The Missing


joseph_icon.gif valerie_icon.gif

Scene Title The Missing
Synopsis In 2010, people seem to go missing more often than could possibly be coincidence. Joseph and Valerie mutually worry about those who happen to be among the many.
Date October 28, 2010

Gun Hill: Rooftop

Situated atop the Gun Hill apartment building, five stories above street level, the rooftop of the tenement building overlooks the Bronx's gritty urban landscape. A single stair access leads out onto the smooth concrete rooftop surrounded by a three foot high red brick wall with a masoned top. Ventillation pipes and a chimney that connects to the singular fireplace down in the basement rises up from the concrete rooftop, though the chimney's old brick is crumbling and weathered.

A pair of old sun-bleached folding lawn chairs are situated out on the roof along with a plastic cooler, while white sacks of loam and soil are set next to large lengths of scrap wood, a box of nails and a few carpentry tools; a project in the works.

A couple of knocks on Joseph's door had yielded nothing save for the snuffles of two largeish dogs trying to inhale Valerie's scent through the gap of door and floor. Even waiting around for a minute didn't work out — until a neighbour, passing through, had mentioned seeing the pastor head up and up to the patch of rooftop that sees a decent amount of play.

It's a muggy day to be in New York City. The cloud cover paints thickly over a sky that is otherwise changing colours as the sun slides towards the horizon, and the warmth of the autumn day hasn't been traded in for dusky coolness just yet. Joseph is more or less alone up here, not a very permanent fixture of Gun Hill — he lives here, yes, but seems to be gone a lot during the day, sometimes over night, usually on the evenings when curfew snaps its jaws on the hour and restricts people to the buildings they find themselves in. Or islands.

He's perched on a lawn chair, but not leaning back into it. Rather, his slouches forward, feet set on either side of the furniture and elbows to his knees as he browses a cellphone in his hand, before pressing it to his ear. His other hand has something crumpled and papery, mostly obscured, and pinned between palm and skull as he rests his head heavily against that hand, fingers tangled in dark brown. A grim presence on the rooftop, beneath waning sunlight.

Not the stealthiest entrance. The door opens with a bang, giving him a moment to look over and see a pale faced blonde girl who looks decidedly fragile and winded. It's the stairs. She admitted to being rather frail, but it's not just the stairs at all. "Mister Sumter?" she asks, looking at the man slouched in the lawn chair as she catches her breath. Only once she's taken a few minutes to breathe does she start to move over to him, still unsteady, but she's not sitting down. The mosts he does is drop her hands down to her knees as she stands closer.

"You keep being gone when I try to find you." That, or she's been gone when he happened to be here… "Have you— have you seen Kaylee lately? She's been kind of— missing." She'd held out some hope that Kaylee'd ran off with her boyfriend— but the dogs barking through the door dashed that one a little. And no word, either! Surely she would have wanted to talk and giggle about it before leaving!

Joseph does look up, even as he presses cellphone to his ear — but there's no greeting, no exchange of information, and so by the time Valerie is speaking, the device is lowered. Legs tense a little like he's about to rise up, but decides against it, just sort of straightens his posture a bit as he casts a vaguely guilty stare up at Kaylee's little sister. Like that's not weird. Like a soap opera and an added cast member. Hey, guys, don't you remember? Bethany always had a twin.

Except this is time travel. Too much is possible, when you factor that in.

"Yeah," he agrees, gruffly, slipping cellphone into pocket and then absently unfolding scrap paper. It used to be a paper crane, until it was unfolded again, and then roughly refolded, and has become tatty from fidgets, ink smudged. "She's missing and so's a friend of mine. When was the last time you seen her?" Anxiety is Joseph's natural condition. He doesn't seem very anxious right now, though, or at least, not in the way one would expect. His fingers fidget, but he's also duller and grimmer instead of restless and nervous.

"A friend of yours too?" Valerie says with a sad sound to her voice, as she tries to think back to the last time. "She was supposed to be studying for a big test, so I was leaving her alone. I thought she went out while I was asleep— I can sleep pretty soundly, and that she was at school and I just kept missing her… I'm used to being alone most the time, but Missy really doesn't like her being gone— she's kinda mad at me. Eating some of my new clothes and stuff…"

Dogs can get like that when their people go away without them. Especially ones like Missy.

When she finally straightens, her voice has settled. Somewhat. "That was days ago. I started looking for her the last few days, but Kendall hasn't seen her either… And I don't think she's anywhere in the city, or if she is she's unconscious… She's probably off saving the world or something. But she should have left a note!" Indignant teen voice there.

"Yeah, that's what normally happens." The image on the worried piece of paper, with all its creases and smudges, could almost be Kaylee. It isn't. Just a girl with light hair, probably one Valerie's seen around before — Lynette. It gets folded into a normal shape — a square — and pushed into pocket after cellphone, before Joseph is pushing himself up to stand. A fraction close to tripping over lawn chair when the toe of his shoe catches the edge, and he just nudges it back to the right angle with his ankle.

He shrugs round shoulders, tucks his chin in a little. "But it's goin' on ten days, and it— I mean he misses. Sometimes, when it comes to putting her back on the right day. Hiro does. He's the reason you're here to worry 'bout anyone, and he's the reason she vanishes now and then. But it ain't ever this long. And most of the time, when someone's gone for a long time, it ain't because they're saving anything."

Well. For a pastor, he's not exactly doing much to reassure fretful teen.

In fact, he's not even trying.

"Currently trying to work out how to contact a time traveler. I don't think he uses Twitter."

"So she's been missing for days before and it hasn't always been something too bad?" Valerie seems to be trying to find the reassurance that she may not be getting.

"I don't know how to find him, but— I could bring it up to Mister Cardinal. Kaylee told me I could trust him, and I already asked him to help me find her, if he could… finding this Hiro might be another step to it…"

There's a sudden pause, as if she's realizing something he said isn't computing in her brain. Her four years of missing culture brain. "What's Twitter?"

"I dunno," Joseph admits, pacing past her to lean back against the concrete edge of the rooftop, folding his arms loosely. "It's on the Internet."

And he lapses into pensive silence, judging his own words for a moment before he glances back at her, vague mistrust and doubt before he manages the beginnings of a crooked smile towards her. "I'm worried. Folk that work with people like your sister and myself have gone missing before. Both Kaylee and I have. There's this thing, called the Institute, that captures Evolved-types to put 'em to scientific use, sometimes."

He doesn't tick the threats off his fingers. But he might as well. "Humanis First don't usually take people away, not these days, but they did in the past, some. The government's done it too. Saving the day or getting put behind bars, it's all using. Far as I'm concerned, Hiro Nakamura ain't no better than any of them. I've a mind to tell Kaylee— "

Not that he'll be telling Kaylee anything. The sentence cuts off, and he whuds the heel of his boot back against concrete ledge in a gentle swing of leg from his knee, a fidgeting show of irritation. "See what Mister Cardinal says, I guess. Sure."

"He said he has a way to tell if she's in the present at least," Valerie says, trying to be as hopeful as possible. Even if it seems everyone has bigger fish to worry about. Time travel complicates everything. Even simple conversations about things on the internet. At least she knows what the internet is— mostly.

"I know about the Institute, though— and Kaylee mentioned something about a Mister… Something. He was in the Government and knew what she could do. She tried not to make a big deal about it, like she could handle it, but the other people seemed really worried about him. Whoever he was." Would they really take her away?

"Maybe this is almost over and she won't do it anymore— it's not very nice of him to give me my sister and then take her away like that… from you too."

There's a lot of fragments of information, there, frustratingly incomplete. Joseph's brow crinkles like there's a draw string involved, a slight shake of his head at Mister Something. Even the notion of the Government is broad, vague, it's own country in population and accessibility. He swallows back words, though, remembers she's about as young as anyone Joseph happens to be acquainted to, and simply nods his thanks to her offer of what she does have.

"I s'pose if there's a way to tell she's in the present, that'll narrow it down some. Just not all the way. 'course, at any second now, she could just appear like nothin' was wrong. She'll be awful guilty that she was gone so long."

"You have more experience with her than I do," Valerie says, voice catching a bit less of a positive tone, despite her attempts to try and keep some of her worried covered under something else. "I just feel like… I finally had the family I always wanted and never really had and now she's just…" She shakes her head, blonde hair swaying as she frowns guilty at having said that.

"That's not gonna make her feel better about being gone so long when it's probably something she couldn't control. Or she could, but— maybe it was too important that she couldn't." As someone saved from the timestream, she knows how important this work she's doing could be for some people.

Joseph's focus on Valerie shies away for a few of those words, lines at the corners of his eyes gone deeper in their shadows. By the time he's looking back at her, he's also taking his weight off the ledge, pacing a step sideways.

"How are you kids doing, anyway?" he asks, with a head tilt that— can't possibly gesture in the direction of her apartment, from up here, but that's the clear implication. "I haven't— I mean, I shoulda checked in, sorry. Been just distracted. But if you need anything, I'll be sure to be around more. My number's on the fridge, in Kaylee's place."

"I sleep a lot, and Kendall still has a job that he goes and does, but we're doing okay. He's been teaching me about video games, this— ball thing that rolls around and picks up other things for the good of the empire." Valerie tries to explain, even making these gestures with her hands of this 'ball thing' rolling around. "It has really addictive music. I never really got to play video games before, so it's… new."

With that positive mix thrown out, she adds on, "Though Missy's really mad at me. I think she blames me cause I showed up and then Kaylee disappeared— she's chewed up some of the clothes Kaylee got me. I'm not really good with dogs, either. I was always more of a… smaller fluffier animal person."

"I can take care of her," Joseph supposes. He takes care of Missy a lot. But Missy also likes him, so go figure — or at least likes the fact that he fusses over her, feeds her, and smells like his own dogs pretty much constantly. "For now, I'm gonna— try and track down that friend I mentioned. I don't figure him disappearing woulda had much to do with alla this but…"

He shrugs, taking out cellphone to fidget with, a glance to a screen that yields nothing for him acting as punctuation in his pause. "I guess I'm not good at coincidence. Drop the dog 'round tomorrow morning, if you like."

Though he looks like he'd move kind of heavily, his steps are quiet as he makes for the open mouth of the doorway in, before he pauses, and squints at Valerie. "What year're you from again?"

With promises (as she takes it) to watch over Missy, there's immediate visible relief, though Valerie dampens it when the older man returns his worries to another friend of his. "My father never believed in coincidences. In fact he kind of believed in the exact opposite." There's a pause, as she mentions that, a sheepish look as she steps back, to give him extra room to go through the open rooftop door without being obstructed by her small form.

"Two thousand and six," she answers the question after a few moments, as if she has to think about it a little. "November Eight. I was in Grand Central Station, the subway terminal, when… it happened. What Kaylee had to save me from." May not have been ground zero, but it was certainly close enough to be a hazardous place to be at that particular time. "I got a lot of catching up to do, but I've been reading some magazines and newspapers." As well as comic books and video games…

"Headlines get real repetitive after 2007," Joseph advises, somewhat grimly, but he offers a brief smile this time. It's his form of goodbye, for this rendevous, scuffing fingers through dark hair and turning his back completely, ducking into the shadowier interior of the building. His hand snags the edge of the door, partially closing it, but not shutting it all the way.

As he disappears through the doorway, Valerie doesn't move closer, looking out along the city scape. She can't see most of the damage from this roof, it doesn't look too different from the city she remembers— except for small details. And the smallest details can be so much more important than one might think. With a sigh, she says to no one, "Hopefully I skipped the worst years."

Too bad the future's looking about as bright as the shadows spreading across ther eyeline as the sun sets below the tops of the buildings.

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