Which Place Is Worse


hailey_icon.gif lance_icon.gif

Scene Title Which Place Is Worse
Synopsis Lance and Hailey have opposing views on what makes good living conditions… true siblings, neither one budges.
Date March 6, 2018

Phoenix Heights

Lance's Apartment

The door to the red-brick building in Phoenix Heights leads up two flights of stairs and then to a landing with doors on either side, over faded carpeting and peeling wallpaper. It's at least structurally sound, which is better than some buildings in the area can boast.

On the other side of one of those doors - labeled with off-center brass letters attached to the wood - is Lance's apartment. It's in his name anyway, even if Brynn basically lives there now and Joe is there often enough to be assumed to do the same. They're both mercifully out for once.

Lance's hand drifts forward, fingers curled in to touch his thumb, dipping down at the wrist - balanced carefully with black-socked feet on hardwood as he goes through a tai chi routine while he actually can without Joe bugging him about something or Brynn making him self-conscious about it.

Clarity of mind and body is going to last maybe 10 more seconds.


A cream colored furball lands against Lance's window and he can hear the distinct sound of a cackling monkey. Jim. And he's laughing at the younger Gerken. A wide smile that show only teeth and fangs is displayed for the teen's benefit, as though the creature is goading him into fighting back. After all, it's what he does.

There's also a knock on the door and a pause before Hailey's hesitant voice calls through the wood. "Lance? Are you home?"

Hands circle up, back heel lifts, and—

Lance is on the floor in the blink of an eye, his heart a triphammer-beat against his ribs as he takes a moment to make sure he hasn't been shot before turning in the direction of that cackling.

"Jim? What the hell— " How did the monkey find him here? He takes a step to the window, then hears the knock, and exhales a relieved sigh. Three more steps and he's opening the door, "Hailey, your monkey just tried to give me a heart attack."

Hailey gives a quick glance to the window (and the laughing monkey it's framing) and she smiles. "He thinks it's pretty funny," and then she laughs, "I guess it was really funny." Though she can't say why, only that the monkey is still sending the feelings of hilarity toward her.

The empath moves to the window to open it and allows her friend before quickly closing it again. "What were you doing anyway? Hailey questions, then she blushes deeply and quickly shakes her head, "Actually… Brynn and Joe aren't here, so I'm just going to take that question back." Then she's off to the kitchen.

"Is there anything to eat here that your rats haven't touched?"

"Oh, don't be gross," Lance rolls his eyes as she takes that question back, closing the door and locking it, "I was exercising— and I don't have rats!"

A pause, "Unless you mean Brynn and Joe, in which case skip the peanut butter. We're kinda low on everything, honestly, someone stole all the food stores." He pads along to the kitchen, nose wrinkling, "Got caught in a food riot yesterday."

"Actually, yeah you do, this whole building does," the older sibling quips back. "I can try to convince them to go away but they'll just come back the moment I leave."

Wait.. riot? Hailey frowns, her concern fairly obvious as she comes back into Lance's view. "You know, you make fun of my zoo but at least there's no riots there… and I have some food." She blinks. Perfect. "Hey yeah, I have some food! It's not like fancy peanut butter and bread or anything but I have some potatoes and carrots and things. I traded them for manure a while back."

Lance wrinkles his nose at the mention of rats. He makes a mental note to set out traps, but doesn't say it out loud. His sister'd yell at him.

"Yeah, apparently it just all went poof. Joe wants us to try and Scooby Doo it up to find the culprits," he admits reluctantly. She can probably guess how well that went over with 'I want a normal life' Gerken. His brows go up, "Oh? I mean, we're not starving yet, but…" Yet is the important word there.

"I got a book on how to make cheese too," Hailey says as she takes a seat on the well worn couch. She makes a discreet glance off to the other side of it before patting the cushion right beside her. "If we get the stuff for it, I'm sure we can use the reindeer milk to make cheese."

What Joe wants to do just receives a shake of her head. "People who steal usually have guns," hell everyone right now probably has a gun but she's not saying that out loud. "Don't go poking around, Lance, there's actual people who do this kind of stuff as a job." Then she pauses. "Uhhh what are you doing for a job anyway?"

"Joe tends to forget that the rest of us aren't bulletproof," Lance observes dryly. At least in this matter, the Gerken siblings are in agreement. He drops down to sit on the couch, leaning back and stretching both legs out, "And I know. He's just all… hero complex. He thinks that just 'cause we've got the training we should be doing more. I should suggest he join the Watch or something."

The latter question has him wrinkling his nose, "This and that. Some courier work, me and Joe got a babysitting thing going on. I usually grab some stuff from the ruins to barter with when I come back from seeing you."

Hailey looks a little worried but then is suddenly satisfied when Lance takes his seat. Then she gives him an uneasy smile, "Babysitting, that's great… I mean, you're experienced and all that. Just don't start training them to use guns and stuff, we're supposed to be in this better world." Then she looks down at her sling, because she doesn't quite believe it.

"Uhh.. Lance… Can I talk to you about something and will you actually try to see my side before jumping all over?"

Lance rolls his eyes. "I don't need to teach them to use guns, that's… I mean, that was just us," he agrees with a wrinkle of his nose, "I mean nerf guns maybe. Or water guns once it's summer. But not real guns." It's a new world, a better world. Right?

Then it's his turn to look uneasy, frowning at her a moment, "…okay. I'll hear you go and then jump. What's up?"

"What's it like being registered? Are you ever worried that you're on the list and they'll take you away?"

The two questions come in rapid succession as Hailey gives Lance a nervous stare. Jim is also staring at Lance, his two beady black eyes not even blinking as his head twitches to look at the teen from different angles. "Brian got us out before it happened, but the people on the list were the first ones to get killed."

As she asks that question, Lance relaxes ever so slightly. It's not the worst thing she might want to talk about, after all - maybe he was worried she was going to talk about running off to live in the woods or something.

"I mean…" He rubs a hand against the nape of his neck, "A little, but I know that's just thinking about the old days. It's different now. I mean, Colette's in Wolfhound! A bunch of the old Ferry's with SESA — do you really think any of them would try and kill us?"

He wrinkles his nose, "We're not high-priority types anyway. And even if it did start up again - we know how to get out before it gets bad. But I don't think it's gonna. We won, Hailey."

Looking down at her sling, Hailey doesn't seem to be listening as Lance speaks. "It doesn't feel like winning," Hailey says quietly, "not when we still have to get tested and register… because we're alive." She shrugs her good shoulder and frowns over at her brother. "This isn't something we chose to do, it's not like getting a driver's license or a fishing license. We're not treated the same."

"No, no, Hailey— " Lance shifts around on the couch, pulling a knee under him and sitting up taller as he looks down at her earnestly, "We don't need to register anymore. It's optional these days— I mean, if you wanted to use your ability to make money yeah, you would, but if you don't it's just your business!" Unless you commit crimes.

"I'm breaking the law just by staying with Aunt Gillian and not registering, Lance." Hailey says in a dry tone. "If I want to live here with you, I have to register." She makes a face and then glances past her brother, "Dude, you really need an exterminator… and why are you guys leaving crackers out? It's like a rat buffet in here."

Getting up, she nods over to Jim who begins to pick up some of Joe's belongings and wobbles after Hailey. "Where does this laundry go? And how can Brynn handle this?"

"I mean, yeah, here in the Safe Zone… but if they were planning on exterminating everyone, they'd have it be anywhere," Lance replies earnestly, his hands spreading, "It's over, sis, really." He hopes. He prays.

"The laundry goes in the basket over there, and the crackers are Joe, he never— " Then he pauses, "Wait, wait, wait. Did you just say you wanted to live here?" Well, not technically but he's grinning at the idea, bouncing up to his feet. "Really?"

Her back is turned, so Lance can't see Hailey giving a liberal and exaggerated roll of her eyes. He can see Jim staring at him curiously before dropping the items into the basket, as if the monkey is trying to understand something.

Then Hailey turns and shakes her head. "Nope, I said if," she clarifies and cranes her head with a wince in the direction of her hurt shoulder. She straightens again in a moment. "If I can bring Jim, Dayton, and the reindeer with me, I might consider it. If I knew for sure I would be left alone in my own corner… maybe I could open a welding shop."

As she dismisses the idea, Lance's shoulders sink down a bit. "Well, I mean, they're not going to let a bunch of reindeer in the Zone, Hailey," he argues, "The monkey maybe we could get a permit for, and — I mean you can argue Dayton's a mode of transport so with Gillian's help we could probably work that out…"

Maybe he can bargain her down.

"I don't see why not," Hailey says with a shrug of her shoulder. She makes a small hand movement and Jim runs toward her, climing up onto her back. The monkey seems like he's trying to be careful of his best friend's hurt shoulder. "Especially if I can tame them enough to make a petting zoo." She doesn't seem willing to budge on the reindeer, not at all… it's with a watery eyed look that Lance finally understands the reason why.

"Remember how Mala used to call Mister Doyle Santa Clause?"

"I mean, I think that they'd consider them livestock, not… you know, pets? Especially with the food shortages…" And then she explains, and all the wind goes out of Lance's frustration. He steps over, reaching out to try and wrap an arm around his sister, "Oh, Hay…" A heavy sigh, "Fine, we can— maybe we can talk to Gillian and, I don't know, Colette? Somebody."

"Did you know people in Norway used to milk reindeer? If I can grow a big enough herd, it could make a difference." Hailey argues, she's already started with one fawn. Then she wrinkles her nose a little in distaste and returns the hug before saying. "And the ones that can't be milked… they can be used for food." Lance knows that Hailey isn't a vegetarian. She understands animals and that means the food chain too.

"I'm learning how to make cheese too, I have a book."

"I'm not sure, I mean, what the livestock rules are, but… maybe we can find a loophole or something," Lance wrinkles his nose a bit, "We'll see if we can, anyway." No more arguing about reindeer, at least, from him.

"Rules," Hailey grumbles, moving toward the door again. "A city with more rats than people. People who are so hungry they're rioting.." She watches as Jim hops off her back to collect one more of Joe's socks to put into the laundry hamper. Then, instead of hopping up on Hailey's back, he's suddenly on Lance.

Hailey snerks, "I understand that you guys think it's safe here and it's safer than a lot of other places. I just don't think it's the Utopia everyone is trying to make it out to be."

Lance gives a bit of a start as Jim clambers up his back, and then he laughs— turning his head to smirk at the monkey before looking back to his sister. "Hey," he says, motioning her way, "I'm not saying it's some Utopia… but it's better than living in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, Canada. Or even the Lighthouse. We don't have anyone trying to kill us or hunt us down, we usually get food…"

He grins suddenly, "We even met Lynette's daughter! She, like, adopted this primal chick named Silvia, she's about our age. Turns into sand!"

"I liked Canada," Hailey argues, probably because they were put in the middle of nowhere and she had a forest of animals to commune with on a daily basis. Ones that weren't feral dogs, stray cats, and rats. "It would have been better if Gillian stayed but it's better than here." Then there's talk of Lynette adopting and Hailey goes quiet and turns to the door.

"I should get going Lance," she mumbles almost inaudibly. Jim leaps off Lance's back and wobbles on his two hind legs toward Hailey. Slipping his paw into her hand, he hoists himself up onto her good shoulder and shows off his fangs to his best friend's younger brother. "I'll see you uhm.. some other time."

"Um." The mood has shifted all of a sudden, and Lance anxiously scratches the back of his head as he looks around - as if there were anyone else to take cues from - and then back to his sister. "Was it something I said, I mean… and you don't have to go? I mean, I could make dinner or something? I can make Joe sleep wherever he lives tonight, you could use the couch…?"

"Nothing you said," the empath mumbles, but Jim is still showing off his fangs to Lance, warning him off. Hailey makes a beeline for the door and swipes at her eyes with the back of her hand before turning the knob. "Tell Joe and Brynn I said hi and that I'll see them out in the Bronx sometime." She swings open the door with such force that she nearly puts a hole in the wall.

Then she's gone with the slam of old wood against its frame.

The door slams, and Lance just stares at it for a few moments before his shoulders slump. "…miss you, sis," he mumbles, turning back to the couch and sprawling bonelessly back onto it, giving up on tai chi and just going over the conversation to try and figure out where he went wrong.

It started off so well, too!

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