Twelve Years Gone, Part I


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Scene Title Twelve Years Gone, Part I
Synopsis On the twelfth anniversary of the Midtown explosion, the Safe Zone Cooperative and friends gather together to mourn and remember.
Date November 8, 2018

Red Hook Market

Twelve years ago, the world changed forever.

Though the bomb shook New York City to its foundations, the aftershocks reverberated across the globe and changed the entirety of human civilization forever. Just past a decade, and the new normal of a post-bomb world is defined by tragedies — the 2010 riots, the Columbia 14, the 2011 riots, the Cambridge Massacre, the Second American Civil War — America is sculpted by loss. So on November 8th, when the world feels darkest and memories of that tragedy come clean and painful… it is how people choose to commemorate the darkest times that defines them.

In the New York City Safe Zone memorials are scattered city-wide. From personal memorials, large candle-lit vigils, public prayer meetings, all the way down to WSZR’s November 8th memorial broadcasts. Everyone mourns differently, and everyone experienced the tragedy of the last decade and change from a different perspective.

In the neighborhood of Red Hook, the Safe Zone has come together not to memorialize the tragedy that unfolded twelve years ago or the loss of the “old world” that existed only in memory before, but to celebrate the lives of those who survived. To celebrate the community that refuses to fall. To celebrate life on a day so often associated with death.

Upstairs, in the ground-floor offices and public gathering spaces, local religious communities have come together to pray using the communal space offered by the Safe Zone Cooperative. Though this solemn time may appeal to many of the Safe Zone’s residents, it isn't where most of the council wound up. For below the prayer groups, below the candle-light vigils, in the vaulted ceilings of the Red Hook Market’s subterranean kiosks and shops, it is a space to remember the living.

Local businesses that rent kiosk spaces in the market have converted their storefronts to collect charitable donations. Some vendors, especially good vendors, have simply opened up shop and donate coffee and cocoa to the many Safe Zone citizens here to find an alternative to the somber affairs above. Hundreds of city residents gather in small groups, conversing and commiserating. Tears are common among the groups as they share stories of survival, stories of resolve, stories of the good days that could be found in the dark.

Council members Joanne Dair and Mira Sadowsky observe the proceedings from the barstool seats at Eileen’s Coffee, and the proprietor Eleanor Ridgeley seems content to fill her role as caffeine-pusher to the masses. The singing, prayer, and hand-holding up above is a little too much for her.

“Looks like this played out alright,” Mira says over the brim of her coffee to Joanne. “The Yamas giving us a fat stipend of food probably didn't hurt. But this…” she motions to the crowds with her cup, “is pretty excellent. Willa’d want it this way…”

Joanne looks over to Mira at the mention of Willa’s name, then smiles sadly and looks back to the crowd. “Bunch’a folks tried to get me t’go out to the Brick House,” she says quietly, shaking her head. “I'd say this is a sight better…”

There’s been a general attempt to be anonymous tonight; that old bomber jacket from Chicago Air, the logo faded and leather battered to say the least, a ball-cap to shadow his features, worn jeans. Most people wouldn’t see CEO Richard Ray when they look at him, because why would someone in a position like that be dressed like this tonight?

It’s just outside the coffee-shop that he pauses, looking up at the sign. A faint, rueful smile curves to his lips as he comments to nobody at all, “If they only knew.”

If they only knew indeed. Caspian wasn’t anywhere around here when the bomb erased years of progress. That single explosion was the one domino that started a chain of events that led to death, destruction, famine, and war that will take a generation to dig out of at least. He may not have been here when it all started, but he’s in the middle of it now, and with Keira out doing something on the island with her boys, it was up to him to go somewhere and do something beyond sitting at home and listening to the festivities on the radio.

Dressed comfortably for the weather, Caspian doesn’t need to worry about being incognito - people don’t know who he is other than a guy on the street, and even then, if they do manage to see him while at work, it’s in coveralls while doing electrical work or with a respirator and gloves if he’s doing his painting. He makes his way through the crowds, glancing at the lights mounted on the ceilings, the conduits vanishing into darkened tunnels, out of the way of any sort of tampering or passerbys hands to keep safe and un-scavenged, the power plugs marked with orange ‘DO NOT USE’ tags. Those will come off in a few days or so, when the power’s turned on, but for now, he simply moves through the market towards the coffee shop, leaving small donations in his wake as he goes.

Clara Winters certainly doesn’t have much reason to be here. She wasn’t around New York when the bombs hit — that she knows of, at least. In fact, she has no memory whatsoever of the bombs; she woke up a few weeks later in an Alberta hospital, with only her name and apparent age left in her memories. As far as she knows, she didn’t lose anyone.

However, her siblings knew people, and this is as good an excuse as any to go out in public. Today, she has her rather chubby skunk perched upon her shoulder, the hood of her jacket acting as a sling for the traditionally smelly creature to rest in. Ron is in her pocket with a bit of dried rabbit meat, as well.

The young woman slips through the crowds, Pepe Le Pew’s presence causing most people to give her a wide berth. Having seen the coffee, she is making a beeline for it. Caffeine is probably the only substance that Weasel enjoys, and it sounds especially good tonight. So focused is the girl that she doesn’t manage to evade someone who is not paying attention either, and the small teenager ends up being knocked right up against one Richard Ray. “Shit, sorry!”

It feels a bit counterfeit being here for Iris Earhart. She's not from New York, and she certainly wasn't in the country for the Civil War or any of the strangely yearly tragedies preceding it. But, perhaps that why she feels so good about helping out here tonight - she doesn't need to be here, but she is. Both to support friends in the Co-Op, and to support those here to remember and grieve.

She moves from patron to patron, carrying cups of coffee from Eileen's out into the masses on a white serving dish while trying to keep her light blue coat from catching on anything - though there's only two cups left at this point. So far she's managed to avoid causing a scene by spilling any of it, which good because she's trying to keep her smile bright tonight to help everyone else do the same.

Today is not an easy day for Niki Zimmerman. Coffee clutched in hand, her eyes are red from crying, dark circles tattling about lost sleep. But this is meant to be a celebration of the things they still have, reclaimed, or newly found. The good things in their lives. And locking herself up in her home isn't going to dull the unhappy memories that weigh heavy on her heart. At the very least, she can distract herself.

One such excellent distraction stands not too far away. The commotion of a collision has caught her attention, and it doesn't take long for Niki to lay eyes on Richard. The smile she offers him is weak, but no less genuine for it. She lifts one hand away from her coffee to hold up in greeting.

Niki can spot a few plainsclothes military from a distance easily, too. Two jarheads in hoodies and work boots are moving through the crowd, not looking for anyone in particular but clearly doing a security canvas. It isn't clear why at first until she spots a mostly bald, gray-haired man in a bomber jacket and flannel shirt working the crowd. He's instantly recognizable to native New Yorkers, not just from recent media but from before the war as well. Marcus Donovan, the nascent police commissioner of the NYC Safe Zone.

“Is he as much of a prick as he looks?” Joanne asks Mira as a quiet aside, sharing a conspiratorial smile with her over a cup of coffee. Mira makes a face, then slowly shakes her head.

“He's a moderate. Seems to have changed his tone a bit since the war. Willa liked him, back when he ran for mayor.” She looks back to Joanne, who just nods and stares Donovan down with a hint of distrust.

“I was hoping the first commissioner of the NYPD after all this shit wouldn't be a well-off white guy,” Joanne adds with a shrug, slouching back against the coffee bar, cradling her cup in one hand. “Whatever, he's Slice, so he's not gonna put people in camps. Bar’s low in my book these days.” Mira just gives Joanne a slow side-eye at that.

Over by the handful of people who recognized him, Commissioner Donovan is shaking hands and being generally good-natured about the public interaction. “No, I'm thrilled too. You'll know when I do about precincting, but I'm glad to hear some of my would-have-been constituents from back in the day wound up okay.” He flashes a smile. There's no cameras. No press. Not even the Siren is here tonight. He's just doing this.

A breath’s drawn in, exhaled, and Richard turns back to the open doors proper— catching sight of the upraised hand, he actually smiles a little past the shadows in his eyes. “Hey,” he calls over to Niki, stepping in—

— just in time for him to be bumped into, and with a movement like he’d practiced it his hand’s on the girl’s wrist. One brow lifts upwards as he looks down at the girl with the skunk, and he brings up his other hand to wag a finger back and forth once. “Not the night for this shit, kid,” he tells her firmly, “Work some other night. Not tonight. Not here.”

Weasel stops in her tracks as the man grabs her wrist, eyes wide as she stares up at the much taller man. She pulls away rather quickly, still staring at Richard, even as the skunk’s tail pops up in warning, his paws stamping against the woman’s shoulder. Thankfully, a silent glance to the little creature calms it down. He’s not yelling and it doesn’t seem like he’s about to turn her in, and logic dictates that she avoids spraying the man with skunk stink in the middle of a crowd unless truly necessary.

“I wasn’t working.” She frowns up at the man, reaching up to scratch the skunk on the head. “The opportunity presented itself, and I have mouths to feed.” It presented itself a few times earlier tonight, and those people weren’t so attentive, but she’s not going to mention that.

“Thanks for not raising a stink.” Har har.

Finally, Caspian manages to make it through the crowd to Eleanor’s coffee shop. The little old lady is doing her best to keep up with the demand, with an ancient cast iron coffee grinder set up on the counter to maintain a flow of roasted beans that are coming out of the store room in the back at a pretty substantial pace. “John, be a dear and put another load on to roast. Sixteen minutes, medium roast. Listen for the second cracking.” She claps her hands and shoos John from his spot by the register to the back room. “Chop chop, now.” Eleanor turns to the next person in line. “What can I get you, dear?”

Everyone is dear to Eleanor. The Marketplace’s Grandmother.

Caspian, coffee cup in hand finally, turns to regard the crowds swirling about the marketplace. He catches sight of the two council members at the stall with him, engrossed in conversation, as well as Donovan making the rounds. Despite dating a hardened criminal, Caspian is the perfect image of law abiding. He should probably make an introduction to the man at some point when he comes this direction. Still, waiting for a break in the conversation, Caspian approaches Joanne and Mira, watching the crowd around. Taking a sip, Caspian notices a passerby with a skunk on her shoulder and a man scolding her for something. They’re too far away for him to hear what he’s saying, and he can’t read lips, but it seems that she might have been caught doing something she shouldn’t. For a second, Caspian considers reaching for his wallet, but it’s safely tucked in his breast pocket where it can’t easily be gotten to, buttoned inside a pocket to add another layer of difficulty.

“This seems to be going well.” He says, more to himself than anyone, taking another sip of his coffee. “The zone could always use a pleasant evening.”

The concern Niki has for the scene unfolding between Richard and the kid who apparently tried to pick his pocket is derailed by her notice of Donovan's glad-handing. Richard can more than take care of himself. Donovan's guards look pretty capable of looking after him too.

Cradling her coffee to her breastbone – or the red scarf covering it, more accurately – she watches for a moment with unveiled interest. He seems genuine enough. That's good. The Safe Zone needs all the genuine willingness to help it can get. Maybe she can talk him into helping them winterize the garden for a photo op? A smile curves the councilwoman's lips. No. Press presence slows everything down. But it was nice to imagine someone else pitching in for a moment.

Turning from her daydream, Niki's focus returns to Richard with a look of quiet exasperation.

Exasperation means one thing: someone needs coffee. That's what Iris seems to think as she slides up to Niki and Richard, offering out her last cup of coffee to them. "It's nice to see you both out here!" she offers with as much enthusiasm is appropriate for a night like tonight. A look over towards Weasel - that might be part of why she slipped over too, but she only smiles at the young woman.

"This is kind of incredible," Iris offers in a lower voice to Niki, before glancing over at RIchard - she recognises him, but doesn't really seem to think much of having Raytech's CEO here. "I wasn't in New York for… " She looks back out and around. "It's amazing to see people come together like this." There's genuine astonishment in her voice, too.

Joanne slides a look over to Caspian with a familiar tilt of her chin up. “Hey there electrician,” she's more likely to refer to someone by a nickname or trade rather than their proper name. Caspian’s never been quite certain where Joanne picked up the habit, but everyone seems familiar with it. “Saw you hammerin’ and sawin’ and whatnot up in the roof. Good work, I'd wager. Probably better than that slipshod Yama work.” She also doesn't have much of a high opinion of Yamagato Industries as of late.

When Joanna says the word Yama, Mira reaches over and puts a hand on her shoulder. Easy, killer. “Caspian, right? I remember you from the meetings moreso than for your line of work. But folks have brought your name up quite a bit. It's nice to actually see you in a… less formal environment.” Even if somewhat portentous timing.

“Hey hey,” comes a boisterous voice over to Richard as Donovan makes his way in with both arms spread as if he's coming in for a hug. “Look at you coming out of your brick box for the night, eh? Folks are doing a fine damn job here tonight.” Donovan is a little more on than the tone of the gathering would suggest is appropriate. It's emphasized by the bearbug he forces on Richard and a clap of hands on the CEO’s shoulders.

“Don’t we all,” says Richard, releasing the girl’s wrist with a shake of his head; a hand sliding into his jacket and emerging with his wallet, thumb curling into the leather folds to open it. A hundred’s pulled out and offered to the teenager, brows up, “Here. Feed ‘em with this and don’t do any more of that shit tonight… “

Turning to step away, he’s suddenly embraced— a surprised chuckle escaping him as he claps a hand on Donovan’s back. “I can’t stay away, not…” The smile fades a bit, “Not tonight. Tonight, I don’t deserve to have a safe place up there.”

An awkward pause, and he clears his throat before gesturing to a table. “Have you met Niki Zimmerman? Old friend of mine, she’s on the Citizen’s Watch— hey Niki, this is Donovan, although I’m sure you figured that out.”

The offer of coffee gets a tired, faint smile and a nod of thanks as he accepts it from Iris. “Couldn’t stay away.”

For a moment, Weasel stares alternately at the hundred dollar bill and Richard Ray, eyes wide like some feral creature who isn’t sure she should trust this. Ultimately, though, the teen’s hand darts out, taking the bill and shoving it into the pocket of her jeans. “Thank you. I won’t do any more tonight.” The skunk, in a strangely human gesture, reaches out and briefly touches Richard’s arm with the claws on one paw.

Then, the girl slips around Richard, pausing to stare wide-eyed at Marcus Donovan as he greets the man who just let her get away with attempted pickpocketing with a hug. She doesn’t know a lot about New York and the Safe Zone, but she knows who he is.

Doing her best to disappear, the girl slips into the coffee shop and orders herself a coffee. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to disappear when one has a skunk hanging out on their shoulders. “I’m gonna get you guys some eggs tonight, Mister Le Pew.” She reaches up to scratch the skunk’s chin, smiling fondly at the creature.

"Councilwomen." He'll probably drop the whole 'councilwomen' part, since they're now on speaking terms, but Caspian lifts his coffee with a nod and a smile. In another time that gesture might have been used for a commercial in the middle of the morning news, but here it's just a friendly greeting between companions.

"Joanna and Mira, right? Just making sure my mental rolodex is working properly." He chuckles. "That's right. Caspian. You're probably used to seeing me in the tan gear with a hard hat on, up on the roof somewhere." He looks up at the solar array glinting in the fading light. "It's probably my best work, up there, too." He gestures towards the roof, just in case there's any doubt of what's being discussed. "Getting that all set up properly has been a long time coming. Thanks to the council and the workers you've helped me recruit, we're almost 100% buttoned up. I figure that once the spare power cells arrive from China, we can do a soft power on before the official hand over. Heck, I could probably get the lights going right now if you gave me about twenty minutes."

He pauses, taking another sip of the good-tasting coffee. "All that power stuff aside. This is nice. If either of you had any hand in getting this set up, good job. It's giving the people something to remember those who were lost in the past. Even if we weren't all here in New York, we all were in spirit."

Marcus Donavan greeting - no, hugging Richard Ray - who is seeming to try and want to be less than obvious in his movements here in the Marketplace gets a smile and a shake of Caspian’s head. “Good thing the new Police Chief is already out, pressing the flesh, making a name for himself. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the Safe Zone.“ Just like everyone else.

Caspian follows the movements of the woman with the skunk riding shotgun on her shoulder. She was just with Richard Ray and Donavan, and has a skunk. That could be very…ahem…noxious if she got jostled and the skunk felt threatened.

“Less of the same, more of something better,” Donovan is quick to fling off the cuff to Caspian, keeping one firm hand clapped to Richard’s shoulder. It took a minute, but Richard now sees what’s behind those gregarious eyes. A little dose of fear. Donovan doesn’t apparently like crowds overly much, and after the chaos that was his life it’s hard to blame him.

“Miss Zimmerman,” Donovan is quick to direct his attention over to her. “I’m not familiar with you, but I believe I’ve met your mother at a few charity fundraisers. If you’re half as dangerous as she is, well, I’ll try not to embarrass myself,” he says with a nervous flick of self-deprecating humor. “Your ah, sister? Tracy? She was in politics, right? How’s she doing?” Oh, Donovan.

Having heard enough from Commissioner Donovan, Joanne slides a look back at Caspian. “A little independence would be nice t’night,” she says in agreement with regards to the power, “but I’d rather not have anything glitch up and spoil the mood. We’ll flip the switch nice an’ discreetly when nobody’s looking, that way if we get egg on our faces it’ll be our little secret.” She tips back her coffee at that comment.

Mira eyes Joanne for a second, then Donovan, and manages a polite and wordless smile as she slides off of her stool. “I’ll be right back,” she says softly, insinuating herself into the periphery of Donovan’s conversation with Richard and Niki.

Oh, my other sister and I disowned her, is probably not a great way to start a conversation. And it isn't the first time someone's looked at her face and seen her estranged sister instead. Tracy Strauss made a name for herself. It only makes sense. Niki smiles, hoping it isn't too tight, and offers a non-committal, "Oh, you know Tracy." Even though he obviously does not.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Niki offers more genuinely. "Glad you could make it out for this. I'm sure you must be terribly busy." She catches motion from the corner of her eye and darts a glance. "Ah, Mira!" Her smile broadens, gesturing for the other councilwoman to join their small knot of conversation.

It’s a good thing that Niki offers that comment about her sister, as Richard was clearly— to her, at least— about to say something much less polite. He drops himself down to sit beside her, a hand coming up to rub at the side of his neck.

“It’s a hard night for all of us,” he admits, “Appreciate you coming down, Marcus. Just to warn you, I plan on getting drunk as hell shortly to see just how drunk I have to be to forget what tonight is.”

He turns his head a bit to offer a faint smile to Miss Zimmerman, “At least it’s not as bad as it was a year ago.” Before he knew Liz was alive.

“It’s a hard night for everyone,” Donovan agrees, offering a brief look to Richard before he returns his attention to Niki. “I’d been meaning to talk to you, actually.” Sidling up beside Niki, Donovan crosses his arms over his chest and looks to the others gathered in the basement below the prayer group, watches the way the community comes together to mourn. The painted smiles and politician’s grace melts from Marcus, and he shakes his head with a wistful smile.

“You know what,” Donovan says to himself, more so than Niki. “Maybe it can wait,” he adds, looking up and over to her. Mira, having made her way over to this corner of the conversation, hesitates when she hears Donovan’s voice, and reassesses things with a tentative and yet also eager look in her eyes. “I think there’ll be enough time for talking business later. Maybe after the holidays…”

Mira slinks back at that, teeth worrying at her bottom lip, before she disappears back into the crowd — not returning to Joanna’s conversation with Caspian, but simply melding in with the mourning Safe Zone residents, becoming a part of that ambient sorrow. Donovan offers a faint smile to Niki and Richard, then looks back to the crowd.

“Makes you think, doesn’t it?” Donovan says to no one in particular. “How long it’ll be before there’s people that age,” he motions to some teenagers in the crowd, “who were born after the war. Who don’t remember how bad it was, or how hard we had to fight for the freedom we have now.” Donovan’s brows furrow, and his eyes take on a distant, glassy quality. “We can’t let this happen again…” he says in a hushed tone of voice.

And it’s the last thing he has to say for a while.

The dead don’t need words to be mourned.

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