device in his hand about the size of an electric thermometer. A little light on the side is flashing and the device makes a soft whirring sound. Megan has a small, round band-aid on her right forearm, sleeve rolled up.

The device in the EMT’s hand buzzes once and the light that was flashing green turns red. “Well, there you have it.” The EMT says with a conflicted smile, like he’s reading someone’s pregnancy test. “You’re SLC-Expressive. What you experienced must have been a manifestation.”

The EMT sets the device aside, looking into Megan’s eyes. “How’re you feeling?”

This is the second time he's run this test. The first time he said those words, the redheaded ER nurse gave him Nurse Young's Face and said 'Run. It. Again.' "I'm telling you, that's not possible," Megan insists again, although this time there is much less certainty. Reports have hit the hospital recently of new manifestations. It's usually expected among the young, but… Her hands are clasped tightly in her lap, and the forced neutrality in her face and tone are exactly that — forced. Huruma can feel the emotional reaction that roars through her, displacing her vague disgruntlement at throwing up on Scott, at the confirmation.

As she unclasps her hands, it's one of the few times in all the years Scott's known her that Megan's hand is visibly shaking as she reaches up to push an unruly lock of white hair off her forehead and tuck it behind her ear, smoothing it several times there. The movement itself is another tell of how badly shaken she is. She swallows hard again and looks … a little lost. "I don't know what to do from here," she admits in a low tone. And she's scared. Very scared. And feeling kind of guilty for feeling scared — she fought at the side of any number of SLC-Expressive people, including the two people here with her now. And she's never thought of powers as a bad thing but… now it's slapping her in the face and she doesn't know how to feel.

Dealing with the police paperwork is the last priority Huruma has, and while she lets the officer take her statement she is constantly looking past them to Megan; a quick 'let's wrap it up' later, and she is happily leaving the patrol in the dust. She's got things to do.

And especially so, thanks to the burbling, twisting feelings coming from her friend.

"You look fine but you don't feel fine…" Huruma sweeps up, refraining from fussing. Barely. She does move up against the open doors, reaching out to draw Megan into a one-armed hug. Watching her float away would have been a personal hell in particular.

The EMT offers an apologetic smile, briefly glancing up at Huruma as she approaches, before squaring his attention back on Megan. “I know it seems unbelievable,” he says, gesturing with the electronic test kit, “but we’ve had four manifestations we’ve been called on this month. One previously unregistered, three from folks who were Registered-Non, like you.”

The EMT pops out the needle from the electronic test kit and throws it into a medical waste bin, then puts the cap back on the reader and stows it in his bag. “Just to give you an idea of how unusual that is, we had three manifestations for the entirety of last year. Four in a month? That’s unheard of.”

As the EMT zips up his bag, Scott looks back and forth from him and Megan, then asks, “So, what… was— were all her previous tests faulty?” The EMT laughs awkwardly and shakes his head.

“No, I don’t think so. Folks I’ve talked to at the hospital said there’s a medical journal that was released a few months ago…” The EMT explains as he stows his bag and slides out of the back of the ambulance. “Apparently folks who tested Non are experiencing genetic mutations that promote SLC-Expressivism. SESA’s trying to get their heads around it, from what I gather. But nobody has any answers on how that’s possible. It’s making my job a lot harder.”

Scott exhales a slow breath, scrubbing his hand over his mouth and looking with concern between Huruma and Megan.

“I’d recommend you contact SESA, set yourself up for an interview to update your Registration if you’re so inclined.” The EMT suggests. “They’ll have helpful followup for how to adjust to your manifestation.”

There is a jolt of uncertainty at that idea — talking to SESA. A shaft of alarm that stems more from Megan's distrust of the overall System than anything else. She, too, came out of that war with a lot of scars — hers are far just less visible than some.

Megan simply nods to the EMT, sliding off the bumper of the ambulance into the one-armed hold of Huruma. It is rare for the nurse to be anything but calm and capable… aside from the occasional red-headed temper flare-up that is usually pretty volcanic when it does happen to go off. There is a lot bubbling beneath the surface right now, though the only outward sign of shock is the trembling that is beginning to pervade her whole body. She raises her chin with the outward professional facade of cool competence she always projects. "I'll make contact with them," she replies to the EMT. "Thank you for your patience tonight, Evan. I appreciate it." He's an EMT that she's worked with more than once, and she treats him with the respect he's earned.

Her gaze flickers from Huruma to Scott, holding there for a long moment with her arms crossed tightly across her middle, an unconsciously protective posture that betrays how vulnerable she feels right now. It's not until the young EMT is back in the ambulance and they're pulling away that murmurs darkly, "I need a cigarette." It's a comment that broadcasts her distress — she was trying to quit. Again.

Poor Evan gets the brunt of Huruma's visual displeasure, though even staring him down one gets the sense she simply needs a direction to point it. She'd heard something about a rise in manifestations, though past that…

Her arm remains around Megan's shoulders as the EMT steps away, brows knit and face following him until he disappears. Huruma looks to Scott, first, panic abated since they got her down, but worry has taken its place. The tremble from her friend's whole self and the body language of trying to crawl inward soon lead Huruma to tucking her closer. A fledgling under a bird's wing.

A stork, maybe.

"…Make it count." Just one. She and Huruma have been working together to stave Megan's cravings for it, and a small forward step has been the partial retirement from the ER nurse life. Dark hand against the strawberry blonde on her head, Huruma waits until now to pass on a soft wave of calm; the empath prefers to avoid putting Megan on emotional rollercoasters if she can help it. "You'll be okay. I have you."

Scott’s attention moves from the ambulance’s tail lights to the bystanders on the curb starting to break up. He shakes his head and looks at Megan, worry visible on his face. “World’s changin’ too fast for me,” is said in a grumble. Huruma can feel that it’s more than that, though. Scott feels the same worry that she does for Megan.

“Let us you home,” Scott says quietly. “I’ll come get you and you can pick up your car in the morning.” But he can’t help but crack something of a smile, placing a hand at the small of Megan’s back. Sometimes levity is the best cure for a tense situation.

“Probably safer anyway,” Scott remarks. “Rather than having you Peter Pan your way there, straight on ‘til morning.”

But Scott Harkness was right about one thing.

The world is changing.


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