Welcome to the Underground


jaiden_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Wlecome to the Underground
Synopsis A Ferry courier drops in to welcome a new recruit to the network… and is herself shown around the Underground.
Date August 19 2010

Jaiden's Garage

Jaiden's Garage is in an out-of-the-way Industrial area in New York, built into a small warehouse originally used for receiving of imported goods. Made of brick mounted on a concrete foundation, it looks to have been built in the late 1800's and, despite the trials and tribulations the city has gone through, has survived with nary a scratch. The main front area of this converted warehouse is perfectly suited for an automotive repair shop. A concrete slab has been poured for parking in between the main doors - two heavy metal doors that retract into the ceiling, allowing giant vehicles entry without too much problem. A third, smaller door is next to the other two, leading into an office of some kind. A high chain link fence surrounds the yard, and from the roof the glinting of something can be seen - perhaps cameras, perhaps solar panels.

Inside the warehouse, the floor is smooth concrete, certain areas worn as shiny as a sheet of glass from years of foot and wheel traffic. A pair of serviceable hydraulic lifts from the 50's sit in their separate, well-lit bays along with a wheel balancing machine near the right wall, all painted a dull fire-engine red, ready for any repair necessary. Behind a long counter in the back is a steel cage where all the tools are locked when the shop is not in use. Pretty much anything you would want to use, from cutting torches to wrenches to spring compressors, can be found in that shop or rigged up from the bits of steel floating around this place. Tucked into the northeast corner is a small office area, walled off, with a pair of small windows looking outside and a decent-sized air conditioner built in, for comfort during the heated days of summer. A third staircase inside the steel cage leads down to the basement apartment.

It's a little before 11:00am at Jaiden's Garage and already things are heating up. The sun is high overhead and the lack of breezes today promise that it'll be hot and due to the proximity to the coast, it'll stay that way. But Jaiden, awesome mechanic as he is, has already finished the work for the day, a small sign posted on the closed and locked garage doors. It reads simply "Bleedin' hot. Call this number if you need something fixed. I'll be out in a jiffy." followed by a quickly scribbled arrow pointing toward a handset dangling from a hook sunk into the brick and a red button. Press the button to summon Jaiden and talk when he picks up - simple enough.

Downstairs Jaiden is just finishing up a shower, washing the grime of working on a transmission from his hands. Dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt, feet bare, he's the very image of comfort and relaxation as he pads across the carpeted floor to plop down on his couch and zone out for an hour or two. But plop he does not do, since the stitches in his back are still there, so it's a more gentle recline, but the end result is the same. Relaxation. :)

Up top, a black and chrome motorcyle swings off the road and comes to a halt before the garage. As its powerful engine rumbles into silence its leather-clad rider kicks down the stand, before swinging off the gleaming vehicle and peering around the area. Though the tinted visor remains down to conceal the features beneath, the rider seems to put some effort into studying her surroundings.

After doing so, however, she strides over to peer at the sign. A few moments of fiddling see the helmet removed and tucked under one arm, before the handset is picked up and the red button nudged.

Deep inside the garage somewhere, even from outside, a soft buzz can be heard when the button is pushed, a salvaged klaxon from some amusement park ride telling the man inside that someone's hitting his button. Downstairs, Jaiden rolls off of his couch and grabs for the phone, hits a few buttons and then, static. "This is Jaiden." He says, his voice very, very Australian. "What can I do for you up there?" He grabs the remote and hits the Source 3 button, the feed from the security camera trained on the handset coming into view, giving him a look at who's trying to give him a ring.

The bike certainly doesn't look to be in need of any work. A 1000cc Triumph Tiger, it appears to be very well cared for. Its rider is a moderately tall woman - pale skin, brunette hair bound into a braid that disappears down the back of her reinforced biker's jacket. The accent when she talks is British, and educated.

"Hi there. Some mutual friends told me about you. Though I should drop by, say hello, and see if there's anything a courier can do for you."

Mutual friends…that could only mean one group. "No…nothing couriered right now, but if you'd like, you can come on down and take a look around." There's a buzz as a maglock door disengages. "Through the door, down the stairs, and to the apartment down there. I'll give you the grand tour." Jaiden hangs up and goes up the stairs, unlocking the top door and waiting to see if she takes his invitation

The visitor delays long enough to secure her bike, then heads inside, unzipping her jacket as she nudges open the door and moves within. Flashing the mechanic a smile, she offers a gloved hand to shake. "Hi there. I'm Ygraine. You'd be Jaiden?"

"That'd be me, yep." Jaiden replies, taking the hand and giving it a firm, but polite, shake. "Hana said she'd be sending folk by, now and again, to check up on me and see how things were doing." His free hand slaps a button on the wall and the gate outside, the one Ygraine drove through with her bike, closes automatically. No sense in leaving such a beautiful machine out in the open in this neighborhood. He smiles and motions for the brown-headed woman to follow. "Pleasure to meet someone who sounds a bit more cultured than most. Care for some tea?"

Ygraine's grip is a bit firmer than might be expected, and she cracks a grin as she falls into step after him. "I'm honestly here to try to be helpful, rather than to keep tabs on you. And tea sounds lovely, thank you. Though it's delightful cool compared to much of the recent weather, it's still rather warm out there for a Brit, I admit."

He chuckles as he heads down the stairs, opening the door wide to allow Ygraine in first, closing the door behind the pair and walking to the kitchen where the kettle is acquired and put on the fire to heat. "That's lovely as well, the fact that you're here to help out if I need it. I did make it known that I wanted to meet more of the people in the Ferry at some time or another, so I just take visitors as little gifts that help me extend my understanding and contact area just a bit more."

Down in the basement it's nice and cool - perhaps 23-24 C, with a few lamps burning here and there. The kitchen is well lit, though, with under-counter lighting and a light in the hood above the stove, so it's easy to see and move around the surprisingly spacious underground apartment. "I'm from the other side of the world where 40 C is normal during the summer. I prefer the cool and try to keep it that way as much as I can, but I'll survive the hot as well."

Ygraine laughs softly, stripping off her gloves and tucking them into one zipped pocket, before shrugging out of her jacket. "For me, American "room temperature" tends to feel rather warm. I grew up in Scotland, where zero's cold and twenty's warm. This place's wild variations can be a bit of a challenge, at times."

"These are the times that try your soul, after all. A little adversity from nature is bracing. It teaches you your limits and allows you to push them further than you would have thought possible." The kettle starts to whistle and Jaiden carefully moves it to an unlit burner before retrieving a pair of china tea cups, saucers, and two brass tea balls. "is there a particular tea you prefer? Earl Grey, perhaps? Scottish Breakfast in honour of your ancestral home? I've got a few to choose from…"

Ygraine's laugh this time is rather loud. "I can't remember when I last had the full Scots breakfast. I don't think I'll accept now, however. I've already eaten. But Earl Grey would be fine. I'm not much of a tea connoisseur, in all honesty."

Turning around, she slings her jacket over one shoulder, curiously eyeing her surroundings. "Did you modify this place yourself, or acquire it with the living quarters already in place underground?"

Jaiden chuckles as he rummages around in the cabinets for a moment, coming out with a small tea box, Earl Grey written on the side in a looping, careful calligraphy which is set on the counter next to the tea balls and the like, the man filling them with careful measured movements. "I'll have to invite you over one morning, then, to give you a taste of home. Only authentic not like when people take me to Outback Steakhouse and ply me with Fosters until I'm sick of the stuff."

The tea cups and saucers are set on the table, the steaming hot kettle set on a hot pad in the middle, and the tea balls, milk, sugar, and honey ready for use if required. "I originally purchased this place a little after the bomb. The market crashed and I got it for a song - paid cash under an assumed LLC that doesn't trace back to anything more than a post office box. This, down here, was storage, so I modified it and when registration started happening, I modified it again." He steps away from the kitchen area and down the hall where a bookcase appears to be solidly mounted to the thick stone wall behind. Three books are pulled on different shelves in a specific order and, with a ratcheting sound, the case swings back on well-oiled hinges, mounted to what looks like an inch-thick steel plate with brass wire covering the inside. "If you'd like to take a look, you'll see what I have available." (IC'ly, now you can see the bottom part of the desc if you look, normally it's hidden)

Ygraine laughs, shaking her head sympathetically. "I can imagine. I've been plied with all sorts of things that people think will be 'a taste of home'. I do try to avoid fry-ups, but I suppose I could indulge at some point. It's not as if I'm in full-time training any more."

With her jacket off, she's showing a good deal of bare back and bright tattoo - and no small amount of athletic toning, either. In spite of the curves, she looks about as much of a professional athlete as does Jaiden himself.

"I bought my own apartment in oh-eight, when things were still very much at a low ebb financially. I doubt I could afford it even now. I certainly couldn't have done so before the Bomb…. Not that I've tried fitting it with hidden rooms, I admit."

"After the bomb, getting this set up was easy, comparatively. With so much construction going on, so many people here and there, so many people in need of help….well, you get that." He gestures to the room. "Originally it was just going to be one giant apartment underground, but adding on the secrecy turned out to be a good thing for the nine I helped get away."

"Nine?" Ygraine both sounds and looks impressed. "I can see why the Sailing Club were so keen to induct you as a member. That's… really quite… wow." Chuckling, she shakes her head. "What got you into it? 'I know - I'll run a private underground railroad' isn't exactly a common thought, so I'm a little curious."

Jaiden puts one of the tea balls into his cup and pours the water over it, a fragrant cloud of steam rising as he starts his cup steeping. "Well, originally what got me into it was my experiences around the world. I used to be a photojournalist, y'see, and I've seen many….horrors." He doesn't want to explain any further or give examples but he's seen stuff, Man…. "Hearing about the registration that was going on? It's the first step in ethnic cleansing - find out who they are and where they are before you wipe them out. And me…being evo…" He lifts his hand and the water in the pot, still steaming, twists out of the spout and into the other cup like a serpent. "I don't go into the darkness without a fight."

Ygraine chuckles ruefully. "I was interning at the UN, back in oh-six", she says quietly. "Finding out whether I could cut it while trying to make a difference. The Bomb kind of threw my plans into flux… and when I got back here, I wanted to try to do something useful. Running an underground railroad didn't occur to me, I admit. I was still hopeful of seeing it made unnecessary…"

"Hey, when you go, might as well go all the way." Jaiden grins, her cup full, the water snaking back into the pot after a moment or two. "I figure my power will get me fined and imprisoned for not registering, or mabye put away for being too powerful, like that Moab place, and until that happens, I'll get as many people out as I can. Being a member of the sailing club helps. I heard of 'em, but no-one ever approached me until a few weeks ago."

Ygraine offers another chuckle. "Don't feel too bad about that. They're not always the best at recruiting people. One of the problems of a decentralised network. I first heard of them… just about exactly two years ago now. I went on a mission with a couple of them in January last year. Only actually got formally recruited early this year."

"I picked a hell of a time to join up - right at the end of that hospital assault. You there, you're good with water…we're going to make it rain. Go do stuff. Off with you." His voice gets a lower british royal tone to it when he talks, his chest puffing out. He's mocking, playfully, before pulling his tea ball out and sipping to test the strength. "But seriously…it's nice to have a little support structure when you were doing it all yourself. Even a voice on the other end of the phoen to tell you that you're doing the right thing…the praise isn't necessary, but helps." The teacup is slid across the table, the ball removed. "Do you take milk or sugar?"

"Just milk, please", Ygraine says quietly. "I missed the whole hospital excursion - I was on the other side of the Pond at the time it happened - and I admit I'm glad I wasn't involved… it sounds horrible, to be honest."

"Twas not a pleasant evening." Jaiden says as the milk is slid over within easy reach of the woman, sitting back in his chair, sipping his tea with a bit of honey added. "I was outside, and I thank my lucky stars that I was, hearing the stories about what was inside."

Ygraine claims a chair of her own, slinging her jacket on the back of it before reaching for the cup. "I've not heard any details from anyone who was there. Just… rumours and the media reports. Me… my first field trip with the Club was the Consolidated Edison affair."

"I was up top, keeping the perimeter secure while the other teams went in. We were twelve when we started, and after 20 minutes, down to six. I saw a few things that need to be told once I'm at a safer place - US troops shooting down surrendering members of Messiah, for example. Not pretty. Still…" He sips his tea. "Watching a man of iron take on a state-of-the-art Battle Tank was pretty damn impressive."

"Man of iron? The former President-elect? I didn't realise that he was still around and active, really. You'd think he'd… well. Stand out a bit more, whatever form he was in." Ygraine ruefully shakes her head. "I came face to muzzle with a tank at ConEd, but I can't claim to know how state of the art it was. I rather hastily got out of the way… and one of the people I was with… disposed of it. That was quite scary."

Jaiden's brows arch. "That was him? Funny. I thought he'd be taller. I didn't even catch his name but I did watch him do some pretty nimble things for a guy that looked to weigh fifteen tonnes." Jaiden is quiet for a moment, looking at the ceiling where thick bunches of wires are strapped to the joists above. "That con-ed thing….I never got the whole story. I just know there was power one day, and the next, there wasn't. My generator kept me going and kept a lot of the people around here from getting out of hand."

"It was part of the whole mess of things that happened on the same day. The bridge going down and the like… that was related to a planned set of attacks, but wasn't done by terrorists." Ygraine sighs, eyeing her tea, turning the cup to and fro between her fingers.

"There was an organisation called the Vanguard, run by someone called Kazimir Volken. It seemed to have been inspired by some of the old medieval millenarian cults… and by some twentieth century approaches to 'purity'. The goal was to purge the world of those elements that could be considered unclean."

The Briton looks up, sighing heavily. "Whether anyone was actually meant to survive, I'm not sure. But the intent was to release the bigger, nastier brother of H5N10 and kill at least six billion people around the globe."

The basement suddenly grows colder, or perhaps it's Jaiden going pale. "Six….Billion?" The cup clatters against the saucer as he sets it down, half-drained. "That's horrible. Genocide on a global scale. That…." He shakes his head in disbelief. "That's horrid. Thank god he was stopped."

"ConEd… was a major part of that", Ygraine murmurs. "They'd got mortars. They were going to launch bombs over Manhattan. A scatter-pattern to disperse it widely. We blocked that. But they'd got a back-up plan."

Another sigh, and Ygraine looks down at her tea once more. "There are - were - steam tunnels. That would let it be released under the city. Not as quick or as sure to infect as many people, but still…. The guy who took out the tank, he was nominally a sonic manipulator - but he carried that into non-audible levels, and was able to produce the effects on quite a terrifying scale. He… brought down ConEd on top of himself, to seal the tunnels and destroy the equipment for releasing the virus."

Jaiden lifts his cup of tea a bit above head height. "A toast, then, to the un-named Champion. His deeds may not be sung, but they changed the world for the better." He sips, then straightens. "I hope that something like that never happens. It would be darfur on a global scale. hell should aspire to be so terrible.

"His name was Conrad, though comparatively few even in the Ferry are likely to have known him", Ygraine says quietly, before chuckling and taking a sip of her tea.

"Total arsehole. Rude, arrogant jerk, who didn't know when to respect someone's personal space", she adds with a wry smile. "Though I think that some of that might have been because he'd figured out how the mission was likely to end. I rather strongly suspect he went in there knowing that our best bet for stopping them if they had the secondary release set up was for him to bring the whole lot down on his head."

Another low sigh. "And… yeah. I studied international relations, with a particular emphasis on conflict analysis, before signing up with the UN. I wanted to play a role in stopping any of this from coming to pass. Never thought I'd ever be on any kind of front line."

Every war needs solders, and it seems that these two have been press-ganged into the fight, whether by choice or by chance. "Sounds like he and I would have gotten along splendidly." Jaiden chuckles, pushing his teacup to the middle of the table, becoming thoughtful, almost maudlin, for a moment. "Is what we're doing…is it helping? We're being turned into villains by the current administration, public support for registration seems to be going up thanks to those damn commercials, and evolved keep coming out of the woodwork.

"I… yes. There are idiots who endanger others through stupidity, and the callous who don't give a damn who gets in their way, as well as those who consciously choose to seek to harm others", Ygraine says quietly. "We may not be turning the tide of governmental thought or winning the media war, but every single person we get out of the line of fire, is someone who has the potential to go on to make a difference themselves. One life saved now, one family given hope, one person given a fresh start… that's not just limited to the immediate impact of whatever we do ourselves, but has the potential to lead to so much more."

Shifting in her chair, Ygraine leans forward, resting her arms either side of her teacup. "I heard it argued, a while back, that climate change was irrelevant. That it didn't matter whether or not humanity had a role in it because in the grander scheme of things, the planet had been through far wilder extremes in each direction, and had returned to a median point after each."

The Briton shrugs slightly. "That's true in so far as it goes. But it also makes everything that anyone could ever do wholly irrelevant, whatever field of endeavour you're talking about. If you measure everything in terms of the planet, then no individual person, no individual country, no individual generation - not even an individual species, such as homo sapiens sapiens - actually matters."

Glancing down, Ygraine purses her lips. "That's rather the viewpoint of the Vanguard, as I understand it. Purge the world, let it try again. See if its next effort works out better. It's the viewpoint of the consciously amoral - of people utterly detached from any real capacity for empathy. And it casually dismisses infinite suffering as too insignificant to worry about."

"In truth…." She shrugs. "Suffering matters. That's why we try to alleviate it. That's why saving one family out of hundreds is a worthwhile act. That's why your nine fugitives are nine success stories - who can go on to yield others. That's why Conrad's decision to sacrifice himself wasn't a futile irrelevance, but an immensely meaningful choice. Losing the war, even if we do in the end, doesn't mean that it wasn't worth fighting. Nor does it mean that we won't have done a great deal of good while we fought."

Jaiden remains silent as Ygraine stands astride her soapbox, nodding when she makes points, looking thoughtful, remaining motionless otherwise. "I knew I'd like you when I heard you were a Brit. The ladies who recruited me call this place the Underground and specifically mentioned that Ygraine would love that." He sits up a bit straighter and smiles. "When you look at things on a geologic scale, nothing matters, ever. Humanity is only a blip of time - barely a second in the scheme of things, barely a footnote. It's what we do now that matters. It's not living - it's living well. It's affecting those around you in positive ways, no matter what the negatives of the world may be."

Ygraine laughs, looking a little bashful. "I described the Club as being a modern version of the Underground Railroad, to someone I helped to recruit recently. I think that she was one of those who came to talk to you…. And I admit that it's nice to hear a non-American native English-speaker from time to time. Not least because it hints at a greater likelihood of a different world-view than any of those taught as defaults over here…"

"Right's right, no matter the upbringing." Jaiden stands, taking his empty teacup and tea ball to the sink, placing them gently with a clink of china. "And just because the rest of the world takes a misguided view….doesn't mean it's the right one."

Ygraine cocks her head, watching Jaiden rather curiously. "Oh, an awareness that you need to think to find the right answer, not merely to figure out how to implement what you've already concluded, is welcome wherever you find it. And those from elsewhere tend to be rather more aware of the existence of other points of view. They have, after all, travelled from one culture to take up residence in another…"

To be continued?

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