Thought Bubbles


brynn_icon.gif caspian_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Thought Bubbles
Synopsis Breakfast time usually brings food, but it also brings some thoughts — not all of them happy ones.
Date July 27, 2018

Caspian's House

It’s been a busy week or two for Caspian in the Safe Zone. Mornings start early, with a quick breakfast of oatmeal along with extras for the LHK’s if they come over before heading out to work - either on Keira’s headquarters in the safe zone or on the solar installation at Red Hook Market. There’s been a lot of excitement about the second one, since it’s employing a dozen workers to pull the wires, set up the supports, and make ready for the solar panels to be installed in the next week or so. Caspian is planning a crash course, as it were, on how to plug things in the right way, how to strip the cables, and probably most important, how not to get fried by the voltage coming off the panels if you happen to not plug it in properly or remove the light shields before they’re ready to go live. This friday, though, is the first day that Caspian actually has for himself. Instead of waking at six, he’s up at a leisurely seven. Instead of rushing through a shower in ten minutes, he drains the hot water tank taking an hour-long shower that finds him falling asleep in the tub, waking only when the water got cold enough to rouse him. Now, dressed in running shorts and a shirt, Caspian sits on the front porch of his house with a fan blowing on him and smiles ,sipping at a cup of coffee as he looks out over his domain.

The electric fence hasn’t been on in a while, and the occasional straggler has been chased off by the traffic of the LHK’s coming and going from the building next door. As a newly-minted landlord, he couldn’t ask for better tenants, and with the good things that the LHK’s are doing, it can only make the neighborhood better. As far as he knows, Lance, Brynn, and Joe live there, with the occasional visits by Owain and the near permanent presence of Squeaks.

He really hopes she has a room by now…

Brynn seems constantly out and about lately, rarely pausing in whatever it is she's been doing. This morning, not realizing that Caspian is still home, she trudges — that's really the only word for it — into the kitchen through the back door, not really looking for people so much as rummaging for one of the tins of cookies that she hid over here to keep them away from Joe. The cookies are a specialty of the nice lady at the coffee stand in the market and they are the one thing of which Brynn hoards just a little for herself whenever she manages to buy some.

With a mug filled with tea that she must have brought from the other building and the tin of cookies in her hand, she stops in the doorway looking for all the world, in one pardons the pun, like she's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar!

She offers a somewhat weak smile and wave. Oh hai!

The youngest of those teenagers definitely has more than her fair share of comings and goings. Of course a lot of that has to do with who she’s decided to tag along after that day, or what this day might bring for her. It’s not always that Squeaks is following one of the older ones, either returning or leaving, often enough she’s on her own and running to or from the neighboring building lent out to the small collection of Lighthouse kids. And today is just the same.

Only she didn’t follow Brynn, so she doesn’t know about that secret stash of cookies.

Squeaks is actually coming from another direction. Instead of that narrow roadway across the street, she’s coming from the direction of the library. She’s still a ways down the road, but a familiar figure all the same. She’s got something tucked under one arm, and the other hand looks like it’s bobbing up and down at regular intervals, finger outstretched and pointing vaguely toward the ground.

The emerging LHK gets a smile and a wave, Caspian glancing over as the front door of his house opens. The kids have been good about privacy - Sure, they come over now and again, but they're polite and knock if they know Caspian is around and stay out of the upstairs pretty much all the time since that's his and Keira’s turf.

Good Morning, Brynn. he signs easily. Someone’s been practicing his ASL, it seems. Eleanor making her cookies again? I'll have to see if I can pick some up before she runs out. Again. Or if Joe finds the tin I bought. Again. Short, succinct signing there. Conversational. Enough to get by easily.

Haven't seen you around much. Tattooing have you busy, or have you just been going on adventures?

Chewing the cookie in her mouth, she comes all the way out onto the porch. Brynn's wearing a pair of sweatpants with frayed hems and an oversized T-shirt that might have belonged to one of her brothers before their last major growth spurts — they're not new-looking clothes at all.

She lowers herself into one of the porch chairs and sets her tea down. Tattooing… some nail art. Some sketching. She swallows the cookie and hesitates. Caspian… What is it like out there in places that… aren't New York?

She grew up in the Ferry and in a war and under the tutelage of people for whom crazy shit was normal. Brynn looks like she might have a lot of questions floating in her head. Do people outside of New York have any idea what really happened here? I mean… where we lived in Canada was quiet but… we never assumed we were done with the war, she admits slowly. And… now, with scary crazy videotapes and electric rats in the sewers and whatever else that I don't even know about… Is all this what everyone else does too?

After some steps, a lot of steps, of finger pointing at nothing specific, Squeaks puts that bobbing-pointing hand on the small bundle under her arm. She pats it twice, making sure it’s all still there, and then she takes a hop and a skip. Feet thump lightly against the sidewalk as she starts jogging instead of just walking.

Still a little ways off, she raises a hand and waves a full-arm wave at the house, and at Brynn and Caspian. Squeaks takes another skipping step, but doesn’t run the rest of the way, she stays jogging and skipping every several steps.

Caspian sits and watches, nodding from time to time so Brynn can see that he’s paying attention, the translation from ASL to English in his head taking a second or two before he responds to the question. Wow…well…I can only really give you the viewpoint of me going across the nation before I got here but…yeah. He nods. Let me start with the second question first. Before the war, a lot of people were indifferent. Until it showed up on their doorstep, the whole evolved question didn’t affect them at all. New York was a world away. 9/11 was kind of a special circumstance - people saw that as an attack on America itself. The bombing in New York was just targeted at some evolved people. Like a mosque or something. Just a little splinter group of beliefs. There are some places in America that still doesn’t see that we weren’t a group of beliefs but a group of people that didn’t choose this life, but had it chosen for us. People outside don’t have any idea what happened here, and the powers that be are keeping it quiet, too.

He reaches over to squeeze Brynn’s hand reassuringly. It’s not all bad, though. Caspian finally signs. Crazy stuff notwithstanding, of course. The crazy stuff happens because we’re all concentrated together. New York just happened to be the nexus for a lot of craziness before, and now that we’re all here, it still gets crazy. We know what to look for. But out there? Out there it’s…rougher. He lets that linger for a moment before he continues.

It’s simpler out there. The further west you go, closer to the dead zone, it gets more primitive. At least here we’ve got power and running water, but out past Kansas, you’re on your own as far as that goes. It’s like going back in time out in the dead zones - go west, go back to medieval times.. Some places survived and you can do okay there. Others…. Caspian shrugs. Some places you’re better off not going to. So, no. It’s not like it is here out there at all.

Squeaks approaching gets a wave and a smile

Having lived in 'the wilds,' Brynn understands what he's saying about it being simpler. Home was about making sure they had enough to eat, taking care of one another, being cautious of strangers but not hostile, and being self-sufficient so that if or when the shooting started up again, they were ready. But the idea that so many people were pretty much oblivious is one that she's only recently really become aware of.

She nibbles on her cookie while she absorbs his answer — it answered the questions she asked, but not really the ones in her mind so much. She waves toward Squeaks as the younger girl makes her way to the porch, shooting her a grin.

Catching a lamp post with her free hand, Squeaks swings a circle around it. It’s only a small interruption to her path, impulsive, and she runs a few steps to make up for the lost time. It isn’t too much longer before she’s stopping in front of the gate, though, and giving it the usual look of suspicion that electrified things get these days. She knows it’s probably not on, but she’s still careful about it.

Her foot is used to push open the gate, since there’s rubber on the bottom of her shoes. Just in case. After she’s slipped through the narrow opening, that same foot is used to nudge it closed. Squeaks marches across the yard, shuffling her bundle — which up close looks like a folder full of papers — so that it’s tucked into her overalls and her hands are free. She waves again and places herself beside Brynn.

Watching Squeaks approach reminds Caspian of the old movie ‘Singing in the Rain’ where Gene Kelly did a dance number on a rainy street, spinning around lamp posts and tap dancing to an old standard song. He motions to her as she gets closer to come on in - the lights on top of the fence are off, which means the fence isn’t powered, but the caution the young woman exercises is prudent in this day and age. Before she arrives, there’s a flurry of signs to Brynn that Squeaks may pick up on or may not. If you’d like to talk more, or have more questions about outside New York, let me know and we’ll chat, okay? This is followed up by a smile as Caspian pushes himself to his feet, disappearing into the house for a second as Squeaks mounts the stairs and plunks herself down next to Brynn. When he returns it’s with a pair of bowls of warm oatmeal (and sugar) for the two girls, Caspian re-taking his seat to finish enjoying his morning.

Hands free, Caspian begins to talk and sign at the same time. Haven’t seen you in a while, Squeaks. How’ve you been doing? Basic conversation starter stuff there. Do you have a bed next door yet, or are you still on your own, and does Jude need another bag of dog food? Someone traded me one for some work and I thought of you when I got it.

I guess mostly I want to understand what people outside of our groups really think happened? Brynn offers. And I wish … that I could figure out other things too. Like if I have a purpose. Deep thoughts — perhaps deeper than she means to put out there.

Wrapping an arm around Squeaks, Brynn smiles at the younger teen. Whatcha got, Mouse?

I stay with Brynn. Squeaks’ answer comes before she takes the bowl, which is then settled in her lap so her hands are free again. She offers little of having understood any of the earlier conversation, maybe a tiny bit longer look at Brynn and a silent question, but she doesn’t add to it.

The folder is pulled free and passed over for them to look at. Maps. Making copies to bring to Justin. Squeaks pauses in her explanation to take a huge spoonful of oatmeal. He asked for my help. Aunt Gillian is helping him get his C-O-M badge.

Those are a lot of deep questions coming from Brynn, and sadly, questions that Caspian can’t answer for her. Not that he wouldn’t if he could, but he literally can’t, because it’s all different for everyone. He nods simply and signs I see. The first part is something that needs to be done, really. It’s a question a lot of people have, but I don’t think anyone has done it yet. The second part takes a little more time and self-exploration. You’ll find your place. We all do, eventually. Caspian smiles, Ever thought of becoming a historian?

Then, to Squeaks. Good. he says and signs. I’m glad you’re hanging around up here more. Mention of the COM badge gets a nod. It’s a requirement for evolved folk who want to use their ability to get things done in the commercial sector. Caspian has one himself, even though he really doesn’t use forcefields much in the electrical contracting game, but it’s nice to have just in case he needs to moonlight for something.

I don’t think I met Justin. Another one of the LHK’s?

Brynn perks up at the name Justin. He's here? Primal! and she realizes that in all the crazy, no one's told Caspian the latest news. She glances at Squeaks questioningly, and then signs for Cas, So… Mouse has big news. She and Aunt Gilly have figured out why her maps of the underground are so good! But She lets Squeaks actually tell him her news.

He’s mapping places for horses and cows. For infrastructure. The last word is spoken, while Squeaks looks at Brynn, because her sign is just sort of made up for it. He’s a G-P-S, so my maps of the Underneath will for really reals help him.

She doesn’t get squirmy-excited like she did several days before, but Squeaks grins just the same. The novelty hasn’t worn off at all, yet she keeps herself under control this time. Aunt Gillian said I’m manifested! I don’t need to be stabbed with needles now. I know places and find things by sounds, like bats do!

Big news is always a good thing when it comes to the LHK’s. Except when electric rats and haunted videotapes are involved, but this news? This is a big deal. Wait, so you’re evolved? That’s great, Squeaks! Caspian grins, rocking forward in his seat to sit a little closer to the pair. It makes a lot of sense, though. Your maps of the underneath are pretty much spot on, so being able to sense places fits in really, really good. How does it work? Do you kind of concentrate and see space, or what?

Caspian signs, and sounds genuinely curious.

Brynn gives Squeaks this look when she works out infrastructure — She has to piece it together from the fingerspelled 'infra' and context, but she manages to get the gist even if she's rather boggled by the word itself. She has no idea how you'd sign that one!

But she grins delightedly as Squeaks explains her ability. Putting you and Justin together, we'll never need maps again — wow. I bet he's totally charged over having someone to do this stuff with.

Like bats, with sound. Aunt Gillian used her power on me — and it didn’t hurt — but nothing happened at first. Then, when I said so, all of a sudden I could see everything in the library. Squeaks clasps her hands together for a minute, toes tapping together. She’s not really sure how to explain how it works, because it just sort of happens.

After shrugging at her own wonderings, Squeaks grins up at Brynn. I can’t for reals help, but I can still help. Justin said so. He needs the Underneath maps. And we’re maybe going to map the wild places in the Safe Zone.

That’s pretty primal. Caspian signs with a grin, the older gentleman quickly picking up the LHK’s slang since they’re hanging around with him so much. As Squeaks talks, Caspian nods along. It sounds like it’s exactly like a bat would work. I guess your name is a lot more fitting now. As if it wasn’t fitting already.

He does shake his head. You can help, Squeaks. Being able to see where other people can’t, and being able to use your ability to find things…well…I know /I/ could use you in day-to-day stuff with my business. Who knows how much help you’d be to the city itself, with your underground maps? Just being able to find ways to get things places is pretty special, and you’d be pretty much unbeatable at hide and seek, being able to find places no-one could get to. That last bit isn’t entirely a tease, but its close.

Justin will look out for you, but he won't try to get too much hover-y about it, Brynn signs to Squeaks. I gotta tell the guys that he's there — I don't know if they knew it. She leaves them to talk over the power and stuff, sipping from her tea while they talk.

I forgot to tell he’s here. I’m sorry. Squeaks’ face scrunches a little. She was too excited that day to remember to tell the older teens about Justin, or the work that’s being done. He seems good. Not bossy.

Looking up at Caspian, she shrugs a small bit. The tease, like usual, is missed. She just doesn’t understand them most times. I like it, the people in charge probably won’t. But I do what I want. I bet I can find all kinds of things. Squeaks taps her fingers against her lips as she thinks about all the things she could do.

“Welcome to the land of the Evolved, Squeaks. It’s a lot like regular land, except here you get to do special things that no-one else can do. Oh, and you get a membership card in three to six weeks that entitle you to discounts at local pizza shops.” More teasing, Caspian’s grin giving that away before he goes a little serious. “How are you doing with it though, Squeaks? I remember you telling me about that guy you met who mentioned you were evolved, but not knowing anything about it. Do you have any questions or anything, ‘cause I’m fairly sure if I can’t answer them, Brynn or Joe or Lance have a good idea of what it’s like to be evolved since, y’know, they are some.”

Then, Caspian gets an idea and waves to Brynn. We’ve totally got to teach Squeaks the secret Evolved handshake.

Brynn looks up from her thoughts, perplexed. Handshake? What? She looks between them, figuring she's missed something major in the conversation. Hesitantly, she signs, okay….

But it's perfectly clear she has no idea what the heck is happening here.

“Discounted pizza?” Now Squeaks is excited. So much that she signs the question after saying it out loud instead of at the same time. “But how? Do I just go and tell them and they give it to me?” She really doesn’t get that it’s a joke, and even looks the question to Brynn. Caspain says we get cheap pizza and there’s a secret handshake for being evolved!

Oh Jesus, now Caspian is going to feel like an asshole who's about to tell someone Santa doesn't exist. “I was kidding, Squeaks….sorry.” How can he rescue this? “There's a pizza shop that opens weekly. They owe me a favor, so how about Friday, we go get a pair of pizzas? All you can eat, with all the soda you want. My treat.”

He can't bear to tell her the handshake is fake and he gives Brynn a look, as if to say ‘help?’ He even signs it small, hoping Squeaks misses it.

Oh Lord. You should know she's going to take you literally, Cas,# Brynn chides in amusement. 1E90FF|Pizza on Friday sounds great — there's no secret handshake, Mouse. The Lighthouse originally only had kids with powers. The fact that we adopted you without powers just makes you that much more special to us! Powers just mean we were smart to take you as one of ours,## she tells the girl with a grin. Reaching out, she ruffles the younger girl and simply shakes her head. Silly Cas.

“There’s no cheap pizza?” Squeaks’ excitement deflates like an untied balloon. She even tries to hold on to it with a falling grin and kind of worried eyes that dart between Brynn and Caspian. It’s all fake? her question is slowly formed, as she thinks hard on the joke, and she’s not upset but processing.

After a moment, she decides to take the older girl’s word for it, echoing Silly. Squeaks only looks a teeny bit disappointed, and a little confused still, too. But she agrees anyway with, Pizza on Friday!

The sheepish hanging of Caspian's head is followed by a sincere apology. I'm sorry, Squeaks. I was joking about the pizza and the handshake. Being evolved is like being a part of a big club, so I thought I'd joke about there being a secret handshake and club discounts. I didn't mean to get your hopes up for discounted pizza. I'm just going to have to supply it and whatever food you'd like as a way of apology. Yes, Caspian is offering Squeaks the brass ring of food - whatever she likes, if he can get it, she’ll have it.

“You're a very special person, Squeaks, and that was even before the ability came into play. I'm glad the Lighthouse found you and you took to them.. Caspian leans back a little in his seat. I wish they were around when I went through my run through the country as a support group or just someone to talk to.”

Brynn watches the signs from Caspian and smiles just a little. Poor Squeaks — she's even more sheltered than the Kids. Werent there other people around? New York isn't the only place where Evolved kids were… left in the system, is it? That idea actually makes her a little upset… was it just in New York where people ditched their kids if they were deaf or powered?

It’s okay. Squeaks remains a tiny bit confused, but she she’s not really stuck on the issue. She’s not even mad about it. She’ll probably ask Brynn to try to explain the not-club club thing later. Pizza is good. I like pizza. She puts a finger on Brynn’s arm following the older girl’s question, in her way of offering comfort.

Now that the confusion is all cleared up, Caspian nods to Squeaks, turning his attention back to Brynn and her questions. He’s not one to shy away from difficult subjects - of which this is certainly one - but it will be tempered a little bit by his lack of knowledge. “Okay, so other Evolved kids…it really didn’t work out very well for them outside of here, from what I’ve seen. Fear is a powerful, powerful thing, and it made some people make some pretty despicable choices, and one of them was to not be the loving parents that they should have been. A lot of kids went into the system before the war because of their parents fear, and the government wasn’t much help in keeping them together.”

When the war started, there wasn’t much system left. I was in California when it all started, and as I made my way to the central part of the US, where my mom’s family was, I ran into all sorts of people - and quite a few evolved kids. The common story had foster parents just..leaving them. Escaping the war with their kids and pets, leaving the evolved kids to fend for themselves. They generally found themselves forming little groups, like the LHK’s, but they weren’t nearly as organized or supported as you were. Kind of like small family units of orphans that did their best to just get by.” It’s a grim statement, but it’s the truth. I helped them as much as I could - fixing things or just helping around whatever location they managed to grab that was safe and secure in exchange for a bed.”

Brynn grimaces at the explanation. People suck. She knows that there were genuinely nice people in the foster system. But there were a lot of not-nice ones. She'd been lucky to be identified and shifted into the Ferry network as early as she was. She too would have been one of the kids on the street, probably. She turns her attention back to the tea in her hands and simply nods to Caspian without signing a response. Only the flicker in her gray eyes gives away a tumultuous inner response, but she appears as if she's not going to ask further information.

And she's deaf. So it doesn't really occur to her that the silence might be awkward for the other two.

Looking from Brynn to Caspian, Squeaks only offers a shrug. She’s learned to be wary of grown-ups, and she even stays cautious around those she’s known to be usually safe. But that was learned from being around the adults in her life before the war — they weren’t good people. Her toes tap together, breaking up the monotony of the silence with the faint sound, and pretty okay with just sitting silently. She even tips her head to bump it lightly against Brynn’s shoulder.

The mood has been suitably soured. Caspian sighs and gets to his feet, taking his and Squeaks’ empty bowl in to deposit in the sink to be washed later, returning to his seat after a few moments. “There's only so much that could be done. It's harsh, but it's what happened.” He doesn't mention the west coast or the deadlands - better to not think of those at all.

Squeaks gets a glance and a sigh. “Grownups aren't all bad, despite evidence to the contrary.”

Brynn looks between them and she looks regretful. Sorry, she signs with a grimace. I shouldn't have asked that. It's not really anything useful to know at this point anyway. I need to get going — working at Raquelle's today. She moves to get up, heading back into the house where she can cut through the kitchen's back door to go back over to the other building. Fleeing the scene, so to speak. Just asking the question makes her feel too exposed to the people in the room and she doesn't like it even a little.

Straightening when Brynn starts apologizing, Squeaks starts to get up to follow the older girl. She makes it as far as standing, looking very confused by the whole turn of events, and doesn’t follow further than the door. She stands in the doorway and watches, even for a couple of minutes after she can’t see Brynn anymore.

“She’s sad.” Squeaks’ tone might be a little sad, too, mirroring her understanding of Brynn’s emotion. She can’t explain what’s bothering the other girl, though. She’s not really sure. She takes a step away from the door and looks up at Caspian. “She’ll be okay later. I’ll make sure.”

All Caspian can do is watch as Brynn hurries off, sad that h brought up that kind of reaction. “I know she’s sad, and I know you will check on her.” Caspian’s tone is definitely somber. “She's your big sister after all.” He reaches back to pull the door to, Brynn’s abandoned tin of cookies claimed so they won't be discovered by joe. There are still shelves on the pantry he won't go to, so he’ll be sure the cookies are there for Brynn to find.

“She doesn't talk much about the past or what went on before. I thought she'd bring it up when she was more comfortable. Hopefully honesty is something she'll respect.” He looks over at the Lighthouse next door, as he's started to call the 3 story building attached to his house, then back to Squeaks.. “You're a good little sister, you know. You came in and wiggled you way into all of our hearts, in a good way. Like it or not, you're part of a family now, starring the kids next door, me, and Jude at the very least. If you're okay with that, of course.”

Squeaks can easily understand not wanting to bring up the past. She doesn’t like to remember her own and doesn’t tell much about it either, so it makes sense to her that the older girl wouldn’t want to talk about it even after asking questions. Her arms wrap around her middle as she looks over her shoulder to the house again, her head rocking slowly in a nod.

“Maybe,” she says finally, looking up at Caspian. “I don’t know. Lance and Brynn and Joe and me…” She’s still figuring out that not all grown-ups are bad people, and the trust she’s willing to give those people is as flimsy as a toothpick. So she shrugs to finish off that thought.

It’s as close to a solid yes or no that he’s gotten from Squeaks in some time, when it comes to things like closeness and togetherness. It’s not overwhelmingly negative, either, so Caspian puts that answer in the positive column, as far as Squeaks Answers go. “Don’t worry about it too much, Squeaks. When it feels right, it’ll feel right and you’ll know when it does. You’re smart enough to ask the right questions if you’re unsure, and careful enough to make sure you don’t get into a position you can’t get out of. C’mon.” Caspian pushes himself to his feet, motioning for Squeaks to follow. “Let’s get Jude his dinner and some stuff to take to the people Underneath. Supply trip.”

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