This Bullshit World


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Scene Title This Bullshit World
Synopsis It takes and takes, but sometimes it spits things back out chewed, but alive.
Date November 9, 2017

Somewhere in the Adirondack Mountains

The old hydroelectric dam tucked away in the upper reaches of the Adirondack Mountains hasn’t generated power for years. It sits there, forgotten, gathering rust, moss and slow-creeping tangles of ivy that have gradually overtaken the entire east side of the attached observatory.

Or at least that’s how it appears.

Inside the concrete walls, it’s a very different story; string lights powered by a diesel generator illuminate narrow, labyrinthine hallways in various states of disrepair, well-traffic and cared for by those who call this fortress their home. Salvaged pieces of wooden furniture and frayed oriental carpets, recovered from neighboring ghost towns, decorate otherwise sparsely-decorated rooms in an attempt to lend the space additional warmth.

Feng shui would be less of a priority if the occupants weren’t also raising their children in addition to waging a stealthy war against the U.S. government.

One such room is the nursery: cement floors and overlapping throw rugs, flanked by a rocking chair on one side and a handmade crib on the other. At two and a half, Astor is getting a little too big for his old bed and spends more nights nestled against his cousin Benji — just one year his senior — in his.

He isn’t sleeping at the moment. He’s on Emily’s lap in the rocking chair, his small hands holding open a battered copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which he’s insisting she read to him for the third time in a row. Given his father’s— unique proclivities, this might be considered cause for concern, except that there are more pressing matters at hand and neither of Astor’s parents are present.


"Honey, we've already…"

"Aga-a-ain." Astor's demand is punctuated by the excited slamming of his hand down on the page. Emily wouldn't mind re-reading the story, had she not already spent so much time with it this evening. And he was supposed to be asleep or near enough to it, but here they were, him looking up at her wide eyed and curious.

A momentary standoff occurs, a battle of wills.

It's Emily who has the words to make the story come to life, after all. He can whole-handed turn his way through the book, but it's just not the same.

He knows that. Emily knows that.

"Please?" he asks, using that new word she's been trying to impart on him with impeccable timing.

She can't be mad at this kid. She leans down to kiss the top of his head, wearily considering the storybook. Emily almost had the story memorized word for word and that could not possibly be useful information.

"Let's pick another story, honey. Okay?" she asks gently, and anticipating the fervent headshake that's coming quickly changes tactics. She acts as though a great idea has struck her, and she lets out a gasp, popping her knee up and down.

"Or! Maybe! We play with the dinosaur." Her eyes are wide with wonder as she looks down at him, and he appears to be seriously considering the idea. Suddenly, the book is closed and there's an excited rumbling coming from him sounding suspiciously like 'dinosaur' but also like nothing. She noticed small kids tended to only hold onto the words that got results. 'Again', 'Please', 'I love you.'

She hated 'I love you'. Melted her heart every time. Was practically a weapon of mass destruction, at least when used offensively.

Still, she can't help but smile as he toddles over to the toy, instantly grinning big and surprised right back at him as he picks it up with a wobble. "! Dinosaaaurrr!" Emily reaches out to wave him back with one hand. "Bring it here, Astor." And as he comes back, the overdramatic grin fades into a softer, warmer smile.

He might not be sleeping like he's supposed to, but he was almost always good company.

Clanging comes down the stairs, echoing from more than two rooms over, an arrhythmic beat that doesn't sound like someone walking, more like someone hobbling. Hobbling purposefully. It doesn't take long for the tall, broad shadow of Avi Epstein to come ambling in through the door to the nursery, clothing darkly stained with long-dried blood, eyebrows a little singed looking, and a metal brace — made from recliner hinges, three brown leather belts, and a few hose clamps — strapped to his right leg, locked in an unbent position.

Avi says nothing as he quickly moves into the room, his braced leg not addressed for both its newness and the severity of the injury it represents. Instead he just closes the distance to Emily and Astor in long-legged strides, and wraps one arm around them both as he awkwardly hunches down to them. “Jesus Christ you're ok,” he rumbles. He smells of cigarettes, sweat, gasoline, engine oil, and old blood.

The unusual footfalls causes Emily's brow to start to furrow, waving her hands at Astor with a little more purpose than before. That doesn't sound like… the steps of well, any, of the people she'd be expecting. When he's close enough, she wraps an arm around him protectively, eyes on the door. She wasn't armed, she never brought a weapon with her into the nursery. It was begging for an accident. At the moment, though, hearing that metallic clang, she halfway wishes she'd made an exception.

Tension rises in her with every step closer that's overheard, until the haggard but familiar figure appears in the doorway. "Dad," she breathes, deflating and letting go of Astor. The relief is brief, replaced by alarm as she fully takes in the state he's in. She's halfway standing by the time he crosses the room, and she returns the hug mostly to steer him toward the rocking chair and physically encourage him to sit.

"That should be my line! What happened? Jesus, Dad - you look terrible." She sounds calm enough, for now, though her eyes show the full level of alarm she has. "What happened?"

“You know, just some stupid shit.” Avi admits without really any amusement in his voice in spite of the joking answer. “I made the mistake of helping Eve fucking Mas with some batshit plan of her and wound up getting my ass shot off by a fucking robot, because that's an actual thing that happens to people in this bullshit world.”

Avi has, obviously, never really held back in front of Emily since the end of the world. Or Astor for that matter. The boy will grow up with a colorful vocabulary.

But begrudgingly, Avi leans down into an awkward seated position with his wounded leg kicked out straight. “Pretty sure it's never gonna work right again but, you know, could've been worse. I saw an Eli get hit by a falling drone. Crushed him” Avi pinches his fingers together, “that flat.”

But he's being flippant, and that defensive mechanism has never really worked when it comes to family matters. “I'll be fine. Really. But shit’s probably stirred up for a while. Mas kicked the hornet’s nest so hard she got her fucking foot stuck in it.” At present, he seems disinclined to explain it any more. Until someone can explain to him what happened there.

His companion can’t, because even with all the birds in New York at her disposal, Eileen doesn’t know either. The Englishwoman’s shadow fills the doorway without any of the menace usually associated with dark, lean shapes that seem to appear out of nowhere.

She’s small, light on her feet. Most of her sneaking she does is unintentional.

It’s Astor who notices her first, and only when she’s almost on top of him. She joins Epstein on the floor in a squat and loops both her arms around her son, drawing him into the familiar warmth of her chest. He makes a noise that sounds like his name for her, muffled against her neck and greasy veil of loose hair.

Unlike Epstein, she’s quick to rise again, but not without a grateful look to Emily directed over the top of Astor’s head.

“He’s checking the perimeter.” Gabriel, she means. In case you were followed.

Emily spares an equally grateful look up at Eileen as she collects her son. It lets her turn her attention back to her father, and worry a little less about being a good role model for the moment. No, now she's able to fully address the injury situation and her desire to hit him for one or more of the things he's said.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Emily spits with frustration, swatting at his arm roughly with an open hand. "You sure as shit don't look fine. Did you even stop to treat yourself, or did you just cannibalize a—" A quick glance down at the mechanism steadying his leg doesn't immediately help her know what purpose it served in its past life, unfortunately. "Goddamned jack-in-the-box and come right back here?" The question might just be rhetorical.

She swats his arm again for good measure. Surely there was a kinder thing to do than potentially further injure an already injured man, but there weren't words enough to help her get her frustration and worry out all in one over what he'd been through. Eve's plans always had the threat of incurring a body count, and as glad as she was he wasn't in that number this time, it sounded like it had been a real fucking close call.

Just as abruptly as she'd started smacking him, she's leaning over him, arms tightly around his shoulders again. "What am I going to do with you?" she mutters, trying to downplay her worries even as they bleed into her voice. She's still hugging him pretty firmly. Emily lets out an unsteady sigh, leaning back to place a hand on the side of his face, noticing the unnatural crisp to his eyebrows as she looks him over with stern concern.

“Lawnmower.” Avi says with a raise of his brows, knocking on one of the hinges pieces of metal strapped to his leg. “It was a lawnmower, not a jack-in-the-box.” One hand comes up, reaching to gently grab Emily by the bicep, then stretches up just a bit more and clutches a hand at his shoulder, smiling toothily as she grasps his face with both hands. “I did it myself, too. You should’ve seen those yokels when I fished the bullets out with—”

Avi stops himself, tongue sliding against the back of his teeth and slants a look in Eileen’s direction. “There’s two Lynettes,” Avi says with a slow blink, as if that makes any amount of sense to him. “Literally two of them, but one’s apparently got fucking doom portals instead of lightning? I don’t know.” Avi closes his eyes, quieter. “I don’t fucking know.”

Looking up to Emily, Avi moves his hand down to rest on top of hers, then squeezes it gently. “Seriously, I’ll be fine. Soccer’s out, though. I’ll never go pro.”

She could hit him. Seriously, she's glad he's alive, but Emily is this close to swatting him again. One hand settles on his shoulder, this time to support herself as she stands back upright, the furrow of her brow only deepening in angle as he switches from one topic to another. Her gaze darts to Eileen as well, with an initial slant of wondering if he's talking sense or concussed on top of everything else … but she looks back down at her father, frowning after he closes his eyes.

"The world gets more fucked every day," she murmurs in reply. It must be meant as consolation, as she says it while rubbing his shoulder. "But if she's pointing the doom portals at them still instead of us, you won't hear me complaining. Much."

The attempt at tagging in some humor is made with a stiff, quickly weakening smile. That stern worry is quickly back. "Yeah, forget soccer, you're not going much of anywhere for a while."

It's an order.

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